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The Critical Vote

October 22nd, 2008 by Alison · 1 Comment · sustainability

Research shows that the body politic is not just a phrase: our physiological wiring can influence how we vote. People who support heavy military spending, wiretapping etc. are more likely to startle easily at loud noises and threatening images. The wiring of our bodies affects our desire for protection, and therefore our politics.

Now, I have always startled easily at loud noises and I’m sensitive to violent images. So I should be voting for McCain, right? Wrong. I’m a lifelong Democrat and I’m voting for Obama. Does that make the above research incorrect? Not at all. The reason relates to something central to democracy.

You can’t take a fact about a group and expect it to apply to an individual in the group. That’s called reductionism, and it hinders the critical thinking needed for a vigorous democracy. Think about it. If the vast majority of people in your family have brown hair and you have red hair, does their preponderance of brown hair make your hair brown as well? You would say that’s silly, because your hair is red even though you’re part of a larger group. That particular type of silly or sloppy thinking is reductionism.

Here in Oregon where we vote by mail, I’ve got a big ballot and voter’s pamphlet to make my way through. We have lots of measures as well as lots of candidates to evaluate. Like most people, I’m busy and like to get things done quickly. But voting takes critical thinking, and critical thinking takes more time than sloppy thinking. I can’t just assume that a Democratic candidate is the best one, despite my often preferring a ‘D’ candidate over his or her ‘R’ opponent. That would be reductionism, and it would in effect lower my I.Q. by about 30 points.

I can’t afford that! I’ll use all my critical thinking skills, and as much time as it takes to fill out my ballot. I hope you do, too.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Crafty Green Poet

    Good post, i agree, I vote for different parties depending on the circumstances, I would never assume that a candidate is the best just because of their party, though lots of people do. Of course politics is different here in the UK

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