I’m a registered independent. There’s no party that embodies what I feel is a productive approach to government; who put country above party interests. There is no politician who accurately represent all of my views. I am part of a growing crowd of millions; Yet I am alone.
For me, it starts with discussions on social media. Most of my attempts at meaningful conversation with people of opposite viewpoints fail; I’ve been insulted more times than I can count and yet my views aren’t extreme. People who want to understand them seem few and far in between. Those who want to shame and belittle anyone who disagrees seem omnipresent. I’ve, therefore, become hesitant to engage anyone outside of my group of close acquaintances. I blocked around 80% of the people on my friends list. I stick to people who I feel are reasonable and won’t blow things out of proportion or twist my words around against me. I just don’t need that added stress in my life. But, in a way, such a response is part of the problem.
Only 1 in 10 people have friends with opposing viewpoints; social media or otherwise. This finding was supported by research of twitter users during the 2016 Presidential election; most Clinton Supporters followed only Clinton and Trump supporters only Trump. The two sides rarely interacted; and rarely still do. To make things worse, people with more extreme views are more likely to post and comment on the news and posts that rail against “the other party” are more popular than those that discuss actual policy. It results in a skewed picture of the American political landscape. In reality, we aren’t that extreme.
A recent study showed that “two out of three Americans are far more practical than that narrative suggests. Most do not see their lives through a political lens, and when they have political views the views are far less rigid than those of the highly politically engaged, ideologically orthodox tribes”.
Most people are now part of what’s called the “Exhausted Majority”; Americans that are tired of political drama. People who mind their business and quietly vote their mind. On the one hand it’s a relief. It’s good to know that most people aren’t the ones who resort to insults, dumb down policy into simple catch phrases and treat every issue like the world hangs in the balance of the outcome. Yet on the other hand it feels like a bad omen. History, after all, has proven time and time again that a majority isn’t needed for upheaval with negative consequences; just loud people with extreme views.
I, for one, am tired of dealing with unreasonable, over-opinionated, obnoxious people. It’s truly is exhausting, both emotionally and physically. I get upset at being insulted, dismissed, laughed at, or a miriad of other belittlements bestowed on me by someone persistently trying to bend me towards their world view. Then I can’t sleep and have trouble functioning the following day; who needs that? It’s not like I’m going to change anyone’s mind; I might as well save my energy, vote my conciense and accept the world for what it is.
Yet, even as I do, I’m haunted by the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
It’s deeply cynical yet true. The reasonable people in America are exhausted. The question is whether or not we will quietly vote centrist en masse inspite of it all, or cede the future to the minority of unreasonables.