SAN DIEGO, Ca., October 31, 2018 – Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) when it was believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. While the tradition has radically changed over the years, we now celebrate something similar on the second Tuesday of November every even year: Election Day.
On Election Day (and the year that precedes it), the boundary between truth and political rhetoric becomes blurred and the “ghosts” of ineffective elected officials are returned to office (over 90% of the time). It doesn’t seem to matter whether their failure to solve problems is blatantly obvious or even if they’re under indictment. It only matters that we recognize their names and, if we are highly partisan, that the appropriate “D” or “R” appears after their names.
There is an inherent responsibility associated with the privilege of voting and that is that we cast an informed vote. Yet, as Civics has disappeared from the curriculum of our school system, the importance of being informed seems to have been lost on the masses, hence the phrase “voting for the lesser of two evils.”
For the most part, this dilemma is self-imposed. We accept the premise that only a Democrat or Republican can win, and as long as we vote in conformance with that belief, it will hold true in practice.
The first step toward “recovery” is to examine the basis of that belief.
- Who has “installed” that belief among the electorate and reinforced it with billions of dollars of advertising over the years? ANSWER: The two major Parties.
- Why would they do it? ANSWER: It dramatically reduces competition.
This is all about maintaining power. It is designed to lock in money and votes.
Beyond the Machiavellian aspect, there’s a certain Halloween flair to the “lesser of two evils” tactic. Partisans are told that the “other side” is nearly satanic and that life as we know it may cease to exist if the opposing Party gains (or maintains) control. Conditioned beliefs based upon implicit fears create unconscious biases which, in turn, are protected by confirmation bias. It’s a nice closed-loop system of behavioral control.
The establishment and reinforcement of fear actually trigger a chemical release in our brains that favors a “fight or flight” response over cognitive thought. This is exactly what the political doctor ordered since, in effect, we are doping ourselves to remain true to our partisan beliefs regardless of the objective facts that are available.
Taken to the extreme, the Parties can influence our Behavioral Inhibition System, which occurs when neither “fight” or “flight” seems to be an effective alternative. At this point, the chemical cocktail makes passive submission seem to be our only path to political survival. Perfect!
Add social media to the mix and it becomes easier to understand the increased influence of political extremes in recent years.
The chemical cocktail that is released in our brains lasts for about 3.5 hours. However, an equal dosage is released every time we are reminded of the original stimulus (i.e., a political comment with which we strongly disagree).
With our addiction to social media and the heavily biased and often inflammatory political rhetoric to which we are exposed, we are suffering self-administered dosages that are life-threatening.
Cortisol and adrenaline create micro-abrasions in our arteries, which attract cholesterol. Cholesterol blockages lead to heart attacks and strokes. Politics, in some cases, is literally reducing our life expectancy.
These particular chemicals also kill brain cells, which may explain some of the stupid behavior we are witnessing in the world of politics these days.
If we even suggest that we may vote for an independent or third-party candidate, we hear: “You’ll only be wasting your vote.”
- Again, from where does that warning come? ANSWER: The Parties.
- Why? ANSWER: To dissuade us from casting such a vote.
The reality is that nothing in the Constitution favors one or more of our political parties. The Preamble doesn’t begin with the words “We the Democrats” or “We the Republicans.” It begins with the words “We the People.”
The question we should ask is:
- Which is the greater waste: Casting an informed vote for the candidate we deem to be best suited to serve or surrendering our vote to the Party with which we most closely align (even if its candidate has obvious flaws)?
This November 6, you have an opportunity to control whether you receive a trick or a treat. Choose wisely.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).