One of our least endearing traits as Americans is our stubborn belief that life’s complex problems are actually simple problems.
For instance, welfare recipients are lazy. Drug addicts lack willpower. The system (pick a system, any system) is rigged. Racism exists only in the mind of the offended. Things went to pieces when women started working. Men are pigs.
I could go on for days, but I don’t have to. Politicians will soon be doing it for me, because everyone’s gearing up for the next presidential election, which is only 20 months away. So as a public service, today’s column brings you a sneak preview of the fuzzy thinking from both parties you’ll soon be swimming in.
Most of what we’ll hear is a form of illogical logic called a false dichotomy. That’s when you apply if/then thinking to situations that are actually far more complex. Politicians love this stuff.
Here are some non-political examples:
It’s a fact: 100 percent of people who drink water will die. Conclusion: Water is killing us all.
It’s a fact: I saw a light in the sky last night I couldn’t identify. Conclusion: Aliens are invading the Earth.
See how much fun this is? Let’s try some more.
Democrats say we’re a nation of immigrants. Therefore, Democrats want completely open borders.
President Donald Trump has had several well-documented extra-marital affairs. Therefore, Republicans are all anti-women moral hypocrites.
Well, you get the idea.
So here’s my prediction of the political false dichotomies that will be coming soon to a television commercial, internet ad or Facebook post near you.
Here we go:
Despite objections, President Trump legally ordered that his son-in-law receive a top-secret security clearance. Therefore, he is dangerously reckless with the nation’s secrets. Do you want Russia to have our nuclear codes?
By their growing support for Medicare-for-all, Democrats are now all socialists. Therefore, every flaw in every socialist country on earth can be held up as an example of what Democrats want America to become. Do you want Big Brother in the White House?
Even though immigrants commit crimes at lower rates that American citizens, some will end up committing crimes. Therefore, immigration must be sharply reduced or stopped. Do you want to die?
Since Trump became president, drug addiction rates are at an all-time high in America. Therefore, his defeat in 2020 will save countless lives. Don’t you want to live?
There is nothing new in this kind of political campaigning. It has been around as long as people have been willing to believe that there are simple answers to complex societal problems.
Gay marriage means the death of the family. Poor people are poor because they’re inferior. Somewhere there’s a shadowy group that is secretly keeping everyone else down. Factory jobs are gone because of greedy business owners.
OK, enough with the examples.
It seems to me that we have a host of problems facing the country, problems that will require careful thought and reality-based wisdom to properly address. There will not be simple solutions for any of them.
But our greatest problem isn’t health care or immigration or underemployment or the national debt. It is our willingness to be led by people on both sides of the political aisle who serve up only an oversimplified soup of catchy platitudes every four years instead of offering actual, and potentially painful, solutions to our serious problems. Because in the end, the simplistic thinking they offer will fail, but not until well past the election day that put the clowns in power.
So who’s to blame here? The reality is that the politician who attempts to present a nuanced analysis of a complex problem will be laughed off the debate stage by the candidate who comes up with a zippy phrase that sounds so self-evident that no one stops to realize it’s just more gas in the bag.
Make no mistake, this is our fault, not the politicians, because we’ve chosen to believe every problem is easily solved by a 30-second TV ad or a Facebook post.
After all, an election is a war, and the first casualty of war is truth. And apparently, we’re OK with that.
Chris Huston lives in southern Idaho and has enjoyed a 30-year career in journalism. Connect with Chris at www.chrishuston-modernlife.com.