Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preaching To The Choir

Have you seen the greatest meme of all time? The one with a pie chart showing the percentage of minds changed by a political Facebook post? Needless to say, It's a solid red circle.

Oddly, it's the exact same pie chart that shows what Meatloaf would & wouldn't do for love.

I've been watching some pretty serious politically fueled keyboard fisticuffs going down on Facebook lately. There's even a 2pm smackdown scheduled for this afternoon somewhere in the Bay Area between one of my college friends and someone who disagrees politically with her about something or other (I forget what and can't find the Facebook argument again to lay it all out for you word for word, but it involved the long form of the acronym 'FU', something along the lines of 'Oh you can say it on FB, but do you have the balls to say it in person' and then there was a discussion of when and where). They're actually meeting IRL (that's In Real Life to you internet slang newbies), taking it off of Facebook and dealing with their election season disagreements in a face to face duel. You may laugh, but this is some serious Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton stuff.

But really, what do we think we're going to accomplish, spouting our collective and varying political points of view on the internet? Will anyone's mind be changed? We keep hoping and hoping, but really?
I looked into it (for like 5 minutes this morning) and lo and behold my cyberpals, yes, sometimes political discussions amongst friends on the world wide web do actually have the power to change minds every once in awhile. I'm not just talking about pretend pie charts, I'm talking about some actual, official research done by the Pew Research Center back in 2012. It's a pathetically small percentage when you consider all the ranting and raving going on out there on the internet, although your chances are better if the discussion is between people who seek out and are actually interested in discussing political issues. People who aren't interested in discussing political issues either unfriend or unfollow you, and just go on their merry way.

But here's the kicker: It's pretty much only liberally minded people who are willing to have their minds changed. Conservatives report that as far as having their minds changed, they are closed for business, not interested in exploring the matter further, that is it, thank you and goodnight. Even with the liberals, it's not necessarily that anyone's mind is going to be changed, but liberals are more motivated to become involved in a political issue due to discussion on a social networking site. They're interested in gaining more knowledge or taking action towards furthering a political issue because of something they saw on the internet. By the way, I'm not Republican bashing here. These are cold hard facts. And get ready to have your mind blown by this next fact: Independents are even worse in the My Mind Is Made Up And Nobody's Gonna Change It Department than Republicans.

The takeaway for me from the Pew research is that Democrats trying to sway a Republican over to their way of thinking is pretty useless, but Republicans might actually have a shot at winning over a few Democrats to their camp. But at the same time, if everyone out there on Facebook harps on their friends to get out there and vote this November, the donkeys should have a better chance at getting asses out of their easy chairs than the elephants will. At least that's how it was 4 years ago, the last time we went to the national election circus.
What got me to thinking about this was watching the Democratic National Convention earlier this week. Two whole nights of it. This was more than I was planning to watch. In fact I wasn't going to watch any of it, just like I hadn't watched any of the Republican National Convention the week before. I'm like everybody else. My mind's made up. I know where I'm drawing the line this November.

Then my freezer died. Which meant I had a 16 pound turkey that I absolutely had to cook.

So I turned my oven on for 3 hours on the hottest day of record so far this year, and invited a friend over for dinner. She said yes, and even said she'd bring the wine, as long as I'd watch the convention with her.  At first I actually declined. I couldn't imagine anything more boring than sitting in front of the TV watching political speech after political speech after political speech. I was already surrounded by so much hot air, what with it being 110 outside and 450 in my oven.

But I really wanted to see my friend, and she gets so bolstered by speeches like this, that I gave in. I ended up watching it even when she wasn't there, just so I could get prepped. I saw Sarah Silverman (I just love her sense of humor and her twinkly eyes). Then Bernie Sanders got up to speak, and he was so good, especially when he told his supporters, "I think it's fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am" about the turnout of the primary. I watched Michelle Obama, and the mothers of young people who have died at the hands of gun and police violence over the past year, and the young woman with cerebral palsy who talked about rights for the disabled. And another young victim of sex trafficking. Then I sat for an hour riveted by the man who could be the first First Dude ever, Bill Clinton. That guy abides. I actually think it was two entire evenings well spent on the couch, but I knew that the reason I found all of those speeches interesting and inspiring and worthwhile was because I already agreed with the people who were speaking.

The whole time I kept thinking to myself...why bother? For both parties. This is a bi-partisan thing for me. Why not just get together and nominate your candidate already and then go back home? Why bother with 4 days of speech after speech? Maybe I'm totally wrong about this, but I doubt many of my Democrat friends watched any of the Republican National Convention and were moved to switch parties and vote for Trump. And likewise, I don't think any of my Republican friends decided to bat for the other team after this week's convention. I'm willing to bet that if any of my friends watched the other team (other than my journalist friends who were working), that it was solely to make fun of and hate on the other side.

Sure, we may come across a political post while scrolling through Facebook that makes us pause for a few moments to contemplate another point of view. But how many of us would willingly give up an entire week to watch speeches rallying for someone who disgusts us? Can I see a show of hands?

The way I see it, the national convention of each party serve as not much more than an opportunity to preach to the choir. Not that there's anything wrong with having a convention. I mean, donkeys and elephants, knock yourselves out... but wouldn't politics be so much more interesting if there was some way that registered Republicans could only watch the Democratic National Convention, and Democrats could only watch the Republican counterpart? It seems that the only way to affect any real change with the conventions is by putting it in front of someone who's mind could possibly be changed. But I don't think they're bothering to watch. Again, I'm happy to be wrong. If you're a diehard donkey who watched the elephant parade last week, I'm interested in hearing how your experience was and why you put yourself through it. And to all the pachyderms who have suffered through my attempt at mostly equal handed criticism of the way things are done in an election year, and you also suffered through all those annoying "I'm With Her" speeches, did it change anything for you at all? Or just set your views in concrete?

It seemed appropriate to end today's column by taking you to here's some of my favorite spiritually themed songs in today's Preaching To The Choir playlist.

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