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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 10:02 pm | Fog/Mist 56º


Randy Alcorn: America’s Biggest Threat Is Its Own Ideological Epidemic

I would like to believe that most Americans are reasonable, decent people who are as disgusted and weary of polarized politics as I am. As I watch our nation continue its increasingly uncivil cultural civil war — bitterly battled in every available public forum and in nearly every hall of government from school boards to Congress — I can only hope that all the smugly, strident, ideological certainty comes from a minority of zealots, and that the sane majority will put an end to the nonsense before the nation is permanently crippled by it.

That hope flickers a bit with the realization that the ideological idiots in government are there because a majority of voters put them there.

Maybe that happens because many of the sane majority does not vote. Maybe it happens because our duopoly political system is so entrenched and so thoroughly purchased by powerful special interests that voting is limited to candidates screened, approved and funded by those interests.

And even when independent, nonduopoly candidates do make it to the ballot, they are routinely shunned by the media and dismissed by the electorate as off-brand also-rans and sure losers.

Even though independent candidates are more likely to address real issues without having to consult ideological catechisms or cater to special interest benefactors, voters reject them because they “don’t want to waste their vote on a sure loser.”

Ironically, the real losers are the voters who by settling for the “lesser of two evils” deny themselves the good.

The serious problems confronting this nation continue to fester because enough of our elected leaders are so obstinately dedicated to their ideological positions that any solution compromising their ideology is rejected.

And, as long as they continue to get elected they have no reason to compromise. Let the nation crumble into disrepair. Let wealth disparity make us a society of peasants and lords. Do nothing about climate change, illegal immigration, ineffective education, government abuse of personal freedoms, the growing police state, the titanic national debt, and unaffordable health care and college.

And, to ensure that nothing does get done, do nothing about corruptive campaign finance.

The ideologues in office and the special interests that finance them thrive on the epidemic of ideology that has infected so many Americans.

For those afflicted with this disorder, every idea and every person in America must be conveniently categorized into one of two ideological circles of convergence: liberal or conservative. Those circles have grown tighter as intolerance has grown broader, and unless a person adheres exactly to one’s chosen ideology that person is condemned as a follower of the other “errant” ideology.

For the ideologue, there can be no allowance for independent thought and certainly no compromise because that would risk divergence from doctrine.

In the 15 years I have written my columns, I have been exposed to hundreds of minds infected with ideology. It has gotten increasingly worse over recent years. I wish I had a dollar for every time I was castigated as a liberal or as a conservative — not infrequently by different people responding to the same column.

People I have known since childhood have come down with this disorder. To watch them harden into bitter, angry, intolerant and, yes, frightened, ideologues is sad, especially when they ostracize friends and family over ideological heresy. Dinner tables across America have become skirmish lines in the left/right uncivil war.

America’s greatest threat is not radical Islam, ambitious China, liberalism or conservatism. It is Americans living in the alternate realities at the far ends of the political spectrum where fearful minds petrified with doctrine, incapable of objective reasoning and closed to new information despise anyone who does not share their belief system.

Stereotyping and intolerance are concomitant with ideology. Once a person or idea is labeled, no further mental effort, objective analysis or impartial evaluation is necessary. Simple minds love simple answers, and well-funded special interests along with self-serving, power-hungry, politicians love simple minds.

Such minds struggle with ambiguity, complexity and mystery. They want the comfort of certainty and the belief that their side has the solutions to whatever problems confront the world. If only everyone would believe exactly as they do, all the problems would be resolved and peace and prosperity would follow.

Isn’t that always the promise of totalitarianism? All that is needed for a perfectly ordered society is some kind of ideological caliphate, and if the infidels can’t be converted they must be eliminated.

America needs sensible solutions to its real problems, not more intransigent zealotry. I remain hopeful that most Americans have common sense and can suspend bias when considering ideas, issues and political candidates. But, they must demand better than the lesser evil. They need to find, support and elect more independent candidates.

The duopoly monopoly must be broken up.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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