I was reading Nicholas Kristof's article in the New York Times this past Sunday, which I found particularly fascinating for the effects of groupthink that he mentions on three-judge panels, and it made me remember a piece that a student of mine last year wrote about the community that he'd been brought up in.
Through his experience growing up in Santa Monica, he's been well equipped for taking on the fairly left-leaning culture of his small liberal arts college. Check out his piece below:
Thomas Jefferson saw America as a country of the people, drawing much of its wealth from agrarian production. Alexander Hamilton saw the polar opposite: an industrious powerhouse that would be controlled by its financial elite.
The U.S. today has embraced pieces of both ideals. I enjoy calling myself a moderate, a centrist, a libertarian because I don't stick to one line of thinking; I examine every opinion or belief to see what might work best for the nation. People of modern America are too bent on polarizing U.S. policy. It is only the greatness of the swing vote that keeps our innovation alive and well.
Liberalism is defined as being open to new behavior and willing to discard traditional values. The people within Santa Monica like to think that their liberalism is what's needed to cure the ills of society; at times, it is.
Yet, as I've grown up here, I've seen liberal agenda become misguided. Liberals here automatically attack dissenters (conservatives) for believing differently. Thus, the liberalism that embraces open-mindedness has become oppressive.
My experience has led me to appreciate the idealism of liberal thinking, but to reject the conformity that its partisanship indoctrinates. Approaching a problem requires different approaches. Diversity of opinions fosters these different approaches and thus allows ideas to blossom without obstacle.
Moderates. Swing voters. Undecideds. All embrace the ideal of thinking for oneself, manifested best in the action of the swing vote.
Therefore, the swing vote needs to be energized. By doing this, gauging public opinion becomes unpredictable and politicians are forced to say what they believe in. American democracy persists in its worst mistake by perpetuating partisanship simply for the sake of taking sides. Group mentalities are detrimental to the free-thinking that fuels democracy. I do not belong to a party, because I see it, rather than as isolation, as a freedom: freedom in its purest form.