John Andrist: We Have Ourselves To Blame For This Election


An earlier piece in this column discussed the 2016 phenomena wherein people voting has replaced the old system where political party activists chose our presidential nominees.

In the process we’ve learned that as ordinary people, unlike the parties, we are more inclined to think in black and white. The ballot box, after all, is a black and white choice.

Activists in politics learn that change is more often accomplished in the greys of our life. Voters don’t have to think that way, so they don’t.

The result is that we are moving toward the likelihood of a choice between Donald Trump, who is viewed unfavorably by something like 60 percent of us, and Hillary Clinton, who also has something like 60 percent disdain.

We can’t blame the Democrats and the Republicans for our gridlock. The movers and shakers in both parties are not happy about this change.

They inevitably are more about winning, which also involves finding a somewhat softer person who can win votes from the other side, or at least from the “middle land”.

The choice between Donald and Hillary has been made by you and me, working collectively through the ballot box.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The choice between Donald and Hillary has been made by you and me, working collectively through the ballot box.[/mks_pullquote]

As voters we aren’t an organized block. We do our thinking individually, using television, stump speeches, family and friends, Facebook, smart phones, and the internet — the content all of which is mostly black and white.

So we must and probably will, as deciders in chief, learn to think in gray. Until we do we simply cannot ever come together.

Learning and understanding this in itself is an exercise in gray. So is our desire to live in a more peaceful political culture.

My new pastor is a pretty deep thinker and has taught me much. One day he said, “I’m the kind of a guy who is often wrong, but never in doubt”.

Another is, “There is nothing wrong with rock solid convictions — if we leave a little space for ‘I could be wrong’”. Boy, did he ever hit me with a 2×4.

There is no better lesson in learning gray than realizing when we were wrong. Sometimes you and I have compromised. A black and white mind sees that as another form of surrender. The gray makes us much more pragmatic, because the results are often more satisfying than our black and white instincts would have been.

We admire couples who work things out instead of make war. That’s our gray brain taking over from our black and white.

We are already beginning to reject identification as Republicans or Democrats in preference for conservative and liberal. The talking heads on television are using those terms more and more. But our diversity requires that we break that down to terms of “fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal”.

Yet even that doesn’t totally work. Abortion, for example, is mostly a black and white issue for most of us — one that fits neither liberal or conservative thought.

So how do we learn gray when everything about us has been imbued with black and white?

Can there be an in-between of right and wrong? Can neither Christian or Islaam be all right or all wrong? Can there be a middle between believing carbon is the biggest villain in our lives and being dead certain that global warming is simply cyclical?

Can we even believe the problems are not all “they” but caused principally by “me”?

A long ago departed comic strip character named Pogo coined a popular paraphrase, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”

I’m not smart enough to know the answers, but I believe learning or not learning the world of gray is going to profoundly shape our world.

And with eight billion of us now sharing our planet, going on 10, I fervently believe we cannot learn to live in peace unless we better learn to think gray.

In a sense, The Donald and Hillary voters are in control. They are the black and white. The gray seems to be vested in a pretty modest minority.

I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll work on me if you’ll work on you.