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Polarization

Posted: 01/09/09 12:46 PM ET

Elections are interesting. This candidate or that one. This issue or that solution. There's always a winner and a loser.

But after the elections and the celebrations and the Inauguration, is it possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together to address our country's problems? Can we really put our differences aside? And rally around the flag?


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By Bluetail_Lizard

Sometimes I wonder if group affinity is hard-wired into our genes. Is there some deeper Darwinian survival mechanism working to cause us to draw artificial lines in the sand? Additionally I wonder if mass media leverages this instinctual behavior to create rifts where they would not otherwise exist.

A few years ago I voted for president outside the party I was raised in. The same party my grandfather voted his entire life and my grandmother voted once women won the vote. I foolishly mentioned how I voted to my sister and she told my mother who from that point forward for several years would harangue me over my stupid vote nearly every time I talked with her. I told her she raised me to think for myself. She told me she did not raise me to make bad choices.

Why?

When I was in high school I was on the swim team. We took a bus from Albuquerque to Roswell, New Mexico. To make the bus more affordable, the swim team from a neighboring school joined us for the ride down. One team sat in the front and one in the back - there was no natural mixing. I had a friend on the neighboring team. So for part of the bus ride, I visited with him in middle of the bus in no-man's-land. When I went back to my seat, one of my teammates asked the name of the guy I was talking to and then said, "Do you want me to beat him up?"

I said, "No, he's my friend. Why would you beat him up?"

He looked at me like I was stupid followed by the words, "You shouldn't be talking to him, he is on the other team, they are the enemy."

Again, why?

Is it a form of groupthink? Do the goals of the identity group cause us to suspend critical thought?

Obama is going to Washington. The knives are already out, and he has not even gotten started. Do Republicans want him to fail? What is more important, the good of the Republican Party or the good of the country? Had McCain won, the Democrats would have been doing the same thing.

In the end, nationalism trumps politics, the two parties unite when threatened by another country. Were we invaded by extraterrestrials, the countries of the world would stand firm against a common enemy. Our loyalties expand like a telescope depending on the degree of contrast.

Mostly anyway. I still cannot figure out why my mother would choose a political party affinity over her son. Hopefully it was because she assumed the familial bond was strong enough to handle a little groupthink reeducation.

She was right, but I do wonder why it was so important for her to figuratively want to beat up my friend on the bus from the other team.

Can Republicans and Democrats work together to put the economy back on track? Tell us what you think on Tokoni.