Thinking clearly and independently in an election year (OPINION)

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and cohost of the Perspectives with Bryan and Kate on Fox News 1450 AM. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

The fact human beings use only a fraction of their potential brainpower isn’t an especially troubling idea by itself.

But during an election year when low voter turnout combines with well-orchestrated campaigns of fear and distortion, our collective brain power quickly drops to levels that particle physicists would find challenging to measure.  The problem isn’t that human beings are stupid.

It’s that otherwise intelligent voters stubbornly cling to a two party mindset that allows them to be easily steered into false choices.
In other words, the voters have largely forgotten how to think for themselves.
The uncertain times in which we live highlight the critical need for people who can think clearly and independently.  As increasingly charged rhetoric and emotion-laden buzzwords swirl about us during this election cycle, effective voters must exercise critical thinking skills to distinguish fact from fiction and truth from innuendo.  Party membership alone is no substitute for such skills.
For generations, the current two party system has worked tirelessly to consolidate power and to insulate itself from those who would challenge, change or even restrain it in the name of principle.

Party loyalty is rewarded over principle and those who tend to think for themselves are quickly marginalized or excused so as to minimize their influence on the parties. One indicator of the two party system’s desperation is witnessed in the effort undertaken to discredit and silence those who refuse to let the party think for them.
Truly independent thinkers prefer to study the candidates, issues and principles at stake and then cast an informed vote.  They are more concerned with substantive reasons to vote for someone than they are with the sleazy mudslinging that seeks to manipulate them into voting against someone.

They understand that information does not necessarily equal truth and they will not blindly follow politicians, political parties or commentators who are competing for their allegiance.  They prefer to think for themselves.
What discourages many voters from exercising independent thought is that few have taken the time to sit down and write out on paper what they actually believe.

There is great power in committing ideas to paper for it requires contemplation and a degree of intellectual honesty on the part of the writer.  Superficial ideas and demagoguery are easier to spot and discard when taken from the realm of the abstract and put into writing.

Thousands of pieces of information bombard us daily vying for our attention and making clear thinking problematic.

The difficulty increases exponentially when adding in the effects of political spinmeisters and handlers whose livelihoods depend upon eliciting reflexive emotional reactions from those who hear, see or read their candidates ads.

Notice how often slick partisan ads rely on fear or distrust as the prime motivator to stampede voters in a certain direction.  Observe how seldom such ads build upon a candidate’s strengths or principles in an effort to inspire support.

The fear-mongering ads are intended to produce voters who are more certain about what they think they’re voting against than what they might actually support.

The only remedy for such blatant manipulation is to consciously develop the habit of thinking for ourselves.  This is something that the political class seeks to discourage as it interferes with its efforts to keep the populace under its spell.

As active participants in self-government, we must be willing to read the fine print and study all relevant issues for ourselves.

Former syndicated columnist Charley Reese explained it this way, “Remembering and imagining are not thinking.  Emotional reactions or ideological reactions are not thinking.  Belief in the “word magic” of labels is not thinking.  Faith is not thinking.  Thinking is the use of reason to determine the truth as best we can.  To do that we have to shuck emotions, desires and wishes, and look at the world in its nakedness as it is, not as we wish it were or as someone else told us it is.”
Those who would be better informed, more principled, and more effective voters must first break the bonds of the manipulative two party mentality.  This means that they must start developing their own independent thoughts.

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