October 8, 2016

Why do we end up with a binary choice in the US presidential election? Because people see it as a war. It is not an occasion where we express our values while we respect those of others. One side must be absolutely right, and the other absolutely wrong. So we wage a war in the name of righteousness.

So, why does a war lead to a binary choice? Because in order to defeat an enemy, we have to unite. “You’re either with us, or against us.” In the face of a common enemy, we are willing to suppress our differences in order to win. We must quell dissent within our own army, because, if we split, neither would be able to defeat the enemy. We have to force unity. We also have to discourage our soldiers from knowing too much about our enemy. They won’t be able to fight effecively if they develop too much sympathy or empathy towards the enemy. We also have to suppress independent critical thinking because ideas can spread like a virus and undermine the unity.

How is it possible for someone like Hitler to come to power through a democratic process? It is precisely through this type of peer pressure to conform and unite in order to fight the objects of our fear. It was not because the millions of Germans were inherently evil.

Our democratic process falls apart when we look at it as a war. We cannot harness the wisdom of crowds if the crowds are driven by hysteria and herd mentality. For our collective decisions to be wise, we need a diversity of opinions expressed honestly without peer pressure. We are destroying this mechanism when we look at the election as a war.