What’s Not To Understand?

Richard Turcotte
8 min readMar 2, 2020

This is not news: conservatives and liberals prioritize different values; they have different perspectives on the important issues of the day; their foundational principles are different; and as has often been noted — Jonathan Haidt among the more influential voices — their notions of not only how society should function but how a good society should be defined are different.

Our current polarizing conflicts, contentious as they are (and unlikely to produce a “winner” by any rational measure), are instigated and encouraged by a regular pattern of misinformation and mischaracterizations. The result: increasing animosity driven by over-exaggerated assessments about the character, goals, motivations, and beliefs of one’s political rivals. Lumping them all together as a single entity simplifies the process. Meanwhile, the wide middle ground awaits.

A failure to accurately understand and/or appreciate the importance of different perspectives reinforces the disconnect. (Not bothering to listen is unhelpful, of course.) As is true for every decision we make — as individuals and in various groups — the factors considered and ensuing actions taken lead to outcomes, results, consequences. This is also not exactly a brilliant new insight.

But on matters where the impact will be (or already is) significant, we might all be better served by pausing to consider more carefully how today’s efforts will shape tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. Too often now, we prioritize scoring points for our political team in any way we can, without giving even a passing thought to how this contest plays out and/or what advantages are gained. What Happens Then?

Polarization is an obvious problem for anyone even marginally aware of how contentious our political dialogue has become. Tribalism dominates. How much more effort should we be devoting to make our prospects for a better future even worse?

[W]e must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.

The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that…

Richard Turcotte

Partisanship has no good ending. I’d like to do my part to change that. A better future is a choice.