14 February 2023

The "exhausted majority"

The term "exhausted majority" has come up a few times recently in discussion, and it's important to be clear about what it means.  It is not just another term for "centrist" or "moderate", and it should not be allowed to degenerate into one.  As far as I know, the term originates here, from a study "The hidden tribes of America" which analyzes the political left and right wings:

While the story of the Wings may be one of division and conflict, a very different story is found in the rest of America.  In fact, the largest group that we uncovered in our research has so far been largely overlooked.  It is a group of Americans we call the Exhausted Majority -- our collective term for the four tribes, representing a two-thirds majority of Americans, who aren't part of the Wings.  Although they appear in the middle of our charts and graphs, most members of the Exhausted Majority aren't political centrists or moderates.  On specific issues, their views range across the spectrum.  But while they hold a variety of views, the members of the Exhausted Majority are also united in important ways:

They are fed up with the polarization plaguing American government and society..... [they] are so frustrated with the bitter polarization of our politics that many have checked out completely..... they aren't ideologues who dismiss as evil or ignorant the people who don't share their exact political views.  They want to talk and to find a path forward

This is a profoundly positive development.  It's horrifically toxic to have politics dominated by two opposing camps which view each other with fear, loathing, and incomprehension, refusing to listen to anything that doesn't fit their existing narrative.  The important message here is that those two camps don't speak for everyone, or even for the majority.  Most of us are sick to death of them.  As long-time readers know, I've made an effort to cut down the amount of politics on this blog, and at times have completely disengaged from politics for a while, because it's become so poisonous and stupid.

(If you're thinking "it's not that bad", there are blogs and other sites where I regularly see statements like "there is no such thing as a moderate Republican" or images like this:
.....posted with the apparent full approval of the readership.  It's at least as easy to find similarly insane demonization of the left on some right-wing sites.  They call everyone on the left "Marxist" and "communist" the same way the far-left crazies call everyone on the right "fascist" and "racist".  Yes, it is that bad.)

I definitely consider myself a member of the "exhausted majority", and I don't really regard myself as a centrist.  Politics isn't a simple left-to-right spectrum, anyway.  For example, I believe I'm being logically coherent by being strongly pro-choice on both abortion rights and gun rights, whereas the left and right are incoherent in their inconsistent views on those issues.  I view the current Democratic party as far too weak on labor-rights issues -- I'd align much more with Bernie Sanders than with Biden in that area.  Most of my other views stem more from my anti-religion stance and respect for science than from anything political.  But what I share with other "exhausted majority" people of all viewpoints is the desire for the end of the scorched-earth, dead-end polarization and demonization that dominates politics.  Part of what I look for in politicians, activist groups, and bloggers is a willingness to at least read viewpoints different from their own, to give credit where due when someone on the "other side" shows moderation, to recognize where common interests can exist, to refrain from tarring everyone on the "other side" with the brush of that side's worst extremists.

The real radical crazies are irredeemable, but they're a minority, even if they're making most of the noise.  Ultimately the sane people on both "sides" have to find a way to take the country back from them, instead of allowing ourselves to be herded into the existing opposing camps that view each other with hatred and incomprehension.


Blogger Leanna said...

I'm a moderate democrat and I sometimes swing to republican IF and only if their views are of a decent nature. I'm also very pro-choice and you know from my blog that I'm an atheist, pro-science, and pro-environmentalist. I really try to be fair but since TЯ☭mp took the G☭P down that road to Crazy Town it's, well, yeah, become rather exhausting trying to talk to both parties who will never get their proverbial shit together.
Thank you, I yield back my time, Mr. Speaker.

14 February, 2023 03:05  
Blogger NW MAN said...

This is the first "political" post I can really identify with and I am glad to have read it. Thank you.

14 February, 2023 05:41  
Blogger Darrell Michaels said...

"Part of what I look for in politicians, activist groups, and bloggers is a willingness to at least read viewpoints different from their own, to give credit where due when someone on the "other side" shows moderation, to recognize where common interests can exist, to refrain from tarring everyone on the "other side" with the brush of that side's worst extremists."

And THAT right there is why I respect you, Infidel, and think that yours is an important voice that needs to be heard.

14 February, 2023 07:39  
Blogger Lady M said...

I call my self an environmentalist but no one seems to be sticking up for the planet these days.

14 February, 2023 11:08  
Blogger NickM said...

Echoing Darrell,
And that is why, a bit like what I said about dating and social media, blogging remains important because simply it is a long-form which allows for nuance and sophistication. You can't really do that with Twitter et. al. which lend themselves to soundbites or invective in the same way the UK's C4 show "naked attraction" does for sexual relations. Yes, on that you get to see the "contestant"'s genital before their face or hear them speak...

14 February, 2023 11:43  
Blogger Ami said...

We need more sanity. Thanks for this post.
I have mostly checked out politically for now, too. I will pay more attention to the issues before the next election, but it's been helpful for my serenity to step back. The only social media I have now is my blog. Oh, and I follow my daughter's photos on Instagram.

14 February, 2023 12:19  
Blogger Jack said...

This is a challenge. It often seems like the only way to get the wings to listen is to help defeat their candidates. The obvious problem with that is that one then ends up with a Trump instead of a Biden, etc. That's a tough sell since most of us are used to voting against the lesser of two evils rather than voting for the sort of candidate we want.

15 February, 2023 03:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Leanna: I know the feeling. It's been painful watching one party and then the other go nuts.

NW Man: Glad to encourage a like-minded person.

Darrell: Thank you for the kind words. It means a lot.

Lady M: Not many in America are doing so, but there is a lot of good news on the environmental front -- I often have some in the link round-ups.

NickM: Good point about social media. Very short-form posting isn't good for being thoughtful.

I'm surprised they can find any women to go on that show. It sounds like a live-action version of those guys that send women pictures of their dong.

Ami: Thanks. Frankly I wish I could disengage from politics more. Well, I've been able to for a while, at various times.

Jack: In elections, there's not much one can do, since it really is one party or the other. I just go with the candidate who's most likely to do what I want on the issues where I think they'll have an impact. Overcoming polarization is going to be more a matter of working within the parties, I think, and trying to encourage non-polarizing voices and thinking.

15 February, 2023 13:06  
Anonymous Reaganite Independent said...

I agree with most of what you say here, but at this point in time the Republicans are the ones staging coups, spreading Russian propaganda, investigating Hunter Biden’s chemical dependency issues— instead of Jared Kushner’s $2 billion from the Bone Sawdis- meeting with *actual* Nazis and white supremists, not condemning antisemitism within their party. None of that is acceptable in our country. That Nazi versus Democrat sign you posted isn’t that far from reality in a lot of parts of this country right now, this is coming from a guy that was a Republican for 30 years.

All intelligent and principled people like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney have been pushed aside for moron demagogues like MTG. The base is like wrestling fans, little more

I don’t think the Democrats have much to work with in Kevin McCarthy, certainly not now that he’s tied himself down with the most wild eyed cooks in the party. If you want civility in US politics you’ll clearly have to wait at least a couple years. The next two will be a joke, and you can blame it on the GOP. The Senate is their last refuge of any sanity, and they can only do so much alone

16 February, 2023 00:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Reaganite: It's probably still true that the Republicans are the worse of the two, but that's not really relevant to my point here. And no, the vast majority of Republicans are not Nazis. Failure to condemn anti-Semitism is reprehensible (and there are people on the left who minimize or make excuses for Ilhan Omar's remarks or left-wing campus anti-Semitism too), but there's a huge distance between that and actually building Auschwitz. People need to remember what the Nazis were actually like. Guys like McConnell, DeSantis, McCarthy, etc are very, very bad people, but they're not even remotely Nazis.

16 February, 2023 01:36  
Blogger run75441 said...

Hi Infidel:

I hope this comment finds you healthy and enjoying life.

I can read in your commentary, the acuity of thought, awareness . . . is still (or strike still) incredibly sharp. It is commentary such as this which draws me to reading you. I am not sure i what you want is achievable.

Cited (comments) are people such as Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney as potentially being acceptable Republicans. I find neither are such. It took an assault on the Capitol before either really understood what trump and his extreme followers were about. Until such point, the assault on the capitol, they were mildly annoyed with trump.

Cheney has been rejected by the party and Romney is quiet again and would still propose similar actions to change America using his "Binders full of women." Is there one Republican who we might find acceptable to the majority, to a mixture of Dems and Repubs? (thinking more so of the biblical story of "Lot"). I do not see it and they will not speak out on Republican Party behavior.

People are weary of the politics but are they ready to take cuts in healthcare, education, Social Security. Some would hurt themselves by accepting such cuts, perceiving such programs as being socialist. Romney has advocated for such cuts. Biden is the antagonist on student loans and get angry with people who suggest more help . . . come-on man . . .

There are sharp divisions between people. Many of them are willing to hurt themselves in order to spite the other group. I am not sure there can ever be a middle. Carter probably came the closest and he went down dramatically against Reagan obly because Reagan lied.

21 February, 2023 07:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Run75441: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the kind thoughts.

I would reiterate that this post is not about being in the "middle" (see first paragraph of post), or which party is objectively more extreme, or how many politicians on one side have views acceptable to people on the other. Of course most people on the other side have some views which are unacceptable to those on your own side -- that's pretty much inherent in the definition of "the other side" in politics. But those are separate issues from what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about here is the polarization, the demonization, the insanity of dismissing the entire opposing party and population as "Nazis" or "Marxists", the rejection of any possibility of coexistence, the determined refusal to even look at any expression of an opposing view, as if doing so posed some kind of risk of contamination. These things are new, or at least until a few years ago they were attitudes found only on the far fringes. My opposition to any effort to ban abortion or same-sex marriage is firm, and I would never compromise on those issues. What I'm not doing is calling the people who want to ban those things Nazis or refusing to even listen to anything they say, nor rejecting the possibility that it might be possible to find common ground with the same people on other issues.

Most democracies have groups of people who hold strongly-opposing beliefs, as here. But most democracies don't display the kind of extreme polarization and demonization that US politics does.

The fact that the "exhausted majority" includes two-thirds of Americans, including people across most of the spectrum of left and right, shows that it should indeed be achievable to overcome this problem. Two-thirds of Americans, including people with vehemently-opposed political views, "aren't ideologues who dismiss as evil or ignorant the people who don't share their exact political views. They want to talk and to find a path forward." Two-thirds of Americans want to put aside the hysteria and insults and hate rhetoric and see politics return to normal. It's not only what I want, it's what two-thirds of us want. The problem is the minority on each "side" which is making most of the noise.

21 February, 2023 08:09  

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