US elections, a non-event

By | November 4, 2014

I voted.  Today is an election day in the United States for Congress and Governors.

I always vote, as it is one of my rights as an citizen. That said, very little gets done with state and national elections – it is largely marketing, divvying up of concessions, and (re)allocating of government debt to different special interests. Sad, but true.

This is not a political blog (thank goodness), but thought that I share a few graphs from the Economist this week. Here you can see that it is a close race between Republicans and Democrats in only 8 states (out of 50).  Ironically, most people hate Congress (approval ratings in 20-30%), but consistently vote their representative back into office. The likelihood of an incumbent politician in the US getting re-elected is 90%+. This Washington Post article digs into why this could be the case here.

If you want a 4 minute British take on US elections, listen here.   The Economist (as usual) do a great job of reducing complex topics to their very witty Essence.

Consultantsmind - Consulting blog - Economist graph

Gerrymandering.  This is a SAT-type word, but one of the most important root causes for the completely bi-polar nature of US state and national politics. The two parties have essentially parsed up the country into unintelligible voting districts which are either full of democrats or full of republicans. Look at some of the Congressional voting districts below, and how ridiculous they are shaped. The Post argues here that this is not an oligopoly by incumbents in office, to  stay in office, but I have my doubts.

Examples of odd-shaped districts, largely created for the benefit of 1 of the parties.

Consultantsmind Consulting Blog - Gerrymandering

Polarizing politics.  No surprise, most of my thinking friends don’t pay much attention to the political discourse in the papers, tv, and radios.  Most of it is only 1 inch deep in analysis, and over-simplified.  Most of our complex problems require a look at the root causes, agreeing on the end-goal, listening, and demanding more sacrifice of everyone. As Seth Godin says (paraphrase), if it were an imperfect problem (and easy to solve), it would have been solved already.  We only have perfect problems left.

Information diet.  I am a big fan of the concept of information diet.  Clay Johnson wrote a book by the same name here with the simple concept: Food (and calories) are over abundant and cheap, which often leads to mindless eating and obesity. Information is also abundant and cheap and we mindlessly eat too much of that too:

  • We are responsible for the information we consume. It is our (bad) habits.  We need to be conscious of what we are feeding our brains
  • All information is not valuable.  Think – empty calories, empty information. Too often “news” is about sensational crap that has no bear on our lives.  It is only meant to capture our attention through fear, anger, hate, disgust etc.
  • Too often, we only take information which appeals to our world view. Through our Google News readers, FlipBoard and email, we tend to read and watch things that validate how we see things.  We need to be more diverse in our news sources.
  • Too much processed (foods) information.  We should be critical thinkers, and be willing to challenge assumptions of the experts, and understand root causes.

A 6 min video of Clay on PBS arguing his points here:

Politics = polarizing negativity. Big surprise, most political advertisements are negative.  In essence, bad-mouthing people works.  Sad.

The Economist breaks it down here.  Requires log-in.

Consultantsmind - Consulting Blog - Lots of negative campaigning

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  
– F Scott Fitzgerald

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