Charlie Harper: Trapped in our bubble-think

October 29, 2013 

There is a long held notion that one of the problems with Washington D.C. is that those who live there are trapped in a bubble of their own making. The inhabitants within the beltway suffer from a group-think. They do not interact enough with the rest of America, but instead limit their ideas to only those that could be created and sustained by those who live and breathe Washington culture. The result is a group of leaders who are out of touch with the rest of America.

In the age of the Internet, it has been much easier to combat the beltway bubble. Social media have allowed anti-Washington activists to find each other, and present a united front of ideas to challenge those that emanate from the status quo.

Those of us on the right no longer have to rely on a steady diet of news produced from left-leaning D.C. insiders. We have Fox News, talk radio, and a myriad of personalities scattered across the Internet from which to glean our information. And in the process of uniting via alternate news delivery sources, we have created our own bubble.

Too many of us wear as a badge of honor that we will listen only to those we agree with. Whether radio, cable news or preferred web addresses, we have self-selected the sources of our information to the point that we are no longer informed, but rather affirmed in our beliefs.

Too many who inhabit these places of our attention are too interested in ratings and the ad revenue that comes with them to risk challenging the audience with new ideas or upsetting them with the presentation of contrarian views. Instead, there is a constant drumbeat of affirmation to assure the viewer/listener/reader that their views are pure, intellectually sound, and morally justified.

We are told that if we agree with our kind hosts, that we are then "intelligent thinkers." Republican partisans who do not carry the message of the minute are RINOs. Other voters who do not agree with us are "low-information voters."

It is becoming a less than subtle practice from within the bubble to immediately reject any alternate views beyond our own group-think on the grounds that only our views are of the informed variety. Any other opinion is presumed to be based in evil or ignorance until proven otherwise.

The move to isolate ourselves within a protective shield is self-limiting. The only way to change the things we spend so much time informing ourselves about is to win elections. And while it is inherent that in order to do this we must take a majority of votes, we are instead taking a counterintuitive approach of trying to make the group we surround ourselves with smaller.

When we refer to those who disagree with us as "low information voters," we are essentially saying they are stupid. More often than not, if you're asking someone to do something and you lead by telling them that they are stupid, they aren't going to be cooperative. This should be obvious. Unless you're trapped in bubble-think.

Furthermore, those who spend the time in the bubble and play by the bubble's rules are now adopting a smug sense of superiority and entitlement. This new brand of establishment believes that more pure candidates are needed to win majorities and are pushing for ways to change the nomination process to ensure "better" candidates.

Virginia will likely see most of its statewide elected offices transfer from Republican to Democratic hands next week after choosing their nominees by convention instead of by primary. A movement to do the same here in Georgia has thus far failed to gain traction but still lingers.

For Republicans to move forward toward national majorities again, we're going to have to do an honest self-assessment of our own bubble. We cannot allow our attention to focus inward on ourselves while alienating the independent voters we so desperately need to win elections.

There was once a time when we prided ourselves on being the party of ideas. We now allow ourselves to be led by those who find it easier to pander to a caricature of what we call "the base" rather than lead with positive solutions that define a specific path for change. In order for this to happen, we first must pop the bubble.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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