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http://www.upenn.edu/president/meet-president/extremist-rhet...

The article is old (2007), but I find it more and more relevant as time goes on.

Here is what is is about:
Quote:
For the sake of our discussion, let us group extreme and extremist rhetoric together under the label of extremist rhetoric, and consider the three most salient questions about extremist rhetoric in democratic controversy. First: what makes it alluring at all? Second: how can it imperil democratic discourse in spite of the constitutional protections of free speech to which it is entitled? Third: is there any potentially effective way of responding to the prevalence of extremist rhetoric in our political culture other than trying to beat one kind of extremism with another?


And some of the quotes involving the third point (countering it):
Quote:
Democracy’s most reasonable hope for countering demagogy is the democratic lure of morally engaged pluralism. The vast majority of American citizens realize that they have multiple interests, ideals, and preferences. And they are more satisfied when democratic politics attends to those interests, ideals, and preferences.

How can American democracy take better advantage of the lure of morally engaged pluralism? Well-educated citizens can practice what Dennis Thompson and I describe as “an economy of moral disagreement.” When we argue about controversial issues, we should defend our views vigorously while expressing mutual respect for our adversaries. We can do this by not preemptively rejecting everything for which our political adversaries stand. Take the controversy over creationism. I can staunchly defend evolution against creationism as a scientific theory while also recognizing that science does not have answers to most of the great cosmological questions that religion addresses. Nothing will thereby be lost, and much will be gained. Practicing “an economy of moral disagreement” engenders mutual respect across competing viewpoints and, as important, makes room for moral compromise. No democracy can function–let alone flourish–without moral compromise over reasonable differences.


Quote:
In searching for antidotes to extremism, there is therefore no substitute for a better democratic education in robust, reasoned, and respectful political controversy and debate. We need to teach students how to engage with one another over controversial issues. Students must first learn how to recognize demagogic rhetoric and then how to counter it, both individually and institutionally.
 
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The article almost makes an interesting point, but manages to skip past it.

I might point out this passage...

Quote:
What is our most reasonable remedy for upholding the pluralistic values of constitutional democracy? The most enduring remedy is closely related to the fact that a majority of democratic citizens are not themselves extremists. The most reliable surveys and scholarly studies consistently find a far more pluralistic and open-minded electorate than the public catered to by extremist rhetoric on cable TV and talk radio and among many political elites.


...while technically true (one of the more 'hot button' topics for "single-issue voters" being abortion, and even then "only" 1/6 of potential voters choose a candidate specifically based on that one thing, and nothing else), it belies the fact that those extremist/single-issue voters are the ones most likely to be voting.

When you have single-issue voters that care about nothing except one topic taking up 1/6 of the potential-voting population, and you only HAVE 30-40% of your potential-voting population actually voting...you can maybe see what the real problem is.

While the article's premise is overall sound, it presumes as a starting point an electorate that is...

Quote:
...realize that they have multiple interests, ideals, and preferences. And they are more satisfied when democratic politics attends to those interests, ideals, and preferences.


...yet, very nearly, this is not true of the majority. They see their entire identity as tied to one issue, not many, and so are unable to effectively compromise.
 
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XanderF wrote:
The article almost makes an interesting point, but manages to skip past it.

I might point out this passage...

Quote:
What is our most reasonable remedy for upholding the pluralistic values of constitutional democracy? The most enduring remedy is closely related to the fact that a majority of democratic citizens are not themselves extremists. The most reliable surveys and scholarly studies consistently find a far more pluralistic and open-minded electorate than the public catered to by extremist rhetoric on cable TV and talk radio and among many political elites.


...while technically true (one of the more 'hot button' topics for "single-issue voters" being abortion, and even then "only" 1/6 of potential voters choose a candidate specifically based on that one thing, and nothing else), it belies the fact that those extremist/single-issue voters are the ones most likely to be voting.

When you have single-issue voters that care about nothing except one topic taking up 1/6 of the potential-voting population, and you only HAVE 30-40% of your potential-voting population actually voting...you can maybe see what the real problem is.

While the article's premise is overall sound, it presumes as a starting point an electorate that is...

Quote:
...realize that they have multiple interests, ideals, and preferences. And they are more satisfied when democratic politics attends to those interests, ideals, and preferences.


...yet, very nearly, this is not true of the majority. They see their entire identity as tied to one issue, not many, and so are unable to effectively compromise.


It also was 2007 and since then more and more people have jumped on the extremist bandwagon - at least they have in my state.
 
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I think it was trying to be idealistic and hopeful.

I think that considering where we are now, any effort to combat it has failed, but it is still worth striving for.

The power of extremist rhetoric is strong, and showing by example by being a good and respectful person can only go so far and is easily drown out by the louder and more click baitable extremist rhetoric.
 
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Well you've basically got two ways to go about solving that 'vocal minority of single-issue/uneducated voters skewing the vote' problem.

1) Require 100% voter participation. Tie it to a tax penalty or something for not voting, I dunno. Basically try to tap into that "silent majority who are basically okay with everything mostly staying the way it is, now, if very slowly moving in a progressive direction" as a means to dilute the extremist vote.

2) Rethink voting to not be a basic right, and move away from the idea of universal suffrage. This one would be the MOST effective at solving that problem...maybe...but it's advantage is also its disadvantage. Who decides what qualifies someone to be educated, reasonable, and well-rounded enough of a person to be a voter? Because the people making that decision are obviously going to bias their choice in favor of their own background...
 
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XanderF wrote:
Well you've basically got two ways to go about solving that 'vocal minority of single-issue/uneducated voters skewing the vote' problem.

1) Require 100% voter participation. Tie it to a tax penalty or something for not voting, I dunno. Basically try to tap into that "silent majority who are basically okay with everything mostly staying the way it is, now, if very slowly moving in a progressive direction" as a means to dilute the extremist vote.

2) Rethink voting to not be a basic right, and move away from the idea of universal suffrage. This one would be the MOST effective at solving that problem...maybe...but it's advantage is also its disadvantage. Who decides what qualifies someone to be educated, reasonable, and well-rounded enough of a person to be a voter? Because the people making that decision are obviously going to bias their choice in favor of their own background...


Definitely would never support #2 and do not see it gaining any significant support in the near future.

Forcing voter participation could work to an extent, but only under the assumption that the extremist rhetoric has not spread to the majority of the population. Once the majority has been fed into the left or right extremist rhetoric machines, then that chance is gone.

In general though, I'm in support of making it easier to vote. The more people that vote, the more of the population it represents.

Requiring that vote seems a bit too far - especially since then people may just vote for anything without reading up on it if they are forced to just to avoid a penalty.

I'd want to do things to encourage more thoughtful voting - even crossing back and forth between party in their voting based on the quality of the candidate weighed against how well their views line up with yours.
 
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xuzuthor wrote:
XanderF wrote:
Well you've basically got two ways to go about solving that 'vocal minority of single-issue/uneducated voters skewing the vote' problem.

1) Require 100% voter participation. Tie it to a tax penalty or something for not voting, I dunno. Basically try to tap into that "silent majority who are basically okay with everything mostly staying the way it is, now, if very slowly moving in a progressive direction" as a means to dilute the extremist vote.

2) Rethink voting to not be a basic right, and move away from the idea of universal suffrage. This one would be the MOST effective at solving that problem...maybe...but it's advantage is also its disadvantage. Who decides what qualifies someone to be educated, reasonable, and well-rounded enough of a person to be a voter? Because the people making that decision are obviously going to bias their choice in favor of their own background...


Definitely would never support #2 and do not see it gaining any significant support in the near future.


Not really suggesting it's a "good" idea - I think I noted its major disadvantage right there, just saying it COULD work as a solution. Not likely, of course, but it's possible.

xuzuthor wrote:
Forcing voter participation could work to an extent, but only under the assumption that the extremist rhetoric has not spread to the majority of the population. Once the majority has been fed into the left or right extremist rhetoric machines, then that chance is gone.


FWIW, I don't really feel that the TRUE majority are 'fed into the extremist rhetoric', yet. Majority of active voters? Not even that, really, although certainly getting there. TRUE majority of the adult population? Nah, not even close. The OP article is correct on that, anyway. Most people remain decent, and can disagree in a civil fashion.

xuzuthor wrote:
In general though, I'm in support of making it easier to vote. The more people that vote, the more of the population it represents.


Experimenting with that in Oregon, at the moment. We are 100% vote-by-mail, so everyone registered to vote gets an information packet and ballot. Not much different from nationally-average voter turnout, to date, but we just passed a law that has now taken effect automatically registering everyone to vote when they get a driver's license.

Voter rolls are already significantly increased. Will be interesting to see what result, if any, that has...

xuzuthor wrote:
Requiring that vote seems a bit too far - especially since then people may just vote for anything without reading up on it if they are forced to just to avoid a penalty.


Eh, doesn't have to be a TRUE requirement. Just, say...I dunno, a $1k tax deduction or something (pull it out of home ownership tax deduction maybe).

And certainly you'd want to provide a very clear option on the ballot to indicate no preference (for those who religiously abstain from politics, if no other reason). I'd like it strongly worded. Something like, for each category:

"I decline to choose, feel free to make changes without my input"

xuzuthor wrote:
I'd want to do things to encourage more thoughtful voting - even crossing back and forth between party in their voting based on the quality of the candidate weighed against how well their views line up with yours.


Yeah, well...I'd like fusion reactors and flying cars, too, but...
 
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XanderF wrote:
xuzuthor wrote:
XanderF wrote:
Well you've basically got two ways to go about solving that 'vocal minority of single-issue/uneducated voters skewing the vote' problem.

1) Require 100% voter participation. Tie it to a tax penalty or something for not voting, I dunno. Basically try to tap into that "silent majority who are basically okay with everything mostly staying the way it is, now, if very slowly moving in a progressive direction" as a means to dilute the extremist vote.

2) Rethink voting to not be a basic right, and move away from the idea of universal suffrage. This one would be the MOST effective at solving that problem...maybe...but it's advantage is also its disadvantage. Who decides what qualifies someone to be educated, reasonable, and well-rounded enough of a person to be a voter? Because the people making that decision are obviously going to bias their choice in favor of their own background...


Definitely would never support #2 and do not see it gaining any significant support in the near future.


Not really suggesting it's a "good" idea - I think I noted its major disadvantage right there, just saying it COULD work as a solution. Not likely, of course, but it's possible.


No worries, that's what I figured.

XanderF wrote:

xuzuthor wrote:
Forcing voter participation could work to an extent, but only under the assumption that the extremist rhetoric has not spread to the majority of the population. Once the majority has been fed into the left or right extremist rhetoric machines, then that chance is gone.


FWIW, I don't really feel that the TRUE majority are 'fed into the extremist rhetoric', yet. Majority of active voters? Not even that, really, although certainly getting there. TRUE majority of the adult population? Nah, not even close. The OP article is correct on that, anyway. Most people remain decent, and can disagree in a civil fashion.

xuzuthor wrote:
In general though, I'm in support of making it easier to vote. The more people that vote, the more of the population it represents.


Experimenting with that in Oregon, at the moment. We are 100% vote-by-mail, so everyone registered to vote gets an information packet and ballot. Not much different from nationally-average voter turnout, to date, but we just passed a law that has now taken effect automatically registering everyone to vote when they get a driver's license.

Voter rolls are already significantly increased. Will be interesting to see what result, if any, that has...

Very cool. I would hope more would be interested in getting the most accurate depiction of their electorate so they could represent their area as closely as possible.
XanderF wrote:

xuzuthor wrote:
Requiring that vote seems a bit too far - especially since then people may just vote for anything without reading up on it if they are forced to just to avoid a penalty.


Eh, doesn't have to be a TRUE requirement. Just, say...I dunno, a $1k tax deduction or something (pull it out of home ownership tax deduction maybe).

And certainly you'd want to provide a very clear option on the ballot to indicate no preference (for those who religiously abstain from politics, if no other reason). I'd like it strongly worded. Something like, for each category:

"I decline to choose, feel free to make changes without my input"

xuzuthor wrote:
I'd want to do things to encourage more thoughtful voting - even crossing back and forth between party in their voting based on the quality of the candidate weighed against how well their views line up with yours.


Yeah, well...I'd like fusion reactors and flying cars, too, but...


Well, yeah it's idealistic, but if we argue with respect for both sides, it is still possible to agree with both sides at the same time.

The more we demonize or demean the other side, the less that is easily able to happen.
 
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