Partisan equals Brain Dead

The New York Times Psychology section is arguably its most interesting section. They had a great story today about an experiment that measured the mentality of extremely partisan people. I always thought that people who did things based solely on political party alliances were less than intelligent, but now I have some data to back me up.

From the article:

Using M.R.I. scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain’s pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected.

This, in and of itself, is neither a big deal nor surprising. Whenever we hear or read something we enjoy/agree with, we experience pleasure. Whenever we interact with the opposite, we are unhappy about it. This is all well and good, but these thoughtless reactions have potentially catastrophic implications when in the heads of the violent or the influential. It is important that we elect to public office individuals that will think before they act. It bothers me when I see votes in Congress that fall strictly on party lines (the most recent example being the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recommendation in favor of Samuel Alito. A more infamous example of voting without thinking was the vote to pass the USA Patriot Act in 2001. The problem with this thinking (or lack thereof) is clear: acting blindly will never lead to positive outcomes. We need to have representatives in government that are willing to think critically about all of the issues in front of them, if for no other reason than the fact that they represent the hearts and minds of thousands of thinking people who make up their constituencies. It is our responsibility as voters and civic participants to eliminate such individuals from our government. To find who would be eliminated based on this idea, start by going to Project Vote Smart to review the voting records of the politicians that represent you.

If I was going to vote for someone who would only vote the way that party leaders (or any special interest for that matter) dictate, then there would be no use for representative democracy at all. All decision making in this situation would map to the opinions those who spoke for whatever special interest was hot at the time. That is brain dead. Then again, so is a partisan voter. Don’t be that person.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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