Senator Orrin Hatch and His Collaboration with Senator Ted Kennedy

I read that Senator Orrin Hatch will be retiring. I have deep disagreements with Senator Hatch’s conservative politics, but I respect his willingness during most of his career to cross the aisle and collaborate with Democrats on areas of common ground. Senator Hatch’s most famous collaboration was with liberal Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy. They become close friends during their times in the Senate. Their friendship was close enough that Hatch was able to privately confront Kennedy on the excesses of his private life and told Kennedy that he had to get his drinking under control. Due to the urgings of friends like Orrin Hatch and Kennedy’s marriage to Vicky Reggie, Kennedy cleaned up his private life and was happy and content in the later years of his life.

Among the most important bills that Senators Hatch and Kennedy collaborated on:

The Orphan Drug Act , which provided tax credits for encouraging the development of medicines for rare diseases.

The Ryan White Aids Act, which established a federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on providing funding to improve availability of care for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured victims of AIDS and their families.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provided health insurance to thousands of the working poor across our country.

The Mammography Standards in 1992

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which provided individual protections from discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The FDA Revitalization Act of 2007, which addressed many critical issues including the need to provide proper incentives and support for the development and review of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and the need for heightened efforts to assure the safety of medications.

The PDUFA, a program that created drug user fees to help expedite the approval of new drugs. This legislation continues to be reauthorized.

The Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007, which reauthorized the health center program for five more years and provided people with essential health care services.

The FDAMA – FDA Modernization Act of 1997, which regulated prescription drug advertising, food safety, and codified the requirements for access to life saving medicines.

The Bioshield Legislation, which increased federal, state, and local infrastructure for bioterrorism preparedness.

Sadly, this era of bipartisan collaboration seems to have passed. As the Republican Party has moved further to the extreme Right, Republicans have become more averse to partnering with Democrats on areas of common ground for fear of punishment from extreme Right wing groups. Michael Tomasky for The New York Times wrote an article titled The Sad Trajectory of Orrin Hatch on the effect this has had on Senator Hatch. Tomasky wrote:

Mr. Hatch’s career reflects the sad trajectory of our times, from a Congress where legislators had differences but actually tried to legislate, to one in which legislators — especially Republicans, terrified of facing a well-financed primary from the right — do nothing of the sort…

…Mr. Hatch did what senators did in those days: He governed. Across party lines. His most famous association, of course, was with Edward M. Kennedy. They worked together on biomedical research, child care, AIDS and civil rights for the disabled.

Most important, they teamed up in 1997 on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the same program that’s on the block today…

…Mr. Hatch was up for re-election in 2012. He faced a Tea Party challenger, Dan Liljenquist. He knew what he had to do. He opposed virtually every item on Barack Obama’s agenda. He ratcheted up the rhetoric. In 2007, Freedom Works, a right-wing pressure group, rated him at an abysmal 25 percent. By 2011, Mr. Hatch had brought that up to 88 percent. He’d burnished his right-wing credentials enough so that Sarah Palin endorsed him in 2012. He beat Mr. Liljenquist nearly two to one…

…It’s not that Mr. Hatch is a bad man. He’s surely a decent man, trapped in an indecent dynamic.

I hope that the Republican Party moves away from the extreme Right and reaches out to Democrats to work on areas of common ground.

Here is Senator Orrin Hatch’s remarks at the memorial service of Senator Ted Kennedy

Here is a video of Senator Orrin Hatch talking about the Serve America Act, the last collaboration between Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy.

According to Wikipedia, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act expanded on the AmeriCorps program. Included in this bill are some major provisions related to improving volunteerism. First, five new service corps are created which address the needs of low income communities. These include a Clean Energy Corps to encourage energy efficiency and conservation; an Education Corps to help increase student engagement, achievement and graduation; a Healthy Futures Corps to improve health care access; a Veterans Service Corps to enhance services for veterans; and an Opportunity Corps.

Conservative Republican Orrin Hatch and liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy collaborated in the Ryan White Act, a bill that helped AIDS victim during the worst of the AIDS crisis.

In 1984, 13-year-old Ryan White changed the face of AIDS by speaking out against intolerance. Following his death in 1990, the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act received vast bipartisan support and today is the backbone of our fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States, providing lifesaving treatment and prevention services to nearly half of all people living with HIV nationwide.

Senator Ted Kennedy interviewed by On A Roll Disability Talk Radio Host, Greg Smith, during the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act


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Roy Moore and the Problem of Groupthink

For the past few weeks, I’ve been caught up in the Alabama Senate race and the prospect of conservative voters getting Roy Moore elected to the Senate. At first, I was just as mystified as anyone else as to why conservative Evangelicals would support someone who is accused of pedophilia and rape. When I think of it though, this may be another case of extreme groupthink.

I don’t think that conservatives are the only ones guilty of this. Radical leftists turned a blind eye to Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. In 2016 I left a few Filipino facebook pages when I got into conflicts with individuals who tried to justify Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. Groupthink is a problem of human nature that both the Left and the Right are vulnerable to.

Recently I saw the trailer to the movie Chappaquidick. During the 1980s and 1990s, conservative friends would question why I am a big fan of Ted Kennedy in spite of what happened in Chappaquiddick. For those of you who do not know, Chappaquiddick was a terrible incident that happened in 1969 when Ted Kennedy drove off a wooden bridge in the middle of the night and his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne drowned. I don’t think there was any evil intent in the death of Kopechne. I think it was just a terrible accident. The issue has always been why did Kennedy wait 10 hours before he contacted the police on the accident. I do agree with my conservative friends that Kennedy probably should’ve spent time in jail.

In spite of that, I still respect all that Ted Kennedy did to pass legislation for civil rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, workers rights, affordable health care. And after he married Vicki Reggie in the early 1990s, he cleaned up his private life. From everything I read, Kennedy spent his life trying to make amends for the terrible thing he did in 1969.

I still have heroes. But I realize that all heroes have feet of clay. I most admire those who had the capacity to grow and change as they learned about the injustices in the world.

Abraham Lincoln was always against slavery, but he held racist views of the inferiority of African Americans before he become President in 1860. During the war, though, Lincoln began to change his mind. He met African American leaders like Frederick Douglass whom Lincoln deeply respected. And Lincoln grew to admire the courage of the African American Union soldiers who fought against the South. At the end of the war, Lincoln held very different views about the equality of African Americans than he did at the beginning of the war.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm X spouted some very anti-white racist views and he was deeply critical of Martin Luther King Jr and the southern civil rights movement. After Malcolm had a falling out with the Black Muslims and took a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X tempered his views on whites and became more open to alliances with any group who was fighting against systemic racism. Malcolm grew into one of the most insightful leaders in the civil rights movement before he was tragically killed.

Robert Kennedy had a similar evolution. During the 1950s, RFK had been in the committee helping Joe McCarthy investigate alleged communists, and he was relentless in his fight against Jimmy Hoffa and corruption in the Teamsters union. Before Kennedy became Attorney General, he didn’t think much about the civil rights of African Americans. After learning dealing with the intransigence of white segregationists and interacting with civil rights activists, RFK slowly began to gain greater awareness and sympathy for the plight of African Americans. After his brother was assassinated, RFK reached out to Native Americans, striking migrant farmworkers and poor Appalachian white communities. Towards the end of his life, Robert Kennedy became a champion of the poor and the marginalized in this country.

My philosophy when it comes to any political leader is that I’ll support them on issues where I agree with them, I’ll oppose them on issues where I disagree with them. Since I’m liberal, I’ll be more supportive of liberal political leaders on most issues. But I’m willing to support conservative leaders if they are fighting for issues that I support.

I try to judge any political leader by the totality of their life and not just the mistakes of their youth. If they made mistakes in their past, did they acknowledge their mistakes and make amends for it? If they espoused racist or prejudiced views in the past, have they tried to overcome their racist views and fight for equal rights for all? With the news of sexual harassment, have those who are guilty paid the price and tried to make amends?

I’ll probably watch Chappaquidick when it comes out. It probably won’t change my mind about Ted Kennedy. For me, Ted will always be a deeply flawed man who tried very hard to overcome those flaws to fight the good fight for the poor and the marginalized of this society.

Here is the trailer to the movie Chappaquidick

A Boston Globe video by Bill Greene and Ann Silvio on the Chappaquidick incident, based on reporting by Jenna Russell

A video by The Boston Globe’s Joe Kahn on Ted Kennedy’s personal evolution. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ted Kennedy’s personal life was out of control, with issues of womanizing and alcohol hounding him. In the early 1990s, Kennedy cleaned up his private life as he found happiness in his marriage to Vicki Reggie

A Boston Globe video by Ann Silvio and Scott LaPierre about the many ways Ted Kennedy helped ordinary citizens and those who were struggling in our society

Adam Clymer, the author of ‘Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography’ discusses the impact Ted Kennedy had on the Senate since taking office in November 1962. Senator Kennedy produced significant legislation that helped Americans on civil rights, worker rights, affordable health care, women’s rights, immigration

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Thoughts for the New Year

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This has been a roller coaster of a year for me, both in terms of politics and in terms of my personal life. At the beginning of the year I attended a lot of protests and political rallies.  Being around like-minded people really helped pull me out of the depression I sometimes felt when I would read the latest news of Trump and his administration.  When my father had knee replacement surgery, I had to pull back from doing any political activities, as I spent more time helping my parents out.

Three issues are uppermost in my mind in 2018 when I do my political cartoons: the racism and religious bigotry of the Alt Right and its bad influence on the Republican Party; figuring out how to bridge the divide between the working class white communities that supported Trump and the minority communities that feel threatened by Trump; the horrific nature of Duterte’s policy of extrajudicial killings, which is just state sponsored murder.  I deeply dislike Trump, but in 2017 I tried to focus my cartoons more on the issues rather than personally attacking Trump.  Trump may be exploiting the great racial and cultural divisions in this country, but he didn’t create those problems.  

One of the biggest challenges that I think Democrats and responsible Republicans have to face is to bridge the divide between the white working class communities in the Rust Belt and South and the minority communities found in the urban areas of the coast.  Many of these working class white communities are facing the same problems that inner city African American communities faced in the 1970s and 1980s.  As the industries that once provided middle class jobs to those communities began disappearing due to either globalization or automation, both white and black communities began exhibiting the same symptoms of despair: a widening drug problem; a lack of hope for the future; a loss of faith in education; a rise in suicide rates; a sense of isolation from the wider American society; an increase in crime.  In the same way that the economic struggles of the 1920s and 1930s led many Germans to support Hitler, a sense of economic despair and anger is making a portion of the white working class more vulnerable to the bigotry of the Alt Right.  This increase in prejudice in turn is having a devastating effect on many vulnerable minority communities.

So I think our government needs to find ways of helping both these working class white and minority communities.  Both communities have far more common interests than they have differences.  They need to see that minorities are not their enemies.  The great foe to both groups is the economic inequalities of the current system.

I also think it’s important to return to civility in political discourse. One of the things that I hate most about Trump is his reliance on personal attacks and demagogic appeals rather than sober discussion on political issues.  “Little Marco”, “Lying Ted”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Pocohantas”.  I think this reliance on personal attacks is very bad for our democratic discourse.  One of the foundations of a democratic republic is the sober discussion on political issues.  People of differing views cannot have an intelligent debate on important issues without civility.  I used to try to engage with anyone who wants to discuss politics with me. After several bad experiences though, I’ve learned that I have to pick my spots on when to engage and when not to. I’m still willing to have a dialogue with sane conservatives who are respectful of differences of opinion.  I’ve had too many bad experiences though with crazy conservatives who are just interested in a monologue where I’m just expected to listen and automatically agree with everything they say. 

For the past year I’ve also focused my political cartoons on the extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs.  Killing people who are only suspected of a crime without giving them a chance to defend themselves is immoral.  But I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness.  Right now Duterte’s approval rating in the Philippines is in the high 70s, though the Catholic Church, various leftists groups and human rights activists are becoming more vocal in their criticisms of extrajudicial killings.

In 2017 I was so focused on politics that I didn’t do as much art as I would’ve liked.  In 2018, I will continue to go to protests and political rallies.  But I also plan on doing more paintings, web comics and children’s book ideas.  I’ve decided to self publish some of the children’s book ideas that I have on Createspace rather than continually sending them to publishers to get rejected.  If I have time, I may start doing my Jasper the Cat cartoons again.  All this depends on me having the discipline to manage my time better rather than get distracted.  

So those are my plans for the new year.  My best wishes for everyone and their plans for the new year. 

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Favoring a Path to Citizenship to Illegal Immigrants

Farmworkers

For the past few years, I’ve gotten into conversations with people about immigration reform. I think people try to start conversations with me on immigration because I have done several cartoons on the subject and I’ve been in several political marches supporting immigrant rights. I’ve learned a lot about immigration issues and realize that it is a complex issue. I’m in favor of immigration reform that allows most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country a pathway to citizenship.

Our current illegal immigration problem can be traced to the passage of NAFTA in the 1990s. When the United States negotiated the NAFTA deal with Mexico, Mexico agreed to get rid of their subsidies to Mexican corn and other farm products. The United States, however, didn’t get rid of its subsidies to American corn. So when cheap subsidized American corn flooded the Mexican market, Mexican farmers couldn’t compete. Over 2 million agricultural workers lost their jobs.

The Mexican government knew that the NAFTA deal would severely affect their agricultural sector. They were betting that the industries that benefitted from NAFTA would be able to absorb the people who had lost their agricultural jobs. This didn’t happen. The displaced agricultural workers instead immigrated to the United States to find work in the agricultural and service industries.

Before NAFTA, illegal immigration was in decline. After NAFTA, illegal immigration went through a steep rise until the mid 2000s.

There is a myth that illegal immigrants have taken away jobs from native born American workers. There are instances of this happening. The vast majority of illegal immigrants, however, have taken jobs that most native born American won’t take. And many illegal immigrants are working in industries that are facing worker shortages. Farmers in Arizona and Alabama, for instance, faced worker shortages after their states enacted strict laws in the 2000s that targeted illegal immigrants.

In 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that I thought addressed both the Democrats desire to help illegal immigrants and the Republican concerns about border security. To address conservative concerns about border security, the bill would’ve added 500 miles of a border wall, invest in drones and other high technology to protect the border, and add 20,000 personnel to guard the border. In exchange, illegal immigrants who are in this country would be given a 13 year waiting period before being given a chance to becoming a citizen. In that period, those immigrants who are here legally and are in a waiting list would be given a first chance to become citizens. After 13 years, illegal immigrants would be given a chance to be a citizen if they speak English and they do not have a criminal record.

When the Senate passed the bill with both Democrat and Republican support, the bill went to the House, where it died due to the extreme conservative Freedom Caucus Republicans not allowing the bill to be debated. If these Republicans were serious about immigration reform, they could have come up with a bill of their own that could’ve addressed any perceived flaws that they saw in the Senate bill. Then they could’ve negotiated with the Senate leaders in the reconciliation process and come up with a compromise bill. They didn’t do that.

The Filipino American community is affected by the immigration reform debate because around 500,000 illegal immigrants are Filipinos. Many of these Filipino illegal immigrants are in the caregiving and nursing professions, both industries that are facing labor shortages. The shortage of caregivers and nurses is expected to get much worse in the coming decades as the Baby Boomers beginning retiring from the workforce. Right now 13% of the population are over 65 years old. In 2030 over 18% will be over 65. The American birth rate is 1.9 children per couple. The ratio of young workers to retired people will shrink. This will create stress to the social programs and the workforce as industries struggle to fill shortages.

Trump’s policy of cutting immigration will exacerbate these problems. Our country could potentially face the same problems as Japan, a country with an aging population, a low birthrate, and an overly strict immigration policy.

I do favor deporting illegal immigrants who are guilty of violent crimes like murder or rape. Most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country, however, are not guilty of violent crimes. I think it’s demagoguery to try to stereotype illegal immigrants as being murderers and rapists when the vast majority are not.

I think the 2013 Senate bipartisan immigration bill was a good compromise that tried to address the concerns of both liberals and conservatives. I hope any future immigration reform debate is made in the same spirit of compromise and give and take.

Abby Martin outlines the disastrous effects of so-called “free trade” policy NAFTA, including the ejection of over two million Mexican farmers, a surge in sweatshop labor and the destruction of Mexico’s food sovereignty.

Tim Wise, Policy Research Director at Tufts University, explained why illegal immigrants began coming to the United States after the NAFTA treaty was enacted in the mid 1990s. Subsidized U.S. corn was exported to Mexico at 19% below cost of production, devastating Mexican farmers who were unable to compete

Farming uses a higher number of undocumented workers than any other US industry, and that’s sparking concern about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its immigration policies. Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher reported from Clanton, Alabama.

Wisconsin, like much of the country, is suffering from both a nursing shortage and a nursing faculty shortage. To move Wisconsin forward in excellence in nursing practice, Wisconsin needs nurse educators who advance clinical practice and nursing research.

Created for a SSHRC knowledge Synthesis grant led by Dr Margaret Walton-Roberts this film examines the issue of nursing shortages and the global migration of nurses.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Christianity

I’ve been reading a few posts on Facebook about the Evangelicals in Alabama who support Roy Moore. It got me thinking of some of the conflicts that I had with conservative Christians over the past 15 or so years. In the 1990s and 2000s, I used to know a lot of conservative Evangelicals and they were some of the nicest people that I knew. But I saw how their fundamentalist view of things pushed these nice people to act very cruelly to individuals who did not conform to their fundamentalist Biblical beliefs.

Those conflicts have led to my love/hate views on religion and Christianity. Some people have told me that I’m anti-religion or anti-Christian because I’ve been openly critical of some aspects of Christianity. I’m not anti-religion or anti-Christian. I’m anti-fundamentalism. It seems to me that fundamentalist versions of religion, whether it be fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism, bring out the worse forms of homophobia, sexism and religious intolerance.

I’m an ex-Catholic but I still have fond feelings for the Catholic Church. I’m a huge fan of Pope Francis. But I’ve been reading about the conflicts that Pope Francis has been having with some of the more conservative members of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has not tried to change fundamental teachings in the Church, but he has tried to change to tone of the Church. Yet even this has gotten pushback from conservatives. Conservative hierarchy have resisted Pope Francis’ efforts to make the Catholic Church more transparent to try to prevent the cover-up of priest pedophilia abuse. These conservatives have criticized Pope Francis’ statement that the Christian community should apologize to the LGBTQ community for discrimination and harassment. Conservatives have criticized Pope Francis for convening a group that is studying the possibility of women deacons.

When Pope Francis became pope, I was considering going back to the Catholic Church. But seeing how Francis is having problems with the more conservative hierarchy, I keep thinking about how I’ll be entering another situation where I’ll get into conflicts with conservative Christians and that is something I’d rather avoid.

There are conservative Christians who oppose Roy Moore. It must be lonely for them to see their fellow churchgoers support Moore. I hope things get better.

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Having a Fruitful Dialogue With Sane Conservatives

There has been a lot of articles about the extreme hyperpartisanship today. It got me thinking about the conversations I used to have with conservatives 20 or 30 years ago and the conversations I have with conservatives nowadays.

Even though I’m a lifelong liberal Democrat, I used to have a lot of conservative friends in the 1980s and 1990s. We used to get into debates and sometimes heated arguments about various political issues. But even at their most heated, we respected the other person’s right to have their own point of view. And when we discussed various issues, we may disagree on policies, but we agreed on the goal.

For instance, I would argue that government programs are necessary to help the poor get out of poverty. My conservative friend would argue that charities or local government would do a better job of helping the poor. Or they would argue that enterprise zones that attract businesses to poor neighborhoods would do the best to lift up the poor. We would disagree on policies, but we both agreed that it is important to help the poor.

That began to change in the mid 1990s. Conversations with conservatives stopped being dialogues and started becoming two monologues going past each other. I’m not sure what happened. A liberal acquaintance who went through a similar experience with conservative friends blames Fox News for the change.

I still have some thoughtful conversations with more sane conservative friends. But in the past decade and a half, I’ve gotten into some crazy conflicts with conservatives where we no longer have common ground. Whereas a few decades ago, I can agree with a conservative friend that helping the poor is important, I’ve encountered conservatives who think all of the poor are lazy and don’t deserve help. It’s impossible to have a political dialogue with no common ground.

And the conversations have gotten a lot more contentious. Countless times I’ve been yelled at in my face, and my patriotism and intelligence have been questioned for having liberal beliefs. With some conservatives, they’re not content with winning the argument, they’re also trying to destroy the reputation and humiliate the person they disagree with.

I still think it’s important to have conservative friends to challenge my beliefs and make sure I don’t get trapped in a liberal bubble. But only if they are sane conservatives, and not the crazy dogmatic kind of conservatives.

On Oct. 13, 1988, only weeks before the presidential election of George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, former Sens. George McGovern and Barry Goldwater dropped by the MacNeil/Lehrer Report to discuss the state of the race, the divisive politics of their parties and the legacy of conservatism and liberalism. Though McGovern was a liberal and Goldwater was a conservative, they became friends and worked together in the Senate on issues of common ground

Conservative Senator Orrin Hatch and liberal Senator Ted Kennedy became good friends during their time in the Senate and collaborated on important laws like The American With Disabilities Act, the Ryan White Act, the Orphan Drug Act, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Though conservative Ronald Reagan and liberal Tip O’Neil fought often over political differences, they did not allow those political debates become personal. After the political arguments would end for the day, they would often meet in private and share humorous stories

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Groupthink and the Importance of Independent Thought

This has been a week choke full of news, with Senator Jeff Flake’s recent speech imploring Republicans to stand up to President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric, the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the growing polarization between conservative Americans and progressive Americans.  With the Weinstein scandal on my mind, I decided to check out the DVD “Spotlight” again to watch the efforts of journalists to uncover the priest/pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church.  In my view, all these cases are examples of the dangers of groupthink, the importance of independent thinking and the necessity of speaking out even if it goes against the group.

The website Psychologists for Social Responsibility gave this definition of groupthink

Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9).  Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.  A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making…

…Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink:
 
Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.

Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.

Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.

Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of ‘enemy’ make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.

Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.

Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.

Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.

Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.
 
When the above symptoms exist in a group that is trying to make a decision, there is a reasonable chance that groupthink will happen, although it is not necessarily so.  Groupthink occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision.  When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming, members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them.  These group pressures lead to carelessness and irrational thinking since groups experiencing groupthink fail to consider all alternatives and seek to maintain unanimity.  Decisions shaped by groupthink have low probability of achieving successful outcomes.

I do not think groupthink is partisan issue.  It affects Republicans who are subject to ideological litmus tests and are under attack by Steve Bannon to agree 100% with Donald Trump’s political views.  It affected a liberal Hollywood that allowed sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein to harass women because of fear of retaliation of these men.  I think groupthink is part of human nature and can affect any political group, religious group, secular group.  I’ve seen firsthand how groupthink can affect otherwise nice people and push them to do cruel things to people who are not in their group.

I used to go to an Evangelical church in the 1990s.  The first 4 or 5 years were wonderful.  I made friends, felt close to God and felt a part of a loving community. People assume that all Evangelicals are conservative in their political and social outlook.  But I found that if you scratch underneath the surface, there is a wide diversity of views that people would express privately.  The pastor of the church was a Democrat.  My former girlfriend at the church was also a Democrat and was critical of some of the conservative views of her churchgoers.  

Though there was a diverse set of views in the church, the more moderate and liberal members were afraid of expressing their views against the more conservative members of the church.  After a while, the more dogmatic and conservative Christians began to try to force me to conform more and more to their way of thinking.  They began telling me who to be friends with, who to date and not date, what politics I should have, what to think.  I saw people get harassed for deviating from the conservative Christian ideology of the church. I saw a woman get harassed for dating someone Catholic.  I saw a few individuals get harassed for being gay and lesbian.  I saw an individual get harassed because he wouldn’t agree to be baptized as an adult since the more conservative members didn’t believe in child baptisms. 

A few people privately disapproved of the harassment that we witnessed.  But we were afraid of speaking out.  As I attended the church, I became more wary about openly expressing my views.  After a while, I felt like I was trapped in a cult.  After being miserable for two or three years, I left the church.

I think this type of groupthink mentality affected the Catholics depicted in the movie Spotlight.  They felt that any criticism of their church was an attack on their identities and their relationship with God.  So they were willing to cover up these hideous crimes perpetrated by priests.  They didn’t see that their cover-up was doing great damage to the Catholic Church.  They didn’t see that the Boston Globe reporters who were investigating the sexual abuse scandal were in the long run doing good for the Catholic Church by forcing the Church to deal with a terrible priest/pedophilia problem.

When I read the definition of groupthink, I think this defines the problem of the Republican Party for the past decade or so.  Republicans who have imposed an conservative ideological litmus test and have decried moderates as being “Republicans In Name Only” have pushed the Republican Party more and more to the extreme right.  Steve Bannon’s attempts to remake the Republican Party into a more white nationalist type party and to punish any Republicans who do not agree 100% with President Donald Trump are dangerous to both the Republican Party and to our country as a whole.  Jeff Flake said in his speech against President Donald Trump:

I’m aware that there’s a segment of my party that believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect. If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States.

If I have been critical, it is because I believe it is my obligation to do so. And as a matter and duty of conscience, the notion that one should stay silent — and as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A president, a Republican president named Roosevelt, had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office: ‘The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.’

He continued: ‘Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be — that there should be a full liberty to tell the truth about his acts and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.’ President Roosevelt continued, ‘To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by a president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.’

Acting on conscience and principle in a manner — is the manner — in which we express our moral selves and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in this regard. I am holier than none.

One of the things that I have noticed in both a personal level and in the national scene is how mean-spirited our political conversations have become.  People do not only want to win the argument, they also want to humiliate and destroy the individuals that they disagree with.  This has made many people less likely to express their own viewpoints and less likely to articulate a more nuanced view on complicated issues.  Leaders around the world, from Donald Trump to Rodrigo Duterte, have insulted and attacked anyone who disagrees with them.  It has damaged the ability of people to have a democratic debate on important political issues.

Though the American Right is going off the deep end right now, the American Left has also had its moments of groupthink craziness.  During the 1930s, many American leftists held a glorified view of Joseph Stalin in spite of ample evidence of his purges and mass executions.  During the 1960s, some student leftists extolled Chairman Mao while ignoring his murderous Cultural Revolution.  Both the Left and the Right are vulnerable to the dangers of groupthink because both sides consist of human beings with the same flaws of human nature.
 
That’s why it’s important for both sides to protect the right of people to have independent thought and free speech.  Progressives should protect the freedom of speech of conservatives and conservatives should protect the freedom of speech of progressives.  We should respect the right of group members to disagree and bring up alternative viewpoints. 
 
Hopefully we can return to that in the near future.

Here is a Boston Globe video on their Spotlight Team

Two weeks after the New York Times published an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, director Quentin Tarantino told New York Times correspondent and CBS News contributor Jodi Kantor he feels ashamed for doing nothing after knowing about accusations against Weinstein for decades. Kantor, who broke the Weinstein story with colleague Megan Twohey, joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss the growing number of voices including actress Lupita Nyong’o

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks joined Judy Woodruff for a PBS News Hour discussion on the week’s news, including Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s denunciation of the Trump presidency and his decision to not seek re-election, the impact President Trump has on Republican politics and whether #MeToo is a turning point for men and sexual harassment

Groupthink occurs when people’s desire to maintain group loyalty trumps all other factors, including abiding by their personal code of ethics. This video is part of Ethics Defined, an animated library of more than 50 ethics terms and concepts from Ethics Unwrapped.

A scene from Dead Poets Society illustrating groupthink

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