Political opinions, like most opinions, aren’t sound evaluations of puts and takes on any given societal issue. They’re personal preferences that require some form of matching to an ideal. Psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman did great work on how we decide things.
As someone not raised in a politically minded household who served in the military and was therefore limited in my ability to engage and express political views well into my 30’s, I was relatively late to the game in paying much mind space to politics. I didn’t form a “world view” at a young age for which I sought to match my perspectives to. There wasn’t an ideal state that was in question that needed to be defended. What political awakening I’ve experienced over the last three years has been a realization that’s simply not the.
For many finding themselves now caring more than they did before, their reason may be explained similar to mine. By virtue of being born when I was and growing up in America during the latter third of the 20th century, post Civil Rights movement and concurrent with the end of the cold war, I’d grown to rely on the ideals of western liberal democracy.
Equality of opportunity. Fair and open elections. Global community. Rule of law. Free press. Free Speech. Due Process. Free markets
These were stated, shared goals for which we evaluated performance against. We didn’t achieve them uniformly. And yes, I’m aware that not everyone believed in them. But they were American platforms for which we would at least try to lead the world towards.
It follows suit then that my exposed bias is towards views that further the values of western liberal democracy. That those views are now only one side of an American political debate is what troubles me and therefore moves me to act when once I was more comfortable spending time on other things.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are meeting today in Helsinki. One reasonable question to ask may be which side of the ledger in the new American political debate to put the Helsinki summit on.
In government, a belief that the ends justifies the means can be problematic. Not understanding the ends nor trusting the means more so. It’s not obvious what’s on the table nor is it likely that we can have open and productive discussions with Russia while more and more evidence that Russia is meddling in American elections comes out. It’s also not obvious when China is the clear check on America for the next century, what role Russia plays in America’s future.
I’d settle for Russia losing a cyber-war with us and staying out of our elections. I’d also settle for the eroding global community ring fencing Russia into poor outcomes if they keep up the shenanigans.
I’m not sure that’s on the agenda for today.