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The danger of groupthink

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Eric M. Rigard | Politics

This political season has prompted me to consider the deleterious effect of groupthink. When your opinions are formed by the thoughts of others, are those your thoughts, or have you become a product of groupthink? The election cycle had me observing many people making decisions about which candidate to support. Some Hillary supporters are moved by her apparent knowledge of the issues. However, a vast majority of her supporters say things like, “It's her time,” or, “She is better qualified,” or my personal favorite: “My momma votes Democrat, so I'm going to vote Democrat.” When I ask them why or whether they know what she stands for, they can't articulate a personal positive reason for their support.

Most Trump supporters, though, can mention something that he is proposing that they do like, such as his pledge to strengthen the borders, reduce government, or his pro-life stance. But others just don't like Hillary, so groupthink can work both ways. 

Take the Black Lives Matter movement, which makes some solid points about social injustice; I would only ask that the members of the BLM movement espouse the positive things for which they are fighting. Unfortunately, when groupthink emerges, the discussion devolves to banning all police, all cops are bad, all white people are bad, and so on. I would love to see the BLM movement more invested in stemming black-on-black crime and the abortion of black babies. Make a positive contribution; don't push the groupthink messages of “hands up; don't shoot,” which is based on a false narrative that it's open season on young black males by police departments.

Anyway, back to politics. How many of you have bought into the thought that Donald Trump is a racist, or that he hates women, or Mexicans, or black people? Has your opinion of him been formed by what others have said to you, or have you looked into the man’s past and seen the kind of work he has done, including working with Jesse Jackson to help inner city growth and business. (He was, in fact, one of Jackson's most promising benefactors.) “Whoa!” you say. Yes! But once he became a Republican nominee for the presidency, he became persona non grata.

Is Hillary automatically your choice because she is a Democrat? Because, after all, Democrats are a "tolerant and inclusive," loving group of people who are welcoming to all people – white, black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, etc. Or do you see her for who she is based on her positions, such as abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex “marriage,” transgender rights, the economy, or radical Islam? Measure Hillary Clinton by the measures you would any candidate. What are the policies she stood for? 

Get personally informed. I would start with defining your own personal beliefs. For instance, do you believe in abortion? Do you believe in third trimester abortions? What's your stance on the Supreme Court? Do you want judges who will legislate from the bench? Or do you want someone who will interpret the law based on the Constitution? Who do you think has a better understanding of the economy? How about our national debt, which is approaching $20 trillion? Whew!

Those are some big issues, despite what you feel about one nominee or the other. 

Did you allow yourself to fall into the trap of groupthink? Establish your own thoughts based on a factual understanding of the issues before you. It may push you to make a decision that you didn't ponder before. Your decision not only affects you, but also, the legacy you will leave for your children.

88 percent of black Americans voted for Hillary Clinton – 93 percent of women and 80 percent of men respectively. 

Trump received eight percent of the black vote overall – 13 percent of men and four percent of women. That's a two percent increase over the 2012 election, where Romney received six percent of the black vote.

Looking forward to coming elections, we need to make better decisions, and we must invest the time to know for ourselves for whom and for what we stand. Now is a time of decision, a personal one and not one of groupthink.

Eric M. Rigard is associate minister, former director of the music ministry, and currently public policy analyst for Calvary Christian Center (Sacramento), one the of the largest predominantly African-American churches in Northern California, with a congregation nearing 15,000 members.