We, Not Jeb, Can Fix It!

by Kim Pederson…….

One of my editing clients has written an ambitious book based on his 2012 presidential election blog. In it, he encourages his readers to employ the tenets of critical thinking to help them decide who the next president of the United States should be. More importantly, he teaches them what these tenets are and how to apply them during the electoral process. What could be better for America than if every citizen took this approach to voting, although it might result, in our current circumstances and given my admittedly pessimistic outlook, in the eventual Republican and Democrat candidates deadlocking at zero votes apiece when the national election takes place.

"With a little practice, thinking is not all that hard. You should try it!"
“With a little practice, thinking is not all that hard. You should try it!”

If one goes by observation, most Americans seem clueless with regard to critical thinking of any regard. This is not because we are idiots (me and the 2004 Boston Red Sox being the exceptions). It’s because many of us have not been taught how to think critically or have been taught in the theoretical sense rather than the applied one and simply don’t know how to use it in the real world.

Fortunately, it may not be too late. Besides the book I mentioned, there are also sites like the Critical Thinker Academy, which makes this offer: “Learn HOW to Think, Not What to Think.” The academy provides eighteen hours of free video instruction, including one segment called “Become an Argument Ninja.” (That will be my first one!) Other online CT courses are available on the web, too, at places like Coursera.

There may not be time, however, to teach every American to become a critical thinker before Election Day 2016 rolls around. So I have a stopgap measure to suggest: change the ballots in a way that gives voters pause for reflection. Say, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are our two nominees. (What the heck, right?) On a normal ballot, we would just see their names, party affiliation, and a checkbox. In other words, no thought of any kind is required at the moment of choice.

So how about if we did this. Instead of checking a box, what if voters had to rate each candidate according to Aristotle‘s three modes of persuasion: logos (logic), pathos (emotion), and ethos (moral code or character)? So the ballot might look like this:

  1. Rate [Donald/Bernie] from 1 to 10 on the logos of his arguments for being president — 1 being “Worse than the Fool in King Lear” (i.e., totally illogical and incomprehensible) and 10 being “Absolutely Spockian” (i.e., makes perfect sense).
  2. Rate [Donald/Bernie] from 1 to 10 on the pathos of his arguments for being president — 1 being “Worse than Tammy Faye’s Eyelashes” (i.e., fake, stupendously insincere) and 10 being “Absolutely Malala” (i.e., truly compassionate, heart of gold).
  3. Rate [Donald/Bernie] from 1 to 10 on the ethos of his arguments for being president, that is, their credibility and honesty — 1 being “Pinocchio’s Nose to Infinity and Beyond” (i.e, not at all believable or trustworthy) and 10 being “Fletcher Reede in Liar, Liar” (i.e., like the proverbial George Washington, cannot and does not tell lies, only in this case voluntarily and consistently).

After the voting ends, the tallies for each category will be combined and averaged to decide the winner. With this method, voters will at least have to take a few thoughtful moments to suss out their choice while in the voting booth. In addition, once word gets out on the ballot change, the pollsters would be purposely and perpetually polling people to see where the candidates stood in these categories throughout the election, which means (and this may be a giant leap of faith) that the candidates themselves would strive to outdo each other in each.

Sound crazy? Is this more than we can handle? My cynical side would answer that question with this line from Groucho Marx: “A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” Still, as someone much higher on the genius quotient than I am once said, “Nothing ventured….”

* “Aristotle” by Francesco Hayez. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.

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Kim Pederson
Kim Pederson has been a freelance writer and editor since 1996. Prior to that, he was Senior Editor with Charles River Associates, an international economics consulting firm. Kim earned a B.A. in English (Honors) from the University of Montana and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop. His plays have won awards and been produced in Seattle and other locations; his screenplays have won awards and been optioned, and he has done work-for-hire scripts for film production companies. Kim lives in Key West with his wife Kalo and two Maine coon cats, VeuDeu and Pazuzu.

One thought on “We, Not Jeb, Can Fix It!

  1. Kim, What a shame Groucho is still not with us. America might now be ready for him … and what a good choice it would be. ciao, Jerome

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