We make decisions every day based on feedback we get from all kinds of sources. Because success in our lives and businesses depends on good decision making, we cannot cherry pick the information and sources we use to help us make those choices. We have to balance all the data available to us.
We can all look to times and situations in our lives when we ignored important information. The decisions we made at those times almost always led to set backs, big and small. Only when we are honest with ourselves and extend equal weight to all the particulars at decision making time, do our judgements lead to positive results in our lives.
So why do so many in elected leadership positions double-down on policy actions that are obviously not working? This is especially true of those serving in elected postions furthest from the people they represent. A bevy of bureaucrats often stand between that representative and his or her constituents confounding the situation even more.
When those un-elected bureaucrats are ‘yes’ men or have their own strong beliefs and positions the problem is exasperated. No longer are unbiased facts getting through to their boss, only the data that supports their particular views get into their reports. There is invariably some nugget supporting their particular position to be found in data on big issues, without telling the entire story.
This is nothing new, politics has always been this way. But recently the selected range of information used by those in power at the federal level is becoming narrower and narrower, while a growing array is ignored. That is leading to poor decision making and disasterous policies.
George Washington knew he needed some discord among his advisors. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson gave him much of that. President Abraham Lincoln was said to have a ‘team of rivals’ in his cabinet providing him with differing advice. Humble Harry Truman spurred on a hearty exchange of ideas, Ronald Reagon encouraged debate, George W. Bush brought in strong and distinct personalities among his advisers. Donald Trump recruited to his administration people with various expertise and viewpoints.
Our best presidents have intentionally stimulated debate among their advisors. These presidents also enkindled consensus whenever possible, but were not afraid to make their own decisions in the end. The best presidents have also taken responsibility for their actions engendering loyalty in those who worked for them.
The American public is not stupid. The growing number of directly accessible sources of information enables us to see more of what our leaders see. Facts, figures and statistics are becoming more available to the public, and the public is consuming more and more of it outside of political filters. Even with so called ‘fact checkers’ skewing what we see, it is becoming more difficult to pull the wool over our eyes. That is a good thing, permitting us to hold political leaders to account for their decisions, when we are willing.
People of all political persuasions, who only look for details that support their own beliefs, are driving the division in our country. But a growing number of citizens, and independent journalists, are finding the fallacies in one sided presentations of information. Also a good thing.
Too often the tactic used by political hacks is to ignore or try to discredit these independent sources, and anyone with a differing viewpoint. Instead of welcoming a broader discussion of issues, politicos are doing their best to quash anything that dilutes or carves up their carefully curated communications.
Shouldn’t the ability for each of us to easily find information on any and all topics lead to better discussion, vetting and decision making? Unfortunately, being able to avoid political spin is only exacerbating the division in our country.
Too many of us have added our own blinders. Too many of us refuse to see anything that refutes our own political views. Too many of us refuse to accept any information or opinion that does not reflect our own. As more facts pile up contradicting our position, too many of us are unwilling to even entertain the possibility we may be wrong. Instead we simply ignore and double down.
It is no wonder our political leaders do the same.