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Cognitive Dissonance 2018

Yesterday, congress passed a bill with bipartisan support to reform the justice system to make it more just. Specifically, it changed sentencing guidelines that have led to an 800% increase in prison inmates since 1980. It retroactively fixed the fact that there was a 100:1 ratio between sentences for crack cocaine vs. powdered cocaine. The ratio, for the curious, is best explained by the socio-economic and racial makeup of the drugs users. (powered = rich white, crack = poor minorities)

The original sin of sentencing was the 1994 crime bill signed into law by Bill Clinton. The law was introduced by Democrats and ironically punished mostly democratic voters. This bill is one of the many reasons I think Bill Clinton was a bad president. The fix, yesterday, will be signed into law by Donald Trump, who has been (so far) a terrible president. So I am left with some weird cognitive dissonance.

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

To give context, I am a Progressive Capitalist. My political hero is the 3rd vice president of FDR, a man named Henry A. Wallace. (Not to be confused with the racist jerk Governor of Alabama, George Wallace) As a progressive capitalist, I believe that capitalism can be used to improve the lives of all people. It requires strict regulation to keep the super rich from excess. Income equality is possible with progressive taxation and regulation. I don’t believe communism or nationalism leads to overall happiness. Henry Wallace led policies that helped people all over the world. (Suggested reading)

Bill Clinton (like Wallace) is a Democrat. Therefore, he should be on “my team”. Trump, a Republican, is on the other team. So the cognitive dissonance is “My team did several things bad and their team did at least this one thing good.” I think it’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around this in their own life.

I truly believe that the ONLY reason that Donald Trump is pushing/supporting this bill is that it undoes a law that Bill Clinton signed. In Trump’s mind, ANYTHING Obama or Clinton did is bad and needed to be undone. In which case, I think there is an opportunity for Trump to do many good things. Some examples:

  • The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) isn’t as good as single payer, a public option or medicare for all. He could support a more expansive policy and revolutionize/improve the American healthcare system
  • Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was an abomination. Trump could do the reverse and support Marriage equality.
  • Glass Steagall repeal was a disaster. Trump could put it back in place.

I don’t think I am ever going to be a fan of Trump, so long as his immigration policies are so backward and cruel. However, if he were to enact the above laws. I would have to give him more credit that I do now.

How many people are willing to make that statement? If a bad person does a good thing, then I am happy. And if a good person does a bad thing, I won’t defend him. There have been many examples of that recently. (Al Franken) I believe a little cognitive dissonance is a good thing. We need to believe that “our team” can do things badly and “their team” could do some things well.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people could be objective about this? Many people I speak with refuse. They all say, “My team can do no wrong and their team can do no right”. Too bad cognitive dissonance feels so badly. Maybe if it didn’t we could have a better world.

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