top of page

The Post-Primary Approach to the Concurrent

The Fall semester begins on Monday with a welcome return to the classroom after being on break since the first week of July. Coincidentally the class I teach, Media Ethics, is one that heavily dives into understanding complicated emotions brought on through media messages which is essentially what the last nine months of campaign season has been.

I recently covered mistakes I made with the Worthington campaign message strategy by explaining the difference between common ground and common enemy identity politics.

While my preferred method of communicating is through establishing common ground, this does not mean that the common enemy approach is necessarily bad. It certainly has its effectiveness, as evident by the election results, but it’s also an essential part of human nature to express ourselves through inter-group conflict.

There is a point where it becomes problematic, however. This is when the feeling against the common enemy becomes so intense that the emotional hardwiring of human nature dictates decision making over behavioral actions. Our outlook on life is drastically different, and worse in my opinion, when this happens.

Take my students for example. I spend one class during this media ethics course going through painstaking lengths to outline how everything from crime, world famine, wealth creation, quality of life and anything in between has improved over the last 30 years. I then ask my students to determine what their outlook on the world is.

Without fail, each one will say they feel the world is doomed within their lifetime whether it is from human error such as engaging in preventable widespread war or due to catastrophic crisis as a result of climate change.

Take a moment. Now that you’ve recovered from that eye roll, I can assure you that my students feel the same when they hear adults run political campaigns worried the world is doomed because kids dress like animals.

You might be thinking these two examples represent the extremes and that you are somewhere in a moderate middle. Maybe.

Even the most moderate of people in terms of having several different opinions on both the left and right of the political spectrum will have some fiercely held, and thus not moderate, opinions on certain issues that will be at odds with others.

The goal isn’t to avoid making enemies through moderation. We can’t all get along. Though I was unwilling to do so on the Worthington campaign, there will be times when it is not only appropriate but also necessary to dig in your heels and call out an opposing side.

The trick is to not lose yourself to negative emotion, and by extension, damage your community in the process. The most common consuming negative emotion is anger. Just this week, an attorney for former President Donald Trump sent a request for a special master in which the memo included the line, “he has been hearing from people all over the country about the raid. If there was one word to describe their mood, it is ‘angry.’ The heat is building up. The pressure is building up.”

Anger is a motivating force of the contrarian conservatives. These are people who genuinely believe that the world is out to get them. Every politician is a crook. Each public school teacher is a groomer. Any public employee is a freeloader who isn’t working hard enough while we’re the ones stuck paying their salaries. The media lies and the good ole boys are padding their pockets. You’ve heard it all before.

Not every idea a contrarian has is bad or even incorrect but the way in which it is expressed, primarily through anger, is destructive to community fabric. We can do so much better.

And this leads me to my challenge in the post-primary phase of the Concurrent. I will not be afraid to take a common enemy approach, but at the heart of each accusation will be inward introspection to seek understanding rather than outward anger to spread division.

It’s a journey toward recognizing the thoughts vs. emotions that occur within each of us, even when we feel we’ve been wronged as I’m sure both winners in the county commission race do.

I’ve been down that road after an election season in 2020. I came back from it this cycle. Forgiveness and understanding even in disagreement is a much better path forward than dismay and distrust.

What we need now isn’t a louder voice for a voting bloc that makes up less than 4 percent of our overall county population. What we need are more leaders and fewer contrarians.


  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
bottom of page