IVN recently published an article that cited a Rasmussen poll referencing heightened voter interest in President Trump’s State of the Union address (Poll: Nearly 3 in 4 Voters to Follow Trump’s State of the Union).
The poll indicated that 72 percent of likely US voters will follow the president’s address and that 54 percent are interested in the Democratic response. The question is: How will the audience respond to the president’s comments? The answer is “predictably.”
If nothing else, State of the Union addresses have evolved into a political petri dish that simply verifies the existence of confirmation bias.
According to ScienceDaily, confirmation bias “is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.” It is human nature to actively seek evidence that confirms our beliefs or discredits beliefs that do not align with ours.
We tend to disproportionally weigh facts in a manner that allows us to preserve our beliefs and protects us against differing opinions. Tonight’s State of the Union address and the Democratic response will simply substantiate the phenomenon.
The major parties thrive on confirmation bias and, in fact, intentionally exploit it. If the parties can shape people’s beliefs in a way that precludes facts from interfering with perceptions, then the DNC and RNC can continue to divide the nation’s money and votes in a manner that perpetuates their power.
If you choose to follow tonight’s State of the Union, carefully consider your personal bias before witnessing the address.
If you dislike the president personally, you will likely dislike his speech. If you dislike his policy positions, you will almost certainly dislike his speech. Conversely, if you support the president and his policies, you will undoubtedly find merit in what he says.
This is not unique to this president. Former President Obama’s State of the Union addresses followed the same pattern. They were revered by his supporters and denigrated by his detractors.
Even the formula for delivery will remain the same. Presidents take advantage of media coverage to pat themselves on the back and defame the opposition.
President Trump will be happy to tell you about his accomplishments and the debilitating “resistance” Democrats have presented in Congress just as former President Obama extolled the virtues of his Administration while condemning the “obstruction” of Republicans when he sat in the Oval Office.
If you need more proof, consider the role of the opposition’s “response.” This exercise serves two purposes: (1) to anticipate the content of the State of the Union and denounce it, and (2) to attempt to anoint an “up-and-comer” within the party.
Any rational person will realize that a pre-scripted counter-response to a speech that has not been given represents almost an embarrassing example of confirmation bias. Yet, those who support a particular political belief annually revel in the destruction of the sitting President’s address. Was it fair to former President Obama? No. Will it be fair to President Trump? Of course not.
As for anointments: they do not always go as planned. A simple awkward gaff in the management of a water bottle can seriously impact your presidential aspirations. Tonight, we will be treated to an attempt to establish that political prowess has a basis in DNA.
In fairness, Representative Joseph Kennedy III should be judged on his personal accomplishments in office rather than assumed to be special based on lineage. The latter approach should have tabled when we chose to be a republic rather than a monarchy.
Yet, the political tradition of favoring name recognition continues.
We will be treated to a bonus round of opposition tonight because Rep. Kennedy may be too moderate for some within his own party. Senator Bernie Sanders will offer an additional response designed to placate those with a more socialistic view than Rep. Kennedy may be willing to offer.
The reality is that the entire event is designed to appeal to our biases. If you would like to gain the most insight into the actual state of our Union, do your best to ignore the personalities, looks, names, emotional rhetoric, and even the fluency of each individual’s delivery.
Focus on the facts. It will help you reach a more informed opinion.