By Dr. S. Bryan Martin
If “united we stand” is a great American slogan, then “divided they must be” is the slogan of the crafty politician.
Americans are united by many traditions. The traditions that unite are those that deal with liberty, freedom, general pride in our country and its history, as well as our political system. Those things that tend to divide are political party affiliation, religion, gender, race, age, education and regional cultures. These lists are by no means complete, but I have provided enough examples to prove a point. We Americans are united and divided on several issues and circumstances.
Not many words can incite as much negative emotion in our society these days than the word, “politics.” Of course, this is nothing new. One of our long-held traditions in the United States is the general dislike of politics and of politicians. You could almost say that this dislike of all things political is one thing which unites us as Americans. Liberals and conservatives alike will most probably agree on one thing at all times, politics and politicians are a great disappointment.
In the business world, one way to deal with individuals that have different lifestyles, beliefs, preferences, as well as various levels of purchasing power is to segment the market. Market segmentation is nothing new to the business or political domains. One of the best ways to separate individuals and order them into manageable groups is to implement a strategy that will effectively segment the market. In order to take advantage of the various segments, the savvy business marketer needs to develop different messages to reach the various and diverse segments, or target populations. Dividing the market into segments tends to help business at the expense of the consumer. Fortunately for the business, the consumer has no idea that they have been controlled or manipulated.
Dividing the voting populace into various groups helps the politician at the expense of the voter. The market (voters) must be segmented into groups in order for the politician (or political party) to perfect and craft a message that is more likely to attract and persuade individuals in these various groups to move and vote in a coordinated way. Both major American parties do this, so stop yourself if you are thinking of those evil Conservatives or those bleeding heart Liberals. Remember, politicians like it when you are willing to lie to yourself, especially if you end up voting their way.
One great American tradition that has been purchased at great price by so many is that of liberty. This liberty includes freedom to think what you want, freedom to believe what you want and most of all, freedom of speech. And although most of us know deep down that our neighbors, friends and family will never want to take any of these liberties away from us or do us harm, politicians are more often than not, guilty of trying to get us to think so.
Let’s face it; in order for politicians to divide us and segment us into groups, they must craft a message that gets us to separate into groups voluntarily. They do this by pitting one group against the other. The rich against the poor, one race against the other, male against female, etc. You name it, there’s no end to the various points of contention on which they can divide the public into groups. Once the groups are divided, the politician provides solutions to protect you or your group from the bad people who are part of the other groups. And of course, the politician tops it all off with declaring any point of contention to be a crisis of biblical magnitude that only they (or members of their special group) can fix.
There is nothing wrong about individual “free” Americans having opposing and diverse opinions from one another. This is actually good, especially if we truly wish to preserve a diverse and civil society. A society which abides by and cherishes the rule of law, a society that treats every man or woman equal under the law.
But what can we do as Americans to resist this market segmentation, the division that the politician wishes to inflict on our society in order to achieve political gain? First, we need to realize that this phenomenon exists and that political movements tend to use this strategy to win elections and to control people. Armed with the knowledge that division favors the politician at the expense of the individual, we can choose not to be easily swayed.
What makes us easy targets for the unscrupulous politician? Being a one issue voter!! This is the easiest way for a politician to divide the public. If you believe very strongly on one issue and have decided that is where you will draw your line in the sand, it is more likely that you will follow a politician or political movement that although supports your one issue, will work against you in many other areas. I am not saying that it may not be wise and correct to have that one issue that defines how you vote, but it better be a good one and you should give it a lot of thought.
The best advice that I can provide would be for each of us to think through all the important political and social issues of our day and resist the efforts of the politician to get us to think less of our friends and neighbors. They are people just like you that have their own thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Think twice before you support a political cause that would attempt to unnecessarily limit personal freedoms of other good law-abiding citizens.