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Words from Winterbilt

Distrust of government and a military coup?

Shannon Bohrer

(3/2017) We know that we have some differences. Our beliefs about our politics are a good example of the differences that we sometimes discuss and argue about. Why we discuss and argue about our differences is very obvious; it is because we have very strong beliefs, not just about what we believe, but also about the way we think things should be. Of course what we have in common is that we know that our beliefs are correct and the other side is wrong.

Even with our known differences, I was somewhat taken back when I read that nearly one third of Americans, to some degree, would support a military coup against the United States of America. While I just recently heard about this, my first thought was more fake news. So I went to my trusty sources, on the internet and I found - that it was true. The poll was taken in 2015.

My first thought was WHY? Why would anyone think that a military coup against the United States of America is a good thing? If we experienced a successful military coup, any rights, privileges or liberties that we currently enjoy, would be gone. To those who believe that a revolution and military coup would be good for them, or the country, I have to believe they are very misguided and/or delusional. The history of military coups tells us that they are not waged by benevolent leaders. A coup is a power grab and any winners are just that, more powerful than the losers. And after they have more power, they tend not to share….

So I started thinking - what does it take for someone to be so upset with our current government and think a military coup would be a good thing? Yes, we have differences, but how does someone come to such a radical belief? Remember, the poll was taken in 2015 and at that time we were early in a presidential election. Did that influence this poll? Could our political divide be so strong and entrenched that people really believe that a Military government would be better than the government we have, or had?

Our history tells us that we started having political differences very early in our history, starting with our third president, and we did not even have parties then. So the fact that we have differences is not new. Has our divisiveness divided us to the degree that we see the other side as an enemy? Even if each side sees the other as the enemy – a military coup is not a solution for either side.

A large complaint with the current party in office is that the opposition party is not working with them. And to some degree they are correct, but they seem to forget their own past. When President Obama came into office his support from the opposing party was not just non-existent, the opposition made it their goal to be destructive. Their stated goal was to oppose and obstruct everything he did.

In 2009, on President Obama’s inauguration day, a dinner party was held where 15 of the top republican leaders gathered. The leaders worked out a plan, which they made public. The plan was to oppose, obstruct and block anything the new president did, to ensure that he would be a one term president. They kept their promise but he was still re-elected. Of course since the one term presidency did not work, four years later they changed the goal to just make his presidency a failure. Did it work?

Opposing the President’s agenda included vilifying everything he did, including the stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act. Anything he proposed they opposed. They opposed and vilified him to the degree that a good segment of society came to believe that our president was anti-American, a secret Muslim and was foreign born. In 2016, 41 percent of republicans still believed that President Obama was not a U.S. Citizen, because he was born in Kenya? And that is just one false belief. In August of 2016, 69 percent of Trump’s supporters believed the election was rigged, were they right? So the question is, how or why do people believe something that is not true? Maybe there is an answer, well sort of.

According to Social Psychology, people can have such strong beliefs that they exhibit a "Belief Perseverance" which means that they can be confronted with information that discredits their beliefs, (like a birth certificate) but they ignore it because it does not fit with what they "know," or at least believe they know. It may seem strange, but sometimes to learn something new, one has to question what they already think. So, in an odd way it is almost logical that what we know, or believe we know, prevents us from learning or believing something different.

When examining "Belief Perseverance" and its effects, politics is often used as an example. The reason politics is used is that both sides deal with the same facts but offer different perceptions. Of course politics has strong motives to create a different perception and to differentiate itself from the opposition, even when if sometimes the differences don’t exist.

The opposition would always talk of Obama’s "failed" economic policies, as if his polices put the country in a recession. When President Obama was sworn into office, the country was facing another great depression and to combat that a stimulus package was passed. The stimulus package was also termed a "failed stimulus package" and yet the stimulus package did start a recovery. Over 11 million new jobs were created with 75 months of job growth. That includes an unemployment rate of just 4.7 percent. If you were fired and did not get another job, then yes, it was not enough. But compared to President Bush’s eight years when only 2.1 million jobs were created, 11 million does not look like a failure.

The most well-known opposition was for the "failed" Affordable Care Act. During President Obama’s term the opposition decried and vilified the health care act and voted to repeal it over 50 times. And possibly by the time you read this, it will be repealed.

Just how bad the health plan was, was never really discussed, it was just "a failed act." But the numbers tell a different story. Under the previous administration, from 2001 to 2008 the average family premium when up 58 percent and under the Obama administration the increase was 33 percent. If you examine the numbers from 2011 to 2016, after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the average family premiums rose 20%. 20% in six years is too high, but it’s the lowest increases since they have been keeping numbers. (The source is the Kiser Foundation.)

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan

When the republican’s leadership opposed and obstructed everything from the Obama administration, they set the bar very high, or very low depending on your perspective. Not just opposing a party, but opposing and obstructing a party for 8 years - may have a cost.

I wonder if currently a third of the population would still in some degree support a military coup against the United States of America, or could it be more? If - during the next presidential election the winner fails to have the majority of the popular vote, how many people would then support a military coup?

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer