Heads or Tails?

As a teenager I participated in a science fair. My project was a demonstration of probability, I rolled a couple of dice 1,000 times and plotted the results on a graph.  What I learned is that when there is a limited amount of outcomes, you can speculate about the probable outcomes. For example, when you flip a coin, there are two options. Heads or tails. Unfortunately this idea of limited outcomes has been applied to U.S. Politics. During elections, how often are we asked, Republican or Democrat? Left or right? liberal or conservative? Heads or tails?

Is politics as simple as heads or tails? Certainly not. It would be near impossible to find an issue where there are only two options, though we present these issues that way. Consider, pro life or pro choice. Really it is more complex than that. Within the pro life camp are those who believe that there are some circumstances that would make abortion a viable option and many who do not. Likewise within the pro choice camp are those who believe there should be limits to when an abortion should be available and there are those who do not. It is more complex then pro life or pro choice. This is true about every issue in politics. There are many more options then heads or tails.

Even more bemusing is when a person expresses that they agree or disagree with both sides. Often when a person does this, they are treated as if there is a contradiction in there positions. Political positions do not come in a package deal. Is it not possible to be pro gun rights, and pro choice? Is it not possible to be pro life and against the death penalty?

Another problem with heads or tails in the political sphere is that there do exist several political parties not just Republican and Democrat. There is the Libertarian party, the Green party, the Constitution party, and many others. There is even a Marijuana party! Aside from there being several political parties, it is very likely that there are many people who do not fit into any current political party.

How is this "heads or tails" mentality effecting our representation? In theory of course you are represented, however, just take a moment to look at current approval ratings for Congress. It is currently around 12%-16% and has been for a while.(1) Ironically the rate at which Congressmen/women get re-elected is typically over 80%.(2) This is ludicrous.

Have you ever gone to lunch and had a hard time deciding between burgers, sandwiches, or tacos? If so, I hope your political opinions are at least as complex as deciding where to go to lunch. I sincerely hope that all of us can start to take an interest in how we are governed. Politics is not a heads or tails coin toss. It is much more than that. Next time you exercise your right to vote, do not flip a coin.