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The Reign of Group Think: Be Nice and Compromise

Posted on March 29 2011 7:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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I remember being grouped together with other students as early as the first grade. Rather than being arranged in rows of individual desks, we were clustered in groups of four, facing each other. We were given work to do as a group, rather than as individuals.

I despised the practice then, and I continued to all the way through college. It didn’t seem right to have to compensate for others and share a grade. The result was always the same. I did less and worse than I would have individually. It was far more work to pull others along than it would have been to work alone, and there were diminishing returns. Since I did not benefit from that extra work, I found a slower pace which resulted in the best work-to-result ratio.

It wasn’t until I viewed Curtis Bower’s fantastic documentary film Agenda: Grinding America Down, and subsequently interviewed him for NewsReal Blog, that I fully understood just how insidious such group work is. It’s objective is to produce the results I saw growing up, retarding the individual and promoting group think.

Consider how effective this and similar strategies have been. We now operate within a political culture which regards compromise as a virtue.

Over the weekend, The Daily Beast published a diatribe by John Avlon bemoaning the “rightward shift” of the Minnesota GOP. The state party has increasingly become a distinct alternative to the Democrats, rather than a slower track to socialism. This “Bachmannization” of the party has manifest in statements of uncompromising conviction. To Avlon, such certitude is horrific.

The point is that these are not isolated incidents, but indicative of an intra-party atmosphere that is starkly inconsistent with the state’s justified reputation for “Minnesota Nice.” This is, after all, the state that gave us Bob Dylan, Garrison Keillor and the Coen brothers…

Avlon’s self-described “point” is that Minnesota Republicans are not nice. Before mockery ensures, it is worth considering what kind of worldview looks for niceness before such things as correctness and justice.

Is there some obligation to compromise your conviction if it offends someone else? That would seem to be the meme Avlon is promoting.

The justification for grouping students together and grading them as a unit is ostensibly to prepare them to work in teams later in life. Of course, in the real world, you get to pick your team. If a team member isn’t pulling their weight, they can be ejected and replaced. Conversely, if you don’t like the team you’re on, you can leave it. That is never the case in classroom scenarios. Instead, you are stuck with those to whom you are assigned. The result is forced compromise. There is no recourse. If you have a different take than the rest of the group, you can’t go off and pursue your own idea.

The Left seeks to force compromise in this way, because they understand that any compromise between freedom and control results in more control. It’s an application of the Hegelian dialectic process, a tool championed by leftist icons like Antonio Gramsci and Saul Alinsky.

This is why Avlon employs his subjective sense of “nice” as if it were a legitimate expectation. After all, it’s not nice to be uncompromising, to stand your ground, to be defiant. It’s nice to get along, to give a little, to meet halfway. This viewpoint turns free association into some kind of vice. Like a student stuck in a remedial group project, distinguishing yourself is not an option.

Of course, this is an inherently anti-democratic and authoritarian stance. It says you do not have the right to dissent, to hold a different view, and to stand by your convictions. It is a view which calls Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s uncompromising Christian faith “dangerous in the public square.” It is a view which expects Minnesota Republicans to be inclusive of those who actively work against their interests and values. It is also a paradox. For if conservatives are obligated to compromise their convictions, so too are their opponents, and nothing of value is left over.

H/T to David Swindle’s Political Warfare for highlighting the Avlon piece.

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