In my recent post titled “Election Day Blues,” I voiced my worry that American voters may show they have succumbed to delusion and joined the ranks of extremists who have lost sight of certain elements of societal truths.
The mid-term 2022 elections helped allay my fears. The Orange Wave (Red Wave to most) didn’t materialize. In most states, it morphed into an ebb tide. Judging from what I’ve seen of the results, ballots were cast along party lines. In heavily red states, the Republicans won handily. In heavily blue states, Democrats were victorious by wide margins. The swing states, where neither party has a clear dominance among voters, the races were close. It appears independents and young people were the deciding factors. I think it’s safe to say independents, who don’t hold allegiance to either right or left, are not swayed in general by extreme rhetoric on either side. This time they sided with the party that made the fewer divisive and dangerous campaign promises.
While the candidates stylizing themselves in the image of Donald Trump were less successful than their opponents, it doesn’t mean we are freed from the movement that tried to overturn a free election or who lean toward removing established rights for Americans or who favor a candidate that bullies his or her way to the top with the behavior of an insult comic at a cynic’s convention. That movement took a hit in this election, but it doesn’t mean it won’t persist or come back with a vengeance. In this post, I wish to take a look at how movements can create a surge in loud-talking, loud-thinking which appeals to the lowest common denominator. I wish to examine how the tipping point comes to overwhelm the prevailing line of thought and change a society or groups on a smaller scale.
Tipping point is one alternative name for critical mass, a concept which was identified in 1971. Mark Granovetter, a sociologist, and Thomas Schelling, a game theorist, came up with it. Its original definition is related to nuclear physics and states “the amount of a given fissionable material necessary to sustain a chain reaction.” This has been expanded to cover a much wider scope of life. Definition number two in my dictionary is “an amount necessary or sufficient to have a significant effect or to achieve a result.”
When applied to people and their ideas, critical mass or a tipping point is reached when enough people adopt an opinion or piece of data that it spreads far and fast. On a harmless level, we can observe this phenomena in social media where memes are passed around rapidly and effortlessly. Unfortunately, social media can also be used to spread lies and incendiary plans to commit acts of insurrection or hate. This is what led to the gathering of possibly as much as 120,000 people who were urged to fight for Trump to “stop the steal.”
When a tipping point is reached, a change in behavior among a group of people occurs. Mob rule and revolutions have been ignited when this boiling point is reached. A fringe minority stance can swiftly turn into a majority position.
How Many Does it Take?
The question must be asked. What is the percentage of a population needed to reach the tipping point and make a sweeping change in the views of a country? The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researched this matter and their computational analysis determined 10% to be the answer. Their Director of Research, Boleslaw Szymanski wrote: “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority. Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.“
I don’t know what the numbers are of the individuals ready to fight to put Trump back in office. I don’t know if they are dwindling or increasing, but for now it appears they didn’t reach the tipping point nationally. That’s a relief.
What to Do…
I don’t have a problem with non-radical Republicans or conservatives. I am willing to say the same about Democrats or liberals. I fall somewhere between, but I know where there’s disagreement, there’s a lack of communication. Where there’s divisiveness, there’s a lack of understanding. Where there’s anger, there’s gap in reality. We need to let our emotions cool down. We need to establish more dialogue and not listen to media talking heads who make their living fanning the flames of partisan politics. Honest dialogue without ego, but with the intention to build bridges between us will enable us to see each other as fellow human beings with a lot more in common than we’re led to believe. Let’s communicate and build an America we all can love.