HOW AND WHY THEY DIFFER
While the following story is imaginary, it may help us to understand how and why identical twins can be so different politically.
The story is about two young men — born identical twins in 1992 and raised in a small town near Detroit, Michigan. Their Mom is a clerk/assistant in a tiny law firm and their Dad works as a mechanic in a GM factory. They have no other siblings. One is quite athletic; the other a bit artistic.
Neither was much into school; they both quit after high school. GEORGE got a laborer’s job on a small farm. ROBERT started out as an apprentice mechanic in the local garage. They both married — in the same year — to sisters a year apart in age, whom they met in high school.
One voted for Trump in 2016. The other did not vote at all. The brothers are quite close, and they try to avoid talking politics.
But, as the Trump administration unfolded they grew increasingly tense with each other as their views about Trump grew stronger. In 2019 and early 2020 they began to have some ‘heated discussions’ and they worried about each other for being so different.
I ‘sat down’ (in my mind) with them to talk about their lives and see if we could figure out together how such identical twins could have grown up the same way but have such different views of their nearly identical worlds. We agreed not to look for ‘answers’ but just to try to understand them better, as well as their world.
The conversations went as follows, with my words in italics:
1– When you speak about a subject how sure are you about your point of view? GEORGE (farmer): It depends, but generally I like to have an open mind. ROBERT (mechanic): Mostly, I feel secure in what I say, at least most of the time.
2— If something is new to you, how do you feel? ROBERT: new things tend to fit easily into my mind. GEORGE: I usually want to know much more before I make up my mind.
3— How do you react to strangers’ views? GEORGE: It depends on whether I know and are comfortable with them. ROBERT: I tend to be very dubious until I know the person better.
4— Are new ideas on balance a good or bad thing in today’s world? ROBERT: My feeling is that new is risky. GEORGE: I love new ideas; they often help clarify things for me.
5– If there are two pieces of food left on a platter—one large and one small– which one do you take? ROBERT (laughing): The big one, naturally. GEORGE: The smaller one. Robert apparently figured that is what I would do –so I wouldn’t mind?
6– How do we know drugs, etc. are safe?? ROBERT: I listen to people I think I can trust. GEORGE: Scientists often have economic interests too. We must be careful.
7– If you do not know which way to turn when you are driving (and you’ve left your phone at home), what do you do? GEORGE: I turn left every time because that way I have a 50/50 chance of being correct and it evens out over time; ROBERT: I have a bias and go right because right is right!
8– In a group debate, how do you decide to go along or not? ROBERT: I usually wait until it is clear where the group is headed. GEORGE: I try to hear both sides and go with the people that make the most sense.
9– What about climate change? ROBERT: the weather changes every day. GEORGE: It would be boring if the weather never changed!
Now comes the fun part. How will George and Robert vote in 2020?
One clue – it is not as simple as it may seem.
Please respond with your selections. I will tabulate anonymously and share with you.