Right Wing, Left Wing, Whole Bird

This last election showed something around 155 million ballots cast for one candidate or the other.  I don’t know how many voters each candidate had – but the number of ballots seems like a solid chunk of data.  And there was a lot of name calling about extremists – whether it was proud boys, antifa, or whatever.  In my lifetime, I’ve met a few extremists from both the right wing and the left wing, and I figure we can grade on the bell curve – where 68% fits within a standard deviation of the mean (average).  I don’t believe I’m stretching reality if I arbitrarily claim you need to be two standard deviations from the mean to qualify as an extremist. 

So, if we look at things from my bell curve perspective, 95 percent of the voters do not qualify as extremist.  68 percent are in the middle of the road, there are another 13 ½ percent to either side that qualify as, let’s call it, solidly partisan.  So if I’m at the hypothetical middle, I need to look over two standard deviations left or right to spot an extremist.  They aren’t that easy to see from the middle.  But if I’m standing at the edge of that 13 ½ percent I defined as solidly partisan, there are 2 standard deviations between me and that hypothetical average. 

The problem is, we generally consider ourselves normal, but there’s a lot of difference under the bell curve:

(images taken from  it’s a great explanation and worth reading the whole thing)

Back to the election – most Trump voters, and most Biden voters fall into that central 68 percent – but our perception of extremists is dependent on where we sit on the bell – the number of standard deviations away from the norm.  If you’re still making facebook posts about the evils of Trump 6 weeks after he left office, you’re likely a standard deviation or two to the left of the norm.  If you’re still flying a Trump banner, you’re probably a standard deviation or two to the right.  It’s OK – the problem is when you forget where you are and start seeing normal folks as extremists.  As the man said, both wings are attached to the same bird.

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