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Much quoted recently has been the President’s low approval ratings overall. Less prominent is the very high support he has among Republicans (84%). I think we need to be very skeptical about assertions that the administration is weak or ‘in chaos.’

And we should probably keep in mind that talking points that sound crazy to you may not be communications aimed at you. They may be aimed at someone who sees the world so differently from you that what you experience as ‘bizarre’ or ‘frightening’ produces a positive resonance in the intended audience.

I think this is further evidence that we may be experiencing the interplay of two non-overlapping belief systems co-existing at this moment.

My thinking on this is influenced by a system dynamics model of paradigm shifts based on ideas in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Khun that we teach about in some of our systems trainings.

In that model, when confidence in a paradigm is high it is impossible to even see evidence of ‘anomalies’, places where the paradigm does a poor job of explaining the world. (A classic example comes from ozone research in the 1980s – scientists could have identified the ozone hole much earlier, but they convinced themselves their instruments where damaged, because they couldn’t conceive of a ‘hole’ in the ozone. We can only see what fits with our mental models.)

The 84% approval rating indicates that, from a certain vantage point the same actions I find disturbing make sense to other Americans. I see anomalies that they do not.

Here’s my hypothesis: a sizable portion of Americans have shifted away from the founding paradigm of our country (a paradigm of separation and domination of some groups of people over others, and of people over the rest of nature). And and a sizable portion of Americans live solidly in that founding paradigm.

From the vantage point of a one paradigm (one that says we are all interconnected, we can work with nature and each other to make our situation better) the actions of the new administration make very little sense.

Similarly the things that make sense to me (environmental regulation, opportunities for women and minorities for example) must seem bizarre and threatening from the vantage point of that founding American paradigm.

Paradigms don’t exist in equi-potential limbo, side by side, for long. Two feedback loops drive the dynamics between them until one becomes dominant.

(1) Pointing out anomalies weakens confidence in a paradigm, which makes more people able to see the anomalies, which further weakens confidence. This brings down old faltering paradigms. Think satire and comedy and essays and scientific research.

(2) And visibly solving problems with a new paradigm builds confidence in it, which leads more people to try solving problems from within that paradigm, which leads to more success, which leads to more confidence. Think community solar and shared gardens and buy-nothing day.

You can probably see that both of these feedback loops feed on themselves and produce accelerating rates of change. If this is going on, it’s no surprise that many people feel destabilized right now.

What happens next? A resurgence of the ‘we are separate competitors’ paradigm? Or an expansion of the ‘we are interconnected and interdependent’ paradigm?

That depends, of course.

We help tilt the balance by how we show up. Are we brave enough to call out the anomalies (stuff doesn’t make us happy, true power doesn’t hurt others)? Are we willing to step into the connected paradigm and really live it, practicing power-with and reciprocity and humility?

I believe that millions of Americans, making those sort of choices is what will shape our future.

You can read even more demographic breakdown of the polling here:…/in-first-month-views-of-trum…/