Maria Gutzeit: Generalization leads to bad policy

By Signal Contributor

Last update: Monday, November 21st, 2016

I was crushed when Hillary Clinton lost the election. But, after talking to a former high-level Republican official, I now think some good might come from the election of Donald Trump.

If either of those statements made you cringe, that, in my opinion, is the biggest issue of all.

Generalization is the death knell of civil discourse. This election, and so many other policy debates, have become all-or-nothing flame-throwing matches. We are smarter than that.

Many people have a mix of friends with different backgrounds and different political views. Understanding and empathy grow with each person you know.

Though I’m a lifelong Democrat, some Democrats deride me because I support business and the skilled trades. I’m a big fan of jobs – the kind that come from laying down roads and putting up steel. The kind that involves trucks moving cargo, services being provided, and goods being produced.

Yet Democrats are said to be anti-business. Vocal Democrats deride “big business” and scream that business owners are “crooks.”

So is it true that Democrats are anti-business? That generalization is wrong.

I have many Republican friends in town who really wish their party would get off the issue of women’s reproductive rights. Yet their party puts their elected officials in the middle of the issue, and some of Donald Trump’s comments about punishing women who had an abortion made his view pretty clear.

Are Republicans bad for women? That generalization is wrong.

Some environmentalists’ stated goals are to stall new projects, be it an office park or a utility corridor, to make it so expensive that it becomes financially infeasible.

We see huge protests as evidence of what environmentalists believe. Yet other groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, work hard to continue allowing human use for places, be it grazing or fishing or mining, while working on long-term plans for the people of an area.

Is it true that environmentalists don’t care about people’s livelihoods or the economy? That generalization is wrong.

The worst generalization is that politicians are crooks and liars. You may be smirking at that statement, but I bet you know at least one elected official for whom you’d make an exception.

For every one that is plastered all over the news for doing some hideous thing, there is another lying in bed at night fretting about how to do the right thing, even if he or she suffers the consequences.

Generalizing about the best system on earth – representative government – is wrong and harmful for progress.

Yes, there are bad actors. Yes, stupid things happen. Yes, there are plenty of decisions and positions that a whole bunch of us won’t like at all.

Rather than cursing it all, blaming everyone else, and resorting to the ease of generalizing about what is the right way and what is the wrong way, how about we step up, constructively, to make lasting change?

Staking our future on elections that happen every four years is folly. It’s a complex system that Gov. Jerry Brown once said “isn’t as bad as you think, but is more complex than you know.”

And there are plenty of downright false information sources to confuse us, even if we did try to study. Then there’s the problem of generalizing that one party or the other will do “the right thing.”

Perhaps “our party” will do more things we like, but we all have the same goals in mind: strong economy, healthy community, happy families. There are many paths to get there.

What’s “your issue”? Maybe it’s health care costs, climate change or jobs. Move beyond generalizations to learn, in depth, the issues, the solutions and the concerns of proponents and opponents alike.

Nothing is “good” or “bad.” No answer is right or wrong. Policy is not binary. We can’t wait until “our people” are in office.

We would all be more impactful by talking to each other respectfully and continuously. Every single positive change we have had – from scientific advancements to equality to educational systems to transportation networks – has happened because people pressed forward.

Folks worked past oppositions, modified approaches and compromised. Lasting change isn’t because of whom we elect (though it can certainly be two steps forward and three steps back) but results from how we change as a people.

By becoming informed on the issues we care about, and aligning with like-minded people, we have more of an impact than just rolling the dice on the second Tuesday of November.

Maria Gutzeit is a mom, engineer, business owner and elected official in Santa Clarita.

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Maria Gutzeit: Generalization leads to bad policy

I was crushed when Hillary Clinton lost the election. But, after talking to a former high-level Republican official, I now think some good might come from the election of Donald Trump.

If either of those statements made you cringe, that, in my opinion, is the biggest issue of all.

Generalization is the death knell of civil discourse. This election, and so many other policy debates, have become all-or-nothing flame-throwing matches. We are smarter than that.

Many people have a mix of friends with different backgrounds and different political views. Understanding and empathy grow with each person you know.

Though I’m a lifelong Democrat, some Democrats deride me because I support business and the skilled trades. I’m a big fan of jobs – the kind that come from laying down roads and putting up steel. The kind that involves trucks moving cargo, services being provided, and goods being produced.

Yet Democrats are said to be anti-business. Vocal Democrats deride “big business” and scream that business owners are “crooks.”

So is it true that Democrats are anti-business? That generalization is wrong.

I have many Republican friends in town who really wish their party would get off the issue of women’s reproductive rights. Yet their party puts their elected officials in the middle of the issue, and some of Donald Trump’s comments about punishing women who had an abortion made his view pretty clear.

Are Republicans bad for women? That generalization is wrong.

Some environmentalists’ stated goals are to stall new projects, be it an office park or a utility corridor, to make it so expensive that it becomes financially infeasible.

We see huge protests as evidence of what environmentalists believe. Yet other groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, work hard to continue allowing human use for places, be it grazing or fishing or mining, while working on long-term plans for the people of an area.

Is it true that environmentalists don’t care about people’s livelihoods or the economy? That generalization is wrong.

The worst generalization is that politicians are crooks and liars. You may be smirking at that statement, but I bet you know at least one elected official for whom you’d make an exception.

For every one that is plastered all over the news for doing some hideous thing, there is another lying in bed at night fretting about how to do the right thing, even if he or she suffers the consequences.

Generalizing about the best system on earth – representative government – is wrong and harmful for progress.

Yes, there are bad actors. Yes, stupid things happen. Yes, there are plenty of decisions and positions that a whole bunch of us won’t like at all.

Rather than cursing it all, blaming everyone else, and resorting to the ease of generalizing about what is the right way and what is the wrong way, how about we step up, constructively, to make lasting change?

Staking our future on elections that happen every four years is folly. It’s a complex system that Gov. Jerry Brown once said “isn’t as bad as you think, but is more complex than you know.”

And there are plenty of downright false information sources to confuse us, even if we did try to study. Then there’s the problem of generalizing that one party or the other will do “the right thing.”

Perhaps “our party” will do more things we like, but we all have the same goals in mind: strong economy, healthy community, happy families. There are many paths to get there.

What’s “your issue”? Maybe it’s health care costs, climate change or jobs. Move beyond generalizations to learn, in depth, the issues, the solutions and the concerns of proponents and opponents alike.

Nothing is “good” or “bad.” No answer is right or wrong. Policy is not binary. We can’t wait until “our people” are in office.

We would all be more impactful by talking to each other respectfully and continuously. Every single positive change we have had – from scientific advancements to equality to educational systems to transportation networks – has happened because people pressed forward.

Folks worked past oppositions, modified approaches and compromised. Lasting change isn’t because of whom we elect (though it can certainly be two steps forward and three steps back) but results from how we change as a people.

By becoming informed on the issues we care about, and aligning with like-minded people, we have more of an impact than just rolling the dice on the second Tuesday of November.

Maria Gutzeit is a mom, engineer, business owner and elected official in Santa Clarita.

About the author

Signal Contributor

Signal Contributor

  • noonan

    “Nothing is “good” or “bad.” No answer is right or wrong. Policy is not binary. We can’t wait until “our people” are in office.”

    You’re delusional, but I expect no less from the self-unaware left.

    • tech

      relativism |ˈrelədəˌvizəm|
      noun
      the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

    • indy

      As this poster, should know, public policy should be based on ‘demonstrated results’ versus folklore, ideology or beliefs.

      We have the best schools of management on earth yet we seem mired down in repeating the same policy mistakes for decades simply ‘hoping’ that outdated folklore will somehow save us.

      I wish the Op-ed writer would explore sustainability link between population and resources to grasp the connection to possible economic growth and its effect on the environment.

      Simply reciting either party’s beliefs regarding public policy hasn’t solved anything.

      PS – libertarian market fundamentalism promoting ‘limitless’ growth’ defies reality and thus isn’t practiced anywhere on earth.

      • tech

        Your monomania continues to be irrelevant, Indy. No matter the topic, you twist and write your ideological mantra.

        Mammoth Texas oil discovery biggest ever in USA
        By Steve Visser
        Updated 6:27 AM ET, Fri November 18, 2016

        http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/17/us/midland-texas-mammoth-oil-discovery/

        Then the lights begin to flicker
        And the sound is getting dim
        The voice begins to falter
        And the crowds are getting thin
        But he never seems to notice
        He’s just got to find
        Another place to play

        – David Gates of Bread, Guitar Man

      • indy

        Mammoth Texas oil discovery biggest ever in USA
        By Steve Visser
        Updated 6:27 AM ET, Fri November 18, 2016
        http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/17/us/midland-texas-mammoth-oil-discovery/

        The article notes: “”When we talk about that many millions of barrels of oil in the ground, that doesn’t mean we can recover it all. We recover in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 percent,” Burns said.”

        Even more important is to place the fracking oil discovery ( The term “continuous oil” refers to unconventional formations like shale, in which the oil exists throughout the formation and not in discrete pools. The USGS estimates how much oil is considered to be undiscovered but technically recoverable.) of:

        “The Midland Basin of the Wolfcamp Shale area in the Permian Basin is now estimated to have 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas, according to a new assessment by the USGS. “

        . . . accounts for about 3 years of US usage ( 7 billion barrels a year) . . . less if you factor in what’s actually recoverable ( 50-60%) . . . noting the US current use is at ‘current consumption’ where libertarian market fundamentalism assume ‘limitless growth’ . . .

        For a full discussion of oil and all types of energy for that matter, I suggest http://www.eia.gov

        You must be careful of ‘media’ hype . . . that doesn’t place the discovery in context as provided here.

        • tech

          It’s the “biggest ever in USA” added to existing supply, Indy.

          What part of the media is the USGS?

  • noonan

    “Nothing is “good” or “bad.”

    Hitler was bad, Mother Theresa was good.

    “No answer is right or wrong.”

    Two plus two is a “right” answer. Democrats are reasonable is a wrong answer.

    “Policy is not binary.”

    Nonsense. We fought against the Germans and the Japanese in WW2. That was a binary policy.

    “We can’t wait until “our people” are in office.”

    You had your chance in 2008 and you blew it. That must suck for you huh?

  • James de Bree

    Overall, I think the point of the article, that we generalize to much and become entrenched in our positions instead of engaging in positive dialog, is a good one.

    I do not believe that no answer is right or wrong. In fact the statement to that effect is a generalization. So I guess a takeaway from this column is that it is really easy to generalize.

    As to whether answers are neither right nor wrong, that might be true of some answers, but there also are a number of answers that are so compelling that they cannot be disputed. For example, the final solution was not a correct answer. There is no moral relativism about that. But one can have a reasoned debate as to whether capital punishment makes sense. We actually had a pretty interesting debate on that topic in a thread about the ballot propositions.

    Noonan stated: “Nonsense. We fought against the Germans and the Japanese in WW2. That was a binary policy.”

    Perhaps, but in that fight we also allied ourselves with the Soviets which was not quite as binary. Even if fighting the Axis powers in world War II was a binary policy, that does not make every policy binary.

    I agree with Ms. Gutzeit as most issues are not as cut and dry as they seem. I have found that most of the complex issues that I have had to deal with are multifaceted having numerous stakeholders with differing views.

    • tech

      Regarding complexity, a fair point, Jim. That’s why it’s important to be guided by principle because consensus decisions are susceptible to lack of demonstrated efficacy as well.

  • robert stauffer

    The author made a valiant effort, but the concept of ‘generalization’ fails to pass the smell test because voters this time around had lots of specific information – compliments of Wikileaks and Project Veritas.

    It’s more than a ‘generalization’ when it is asserted that ‘Hillary cheated in the debates’ – it was proven.

    It’s more than the generalization when asserted that ‘Hillary cheated Bernie’ out of the nomination, it’s been proven.

    Sorry – the idea that the media and the democrat party has a corrupt nature of the media is not a generalization – it was proven.

    Hillary cheated – the media enabled her – people knew it – they still voted for her- because they don’t care.

    Maybe a piece about ‘Reconciliation’ would have been more appropriate – because she deserved to lose and people should understand that…

    Has anyone every heard the saying ‘cheaters never prosper’.

    If Hillary deserved to lose, what do people get for supporting her?
    I think we’re watching it unfold right before our eyes.