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Are political leanings in our genes?

Posted Dec. 03, 2012, at 1:08 p.m.

After spending six years in the Maine State Legislature as a state Representative, it would be almost impossible not to come up with some interesting observations, notice some general trends and reach some interesting conclusions. I have listened to the many speeches on the various bills that come to the floor of the House. Many of these speeches, although referring to the same bill, were diametrically opposed, and each representative was as adamant about his or her position as the other.

I realized that it was not political parties that determined how a person thought or voted but rather a political philosophy that seemed to transcend all reason, logic or discourse. It was something beyond mental reasoning and intrinsic within that particular individuals make up.

The more I observed this phenomenon, the more I realized that it went far beyond party affiliation or party allegiance. It was something within that individual’s thought process or psyche. It mattered not how eloquent the speech, how convincing the argument or how many statistics were put forth to prove the point at hand because the results of the votes, a vast percentage of the time, were always along party lines.

It gradually became clear to me that on just about every issue that was voted on by the full House, I could predict, with a high degree of certainty, how each member would vote. To put it simply, if you looked at the yeas and nays on a particular bill and without knowing the names of the representatives, you could tell who was a Democrat and who was a Republican.

No matter how many times someone spoke on a particular issue, how convincing the arguments were or how long the speeches lasted, very seldom was a mind changed from its original position, and in most cases not one mind was changed. When speaking with a fellow representative one day, I realized I could no more change his mind about an issue than I could change the color of his eyes. It then occurred to me that his political thought, philosophy and beliefs were genetic to his nature, in his DNA blueprint, in his genes.

Republicans become frustrated with Democrats; Democrats become frustrated with Republicans; and the wants of neither side will never be fully realized. The sooner we accept this immutable difference, the sooner we will realize that we have to work together, negotiate and compromise to reach solutions, the sooner we will solve the state and nation’s problems.

It occurred to me that although great emphasis is placed on political parties, it is rather my firm belief that each person is genetically programmed with a “liberal” or “conservative” political philosophy. Just as one inherits physical characteristics, mannerisms or mental abilities from one’s parents and ancestors, so also I believe that one also inherits his or her political philosophy.

How many times have we heard someone say, “I can see your father’s eyes or your mother’s smile in you,” or how often do we hear a person say to us “you look like your uncle, or you look like your grandmother”? If that is true, then why do we not inherit our political philosophy also in the same manner of random selection? Why then do we not inherit our way of thinking, our way of interpreting political issues or our thought process? I believe we do!

How many times have I discussed a particular issue with fellow representatives who had voted differently than I did only to find that they were as firm in their convictions as I was in my own? I remember thinking this has to be a genetic thing because two people cannot think so differently on an issue without it being programmed in their genes.

Yes, maybe nurturing does play a small part when still young, but when a person comes of age and begins thinking for themselves, they soon accept their own beliefs and philosophy. Many times we notice that in the same family, children brought up by the same parents can have as different a viewpoint on issues, yes, as different as their physical appearance.

Although it may take a while during our growing-up years to fully develop and realize our political persuasions, I now strongly believe it is genetically based. So let us then resolve to understand and accept each others’ differences!

Rep. Bernard L.A. Ayotte, a Republican, is from the Aroostook County town of Caswell.

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