This is the first in a series of posts (future posts to arrive whenever I feel like it) about thinks I dislike about politics (which is plenty). First, I'm going to focus on what the people, i.e. voters and non-voters who are not politicians, bureaucrats, or employed by the government do that bug me (though you'll notice that quite a lot of these things are also practiced by politicians).
1. The tendency to believe uncritically what alleged statistics or facts you hear from somebody on "your side," and to automatically disbelieve any alleged statistic or fact that comes from "the other side." People often do this to protect themselves against reality, they'd rather believe a falsehood than a truth, because believing the truth might mean changing their beliefs on policy (though this assumption is often false).
2. People's lack of curiosity about how the other side thinks and feels. I often hear people of various viewpoints describe people who disagree with them as liars, jerks, or just stupid. Sometimes that's the case, sometimes people are liars, jerks, or stupid. But when I hear somebody describe the other side that way, that tells me they don't know much about the other side, their understanding of the other side is limited to what "their" media tells them about the other side (i.e. what Rush says about the left or what Michael Moore says about the right), or is defined by the lunatic fringe of the other side, or misunderstandings of what exactly motivates the other side. Which tells me that you don't understand the issues yourself very well, it tells me that you are in a cocoon where your beliefs reign supreme and unquestioned. If you can't understand your views in relation to the views of those who disagree with you, how well do you understand political issues? How well do you understand how prices work if you cannot observe an economy where prices don't function properly or at all? Understanding other viewpoints isn't about making compromises or being weak, it's simply about understanding, gaining knowledge. It does not necessarily imply any change in your positions on the issues.
3. The kneejerk reaction to be against something that the other side is for. This is often because of what motivates their policy positions, rather than what that particular policy position is. F'instance, I consider myself in favor of free immigration and am against deportation of illegal aliens and am in favor of some form of amnesty for workers who are already here--although my reasons are practical in nature and differ entirely for the reasons that leftists hold to similar policy (yes, to calm your fears, I am opposed to immigrants benefiting from the American welfare system and believe violent criminals ought to be deported). For the left, a good example is minimum wage laws. Every economist agrees, and so does the empirical data, that minimum wage laws simply raise unemployment among the least-skilled workers--teenagers, certain minorities (why only certain minorities? that's for a future post), ex-cons, in other words the people who most need to improve their job skills and productivity are the first ones cut out of the work force when minimum wage laws are enacted or raised. Even flaming left-wing economists oppose them for this reason. Yet rank and file Democrats and lefties are whole-heartedly in favor of minimum wage laws, and raising them to ridiculous, economy-crippling heights. Why? Because the other side is opposed to minimum wage laws and/or hikes. Lefties don't want to find themselves in agreement with (dun dun DUN!!!!) Big Business.
4. Feeling the need to defend something a politician said because they are the same party as you. One of the liberating things I noticed about going independent six years ago was that I no longer felt obligated to defend stupid things politicians said because they were my party. I wasn't a fanboy anymore, defending the indefensible against any criticism. I could see politicians for who they are, policies for what they actually do, and if somebody said or did something stupid I could attack it. I see plenty of this right now coming from the left as regards Obama, such as defending his insensitivity to various issues (Ft. Hood massacre, the Berlin Wall anniversary), his membership to radical socialist churches and his friendships with communist terrorists (future generations will look back at a person like Obama winning the Presidency and wonder if the entire nation had lost its mind), I could go on. But the point is that people are only defending these things because Obama is a Democrat. Simple as that. Any excuse will do when it's your guy. Doesn't have to be a good excuse, just an excuse, and you'll swallow it and tout it.
5. Not voting third-party, or voting even when you don't really have a choice. If there is a race and none of the two-party candidates really fit your views, I don't care if it's for President and you are in a swing state, you vote third-party with a candidate who fits your views. Think about future elections, not just one. Hate RINOs or DINOs? Stop making excuses to vote for them. If there is no third-party choice, abstain from voting for that race. Politicians do pay attention to turnout, and if "their base" doesn't turn out they notice. Not voting can be as powerful as voting, it's just a shame that we're so inundated with "voting is your duty" propaganda that many people don't understand that. It's all about giving those in power the incentive to make the right decision, it's not about getting the right people in, because once those right people get in they face the same incentives as the last guy.
6. Ignoring the importance of grassroots action. This relates to number five. As I said, it's all about giving those in power the incentive to make the choice you want them to make, to vote for the bills you want them to vote for, to introduce the bills you want them to introduce. It matters less who is in office, and it matters more what incentives they face, and they get their incentives from opinion polls and what voters vote for (and lobbyists, that's another post). Obama got the (wrong) impression that voters wanted a center-left President and that he had some kind of socialist-lite mandate. He was wrong. But the GOP got the right message for future elections: they don't want soft RINOs. Already you see the GOP changing its behavior, its rhetoric, and the types of candidates it puts forward. These changes don't happen fast (they can't), but if they are led by genuine grassroots efforts (and that includes not voting) then they will be forced to happen if politicians want to keep their jobs.