Our current political culture seems to foster more religious or even cultish political behavior than many of us would admit. In observing political conversations and media coverage over the years, both on-the-air and down in the trenches, some common modes of behavior seem to consistently present themselves. Perhaps it is just human nature to bring tacit, even subconscious, behavioral patterns such as these to the table. Even so, I believe that another human quality is to learn from introspection and move forward by replacing old, non-productive myths with newer more productive ones. In an effort to bring some introspection to the fore, here are ten “commandments” of our political behavior that I consider roadblocks to a more productive individual and collective political life.
Ten non-productive commandments (or myths) influencing our politics
- Thou shalt label your party as “good” and the other party(-ies) as “bad.”
- Thou shalt let party pundits frame the issues that are important rather than assessing your own.
- Thou shalt not admit when a supporter of another political party has a valid point.
- Thou shalt not challenge your party’s candidate when they are silent on an issue nor look at the historical results of the policies they are promoting.
- Thou shalt not apologize or correct factual errors or misrepresentations made in political conversations.
- Thou shalt not entertain that valid political ideas exist outside of the two major parties.
- Thou shalt not seek an explanation beyond “national security” for troubling policies and actions.
- Thou shalt not seek out information beyond the headlines nor require more than a 10-second sound bite.
- Thou shalt not focus on a candidate’s statements and actions over their style and personality in a debate.
- Thou shalt not look behind the curtain at the money flowing to your party’s campaigns and PAC’s.
I readily admit that these are not the be-all and end-all of the myths and patterns affecting our system, but hopefully it is a reasonable start. My hope is that some of us can slow ourselves down for a few seconds and consider the myths we are living by and evaluate which are worth keeping and which are possibly worth scrapping or revising with a more helpful variation.
As a start on a new set of myths that might help on the road to a healthier political debate, let me offer the following new commandment:
New Commandment for a healthier personal and collective politics
Thou shalt seek to uncover and move beyond the myths that perpetuate our dysfunctional political system.