How Flexible are Your Politics?

From NPR:

What is the best example of this that you’ve seen?

American politics has become like a big square dance. When the music stops after an election, people switch to the other side on a number of issues, depending on whether their party remains in power.

That was pretty clear this week, when polls revealed more Democrats than Republicans support tracking of phone traffic by the National Security Agency — the exact opposite of where things stood under President George W. Bush.

Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll released Monday showed that 64 percent of Democrats support such efforts, up from just 36 percent in 2006. Republican support, meanwhile, had dropped from 75 percent to 52 percent.

It’s not just a question of whether you trust the current president to carry out data mining in a way that targets terrorists and not innocent Americans. Partisans hold malleable positions in a number of areas — foreign policy, the economy and even presidential appointees who continue to serve under a new administration.

“People change their views depending on which party is in power, and not based on objective conditions on the ground,” says George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

Back to an old meme at this site: I once heard a philosopher say people change their mind, not because of logic or evidence, but because of someone they trust.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    It would seem that tribal allegiance is very strong – much stronger than principles or beliefs for many. Not that that is a surprise, though.

  • http://LostCodex.com/ DRT

    Deficit spending fits the bill imo, the right loved it under Bush, and hates it under Obama.

  • metanoia

    It is exactly this kind of partisanship that makes for the gridlock we have in government. If it is true, as someone has said, that politicians care only about two things, getting electing and staying elected, then we will continue to see governing by polls rather than conviction. And if, as the philosopher quoted above, this is true, “people change their mind, not because of logic or evidence, but because of someone they trust,” then my cynicism has reached a new height when I see the result of that in the politicians we have now. And the words of H.L. Mencken seem to have reached their fulfillment in each generation, because in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. “As
    democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and
    more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious
    day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last
    and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete
    narcissistic moron.”– H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26,
    1920

  • Rick

    I don’t think they “loved” it. I think some, not all on the right (many were very upset with it), tolerated it because it included large amounts of defense spending.
    That being said, the post is correct: many (although not all) on both sides are guilty of this.

  • Marshall

    Loyalty to the tribe made sense when the tribe was loyal to you. Not so much these days.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Tribal loyalty über alles has always and everywhere been wrong.

  • Susan Gerard

    I saw that study and noticed the same thing. But I thought your post was going to be about principles, not party loyalty. My “politics” are very flexible: I support and endorse the things I believe to be right (no political pun intended). I am neither red nor blue.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Th Federal government never ran large deficits during peacetime until the patron saint of deficit spending Ronald Reagan. He basically started the trend that both parties ran with full force ever since (with the notable exception of Clinton who pared down defense and discretionary spending during his tenure and raised taxes).

    A balanced approach like Simpson-Bowles would do more than enough to curb our current debt but the GOP has been taken over by a far right contingent which actually celebrate not compromising. I lean on the left side of the spectrum but on many issues am fairly conservative, but I cannot stand the current Republican party, with its anti-science and completely illogical economic policy (which pretends that everything gets better if only the rich get more money). I would love a smart conservative party to counter the Democrats, who make a lot of dumb policy themselves, but I am not given that option.

  • Marshall

    “wrong” isn’t at all the same thing as “makes sense”. As an evolutionarily stable strategy. So what happens when your tribe adopts an evolutionarily unstable strategy? Best learn to grow your own vegetables, say I. Jeremiah 29:28

  • http://camostar.wordpress.com/ Camo Star

    Was it Aristotle? I heard he said something like there’s not much reason to believe in miracles, but if a good friend told you so then you would have reason to believe =)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Ah – tribal loyalty – ok. But über alles – nein!

    And I do (largely) grow my own veggies. Not because I wish to make a statement about independence or any such phantasm, but because I like to. :)


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