Political Ignorance and Partisan Thinking

Political Ignorance and Partisan Thinking November 8, 2012

WeAreChange.org did a very interesting video where they interviewed people who were voting for Obama prior to the election, read them a list of policies that Obama has already done but attributed them to Mitt Romney. Those voters expressed utter outrage at those policies when they thought Romney was proposing to do them, then reacted with denial, confusion or rationalization when they were told that Obama had actually already done those things.

Now I know that it’s easy to dismiss these political “gotcha” videos, but I think this reveals how several very common traits undermine the ability to make reasonable political choices. First, the ignorance on display; these people are completely unaware that the candidate they support has done the things they think are horrible. Second, how such ignorance is filled with presumptions of what the candidate they don’t support must want to do (basic tribal thinking — the people on the other side are guilty of every bad thing, while my side couldn’t possibly be). Third, how we rationalize away the cognitive dissonance once the truth is revealed.

Let me point out one thing that the person in this video blames Obama for that I would give him a bit of credit on, and that’s the NDAA. Obama did sign that bill into law, but he also signed an executive order saying that he would not exercise the power to put American citizens into indefinite military detention. What he should have done is vetoed the bill because such an executive order does not bind any future president (or even himself if he changes his mind and rescinds the order). So that particular item is bad, but not quite as bad as it is made out to be.

Everything else — the kill list, the vastly expanded drone campaign, the broadening of illegal surveillance, etc — is completely accurate. And while they may have cherry picked the folks they talked to here, those people are very much representative of a real problem.


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