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Self-Deception in Politics

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). Not really all that crazy.

My recent blog “How Crazy Can Politics Get?” described some crazy things that Republican politicians have done recently.

A regular reader, who is incredibly nice and very perceptive, pointed out that it happens “on both sides of the aisle.” In other words, it’s not just Republicans who do crazy things. Democrats do them, too.

When I read his comment, it was obvious that he was right. But then I tried to think of examples of Democratic politicians doing crazy things.

And you know what? Apart from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s choice of wardrobe, and Senator Blanche Lincoln‘s frumpy hairstyles, I couldn’t think of any.

There’s a reason. It’s not because Democrats don’t do crazy things. They do. They’re people. We’re the human race, and “crazy” is our middle name.

The reason I can’t remember Democrats acting crazy is that I don’t notice it or pay attention to it when it happens. I’m not expecting to see it, and because of my political biases, I’m not interested in it. Democratic craziness slips right by me, unseen and unheard.

It’s not that I’m especially biased or un-observant. It’s that because of our psychological nature, we tend to perceive:

  • What we expect.
  • What supports our beliefs.
  • What we want.
  • What we’re looking for.

On the other hand, if we don’t expect something, or it doesn’t support our beliefs, or we don’t want it, or we’re not looking for it, then we ignore it.

It’s like going into the grocery store looking for toothpaste. You walk past aisle after aisle, you look at shelf after shelf, and finally you see it: Toothpaste!

If someone asked you at that moment to describe all the other things you had passed, you might not remember much of them. You saw them with your eyes, but not with your mind. They didn’t register because you weren’t looking for them.

The danger is that we do the same thing in politics and in other areas where we hold strong beliefs. We look for and notice things that support our beliefs, and we usually ignore things that fail to support our beliefs.

We’re not trying to deceive ourselves. But unless we are careful, we often end up doing it.

So let’s be careful and make extra efforts to see the other side of things! That applies on both sides of the aisle. 🙂


Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

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  1. David
    July 13, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Hey, you stole my thought! LOL, actually you did an excellent job of expounding on it.

    No matter who you are, it’s always easy for someone to point out your faults, if they know a little about you. Jesus challenged us to take the log out of our own eye before we make comment about the splinter in someone else’s.

    In fact, we need to pray hard for all our ‘leaders’, whether we personally like them or not. I pray every day for this administration to be successful in all temporal matters, the economy, the environment, the health care thing, the immigration thing. All we really want is success and stability, and I don’t care a whit who gives it to us. Oh, yeah, and the freedom to practice my faith.

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