In my last article, I discussed the detrimental effects of giving politicians who commit major fraud a pass by declaring that “all politicians lie.” If you missed this primer on our political thought process then I suggest you catch up here, because now it’s time to build on our prior knowledge… and apply it as tough love for both liberals and conservatives!

Cognitive Dissonance Theory, in addition to explaining why we devalue the information put forward by our opponents, also conversely explains how we react to information that we already agree with. When we encounter information that we agree with, we are likely to react in the following ways:

  • We accept the validity of the statement on it’s face

  • We revalue our initial beliefs and make them stronger

  • We positively revalue the source of the consonant information

  • We perceive the information as stronger than it really is

  • We seek out similar information

This thought process can be detrimental: we naturally discourage ourselves from challenging information that fits our ideological perspective. A good example is the proliferation of a fake article by The Daily Currant (an Onion-esque news site), which claimed that the man responsible for the Olympic opening ceremony gaff was found dead. The piece is written so that it is easy to recognize that it is ridiculously fake, but nevertheless many shared this satire on social media as fact.

Why did people do this? It fit their belief that Russia is a totalitarian government and was murderously concerned with the Olympic games going according to plan. I suspect that many simply saw the headline and gleefully reposted the article without reading it or verifying it anywhere else. The consequence, in this case, was only public embarrassment as their friends quickly pointed out they had been duped. But this kind of mistake can be far more detrimental if you accept a political message in the same way, like President Obama’s assertion that “if you like your healthcare you can keep it, period.”

Time for some tough love!

Tough Love for Liberals

Healthcare: Forget calling this one the lie of the year, this is the lie of the past five years. Until it was actually implemented, opponents of the Affordable Care Act diligently pointed out that many Americans were not going to be allowed to keep their healthcare plans. Liberals, simply reading the actual bill, argued that this was a false assertion. According to St. Augustine, if someone believes a statement to be true then it is not a lie, but President Obama knew that this assertion was false back in 2010. To make the lie even more egregious, he campaigned for reelection on this unequivocal statement: “Period.”

Unfortunately, citizens who agreed ideologically with our President took his statement at face value and became victims of his lie.

The National Debt: Recently, Nancy Pelosi told her Democrat troops not to gloat over the Republicans “caving” on raising the debt limit without a fight. I can imagine liberals reading this and smirking without asking: why is this considered a “victory” for Democrats? Congratulations, you win! Our national debt will now rise to $18.2 trillion dollars over the course of 2014!

Liberals consider this a victory because government spending, and their programs, will continue without change for the time being. Dealing with our colossal debt is indeed a threat to heavy-spending liberal programs, but liberals cannot keep dismissing the fact that the United States of America will be in major trouble if the status quo is maintained. Incredibly, liberals have been pushing to change the status quo with more spending and entitlement programs. But if the United States continues to grow it’s debt unadulterated with more liberal “victories,” all those programs will collapse under their own weight.

Democrats: go research what happened to Cyprus and Greece. Go research what is happening to Detroit right now. If you truly want to preserve the social safety net, then the government needs to be financially solvent. If it is not, welfare programs will be eradicated precisely when the people you claim to care about need them most. The perpetrators of the sub-prime mortgage crisis were able to “continue” the status quo for over a decade, but millions of American citizens lost their homes when the piper finally came calling.

Minimum Wage: Many liberals ask a disingenuous line question when talking to those who disagree with raising the minimum wage: “Don’t you think people should be paid a higher minimum wage?” This puts their opponent in a zero-sum situation that masks the true intentions of the question. The real question is: “Don’t you think Americans will be better off if they are paid a higher minimum wage?”

Raising the minimum wage would ultimately hurt the people liberals are trying to help. Stop merely accepting the first question, and start delving into the issue by addressing the real question at the heart of the debate.

Tough Love for Conservatives

Gay Marriage: Although it is worth mentioning that the most significant federal legislation against gay marriage was signed by Bill Clinton, conservatives need to be careful in evaluating their stance on gay marriage. Conservative politicians champion small government, but support such a massive government intrusion into our personal and financial lives. This is inconsistent with conservative values concerning government, but has nevertheless been accepted as a matter of course (likely because there are votes at risk from changing stances).

Can you be a Christian and also keep conservative principals congruent with gay marriage? Absolutely. It’s not the easiest path to winning, but it can be done.

Defense Spending: Conservatives are extremely concerned with the national debt, but this concern must also extend to our defense budget. Conservatives must go after waste in our defense budget, or we risk sacrificing essential military spending as we did in sequestration.

As detailed in Doug Stanton’s book, Horse Soldiers, the United States pulled off one of the most impressive military operations in history when we entered Afghanistan only three weeks after 9/11–and largely, this was done with only 300 Americans on the ground. It’s undeniable that our military spending is important, but it is also undeniable that the future of American military prowess is it’s ability to be lean, adaptive, and agile. That is why, when I hear about lawmakers forcing spending on projects the Pentagon says it will not use, and defense contractors billing hundreds of dollars for a single hammer in order to comply with regulations, I know there is room for the defense budget to shrink without our missions abroad being compromised.

Chris Christie: I know there are many conservatives rejoicing over the latest Chris Christie scandal, but this is also a warning to my fellow conservatives in the upcoming Presidential primaries as well as Republicans in general. I don’t care if Christie is our best chance at beating Hillary Clinton right now: this man cannot become President of the United States.

I agree with the Republican charge against President Obama that, lacking evidence of any direct complicity, our President created the organizational atmosphere that produced the I.R.S.’s deliberate silencing of his political opponents during an election year. However, the Bridgegate scandal is indicative of the exact same style of management that led to the I.R.S.’s targeting of Tea Party groups. Republicans need to fight the urge to dismiss the information available concerning Christie solely because he is currently the best shot at winning the White House in 2016. The I.R.S. using its vast power to silence the administration’s opponents, and we must not support a politician whose management style has led to similar abuses of power during an election cycle.

While in school, I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by intelligent friends that are on both ends of the ideological spectrum, and it has been a rewarding experience. I can’t wave a wand and change the way politics work in Washington, or make everyone magically agree with me–nor would I!–but I can point out the ways in which we feed into the two-party gridlock that exists today.

By understanding how we react to dissonant or consonant information, we won’t just start elevating our discourse to a productive level. We also can also stop encouraging the political gridlock that our politicians profit from spreading.

Taylor Smith | Belmont University | @taylorsmith11_5