Stereotypes take over the (political) world

Stereotypes take over the (political) world

Lie like it’s your job, cheat some, steal occasionally, have an affair once in a while, hide that affair by lying, deflect blame to other people, take credit for good stuff, lie some more, trash your opponents’ reputations, maybe bribe some people, lie about it, break all of your promises and then tell people to vote for you. Oh, what fun.

The behavior outlined above pretty much sums up what people generally think of politicians. The dishonest politician is perhaps the biggest and most accepted political stereotype of all time. As one political joke goes, a man goes to Heaven, and he sees a lot of clocks. He asks an angel what the clocks are, and the angel says that each person has a clock. Every time a person lies, the hands on his clock move one minute. The man asks the angel where Obama’s clock is, and the angel says that it’s in his office. He’s using it as a ceiling fan.

This joke is not only a good example of the dishonest politician stereotype, but it’s also an example of a very interesting phenomenon: people tend to only give attention to what they agree with. When I first heard this joke, instead of President Obama, the owner of that very active timepiece was Mitt Romney. Being a Republican, I changed the subject of the joke to Obama.

This selective-acceptance phenomenon goes for stereotypes, too. For example, most people probably agree that politicians are generally untrustworthy.

However, Republicans’ stereotypes of left-wingers — that Democrats are irresponsible anti-gun, big-government welfare bums who spend money like they’re in a really generous game of Monopoly — would not be generally accepted by democrats and others who are a bit to the left of the political neutral zone. Likewise, the liberals’ stereotype of conservatives — that they are basically a bunch of racist, fear-mongering, God-forcing redneck male supremacists — would not be accepted by right-wingers.

Perhaps this is one aspect of society which will always be a part of our lives. If this problem is resolvable, it is only resolvable if people realize their bias and take intentional steps to consider things from the opposite perspective.

Even so, stereotypes are a definite part of America’s political culture, but one that is totally subject to one’s opinion. A Republican may only apply the ‘dishonest politician’ stereotype to Democrats while thinking that members of his own party are completely honest and faultless (or as faultless as a politician can be). Democrats may very well do the same.

Perhaps ‘Biased politically-aware person’ is the greatest stereotype of them all.