As anyone following the fiasco in Washington DC knows, bitter partisanship is costing taxpayers money, damaging the economy, bringing hardship to ordinary Americans, and threatening the full faith and credit of our country. Yet even amidst this partisan meltdown, some local candidates for office here in the Lehigh Valley continue to lean on empty partisan talking points and political ideology rather than engage with the practical needs of the local community. Why?
Studies Show: Partisanship Clouds Judgment
There has been a flurry of recent scientific studies that help explain this puzzle. They point out truth and good judgment are the first casualties of partisanship. For example, a Princeton University study showed that people tend to give the partisan answer to factual questions about the economy instead of the correct answer, even when they know the truth. Perhaps even most interesting, a recent experiment compared how self-described Democrats and Republicans interpreted new facts under conditions of low and high partisan polarization. The results of the experiment show that people use new knowledge in forming their views when partisan polarization is low, but ignore new facts and simply repeat their party’s slogans when partisan polarization is high. Worse, high polarization made people more confident in their (less grounded) views!
Put simply, partisanship reduces our ability to learn new facts and make the best possible choices for ourselves and our community. Dare I say it? Yes, partisanship can make us stupid! At a moment in our nation's history when partisan polarization is greater than at any time in more than a century, we need to break out of partisan bickering wherever we can.
Keep Partisan Politics Out of Community Government
And the place to start is our local community. We need energetic and dynamic people we can trust to make careful decisions based on accurate facts and the needs of the community. We need consensus builders whose first instinct is to solicit the knowledge, advice, and experience of others, rather than making snap judgments based on the tired rhetoric of national politicians and wild-eyed talk show hosts.
The political spectacle in Washington is at once frightening, maddening, and comic. It represents vicious partisanship gone awry. And it hurts all of us. But we don't have to run our own local communities in the same way. We all will have the opportunity to prove this on November 5th.