Have you ever noticed that people believe what they want to believe? Of course you have.
Let's focus on two key reasons in politics: media and ideology.
Opinion polls of voters in Massachusetts find that people think that Senator Scott Brown votes in the Senate roughly 50/50 Dem/Repub. In reality, when an analysis is done, as it has been by The Washington Post, it was found that Brown votes about 85% of the time with Republicans. There is nothing wrong with this and it is good news if you are a Republican. But the point is that there is such a good media machine behind Brown's voting record that most people are unaware of his actual voting record.
Let's consider another bit we hear in the media all the time that is being pushed on the American people. Turn on any national news outlet interviewing a Republican on the current debt debate and you'll likely hear about 'job killing tax hikes'. There is some truth to this notion but it is not 100 percent true.
Consider that Bill Clinton raised taxes and we saw unemployment fall extremely low when he was in office. Also, Ronald Reagan raised taxes numerous times and unemployment continued to fall while he was in office. Deval Patrick recently raised the sales tax here in Massachusetts, during a recession, and Massachusetts' unemployment rate is still well below the national average.
I am not advocating for raising taxes; from my experience working in local and state government I know of a few ways where we could and should make cuts to reduce state costs. And I am not suggesting that raising taxes lowers unemployment. I am suggesting that the reason we have seen tax hikes not increase unemployment is because of wise tax policies under Republican and Democrat administrations. When prudently done as with the examples above, taxes have been raised without raising unemployment. But politicians don't think that the public wants to hear about, or can understand, the nuances of tax policy so when in the media spotlight, they chant ideological sound bites and talking points. U.S. Representatives Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachman love to chant the 'taxes are evil' song, but put them in a position where they have to govern and their tunes will almost certainly change.
The use, or misuse, of media gets us to our next point: ideology.
Politicians use the media to push party ideology. To them, something is right because they believe it; that is backwards. To the rest of us we try to believe what is right. When someone's identity is so deeply entwined with a particular ideology, that person is going to cherry-pick facts and dismiss evidence any to the contrary. We can see this going on in both parties. I have my own view as to which party does it more but the point is here that people in both parties do it.
On the right, the 'low tax is the only good policy' ideology has become so deeply entwined in Republican identity that they defend it to the point that some of what they say just isn't true. For example, the idea that taxes are too high right now is just not true by historical or international standards. In fact, right now, tax rates for the highest earners are at a post-WWII low and there are more loopholes and exemptions now than ever before.
On the left, service delivery has become so deeply entwined in Dem identity that it is their ideology. Sometimes, they defend social programs to the point that some of what they say just isn't true. For example, Senate Democrat Schumer has said that Social Security doesn't contribute to the national debt since it has a trust fund. This is so misleading to the point that it is just not true. SS is a pay-go system that has amassed trillions of dollars in IOUs. You may have heard that SS is running a surplus. I don't really think that a surplus is a surplus when it is used to fund other federal programs, including defense. The so-called SS trust fund is just a bunch of IOUs from the Treasury to SSA. When the time comes to pay these IOUs, the Treasury is going to have to sell bonds to give SS what it needs to make payments to senior citizens. This will increase the national debt.
My point is that both parties use and abuse media and ideology and it would behoove America if Republican and Democratic politicians were to take a time out and be more critical of their own use of the media and ideological stances before they attack others.