15 Rules That Will Keep Politics from Turning You into a Bad Person
Politics isn't worth your soul
Politics in 2021 feels more like two groups of poo-flinging monkeys crapping in their hands and slinging it at the other side rather than two groups of people that care about the country trying to reason out the best way to make things better. This is because unfortunately, modern politics often rewards things like getting attention by any means necessary, delivering cutting insults, telling people whatever they want to hear, and staying true to your tribe even if you know it’s not the right thing to do.
Far too many people in politics have abandoned their honor because they mistakenly believe it will give them an advantage. Sometimes, it even does in the short term. Over the long-term, that advantage fades away and even if it didn’t, if a country is made up of two groups of dishonorable people fighting over who will be on top, everyone is doomed to lose no matter who wins.
By all means, fight to win in politics, but whatever your ideology, don’t abandon your human decency to try to get an advantage. If you do, you’re doomed to lose the war even if you win the battle. All of us (the author included) may fall short at times, but it is worth it to lay down some markers to strive for while we’re going about our political lives.
1) Support people's right to speak and debate, even if you don't agree with what they have to say: It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Nazis, white supremacists, Black Lives Matter, La Raza, or conspiracy theorists. They should have just as much of a right to speak their piece as the rest of us. There are no "good guys" censoring people whose views they disagree with.
2) Don’t lie: If you are a politician, avoid lying as much as possible because we all know if you always told everyone the truth, you could never get elected in the first place. For the rest of us, don’t tell a lie. Don’t lie to cover for your allies or to hurt your enemies. Tell the truth and let the cards fall where they may.
3) Don’t demonize people for voting for a candidate you don’t like: Getting demonized goes with the territory when you’re a politician, but you take it too far when you treat their supporters as bad people merely for supporting them. It’s a lot healthier for society (and for you as a human being) to look at the tens of millions of people on the other side as fellow citizens you disagree with rather than irredeemable hated enemies.
4) Misusing whataboutism: If someone criticizes your side for doing something that they have also done, then it’s perfectly fine to point out their hypocrisy. However, if you say the other side is wrong for doing something and then play the whataboutism card to say it’s fine that someone on your side did it, then you’re a hypocrite as well. It’s either wrong for both sides or for neither side. Everyone needs to pick a lane.
5) Always remember there are human beings on the other side of your arguments: For whatever reason, a lot of people act as if they aren’t talking to real human beings when they’re online. Being cruel doesn’t become okay just because the person you’re arguing with is online instead of right in front of you. I’m looking at you, Twitter users.
6) You don't deliberately block traffic with your protest: You are not the center of the universe and just because you’re all fired up about some issue doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t be able to peacefully drive home.
7) Protesters shouldn’t be out harassing random diners: The level of narcissism it takes to scream at random people eating their dinner because they’re not paying enough attention to you is almost beyond belief.
8) You don't protest at someone's home: There is an implicit threat to showing up outside of someone’s personal residence to protest. It’s basically like saying, “We want to hurt you and we know where you live.”
9) You don’t follow people around you disagree with and harass them: If you think someone is violating store policy, feel free to inform a manager. If you think they’re breaking the law, call a cop. Following someone around and confronting them is weird, creepy, and potentially threatening behavior.
10) “Mostly peaceful” political protests are not okay: You don’t burn down businesses, attack people, pound on people’s cars, break windows, force your way into buildings, trespass, attack the police, threaten people around you, or otherwise act like a mob. If you do, no matter what your ideology, you deserve to face legal consequences.
11) If you aren’t genuinely trying to convince people that you’re right, you can be sure that you’re behaving like an @sshole: There’s a lot to be said for trying to convince people that your position is right. There’s nothing to be said for trying to intimidate, coerce, and bully them into taking whatever position you want them to take.
12) You criticize your side if you believe they deserve it: There’s no politician, party, ideology, or anything else that’s beyond criticism. If you are too intimidated to speak up when you disagree, you’re in a cult, not a political party.
13) You don't accuse people of cheating in an election without having a sound, solid case that at least has a reasonable chance of prevailing in court: Both parties have increasingly gotten into the habit of making extremely sketchy allegations of cheating or “voter suppression” that are then uncritically echoed by the media on their side to draw clicks whether there’s any merit to the charges or not (and typically, there isn’t). That is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS game to play because the moment people genuinely believe it’s impossible to settle our differences with a ballot, the only way left to settle them is with bullets. We have a process and a court system designed to deal with these issues. People on both sides should use it instead of undermining our Republic with unsubstantiated allegations.
14) You don't celebrate the death of people because you disagreed with them politically: People with class don’t do this. Good people don’t do this. It’s a stain on your soul and you won’t be sorry you avoided it.
15) The ends don’t justify the means: Many of the worst behaving people online will tell you that they’re defending a “victim,” that the other side did it first, or that anyone who doesn’t endorse reprehensible tactics doesn’t want to “fight.” This is just the same old “the ends justify the means” horsesh*t that bad people have been coming up with to justify their horrible behavior since the beginning of time. If the other side has too many terrible people in it, the last thing you need to do is add to their number by becoming one yourself.
I tend to think of myself as an Ayn Rand leaning moderate social democrat (if there is such a thing). Predominately watch MSNBC, listen to NPR, read the NYT regularly and the WP occasionally but also the WSJ. INC and Fast Company. I appreciate your rational approach and contributions to the dialog and have been forwarding your blog to some of my moderate Democratic friends. Thank you.
Excellent guide, John. I was just creating my own list of philosophical guideposts for myself,to guide me as I enter into local politics. Nice work!