Character counts in politics

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris

“If you were an American, who would you vote for?” asked my nine-year-old daughter. I gave her the same answer I gave when this question was asked at an election meeting for Council in 2016 – neither. Undeterred by my non-answer, and with the zeal of a local journalist, she asked: “who’s nicer?” “Joe Biden,” I replied. Character counts in politics.

I’ve often wondered why otherwise good, conservative, people turn a blind eye to Donald Trump’s behaviour or seek to explain away his indiscretions. Perhaps they’ve fallen into the trap of putting their politics ahead of their principles.

While our political viewpoints can change over time, with experience, or in the light of new information, if our principles and sense of decency are flexible it’s a harder road back to credibility.

American politics is more polarised than ever and it’s a trend that’s spread to New Zealand politics, of all levels, fuelled by social media.

There’s a worrying finding in political psychology: we perceive those that share our views, or in other words those in our political ‘tribe,’ as being morally superior to those that aren’t. We also tend to judge those that differ in opinion to ourselves more harshly than those we agree with. That’s why the ‘left’ and ‘right’ often accuse each other of hypocrisy; people have double standards!

On the American political spectrum, both the NZ National and Labour Parties would comfortably fit within the Democratic Party but look at the vitriol some supporters throw at each other; proof that politics is more ‘tribal’ than ideology.


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