You’re stupid. No, you’re stupid.
One of the biggest dangers of ad hominem political attacks is that personality politics obscure actual debate of complicated issues—with the result that people support a policy view because of the person or party espousing it, not the view itself.
Take, for example, some recent stats comparing national surveillance programs under President Bush and President Obama, courtesy of a the Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Comparing 2013 with 2006, 18 percent more Democrats and 22 percent less Republicans now value fighting terrorism over protecting privacy; 27 percent more Democrats and 23 percent less Republicans support controversial surveillance measures; 12 percent more Democrats and 13 percent less Republicans support government monitoring of e-mails and online activities.
Partisans on both sides will quickly point out differences in the scope or nature Obama’s and Bush’s programs, but the central issue in both cases is the same—does fighting terrorism justify curtailing privacy rights? There are persuasive arguments to be made on both sides of this issue—but, to me, the polls show that many people aren’t paying any attention to them. They simply check to see what their political team supports, and that’s good enough for them.
There is no hope for public policy improvement in Washington - or in our local townships and boroughs - if analysis stops at “what do my friends think?” Thinking that people one disagrees with are either evil or stupid is a sign of intellectual laziness, and intellectual laziness always has consequences.