Political Rhetoric: Trust and Toxic Democracies…


Ryan Carlin and Gregory Love study the levels of trust in various democracies around the world when it comes to trust levels in people dealing with other individuals of similar or opposing political beliefs. The findings of the research show that people have a bias of trusting people from their preferred political parties, and show lack of trust when it comes to people of opposing political views and parties. This paper further shows how political rhetoric, wrapped under the umbrella of empty campaign promises, can erode our ability to trust each other, and make us march towards toxic democracies and societies in which we cannot show compassion and trust towards “others” who have other political beliefs.

One of the interesting findings of this study is that people have less trust issue when it comes to their racial bias towards people of different ethnicities, and show greater lack of trust when it comes to people whose political views are different from their own preferences and beliefs. In her post about about this article, Micah Eaton mentions :” .. Racial and cultural ties can be powerful, but especially in polarized societies, political affiliation signals a whole worldview and hierarchy of values. I think that race is linked to trust insofar as we feel that we share a worldview with those of our own race, but in a fragmented society where political affiliation is often a quicker and clearer way to discern someone’s stances on many of life’s major questions, it does not surprise me that race becomes secondary”. While Micah’s explanation makes sense, it is still personally surprising that political affiliation appears to trump some of our more negative instinctual reactions to people that appear to physically look different form us. This paper reminded me of the Molina article we studied in the Anthropolgy week, and some of our tribal natures, and in specific our sense of identification as who constitutes the label of kin. The findings of Carlin and Love show that we seem to identify with people who hold similar political views as our own kin, and others, even if they are from the same ethnic background as not our kin, if they happen to hold different political beliefs, and therefore we treat them with less trust.

In my opinion this is rather eye opening, and explains how politicians use political rhetoric to stoke the flames emerging form people’s strange tribal approach to their political beliefs and affiliations. Politicians use political rhetoric to appeal to some of our worst tendencies, in this case of lack of trust of “others” to advance their own competitive political agendas. Not only do politicians not set an example of how we can address each others varying positions to build trust, they further pollute and contaminate the political discourse with misinformation and lies. Politicians like Trump are breaking their own records of number of lies per minute, all in the name of we should win, and that can be done if others lose. The hyper partisanship that seems to flood our political systems stem from politicians further exasperating efforts to appeal to exploit and further expand these fault lines in trust, as Micah Eaton puts it.

Is this where we are striving to move towards as democracies? Is the zero sum nature of political power and control beneficial for our goals as thriving democracies? How did the guy from Apprentice become the leader of the free world, riding on a campaign of fear, xenophobia and misinformation…?

Welcome to Life, Liberty.. and Pursuit of toxic democracies..

Image Credit: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000216613/heightened-political-rhetoric-bad-for-kenya

6 Comments

  1. I thought your response was quite interesting. One thing that I would like to bring to your attention is that you mentioned you were quite surprised that the people trusted certain people more based on their political views. I shared your similar reaction and I believe the reason for that is because since racism has been around for a while. It would seemed a bit strange with why one would trust a certain group/race of people if they believe to be superior to that other group/race. Do you feel like you would agree of disagree with this?

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  2. I also thought your response was very interesting. The focus of your writing seems to be on democracies, where power is given from the people, to politicians that are supposed to be held accountable. Do you think that there is anything that citizens can do that will encourage politicians to stop progressing their own political agendas and start ruling for the people?

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  3. Thank you for your comment. I believe somehow removal of campaign donations by big corporations can help, as well as reducing the campaign spending by putting hard caps. There is too much money which controls these politicians, which in ways owe favours to their campaign donors. At least this is what the idealist in me hopes for 😀

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  4. Thank you or your comment. I do agree with you that it was surprising to see political affiliation trumps racism bias, however I cannot argue with the findings of the research. I happen to believe race is a human construct, we refer to people as red skin, brown skin, or yellow skin, and some people believe they are white. If these constructs are man made, maybe it explains why we seem to divide more rigidly over poetical affiliation, because there is actual substance to political preference.

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