Defeater beliefs are beliefs someone holds that make other beliefs impossible. Tim Keller defines defeater beliefs like this, “A defeater belief is Belief-A, that if true, means Belief-B can’t be true.” (Tim Keller, Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs). Politicians use this to their advantage all of the time. In the political realm it goes like this, “If Candidate A holds to Belief X, Y or Z then you cannot Vote for them.” Here are some examples.
- Racist – If a candidate is a racist there is no way someone will want to vote for them. It doesn’t matter what else that person believes or if they overlap your views by 99.9%. If they are a racist you cannot bring yourself to vote for them.
- Sexist – You cannot vote for a sexist. If you believe someone doesn’t value women or women’s rights then you can’t bring yourself to vote for them.
- Murderer – You cannot vote for a murderer (some exceptions to this, right?). Show the candidate is a murderer and no matter what else they stand for you can’t vote for them.
- Failure – You cannot vote for a failure. We reward success and don’t want a failure in office.
- Wrong direction – You cannot vote for someone who wants to take the country backwards. You want a guy who can take you in the right direction.
There are more (homophobia comes to mind) but you see this at work in today’s political arena. You see it on both sides of the aisle. Joe Biden tells Blacks that Mitt Romney wants to put you back in chains (Defeater belief #1 above). Democratic commercials tell you Romney wants to end all abortion (see this ad) and set women back (even though Romney has gone on record stating otherwise the ads still run) – See #2. Romney has been painted as a murderer due to some crazy ridiculous loopy reasoning you can read more about here. Why run that ad? Because you can’t vote for a heartless murderer – #3. You see the last two in the conventions? How many times did you hear the word “success” (#4 above) in the Republican convention? How many times did you hear the words “Forward” and “Backward” at the DNC? (#5)
Politicians on both sides know how to throw fuel on this and it doesn’t even matter if it is the truth. It is a game of shaping the perceptions of the nation. Many of these things are proven untrue but who cares. Romney doesn’t really want to shackle Blacks does he? Well no, but let’s toss it out there because it paints him with the brush/narrative of the kind of intolerance we can’t have around here. A guy isn’t racist or a murderer or sexist but let’s tell people he is. Another guy isn’t a failure but we will talk like he is or he really doesn’t want to go backwards but that is our story. Or our guy isn’t really a success but we will talk like he is. I am not picking sides when I say any of that…I am just talking about the way this thing works. It works on your mind and on your heart and has a direct impact on how you vote. Most people vote based more on their perception of a candidate (often as painted through a million less than truthful ads – on both sides) than on the issues and those perceptions are colored by these defeater beliefs.
There are exceptions, of course but if you can’t get more people to think the “other guy” is one of those five things than he can get them to think about you then you have it in the bag.