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Political Stereotypes

Political Stereotypes

Media stereotypes are common - stereotypes of women, minorities, and other groups are pretty well-known. But did you know that there are also common media stereotypes of political parties? This Buzzle article tells you more...
Buzzle Staff
Once you label me you negate me. ~ Søren Kierkegaard
Various media outlets have been particularly proficient at creating stereotypes. Simplifying information in order to make it more digestible or just more entertaining often leads to characterizations of people that aren’t entirely accurate. These standard characterizations are called stereotypes, and the media is full of them.
Normally we think of stereotypes as pertaining to minority groups like women and racial minorities, but there are all kinds of other stereotypes, including political stereotypes.
Politics and News Media
These days, many media outlets are highly politically polarized, explicitly endorsing or promoting a particular political viewpoint. In the United States, FOX News and CNN are often seen as the two ends of a political pendulum, with FOX News as the conservative, right-wing outlet and CNN as the liberal, left-wing outlet. Of course, this view is itself a stereotype. Across the political spectrum, media outlets tend to create overly simplistic portraits of political positions - especially ones they don’t agree with.
The U.S. government is run on a two-party system, which means the vast majority of the political world is controlled by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Media stereotypes of these two parties are extremely common.
Democrat Stereotypes
According to the media (and particularly conservative media), the Democratic Party is supported by a bunch of "bleeding heart liberals" or "tree huggers" - people who are controlled by their emotions and have no capacity for rational thought. Democrats are stereotyped as being obsessively politically correct, especially when talking about minority groups. If you believe conservative media, Democrats are also immoral and irreligious. The sarcastic tendencies of news anchors like Rachel Maddow in part perpetuate the stereotype that Democrats are not serious.
Republican Stereotypes
On the flip side, liberal media outlets perpetuate a variety of stereotypes about the Republican Party. Republicans are viewed as crazy cowboys who love guns, or as zealously religious. Sometimes these two stereotypes come together. Since the Republican party has historically supported a strong national defense, the media tend to portray Republicans as aggressive and warmongering. News personalities like Bill O’Reilly and politicians like Rick Perry personify some of these stereotypes.
The "Blonde Republican" Stereotype
FOX News has been almost single-handedly responsible for another Republican stereotype that could also be viewed as sexist. Some of FOX’s female news anchors are known for being young, blonde, and conventionally attractive. FOX has taken a lot of criticism for hiring so many anchors who fit this pattern, and it has led to a stereotype that Republican women fit that mold. Since there is already a stereotype that attractive blonde women are airheads, that view has been applied to Republican women in general.
Other Political Stereotypes
There are many stereotypes outside the traditional Republican/Democrat divide. Members of the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, for example, are stereotyped in specific ways. Political movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have associated stereotypes as well. And, of course, the political landscapes in other countries come with their own set of specific stereotypes.
Sometimes we laugh at stereotypes of people on the "other side" of the political spectrum, and usually it’s all in good fun. These stereotypes can be harmful though, so it’s important to recognize that all they are is stereotypes. In reality, Democrats and Republicans come in all different shapes, sizes, and belief systems. Stereotypes can get in the way of productive political discussion, and at that point they turn into entertainment that distracts us from the real political issues.