Separating Fact from Fiction: Academia Responds To 4 Myths about 2016 Election

In a journal article published this summer, Dr. Deborah B. Gardner wrote of four myths that American voters are obsessed with, and are desperately clinging to at all costs.

Academics love to do postmortem studies on elections, using facts, figures, trends, and statistics to demonstrate any number of ideas or theories. More rarely, like this article, academics occasionally jump into the middle of a race with ideas and analysis.

In The 2016 Presidential Election: Reality vs. Myths, Dr. Gardner presents myths that every American should consider — because these myths can powerfully sway our thought process and political ideology.

Myth #1: The President of the U.S. is all-powerful.

This seems almost too obvious, but we still love to give the president much more credit and power (and sometimes criticism) than they deserve.

And political rhetoric thrives on this myth. From Donald Trump promising to have a wall built within 3 days to Bernie Sanders promising single-payer insurance and free-college for all, the president simply does not have the power or authority to operate in this manner without congressional oversight and/or approval.

Dubbed the ‘Green Lantern’ theory of the presidency, based on the comic superheroes the Green Lantern Corps, the president in the minds of many is only limited by his own willpower and by choosing the right political tactics to get the job done.

Myth#2: Voters directly select their political party’s presidential candidate.

IVN spends a lot of time on this topic — a broken ‘private’ system of voting, run by private organizations, funded by taxpayer’s money, which inevitably excludes huge swaths of the population from the entire process.

And yet people still ‘buy-in’ to the broken system of cronyism and contests to select the ‘best party member,’ not the best candidate for office.

Myth #3: Compromise is not a legitimate way for elected leaders to meet political or policy goals. 

It’s truly amazing that people actually believe this — that ‘my way or the highway’ politics is somehow a better alternative.

But these attitudes have damaged the parties, especially the Republicans, after different political stunts of shutting down the government, refusing up-or-down votes on judges, and refusing to bring bills with bipartisan support up for a final vote.

Like it or not, most of the significant legislation in our nation’s history would not have been passed without compromise, with many needing some pork-barrel spending to grease the wheels of democracy.

We don’t need dictators as our nation’s leaders, we need statesmanship — men and women with great wisdom, understanding of the needs of our country, and can work within the system with others to create solutions.

Myth #4  You can’t make a difference in this current political mess so simply stand back and watch it unfold. 

Far too many see politics as a spectator sport, not an avenue to change America for the better.

It’s always amazing how many people with the most radical, vocal ideas are non-voters — and seemingly proud of it.


While these are four simple myths, Dr. Gardner sums up the importance with great eloquence in her concluding remarks:

Each of the myths discussed demonstrates a need to be cautious about the stories we hear and the ones we tell ourselves. Consider asking yourself, where and what are my frustrations truly focused on? What type of leadership skills and values do I want to see demonstrated in elected officials? On the issues you consider a priority, what are the facts leading me to this perspective or is it an interpretation? Keeping the myths in mind, be wary of political leaders who use apocalyptic rhetoric – who treat disagreements as scenarios of good versus evil – or who suggest they have the superpower of bringing about change single-handedly.

But most importantly, Dr. Gardner reminds us to get out and vote for men and women standing for ‘something,’ not just ones who are against an opponent’s positions.

Because we need 21st century voters who will see past these myths of voting, voters that are willing to seize control of the ballot box at all levels of government by putting candidates willing to compromise and govern in office — and voters who are not willing to vote for next year’s ‘party member of the year’ at the ballot box.

Photo Credit: danielfela / shutterstock.com