The “80 percent rule” and the so-called “11th Commandment”

A couple of weeks ago on the our show the topic came up about the “80 percent rule” and the so-called “11th Commandment.” Both are used a lot – but I don’t subscribe to that kind of stuff – my analysis isn’t politically superficial.

The 80% rule and the 11th commandment are meaningless clichés now mostly used by two kinds of people. The first kind are up to no good. They want you to buy into their severely flawed candidacy, ignore their corruption, or keep your disagreeing mouth shut. The other kind are people who don’t like to think too deeply about anything – especially not about politics.

Both the 80% rule and the 11th commandment are attributed to Reagan, and that attribution is supposed to shut off all discussion. Well, sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. I’d bet money if we could bring Reagan back, he’d agree with me.

In a nutshell, the 80% rule is that if a person agrees with me on eighty percent of the issues I should support that person because that’s what common sense dictates. The expectation of more agreement than that is not realistic and thus not pragmatic.

I addressed Reagan’s so-called “11th Commandment” cliché before:

In 1966, California Republicans authored the line – “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” It’s now called Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment.”

[T]en years after that “commandment” was supposedly issued, Ronald Reagan audaciously challenged an incumbent Republican President (Gerald Ford) in the primaries. No one challenges an incumbent unless he thinks there’s something ill in need of a cure.

I realize that people come into the political arena and say, heck this is just politics, I can do this. The sad fact is that because not enough good, smart people enter the arena, there are a lot of opportunities for people with limited judgment and ability to succeed in government and politics.

Why else do you think we get the kind of government we get? It’s not an accident that even the most basic aspects of human nature – such as the need for proper incentives – are ignored when it comes to public policy. Have you noticed how most big government budgets ignore mathematics?

It’s not an accident that the party with the solutions (the GOP) continues to lose elections and fails to implement those solutions even when they do win.

Similarly, those who think politics is just one big cliché absolutely love the “80% rule” and the “11th commandment.” I addressed another such cliché – “all politics is local” – a few years ago here: “All politics in NOT local.”

What follows is my proposal for a thinking person’s “80% Rule” and “11th Commandment.”

Just the application of a little thought actually goes a long way. For example, I know of political players who I agree with on more that 80% of the issues – but I wouldn’t support them for any office at any time. There are similarly a lot of politicos I agree with on less than 80% but I do support them. Why?

The difference is the quality of the things agreed – and disagreed – upon. A lot of important things can be found in that 20%. Likewise, and lot of relatively unimportant things can be found in that 80%.

An extreme example is someone who agrees with me on almost everything, but thinks the cover-up of Area 51 is a national scandal. Or thinks the terrorist attack of 9-11-01 was an inside job.

A more common example of a disqualifying disagreement is a person who thinks that government should prevent anyone from making a judgment about another person based on that person’s sexual behavior. Here’s some bad news for people confused about morality: behavior is civilization. If we can’t discriminate, fasten your seat belts for a bumpy century ahead.

A more mundane example might be someone who thinks Andy McKenna’s tenure as Illinois Republican Party state chairman has been a smashing success. Enough said.

On the 11th Commandment – let’s be frank. Bad and or foolish Republicans would like nothing more than to squelch criticism of their destructive actions. Readers of this website know I’m not going to hold back from calling it like I see it. We’ll never see things improve if stupidity is protected through silence.

A better 11th commandment is – don’t lie about anyone – Republican or Democrat. Tell the truth – as diplomatically as the circumstances call for. Oh wait, since the “don’t bear false witness” thing is already in the actual 9th Commandment, how about we just make the 11th a recommendation that we all do our best to obey the first 10.

©2009 John Francis Biver