Jack Nicholson's line as Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men still reverberates in our society. We don't need to listen very long to understand why:
"Ronald Reagan was a tax-cutter, a fierce opponent of abortion and a proponent of reducing the size of government. So there!"
But there is no there there. The problem is that by the time the other side correctly responds by saying that Governor Reagan raised California taxes higher than any previous governor and raised them sixteen times as President; or that he signed a law expanding abortion rights in California; or that he increased the size of the federal government; the first side has already moved on to another myth.
"The United States was founded on Judeo-Christian ideals."
Those who first used this saying dropped the "Judeo" portion of it until after the Holocaust. In any case, they forget that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Furthermore, when this myth is applied to an issue such as same-sex marriage or civil rights, it becomes comical: The Old Testament, which Jews read, allows men to have more than one wife and also condones slavery. The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying that divorce is wrong (except in cases of adultery), a comment apparently ignored by the many divorced people who talk about marriage this way.
"You people are going to take my guns away!"
This lie is usually accompanied by assertion of membership with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Occasionally, there is talk of restricting the use of firearms such as automatic rifles, but can anyone really say they need one of those to protect themselves? Also, the NRA opposes gun control categorically, which means they even oppose laws that forbid convicted criminals from buying a gun! The truth is that the NRA lobby is so strong that no law-abiding citizen will have to give up their weapons.
Why do people hold onto myths?
They lie to protect the image they have of themselves. Some people need to make things up so they can claim a political hero. The truth that Reagan's ideas on issues were not invariably conservative simply does not sound exciting but rather it sounds ordinary. And ordinary is boring.
They lie to promote the idea that their nation need not explain itself and that the founders would favor them and not "other people." It smacks of elitism, of a time where only the white male landowners had any real power. The idea that those who propagate the Judeo-Christian myth would like to go back to those times is probably not far from the truth.
They lie to talk down to people who listen to their drivel. After all, the discussion is about politics and in politics the truth does not matter a whole lot. What does matter is getting more than half of the population to go along with this idea as a way of bootstrapping other ideas (like tax cuts for them) as well.
Myths will continue because they are more interesting than the truth and they help people to feel good about themselves. Those who voted for someone other than Barack Obama in the last election can cling to myths about his birthplace or his policies so they can get over the anguish of losing. The only alternative is to admit that the truth is something, like Colonel Jessup said, that is too hard to handle.