Archive for January 30th, 2010


Why do people often vote against their own interests?

January 30, 2010

“There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.  (Even if they ARE idiots.)

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.”

This impressive article is from the BBC.  Sometimes the Brits understand us Yanks better than we understand ourselves.

Turkeys voting in favor of Christmas

The article made me realize that although I was impressed with Obama’s performance before the hostile Congressional Republicans, it probably won’t change even one Republican mind.  We members of the reality-based community applauded, but the immediate and universal Republican reaction to the same event (as led by Faux Noise before the Q&A had even ended) was that Obama was “lecturing” to them as if they were in grade school.

Well… Obama had actual facts, and the Republicans only had their own erroneous silly myths.  (I’m trying to be charitable by not calling them “lies”).  I suppose that when knowledge and judgment encounters willful ignorance, the result usually does sound like lecturing.

From the article:

Thomas Frank, author of  What’s the Matter With Kansas, believes that the voters’ preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America’s poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

“You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

“It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”

As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.