Steve Klingaman

Steve Klingaman
Location
Minneapolis, Minnesota,
Birthday
January 01
Title
Consultant/Writer
Bio
Steve Klingaman is a nonprofit development consultant and nonfiction writer specializing in personal finance and public policy. His music reviews can be found at minor7th.com.

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 5, 2012 8:32AM

Why Some Conservatives Vote Against Their Interests

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Ki Gulbranson:  Man bites hand that feeds him.

(That’s harsh, I know, but Ki, yer killin’ us.)

nytimes.com 

As the social sciences lay claim to examining ever-broader areas of public behavior, longstanding assumptions about voting behavior are being called into question in novel ways. A recent article and book have led me to question whether we should consider voting to be an exercise in rational judgment, subject to the rules of discourse, debate, and creative problem solving, or just an affirmation of tribal affiliation.  

            We’ve all heard of “values voters,” those who put what they perceive to be issues of conscience and religion ahead of platforms, proposed solutions, and candidates.  As social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided by Politics” puts it, those values voters are “voting for their moral interests.”  Core moral interests, like religion, rarely allow for rational discourse.  When God, however defined, has spoken, it tends to stick. The fact that the vast majority of religious people maintain a lifelong affiliation with the religion they were born into reinforces this point.  And when God and Country get conflated, it’s all downhill toward Santorumville from there.

            Political writers sometimes reflect on the seeming futility of ever convincing anyone of the opposite polarity to switch sides.  And in the broader scheme, that seems almost immutable. Yet, on an issue-by-issue basis, change does come, if slowly.  And this isn’t to say that the movement naturally progresses in one direction or the other.  For all the progress we make across the racial divides (plural) that define us, we have the Democrats adopting Republican strategies to health care reform, and then getting trounced for it by a conservative constituency that moves inexorably to the right.

            I was struck by an article and subsequent NPR interview by Binyamin Applebaum, whose piece, “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend On It,” appeared in the New York Times on February 11.  For one, he was writing about the voting culture of what we in Minnesota call “outstate,” practically my own back yard.  Applebaum explored how it is that people who benefit directly from government assistance, and who would suffer greatly without it, insist upon voting for conservatives who threaten—er, promise—to curtail or eradicate it.

            Ki Gulbranson, who runs a little tee-shirt print shop in Lindstrom, Minnesota, can’t get by without government support.  He receives a subsidy worth several thousand dollars via the earned-income tax credit, his kids get free school breakfast and lunch provided by federal funding, and his mom, 88, has scored two hip replacements under Medicare. He prints, among other things, Tea Party tee shirts that reflect his personal views against all those things.  Here’s what it comes down to for him:

“I don’t demand that the government does this for me,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need the government.”

How about Social Security? And Medicare? Can he imagine retiring without government help?

“I don’t think so,” he said. “No. I don’t know. Not the way we expect to live as Americans.”

            We can’t make it, he reckons, without these supports and yet, as he says, “You have to help and have compassion as a people, because otherwise you have no society, but financially you can’t destroy yourself. And that is what we’re doing.”

            But here’s the thing:  when he votes, compassion goes out the window and he goes with the side of himself that says the nation is financially destroying itself, moving, even, in an apocalyptic direction, and aid to regular folks must stop.

            So what Ki thinks and what he does are implacably out of whack, yet he will vote conservative because that is where his internal compass, his moral compass, points him.  He feels like he doesn’t need the government, yet without its—and I use this term only to highlight the rhetoric I oppose—handouts—he cannot survive in such a manner as to live as an “American.”

            In “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt seems to be saying that liberals need to respect the hard-stop “moral capital” the right brings to the electoral table with its interest in “norms, practices and institutions, like religion and family values that facilitate cooperation by constraining individualism”—this according to Slate’s William Saletan, reviewing the book in the New York Times Book Review.

            But I can’t get past the utter despair, the wrenching contradiction of voters like Ki Gulbranson, who cannot reconcile reality and gut.  The true fact is this:  the middle class is receding from Middle America.  Government assistance has increased exponentially to fill that gap. 

            Market capitalism, laissez faire libertarians, Wall Street moguls, and Republican SuperPac funders don’t care.  They don’t care about the social capital of a job base.  They care about making the world safe for capitalism—for free markets.  And free markets don’t care about jobs.  Free markets care about profits. Jobs are an expense.  Increasingly, in many American business models, they are an unnecessary expense.  And that leaves Ki Gulbranson to dangle in the wind, loyal to the end.

            I never expect to convert a dyed-in-the-wool conservative to reform-minded liberal progressivism.  But I do believe that people can sometimes be persuaded to pursue their true interests on an issue-by-issue basis.  We can see that happening, for example, with the steady diminishment of resistance to gay marriage in the culture as a whole. 

            What should disturb us is that to the extent that morals-based voting—gut-based voting —eschews rationality to such an emphatic degree. It is, to a rationalist, no different than superstition-based voting, or tribal-based voting.  I appreciate how social psychology undermines the sanctity of rationalism.  I enjoy articles that reveal findings like that a significant element of what we know as physical or sexual attraction may be based on olfactory cues.  So much for the primacy of one’s “type” or the verbiage that appears on one’s Match.com ad. (Perhaps it should read, “I prefer someone who smells like musky butterscotch,” This may raise new dimensions for stalled campaigns:  Newt walks into the room and suddenly it’s fresh-baked cookies!)

If we can’t expect a significant reality-based movement to ever occur in our electorate, then isn’t this pretty much the end of the line as far as collective solutions to problems like global warming?  Saletan writes. “Our taste for sanctity or authority, like our taste for sugar, could turn out to be a dangerous relic.”

            I’d say that’s true.  Haidt takes liberals to task for not understanding or respecting the impetus to vote values—and he holds that conservatives have the edge when comes to bedrock values.  But doesn’t recent evidence show us that values-based thinking often leads into a mobius maze where correspondence to actual conditions on the ground is lost?  Like say, when a certain Court says that strip searches are just fine for even the most routine of violations? So what then?  Lemmings?  Dodo birds?  Social Darwinism?  I think so.

            I love that cartoon that shows a person typing away at the computer saying, “I can’t come to bed yet; someone is wrong on the Internet.”  I get it. I get the futility. But somehow, some way, we need to get the Ki Gulbransons of the world to see that it’s okay, the world will not end, if they pull the lever for the guy or gal who wants to maintain Social Security, expand health care coverage, and allow those little bennies like the Earned Income Tax Credit; those little tidbits that allow people like Ki to survive almost as if he were still a member of the middle class, while we figure out how to convince the country that jobs matter now more than ever.

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To put it in a very condensed way, we had a Republican effort to create the "values" division while the Democrats abandoned labor and accepted the Republican's system of bowing to wealth.

The hard core Republican voters, easily spotted in any poll on a "hot" issue that results in a 34-ish % total, cannot be swayed. Democratic voters are far less ideological, but there is also a firm Democratic base, though it's often blended with Dem-Indies. This because it lacks a strong ideological, politicized concept outside of traditional politics/economics. Which is a good thing.

In my view, this could be 'cured" if the Democrats started representing the middle class and giving something more than subtle choices on pocketbook issues. The average inattentive voter rightfully sees "both sides" as being bought. That is what allows Republicans to win, despite being middle class destructive. A dime's worth of difference in a persuadable voting group that needs to see a few dollar's worth before it matters.

Obama's failure is that he's Clinton II when the situation called for an updated FDR. People were angry and open to populism--the real, good kind--but Obama chose to basically do nothing. That he's playing populist now, in a limited way, owes less to true populist concepts than it does to aberrant Republican behavior. He should have, from Day One, and still should simply tell Americans what they already know.

That wouldn't sway Gulbranson this election, but, over time, it might. The point is waking up the non-voters and Dem-indies and pick off a few marginal Repub-indies. The Republican Right is a minority surviving off of the Dem's refusal to truly represent the majority.
Dead on, Paul, wish I could rate your comment; especially that third paragraph... "The average inattentive voter rightfully sees "both sides" as being bought. That is what allows Republicans to win, despite being middle class destructive." Dead on re: Clinton II as opposed to FDR as well. /r/
"I never expect to convert a dyed-in-the-wool conservative to reform-minded liberal progressivism. But I do believe that people can sometimes be persuaded to pursue their true interests on an issue-by-issue basis."

absolutely ~ just see Wisconsin. I have 3 close family members who were card carrying Repbublicans before Gov. Walker. All have signed the recall and will vote for ANYONE besides him. The resident Conservative in our town put up recall signs in his yard...converts (temporarily, of course - that is an important point!) are all around us in WI.

great post as usual Steve ~ thanks.
Voting for Mitt Romney because he is "electable" or because they don't like Obama, is like voting for Obama because he is "the lesser of two evils." The real problem for voters is that we don't have real choices. Money rules who runs and money rules who wins. Whoever wins can't get rid of big oil, big pharma, Wall Street, the NRA, Nuclear Energy, to name just some of those that have a strangle hold on our throats.
Steve and Paul, both great points.

And Steve, as all of this new focus on the psychological and neurological foundations of congition may be suggesting, the focus going forward needs to be less on convincing people to change their positions than on changing the way they reach those positions in the first place.

How a party thinks is more important than what it thinks. I called myself a conservative in college in the 1970s because "knee-jerk liberalism" seemed to capture the left wing anti-intellectualism and nihilism I saw at the time, while the shoe is clearly on the right foot now. And for just the reason you cited in your lead -- tribalism. That's the root of the right wing's appeal, and what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh cater to.
When all the realistically possible winning candidates are owned, lock, stock, and barrel by interests inimical to the public good, it is simply not possible for average people to vote in any way that is NOT against their interests.

Elections are a farce wherever the number of voters is too large for every voter to personally know the individuals standing for office. When that is the case every election is just a glorified ad campaign.

Since the results of any election of that size are no different, no matter who gets into office, Mr. Average Joe actually harms himself by voting because he expects his vote to "count for something", and it never does.

We've become convinced that we are like children who "need" an authority figure who will tell us what to do and take care of us. We don't. We need to learn how to co-operate with each other in the management of our society without the top-to-bottom hierarchy of power and authority and an economic system that lets some be "more equal than others" as is the case with both greed-capitalism and socialism (so called progressivism).

A pox on both their houses!



"IS 'THIS' REALLY THE BEST THAT WE CAN DO"?"
I kinda get a kick out of the notion that both parties are essentially the same...that what you get from one you will likewise get from the other.

My personal experience is that the notion is bought ONLY by liberals and Democrats. I cannot think of a single Republican or conservatives whom I know personally (and I know scads of 'em) who thinks that same way.

Democrats and liberals are their own worst enemies.

For anyone who thinks this next election is already a done-deal for Obama's re-election: I think you have blinders on. If this election turns out to be a runaway...it will be a runaway for the Republicans, not the Democrats.

Liberals and mainstream Democrats better wake up and get their heads out of where they have them stored. The two parties are nowhere near alike...and anyone thinking there is no significant difference to our lives no matter which is elected is delusional.
Why? It's called putting principle ahead of immediate parasitic gratification. Liberals should look into it.
I remember reading about this Gulbranson guy and just shaking my head in dismay and lack of comprehension. And he is typical of most everyone I am casually acquainted with in my W. TX daily life, since I don't run with a wealthy crowd. Yesterday I read some old pieces in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibi on Goldman Sachs and market manipulation and I realized that the system is so deeply, deeply screwed up right now that only if people wake up and realize what is going on all around them do we have any chance of maintaining middle class America. People like this Gulbranson guy just enable the system that is ruining us, all in the name of morals, Meanwhile, his "morals" are supporting a completely amoral reality. Great piece, Steve.
It has to really suck when what is right is not easy.
I think it's also if not most prominently a religious crisis. People with nothing they can both believe in and trust intellectually put their "faith" in ideology and demagogues, which is convenient, and "as if" their lives depended on it, but as a result they lose contact with their own best interests. They no longer know the difference. If that's how people voted, the revolution would be unnecessary.
While everything you say, Steve, rings true, I have of late come to the conclusion that we are all being played to the hilt. Not that both parties are the same, but that the professional politicos that run the campaigns and the political media are the same, and both are bought off by the corporations. The Repubs don't give a shit about morals, it's just been proved to them that appealing to religious morals wins elections. There is a tiny minority of voters that are true right-wing Christians, and the rest are just doing what their pastor/Rush says and not thinking too much about it. The decline of public education and the increase in internet sources of "facts" means that intellectual laziness prevails in both parties. (We liberals also depend on pre-known, convenient facts we don't want to examine too closely.) Ki is a lazy thinker, able to be persuaded of anything if he hears it often enough. And the Kochs will pay to be sure he does.
I am on a crusade to paste this quote from the Jan/Feb Foreign Affairs, an article by Francis Fukuyama's essay “The Future of History”.
“The current concentration of wealth in the United States has already become self-reinforcing: as the economist Simon Johnson has argued, the financial sector has used its lobbying clout to avoid more onerous forms of regulation. Schools for the well-off are better than ever; those for everyone else continue to deteriorate. Elites in all societies use their superior access to the political system to protect their interests, absent a countervailing democratic mobilization to rectify the situation. American elites are no exception to the rule. That mobilization will not happen, however, as long as the middle classes of the developed world remain enthralled by the narrative of the past generation: that their interests will be best served by ever-freer markets and smaller states. The alternative narrative is out there, waiting to be born.”
I no longer think it is a matter of voting for a candidate I will vote anti-republican party and campaign against the republican party.And I will work very hard to hold the Democrats feet to the fire. And I will reach out to conservatives that I know to encourage them to turn their backs on the repulican party until it extracts itself from the brink of plutocracy.
Good job analyzing both the problem and the NYT book review on the problem. Of course the liberals get most of the blame. I'd like to see us seize back some of the language of values that "conservatives" claim. If there's one exemplary "pro-family" candidate, it's Obama, his (married only once) wife and two lovely daughters with whom he spends a lot of dad time. And "conservative" on spending, except for over-the-top military extravaganzas. Why do the Dems wind up cleaning up after the Reps? Give us more. I want a workable answer to this puzzle!
It is perplexing how so many of the folks who are just scraping by will rally to the cause of those whose policies will make their lives even harder. the anti-intellectual strain explains some of it. I have some family members who seem to get their greatest satisfaction at seeing more subtle, nuanced views get thumped by bum,per-sticker slogans. And who are convinced that their "hard-earned wages" are getting squandered helping out the shiftless and undeserving who are backed by left-wing elites. The squandering concept doesn't seem to apply to military spending as those who want it curtailed are appeasing wimps soft on something or other.

I'm with Paul that a more FDR-like approach would have been better. However, I give Obama some credit for recognizing that the extremes of partisanship worsen the political realm. He tried to reach out and it's clear now that that hasn't worked.
This is a fascinating essay. The brain works in ways we still can't understand. It will take a long while before we understand voting against our own interests --certainly not by November.
Good analysis and good comments.
Steve - you must literally sit up at night and think this crap up.
Conservatives are too stupid to know what is good for them?
This is ONLY true when YOU define what is good for people.
You assume liberal/progressive agenda is what is good for everyone. Ki uses systems that other self interested people created. So what? Does not mean he isn't willing to accept life without it. Apparently he is. I am.

For instance, you want to force SS on me, that is YOUR self interest not mine. Will I use it. Of course. Would I have accepted life without it? Absolutely. That does not make me an idiot that does not know what is in my self interest. It makes me a person that believes I have no right to force anyone to take care of my self interests.

If you vote to make me take care of your self interests (and you rationalize it because you are taking care of mine as well) , I will accept that. But I WILL NOT vote to make you take care of mine.

I am not too stupid to know what is in my self interest. Maybe I have other priorities than what you define as societal self interest (retirement., health care, etc.). Maybe these priorities, which you cannot possibly know, ARE my self interest. I promise, you would not want to support my self interest.

Does it cross your mind that voting in your self interest is indeed SELFISH?

Paul - Dems are far less ideological?
Really.!! Do you read OS?

Frank - Maybe you need to know different conservatives.
We are not all birds of a feather by definition.
It doesn't surprise me that people here do not understand Ki Gulbranson's values: they forgot what it means to be responsible for their own lives and be proud of being independent from the government. Social Security and Medicare aren't the government subsidies - we paid for them with our hard-earned money. The moment we put our foot in any working establishment as workers, we start paying for these services. If democrats (Clinton) wouldn't open the volt, wouldn't start using the money that supposed to be save for just these two programs for all the other stupid government expanses, they wouldn't be on the edge of disappearing. They would need some reforms anyhow, later on, because the population lives much longer than before, but we would have time to somehow adjust them.

Nowdays, liberals just completely lost all the common sense (honestly, I don't think that they ever had one) and became shameless in their demands for government to take care of them. The country is in deep hole, thanks to our government that destroyed the country in the last 20-30 years. Both republican and democrats. They made it a profession to sit in the Congress, being supported by our money and feel that they are above the law. They vote without reading and knowing what they're voting for; they make laws for everyone else, but themselves, they fly all over the world demanding special treatment; they spend money like there's no tomorrow; they can't agree on the budget and therefore, the country hasn't have a budget for almost four years!!!... and you here believe that this government is capable of taking care of the 300 million people? Please, wake up ...
At some level of consciousness the inconsistency of a conservatives moral values must be in conflict with the reality of where adherance to those values has put him or her. I took Jonathon Haidt's on-line test to see where I fell on the scale of each of his five defined moral values and came out sort of a hybrid.

In the past we have had periods when either a liberal or a conservative stance has prevailed for a period of time. This swing has usually gone to the liberal side following financial disruption by uncontrolled capitalist shenanigans; like after the bank panic in the 1890s, or following the stock market collapse of 1929.

The hard right will always vote their moral values, as will the hard left, who will always swing toward fairness and avoiding the harm of others even if it means limiting their own possibilities for wealth accumulation.

Independents are thought of by both sides as wishy washy, flip floppers, individuals without belief. but that reflects a lack of understanding of the fact that for those who are less polarized in their own psychological makeup it is possible to weigh both sides and come to a conclusion that places them to one side or the other of the political divide depending on the issues and the times.

This was very well written and clearly states the angst facing social conservatives. Their extreme anger has to come from the inconsistency between their beliefs and reality.

My biggest surprise is that following the collapse of the world economy in 2008 we didn't experience a greater swing to the left. Maybe the swing is ongoing and we are all just in the middle of it and can't see the movement. R
ingaz,

I get your blow for freedom. Your mistake is believing that your enslavement can only come from Big Government, But that's not true. I've read your words before. They were written by the same oligarchs who run Fox News and would like nothing more than to get rid of the government so they can rule. And where would you be then? If we're not there already. At least you get a chance to vote for government's leaders.

There are historical reasons for your confusion. Alexis DeToqueville once wrote that the difference between America and Europe was that America was "born free and did not have to become so."

That was a double edged sword. It meant we were denied the experience of our European ancestors of seeing how a nation-state -- a government -- can free the people from the cruelty of petty aristocrats and worldly prelates who were able to ruled them for their own interests.

By the time of the American Revolution, the merchantilist British government was already in the hands of Big Business. The original Tea Party here in Boston attacked a company -- the East India Company -- not the British government, and the revolution itself was led by Americans like Jefferson whose Declaration of Independence was aimed at a King acting at the behest of British merchants who exploited Americans like him.

So, the hilarity of the Tea Party movement with their tri-corn hats and Don't Tread on Me Gadsen Flags is that they are agitating to put back in place exactly the conditions that their imagined heroes worked so hard to dethrone. The Tea Party is working on behalf of a Republican Party that will put back in place the same sort of ruling oligarchy that the patriots of 1776 fought to defeat two and a half centuries ago.
Cole,
I can answer you and Apisa with the same observation.
There are politicians and there are people that comment on politics and there are people that vote. In that order, increasing from the few to the many on a number scale.

The most direct connection leaves those who comment on politics having very little influence, as most people pay little attention to those commentators. We who comment, if we are wise, know we're observing the relationship between the politicians and voters, not influencing that. This is where you see some ideologues among The Left, and where Frank mistakenly thinks commentators have influence. Frank doesn't understand the actual influence is politicians to voters, directly. That is why he scolds those who have no influence, mistaking them for the at-large voter pool. Why? Doesn't matter, but it can get annoying.

The average Democratic voter isn't goaded by right-wing preachers pushing religious outrage that is really political demagoguery. There is no large Leftist media propaganda effort performing that same Rwing function. Demagoguery doesn't work on intelligent people. It drives them away, as they can see through the effort to gin up emotions as a bait-switch device. Unintelligent people hold fewer observations and facts in their minds, so are open to having "trusted" others fill in their blanks.

So yes, conservatives, in the popular use of the word, are stupid people. This doesn't mean they're across-the-board idiots (or that they aren't), just political idiots. They get sucked in by what others see as an obvious fraud. This is why you have far more enthusiastic Republicans than Democrats. This is also why there's little difference between conservative politicians and conservative commentators and conservative voters. They're all ideologues.
This wasn't always true, but it's abundantly true now.
Binyamin Appelbaum chose Chisago County as the locale for his story because while average per capita earned and unearned income remained stable over a decade or so, the source of that money changed radically:

"Dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in the county in 2009, a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. In Chisago, and across the nation, the government now provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income.

Older people get most of the benefits, primarily through Social Security and Medicare, but aid for the rest of the population has increased about as quickly through programs for the disabled, the unemployed, veterans and children."

A 69% increase in support to families as the population aged, used more medical benefits, and lost jobs and income. This period covers the Bush era, the two-war era, and the beginnings of the meltdown era. We saw the bottom drop out of the jobs picture with the meltdown, but the insidious erosion of the job base from 2000 to 2007 was due to global competition that was in part driven by American based multi-nationals offshoring jobs and stimulating foreign economies by relocating operations there. That is what some call the free market.

While Social Security merely needs a tune-up, Medicare is on shakier ground. Very few pay into it what they get out of it, as one commenter implies. These are the unfunded needs fueled by a philosophy of government that would not even pay for its wars, much less needed benefits like health care for the elderly. A tax-starved federal government, the tax base of which is out of whack as compared to the decades from the 50s to the 90s, is called upon to serve a drowning middle class and those who subscribe to the world according to Fox News want to shrink government until it is the size that they can drown it in the bathtub. Those people are not voting their rational interests. Period. When a business owner like Ki signs up his children for free school lunches, while maintaining he can live without government assistance, he is making a choice to take from the common wealth (or debt) of the nation what he would deny others in the future through the ballot box. What does that say about so-called values-based voting?
Steve--as always this is an exceptional piece of writing. I couldn't help but think that Ki Gulbranson's point of view might be part of that upper Midwest perspective which has long been an inexplainable mix of populism and conservatism (think "Lake Woebegone Syndrome").
Plus, here's a link to an op/ed piece in today's San Diego Union Tribune which paints a picture somewhat similar to what you are writing about--it's about the dichotomy of liberal vs. conservatism and how elements of both residing in an individual's political orientation all but leave him/her "without a party". I think you'll find it interesting: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/apr/05/a-man-without-a-party/
As always, excellent, thought-provoking piece. I wish I could make all my working-class relatives understand that they are voting against their interests, and the interests of their children and grandchildren. I've seen the progress made by my family get knocked back by our "inexorable march" toward helping the wealthy.
Interesting read, Walter, I would, however, like to sit down with Mr. Chapin and ask him why, for example, he is so sure that you must cap capital gains taxes at the current level to promote growth, when for four decades the market grew just fine with capital gains taxes at a higher, sometimes, much higher, level. Still, he makes a good case for taking an independent line as being in sync with his core ideas. As you recognize a certain Midwestern mindset in our Chisago County interviewees, I see quite a California, even Southern California mindset in Chapin.
I wish I could say that this surprised me. What kills me about "values" voters is the presumtion that those of us who see the world differently somehow lack values. I always vote my values but my values have more to do with the common good and less to do with the personal choices of individuals.
Major, In Haidt's view, at least according to Saletan, social conservatives own the bedrock values of faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order, touching "all six" moral foundations, while Democrats have only care for others and fighting oppression. To me that's just not true. I certainly see empathy and liberation as core, but I am astounded that Haidt can't see, for example, the extraordinary faith, and even patriotism of a Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Democratic tradition he represents. And yes, simultaneously, King, of course, was fighting for liberation. It just proves once again, how you can never let the other guy define you.
Why? It's called putting principle ahead of immediate parasitic gratification. Liberals should look into it.

This is also referred to as “being dumb as a bag of hammers.

Steve,

Several of my work colleagues from Europe (many different countries) have raised the exact same issue with me when I visited them on various occasions. The common question I got was “why do the people in the US always vote against their own interest?” That question was usually related to the implementation of the ACA at the time.

The general answer I provided was as follows: “There are many people (such as Gordon, J. Cole and ingaz above) in the US who are anti-government for everything and they would prefer to suffer, even if it means leading to their death in a few cases, even though the solution involves the government in any shape or form.” I would also add sometimes that “for these people, helping each other via the government was a big no no.” On occasions, I would elaborate on these short answers, but even after my detailed explanation, most people still had a hard time believing the thinking process of some Americans. I told them that it was not everybody who thought this way, but there were enough that it made the implementation of positive measures very difficult or impossible to do.
My Dad apologized sincerely to me for voting for Bush twice; I sincerely apologized to him for voting for Obomber.

My recommended solution, given that there is indeed no "lesser of two evils": www.voterocky.org
Joseph Cole wrote:

Frank - Maybe you need to know different conservatives.
We are not all birds of a feather by definition.


I am friends with dozens of fervent conservatives, Joseph…and I can say with certainty that you are absolutely correct. They are not all birds of a feather. At no point have I ever suggested such a thing…so I am perplexed by your comment.

But it does give me the opportunity to repeat what I said earlier: The only people who truly think it makes no difference which party they vote for seem to be liberals and Democrats. Almost every conservative I know (although all considerably different from one another) are almost surgically united in wanting Barack Obama out of office…and they would vote for Satan if he were to head the Republican ticket.

So while I appreciate Steve’s question about why some conservatives vote against their interests, I am more bothered and concerned about the many liberals who intend to vote against their interests. Both factions have convinced themselves that they truly are not voting against their interests, but…
I read the Times article you cited and its review of the Haidt book. It's distressing.

My brother works for the state of Louisiana, a Dem in one of the most conservative states in the country. He says a lot of people are upset with Gov. Jindal because he is cutting state government jobs. These are the same people who want to drastically slash the Federal government. Yes, they hate the government - until it affects their own benefits.
"In the Soviet Union, Capitalism triumphed over Communism. In this country, Capitalism triumphed over Democracy." -- Fran Lebowitz

P.J. writes, “…this could be 'cured" if the Democrats started representing the middle class and giving something more than subtle choices on pocketbook issues. The average inattentive voter rightfully sees "both sides" as being bought. That is what allows Republicans to win, despite being middle class destructive. A dime's worth of difference in a persuadable voting group that needs to see a few dollar's worth before it matters.”

Of course, the problem is that Dems AREN’T “representing the middle class” and that they “…abandoned labor and accepted the Republican's system of bowing to wealth”. So, how do we get the Dems to change their approach?

P.J. again: “The Republican Right is a minority surviving off of the Dem's refusal to truly represent the majority.”

Gee, I wonder why they keep refusing?
Joe Bageant wrote an incredibly insightful book; “Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War” in which he describes a lot reasons for this phenomenon, mostly attributed to the incredibly effective, all be it shamefully deceptive, propaganda campaign aimed at the working class to convince them to vote against their own interests in the name of patriotism. It’s evident all over the country where the working class whistle the National Anthem (or in many cases within his book, “Dixie”) all the way to the polls after working their 2nd and 3rd job. With teeth rotting, blood pressure through the roof and stress levels blowing the gauges off of the charts due to poor health, they belligerently vote to kill their way of life. “By god, don’t you even think about providing the healthcare that I so desperately need if it means taxing me; I’ll rot to death on my own, thank you very much, for I am a god-loving, patriotic man/woman who can do it all on my own,” for the Bible tells me so.
Kanuk, you are so wrong in everything you wrote in this post. People from Europe couldn't understand "why do the people in the US always vote against their own interest?" not because they "prefer to suffer", but because they knew by LIFE EXPERIENCE what government's capable of doing. They experienced that and they run away to the US in believe that here they'd be able to care for themselves without government involvement. I am the one who did the same. You are not!! Take your rosy glasses off and start living in reality. You don' t sound like a child believing in fairy tales. Government is the same as corporations, only worse. Corporations employ people, earn money, pay taxes, and use their own funds for their own pleasure and for the convenience of their workers. Corporations and small business are the core and the heart of our country. Government takes our money, spends it the way they feel like, they are corrupt (much more than corporations, because they use OUR MONEY to buy voices, to buy their supporters, to enrich their friends and themselves. Government makes our country weak and vulnerable. Do you prefer them? I don't!

What do you mean saying that "for these people, helping each other VIA the government was a big no, no"? If you mean that we're against paying the government (VIA TAXES) our hard earned money thinking that GOVERNMENT would help less fortunate, or everybody, or anybody who's not as successful as others? If that what you mean - you're absolutely right! I believe (based on my own experience) that everyone who wants to succeed in the USA have the opportunity to do just that. I came here from the Eastern Europe without a one word in English, without a profession (couldn't use my profession here), without knowledge of how this country works, without money (my GOVERNMENT allowed me to take out $200 per person), without anything! Took all the steps the most poor Americans go through: kitchen in the restaurant, clerk typist, computer operator, real estate agent, an owner of a small business, a founder of a non-for-profit organization that for 10 years helped thousand of unprivileged children to learn and improve. That's what I was able to do WITHOUT A PENNY FROM THE GOVERNMENT! And I started in a tender age of 32, being a wife and a mother to a small child. Was it easy? NO! Was it possible? YES! Did I through my activities helped others? I think so. And it didn't cost taxpayers anything.

BTW, how did you personally helped others or "each other", besides sarcastically put down people who think logically, use common sense, and want the government to keep out of our lives?
Lately, I've been wondering why so many Progressives vote against their interests.
ingaz wrote: Kanuk, you are so wrong in everything you wrote in this post. People from Europe couldn't understand "why do the people in the US always vote against their own interest?" not because they "prefer to suffer", but because they knew by LIFE EXPERIENCE what government's capable of doing. They experienced that and they run away to the US in believe that here they'd be able to care for themselves without government involvement. I am the one who did the same. You are not!! Take your rosy glasses off and start living in reality. You don' t sound like a child believing in fairy tales. Government is the same as corporations, only worse. Corporations employ people, earn money, pay taxes, and use their own funds for their own pleasure and for the convenience of their workers. Corporations and small business are the core and the heart of our country. Government takes our money, spends it the way they feel like, they are corrupt (much more than corporations, because they use OUR MONEY to buy voices, to buy their supporters, to enrich their friends and themselves. Government makes our country weak and vulnerable. Do you prefer them? I don't!

What do you mean saying that "for these people, helping each other VIA the government was a big no, no"? If you mean that we're against paying the government (VIA TAXES) our hard earned money thinking that GOVERNMENT would help less fortunate, or everybody, or anybody who's not as successful as others? If that what you mean - you're absolutely right! I believe (based on my own experience) that everyone who wants to succeed in the USA have the opportunity to do just that. I came here from the Eastern Europe without a one word in English, without a profession (couldn't use my profession here), without knowledge of how this country works, without money (my GOVERNMENT allowed me to take out $200 per person), without anything! Took all the steps the most poor Americans go through: kitchen in the restaurant, clerk typist, computer operator, real estate agent, an owner of a small business, a founder of a non-for-profit organization that for 10 years helped thousand of unprivileged children to learn and improve. That's what I was able to do WITHOUT A PENNY FROM THE GOVERNMENT! And I started in a tender age of 32, being a wife and a mother to a small child. Was it easy? NO! Was it possible? YES! Did I through my activities helped others? I think so. And it didn't cost taxpayers anything.

BTW, how did you personally helped others or "each other", besides sarcastically put down people who think logically, use common sense, and want the government to keep out of our lives?


Self-projecting again? (note: see the statement in bold characters above.)
Kanuk, thanks for such a promotion: now my post is put here twice in its entirety. It's also a good way to have a discussion: just cut and paste, adding something strange at the end of the post, and... HURRAY, the point is made! So, let me explain what I meant by saying "take your rosy glasses off...".

Let’s assume that we’re in a boat in a middle of the ocean and the boat is leaking. Water is coming fast and the boat is half-filled with water already. There are two ways of surviving: first, scoop the water out by all means possible and you MIGHT have a chance, although, the process is physically hard and takes a lot of time to achieve the result; or, second, make a hole in the bottom of the boat even bigger, hopping that water will disappear through that hole and everyone in the boat will be living happily ever after. That second approach is what I call “have a rosy glasses on your nose”, because it sounds so easy and desirable, but it’s unrealistic and unscientific. It sounds good, but the outcome is horrible.

I rarely, if ever, use the language like "it's stupid', or something even worse then that. I prefer to think that the opponent (s) might be mistaken, or naive, or unexperienced... Knowing that you are in the teaching field, I hoped that you'll understand the metaphoric way of explaining to you my point of view. At the same talking, I'm not sure what you meant by writing that one line of yours: " Self-projecting again? (note: see the statement in bold characters above.)" Too complicated for me, probably...
Rick,
There are a few reasons pols don't feel a need to represent the voters.
1. Same reason a dog licks "himself"--because he can. Voters don't punish them.
2. Being in Congress is cool, and it's nice to win, but if they lose, there's a cushy job with some megacorp waiting, where they can join their spouse and kids, all working in The Private Sector.
3. The Dems can point at the radical Repubs. They don't have to do much more than pretend to give a damn after that.

ignaz,
You didn't accomplish a single advance here without the benefit of government, except, perhaps, getting laid. It's as easy as it is mindless to cast government as an enemy of whatever-you-want-to-believe. When you list what you accomplished (with gov's help), you're just stroking your wanker in an act of obtuse self-anointment--the self-love-lube of the boob.
While it's true that corporate power can be equal to government power, that's not because of the nature of government, it's the nature of power when The People allow it. If you think corrupting power can be removed by eliminating government, you simply don't know enough to realize that power never disappears. It will always find its way to somebody's hands. With proper government, like ours, in theory, power is diffused by placing it in the People's hands. In that, when 'government" acts to assist citizens, it's citizens doing for themselves.

Any half-wit can make a commenting career out of carping about the evils of government. That's true whether the half-witlessness comes honestly--like a parrot taught to speak simple phrases--or a human who doesn't trouble themselves with, or cannot perform, the reasoning required to participate in successful self-governance. That reasoning begins with acknowledging that government isn't some separate entity. Once you declare that untrue, you have no ability to understand or participate.

For now, I'll assume you're not a parrot, and that you don't truly understand the nature of power or our system of popular Sovereignty.
Thank you, Paul. Well said! (I would have written the same thing, but I have better things to do.)

It looks like ingaz doesn’t even understand that the big bad government approved her to immigrate and subsequently live here, unless she arrived in the U.S. illegally.

Here are two European OSers who actually understand the appropriate role of a government.
The link to the two comments can be found here (see this comment and the one after it). Hopefully, this time it will work.
The paradox I see is that the seduction to reasoned debate by reactionaries often proves to be just so much narcissistic piffle; whatever the soundest argument one can muster, it proves to be merely a target for attack - perhaps the real motivation.

That tribal thing you wrote of is like the fast food of modern politics. The lazy will flock to the low common denominator.

Vigilance against this tactic, these overtures that sound so, well, reasonable, resisting the natural urge to lead with solid opinions, attacking first to gain the advantage, with bitter memories of past defeats sustaining one's discipline - that all requires ideological alignment.

And the reasoning liberal/progressive person might just find that a pathology equal to the other side's. That's the paradox.

I too was made to think of a Matt Taibbi piece in RS; the one on Tea Party folks all showing up to a Kentucky rally on their free Medicare scooters.
Paul J. O'Rourke, if you think that by using such a "complex" language and such a primitive (please, excuse the simplicity of my language) explanation of the role of the government makes your point or embarrasses me, you're mistaken. BIG TIME! When there is no point to make and no desire to have an intelligent conversation, the only thing you achieve is killing any interest in the continuation of the dispute. Please, don't insult my intelligence by applying that I don't understand or, even better, do not know the role of the government in the civilized society. I am not an anarchist. Oh, sure, smarty Kanuk, I came here with the help, or permission, of the American government. Oh, yes, even smarter Mr, O'Rourke, I understand that, especially in the beginning of my life in this country, I used public transportation, later drove on highways, went to MVA and the Immigration Offices for some necessary documentations, etc. If this is what you apply as me accomplishing anything with gov's help - all right, I give you that. What I was talking about - was government money, or government programs that I didn't use. AND I DIDN'T! All these argument are good for school debates. I am not talking about "eliminating government", I am talking about eliminating some of the power that today's government achieved with hundreds of agencies, millions of programs and numerous waste of trillion of money.

I am so grateful that you don't consider me a parrot - although, I might be a parrot with the only difference - I taught myself how to speak and how to behave. If you prefer to have a government that would dictate you what to do and how to do whatever they want you to do, and you'll just follow like a flock of sheep, this is your choice. After all, we still live in a democratic society. But let me assure you that I will never agree your philosophy of letting government to take care of us, I will never agree with your believe that have a big government is good for the country and for its people.
ignaz,
At least you didn't miss all the points I made, just the ones I didn't make.
I usually argue only what gets said. What I didn't say is you arguing with yourself.
I might be more inclined to respect the high-toned moralistic mouthings of conservatives if they actually practiced what they preached -- but they don't. Hard to respect people who are either ignorant or willfully blind; and all the more so when they are brazenly hypocritical to boot.
I think we need a return to the traditional Democratic Party. No one can argue that the extent of unwed Motherhood is problematic in many cases. Also modern Dems obsess over pet cultural issues while many can not eat or afford shelter. Dems for years conveyed the impression that the ONLY concern for women is abortion.

Now you have many media people openly repeating that Obama has written off working class whites. What????????? Unreal!!!!
Many elite and well-to -do liberals actually look down on working class whites and they sense that. What has the Democratic Party really done for them lately. Like guarantee the right to unionize,
Frankly, I am dismayed with both parties at the moment. I get what you are saying. But the Dems have no monopoly on rational thought.
The current American project is not working. We need a new vision.
Frank - "The only people who truly think it makes no difference which party they vote for seem to be liberals and Democrats."

I am asserting that I am one counter example. Not totally but generally.

Rodney - "as will the hard left, who will always swing toward fairness and avoiding the harm of others even if it means limiting their own possibilities for wealth accumulation."

Really!?

Paul - Nice to know I am stupid.

"There is no large Leftist media propaganda effort performing that same Rwing function."

Again, really!?

Demagoguery doesn't work on intelligent people. It drives them away, as they can see through the effort to gin up emotions as a bait-switch device. Unintelligent people hold fewer observations and facts in their minds, so are open to having "trusted" others fill in their blanks."

I see, so the Dems are the intelligent ones that are not influenced by
demagoguery. And Dems are not "open" to the trusted like Reid, Pelosi and Obama? Come on. You can't tell me this doesn't go both ways.
Yes manly moral conservatives are influenced by traditional definition of "religion". But is not liberalism a religion for many people. What is the difference? There are demagogues on both sides. One side is referred to as religious. The other religiously puts down religion.
Tom -
"I might be more inclined to respect the high-toned moralistic mouthings of conservatives if they actually practiced what they preached -- but they don't. Hard to respect people who are either ignorant or willfully blind; and all the more so when they are brazenly hypocritical to boot."

You know this cuts both ways. Hows about Mr. Al "Green" Gore.
He creates more of a carbon footprint in his life than you and I can create in probably 100 lifetimes. Why does this man not drive a mini-cooper and live in a modest 2000 sq. ft. house?
Frank - you are probably right in regard to most conservatives would vote for most anyone to get rid of Obama. But how many liberals do you know won't go to the same length to keep Romney or New or RS out?
How many would have voted for anyone in 2004 to get rid of Bush?

How many would have voted for anyone against McCain? Did it have to be Obama? I would guess that any Dem in the running would have sufficed. Certainly Hillary. And if Obama was kidnapped by aliens tomorrow, would not liberals vote for any Dem leader to keep the Repuke out.

So I think it is a little strange to say only liberals know it makes no difference which party is in. In fact I don't think many liberals believe that at all.

I think the number of people on either side in total that see it as you do is small. I don't think the vast majority of liberals see "lack of difference" that you do.
Paul J. O'Rourke, I didn't get any of your points, because there weren't any. Just word games without any meaning. BORING!
Tom Cordle, I usually don't read any of your posts. You are a demagogue. You attack people with empty statements without any facts whatsforever. If you say that "conservatives... are either ignorant or willfully blind..." etc, it would've been interesting to see any examples of that. You're a very ugly person, sorry to say that. Completely brainwashed and silly, as well.
A friend of mine just emailed me this statement from the person most of you here hate with all your hearts (simple because he is successful - what a crime). But I like it. So, here it comes:

Trump Explains Dumbo Care

Let me get this straight . . .

We're going to be "gifted" with a health care

plan we are forced to purchase and

fined if we don't,

Which purportedly covers at least

ten million more people,

without adding a single new doctor,

but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,

written by a committee whose chairman

says he doesn't understand it,

passed by a Congress that didn't read it but

exempted themselves from it,

and signed by a Dumbo President who smokes,

with funding administered by a treasury chief who

didn't pay his taxes,

for which we'll be taxed for four years before any

benefits take effect,

by a government which has

already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,

all to be overseen by a surgeon general

who is obese,

and financed by a country that's broke!!!!!

'What the hell could possibly go wrong?'
@JC
Granted, hypocrisy abounds on both sides -- and in the middle. As I've said many times, none of us could last a day without rationalization. My point is that one ought to at least attempt to be rational about their leanings -- and about the truth.

Foe example, I keep hearing people -- even here, make the false equivalency between Left and Right, as tho Rachel Maddow is the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh ... or that Lawrence O'Donnell is the equivalent of Glenn Beck ... or that MSNBC is the equivalent of Fux News. To call these equivalent is to say that slanting the news is the same things as outrageously lying, and to say that is simply, demonstrably irrational.

Then there's the matter of calling Obama both a bad Christian and a Muslim, or for the first time in history demanding to see a President's birth certificate -- and when presented with it, continuing to deny his legitimacy. These are not disagreements about policy or philosophy, these are evidence of irrationality.

And while we're on the subject, would you dare to suggest that Barack Obama is the equivalent -- or worse -- of George W Bush aka He Whose Name Cannot be Spoken by a Republican ? It is completely irrational that any person who voted for the worst President in US history has the gall to question the judgment of those who voted for Barack Obama.

Doubly casting doubt on their powers of perception, tens of millions of them -- I'm going to assume you were among them -- voted for him again, even after four years of unmitigated disaster. The proof of that folly is the second term was even worse than the first. Thank god for term limits because I know people on the Right so thick-headed, they would have voted for him again, rather than cast a vote for Obama. Indeed, thisclose to 60 million of them -- I'm assuming you were among them -- voted for a doddering old coot and a bimbo in 2008. You may disagree about that characterization, but if you do, that isn't rationalization -- it's irrationalization.
Joseph Cole wrote:

Frank - you are probably right in regard to most conservatives would vote for most anyone to get rid of Obama. But how many liberals do you know won't go to the same length to keep Romney or New or RS out?
How many would have voted for anyone in 2004 to get rid of Bush?


Well, I certainly know a lot more liberals inclined to vote for a third party (which aids the Republican candidate) than I do conservatives willing to hurt the Republican candidates chances by voting for a third party. Perhaps your experience is different. That happens.

In any case, I acknowledge it is not 100% that way. I was just sharing a tendency I see right now. And I suggest that OS is primarily a liberal site…and many of the liberals here claim they would sooner not vote at all than to help Obama get re-elected. I know of no conservatives here who suggest they will withhold their vote rather than vote for the Republican candidate…even if the Republican is someone they do not especially like (read that Romney, if you choose).


So I think it is a little strange to say only liberals know it makes no difference which party is in. In fact I don't think many liberals believe that at all.

I did not say only liberals know…I said it was “my personal experience that the notion is bought ONLY by liberals and Democrats. I cannot think of a single Republican or conservatives whom I know personally (and I know scads of 'em) who thinks that same way.”


I think the number of people on either side in total that see it as you do is small. I don't think the vast majority of liberals see "lack of difference" that you do.

I’m not sure I understand what you were saying here, but I think I have stated my position clearly.
ignaz,
I was simply pointing out that you're not very bright. Something you do with your word-combining screen name, so you're also clued in to your problem. You make the simpleton's argument 'bout big gub'mint and assume those who think that's a silly-assed argument are for bigger mo' gub'mint. In other words, you play the simple-minded ideologue game, pretending those who disagree represent the mirror reflection of your simpleton argument. I responded to what you said, you respond to what you wish I said. Have you favorited UncleChri yet?

Cole
There is no frick-for-frack comparison between the Rwing and Lwing. And yes, everyone who identifies as a conservative without some qualifying word to separate themselves from conservatism-at-large are indeed stupid people. I guess there are varying degrees of stupidity, but let's face it, partially stupid is still stupid. "I am a conservative" is an admission of stupidity. The arguments, observations and commentary that come after confirm it.
Paul I have tried to state many times I am a fiscal conservative not a moral one. I do not share my spiritual/moral beliefs much on OS. Maybe that makes me a little less stupid. But I think it it pretty harsh to call all conservatives some degree of stupid. Based on our previous posts i I would not have expected such a general statement.
Cole,
Anyone that buys into the Fox News, Rwing radio, Christian liars club is an idiot. I've never seen one that wasn't or ridiculed one that isn't.
"Fiscal" is a qualifying word. We have many who describe themselves that way who are not stupid. But for the word "conservative," I might also.
Notice that this year's GOP primary describes "more conservative" as dumber. The "more conservative" the GOP has become, the less educated the atypical GOP voter.
I know a couple of conservatives who are the opposite of idiots, but they don't advertise themselves as conservative, they just are. They don't babble about socialists or the ebils of gub'mint and never quote Churchill.
Paul,

I think you’re being too generous to refer to ingaz/ignaz as a simpleton. With statements like “I taught myself how to speak and how to behave,” I agree, however, that we don’t need to argue with this person. She already does an excellent job arguing with herself.

You made a superb point here:

I know a couple of conservatives who are the opposite of idiots, but they don't advertise themselves as conservative, they just are. They don't babble about socialists or the ebils of gub'mint and never quote Churchill.

Where I live, I met such people (not many though).
Excellent article; very thought provoking.

Let me add to the discussion that I think it is very counterproductive to foster liberal-conservative, left-right dichotomy because it tends to entrench people in a particular set of views vice giving them the "freedom" to have different attitudes toward different issues. I consider myself an independent moderate; I've voted Republican and Democratic for various elected offices at various times. I like to think of my positions on matters as a scatter plot, with the regression line running down the middle. (Well, maybe slightly skewed to the left.)

Unfortunately, this kind of thought flexibility is not to our politicians' or media's advantage. We should counter that.
Paul - I guess I will remain partially stupid then. How do I "just be" conservative without ever d mentioning it? And why is it OK to be a liberal and advertise?

"I know a couple of conservatives who are the opposite of idiots, but they don't advertise themselves as conservative, they just are."

I guess I don't know what it means to not advertise themselves.

Tom - I don't really get much of a choice do I? I am not even close to particularly happy with the GOP candidates this time. I have never been a hard core libertarian but even if I was Paul has no chance. And I simply cannot support Obama. He could have done so many things a lot differently but the did not.

He has treated anyone that disagrees him with incredible arrogance an disrespect. From the citizens to the Justices of the Courts. Even mocking them in public at the State of the Union address. He talks to the people like they are stupid. With his chin turned up and eyes down as if he is better than everyone. That is typical body language of someone who wants to be superior that is not. He dictated terms of GM's BK. Screwing bond holders out of retirement savings that were supposed to be the safest form of investment. Replacing the CEO with one that would go on TV the next day and praise the unions.
He now touts GM's profits but dos not use his dictatorship to ask for those bond holders to be made whole at some point. And I could go on forever.

Your choice is easy. Mine is between horrific and nightmarish. And I don't know which is which.
Joseph
Forgive me, but it's hard for to me to work up much sympathy for your dilemma. After all, you and the millions of others who voted twice for the worst President in US history -- He Who Cannot Be Named By A Republican (it appears that you, too, have selective amnesia in that regard) made possible the circumstances under which Obama was elected.

I agree that Obama has disappointed a lot of people on the Left, but obviously, you and I will disagree profoundly about how bad he has been as President. But I would hope we could agree on two points:

(1) Thanks to Bush the Least, no President since FDR has had more of a burden to deal with than Obama.

(2) No matter how bad Obama may or may not be, he is far better than Bush the Least.

Because of your inability to admit to error regarding Bush, you will repeat your error. And in so doing, you will be making Steve's case. You don't like any of the candidates the Republicans are offering, and yet it's a pretty safe bet you will vote for Romney any way. So will millions of other people on the Right, who have no use for Romney, who consider him a waffling, effete vulture capitalist who hasn't a clue about the lives of ordinary people or a shred of empathy for their them and their troubles. That they will do so simply, demonstrably defies logic.

That goes double for Christian fundamentalists, who making a complete mockery of their "faith" will support a Mormon -- a religion they consider an heretical cult -- rather than support Obama, an avowed member of a mainstream Christian denomination, who by all appearances is a good and decent family man. How they square this with their "faith" and their putative "family values" again simply and demonstrably defies logic.

Meanwhile, millions of disaffected people on the Left, angry because Obama didn't magically undo thirty years of Voodoo Economics in four short years -- while handicapped by Do-Nothing Republicans whose only objective was to bring down Obama even if they brought the country down with him -- will stay home or throw their vote away on some third-party candidate with NO chance of winning. Where I come from, that's called cutting off your nose to spite your face -- in another words, that, too, is irrational.

One way to make the point is by analogy: The Republican political masters herd sheep, while the Democratic political masters herd cats.
the american electorate is totally disenfranchised from the substantive issues of politics, and always have been. they can only ever vote for people, never knowing what those people even want to do, much less what they can do.

consequently, they spend their almost valueless vote in seemingly inane ways. since they can not affect consequential matters, they choose empty 'feelgood' questions to support. republicans have built a majority by being the supporters of religion and guns, and branding support for wealth as support for freedom.

this is obvious, and may be an insoluble problem for the democrat party, so long as a majority of the american electorate remains ignorant and religious.
I live in the same outstate Minnesota as Ki...as a matter of fact in the second poorest county in the state. I am glad I can reply, since this article is on Open Salon rather than the pay site. This county will continue to vote against its interests (not only the economy, but the National Guard has gone 4 times to the Big Sandbox since I moved here in 2007) so long as the rich pretend they are religious to get us hicks and rubes to vote against our economic interests. I was born in Bridgeport, CT where our Mayor Phineas Barnum was proved to be right again and again.
Wouldn't hurt to have some attribution for 'the comic':

http://xkcd.com/386/
Observant, Thank you, I couldn't find a primary attribution. I took it from Daily Kos. Thank you for supplying the permanent, orginal link. Kudos to xkcd.com for supplying us all with one for the ages.
Steve,

The reason why conservatives always vote against their own interests can be found here:

Conservative Politics, 'Low-Effort' Thinking Linked In New Study

The original study can be found here:

Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism

This also explains Gordon et al.'s comments.
Here's the abstract:

The authors test the hypothesis that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism. In Study 1, alcohol intoxication was measured among bar patrons; as blood alcohol level increased, so did political conservatism (controlling for sex, education,
and political identification). In Study 2, participants under cognitive load reported more conservative attitudes than their
no-load counterparts. In Study 3, time pressure increased participants’ endorsement of conservative terms. In Study 4,
participants considering political terms in a cursory manner endorsed conservative terms more than those asked to cogitate;
an indicator of effortful thought (recognition memory) partially mediated the relationship between processing effort and
conservatism. Together these data suggest that political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought;
when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases.


by Scott Eidelman, Christian S. Crandall, Jeffrey A. Goodman and John C. Blanchar

in Pers Soc Psychol Bull published online 16 March 2012
Tom - I just saw the post on EP about the WI recall. It made me think. I do that occasionally.
Is not the national election for president exactly the same? The Dems in WI don't know who they want yet. They just know for sure they want Walker gone. I think it is inarguable that is exactly the point of the recall. And they don't want a GOP replacement either.

A lot of people at the national level just want Obama gone. Subscribe any reason you want for it, but they want him gone.

Yes I said it. If he had done some things diffrently, I would not think that way. I did not vote for him the first time, but he had plenty of chances to get my vote for re election. Showing even the slightest respect for my interests would have gone a long way.
Some very easy moderate actions would have went a long way for me. But instead he puked in my face.

I cannot recall a president in my lifetime, Dem or GOP, good one or bad one that ever acted with such disrespect. I don't mean policy wise. They all make policy that is offensive to someone. I mean personal behavior. No president on either side has ever made me feel like I am inferior being while speaking. Should one think about it, I think even Dems can feel like he is disrespectful to them as well. He acts as if he was elected dictator of the world. Well Reagan won 49 states. Maybe he ran things to your dislike, but did he ever speak at you like you are an idiot? He was passionate for what he thought was right. He was not passionate about calling you or me stupid. Obama decided that conservative politicians had ZERO role in gov, and conservative citizens were deserving of ZERO consideration.

All things conceived in his mind are to simply accepted, even by the Courts.

As for that superiority body language he uses when talking to the citizens. It seems to go out the window when it would be most useful. When dealing with other heads of state. Somehow he turns into the head of a nation he seems to think needs to be self flagellating.

Since the Dems will not offer an alternative, than what choice do I have but to vote for a GOP. This election is a recall Obama. It is no more irrational than recalling Walker.

I would like it if there was a better GOP to vote for. I might like it if the Dems would put up someone against Obama to vote for. I think I would personally have been much happier with Hillary the last 3 years. I don't think she would have acted anything like Obama.

Also, when I say I am not nuts about candidates, that doesn't mean I think I think they are all total losers. It means that in my adult life time, there has hardly been any politician I like. Especially pres. candidates.

So in a sense I always vote against my self interest. Because none of them represent my interests.

Would it be irrational to reelect Bush after he destroyed my country. Yes.
Would it be irrational to reelect Obama after he destoryed things that were not yet destroyed and failed improve some things that he could have with the snap of a finger, but just wouldn't because he doesn't believe in the ideology of the solution. Yes.

For you it is no easy because you feel he is doing a reasonably good job. I think he is doing a horrible job.
Even when he knows how to , and is capable of doing better. He just refuges to do so.
Joseph
"Obama after he destoryed things that were not yet destroyed and failed improve some things that he could have with the snap of a finger"

As ever, your own words expose you as either ignorant or willfully blind -- or both. But at least you serve one useful purpose -- you are the living proof of every charge Steve made in this post.
Tom - "As ever, your own words expose you as either ignorant or willfully blind -- or both. But at least you serve one useful purpose -- you are the living proof of every charge Steve made in this post."

Why not be honest here Tom, and give one example yourself where you know where he could have (still can) corrected something but he just didn't. Lets not pretend. There are ways he can help this economy. I know it. You know it. And he knows it.
Just admit one to yourself and post it here.
There are ways he can help this economy. I know it. You know it. And he knows it.

Given your recent rant about the GM bailout, you have clearly shown that you don’t know it.
Joseph
You say of Obama: "No president on either side has ever made me feel like I am inferior being while speaking. He acts as if he was elected dictator of the world."

Again, you reveal far more about yourself than you realize. Why don't you just say what you want to say: "Obama is uppity".
Kanuk - You make no sense. Are you saying there are NOT any ways he can help he economy? Even IF I don't know them, that doesn't mean he doesn't. And if he doesn't, why is he president.
If there is nothing he knows to do then he is useless.

As for my GM rant you obviously missed my point. You are assuming I was against a bailout that saved jobs etc. That was not my point. My point is he process. He screwed bond holders . He appointed a kiss ass as the new CEO. And no, neither I nor anyone I am close to is/was a bond holder.
But I know who was. The very people Obama is supposed to care so much about. Retired people that have always been advised to invest what savings they may have in safe investments. What was the safest. Fortune 500 bonds from companies like GM. Bonds are first in line in BK law (except when dictator Obama changes BK law).

It was NOT just a minor inconvenience to RICH people. Many retired people depended on that safe investment and he f'ed them. Period. Talk about people voting against there self interest. But then they probably don't know who they are. Many are held in funds and many people don't know the details of their funds. They have no idea they got f'ed.

Tom - my previous post proves nothing one way or the other.

But maybe you can explain this irrational behavior to me. Kill drilling in the Gulf after BP spill. How many jobs lost to that?
Then give Brazil mega bucks and tell them to drill at twice the depth in their waters. WTF is that. Is he encouraging Brazil to create there own spill? And then proclaim we will be their best customer. Brilliant. We lose jobs, we throws away money we need for our own social welfare. I thought we are supposed to promote the welfare of the U.S. , not Brazil's. Well maybe it was in our interest. Let Brazil pollute their coasts and we get oil. Not a bad deal I guess, except we lose jobs.

BTW, I have been enjoying all those oil polluted crabs, oysters and shrimp for several months now. Restaurants are booming down here. But that is because we are too stupid to know better.

You say Bush destroyed the economy, the country. Maybe so. Presidents can do that. So you think Obama is so perfect he has made NO mistakes. Has not destroyed anything. He can't fix ANYTHING? Really? That would be irrational thinking.
There are things he can do that are plainly obvious.
He won't. But he disagrees with the obvious so he won't.
Joseph
Daddy always told me to be careful arguing with a fool because folks might get confused about which was one was which. In your case, I needn't worry -- it's pretty obvious which of us is the fool. You voted for W twice -- and you would have voted for him again rather than vote for Obama. Case closed.
J. Cole: Basically, you’re saying that if would have let GM go into liquidation after a fully fledge bankruptcy, all the bond holders would be fully reimbursed. It’s not what I read.
"Ki Gulbranson: Man bites hand that feeds him. (That’s harsh, I know, but Ki, yer killin’ us.)"

Harsh? What's with the sympathy for this idiot and the millions like him? Liberal timidity and wishing to avoid offense is one reason why we always lose and the country moves steadily to the right.
Steve - I've been pondering similar issues for a while. I would recommend, if you haven't already read it, The Political Brain, by Drew Westen. He makes a similar argument, but analyzes the emotional/moral foundations of voting behavior in cognitive, rather than social, terms. He finds, building on a much larger body of work within contemporary neuroscience, that nobody is truly "rational." Even when we are making decisions that seems purely logical--math problems, finding a set of directions, etc--the parts of our brain associated with emotions are always firing strong. "Rationalists" themselves are almost always operating with some underlying moral/emotional influences and assumptions.

The thing that is most interesting to me about Westen's book is that he attempts to build this advice into a positive agenda for progressives (I haven't read Haidt's book, just a couple reviews of it, but it seems like he spends more time pointing out the Dems flaws than recommending solutions; I may be wrong). Westen goes through various issues, such as gun control or abortion, and attempts to create liberal counter-narratives that can communicate the liberal arguments on those positions in terms that will resonate with the emotional decision-making centers of the brain. He backs this up by doing a bunch of experiments and cognitive studies so see how people's brains react to different messages/characterizations. He went on from writing his book to take a leave from Emory University to do consulting work for the Dems in 2008, but its obvious that there is still a long way to go. The Dems really want to be a party of facts, figures, and logic. They need to recognize that most people don't think (or vote) that way.
I'm confused about the people who are saying they accept social security because it is essentially "forced" on them, although they think it is morally wrong. If it goes against your values that much, why are you still using it? Why don't you give it away to, say, your church or the republican party? You say you wouldn't mind living without it.

Also, Joseph, you say, "you want to force SS on me, that is YOUR self interest not mine." I am legitimately confused about how sharing resources with others is self-interest.
Stephen, Thank you, I'll look for Westen's book. It does seem to be right on topic. I have written about the need for new narratives here as well, stating that facts and figures are not enough. And I think the age of Fox has made voting much more an exercise in tribal affiliation. I think we should have voted Murdoch off the island years ago.