August 16, 2017

Why people vote against their interests

From our overstocked archives
Sam Smith, 2012

It is always sad to see large numbers of people engaged in a politics that opposes their true self interest.

It is one of the things that defined the American south for a century after the Civil War.

It was what allowed the Nazis to take power in Germany.

The reasons are numerous and varied but key to them is often a culture under great stress believing false promises being made to it by the powerful. White southern sharecroppers were taught to romanticize a plantation society they could never join and to blame blacks for their problems. For Germans the target was Jew.

While the scale and ultimate evil of these examples differ enormously, the strategy was the same: false stories, false demons and false solutions.

It is, however, the reality that America will face in coming months, so it may help to look at some other important factors affecting the outcome:

Money:. The right spent about $23 a vote to win in Wisconsin. Transferred to the fall election, that would mean - thanks to the despicable Citizens United ruling - any of the following could buy the election and still have  from 83 to 98 percent of their wealth left: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, either of the Koch brothers, Geoge Soros, any of four Waltons, Michael Bloomberg or Mark Zuckerberg.

The media - Television remains the major source of information and misinformation for American families, who spend over six hours a day with their TVs on. The networks they are watching are overwhelmingly run by corporations whose bias is towards the right. To get a sense of how television affects our view of politics, notice how often TV journalists refer to a candidate's ads as opposed to their actual positions. TV has made political propaganda equal to or superior to actual facts in its coverage. This doesn't even have to be malicious. For example, last night Howard Fineman on MSNBC was pushing the Republican line that public employee pensions are a serious issue. If Fineman had bothered to look into the matter he would have found, as Robert Reich has reported, that "public-sector workers now earn 11 percent less than comparable workers in the private sector, and local workers 12 percent less. (Even if you include health and retirement benefits, government employees still earn less than their private-sector counterparts with similar educations.)" These days it is considered good journalism just to pass on the lies of politicians.

Extremist group culture - The secret of extremist groups is that they offer salvation with little demanded other than cash and loyalty. The Republican Party is increasingly sharing the characteristics of the KKK, the Church of Scientology or Skull & Bones, namely offering a safe haven without the need for thought.This has a powerful appeal to the troubled.

The collapse of civic education: One of the seldom discussed characteristics of corporate-driven school testing is that it takes major time away from those former activities in a school that made students good citizens able to function with others. The victims include not only civic education but joint activities - including the performing arts - that teach the young how to live in a community. Another victim is history. Where does a young person today learn about the role labor unions have played in making America the country it is? Or come to  understand the importance of a recall?:

Labor unions - Labor unions aren't what they once were, not because the problems that created them don't still exist but; like so many other American institutions. they have become more often iconic instruments of power rather than effective advocates and practitioners of their own cause.  Unions have been losing members for quite a while, yet - with a few notable exceptions - not much imagination has been applied to the problem. For example, the labor movement could have launched a workers' equivalent of the AARP, one of the powerful non profits in the country - creating its own constituency for organizing. Unfortunately, nothing like this happened.

The collapse of liberalism - In recent decades, liberalism has turned into a upscale social demographic rather than a political movement. As it has done so, its historic connections with the working class and labor have suffered badly. For example, Franklin Roosevelt's labor secretary, Frances Perkins, was central to more progressive economic legislation than the entire liberal movement has been able to come up with in the past thirty years. It's hard to get liberals excited anymore about issues like pensions or the minimum wage and eventually politics reflects this fact. Consider the example of the women's movement, which - with a few exceptions like the group Nine to Five - has been stunningly uninvolved with the most oppressed women in the country, those of lower incomes and social class. Further, treating those you should be organizing as just a bunch of  Bible thumping, gun toting idiots doesn't help much.


Anonymous said...

The principle political problem in the USA is the Republican party.

It has nothing to offer the people.

The Republican party is the party of the swine exploiting the people, and so it should disappear.

Anyone without at least $1,000,000 in mad money who votes Republican, has the political acumen of an insect.

The second most important political problem in the USA is the Democratic party (a.k.a. Republican-Lite). It is more subtle, more clever and less obvious than the Republicans in exploiting the people. This party also merits avoidance by sensible people.

The Green Party is a party of the people that should not be avoided by sensible people, but is - thereby proving the political ignorance of US voters.

Anonymous said...

The real history of the rise of Hitler is very useful to know to understand a possible future.

He was born out of a failed republic, the republic then in Germany could not keep a first world condition. The same situation is all around the world today with real Republics.

After time in Germany the people rise up in protest, you have socialists verses fascists, right wing verse's left wing. History shows elsewhere much in the mix is elites running divide and rule operations, ie keep the masses fighting each other rather than those on top.

The elites inside and outside of Germany supported Hitler to defeat the communists. Remember Hitler was Time's magazine man of the year?

Hitler's first followers were gay men and other men unable to afford to marry. He had money from the elites to support his operations including newspapers and his brown shirt army.

All this is very important as when a Republic's economy fails most often this kind of history repeats in similar fashion.

Lots of hungry and angry people looking for someone to blame, they go after elites and each other- elites help this along via divide and rule operations.

Eventually if the republic in question does not straighten up civil war ensues or external wars to destruction happen. Venezuela of today is an example of sorts, I could drag up countless others with little effort.

Usually if the Republic totally fails it goes toward a single political party ran republic, either fascist or communist in flavor. Either way it is very bad. In such a situation the Republic is 2nd world to 3rd world back and forth. The natural condition for most republics in history is "third world always at the edge of revolution". Most of the western republics are going toward that natural condition after the end of the cold war era.

The exact future? Unknown, Trump getting into power is an eye opener, as it shows that a strong man running a single political party in power is absolutely possible in the USA in the future. Also radial left verses right today shows that a civil war is possible in the future.

One part of the debate that is missing and taboo is the fact if a Republic had INSTEAD of the pathetic and uncivilized on street protest for the only kind of direct democracy. Which is supplemented or replaced by national public referendum voting, we may avoid the build up of the on street bloody wars of far left verses far right. With the elites pumping up the volume for divide and rule.

Check out Switzerland's history and democracy design. Also know that MUCH more can be done to make a more advanced democracy design than a simple method of public referendum and national direct voting for new laws or policy etc. But in any case
national public referendum is a good step forward in my opinion toward making the Republic in question more stable and less prone to be in third world chaos.