Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama doesn't get it, I fear; but what he doesn't get has nothing to do with what the GOP says he doesn't get

It is irrational to treat people as if they are rational. We all intuitively believe everyone else is like us—thus smart people make the mistake of thinking others think like them, and mediocre minds make the same mistake. I went to blue-collar public schools, where the other kids assumed I was cheating on tests because they couldn’t imagine intelligence. It appears that Obama cannot imagine stupidity.

Though of course the Republicans’ leaders aren’t stupid. Just completely divorced from love of country. It’s the bulk of their followers who are. I read their comments in NYT comment threads, and the “up is down,” “black is white” statements made with utter sincerity are breathtaking.

Obama also fails to comprehend emotional reality. That the election was more about tribe than economics. That people will vote against their material self interest consistently—if you get them thinking tribally.

A compromiser’s skillset is useless against a foe who has no intention of compromising—just of using negotiations to run out the clock. The Chinese are like this. Ditto the Republican leadership.

I should add that, win or lose, the Democratic leadership continues to do everything in its power to make white working stiffs vote Republican, because they've embraced ethnic/racial advocacy instead of principles. And because they continue to coddle public employee organizations, which voters perceive as disproportionately ethnic.


3 comments:

n1ck said...

I should add that, win or lose, the Democratic leadership continues to do everything in its power to make white working stiffs vote Republican, because they've embraced ethnic/racial advocacy instead of principles. And because they continue to coddle public employee organizations, which voters perceive as disproportionately ethnic.

I think you're right, but I also think you're succumbing to your own fallacy in assuming that people are intelligent and rational.

I see people who as you say, are tribal. Us v. Them, regardless of the issue. And I don't see them changing their politics based on issues. I mean, look at the independent vote each election year. It swings wildly from Republican to Democrat and back, even though it's pretty clear what each party actually stands for.

I think that ultimately, Democrats have come to rely on almost all the minority groups in the US to get elected. And I'd argue that in reality, even if Democrats started embracing issues and left minority issues aside, they'd lose enough of the minorities who vote Dem because they feel it is in their interest, and Republicans/Independents would still flock to the Republican party based on the personality of the candidate, rather than the issues.

Look, I know this will sound lofty and tiresome, but this country needs more than 2 electable parties. Imagine a socially "liberal" and economically conservative/centrist party that attracted the independents and centrists of both parties.

Of course, because of the tribalism and brand style of politics, a third party is just a dream.

Ehkzu said...

I'm still talking about emotions. I agree that the Demos have become the anyone-who-isn't-white+public employee unions party. And the GOP has become the party of older white rural people, Chritianists (note the spelling), billionaires, and those with Stockholm Syndrome who think that by doing billionaires' bidding they'll get some crumbs tossed their way.

Few people ever change parties. I agree with that too, and I know many examples on both sides personally.

I'd love to see a centrist party, but it will take a national cataclysm to do it. The GOP and Demos are embedded in our government like ticks on a dog. I think the GOP is worse, but that's hardly a glowing recommendation of the Demos.

One thing we can do is keep challenging both Republicans and Democrats to support bipartisan electoral reform, such as ending gerrymandering, which will only really work is all states do it. Plus instant runoff voting, proportional electoral college representation instead of winner take all--stuff like that.

And it's fun to see partisans squirm when you challenge them with these nonpartisan reform issues. They can hardly imagine an issue with any but tribal eyes.

n1ck said...

Agreed. I personally love the parliamentary system, where governments can truly have more than two parties, and coalitions are created on issues and compromise.

Like you've said, both parties are embedded in the government, and neither of them have any interest in a third party...hence, it will always be a struggle for third parties to be on the same footing as the established political parties. This is a shame, and I believe also that some type of major problem would have to come along for it ever to change.

As long as the voters just mark their ballot with brand loyalty, rather than voting on issues, the Democrats and Republicans will forever be playing tug-of-war, with the US playing the part of the rope. For the rope, there is never a winner...just constant tension that never gets relieved.

In case you were wondering, I happened onto your blog from one of your recent NYTimes posts, and agree with you on almost all issues. We should start a common-sense third party. The Green Party/Libertarian Party have too much baggage and partisan stances to ever really be competitive.