November 03, 2004

When Your Answers Don't Add Up, Check Your Assumptions

Long, ad hoc, wandering post in the extended entry explaining why some really, really, smart people are missing something that should be crystal clear about the election results. Cripes, I need an editor.

Some nights when I work late, I catch a repeat of the Tavis Smiley show on the way home. Normally, I do this just to get myself riled up with a case of radio rage, but about once every four years I do it to gloat. Tavis and his guests didn't let me down tonight. Once again, I heard one of the oft-repeated memes from the "reality-based community" that Bush couldn't possibly have won more than 50% of the popular vote since more than 50% of America thought the country is headed in the wrong direction. The only thing more surprising than the "reality-based community's" confusion over this point is their shock and amazement that "morality" was the single most important issue to the largest number of people voting according to another poll (usual caveats apply), and that these voters broke overwhelmingly for Bush. What these really, really smart people -- and we know they are really, really smart because they keep telling us that they are really, really smart -- can't seem to grasp is that some of the people who think the country is headed in the wrong direction are the very same people who think morality is the most important criterion in deciding whom to vote for. Take my word for it that this particular demographic were not going to be voting for John Kerry and they do not blame President George W. Bush for all that ails America. The liberation of Iraq is not the only issue on the table, even if the shouting in the echo chamber tends to drown most everything else out. Heck, even Bob Kerrey said the people of Gallia, Ohio, didn't give a damn about the war in Iraq. Now I doubt that Mr. Kerrey was correct when he said that, and his condescension has been duly noted, but I don't doubt that some of the people in Gallia, Ohio, are very much opposed to say, gay marriage, partial birth abortion, or stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

Or, maybe, it's not so much that they are opposed to gay marriage as they are opposed to having gay marriage forced upon them by people who consider them stupid, extremist, fundamentalist bigots. Or, maybe, they take offense when what they consider as their sacred regard for human life is ridiculed. I'm certain that the moral plurality don't like to be treated with contempt by people whom they believe are motivated by a self interest that seems to make them a little too casual when it comes to what the ridiculed truly believe is the murder of the weakest and most defenseless amongst us.

The progressive forces who were behind the nationwide push this past year for gay marriage didn't stray outside their cozy little echo chambers long enough to realize how much they were alienating and energizing people who were very much opposed to them. The take no prisoners pro-choice crowd isn't exactly winning any friends or influencing any people either with their absolutist stand on partial birth abortion. No matter how noble the intentions of those advocating the most experimental stem cell research, in the eyes of the pro-life crowd, the most assertive voices are perceived as being a little too willing to take actual lives for nothing more than the potential to sustain other lives. These are profound moral issues, and yet, rather than try to educate and convince their opponents, progressive reactionaries lambast them as illiterate, retarded, or crazy. Most people are emotional mirrors. If you treat them with disdain, anger and condescension, you shouldn't be surprised when the hostility is returned, with interest.

I have no way of determining this, but I would wager that the number of people who think the country is headed in the wrong direction and believe that this is President George W. Bush's fault is probably only in the 40-45% range. If I'm right, then it resolves the apparent paradox of how President George W. Bush could get 51.5% of the popular vote even when more than 50% of the populace thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction. Is the us versus them mentality that is so prevalent today what causes so many to set up false dichotomies, such as imagining that everybody either believes President George Bush is 100% perfect or that he is 100% evil, and further that everyone must conveniently fit into one of these two pigeonholes? The need to demonize those not in their own pigeonhole is another tribal-based pathology that I'm even less qualified to pontificate on.

Posted by Charles Austin at November 3, 2004 10:31 PM

I think you're right, Charles, though I suspect the media's partisan (mis)treatment of Bush may have caused a small number of folks to vote for him out of spite. People are noticing that kind of thing and it makes them angry.

Posted by: Lawrence at 11:50 AM

You're right about both the absolutist either/or thinking, the alienation of people who are religious, and the concern that some have at having other people's ideas forced down their throats.

What's bothering me is that what was extremist Democratic rhetoric two years ago seems to be mainstream today. It's almost as if they've developed a bunker mentality that prohibits listening carefully to anyone who tries to explain another point of view. How else can I account for the things that have come out of Biden's, Albright's, Cronkite's and Edwards' mouths in the last few months?

I'm amazed by all this.
They never seemed to realize what effect Walter Cronkite discussing the theory of Rovian omnipotence and Madelaine Albright A farmer in the Tulsa area probably looks at some of these

Posted by: MaxedOutMama at 01:26 PM

They also don't grasp that some people who think that Bush "isn't going in the right direction" with Iraq don't think that Bush should reverse direction----they want Bush to put the pedel to the metal.

Posted by: ray at 07:01 PM

MaxedOutMama: What's bothering me is that what was extremist Democratic rhetoric two years ago seems to be mainstream today.

What you might have said is "extreme leftist/anarchist rhetoric from two years ago has been embraced by the Democrats."

The nuts two years ago were not mainstream Democrats. Today, the party itself seems to have jumped the shark. Witness the embrace of the AWOL, cokehead, chimpy BusHitler Michael Moore-style mendacity.

Ray is also right, that many of us think we have been too sympathetic or merciful, and we need to use overwhelming force sooner rather than later. History has shown that this saves lives, but it does tend to upset the unserious among us.

By the way, Hi Charles! It's been a while.

Posted by: Kieran Lyons at 11:52 PM

I'm liberal on most issues but I believe the "War on Terrorism" including the invasion of Iraq was necessary, which left me with a difficult choice. Up until sometime this spring I thought that Bush not being re-elected would be disasterous but then I got so disgusted with Bush over a few things that I started to consider Kerry. I started to think he's got to be smarter than his supporters; he wouldn't really take us back to the appeasement policies of the 20th century. But every time I would get close the ravings of the "Bush=Hitler" crowd would get to me and I would think there's no way I can vote for someone who is supported by people like that especially when he obviously panders to them with is "wrong war, wrong time..." talk. I always suspected that Kerry was not being honest about his position but I had no way of knowing for sure. But sometimes I still wonder if I made the right decision. I worry that I chose domestic religious facists to save us from foreign religious fascists.

Posted by: Lynn S at 05:12 PM