Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two quick election thoughts

1. I saw two positive ads in a row on TV last night - one from Romney and one from Obama. It made me very happy. I shouldn't be that happy watching political ads, so it's indicative of how bad they can be I think.

2. So something I was thinking about was that despite competing claims about "personality cults" and "worshipping" a particular candidate, I haven't noticed much of that. I think we may be misdiagnosing the problem. What I've seen instead is all sides (I'm including libertarians on this one) believe at their core that anyone who would vote for the other candidates is either ignorant or barbaric and that there is no real difference between the other two. I see this sort of talk a lot more than I see praise for ones own candidate. We in America have a healthy suspicion of politicians, and I think worrying too much about a personality cult is a misdiagnosis of the problem. Nobody seems to like their candidate and they understand that politics is a messy business and you don't get what you want. They don't seem to be expecting miracles from their candidate. But they do think he's decent enough particularly compared to the other monsters running.

Which brings me to my ultimate point: maybe the problem with politics isn't that it makes us servile and cultish. Maybe the problem with politics is that it makes us exaggerate what we don't like about other people and distrustful. I think it's much easier for people like me to swallow this after Bush, of course. An unjust war and a depression (even if he didn't cause it) are pretty bad. This is not like Republicans post-Clinton. They may not have liked him or his policies but how horrendous was he really (same with Reagan and Bush I for Democrats)? Obama is still in this depression so he may be getting some of the same effect, although I think it's inappropriate to lay that at either Obama or Bush's feet. So you can understand why people are on edge. But still - I think when we talk about personality cults we misdiagnose the problem. It's not that we love our guy, it's that we really despise the other guys and can't comprehend why anyone would vote for them.


  1. Voters do have different priorities as to what is important to them. Looking back, the Republicans despised Clinton because he engaged in a consensual sexual act with an intern. Democrats despised Bush because he lied to start a war that cost over 4,000 American lives and 100,000 plus Iraqi lives.

    In the current campaign the choice is between the policies of Obama, which have been a disappointment in results, and the unknowable policies of Romney (unknowable because he refuses to give specifics) which might do a little better than Obama would or much worse.

  2. I think it is right to distrust the intentions and behavior of the others. What they want and the reasons for their desires might be less than optimal for the continued survival of the society. There are studies (like Altemeyer's) that show that those who would vote for the right-wing candidates because of their authoritarian leanings are less rational and more aggressive and antisocial.

    I hope that Romney will lose. Not because I think that his presidency will be detrimental to the USA well-being (but it probably will be), but because he is very likely to start a big war in the Middle East - in the dangerous proximity to my country's borders.

    1. One of the absurdities of Romney's campaign is that he claims he will have more influence internationally even though it seems pretty clear that voters outside of the United States, including in America's allies, overwhelmingly prefer Obama.

      One of Canada's leading political columnists recently said "During their foreign policy debate Monday, Mr. Romney displayed the hubris of the powerful and the ignorance of the uninformed ..."

      The BBC did a poll :

      " average of 50 per cent would prefer to see Obama elected, compared to only 9 per cent who prefer Romney. The rest express no preference between the two.

      "Of all the countries polled, France is currently the most strongly pro-Obama, with 72 per cent wanting him to be re-elected and just 2 per cent preferring Romney. Australia (67%), Canada (66%), Nigeria (66%), and the UK (65%) are among the other countries with large majorities favouring Obama."

      When you look at it there were large numbers who expressed no preference so the numbers who actually preferred Romney were very small.

  3. Interesting perspective. Has the GOP's "exaggerated response" been to favor individuals whose policies are easily contrasted to Obama's ... and subsequently been promoting economic and social policies that look *crazy* to a significant percentage of the electorate (Ann Rand economics, "legitimate rape", etc). Or is my qualification of *crazy* my exaggerated response? Or is *crazy* just what the media likes to project in order to sell itself?


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