I try not to go on internet search-term rabbit holes anymore. They typically lead me to finding out things I sometimes wish I didn’t know. The general attitudes and ensuing voting habits of Americans are among these things.
Spend only a few intimate moments with Google and you’ll find that in most poll questions, a majority of Americans support things that our politicians don’t even consider. The bold truth is that a majority of America is less capitalist than anyone chooses to think.
President Obama took the public option for national healthcare off the table immediately in forming the ACA, despite the fact that greater than 60% of Americans wanted it. Significant majorities like that follow suit across a variety of issues; $15 minimum wage, heavy bank and financial regulation, increase in social programs (social security, medicaid, etc), increase in taxes on the rich (the rich being >$250,000/yr), closing corporate tax loopholes.
This might sound like a blog about Bernie Sanders. It isn’t, though he certainly champions all those things. What this is about is trying to understand how so many Americans vote not just against their interests, but how they’re voting against their own opinions.
The success of Sanders and Trump shouldn’t be surprising if you read history books. When people lose faith in governmental establishments, populist candidates of all kinds can gain ground in elections. Go look up Barry Goldwater and George McGovern if you don’t believe me. No matter what you may think of this, it’s a simple eventuality in any reasonably democratic system.
With any examination, it’s never a single factor that causes a complex issue. And I absolutely will not find every factor, as I am just an IT guy with spare time.
But here’s a stab at some reasons:
- Single-issue voters; some people are just so passionate about a single issue that they will only vote for a candidate who reflects their view, all other issues be damned. Not necessarily the smartest of approaches, but it’s still a common approach regardless..
- A collective cognitive dissonance in regards to many political keywords, such as “socialist,” “poor,” “rich,” and “middle class.”
- The s-word is still a bad word decades after the Red Scare and the peak of the Cold War, despite the fact that socialism doesn’t necessarily mean anything close to Communism.
- “Poor” can mean much more than most people think; most probably feel that “Poor” is “making less than I do.”
- “Rich” to some people means $100,000/year, when in reality the definition is $250,000/yr, an amount relatively few people make (slightly less than 3%).
- “Middle Class” has taken on a ton of meanings. It could mean the median household income (around $53,000/year). It could mean the “middle quintile” of households (around $40k-$65k/year). We could use President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s definition (less than $250k/year, which is absurd). Or, we could use the United State Government’s definition (of which there is none, so nevermind).
- While social media has certainly made enormous strides in connecting individuals with each other (and has created a net positive effect on society in my eyes, despite some disadvantages), this isn’t being used to boost debate in a positive way. While it’s now easier to find opinions and philosophies divergent to your own, most people don’t seek that out; most seek out people who agree with them, and what ensues is an echo chamber of back-patting, and the galvanization of beliefs. Even if you’re actually “right,” it doesn’t matter because that sort of thinking is antithetical to critical thought. The first step towards society is thinking about people who aren’t you and who disagree with you.
- American mainstream news appears to be rather corrupt. I plan on performing an experiment to verify this (more on that someday), but it really seems like American news is purposefully baseless, disingenuous, and lacks needed context when reporting important things.
That’s just a few things off the top of my head, but I think those things carry a lot of blame.
Hopefully we can wake the fuck up and start thinking like smart people again someday.
I’m not holding my breath.