Tag: middle class

The American Brain

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.


“The Establishment Has Failed”, or “What Happens When Government Stops Serving The Majority”

No matter what part of the political spectrum you lie on, there is a scary candidate on the other side.  Republicans are frightened of the potential of a “socialist” Sanders presidency (and that “socialist” label is being applied to Clinton as well, to a lesser extent).  Democrats are wringing their hands at the momentum Trump appears to have.

While Sanders and Trump are as close to diametrically opposed as can be philosophically, they do share one common trait: they are populist, non-establishment candidates.  Trump brings far more consternation among Republicans than Sanders does among Democrats, but neither are the preferred candidate of either party.  Trump threatens to splinter the GOP, while the DNC has more subtle fears about Sanders, mainly the concern that he is too far left and will turn off centrist voters (which are the key to winning anything).  Both of them are getting their funding from nontraditional sources (Sanders by a large volume of small donors and unions, Trump from his own coffers), and both are appealing on a populist platform.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  The success of both candidates points to a rising tide of dissatisfaction with either political establishment.  While it may be shocking to see this on both sides at this time, to me this was a situation that was inevitable.

This is what happens when the majority of the country (re: middle class and lower) have not been served properly by the government for decades.

This is what happens when both political establishments have sold out (pardon the cliched term) to corporate interests.

This is what happens when the decay of the majority is so apparent that people turn to relatively extreme candidates and their ideologies.

The most ardent Sanders or Trump supporters share that same thought process: the establishments have failed us, we must look elsewhere for help.  The perceived failures, possible solutions, “radical” ideologies, and the candidates themselves are obviously different depending on which side you ask, but the resentment and dissatisfaction is of the same stripe: Washington has failed the American people, and enough is enough.

For the Democratic party, this is less of a concern for a variety of reasons.  The current establishment candidate is a strong household name, and Sanders’ success hasn’t been enough to carry him to a clear victory (and most sober predictive measures don’t show him as a real threat anymore).  While Sanders’ success is still going to provide a lasting effect even without a win (in that his ideals are now exposed and talked about in political analysis), the fact that he simply won’t win doesn’t threaten the Democratic party to a great extent.  The largest consequence of his success is the fact that it’s very obvious that the younger generation of Democrats and liberals largely share his ideals, and this is something that needs to be accounted for as they get older.

The GOP, on the other hand, may be heading for a fracture of immense proportions.  Trump’s success, now some of it in hindsight, is rather obvious to trace.  He is tapping into a portion of conservatives that share his somewhat-to-obvious xenophobic proposals, and are also dissatisfied with recent establishment results.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Trump appears to have appeared at the “perfect” time, where there is no clear opponent.  There’s no one with the cache of Hillary Clinton on the Republican side to oppose Trump.  The GOP’s initial establishment candidate, Jeb Bush, has already been ousted from contention, and the newly-crowned Marco Rubio has yet to win a state.  Some would think lining up behind Ted Cruz would be the obvious play for the GOP, but they dislike him almost as much as they do Trump, so they chose to back Rubio.


Both sides have themselves to blame.  Income inequality has been rising steadily for over four decades now; it was only a matter of time before people took notice.  Corporations now exert their power over our government with impunity.  While I wouldn’t call this a “revolution” by any standard (you’d need a lot more voter turnout to consider that term), it may be the beginning of one.  It may be the first wave of a sustained storm that may reshape American politics as we know it.

Will the establishments adjust to this development?  Will our government realign their priorities to serve the majority once more?  Will all this culminate into a splintering of parties, resulting in a four-or-five-or-six-party system?

Well, who the hell knows.  Right now we have a self-labeled socialist and a reality TV star in our primaries.