Posts Tagged ‘Voter participation’


There have been many attempts to explain why Trump voters remain loyal to him. Given that Trump is an obvious bully, con man, hypocrite, boastful sexual predator, overt racist, pathological liar, and a rich kid who’s never done a day’s work in his life, many “analyses” get stuck at the “what in hell is wrong with these people?” stage. There are, however, some common analyses that make sense in part. We’ll get to them shortly.

But let’s first take a look at the best psychological explanation I’ve seen of why Trump voters haven’t fled him in horror. It’s “A Neuroscientist Explains What Could Be Wrong with Trump Supporters’ Brains,” by Bobby Azarian, a scientist affiliated with George Mason University. Azarian cites four reasons why many of Trump’s voters stick with him. (We’d encourage you to read the entire article.)

  1. Azarian quotes psychologist David Dunning as follows regarding how woefully misinformed many Trump voters are: “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” Azarian adds, “Essentially, they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.” (Obviously, not all Trump voters fall into this category. Azarian doesn’t add, but should, that desperation and frustration will often lead people to take a chance, even a remote chance, on damn near anything that promises relief.)
  2. The second component in loyalty to Trump is fearfulness: A great many of Trump’s followers, especially die-hard conservatives, are fear driven. As Azarian puts it, “Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. . . . These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch.”
  3. Fear of death increases the effectiveness of Trump’s fear mongering. Azarian notes, “[W]hen people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis . . . By constantly emphasizing [supposed] existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric.”
  4. The fourth reason for Trump’s hold on his core voters is his showmanship: he’s a master at keeping his audience engaged. As Azarian says, “His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level. . . . He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.”

There are other factors in Trump’s support that Azarian doesn’t mention, though many others have; the following are all commonly cited, and all have some validity.

An important factor is that conservatives, more so than progressives, tend to live inside a media bubble, that is, they seek out news and opinion outlets that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, fears, and prejudices, and “cluster around,” as a 2014 Pew report put it, a small number of news sources or, often, a single news source: Fox News. Not coincidentally, Fox and other right-wing media outfits, such as Breitbart and Sinclair Broadcasting, deliberately and consistently trigger Trump supporters’ fear response. Trump supporters tend to live in a news/opinion echo chamber where it’s “all fear all of the time.”

Another factor in Trump’s continuing support is that a great many Trump voters are in real economic distress; many are stuck on or near the lowest level of need: basic survival. Economic insecurity is the rule in the United States now — as an example of this, approximately 60% of Americans say they couldn’t handle an unexpected $500 expense without going into debt. Billionaire trust fund baby Trump talks about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and pretends that he’s a friend of those who work for a living, and many working people are so stressed and desperate that they grasp at the straws he throws them as they sink ever further into the economic quicksand.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Democrats weren’t controlled by corporatists (those funded by and serving the interests of the corporate world and the 1% who by and large own it). The corporate Democrats have controlled the party for roughly four decades, and when in power (Clinton and Obama) have done essentially nothing to address the ever-more-urgent problem of economic inequality and the despair and anger it spawns, even when they’ve had huge majorities in Congress. Instead, they’ve focused on identity politics issues that do not in the slightest threaten the financial interests of their corporate backers. (Of course, issues such as LGBT and women’s rights must be addressed — but it’s absolutely crazy to make them your primary focus while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla of economic inequality.) The corporate Democrats appear to be (and to a great extent are) elitists who are unconcerned about the economic well-being of average people, and who have been skating by for decades on the anemic message that “we’re not as bad as the Republicans,” while standing for essentially nothing.

That explains the astoundingly low rate of voter participation in American elections. In 2016, only 59% of those eligible voted — in a presidential election; in midterms the percentage is much lower — and a good majority of those who didn’t vote were low-income people, many of whom could have been reached with a message about jobs  and reducing economic inequality. The corporate Democrats wouldn’t even touch those and related issues, such as healthcare for all, and as a result huge numbers of people sat on their hands or voted for third-party candidates — or voted for Trump. (In the 2016 election, 41% of those eligible didn’t vote; Clinton received the votes of 28% of those eligible; Trump 26%; and about 5% went to minor party candidates.)

The only rays of hope are that there’s a revolt in the Democratic Party against the corporatists; Trump’s hardcore supporters are a minority of, at most, 35% to 40% of those most likely to vote; Trump is so loathsome, vicious, and dangerous that people opposed to him can’t wait to get to the polls; and Trump’s economic policies will screw his working class supporters in short order, and some of them will realize it — eventually.

These are small rays of hope, but they’re better than none.

 


I’ve written a lot about how the Clintons, Obama, and the the other corporate Democrats have paved the way for the current political catastrophe. How they sold us out, deliberately betrayed us.

Let’s briefly outline how all of the other equally guilty parties have  totally screwed us. This covers so much territory that it’s necessarily schematic. If you doubt any of this — it’s a matter of abundant public record — please, please investigate everything I say here. Facts are facts, “alternative facts” are just lies.

Here we go.

  • Racism. The Voting Rights Act of 1964 severed the Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party. Almost immediately, the Republicans instituted their racist “southern strategy.” Until recently, it was mostly implemented via dog whistles: Willie Horton, “welfare queens,” etc. The Republicans have now reverted to overt racism. Who knew that the racism of the Christian South ran so deep? The Republicans did. LBJ thought the Democrats would lose the South for a generation because of the Voting Rights Act. He was wrong. It’s been more than half a century.
  • Anti-intellectualism. To put it more baldly, pride in being ignorant, pride in being easy for scumbuckets to manipulate. To put it in Republican-speak, pride in not being a “pointy-headed intellectual.” Pride in stupidity ain’t a good thing, folks. But it’s a dominant trait in America. Admiration for Donald Trump, a dumbshit real estate heir with a fourth-grade vocabulary, an IQ probably in the 90s, and a transparently phony “I’m on your side” schtick, provides a good illustration of this.
  • Industrial-Strength Ignorance. Decades ago, George Carlin said, “Think about how stupid the average person is, then realize that half of them are stupider than that.” He’d have been equally right if he’d substituted “ignorant” for “stupidity.” As an example of this ignorance, an appallingly large percentage of the population thinks that the American military is weak — while that military accounts for nearly half of world military spending. They’re ignorant enough  to buy the obvious bullshit assertion that the way to create jobs is to give ever more money to “job creators” (corporations and the top 1%). They evidently think that rich jerks, upon receiving taxpayer largesse, say to themselves, “Yeah, first thing I’m gonna do with this is drive up my labor costs by hiring more people.” (News flash here, folks: Demand drives job creation; tinkle-down economics doesn’t. (hat tip to Jim Hightower)
  • Assaults on Higher Education. Thirty years ago the U.S. had the highest proportion in the world of adults with college degrees. At last count, the U.S. ranked 17th, largely because of the skyrocketing costs of higher education (annual increases averaging three times the rate of inflation). Why would the Republicans, with the collusion of all too many Democrats, permit, indeed foster, this? In general, the less educated people are, the easier they are to manipulate. As Donald Trump put it, “I love the poorly educated.”
  • Disinformation. Manufactured “news.” This has been going on for years. Let’s start with the Acorn deliberate disinformation campaign, accusing this in-part moderate voter-registration campaign of fraud. The Republicans produced no evidence of this, but Fox “News” destroyed this voter-registration campaign in large part because the corporate Democrats were too gutless to call them on it. Trump has now escalated his disinformation campaign to not only routinely lying, but — without a shred of evidence — labeling all honest reporting on his vicious, irresponsible, and often moronic conduct as “fake news.”
  • Voter Suppression. The prime example beyond the Acorn debacle is the utterly evidence-devoid charges that there has been massive voter fraud at the ballot box. Again, no evidence whatsoever. The result? Voter ID laws that have resulted in the disenfranchisement of millions of poor, mostly nonwhite, and elderly people. (My mom, who died last year at 99 , and who never had a driver’s license, would have had to produce ID.) At the same time, Bush stole the election in 2000, and Dumbshit lost the election by almost three million votes in 2016, while claiming, again without a shred of evidence, that millions of “illegals” were responsible for his popular-vote loss.
  • Taxation without representation. Millions of people in the U.S. are disenfranchised, largely because they’ve been sentenced to prison time despite having done nothing to hurt others. We’re talking about drug “offenders” here, folks. The assertion that they “forfeited” their rights by doing or selling drugs is no more valid than the assertion that their self-righteous accusers “forfeited” their rights by being authoritarian assholes. In other words, prove the assertion. Goddamn it. Prove it.
  • An Undemocratic Voting System. People here have a choice between bad and worse. Is it any wonder that 41% of eligible voters chose not to vote in the last election? A proportional or ranked voting system would have encouraged participation. As is, the voting system discourages participation. One minor example of this is that voting happens on a Tuesday with no provision for people to take time off from work to vote. Are you kidding me? Do you want people to vote or not? (The question answers itself.) And let’s not even get started on the Electoral College–a national disgrace for over two centuries that gave us both George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
  • Koch Whores. At this point, money buys elections. Here in Tucson, Kock Brothers’ money bought a house seat for Martha McSally (who’s now running for the senate). Same thing across the country. The corporate Democrats with their superpacs and deep-pocketed corporate donors aren’t much better than the Republicans — overall, they just get less money.
  • Authoritarianism. Probably around 30% of the American electorate are desperate for a “strong man” to goose step behind, and Trump has supplied them with one. Authoritarians want easy answers, want to abandon their responsibilities as independent, decision-making adults, and quite often are driven by sadistic, bullying impulses, which the “strong man” allows them to vent vicariously.
  • Religious Fundamentalism. By its very nature, fundamentalism — blind acceptance of the commands in a “holy book” or from a “holy man” — is authoritarian, anti-intellectual. It demands blind faith and discourages, all too often physically, free inquiry and a questioning attitude. It’s no wonder fundamentalists are such enemies of free thought and free people, and want to impose their views on others: a moment’s consideration shows that their beliefs are contradiction-riddled insupportable bullshit. Is it any wonder that they flock to mean-spirited, slimeball charlatans who screw them (and their kids and neighbors) economically, but promise to impose their theocratic “moral” dictates on others. In the last election, 81% of American fundamentalists voted for Donald Trump. Trump received the votes of 26% of those eligible to vote (Clinton got 28%, and over 41% didn’t vote at all), and almost half of his 26% came from fundamentalists. Nearly a century ago, Clay Fulks, in Christianity, A Continuing Calamity, nailed it:

 

Having fundamentalists in a nation is like having congenital imbeciles in a family–it’s a calamity. Allow their mountebank, swindling leaders enough control over society and though religious faith would flourish fantastically, society would revert to the sheep-and-goat stage of culture . . . Wherefore it is perfectly irrelevant whether your fundamentalist is honest or utterly hypocritical in his religious beliefs . . . It just doesn’t matter. The question of his intellectual integrity will have to wait until he grows an intellect. In the meantime, however, what the forces of reaction are doing with him constitutes a continuing calamity.