Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Santorum Beats Romney! (Due to the Votes of a Minority of White Senior Citizens...)

One of the biggest "universal human truths" about democracy, but especially about conservative voters, that no one likes to talk about is the fact that they skew older, whiter and totally averse to change.  When no one else bothers to go to the effort of voting, these old fart members of the 99% determine the winners among the 1%.

What the world is seeing when American states wherein the outcome of a internal Republican party contest means little in the bigger scheme of things, like the Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado wins for Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, is what happens when democracy is reduced to its lowest common denominator.  When there's really no reason to turn out, the only people who do are the retired people who don't have much to do with their lives, but are REALLY fired up about returning things back to the way they were 50 years ago. 
Average Tea Party Supporters: "Don't change ANYTHING!!!"
Recent brain studies have revealed that men as they age past 65 suffer changes in their frontal lobes that begin to diminish their ability to be objective in their thinking.  They begin to see things in absolutes, black and white instead of shades of grey.  We all see this in older fathers who stop speaking to their kids for not sticking to the old-fashioned, conservative values that they have gradually become polarized about.  These are the guys who are bothering to get out to the voting stations in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado and who also badger their wives non-stop with their gradually more rigid conservative diatribe.


(Scientists at the University of Iowa has proposed that some older adults experience disproportionate changes in certain areas of the anterior portion of the frontal lobes. 25-33% exhibit a preference for choices that lead to high immediate reward but greater long-term punishment, which both makes them more vulnerable to scams, but also to giving in to the reward of feeling self-righteous while accepting the long-term loss of intimacy with family and friends.  "I don't care if they never speak to me again!  I'm gonna say what has to be said!")

Kind of makes you think twice about taking the results too seriously, yet this is what we continually see happen in these political 'races', the continual swing back and forth between conservative and liberal party dominance.  It's not JUST what the media makes it out to be, a natural, inevitable shift in the general public's desire to maintain a 'centrist' balance in any country's governance, it IS what happens when younger, more open-minded voters get motivated to vote, then lose interest as their needs get met by the politicians they put in power last time around.

This is not simply an interesting side-note to the way democracy tips based upon human nature, especially in the US, it is a very big driver in what makes democracy so flawed in America.  What I mean is that it opens up the machinations of government to blatant manipulation by the politicians.

Think about it.  George W. Bush got into power because the average American's impression was that Bill Clinton (the quintessential politico who made ALL his decisions based upon populist poll results) was kind of a 'lame duck' (not quite true looking back at his record, but the Monica Lewinsky affair didn't help to dilute this impression) and the democratic contenders to Bush were even lamer.  "W." even won a second term on the basis of his brother, the Governor, handling the vote count in Florida and there was really no outcry about this flagrant slap in the face of democracy in America.  Incredible!

In the absence of really strong contenders and big, contentious issues, average Americans lose interest and the voting power swings to the old farts, who vote the way they always do, regardless of the GOP contender's actual platform -- they vote for things to go back to the way they used to be, and Santorum is ALL about turning back the clock!  The Republicans regain control, and in contests like those in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado the more conservative guy wins! (Whether or not he'll make it further is up for grabs, but the Democrats would prefer a more extreme candidate to run against Obama as he'll be sure to lose in the climate of 2012.)

So what?  Well the 'what' is that the Conservatives (I'm employing the capital "C" intentionally) in ANY country, but especially flagrantly in America, blatantly and baldly manipulate this base of voters.  They pander to them during the race, then smugly work behind the scenes to do whatever benefits them and their family and friends among the 1% most: usually by finding ways to take the US into armed conflicts and increase the value of their stock holdings in the global military-industrial complex.  That's not me being some bleeding heart liberal, it's just a statement of fact.  (The jockeying for position on rationale to get involved in Syria and Iran among the American military cheerleaders is already heating up -- and the wealthiest Democrats have lots of stock, plus voters working in 'the complex' too!)

So-called "Conservative" politicians in every country in the world leverage human nature to take power by inflaming the natural human instincts of the most easily manipulated voters: the ones who get out to vote most often and reliably and are most upset by the notion of change.  As soon as the issues that motivate the younger, more liberally-minded citizens to vote become muddied or less volatile, the Conservative politicians go back to beating the drum about how they are going to 'restore grass root values', and the old farts just show up and vote the way they always do.  What is really happening in the background, however, is that younger voters simply aren't showing up at the polling stations.

How to manipulate older voters by leveraging human nature:
  1. Nationalism - Humans have an inherent need to identify themselves by 'tribe', and this phenomenon is 'transferable' - intensely emotional feelings of loyalty can be shifted from one's original nationality to a new one due to the new emotional ties that are laid down by living in a newly adopted country.  People will literally die for their country, so beating the drum about "real Americans" fires off a bunch of unconscious neural connections (i.e. "Anyone who doesn't agree with me supports enemies of America.").
  2. Us vs. 'Them' - Sadly we're pre-programmed to also identify with people who are most like us.  Humans feel discomfort and even fear towards those who look (morphology) or act (culturally) differently.  These instincts can be ameliorated through proximity (integration) and familiarity/friendship (getting to know others over time), education and exposure (TV shows), but it remains deeply rooted in our psyches.  If we've had little exposure to 'others', we'll seek out ways to justify these feelings of mistrust and 'otherness', like not believing someone's birth certificate is real.  
  3. I am a Chosen One! - Like 'us vs. them' and nationalism', we have built-in brain defences that reassure us whatever we do or think is better than the rest, so when a politician seems to be less pious than we think he should be, or of another 'belief team' than ours, we get a bit uncomfortable with him representing our team. 
  4. "Imagine If!" - We're OK with supporting a royal family through our taxes, or movie stars through ticket sales, or Paris Hilton and the Kardashian's through gossip magazine and perfume purchases.  It costs us so little and gives us the entertainment of "Imagine if that was me!"  We can't all rise to those heights, but we can share the spotlight and 'high life' vicariously.  If some rich politician wants to go to all the effort and expense of representing us, more power to him, but at least he's OUR guy!  (And we'll so enjoy seeing him fall from grace if he slips up and we change our allegiances!)  So when he assures us he's 'going to bat' for us, we give him our votes and sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
Following 8 years of George W.'s warmongering and pocket-lining (stocks in Haliburton, oil firms and the arms manufacturers), with a truly different, dynamic, more youthful and liberal champion to rally behind, the fickle and apathetic younger voters got motivated to show up.  Barack Obama came to power.  Sadly he didn't do what he said he was going to do -- instead his ego got involved and told him he was sufficiently smart and all-powerful to be able to play the game in Washington by their rules.  NOT!  He could have continued to embrace 'change' and leverage a highly motivated base of younger Americans to help, but instead he waded into the old fart 1% power broker fray and got stalled.  Sad, really.

If I may be so bold, however, given all the rhetoric and attention that the 'Occupy Movement' has generated (and, to be fair, even that of the "Tea Partiers" -- note I don't give them the credibility of being a political 'party'), I do not think that the Republicans have a hope in toppling Obama for a second term.  They are trapped in a conservative hyperbole prison of their own making, pandering to the old farts in the 99% while using the cash of the 1% to do the pandering.

There's still sufficient "hopey-changey" momentum out there to keep the Democrats in power for another 4 years so average Americans can see what they might be able to do with a practical stretch in power (and the GOP is still far too polarized to look like a reasonable alternative).  It will require a new strategy for the 'second half', however, on the part of the President since trying to prove he could do the impossible and 'hope to make change' from the inside out within Washington's 1% power brokers was a fool's errand.

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