Who stands to gain from the public’s fear and hate-based myopia in U.S. political affairs?
My friend Chuq over at In Saner Thought raised a topic recently that will be in play this election year, perhaps more so than in previous elections. Pure, unadulterated hate for Obama and his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare) will be the primary motivation to vote Republican for about a third of likely voters in 2014. A hate that is managed and funded by wealthy special interests through misinformation and cultural intolerances.
What tends to get lost with this kind of motivation is a candidate’s qualifications and any real effective policies necessary to address the serious issues we face in the next decade or throughout this century for that matter.
This “motivated reasoning” has been studied by Geoffrey Cohen, a professor of psychology at Stanford.
[Cohen] has shown how motivated reasoning can drive even the opinions of engaged partisans. In 2003, when he was an assistant professor at Yale, Cohen asked a group of undergraduates, who had previously described their political views as either very liberal or very conservative, to participate in a test to study, they were told, their “memory of everyday current events.”
The results showed that, “for both liberal and conservative participants, the effect of reference group information overrode that of policy content. If their party endorsed it, liberals supported even a harsh welfare program, and conservatives supported even a lavish one.” SOURCE
It seems that no matter how much the issue of partisanship is discussed and its paralyzing effects on our ability to govern as a republic, little has actually changed to rid us of this epidemic. Without rational give and take in political discourse and acceptance of the need to compromise, our government at the national level at least can be held hostage by extremists thanks to archaic practices institutionalized in both the House and Senate.
This happens often and early, developing partisan loyalties at the grass-roots levels. Finding viable candidates is becoming more difficult because many do not want to get into the grimy trenches of political warfare where discussion of sensible polices is displaced by character assassination. What the electorate too often wounds up with then are poorly qualified people but who seem to have a knack and a certain fondness for disparaging their opponents. Their lack of any in-depth knowledge about critical issues becomes apparent in some of the earliest debates or news interviews. Who can forget how Sarah Palin wilted when Katie Couric challenged her sources of information regarding McCain’s stand on fighting Wall Street?
The art of skillfully negotiating with political opponents in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress has disappeared and what we wound up with too often is an in-your-face, my way or the highway Republican Party and a wishy-washy Democratic Party that lacks the courage to fight the status quo.
Voters who allow themselves to get caught up in this political miasma are usually the first to scream about the ineffectiveness and corruption going on in politics without realizing that their ideological choices have created this monster. They vote for candidates based on the shallowest of reasons. Is he or she a Christian? Are they wearing a flag lapel pin? Are they appealing to a sense of American exceptionalism? Do they support the troops? Do they support family values? Will they defend the working class?
These are pontifications that push emotional buttons with us as voters but offer almost nothing in matters of policy and how they will go about representing us on a fairly equal basis. They also serve as smoke screens by the candidates to conceal traits that such shallow-minded supporters might find unattractive or even insulting. Todd Aiken of Missouri comes to mind when he revealed a bizarre standard for opposing abortion for women who have been raped.
What we wound up with largely however is a class of people representing us who reflect more the interests for a very small select class in this country and who demonstrate over and over again their loyalty to this small group of people rather than the majority of us who helped them gain elective office with our votes.
WASHINGTON — Millionaires occupy the majority of seats in Congress for the first time since ethics laws mandated personal financial disclosures, according to a new Center for Responsive Politics report.
Out of 534 members of Congress — there was one vacant seat — 268 have an average net worth of more than $1 million. SOURCE
Wealthy special interests are no longer just sending their lobbyists to Washington. They have actually been affective in getting some of their elite forces into the seats of power. This isn’t just the result of the apparent strong ties the GOP has with the very wealthy. The neo-liberalism of many Democrats today has also thrown their lot in with corporate special interests that often are at odds with the social welfare of many people who have lost good incomes and jobs along with their homes and the ability to save enough for college tuition for their kids or a retirement fund for themselves.
Despite this reality however it appears we continue to be led by the nose and allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by those who want only our votes, not our ideas or our need to share in the wealth we all help produce.
“Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there’s been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington,” Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director, said in a statement.
It’s true that Congress has long been filled with the wealthy, but this millionaire milestone comes as the country faces a growing income inequality gap not seen since the Gilded Age. In the past few decades, and particularly during and after the Great Recession, the super rich have seen their incomes and net worth climb as both the poor and middle classes have seen stagnation or regression.
The over-representation of the rich in Congress may influence whose interests legislators are really protecting as they seek to address questions of inequality and need, according to J. Mijin Cha, a senior policy analyst at the liberal think tank Demos.
“This coming out now when you see Congress refusing to extend unemployment insurance is so telling,” Cha said. SOURCE