Aug 29, 2008

Obama-Biden Versus McCain-Palin. I like it!

For a moment I thought Gustav was McCain's running mate. This latest hurricane is hitting the Gulf states right on cue on the latter's birthday! When 3 years ago, hurricane Katrina was killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands Americans, McCain was eating cake with president Bush! What a great example of their priorities, and ideology--that government should "be small enough to be drowned in a bathtub" or, in a good size flooding.

The hardcore supporters get excited by the speeches and pageantry of the party conventions, but when all of that production is over, the impressions are those that remain. Most of the country relies on such impressions to form an opinion, which is also filtered through a person's frame of mind. The smaller the frame, well, you know...

Knowledge is desirable but it has to be good stuff--not indoctrination or senseless repetition. Knowledge wit
hout critical thinking is lacking something very important--the ability to make sense of the world, both the physical and the world of ideas. Yes, tradition plays a role in maintaining stability and, on some level, some efficiency. Yet, this is the modern era; we've been throught the Renaissance, the Age of Reason, but we've only started on this journey of widespread intellectualism and easy access to information.

I try to understand why people believe (strange) things nowadays. Our schools, including higher ed, don't do a good job teaching logic and basically how to connect the dots. So, here's something I've seen: when people are put in a new situation, or given a new piece of information, they don't approach it intellectually, but instead they have an emotional reaction. Based on this reaction, they construct a frame of mind around it. Anything that falls outside this box--no matter how reasonable, how factual--is discarded!

Thankfully many people are able to amend, revise, improve, and seek the truth no matter where it leads! However, in the world of politics, where presidential contests (despite the appearance of landslides as amplified by the Electoral College) are decided by about 3 percentage points. Thus, a small swing either way can make a huge difference. Remember the independents...

In my recent post, (VP Choices for BO), I said that the VP choice rarely boosts the prospects for the presidential candidate. The last VP choice that actually delivered was JFK's Johnson. But, most importantly, today Obama has to do what Kennedy did in 1960, and even Reagan in 1980--they convinced the voters of the following:

  • They were to be trusted as chief executives. Not that they changed their politics from the primaries to the general election; on the contrary. Yet, the voters usually respond to someone who says clearly what he believes in and, therefore, people know what to expect! This is very important to understand, because it has to do with trustworthiness! And, it ranks higher than a particular policy the majority of the voters disagree with!
  • Every American knows that our politics are far from perfect. They know the system is designed for gridlock. If a politician falls within the accepted political spectrum, what matters is who can be more effective; we crave leadership and effectiveness--even if it means that Americans vote against their own economic interests. *
The other important factor is that many Americans are low-information political actors. They don't seem to know much about the issues and the particular policies. This is particularly true for the so-called independent voters, who are the least informed voters and can easily float not only from party to party but between two very different ideological points.

The low information voters must be reached, and even though they can form an opinion/impression at any time (usually they don't amend their first impressions), the way to get to them is by repeating the same message, which doesn't have to offer many details. We tend to over-explain things that result in complicated answers. We should be more like ..doctors: this is the medicine for you to get well; if you want more details on how this medicine works, here's where you can look it up. Simple frames (as George Lakoff says) work better. They must be repeated often to sink in. As if repetition adds weight to the argument.

Odysseus Allegedly Was Named After the Odyssey

Conversely, we have to remember the adage, where's smoke, there's fire. Obviously this is not always true, but does it matter? Let's see. If John Kerry was indeed an American hero (who had bravely fought & injured in Vietnam) he would have responded to the conservative hacks who even questioned his presence in the battlefield. Right?

Also, what's up with this radical Islamist who was "educated" in a madrasah and now seeks a high public office? I mean, "that's what I've heard." [expression I often hear without any supporting evidence or reason]

* I'd like to expand on this a bit. There's a good percentage of voters who don't understand how the system works but want results. They don't pay much attention to the finer points of an issue or policy. They are not very partisan and float from candidate to candidate seeking leadership & effectiveness. There are a few issues (like terrorism, war, abortion, etc.) that influence their voting behavior, but they base their decisions on simple (simplistic) concepts & rhetoric, i.e. we fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here!


erin said...

This is fascinating. You'd expect the media to check out certain stories that they keep repeating.

They confuse opinion with facts. An opinion should be noted as such, but if one says the earth is flat, well, this is something that it can be checked out!

Good post.

Anonymous said...

John Stewart made a great point the other day. The Obamas have to prove they love America, because they're ..Democrats! ha!

Whereas the Republicans don't have to..... They love America, except that 50% that votes for the Democrats!! hahaa.

mr ed said...

You forgot Obama's collaboration with that Chigago terrorist Ayers! They worked together. Wasn't this guy planting bombs in the 1960s?

I conclude that Obama must be a terrorist!

I've heard it elsewhere too, so it must be true!

Anonymous said...

Who's this Palin? A first term Alaska governor? Geesh.

@$#!*%# said...

Seriously, Gustav is reckless. He's killed several dozens of people.

Is the role of the government to protect us from "foreign and domestic enemies"? OK. But preparing for Katrina and other known natural threats isn't part of our gov's job?

Just wondering...

cue said...

Wait a minute, on one hand you say that people should be more sophisticated because they have knowledge and on the other you say the message has to be simple, without much details....


Andros said...

I'm disheartened by the lack of good knowledge out there. Further, that so many Americans believe crazy stuff! I've wrote on this several times before.

A political campaign is not to educate. If, for example, you think that the soul can exist in a petri dish, or that stem cell research is abortion/murder, I can't convince you otherwise in the confines of a campaign.

What I might do is to see if we can both work to reduce abortions or unwanted pregnancies.

A campaign and a leader depends on the quality of the people involved. In other words, if most of the people believe in ghosts/spirits or that the sun-god requires the sacrifice of young virgins, you can't argue about the rights of the individual, etc...

A campaign is a battle of ideas, yes, and what a candidate would do if elected. Any good-sense leader would most likely fail if the social fabric is not ready to support his progressive ideas & policies.

This is also a reminder to all of us progressive liberals who would like to move faster in a certain direction, but the country as a whole can't or won't move as fast as we like.

Obama in order to win has to attract people with whom we have little in common. He has to say certain things to get a winning majority.

This creates frustration (at least) but Obama meets the minimum requirements, so I do believe he'll be a good skipper to turn the ship into the right direction.

The alternative is rather appalling to me!

drew said...

Do you think gov. Palin is a good choice for Mac?

Andros said...

No, because Mac is old and had to get someone who could be president right away. There's no comparison between Obama's experience and Palin's. He's has more experience but most importantly he's being tested/evaluated on the national scene as the presidential candidate.

From the few things I've read about Palin and what she's said lately, I'm not impressed. She was a small-town mayor, and bounced into the gov's seat in Alaska--a state smaller than many US cities!

The good thing is that perhaps the US (a good size of us anyway) is getting over racial and sexist barriers.

Mac is reacting, not taking the initiative, which is good from my perspective. He has misjudged--with the help of conservative media--the situation with women supporting Hillary and losing.

Palin will get the attention of women, but not their votes. Women will break for Obama. It's the white men who are up for grabs!!!