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 without 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 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!