Thursday, November 8, 2012

No You're Not All Like That, But You Can't Prove It At the Polls

Before I start the main point of my post, I have some observations regarding the outcome of the election.

I had really thought that if Obama were re-elected I would be consumed with schadenfreude. I was looking forward to relishing the wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth, the clutching of pearls, and the rending of garments from the other side.

Rather than wanting to gloat, I feel surprisingly sympathetic. I’ve been pretty political for most of my life and I know what it’s like to lose an election. Certainly reasonable Republicans are allowed to mourn without a bunch of Democrats screaming, “Ha ha. I told you so.”

The rest of you need to stop your whining.

I’m really annoyed at Republican drama queens. “Oh dear! How will I survive the next four years?” Survive? Really? You are still alive after the last four years. The President of the United States hasn’t put a price on your head. You’re alive, breathing, and if you’re on the internet, have a minimum of shelter and access to a computer or smartphone.  You're not as bad off as you think you are.  Tell the homeless people who barely survived Hurricane Sandy how you're not going to survive the Obama presidency.

I am really tired of Republican princes and princesses complaining about how ruined everything is when they clearly have food, clothing, a home, and a job.  If you have not only the basics to live, but also have luxuries above and beyond that, and are clearly prospering, it's time to shut up.  That goes double for you, Donald Trump.  I am really tired of the stupidity of the Great Republican Myth that says that the government is some kind of Robin Hood, taking tax dollars from the prosperous middle class and giving it as "handouts" to lazy people who don't want to work.

Oh Princess, I hope you never have a close relative who becomes disabled, or a good friend who is a single mother after a divorce that leaves her with nothing, or an elderly parent, in need of a "handout."  Dear Prince, I hope you never find out just how many serious illnesses, or catastrophic accidents, or job losses will cause you to need a "handout" yourself.
Now that I have that off my chest, let's get down to my analysis of why Romney (and also McCain) lost the Presidency.

Stereotypes have long been a convenient way for humans to deal with each other.  Right or wrong, we will always seek out stereotypes as we relate to certain groups.  We will even employ confirmation bias to prove that stereotypes are at least partially correct.

Stereotyped groups may even see the perceived attributes of their group themselves, but they will often protest, "We're not all like that."  This goes for any group perceived to have too many negative attributes: Christians, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, Men, Women, cat lovers, Star Trek fans, etc..  Any member of a given group is likely to prove that he or she does not fit the negative perceptions others have of that group.

Let's talk about Republicans for a minute.  What are the negative perceptions outsiders have of Republicans.

1. Fanatical devotion to laissez-faire, Randian, trickle-down economics.  They believe that all regulations have to be removed.  No taxes should be paid.  As long as those at the top prosper, they will always provide jobs for people willing to work and wages will be fair.  Government regulations and taxes are the reason why there are no jobs and no good wages, not greed.

2. They are Christian and believe only Christians are good moral people, even if they don't state it outright.  There is a desire for Christian dominionism.

3.  A belief that other countries need to handle their political, economic and military matters according to US wishes.  If they do not comply, US military force should be applied.

4.  Disdain and disgust for poor people.  If they are poor, it is because they are lazy. They might even imply the poor are not Christian enough since God supposedly rewards the righteous with wealth.  All programs to help the poor - even children, the elderly, and the disabled - even though everyone pays into them and everyone is entitled to them - should be abolished because they are the road to communism.  The poor are not Republicans' problem.  Get a job.

5.  Disdain for science, particularly biology and climatology.  No matter how much research is out there, all scientific fact is liberally biased or just plain Satanic.

6.  Women are not allowed self determination.  Republicans refuse to acknowledge that women's reproductive issues are both a public health and an economic issue.  Women are not allowed to control their reproduction, thus making sure that motherhood is the only trajectory their lives can take.  If a woman does not want children, she should not have sex.

7.   Those who desire clean air, clean water, and sustainable resources only do so because they want to destroy business and the economy.  To advocate on behalf of conservation is not to care about public health, or the future of the planet, but to advocate communism.

"But we're not all like that," shout Republicans.

Well, of course you're not all like that (even though Facebook can make it seem that way).  The problem is you let your politicians get away with treating you as if you're all like that.

In the last two presidential primaries I saw the same thing happen both times.  The race started with a field of candidates who embodied every point made above, with one or two more moderate choices.  One by one the extremists were picked off.  Americans proved over and over again that we don't like extremism.  The strong opposition to Rick Perry's dominionist and homophobic campaign ads is proof of that.  In 2008 Republicans picked John McCain, a Republican so moderate that it was rumored John Kerry considered him for a running mate in 2004, and who co-authored a campaign finance reform bill with the liberal Russ Feingold.  In 2012 they went with Mitt Romney, once the governor of the very liberal Massachusetts who isn't even Christian.  One would think Republican politicians would get the picture that some issues should be negotiable.

What did McCain and Romney do?  They picked extremist running mates.  They became the kind of candidates who would proudly embrace every point I made above.  Rather than listen to the majority of people who put them into the campaign, they began to listen to the disappointed extremists.  Soon the candidates ceased to seem moderate and began to adopt that hard line. 

The people who shout the loudest are not always the largest group - they just happen to shout the loudest.  The candidates kept trying to please them to the exclusion of those who might take other positions.  Not only do the hard line positions themselves turn people off, but it also turns voters off when you start taking new positions.  You come off looking like a flip-flopper. 

I'm not sure why I would give advice to Republicans, but I'm going to give my advice for 2016 anyway.  If you want to win, stop pandering to just one group.  Stop assuming all Republicans walk in lockstep with all positions.  Realize your party has as much diversity as the Democrats.  If you don't want to follow my advice, then I'll look forward to our next Democratic POTUS and I'll thank you for making it easy for me.

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