Wednesday :: Jan 7, 2004


by pessimist

As I intended, the readers of this blog have arisen, some in support, some in outrage, over the excerpts from the Neal Starkman article, The S factor explains Bush's popularity, that I posted yesterday.

When I first read this article, I knew it was going to be explosive, and all the respondents proved me right. The sort of discussion that ensued was exactly what I intended. It got you up off of your comfortable, "I'm-above-this-fray -- what's-on-TV?" passivity and inspired you to respond to my post, whether or not you agreed with it.

We on this blog and many others have been trying through intellectual reasoning to inspire people to rise up in opposition to George Warmonger Bush and his Quest for Legitimacy-By-Really-Being-Elected-This-Time, and we seem to be getting little out of it. I for one am tired of being a lonely voice crying out in the Wilderness while my country is being destroyed from within and my fellow "citizens" can't seem to care. So, insurgent-style, I lobbed in a discussion grenade.

I am truly inspired that when people's emotions are tapped, even slightly, the response generated far outweighs that of the intellectual approach. This was once again amply demonstrated by the Bush (mis)Administration with their cheesy "Orange Alert" over the holidays, so there's no denying it works. I think I can also demonstrate my point through these quotes from the comments to my post of the Starkman article:

Not everyone eats up meaningless jingoistic pap with a ladle. Many see it for what it really is. Unfortunately those people avoid voting, fed up with it all. That's a lot of people.

Posted by MrHappy at January 6, 2004 12:43 PM

MrHappy made a comment that I thought made a good point, so I asked the following intellectual follow-up question:

So how do the Democrats reach these people successfully? Anyone care to offer an idea?

Posted by pessimist at January 6, 2004 12:49 PM

Now, I am presenting what I consider to be the responses that followed this question's theme and actually offered solutions:

Instead of imagining a hypothetical body of stupid people voting for Bush, go talk to them. Treat them with respect, find out what drives them, why they support Bush. And then let them know better alternatives exist. Engage in an intelligent dialogue and you might wind up surprised.

Posted by Abe at January 6, 2004 02:47 PM

know your opponent and what motivates him and maybe we will defeat him. talk to your republican friends discuss the issues with them , cite facts and usually you will be succesful, ....

Posted by moraks at January 6, 2004 03:09 PM

Pessimist - You reach the "s" people by simplifying every issue - to two choices, whenever possible.

Do you want kids in Iraq to have nice schools? Or kids in America?

Do you want to be taxed? or do you want rich people to be taxed? (BTW Clark's clean and simple no-tax plan is excellent for reaching those whose minds do not follow the whizzing of Dean's Bush Tax theory, despite its truth)

Do you wants jobs here? or in China?

Do you want a General or an AWOL? and so on...

Posted by Damfa at January 6, 2004 03:19 PM

Now we have the basis for further discussion of the situation, however scant, and what might be done about it. I won't go into what my response would be to these proposed solutions for that isn't the theme of this post.

Several of you offered some inspired observations of the situation which inspired this article by Starkman:

Wasn't Dean's Confederate flag pick-up truck comment directed at the S-people? Do you think all the media flap about it got any rednecks to pick up a newspaper or listen to a debate? Too really look at the policies of the Bush Administration? All it accomplished was having Dean attacked as an elitist panderer.

Posted by Michael H. at January 6, 2004 01:13 PM

.... Look, folks, there's a reason the GOP keeps starving the school systems of money (aside from getting the government to subsidize their private schools, of course): It's easier to get non-rich people to vote Republican if you keep them as stupid as a bag of hammers.

Posted by Matt Davis at January 6, 2004 01:30 PM

... and we aint gonna have to change our gas guzzlin way of life.

i think this is a historical world view peculiar to americans. we love and cultivate our intellectual and cultural indifference. the 'uncurious' mind is the embodiment. unfortunately these people outnumber everyone in terms of voting power.

Posted by hummers indeed at January 6, 2004 01:44 PM

Most have not seen an alternative. Sort of like "a bad marriage is better than no marriage." When they begin to hear and see regularly from the DEM nominee, things will change.

Posted by Marie at January 6, 2004 01:51 PM

... people are generally not stupid, just distracted by the trials of everyday life. The majority of Americans, liberal and conservative, are under-uninformed [make that either under-informed or uninformed, not both! Posted by Growth Factor at January 6, 2004 01:58 PM] and subject to massive amounts of right-wing propaganda through the major media outlets. This is the meme that we need to drive home.

The fellow on the TV or radio is lying to you much of the time and he is on the payroll of corporate predators who do not have your best interests at heart to say the least. People can wake up and smell the propaganda. I certainly had an awakening in the lead up to the Clinton impeachment.

Posted by Growth Factor at January 6, 2004 01:56 PM

.... They care about security, tax cuts, the right to hunt, religion, jobs, etc. And they feel like Bush will represent them. But a lot of them can be won over.

Posted by Abe at January 6, 2004 02:47 PM

.... the problem is that people do not always have the time or skills set to get the information that they need due to their everyday needs....

Posted by moraks at January 6, 2004 03:09 PM

.... It is probably true that people are turned off by accusations that Americans are stupid to support Georgie. Better to go with the "who knew?" attitude, see Kerry, Rolling Stone.

Posted by Damfa at January 6, 2004 03:19 PM

.... People respond to someone who Gets Things Done, even if they're done badly and roughly and they're the wrong thing to do. I think Bush's ability to do that is more similar to Clinton's than one would like to think. Both of them share a relentless, shameless quality.

Posted by Alexandra at January 6, 2004 03:24 PM

.... why don't we REALLY talk turkey around here and accept that what we are talking about is the "H" factor, that is, the HUMAN factor, which i am happy to own includes yours truly. to wit:

1. under most circumstances, i think about myself first, and others second.

2. i really hate to hear bad news.

3. the last thing i want to admit is that i may have been duped, bamboozled, conned or misled.

4. it's far more comfortable for me to rest in the comfortable nest of my preconceptions and prejudices than to go outside my own comfort zone and seek the often painful truth.

5. knowledge of atrocities frequently make me want to stick my head in the sand and think of something else.

6. i prefer to not believe that the system, or any of its representatives, is out to rip me off, much less is out to get me. when i discover it is true, i feel such overwhelming outrage that it immediately transforms to powerlessness and depression.

7. i prefer to believe that i am free to do as i please.

8. i enjoy imagining i am a good or even "good enough" person.

etc. etc.

these are all the habitual thought patterns it takes for me to allow evil to triumph. and i am guilty of at least two of these tendencies every single day. and, i think, most of us are.

now imagine having no real education in critical thinking to speak of, and you have a real problem on your hands.

"the most violent element in any society is ignorance."
Posted by r@d@r at January 6, 2004 03:32 PM

... I'd say the non-stupid majority are described by r@d@r's #2 and #4. ... I don't know how to overcome those blocks.

Posted by doesn't matter at January 6, 2004 03:45 PM

.... There is a difference between stupidity (unchanging) and un-informed ignorance (can be brought around though it may seem like pulling teeth). Our education system does us a huge disservice since it doesn't teach critical thinking skills necessary to make informed decisions, and our electronic media, well, we know how well THEY are in fostering smart debate. And most politicians, they go along to get along, following this meme and dumbing down their rhetoric, so that the well informed people give up and stay home out of disgust.

We know things are bad if a sentence mangling fraud can be selected, turn the country into a banana republic (and so few people know what he's doing), lead us into an unjust war because a majority thinks that Sadaam and Osama are the same person. The media are not going to help; only ratings are in their interest, not the civic health of the country. ....

Posted by MrHappy at January 6, 2004 03:54 PM

.... I don't believe Bush and his cabal are wise, but I agree that they are crafty, they've maximized the power of Living in the Now (in which there is no past to learn from or future to be concerned with), and they understand one very important thing: the people with the power to unseat them from office would much prefer to hear good news and vote from a position of fear and security than from responsibility. They would rather have the known quantity, no matter how bad it is, than the unknown quantity because that other choice could present different problems for the average voter than they've already become accustomed to from Bush. And when panic and defense mechanisms, a need for something constant rather than the variable of possible improvement, is what drives a voter's mind, the conservatives will always win.

Bush, like the conservatives and the religious right throughout history, appeal to the fear factor that the left asks us to embrace. The average voter would much prefer to have injustice done to him and deal with it than act to prevent further injustice. ....

Posted by miseenscene at January 6, 2004 03:58 PM

.... The only tactic using "S" would be about using bush's own utterance : fool me once, shame on you, fool me...uh... uh ...(duh) won't get fooled again.
Posted by RWC at January 6, 2004 03:59 PM

.... Of course one doesn't sell Dems to the undecided by insisting that voting Republican is stoopid. But we shouldn't kid ourselves either: ignorance--and yes, stupidity, too--is a major reason why we can't get our message across.

Too many of our positions are designed to be explained in ten-minute interviews on NPR. The GOP's issues are red-meat issues that demand only a few seconds--they don't really stand up to critical inquiry, so the faster and shallower, the better.

.... we can't deliver on that government if we don't have better ways of explaining to them why we're a better option. Call it talking down to them if you must, but we gotta do it. ....

Posted by Matt Davis at January 6, 2004 05:14 PM

The following comments come from Blog Lord Steve Soto's follow-up post:

.... One of my French neighbors, who was planning on traveling to California this year, decided to go to India instead. She explained, "I thought, if they are so stupid in America to elect Bush AND Schwartenegger, then I have no desire to go there!"

Posted by libby at January 6, 2004 11:36 PM

.... Winning this election will be about really talking to people and providing some hope that things can get better. Listening to people and letting them inform you is just as important as letting them know what you think.

.... It was not hard to see that the Bush "case" for war was built on lies IF YOU READ ENOUGH ARTICLES and didn't believe the hype. ....

Americans were lied to, were carefully "marketed" and were threatened with death and destruction rather than being given proof. The ignorance of so many people was very ruthlessly and cunningly achieved by outright distortion and lies. If there is anger about the situation, it should be towards those who conducted this marketing campaign for such selfish reasons. Ordinary Americans have before and can once more show courage and fortitude and make decent, reasonable decisions if they have the facts and a good choice.

Posted by Mary at January 6, 2004 11:47 PM

.... you are vastly too kind to the hounds of the media. They are not "bamboozled" or even "compliant". They are bought and paid for. They are (almost, but not quite, all) overpaid careerists whose only concern is adopting a tone and adapting a meme most likely to find favor with their corporate masters.

Not a cheerful picture -- stupidity on one side and blind greed on the other. But that's the picture I see. God bless America.

Posted by richard at January 7, 2004 01:47 AM

.... Why go into this? The point is that "stupid" people do, in fact, constitute a large--and thus, necessary--part of the electorate. The Democratic party needs their votes every bit as much as it needs the "bright" vote.

... we're losing ground to the GOP because the press is bought-n-paid-for, and because the GOP has no regard for civility or the truth. But we're also losing ground because we're not packaging things in a way that "stupid" people like to hear them.

Posted by Matt Davis at January 7, 2004 06:12 AM

People aren't stupid, they just don't think critically. Why they don't think critically is important. Yes, many people are intellectually lazy, George Bush among them. That kind of lazy thinking leaves the door open for a lot of manipulation by people w/ an agenda (Dick Cheney manipulating Bush.) The real question is why people don't question.


Moreover, many, many people don't ever get real news delivered to them. You do have to seek it out. I have friends w/ families who spend every waking minute keeping the life they built on track. Reasearching what our government does and being politically active are not luxuries of time they have.

Posted by bob at January 7, 2004 06:52 AM

Our problem is that we don't have instant themes that "stupid" voters know we represent:

GOP: Party of small government (hah!) DEM: Party of ?? GOP: Party of strong military DEM: Party of ??

Until we can fill in those blanks with themes that voters will always assume to be true (even if they are patently false, as with small gov't above), then we'll keep losing.

I would prefer the Democratic party to be "party of the underdog," but for some reason the party has decided that anything which even remotely invokes "class warfare" must be avoided like the plague.

It's that kind of "branding" that gets a gut response from voters who can't handle the complicated ins and outs of policy. We've got none of it. None.

Posted by Matt Davis at January 7, 2004 07:58 AM

One of the reasons Democrats are perceived as weak on defense is that they come across as weak in general. If you don't stand up for what you believe in or let yourself be bullied, how can you expect people to trust you with their lives? The Democrats don't need to pad their 'national security resumes', they need to prove to the country that they have a spine. Until they do that, they will never be perceived as credible on defense.

Posted by Heretic at January 7, 2004 08:12 AM

.... My only quibble is that reason is not enough to persuade people. Emotion is a huge hot button, which is why the adage "Facts Tell, Stories Sell" is sacred in advertising (which is, really, what political campaigns are). I contend that whomever stirs emotions the best, wins.

Posted by Bill in Portland Maine at January 7, 2004 08:50 AM

.... I think all the complexities of this idea will be the critical issue for this election. Many voters have convinced themselves that GWB is a "Good Man." We have to give them a clear, simple way to resolve this idea with admitting that it's gone too far, much further than anyone had any idea it would go in 2000. A clear message about why they would be better off with a Democrat ... period. Why the GOP rewards wealth, not work would be one of the key points.

I also hope Al From can get some of this message: "It will be critical for the remaining candidates to move beyond smashmouth internecine warfare to concentrate and refine their appeals and messages towards making the sale with general election voters why they should dump the incumbent."
We need to convince voters that any Democratic candidate can be that "Good Man." ....

Posted by fm at January 7, 2004 09:00 AM

Some of you in the comments to my post asked pertinent questions:

Why don't Republicans get put through media ringer like ol' Bill did?

Posted by Growth Factor at January 6, 2004 01:56 PM

.... if it is true that bush and his supporters are stupid, what does that make us, since they have the levers of power and we are on the outside looking in?!!!

Posted by moraks at January 6, 2004 03:09 PM

HTH do you explain that people living in a country that lays asphalt at a mind-boggling rate are easily sold transportion devices by images of their off-road prowess?

Posted by doesn't matter at January 6, 2004 03:45 PM

Fear is a great base motivator. What can combat that? Hope, for one. Can a politician or a political party run a successful campaign based on hope?

Posted by miseenscene at January 6, 2004 03:58 PM

The following question is from the comments to Steve's post:

If you are "underinformed" by choice, aren't you being stupid?

Posted by Susan S at January 7, 2004 04:33 AM

All of these ideas I presented here show a great deal of thought, and it's my humble opinion that the key to a Democratic victory in November, 2004 is in these statements.

These ideas are what we should be discussing, not whether something presented is correct or not. There need to be solutions for the problems presented in these thoughts, and there are seeds of solutions in other statements. There needs to be discussion on HOW we bring these ideas and solution to fruition.

WE need to be answering these questions. WE need to be developing the solutions to the problems. We can't, as the WWII propaganda line posed, let George do it. We already DID let George do it, and look at the mess he made!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Blogosphere, I submit to you that the electoral clock ticks while we banter unproductively. It's your country, your future, your liberty and freedom that are at risk. Let's discuss these ideas in the comment thread and see what we can come up with to save our country.

pessimist :: 10:49 AM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!