Political Masochism

By Fred Mittag

 

horcaCan you imagine a man saying to his hangman, “Here, let me help you tie the noose”? Or somebody without insurance, who needs heart surgery, but is opposed to Obamacare? It happens.

Everybody knows the Republicans oppose labor unions, unemployment insurance, safety regulations, and the minimum wage, but still, working people vote for them.

This tends to be regional. In Ohio, a good majority of workers voted for Obama in 2012. In the South, however, Republicans have successfully played to lingering racial resentment, with Reagan condemning “welfare queens,” and Newt Gingrich calling Obama the “Food Stamp President.” The populations receiving the most public assistance are, weirdly, the Republican states, where public assistance is supposedly most hated.

Among conservatives, psychological responses often dominate logic. There are plenty of studies on this phenomenon. When a liberal mind is confronted with a fact, there is a strong tendency to accept it. But the conservative mind typically rejects facts in order to maintain faith in ideology against any assault of logic.

The level of education is a reliable predictor of voting patterns, along with geography. Tea Party rallies commonly featured misspelled signs that often said, “Keep government away from my Medicare.”

These days, Democrats accept almost as much corporate campaign cash as Republicans, which weakens their enthusiasm for standing with the working class. Many people now think the parties make little difference economically, although that’s not quite true. Obama has worked for economic recovery, but has been stymied by the Republicans.

The Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch want lower taxes and deregulation. They are major manipulators of American voting patterns. The Koch brothers poured millions into conservative think tanks and political action committees, including Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation.

These groups are major financial supporters of the Tea Party. They have provided buses to bring people long distances to Tea Party rallies. They set up centers to help people who want to organize a Tea Party in their area. Rupert Murdoch provides hours of free television time and advertising. Fox News even sent Glenn Beck to organize, lead, and be a speaker at a big Tea Party event, all on Murdoch’s payroll and with free television publicity.

Rupert Murdoch has a large viewership by appealing to the lowest common denominator. The outrage and sarcasm of his anchors provide no news, but plenty of entertainment and raw red meat. He instructs the anchors what the party line is, and that will fill the broadcast day. For example, Fox News hammered away at a demand for Speaker John Boehner to appoint yet another select committee to investigate Benghazi, and sure enough, Boehner caved.

Millions of viewers are brainwashed by watching Fox News and are driven only by mindless emotion and unfounded beliefs. They vote Republican against their own best interests because Murdoch has trained them. An important characteristic of conservatives is generalized fear. They fear Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, conspiracies, taxes, ambiguity, and even fear their own country – “The feds are coming in black helicopters for our guns.” Studies have identified conservative needs for a high level of certainty and order.

This is what made George W. Bush so admired among conservatives when he said, “You’re either for us or against us.” Conservatives loved his unambiguous certainty, but in the context of invading Iraq, it was simplistic. France and Germany weren’t against us; they just didn’t agree that invasion was a good idea.

It’s the reason conservatives go crazy when Obama turns to diplomacy instead of military confrontation. The conservatives want an authoritative, certain solution to everything and see diplomacy as ambiguous and uncertain – even weak. Republicans want control over people’s lives (especially sex and reproduction). Being in control enhances one’s sense of security. Democrats prefer freedom, which reflects their humanism.

Working class people, when they vote Republican, do so for a variety of reasons – none of them rational.

The Republicans got us into two disastrous wars and ran up a huge debt. They created Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, to America’s shame. They ruined the economy with their supply-side economics. And now, as the Democrats are trying to clean up their mess, Republicans do their best to prevent the cleanup. They fight against making the very rich pay taxes, they refuse to let Obama close Guantánamo, and they block remedies to reduce the unemployment that they created. They shut down the government, costing more jobs. They talk war against Iran.

For working people to forgive such brutal facts, and still vote Republican, brands their behavior as undeniably masochistic.

 

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