Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thinking in Politics

I've been greatly enjoying the high drama of the American presidential race. Personally I'm edging towards McCain these days, and Jeffrey Goldberg's profile of him in The Atlantic Monthly has contributed to this, but I could live with either result, since the American voters this time must choose between two honorable and capable men; in spite of the torrents of verbiage that say otherwise, I think both candidates are worthy.

And no, I don't think either Vice Presidential candidate is the issue. Nor are the campaign tactics either side uses or doesn't use.

Still, those torrents are lots of fun. I've become an addict of RealClearPolitics, a website - evenly balanced, so far as I can see - that links to lots of stuff that's being written. One of the more interesting things I've noticed is the degree to which almost all pundits, on all sides of the debate, can't be trusted to tell it as it is. Try as they may, their personal preferences color what they see. The upshot is to emphasize the large extent to which these elections are about cultural issues, not political ones, and most people's likes and dislikes stem from these cultural differences.

Somewhere in my reading I came across this, an article by Jonathan Haidt, a young professor of Psychology from Virginia. He's an avowed Democrat and liberal (in the American use of the term - never forget that the Europeans use the same word for something almost opposite), and he desperately wants "his side" to win elections - but he has managed to go beyond that need and try to be empiric and rational. Although his title, "What makes people vote Republican" literally oozes of left-wing arrogance, his answer is that ultimately, it's the Republicans who have richer thought capacities, and Democrats need to understand this.

Given what it is, a professional article by a young academic, there is more jargon and academic affectation than necessary. Too many of his definitions (or those of his teachers) are not convincing. Still, eventually he gets around to this:

A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org.) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

If you have the time, read the whole thing and ponder it. There is much in there that is diametrically opposed to most people's pat assumptions (and pet one, too). It need not be read only in the context of American politics, and it fits much of the Left-Right discussion in many democracies, certainly including Israel.


Anonymous said...


Well, Yaacov, why shouldn't you look? American politics is set on a huge stage; and "backlit" by the media boys ... who seem to have lost the battle for America's soul.

In other words? OUT went the clout.

While sadly enough Jews still buy the NY Times. Which teaches you another lesson. Even if all the Jews in the world subscribed to the NY Times, it's not going to help their bottom line. Their stock has been dropping like a rock from a $50 high ... they'll never reach again. Because, there just aren't enough customers to make up for their shortfall.

In America, since 2004, when Dan Rather went overboard for C-BS, you still have shnooks in charge of hollyweird, and the networks. Too bad for them, that customers have all fled south. (Except, of course, those primed to be democraps, no matter what.)

Israel ain't so lucky! The schmootz from your media still infiltrates Israel's guts. Where the police don't need evidence, just a soapbox where the "high and mighty" condemn ... lock, stock and barrel. Or, to put it another way: Judge. And, Jury. (Without realizing they've peed into their own drinking water.)

It's been an interesting election, here, in the States.

Where, until Labor Day sets in, Americans fail to pay attention. Then? In the first two weeks of September you'd be hard put to find anyone who isn't sure how they'll vote. Even though the polls try to mash things up.

When Dan Rather let loose from his "pulpit" at C-BS, in late September (I think), 2004. He pushed 2-million more votes into Bush's WIN. And, then? The media forgot to report the BLOW-OUT! Not only did Kerry lose by enough of a margin there were no democrapic lawyers who could hide this stuff; Bush pulled in a REPUBLICAN HOUSE. Those "margins" didn't get lost until 2006. And, they got lost, because DC, "forgot" about their voters. And, what disgust looks like when the voters aren't happy with "party heads." So? "Off go their hats."

Up ahead? Obama certainly had the media in his pocket. Hillary had $100-million dollars to send on her primary. Not enough. Because she ended up $12-million MORE in debt. And, she got routed.

But if you go an look. BOY, would you see the crazy operators, all like Charlie Gibson. All HATING females, all of the time. And, blessing their Obama; who is called by people on the right: THE BIG ZERO. (Because of the "O") Doesn't take much to figure this out, ya know?

And, up ahead? Not only afraid, now, of Palin, but terrified that VOTERS will shove back IN a few GOP kiesters; that lost the (EVERY TWO YEAR BATTLE!) FOR HOUSE SEATS.

In America. Every two years. The HOUSE has to go up for re-election. And, in 2006 it was the GOP VOTERS who slammed out of office, a few of their own.

These are the seats that are in dire straits. So go ahead. Count them as belonging to Nancy Pelosi. But? What if not?

What happens when Sarah Palin got slammed? Even before her speech to the Republican National Convention? Why, she was a blow out success! Talk about idiots setting the bar for her very low.

She's also the most popular governor in America! True, Alaska only provides 3 Electoral College votes. But have I got news for you! Ditto for Biden! Delware only provides 3 Electoral Votes. And, between choices, Sarah Palin is still much more popular.

So, the press went negative?

In Israel this cost Olmert his job. And, it hands the "prize" to Livni. As if you're in for any improvements since Arik Sharon stroked. NOT!

But in America when the press go "all out" for their "boy" ... more Americans TURN OFF. Due to the INTERNET. Do to the fact that the fact-checking against the media runs into real content on the INTERNET. And, believe it or not, in America the INTERNET's audiences are bigger than anything the nutworks go and do.

So, 2008 will again be proving grounds.

It will prove that the "insiders" hurt Hillary, for no reason at all.

Let me show you some facts.

Hillary won 9 out of 10 of the BIG STATES. Obama's victories, during the primaries, were in states notoriously REPUBLICAN. So, when election day comes, good luck to ya.

Good luck to seeing Obama even hold onto his primary victories.

While the media? They'll go into makeup. And, hope they can still star.

Or, like someone said, today, at some point ahead, Charlie Gibson, all made up, will enter with Gloria Swanson's line from DeMille's movie: "I'm ready for my close up, now."

The other thing you don't see ... are the letter writing campaigns ... that people undertake ... when they get really, really angry at Disney. And, ABC. These go out to advertisers.

Up ahead? What happens when advertisers get shy?

What happens when Hillary will be proven right? (Well, about that point in time, Hillary has to bounce Harry Reid to hell and gone; out of the "top chair" in the Senate. Which will probably stay in democratic hands. Because only 12 democratic senators are up for re-election. Against 24- Republicans.

Unlike America's HOUSE, which must run ever two years, for two year seats. The senate term is 6 years. So, once won, the senator actually gets 6 years, unless he dies on the job.

The senate runs 36 seats every two years. This time out? It happens to be that republicans are in much more jeopardy than the dims.

On the other hand? Ya know, John Kerry had no coat tails. Bush did. And, so the media didn't report the victory.

Meanwhile, there's a meltdown at Lehmann Bros. ALL GONE, now. And, it should be interesting to see this failure taking on form and shape.

Because Winston Churchill was in New York City on October 29, 1929 ... he got to write about the market's collapse. And, he pointed out that in the American system the government didn't get dissolved. The way a parliamentarian would have been handed exit papers. Instead? GREED RULES. Until one of the bubbles bursts. And, then? America is great at sending in the garbage trucks to clean up the mess.

Will McCain come close to winning?

Or, how about what you actually see? Regular GOP people are sending in buckets of money! They're lining up to see Sarah Palin. At one recent stop where there were 3000 available seats; 10,000 people showed up.

Obama? His crowds are thinning.

And, yes. So, too, his temper.

Should be interesting to see a few meltdowns, ahead. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...


33 SEATS every 2 years. 1/3 of the senate runs in EVEN YEAR elections. With the presidential election bringing out the most voters.

Above I said "36" ... Which could be true, too. I don't have the list in front of me. But I do know it's a two-to-one advantage: Democrats.

McCain can live with a democratic senate. He's very well liked among senators on both sides of the "floor." And, if, as I think must happen? Hillary is elected to run for Harry Reid's misbegotten seat? Then you'll see much more cooperation come 2009.

With a possibility that the GOP RIGHT will try to swing a mighty axe at McCain, in terms of who gets appointed to what.

I still think GUILIANI is gonna be "IN" the White House. Though not as prez. He didn't make the cut.

Bush's team? ALL GONE. Not one, not even Karl Rove, needs to stay in DC past the due date of 1/20/09