Behavior Economics

The Three Psychological Tendencies that the GOP Cynically Exploited to Bolster Support for Kavanaugh and Demean Dr. Ford

There are three psychological phenomena from the Boof K (that’s Ye Olde Blogge’s quaint nickname for the raspcallious erstwhile (allegedly) plausible rapist, Brett Kavanaugh) hearings that will help us understand our particular peculiar political predicament and the way that politicians use them to manipulate the electorate and party faithful. Repubes seem to specialize in exploiting our psychological weaknesses in an especially cynical and sinister way.

Here’s an interesting illustrative example of the cynical and sinister nature of Repube psychological manipulation. Steven King (R – Detention Camps) represents Iowa dairy country among other agricultural industries. The agricultural industry is subsidized by the US government in direct and indirect ways, and I’m sure Rep. King plays a pivotal role in supplying those subsidies. One direct subsidy is the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s budget busting, toxic-trade war insulating farming subsidies… or corporate welfare for corporate farms. For example, Senator Chuck Grassley (R – High Fructose Corn Syrup) is applying for his fair share reminiscent of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s grab of 9/11 government relief funds even though he experienced no losses that he would need relief from. To be fair, Senator Jon Tester (D – Montana) is also applying for the funds.

Another subsidy that the Feds give to US agriculture is the use of undocumented immigrants to keep their costs down. Apparently, the dairy industry (and we’re talking to Devin “Ssssh my family moved our dairy farm to Iowa and I’m now only an investor” Nunes) is completely dependent on undocumented labor. Yet, those exact same dairy farmers keep giving money to King, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, Nunes, and the Repubes to threaten their livelihood by demanding ethnic purity in the workforce. It’s a game of Let’s shoot ourselves in the dick and blame the Dems! Fun for the entire family!

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with the rank and defiled Repubes that they keep falling for this horseshit even though it will eventually kill them? That’s a cognitive tendency that the Repubes exploit right there: as long as it is gradual, we don’t associate the cause with the outcome. So, the rank and defiled keep voting with their embittered choleric hearts keeping these bastards in office so they can continue eroding their way of life.

Anywho, read the Esquire article and let me know what you think of the comment by the dairy farmer who seems to think that his undocumented workers are not much different than his dairy cows. That’s funny because the Repube donor class doesn’t think of him as much different than any other natural resource to be ruthlessly exploited until it is completely depleted and the detritus can be cast away into the rubbish heap, but for human beings that casting away means denying any financial or medical support when you have the greatest need for it. In other words: die and die quickly and quietly.

Cheery! Back to Boof K — another cheery Repube nail to drive into our collective coffins!

Peak-End Experience

You may have noticed that Dr. Ford (even though she professionally she goes by Dr. Blasey, we all know and love her by Dr. Ford) went first and then Boof K went last. It didn’t have to be. There was some logic to it: accusation followed by refutation. There was some tradition to it: prosecution followed by defense, even though it was not a court of law.

But there was a real PR manipulation to it, too. Especially since Boof K’s time before the committee was characterized by such self-righteously affected pearl clutching and over wrought emotion… and that was just from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – Fainting Couch). I mean they abandoned the whole “female” prosecutor gambit right quick. Do you think that was unplanned?

Do you think any of Boof K’s hearings before the Senate has been unplanned? They knew about Dr. Ford, so they prepped the 64-woman letter. They knew about the penis in the face accusation of Deborah Ramirez so they were trying to rush him to a vote before it could be revealed.

Seriously, they’ve had this planned for a while since they knew Gamble vs US was coming before the court on the October docket. It is a case concerning the separate sovereigns exception, meaning if an act violates both state and federal laws, both the state and feds can prosecute without invoking the double jeopardy provision of the Constitution. You know because state’s rights.

This would allow a pardon for a federal crime to preclude any prosecution for the equivalent state crime. So, yeah, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s kids have a vested interest in getting this done. Thus, the pressure on the wobbly vote of Kennedy to retire so someone less squishy could be installed. And, Boof K is nothing if he isn’t a hard on.

After Ford’s testimony, everyone, including the brats over at Fox were saying that she was credible, her testimony was moving and riveting, and that she herself was poised. I believe one Fox pundit described it as a disaster for the Repubes.

Then, they pour the obviously drunk Boof K into his seat and let him rip through his testimony with plenty of self-righteous indignation and accusations of Clinton coddling and partisanship. They let him puff up his victimhood and everything.

Our good friend Daniel Kahneman established long ago that our memory and evaluation of an event is based on two things: the most emotionally intense moments and how it ended. It is called the peak-end theory or experience or rule.  It is one of those robust findings that has been supported by studies using a wide range of settings and using a wide variety of designs. It has been studied concerning medical procedures, think colonoscopy, and unique artificial physical discomfort, immersing your hand in cold water for sixty seconds.

It works here because Boof K’s testimony was last and whatever you were feeling about his testimony was bound to influence your memory of and feelings about the situation effectively diminishing Dr. Ford’s influence.  I don’t know about you, but I was emotionally exhausted after listening to all of the testimony.  There were lots of emotionally intense moments during the day, but I had the most significant moments with Boof K, or so it seemed to me. He left me outraged and angry. She left me sad and angry, but in a less fighty more empathetic kind of way.

If you are a white conservative Christian voter, I imagine that you felt some kind of vindication since he rarely actually addressed the accusation but angrily screamed Repube talking points, attacked the Dems on the committee. and focused on his injury. Those moves would have the effect of pleasing the base by giving them a familiar bogeyman to go tilting at instead of considering the possibility that he is actually an immature rapey drunk. It gave the pundits something to spin without directly accusing Dr. Ford of lying… although there have been plenty of attacks on Dr. Ford.

More importantly, it might blunt some of the outrage the undecided voter might have been feeling about Boof K after Dr. Ford’s testimony. Your memory of it is colored by anger and outrage and exhaustion. The temptation here is to throw up your hands and declare the entire thing hopelessly confused and untenable. At best, it results in a muddle, and, at worst, feeling that Boof K has been wronged somehow.

I’ll be interested in this week’s polling to see how people reacted. I was disappointed that no one had a focus group watching the hearings and charting their reactions on those little emotion dially things.

The Repubes have been desperate to paint #MeToo as going too far and allowing false accusations to run amok and destroy the lives of good and pure men. They create the image of cynical accusations being used to target political opponents and are trying to force this life-long pattern of bullignorant drunken sexual aggression into that narrative.

The Rhetoric of Loss and the Appeal to Loss Aversion

Recently, Tucker Carlson opined that diversity made us weaker, not stronger. Ignoring for the moment that it is empirically a false statement because by every available measure, diversity actually improves our situation, it is a clear appeal to one of the Repubes’ favorite punching bags: loss.

Their war on immigration, LBGBTQ+ rights, Muslims, brown people, black people, and socialism is all base on the rhetoric of loss. They tell their white Christian conservative electorate that they’ve worked their whole lives for their American dream. They tell them that they are almost there; they’ve nearly made it to the promised land. There’s just a few more election cycles, tax cuts for the rich, and budget cuts before the rest of us can reach Repube white folks nirvana.

Then they mix in the reason it is taking generations for the white Christian conservative to earn their way out of Cancer Alley and leave the hardship, the early painful bankrupting death, the environmental degradation behind, and assume their rightful place at the top of the trash heap: liberals are escorting other groups that they think are more deserving to the front of the line. They are giving them free handouts paid for with their hard earned money. They are LOSING their place in line to the undeserving lazy PoC and non-Americans that white bleeding heart liberals favor over them.

They tell them that they are LOSING their white culture as more non-whites and IMMIGRANTS are allowed into their communities and the country. They show the demographics of white people becoming a MINORITY in their own country and liberals dancing in the streets in celebration. They show the images of other cultures being CELEBRATED while white people are denigrated as being redneck bigoted racists! If we aren’t careful, we’ll lose our culture and there won’t be any more monuments to Civil War heroes!

They tell them that we are LOSING our safety and guns! They’ll take your guns and write the Second Amendment right out of the Constitution (we won’t). They tell them that crime rates soar (they don’t) when immigrants and PoC’s are allowed into their communities. We are LOSING our language when we cater to people in their native tongues, especially Spanish.

Again and again, Repube rhetoric emphasizes the losses that white conservative Christian voters will face if they don’t sacrifice and stand up to those commie pinko socialist fascist liberals.

As Kahneman established back in the ’80’s — about the time Boof K launched his drunken rape spree on the girls and women of the upper echelon of society (allegedly) —  people prefer to avoid losses more than they do acquiring gains. If the choice is between a gain — greater economic prosperity if you legalize undocumented immigrants who are doing the dirty underpaid work that no American would deign to do — and the loss of your precious white Christian culture and your shot at the American dream, then you’ll avoid the loss and elect the Repube even though that Repube is Steven King’s hate speech that threatens to remove endangers your livelihood by deporting all the undocumented workers that your dairy farm depends on to survive — right Devin Nunes? You need those people to work the dairy to support the family in the manner they’ve become accustomed but you need to vilify, demonize, and deport those same people to support your political position in the manner you’ve become accustomed. What’s a self-serving uncaring bastard like you to do but screw everyone on your way to the bank?

By framing the Boof K accusations as a loss of status quo and white male privilege, the Repubes overshadow any possible gains that could come from putting a different jurist on the court or from changing the paradigm from protecting men to protecting women by taking their accusations seriously and investigating them fairly. Unfortunately, people prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains at a rate of about two to one. For Dems, it is an uphill climb to promise prosperity by changing the status quo.

So set the mo’fo’ Boof K on the stand to perjure himself about what is about to be lost unless we place him and only him on the Supreme Court.

The Difficulty in Recognizing a Lie

People have remarked on how transparent the lies Boof K told to the committee are. He perjured himself on numerous occasions dating back to his first confirmation hearing to his current judicial seat. But, people are bad at determining when someone is lying to them. Essentially, it is a crap shoot. It is random chance. You just can’t do it. You think you can, but in reality, you can’t. All of that is science fact: people overestimate their ability to tell when someone is lying and can only identify about 50% of the lies told to them under controlled circumstances.

This is yet another reason why the Repubes refuse to allow a fair and unfettered reopening of Boof K’s background check. They don’t want evidence. They want random chance. They want motivated reasoning and affective polarization (liking those you feel politically affiliated with and disliking those on the other side) to hold sway. Let each of them tell their stories and then we’ll decide. Don’t allow any evidence to be submitted and then decry the lack of evidence supporting Dr. Ford. What can you do under those circumstances except accept Boof K as a jurist on the Supremes allowing him to let the Ol’ Pussy Grabber walk stone cold free and pardon all of his cronies so the Repubes can have a free hand in milking the remaining pennies out of the middle class and transferring them to the donor class?

The Repubes are engaged in a cynical manipulation of their base for their own gain. They are using the structural flaws in our Constitutional republic — distribution of Senators and the electoral college — to suppress the democratic will of the electorate, and where that will not suffice, they purge voter roles and intimidate democratic leaning groups and where none of that works, they run roughshod over the objections.

They truly believe they are beyond accountability and they cannot lose an election.

4 replies »

  1. They have mastered the art of Frog Boiling their base voters. About the matter of recognizing when someone is lying, somebody told me long ago that one way to improve your odds (especially when a politician is speaking) is to turn off the sound and watch the tells, the micro-expressions and gestures. I did that with “W” (couldn’t stand that voice anyway) and it works. I wasn’t watching K’s performance, but I bet it would confirm a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      I’ve heard that too. It was also a technique on display in the TV show, “Lie To Me,” based on Ekman’s micro-expressions work. The show was entertaining but uneven and they could never settle on a personality for their lead character. They had a terrific episode on torture of a terrorism suspect once, though.

      Another telling observations were the expressions of people in the audience. I only recognized his wife, his ex-flunky, and the activist Alyssa Mor-something, but all of them at different times had extreme expressions of disgust as they watched him testify.



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