Behavior Economics

Abortion, Democracy, the Economy, Race, and #COVID19: Dems Fail to Predict and Prepare

This is the second of a two-part series on the reasons Dems seem to lose the messaging war on the GQP’s divisive social issues. In the first, we took a deeper dive into abortion because Roe v. Wade. But in all of these issues, the GQP has aggressive emotional divisive messages that seem to catch the Dems off guard and flat footed. It happens so frequently that it seems almost by design. The Dems are playing democracy games as if the situation were normal, and the GQP is playing the Waffen SS goose stepping into Paris. You’d think by now, the Dems would have woken up and smelled the burning flesh from the concentration camps. You’d think the electorate would be out in the streets screaming hell no into the night. But, you’d be wrong.

The American public, and by American public I mean middle-class suburban white voters — don’t seem to give two shits about any of these issues. They tell pollsters they do, so maybe they give one shit about them, but then go out and vote for the GQP.

Why the fuck is all of that? Why is it that you and I can see the magnitude of the threat so clearly and react with appropriate amounts of alarm, but our elected officials and fellow voters are somnambulant? Why is it that iNdEpEnDeNt VoTeRs, i.e. middle-class suburban white voters, fall for the racial dog whistles every fucking time and vote GQP? We’ll go through some of the cognitive tendencies that allow them to do so.


Emotional Decision Making

Anchoring bias is the cognitive tendency to base a judgement on the most easily accessed piece of related information concerning the topic. If you just saw a big story about passenger flight crashing, you’ll believer that flying is more dangerous than driving even though more people die in car accidents every year. You’ll even think that you aren’t influenced by the news story and are being objective.

It is the reason that the Big Lie about the election is so successful. After hearing the Big Lie repeated, even if it is in debunking it, people think of the election being stolen when they think of elections! Haha! We’re damned if we do and they get to eat their cake, too. How ’bout that?

One of the ways that the anchoring bias affects middle-class suburban white voters is that the GQP makes many issues so rancorous and hysterical — abortion, guns, race, #COVID19 — that the average white person doesn’t want to think about it. They fear getting into an argument with the rabid believer on one side or the other and looking stupid. But, then at the moment of truth in the ballot box, they face the vote, and their affect heuristic takes over.

The affect heuristic is the cognitive tendency to make decisions based on the current emotional disposition rather than on reasoning concerning the facts. If I ask you how you’re doing, you’re more than likely to say, okay. But, if I ask you about how often you had sex in the past month, then ask how you are, you’re more likely to say, lousy. Let’s face it, ain’t nobody getting as much as they’d like to.

After the GQP associates all of these issues with angst and anxiety and fear in the minds of all of us, as soon as the issue comes up, we’ll feel those negative emotions. When we think of Democrats that they’ve smeared with socialism, we’ll think badly of them even if we don’t agree with them. It’s what our anchoring bias brings to mind when we think of that person.

The GQP is gearing up for the 22 elections by painting the Dems as one of their old time favorites being tax-and-spend liberals causing all of the inflations. It helps them that they never vary the message very much. They just trot these tired old cliches out whenever the circumstances suit.

How did the Dems promote Biden’s Build Back Better Bill? By touting how much money they’d be spending on it! WTF, man? Didn’t y’all experience the last forty years of GQP rhetoric? Can’t y’all learn nothing?

Fatigue, Mass Psychosis, and Waves of Terror

People are tired of the debate over all of these rancorous issues. They’ve made up their mis~ and under-informed minds on the matter. They’re afraid of being embroiled in some heinous argument with a fanatic or branded as being in one extreme camp or the other, so they actively avoid information on the topic and tune it out when it comes up. It is only the extremely vocal and rabid forced birthers who drive policy and voting on the matter.

The GQP have latched on to that age old wisdom that you can counter a logical argument with logic, but what can you counter lies with? Logic is much harder to articulate and explain. Lies can be direct and simple. The easy black-and-white rhetoric of simplistic solutions to difficult problems becomes nearly impossible to counter. They tell the lies faster and more convincingly than they can be dispelled and disproven.

It induces an intellectual fatigue in which people become psychically numb and begin to accept whatever old BS the shameless lying liars shamelessly tell them. This is mass psychosis where the populace will believe literally anything.

What has the GQP done with all these issues? Pumped out lie after lie about each of them making it so that reality almost doesn’t matter. How do the Dems try and counter them? By painstakingly and fumblingly trying to tell the truth. It’s like we’ve sent Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to fight Darth Vader in Star Wars. “Now, just see here, you tall dark stranger! Now, what are you going to do with that bright shiny thing there? What is that? I’ve never heard of a lig-”

I don’t think we need to lie to anyone about anything, but we can come up with some pithier and more direct explanations of what we’re working for. I mean, build back better, really? We know exactly what is coming over the next year: lies about who got the bridges and roads repaired in their districts, lies about the necessities and benefits of family leave and the child tax credit, racist fear mongering, and accusations of socialism.

The anecdote is to reach out to the independent voter the disaffected occasional voter and educate them on the loss of our democracy, the loss of abortion, the loss of voting rights, and the decline of the middle class.

The hardest thing for us to overcome is that none of those divisive social issues touches their lives directly: Abortion, they’ll get one if they need it. Democracy, they’ll vote if they want to, lie about voting if it’s convenient, and not vote at all if they like. Economy, they’ll suffer through like everyone else, but like Xi and other dictators, the powers that be will make sure they’re comfortable. Racism, they’ll never encounter it face-to-face, and if they do, they’ll be appalled for a few moments — George Floyd, anyone? — and that’s about it. #COVID19, they’re vaxxed and they don’t care. There’s not a single issue that America faces that will move them out of their comfort zone and cause them to vote against the racist dog whistles.

For middle-class suburban white voter, the country goes on working regardless of their vote. For the rest of America, we keep sliding further into the cesspool with only the occasional exclamation of disgust by the middle class which is just as likely to be disgust with us cesspool dwellers as it is to be with the system that put us there.

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Image Attribution

“My Daughter, behind Fortune Teller Photo Face Cutout” by Patrick Feller is licensed under CC BY 2.0

21 replies »

  1. Hmm.

    It seems throughout America’s entire history, it has been plagued by a rather obvious and singular problem.

    The Native population saw it first. Then African Americans saw it.

    Too many arrogant, entitled, privileged, greedy, racist and frightened authoritarian white people.

    It was MAGA all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Dave!

      And, I think the arrogant, entitled, privileged, greedy, racist, and frightened authoritarian white people are willing to drive right over a cliff! They’re willing to die of #COVID19 and destroy our democracy. It is an amazingly nihilistic and thanatostic.



  2. The biggest line item in our Federal Budget (or, Continuing Resolution, whichever) is Defense. It never goes down, only up. Why? Because politicians can say two things about it; “We are keeping you safe from [fill in the blank].” and “We are getting you a great job forever making stuff for it.”

    You have to clearly and simply tell people how what you are doing is good for them. Sure, you can lie about that if you want to, but this is the basic rule.

    You also have to tell people simply and clearly how what your opponent is doing or wants to do is bad for them. You also get to lie about that too, as long as it is simple and clear.

    Most voters do not want, can’t understand, and change the channel on long, complicated, jargon filled lectures on economic theory and such. They want the bottom line for their personal life. Oh, and however cute they may think polar bears are in pictures, they will never meet one, and the pictures will still be there when the last one dies, so they don’t really care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Bob!

      The lesson, as always, is that the human brain is easy to fool. A lie is as good as the truth as long as it satisfies in the moment. A picture is as good as the real thing. A belief is as good as reality as long as it stops you from being disturbed.

      The Democratic Party doesn’t seem to have figured out two things: (1) How to exploit the cognitive tendencies of our psyches. Not that they need to lie, but they need to slogan better. And (2) predict the lies and disinformation that the Republicans are going to offer about their policies and bills so they can counter them more effectively.

      If reality is going to be what we say it is, then we need to start talking about the reality that we want and are shaping.


      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m remembering that book, “What’s Wrong With Kansas?”, and the Democrats messaging problem, as well at that predicting the lies problem. When we know (rightly or wrongly) that the other side is talking nonsense (and this is true on both sides, by the GOP don’t care), we tend to get stuck in “How can anybody not see that that is nonsense?” We get boggled by it, dumbfounded. It is like the problem with the habit of describing acts of violence as “senseless”, which stops us from understanding them in a way that could help prevent the next one. The result is that we are left seeing the other side as just bad, stupid, crazy, even evil, and therefore unreachable and trying to talk to them is hopeless. From that position, it is not possible to formulate a persuasive message.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I think this is right. The next step in the cascading set of problems of one side being hysterical and nonsensical is that the people in the middle, the onlookers begin to see both sides as being equally hysterical and nonsensical. It becomes difficult to focus on the actual arguments being made, which is aggravated by the thinking is hard problem. It is just easier to shut it all out.

          If I can shake the time loose in the next two weeks, I’d like to write more about this conundrum and how to overcome it. The other topic that is much on my mind is how will we know when we are living in a pseudo-democratic single-party minority-rule autocracy and what should we do about it.


          Liked by 1 person

          • One would think that the “How would we know?” answer is easy and obvious, but it ain’t necessarily so. The problem is the “pseudo” part, that it still has the trappings of democracy and seeing behind the curtain takes paying close attention and thinking.

            Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  As long as white people can vote in five minutes at their local precinct — and there is no reason to ever do away with that since the GQP is cherry picking which votes to count — they will go to be at night assured that they live in a functional democracy. And, they will continue to be vulnerable to the dog whistles and fear mongering that have kept 50+% of them voting GQP.

                  All of the advertising about how our democracy is dying or dead won’t work as long as they can go to the polling place and choose between the likes of the GQP candidate and a Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema.


                  Liked by 1 person

                    • Likely, that is so. It is very like our relationship with the pandemic, wanting to believe that it is ending, or at least getting better and “normality” is back or just around the corner.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The news about omicron is just crushing. The Cambodia has just reopened its border — no need for quarantine or any of the other measures if you’re fully vaccinated — to enter. We now have four omicron infections and the drive for the booster has stalled. On the other hand, they are making Moderna available for the elite, so I may be able to get it. Silver lining?

                      Eventually reality catches up with cognitive dissonance. We’ll see if the reality of #COVID19 can pierce the veil that MAGA wears.


                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Also, tornadoes that run for 200 miles on the ground and 100mph winds on the plains (There was a prairie fire in a dust storm driven by those winds.) can be a challenge too, on another subject.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Here in Cambodia, the six-month rainy season that starts in June didn’t start til the end of August and just ended. The Mekong, the life blood of the country, is so incredibly low. Our self-indulgent industrial ways are going to catch up to all of us.


                      Liked by 1 person

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