Voting is usually done out of self interest – you vote for the candidate that best represents your economic interests. It’s why politicians relentlessly cater their speeches for different audiences, use gimmick policies to attract swing voters and barely ever tell the truth. But above all else, in the soundbyte, attention deficit disorder era, politicians will try more than ever to connect on an emotional level, regardless of whether they represent their interests at all. George Bush represented the interests of about 5% of the population, but beat Al Gore and John Kerry largely because he was viewed as a ‘man of the people’ while Gore and Kerry, who’s policies would have been far kinder to the majority of the population, were viewed as elitist snobs.
The vast hordes of Tea Baggers, Right wing militants and anti government libertarians who can be seen disrupting town hall events, bringing guns to political rallies, and declaring their undying love for Sarah Palin (she’s a reformer!) are almost certainly not part of the 5% of the nation who own 95% of the wealth. They are lower middle to middle class Americans whose jobs have been shipped abroad due to trade agreements like NAFTA, devastated by unregulated financial markets that sold them garbage loans, and financially ruined by spiraling health care costs. All of which were flagship policies of the Republicans.
In an interview with the BBC, Thomas Frank, author of ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?” says:
“It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come
pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”
And, as Frank argues, it is the art of emotional advertising that allows Republicans to do it:
The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the
patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know
what poor people ought to be thinking.
Right-wing politics has
become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against
intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America’s poorest
citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the
interests of its richest.
Sarah Palin is perhaps the ultimate embodiment of this type of cynical marketing. If we thought George Bush was bad, we haven’t seen anything yet. Bush, while intellectually uninterested, shallow and wrong on just about every major policy issue, Palin is intellectually retarded, willfully ignorant and malicious. She’s too dim to understand what she is talking about, and will repeat verbatim what her handlers tell her to. Palin is a media creation designed to distract voters from what is really happening behind the scenes, all of which is enormously damaging to the middle class and poor. But because she talks ‘plain English’ and likes shooting animals, she is seen as a populist.
Effectively, politics has been hijacked by the same people who convince you that one hair care product is better than another. And the results have been devastating, particularly to those who swallow the carefully packaged soundbytes as the gospel truth.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.