Subject: Powell endorses Obama
Date: Sunday, October 19, 2008
I'm sure you've heard about this already. Both of the videos on this page are incredible:
In my lifetime I don't believe I've heard a Republican speak more eloquently.
My brother and I were talking about politics, and he brought up an interesting point. I was (am) appalled by the way Americans misunderstand a socialized health care system, and vote against their own interests to support an ideology (capitalism) that doesn't give a fuck about them. We were talking about some other stuff too, but here's what my brother had to say about it, and I think he's on to something:
My theory: people attach themselves not to the ideals and practices of what would apply to them, but to their perceived and possible future situation (that happens to be much better). They won't vote for a healthcare plan that will increase their meager benefits because they believe that they are losing the possibility of benefits that the rich can afford (which they could possibly have one day). It's the same reason no one stops gambling in Vegas, even when they're up. They don't see it as a growth from their starting position, but rather a pittance compared to a huge win.I think the Republicans have been selling that dream world for a long time, where you too can be a millionaire (and who should stand in your way?) and all babies are born to loving families.
It's why ordinary people defend big business. It's why they like trickle down economics. It's the entire foundation of the GOP's low class voting base.
On Mon, Oct 20, 2008, Tom wrote:
Yeah, I totally agree with you and Kevin. I have become very interested over the last few years in the period in US history stretching from the beginnings of the US industrial revolution through to the Gilded Age. Part of the reason I have been investigating this period is because it contains the origins or perfection of many of the myths upon which the GOP (and really, in a wider sense, all of us, because they sit, often unexamined, in the American consciousness, I think) and its ideology are based:
- the myth of meritocracy, of 'classlessness';
- our particular American attitude toward private ownership;
- a preference for empirical and positivistic thinking over critical or theoretical thinking,
- suspicion toward intellectualism and even contempt for ideas more generally (which, as David Brooks points out, sees its apotheosis in the person of Sarah Palin);
- Social Darwinism;
- the equation of social justice with 'charity' and suspicion of 'wealth redistribution';
- the equation of everything from education to religion to friendship to governance with private consumption;
- the assumption that 'status' or wealth are earned and/or deserved, rather than conferred;
- the idea of the inexorability of progress;
- suspicion toward 'expertise'; and
- the tendency to blame oneself for one's own poverty, squalor or misfortune.
And so it makes sense to think that some of these poor-to-lower-middle-class racists at McCain/Palin rallies are so very offended at the idea of that these myths will be exposed for what they are. They've lived their entire lives aspiring to something that the system tells them can be theirs one day, be it in the form of success later in life or in the form of success for one's children. But it's a very precise set of aspirations that they've been sold throughout their lives, and they are -- and long have been -- resentful of the idea that someone will take it away from them.
As far as I can tell, the only answer to this huge problem is education. Well, there's one other answer, which is sad, but true (sad AND true!): these people are a dying breed. They don't have the power they once had because they don't enjoy the decent middle-class wages they once had but most importantly they don't have the numbers. And the final irony is that it's the GOP which has been the most aggressive force in destroying them: it's the GOP's doing that is turning their neighborhoods into ghost towns. Thanks for the thought-provoking email. Hope all is well...
On Mon, Oct 20, 2008, Steve wrote:
Your ideas are great, and I love the way you put them. The subject deserves serious attention. This idea of the American Dream is so strong a myth that it is a reality, or a form of reality -- not the one most people would like if they could pull back the veil. ....
... Anyway, I can't believe how positive I feel about the prospect of Obama winning the election. It'll be like a great weight is lifted from this country, and I think I'll actually walk down the street differently (I'm not kidding!). McCain is down in the polls, and I'm hoping the negativity we've seen recently means they don't have anything up their sleeves which could significantly sway the election. The GOP is desperate and floundering. To me, Powell's statements have been the nail in the coffin, and have revealed to the world just how out of touch the Republicans are. We can only hope that they get so thoroughly crushed in this election that they have no choice but to start changing their party line. ...
Date: Tue, Oct 21, 2008
Subject: Re: Powell endorses Obama
Tom precisely explains the extent to which the has served to suppress progress in this country. I just watched Sick Around the World and it's clear that the only things that have stopped us from pursuing a universal health care system are the myths that Tom listed.
Take the 'myth of meritocracy.' On NPR there was a social analyst that was researching ideological differences between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives, on the whole, subscribe to the idea of fairness in the world. The (particularly brutal) example he gave was that conservatives tend to assign blame to rape victims: that they were 'asking for it' by their attire, social activities, acquaintances, etc. Therefore the rape had some sort of logical justification. Applied to health care, it isn't that people are unjustly denied healthcare by businesses who can choose not to supply it, it's that these people do not work hard enough to earn better jobs that do offer health care. Therefore they don't deserve it - it's only fair.
On a side note, the 'suspicion of expertise' is an interesting one. A study (lost the link, sorry) has shown that people become more insistent about false assumptions if they are given proof to the contrary. For example, let's say a group of people have a 30% certainty that Iraq has WMDs. If they are given the reports and investigative results that clearly show no evidence of WMDs or WMD production, their certainty goes UP to 65%.
It explains why the GOP only has to plant ideas (which to us seem ludicrous) and they gain so much traction. If you insist that Obama associates himself with terrorists, when the campaign produces factual evidence to the contrary it works to your advantage. In this case, you have to give credit to Obama's campaign managers who have masterfully dealt with these attacks. (This also applies to the healthcare thing - those who have fears about waiting lists and expensive govt. run programs will only be more insistent after watching the Frontline episode.)
I'm curious to see if Tom's right about these people being a dying breed. I have faith in the fact that we're moving away from a television-based society to the Internet addicted information junkies of today. Multiple news sources can only be a good thing from here on out, and counters the effect made by choosing only one news source that shares your world view. But I do have fears that the strength of the temptations created by these persistent myths will only continue to fester and grow. I mean, come on. If ever the pendulum was pulled WAY out of line to the absolute limit of bad judgment, it's now after 8 years of GWB and a full on economic collapse. We should be seeing it flying the other direction, but instead we're having to push as hard as we can.
Date: Tue, Oct 29, 2008
Subject: Re: Powell endorses Obama
Sorry, I meant to forward on my brother's response to the response you wrote that I forwarded to him. I feel like I'm moderating here. The program "Sick Around the World" that he mentions is a Frontline episode that you can watch off of their website. It's really interesting, and talks about how universal health care works in 5 or 6 other countries, so check it out.
The reason this popped back into my mind is that I was thinking about how much racism there is in this country and how standardized and widespread it is. This "American dream" fallacy supports those racist theories. African Americans aren't economically underprivileged because they're still recovering from hundreds of years of inequality that was only truly addressed 40 years ago, they're just lazy. And all the crime in the ghettos? That's because black people are morally inferior. In this country they have all the same opportunities as me, and look at where they've gotten themselves.