Media bias, media coverage, and voting discrepancies...

2012-11-25 14:43

Glenn Reynolds points out some interesting discrepancies in state and federal divisions between Republican and Democrat, which John Hinderaker says is probably not because of the national media bias, but because of differences in how people view governance.

Both start with the assumption that the only reason people would vote differently from themselves is that they are somehow lacking. Reynolds assumes it’s because they are swayed by liberal media bias; Hinderaker assumes it’s because they think Democrat candidates will “bring home the bacon”.

I propose an alternative explanation, in which we allow for the remote possibility that some of the people who disagree with us are not lying or stupid, but actually have significant differences of opinion. I bring this up because I grew up voting mostly Republican, and haven’t voted Republican in national-level races in quite a while. This time around, I did end up voting for the Democrat locally, but it was a close call; I actually liked the Republican candidate.

First, don’t assume that everyone agrees that Republican candidates stand for better fiscal responsibility. I haven’t believed that to be generally true in ages. Yes, I know it’s the nominal stance, but in practice, I see Republicans voting for all manner of expensive boondoggles, and when they do start talking about cutting spending, it’s usually in ways that I consider short-sighted at best. Or, in some cases, a thinly-veiled attempt to hide malice towards some group of people who are benefitting from help.

I urge you guys to consider a simple fact: Akin lost by 15% in a state that Romney won by 10%.

The Republican primary process tends to strongly favor candidates who are willing to espouse very strident positions on the key talking points — anti-abortion and anti-gay, in particular. And it tends to strongly favor candidates who are willing to either speak out against science or politely say nothing when other people do. This is because there’s a large voting bloc who are vehemently opposed to basic and fundamental results in biology and geology (evolution and the age of the earth) and climatology.

But, just as the state-to-national scale media tend to gloss over state and local elections in favor of national elections, so to do these voters tend to gloss over state and local elections in favor of national elections.

Which means that moderate candidates have a much better chance of representing the Republican party at a local level than they do in national races. And if you consider the possibility that the issue here is not elaborate schemes involving fiscal responsibility or pork barrel politics, but the fact that a bunch of the candidates the Republican party advances at the national level are either fucking nutjobs, or willing to pretend to be convincingly enough to make it through the primaries… well, sure does simplify explanations, doesn’t it?

If the Republicans were running national-level candidates who were not outright cruel to gays If they had not run a campaign this year in which the only rational response to “looks like the Republican rape guy lost his election” was “which one”? I think they’d do a lot better.

I love the idea of fiscal responsibility. But Republican talking points and actions of the last little bit here have included:

  • A significant increase in our military budget.
  • Scuttling our debt rating by grandstanding on the debt ceiling.
  • Many and repeated assertions that there must never be any compromise in order to reach a working deal on any topic.
  • At least one proposal to keep all the expensive provisions of the health care reforms, while dropping the unpopular provision that actually pays for them.
  • Voter ID laws, which are an expensive solution to a problem we don’t have (voter impersonation) and have no effect at all on problems we do have (felons voting, people voting more than once, etcetera).
  • Aggressive pushes to pass more laws, which will cost money to enforce, to try to restrict abortion further.
  • Various anti-gay crap, all of which is probably bad for the economy (since married couples tend to be more economically stable).

Which is to say: I don’t believe that the Republican party, in its current form, stands for fiscal responsibility. I’m not voting for the Democrats because I think they’ll bring home the bacon, I’m voting for them because they aren’t quite as repulsive as the people they’re running against.

There are real concerns to be had about people who don’t pay taxes not taking the costs of programs into account, except that the “analysis” I see from pundits consistently misses the point that a very large number of these people do pay taxes — just not income tax per se. For that matter, many of them would indeed be paying income taxes if rates went up or available deductions went down. The issue is not that these people have no stake in the issue and are thus voting idiotically out of pure self-interest; it’s that Republican thought is dominated by people who dismiss them by asserting that they are voting idiotically out of pure self-interest, and thus establish the Republican party as uninterested in listening to them no matter what they have to say.

Stop blaming everything on outside forces. Stop assuming that people who disagree with you are necessarily either stupid or dishonest. Outside of politics, if a belief is highly correlated with university-level education, that is usually taken as a reason to think that maybe there is something to it. That Republicans as a class have gotten comfortable with the notion that if most college-educated people believe something, it’s probably wrong, does not reflect well on the GOP.

Remove the logs from your own eyes first, folks.

Peter Seebach

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