Undecided voters: idiots

(Back from vacation posting binge!)

Ok, I don’t actually think undecided voters are idiots, but boy does this article sure imply it:

http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/?040830crat_atlarge

To voters who identify strongly with a political party, the undecided voter is almost an alien life form. For them, a vote for Bush is a vote for a whole philosophy of governance and a vote for Kerry is a vote for a distinctly different philosophy. The difference is obvious to them, and they don’t understand how others can’t see it, or can decide whom to vote for on the basis of a candidate’s personal traits or whether his or her position on a particular issue “makes sense.” To an undecided voter, on the other hand, the person who always votes for the Democrat or the Republican, no matter what, must seem like a dangerous fanatic. Which voter is behaving more rationally and responsibly?

Seventy per cent of Americans cannot name their senators or their congressman. Forty-nine per cent believe that the President has the power to suspend the Constitution. Only about thirty per cent name an issue when they explain why they voted the way they did, and only a fifth hold consistent opinions on issues over time. Rephrasing poll questions reveals that many people don’t understand the issues that they have just offered an opinion on. According to polls conducted in 1987 and 1989, for example, between twenty and twenty-five per cent of the public thinks that too little is being spent on welfare, and between sixty-three and sixty-five per cent feels that too little is being spent on assistance to the poor. And voters apparently do punish politicians for acts of God. In a paper written in 2004, the Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels estimate that “2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet” as a consequence of that year’s weather patterns. Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.

The three theories about what undecided voters are actually doing are interesting:

  1. Meaningless votes.
  2. Following trusted elite opinion; farm it out to people you trust who can spend time on it.
  3. Heuristics - “is he a hunter?” “Why did he try to eat a tamale with the corn husk on?”

I have to admit, people that are still undecided at this point baffle me.

And voters apparently do punish politicians for acts of God. In a paper written in 2004, the Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels estimate that “2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet” as a consequence of that year’s weather patterns. Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.

?

When things aren’t going well, you have to blame someone. Or at least that’s the theory.

Yeah, but why blame Gore? I mean wouldn’t it be more reasonably for it to be the fault of the sitting president?

The final debate will be questions asked by “undecided” voters.
People who still without a clue in October are put in charge…

“What would you do if America, and obviously I’m speaking hypothetically here, was attacked by foreign terrorists? Say in New York City, for example.”

Yeah, but why blame Gore? I mean wouldn’t it be more reasonably for it to be the fault of the sitting president?[/quote]
Well, he invented the internet. You can’t underestimate the environmental consequences of that.

Seriously, I don’t understand the reasoning.

that’s the whole point. it makes no sense.

the clueless idiot vote was noted even before the 2000 election. in an article i read way back then i was aghast at how most of those people were PROUD of the fact they know nothing about politics, because they feel superior to everyone. policy differences? meaningless. “everyone is corrupt and all politicians suck” sums up a way too big block of voters.

Pride of ignorance seems to be a deeply rooted thing in America. Just ask anyone in technical support about just how often someone will proudly tell you they don’t know a thing about computers, and will often actively resist you teaching them anything, instead wanting you to just “fix it”.

Maybe it comes from decades of “intellectuals” and their ivory towers being seen as bad things, especially to the right. Or maybe it starts in our schools where people who are smart are rarely seen as cool.

Depressing, really, but it’s certainly not limited to politics.

Lots of reasons, I suppose. Even the “founders” of the United States weren’t established intellectuals… they were radical experimentalists… the United States as a proposition is ludicrous, especially when it was conceived. Many ideas strange or alienated from Europe found refuge in the US.

These strange ideas had their intellectual backing, but built into the US is the idea of revolution. Its found in the seperation of powers (to help prevent revolution), in the gun laws (to allow revolution if needed), in the culture (anti-government repression), and of course in the very birth of the nation. One facet of revolution is that intellectual constructs are not stable. The identity of a revolution cannot be predicted (far in advance), and thus there is little point to honoring or even seriously pursuing the intellect. Why ask Why? when all will change tomorrow. Just go with the flow, man. Revolution as a sustained cultural artifact destroys the intellect like nothing else. Or rather, it forces the intellect into Revolutionary tactics… sort of a self-defeating circle. “I Control the Change!” is the mantra of this breed of intellectual. He has two options… to either bludgeon reality and thus comprehend it by means of control or speed his understanding up to keep pace with the rapid fire revolutions.

Samuel Clemens illustrates this with great irony. One of the greatest American intellectuals and as far as I’ve seen the single greatest understander of the American identity, his whole identity is tied into being a kind of anti-intellectual everyman. He was successful to a point where people don’t even think of him as an intellectual… it would reduce their opinion of him to do so!

The Founding Fathers, as much as they annihilated the intellect, were intellectuals themselves. Yet they were Deified… removed from public examination. Dare to challenge the Founding Fathers and if you’re lucky you’re only called a Communist. Debate does not occur around those demi-gods. I mean… Why ask Why?

Look at the American Heroes. Cowboys, sports stars, media celebrities, corporate leaders. The intellect isn’t exactly well represented there.

Look at the way America treats intellectuals. “A Beautiful Mind”. “Pi: Faith in Chaos”. Stephen Hawking. These aren’t heroes… these are Freak Shows. Alienation has reached the point where its said the greatest intellectuals are actually insane. Thinking… it makes you CRAZY! BOO, out jumps the boogeyman!

Do you think this is designed to encourage Joe Schmoe to think? If I was Joe Schmoe I’d be fucking PETRIFIED to think. I wouldn’t want to end up like Stephen Hawking, or in an insane asylum.

So Joe Schmoe happily says “Why ask Why?”. He thinks its better NOT to think.

Why shouldn’t he?

Joe Schmoe: “So… its Brian Koontz vs. the entire history of the United States. You know what my response to you is?.. Why ask Why?”

Forty-nine per cent believe that the President has the power to suspend the Constitution.

That whole paragraph is pretty nuts, but that… just… what the hell?