Thursday, November 18, 2004

The triumph of hope over self-interest

Hello all,
Forgive the tardiness of this post, I know it has been a while. But lots of stuff has happened since last week. The last of my exams. Labour party conference. Getting ready to be Vice president of AUSA. And Kate moving out of her house.

Anyway since last week I have been wondering about why, WHY people voted George Bush and the rotten republicans.

I have come to the conclusion it is all about hope.

You see I wondered why, WHY do people in America allow Bush to pass tax cuts that only benefit the top 1% of taxpayers, you know - those people who least need monetary relief.
Why, WHY do they vote for a party that least represents them (The onion has an explanation) However I would like to offer another. People vote for their hope.

You see in the first election campaign Bush said he would pass into law a tax cut that benefited 1% of the people. Madness you would think. Surely the majority of people in their self-interest would oppose more money for the rich when they could easily just keep the tax rates for the rich and fund any number of worthy causes. But no.

Why, WHY do they accept it?

In 2000 the most telling polling result from the election was from a Time magazine survey by David Brooks called “The Triumph Of Hope Over Self-Interest” and asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners.

Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent.

A further 20 percent expect to be in the future.

In case you missed that:
- 19% of people believe that they are in the top 1% of income earners. This is of course nuts, 19% of people cannot be in the top 1% of income earners and is simply some kind of mass delusion (This could be why people believe US voters are stupid)
- A further 20% think that they will one day be in the top 1%

The Time magazine concludes that consequently when 39 percent of people who thought that George Bush was flying the flag for their interests, then heard Al Gore pointing out the problems with the tax cuts and how they would affect the accounts, they thought he was taking a direct shot at them.

And so the Republicans played on people’s hope in 2000 and I’d say they did so in 2004 albeit in a more subtle and underhand manner. Now the hope focused on a perceived sense of danger spurred on by pop nationalism. A hope that centred on a belief that the world is somehow going to stay the same and not change. That the free world will continue to be lead by America without the need or want to pay heed to others, that life consists of watching grid iron on Sundays, eating apple pie and watching their kids grow up, get rich, and get married.

This is a hope, wrapped in an incomplete vision, and manifested in a deluded conservatism.

It doesn’t help that the democrats could not offer up an alternate vision of hope self-interest. The world prays that they come up with that alternate vision and express it to the American public. They need to show that their vision of hope is also in peoples self interest. Easy eh?

The big con of the tax cuts in the first election campaign played on peoples hope that one day they too could be rich and wealthy. The big con of the second election was to ensure that voters understood that they were voting for the hope of the dream of a once great America.


  • First of all, I want to say that I like that Onion article. I love the Onion. My personal favorite quote from it, though, at least as of late, is "they say that you get the governemnt that you deserve, but I don't remember knife-raping any retarded nuns."

    I agree with you about the hope issue. Not to revel my extreme geekiness, but I am fond of a play called 1776, it's a musical about the second continental congree. Weird, I know, but since a musical of Les Miserable is commonly accepted I think that pretty much anything is fair game for adding some lively dance numbers. At any rate at one point John Dickinson, the psudeo-bad guy, asks John Hancock why he is not on the ocnservative side, being a man of property. Hancock replies "Fortunatly there are not enough men of property in the world to dictate policy." Dickinson says "You forget, most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor, and that is why they will follow us.

    At any rate, I jsut wanted to say tha tyou have articulated something that I have been thinking about a great deal lately.

    By Blogger Cindrew, at 5:39 pm  

  • Fantastic post Conor. Very very interesting. Perhaps it ties in with the American dream, the 2.5 children, white picket fence? I'm sure there's that additional hope that gets drummed into kids at school: 'Just remember, any kid can grow up and become President!'. I know it looks like a highly dodgy claim, but I'm sure I read that somewhere (when I was a kid).

    It's not until kids grow up some more that they realise they have about as much chance of being elected President as being born into the Bush family.

    By Blogger Matt, at 10:34 pm  

  • But when kids grow up and realise that they cant be President, surely they must become jaded and lose their delusions of granduer. Sadly this does not seem to be the case, therefore we can only infer that many Americans have not grown beyond this stage. Is it retained by the slogans of corporate individualism, all bottled up in the patriotic "American Dream".

    I've been reading Gordon McLauchlains Autobiography at the moment, in which he provides a very concise, apt rendition of the American cultural flaw, see if you agree:

    "The United States has always had to worry about the united bit - welding its huge disparate, heterogeneous mass of people together - so it resorts to boosterism, self-glorification and phoney patriotism.
    The upside is that everyone from a downtrodden street-corner drug addict through the middle class to corporate bosses feels cemented into a nation and believe it is a special privilege in the sight of God to be an American.
    The downside is they see criticism as subversive and they pity and patronise the rest of the world and want to make us all in their image."

    If you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it simply because they want to believe it is true, or fear that it might be. So as you say, Fear Hope and Patriotism all coalesce, and it would seem that the most effective people at exploiting these emotions are the Republicans, to the detriment of all in the end.

    Thats my healthy dose of pessimism for the night.

    - Brendon Orr.

    By Blogger Brendon, at 10:20 pm  

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