Worlds & Time

Friday, January 29, 2016

Serious Politics

A liberal approaches an evangelical voter and asks: "If you had to choose between (a) outlawing abortion and seeing the number of abortions, especially unsafe abortions, go up, or (b) keeping abortion legal but seeing the number of abortions reduced overall, which would you choose?"

If you've ever actually tried to ask an evangelical Christian voter the answer to this, you know what the answer is.  It's (c): They want to outlaw abortions and see the number of abortions reduced overall.

This isn't the only question to which the answer is (c).  Fiscal conservative voters want taxes lowered and the national debt to go down.  Many voters want to pay less for schools and hire better teachers.  Law and order types want to reduce drug use and continue to spend money on enforcement only when treatment would work better.  The majority of Americans want to see healthcare costs go down but don't want to try any of the numerous systems that European countries have used to reduce their costs far below ours.  Certain parts of the right want to see Islam banned and religious freedom upheld at any cost.

I've seen so many people give these kinds of answers so many times, and I want to address it for what it is.  The answer (c) is the answer of wishful thinking.

The question itself is a serious one.  When someone offers a choice, (a) or (b), generally these choices are informed by evidence and research.  We know that unsafe abortions go up when the procedure is banned (we're even seeing that resurgence in parts of Texas right now).  We know that reducing taxes from current levels inflates the national debt.  We can see that all other countries pay less than Americans do right now for healthcare.  The question understands these connections and is asking for the priorities of the person being questioned.  Yes, we understand that you oppose abortion on moral grounds, but given the reality of the situation, would you prefer standing by your principles or accepting the lesser evil?

Whenever you get the answer (c) you know that you're dealing with someone who doesn't take politics seriously.  They're not willing to make real choices with consequences, so they deny that there is a choice at all.  To them, there are no correlations or causations between related things, there are only good things and bad things.  Abortion bad.  Lower taxes good.  National debt bad.  War good.  None of those decisions is allowed to have a consequence that isn't intended or even mildly detrimental.

These people have been around for years, but this year I think we're seeing a massive increase in them.  They're the current supporters of Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump isn't politically correct, but most of the time he isn't correct either.  He gives answer (c) constantly.  He wants a multi-billion dollar border wall and he will get Mexico to pay for it.  He'll be a complete jerk to other leaders and they will all respect him and capitulate to his demands.  Trump will cut taxes and balance the budget within a year and create the best economy the world has ever seen.  Trump will be sexist and racist and a bigot and he'll be the best possible president for everyone in the country.

None of those are serious positions.  I get why his positions are attractive: he wants his cake and to eat it too.  In a fantasy land, they sound lovely and magical.  But anyone who only gives (c) answers isn't a serious politician.  He may be in the lead and thus a "serious contender" for the nomination, but he's not a serious person.

The people that follow him are also not serious.  They may shout and (may) vote, but they're not seriously interested in making this country better.  They're not even willing to listen to the truth, much less hard truths.

You can tell just by listening to them talk.  They don't weigh positions.  They don't make hard choices.  They simply find something that sounds good and rally around it mindlessly without doing a basic check to tell if the proposal makes sense.

Conservatives, true ones anyway, aren't rallying around Trump.  They don't even understand him, even though they are partly to blame for him.  They're the ones that have been preaching the political prosperity gospel: believe in True Conservatism and God shall deliver, but that's because conservatives have the most serious of motives: winning.  They looked at the numbers and recognized that they were in trouble, and so pushed a narrative and a situation that would allow them to win despite demographics that were working against them.  Now they're overwhelmed by the voting population that they created, one that isn't happy to work with any conservative serious positions just like they won't work with any liberal serious positions.

I'm not saying that Trump supporters aren't dangerous.  They are.  They're seemingly willing to ignore any criticism and their chosen focus is definitely unhinged.  If he's elected, I think he would be a terrible President of the United States.

But there are two things that I think need to be recognized.  First, it's not Trump that created this group.  If anyone is ultimately responsible it's probably Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but even they can't claim total credit.  Instead, it's this group that is creating the Trump candidacy and the popularity of Fox News.  The power is flowing upward from the choice (c) voters and is creating a space for a crazy person to stand on.

Second, everyone else, all of the reasonable people, need to recognize when they're dealing with choice (c) voters.  I don't think that talking to most of them will do much good (as per the adage "You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into") but instead of wasting time and energy, you have to accept that these people are real-life trolls and that attention only feeds them.  You can't rely on them to let you know that they're being crazy and irrational, you need to take that responsibility on yourself.  

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