Progressive thinkers often have great difficulty in coming to terms with reasons that people often act against their own self-interests. After-all, if common sense clearly dictates that it’s in a person’s best interests to choose option A, why on earth would they then go ahead and select optionB. Such thinkers often live their lives with such a logical and methodical orderliness, that they fail to understand the role that fear and paranoia plays in a person’s decision-making process. Fear is often a great motivator in how people act and the greater the fear, the greater the likely hood of paranoia, which in turn results in the greater the opportunity for badly made decisions.
I was thinking about this after reading an article the other day about log-cabin Republicans. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, log-cabin Republicans are an organization that consists solely of gay and lesbian men and women devoted to attempting to elect as many Republicans to public office as possible. They claim to have membership consisting of tens of thousands. Now it seems to me that if I were homosexual, the last place I would want to be associated with is the GOP. With the rising tide of evangelicals (a $10 word for religious fanatics) as a force within the Republican Party, and their constant bashing of gay rights and gay marriage, why would any homosexual person want to be part of that. The Party’s platform and nominee has consistently advocated bashing any attempt at gay equality and gay marriage, while the opposing Party’s nominee has always been for gay rights and has recently come out in favor gay marriage.
It would be as if Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s came out in favor of Adolph Hitler because they liked his economic policies, or if blacks in Mississippi tried to join the KKK at a time in history when lynchings of black people where commonplace. But there you have it: the height of irrationality. Acting against one’s self-interests. Although, it’s maybe not the height of irrational behavior. I know a few people that are strongly pro-choice, but will nevertheless vote Republican this fall, even though a Republican president will put an anti-abortion judge on the Supreme Court, thereby enabling the Court to overturn Roe V. Wade, thereby making legal, safe abortions unlawful, and thereby consigning women that want an abortion, once again, to the back alley butchers. Perhaps that’s the height of irrationality. Although, there is also delusional thinking on the part of the bible-thumpers, that out-lawing legal abortion would end it’s practice. Women will still have abortions. They will just have to go underground to get them.
Politicians always seeking more power understand the role that fear and paranoia have in people’s choices, and are often quite adept at manipulating public opinion through such tactics. For example, politicians in both parties often make strong appeals to the senior community, because they know that seniors vote in heavy numbers. I mean with all that time on their hands, what else do seniors have to do but vote. Although seniors tend to be more conservative and profess to desire big reductions in Government spending, their attitude is one of: don’t you dare harm a hair on the head of my Social Security or Medicare benefits. Yes by all means cut spending. Just make sure you cut the other guy’s benefits. If you look at pictures of the crowds at tea party rallies, you’ll notice heavy representation by seniors demanding big reductions in Government expenditures, except those that affect money being spent on them. Now its true that as one ages, he or she tends to feel more physically and mentally vulnerable. I mean, if you’re heading into your mid-or late seventies or older, and walking bent over with a cane, you’re probably not going to be eligible for a job on the docks, hauling cargo off incoming ships. With feelings of vulnerability in the seniors community you can bet it’s accompanied by a heavy dosage of fear in their decision-making process.
Politicians understand this fear and act accordingly. They know that the third rail of their political careers would be to advocate reductions in senior benefits, even though those benefits account for a fairly large chunk of the Federal budget. Not enough people realize that almost 85% of the Federal budget consists of 4 items: Social Security, Medicare, Defense, and interest on the debt. You can’t cut interest on the debt because that would result in defaulting on Government borrowing at a time when 4o cent of every dollar spent is borrowed money. Seniors won’t allow cuts to their Social Security or Medicare. That leaves Defense where spending cuts are possible. But that’s where people’s fear and paranoia kick in. Conservatives are especially fearful that if any meaningful spending cuts are allowed in Defense, we would become highly vulnerable to Chinese expansion, Iran’s aggression, terrorism, etc., etc. In fact, the Republican nominee has promised to increase rather then decrease Defense funding. (Will be interesting to see where he will come up with the money for that little flight of fantasy.)
Hence, a major fear of the populace this year is that we’re running up such huge levels of debt, that we will become like Greece, the economic basket case of Europe. The number one platform of the Republicans nominee is that deep cuts must be made in the body politic. But who will be willing to allow the rationality and sacrifices needed to realize these cuts, versus those that are too afraid of losing their benefits. If the Republicans win the White House and Congress, as is likely, will they be able to make the deep spending cuts necessary, or will the fear and paranoia they have created through their political pandering, then work against them. An interesting conundrum. I know. They will just cut out the few million dollars given to Planned Parenthood, make some cuts in food stamps, (the poor are use to getting the short end of the stick anyway), and everything will be hunky-dory. See how wonderfully easy it is to be irrational.