Thursday, November 1, 2012

Romney's License to Lie: Is It Only the Misinformation Machine at Work?

Yeah, I'm lying. You got a problem with that?

Charles Blow has an interesting post on his NY Times blog today asking whether or not Romney voters have accepted the reality that Romney is a liar. He accepts that this must be so:
According to a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News Swing State poll released Wednesday, President Obama has a 9 percentage point lead over Romney in Ohio among likely voters on the question of who is honest and trustworthy (most people thought that the president was honest while most would not say the same about Romney). But that same poll found that the president only had a 5-point lead in the horse race numbers in Ohio.
The president had a similarly large lead on the honesty question in Florida in Virginia, but in those states the poll found the race to be virtually tied — the president had a small lead that was within the margin of error.
How is it that so many people are willing to support a man who they don’t believe is honest or trustworthy?
The poll also found that most voters didn’t believe that Romney cared about their problems. On the other hand, at least 60 percent of voters in each state said that they believed that the president cared about their problems.
Who votes for a man who doesn’t care about you over a man who does?
Dude's black. You got a problem with that?
That willingness to vote for someone who doesn't represent your personal interests also throws a light on another aspect of this disconnect between a voter's core values and his own interests. The question is: What is actually working here to create this bizarre outcome? And bizarre is not an outlandish word here.

There are four words that are key to understanding this disconnect:
  • Anger.
  • Ignorance.
  • Faith.
  • Racism.
A personal note before I continue, though I doubt there is a commentator anywhere who doesn't carry with them their own personal foibles they struggle with:
  • I've had anger issues a various points in my life.
  • I don't know everything.
  • I was raised a Catholic and, though now an atheist, I still adhere to Christian values I learned in my youth.
  • I, like most Americans, am deeply imbued with racist feelings about blacks and Latinos, long after I've actively worked to rectify a lifetime of being hammered by the institutional racism of my country. It's a constant stuggle, like an Alcoholics Anonymous member working towards his fiftieth-year chip.
Okay, got that off my chest. What might be key is that I'm aware of my filters. Back to the point.

And I've sort of made it right there. People are often unaware of their filters.
  • Rush Limbaugh and others in the misinformation machine have whipped up anger toward Barack Obama until reason stops being part of the equation.
  • People can be willfully ignorant. The reality of climate change is so horrible that denial is a viable alternative; evolution doesn't make that much sense to the average person of faith, so science must be wrong; taxes go for good things that do serve the community, but screw that, I want to keep my money because I deserve it; and so forth.
  • I'm religious, and religion doesn't make sense, so faith comes into play, so I'm voting for the guy that panders to religion, because, well, he's religious, like me.
  • Barack Obama is black, and I'm white, and that bugs me because, I'm not sure, but because white people or something.
Remember, I make my living whipping you into a frenzy.
If that's what motivates you, whether or not you think it through, you're likely to look for reasons to vote for Mitt Romney anyway. It might run against your own personal interests, and it does seem like he's lying a lot, but you're voting for Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney doesn't look like a liar and he does look like you. And that's easier than working through why he's lying.

And sometimes that's just how a voting decision is made, especially if you live in a world where you get your news from Fox, your opinion from Rush Limbaugh or people of his ilk, your values from your evangelical pastor, and your science from a Christian school teacher who doesn't believe in evolution. And it's your money, and you're keeping it, whether the roads crumble and the bridges collapse around you or not.

What would Jesus do about global warming?
Okay, I came off a little angry, I know, but I feel I've made my point, which is that we need to get calm, take a hard look at our filters, take a reasoned look at our personal interests and values, and do our best to remember we live in a broader community and society, and come to a decision that serves us and our society's needs at the same time because we do not exist in a vacuum.

Then, breathe, and cast your vote.

Final note: If Barack Obama wins, Mitt Romney's prevarications will no doubt be part of the critique of his failed campaign. If Mitt Romney wins, it'll probably be, hey, bygones.

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