bureaucracybusters

IRRATIONAL? NO PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines.  They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t.  In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling  truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
  • Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change.  It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by “Jews and Communists” at home.  Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it.  The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster.  For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work.  Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment.  These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face falue.  They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get–and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House.  Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationality as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake.  He said that many Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

No doubt Obama knows there are millions of Americans who will rabidly hate him until he leaves office.  And many will hate him long afterward.

But he may believe this is another problem that lends itself to rational solutions.  It isn’t.

If he’s to win re-election, he’ll have to pursue a strategy that aims to:

  • Neutralize some portion of those voters who hate him–that is, persuade them to sit out the election; and
  • Persuade independents to vote for him.

The strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at these audiences must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Emotions such as greed, fear and pride.

Obama will do it–he wants another four years in office.  But he will hate himself for doing so.

  1. Steffen,
    You’re sounding more like Joshua A Norton with each article…

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