Swing State Voter Regret Is Killing Me

Scott WalkerI keep reading really annoying bits of news. This one is about Scott Walker, but it doesn’t matter. I read the same basic thing about all kinds of Republicans, “A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, with 56 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job as governor.” This always makes me blurt out, “Then why did you vote for him?!” Well, in part, it is that only six months ago, the wise people of Wisconsin thought differently, “In the previous poll, in October 2014, Walker’s approval among registered voters was 49 percent, with 47 percent disapproving.” But really: has anything he’s done been a surprise?

Oh yes, I know: he signed the “right to work” law that he always seemed to be saying that he wouldn’t sign. But there was never a question about that. And then there is his horrible budget — necessitated by his conservative policies. But again: this is not a surprise. Scott Walker wasn’t transformed into some horrible creature when he woke up on 5 November 2014. This is the man that the wise people of Wisconsin — the ones that are so unhappy with him — voted for.

Rick ScottI’ve notice recently that a lot of my articles end with something like, “But what do you expect when only conservatives vote?” And similar sentiments. I do believe that I’m going crazy. I need to install a punching bag next to my computer just so I can get through the day. My level of frustration is clearly having a negative effect on my life. Just the same, the level of sensibleness on the part of the average American is having a deadly effect on this country. And I’m going right along with the country, the world, and the shoreline in Florida.

Speaking of which, we see that Rick Scott way back in February was not liked by the people in his state, “Scott has a negative job approval rating, with 42 percent of voters approving of his performance and 47 percent disapproving.” But he still managed to win re-election last November from the wise people of Florida. Again: on 5 November 2014, he was not more horrible and scary and fit for a Wes Craven film. He was the same guy. He wasn’t hiding who he was. He was quite clear. Although I will give the wise people of Florida this: Charlie Crist wasn’t much of an alternative.

It is at times like these that I regret having stopped using expletives on this blog. Because I could really use some right now! But here is the thing. When I was a kid, I was a true believer in America. In a lot of ways, I still am. I’m far more of a patriot than a million conservative pretenders like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, or literally hundreds of others that I could name off the top of my head. But I can deal with it. I can watch as my county is destroyed even while being nominally a democracy. What I cannot take is seeing my country destroyed while the rest of my countrymen stand by and complain about the bastards that they elected just a couple of months earlier.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

12 thoughts on “Swing State Voter Regret Is Killing Me

  1. Our problems are not quite as perplexing here in Canada, but I still can’t understand why more Canadians are not actively opposed to yet more expansion of ‘security’ by our Conservative government. Yes I’m angry too.

    • I get that, though: it’s tribalism and fear and all that. What I don’t understand is why people would vote for someone who says, “I’m going to expand the security state.” And then six months later they say, “What does this guy think he’s doing expanding the security state?!” But I’m sure you are seeing that in Canada too. It drives me half crazy that people support really bad policy like limitless spying. But it drives me full crazy when people get upset about the policies they clearly voted for! Ugh!

  2. Conservatives can be very skilled at hammering home visceral themes centered around fear, hope and outrage. They can play on one’s superiority complex (drug test the welfare queens), one’s inferiority complex (defund the PhD snobs at the University) and one’s prejudices (deport the Mexicans, lock up the blacks, drone the Pakis). We know about W.E.B. DuBois’ notion of the “public and psychological wage,” which was originally the tool to keep poor whites content by allowing them to feel superior to black people. That tool has only expanded and today it opiates all but the richest of white folks by allowing them to feel superior to blacks, Latinos, Muslims as well as white people who are extremely poor, mentally ill and addicted to drugs.

    Conservatives know that their campaign themes are likely to resonate with people, especially white and non poor people’s personal experiences. Every white suburbanite has been delayed at the grocery check out by a single mom with a cheap, refurbished first generation iPhone, fumbling through her very cheap, knock off Louis Vutton bag in order to get her EBT Card and WIC vouchers out. Every white suburbanite, who has a decent house and some savings, has graduated from college. While they were in college, they had some professor who called BS on something stupid that they said or wrote. Every middle class white person has felt a bit apprehensive when they are in the city or on a plane and a black or Latino or Muslim man is nearby.

    In a better America we would respond to those experiences by talking about the roots of poverty. We would talk about the value of Academics who challenge their students and how the University’s traditions of free thought makes for better citizens. In a decent America, we would talk about how to overcome out innate prejudices. In conservative America, we choose the baser, more atavistic route of starving, ruining and killing anyone who does not please us.

    Come election time, the cheap thrill of visceral, personalized politics usually wins out over sober economic analysis. White, middle and upper middle income folks, the people with easy access to the polls, engage in the political equivalent of binge drinking every November. By the spring, they wake up hung over, broke, raped and full of regrets. Eighteen months later, they do the exact same thing.

    • First, a side note: it was only this morning that I read an article about political correctness that referenced “Pakis.” I’d never heard the term, even though I have worked with a number of people from Pakistan and India. (And if Indians don’t use the term “Pakis,” who does?!) It must be like in John Dies at the End, “Have you ever noticed, when you hear a word for the very first time in your life, you will hear that word again within twenty-four hours?” This sets up probably the best line in the film. Great movie — really!

      I have been wondering a lot recently about how all this works. We know from political science research that roughly 40% of the total vote in presidential elections is attributable to GNP growth in the three quarters before the election. What I’ve never read and don’t understand is how this happens. Is it that there really are people who swing with the economy, or is it that different people vote? I don’t think I know a single person who isn’t a very dependable partisan. But I guess it wouldn’t take much to swing an election one way or the other.

      That’s an excellent analogy about binge drinking. But one thing that seems to have happened during my lifetime is that what was originally a strategy used by the elites to manipulate the voters has become something that the elites actually believe. So that Republican politicians run on fear, but it is largely because they actually feel it. Of course, there is little doubt that Jeb Bush and Rand Paul are just as cynical as ever. But Ted Cruz? I think he really believes this kind of stuff. And that’s certainly true of Louie Gohmert and Sarah Palin.

      • @ Colin — How these appeals hit on people’s inferiority and superiority complexes is great! But of course those are two variants of the same thing, individuals feeling their personal self-worth is threatened. It is threatened, by economic inequality/hardship, yet it’s easy to deflect that pain onto phony outrage targets.

        @ Frank — Honestly, I’ve met quite a few people who aren’t partisans, who make mocking remarks at “politicians.” They are right, naturally, to be cynical about politicians, but wrong to think the wise choice is not paying attention.

        These are the voters who show up for presidential elections but not off-year elections. Part of that is presidential elections instill some sense of civic duty, another part (I suspect) is that presidential elections are talked about nationally. Many people are driven by a sense of wanting to voice an opinion on “what everyone’s talking about,” and the media make presidential elections a Big Topic. Some apolitical voters show up simply in the way they want to feel plugged in to the latest hit reality shows or singing competitions.

        They don’t feel compelled to participate in local elections, as those are not a big deal on national TV or the Internet.

        I heard “Pakis” some when I lived in New York briefly. I think that’s a term used in places that have large Pakistani immigrant populations. It’s a “they’re everywhere” slur that doesn’t sound too bad but really is. Here you hear “Africans” some about Ethiopian/Somali immigrants, and while it’s geographically accurate it often is meant negatively.

        • Oh, I know lots of people who don’t pay any attention to politics and who make fun of all politicians. But they are still reliably partisan — even if they don’t know it. Some are liberal, but generally, they are conservative. But I do think the process you mention is basically correct: people who don’t much care about politics do come out for presidential elections because “everybody’s talking about it.” And some percentage of them are more or less random voters. If the country seems to be doing okay, they vote for the in party. If not, they throw the bums out. But still, the shifts are quite large.

  3. One of the things that is very politically shrew of conservatives is how well they have reconciled the base and the donors, the country club Republicans and the Country boy Republicans not only compromise and coexist, they have figured out how to live in separate Countries.

    The donors have figured out that Federalism, selective enforcement of our laws and their wealth insulate them from most of the cultural conservatism of the base. the base wants to ban abortion, the donors either live in pro choice States or their daughter can hop a plane if she needs an abortion. The same is true for gay marriage. The base wants unrestricted gun ownership, the donors can live in safe neighborhoods. The donors want drugs legalized and considering how selectively enforced drug laws are, the donor’s fine neighborhood basically have legalized drugs. The base wants war, the donor’s sons and daughters won’t have to fight in any wars. The base wants the police to kill blacks, the donors are almost never black.

    As long as the donors, who tend to be socially liberal, get their tax cuts and deregulation, they have no problem with the yahoos making up crazy laws to sooth their fears and to flatter their prejudices. The donors can just retreat to their castles in “the People’s Republic of California” and “Taxachusettes.”

    • That’s exactly right. Of course, the Kansas? question is why the good ol’ boys continue to vote for the tax cuts when it couldn’t be more clear that the Democrats are not coming for their guns.

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