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Saturday, February 02, 2013

 

Elections and Asymmetrical Information


In thinking about the recent presidential election it occurred to me that we on the Right have a problem that comes about because of  asymmetrical information.  A wonderful example of this is given by Sasha Volokh, Assistant Professor, Emory Law School, who gave a lecture on law and economics titled Is Law and Economics a Right-Wing Plot?  Bear with me while I digress momentarily. 
I was disappointed with the results of the 2012 election, but and also surprised.  I thought that the election would be a referendum on Obama.  The combination of very high unemployment, horrendous deficits and the worst economic “recovery” in American history would doom the President’s chance for a second term.

I was wrong.

The factor that carried the day was what many refer to as the “low information voter.”  That’s the person who gets his or her information from the mainstream media, TV entertainment shows and movies.  They are submerged in a culture that is overwhelmingly Liberal and doesn’t so much as make arguments as establish a mood.  The operative word in this culture is “feel” rather than “think.”  They were persuaded that whatever Obama's faults, Romney was worse.  And they were persuaded because of asymmetric information.  In Shasha Vokokh's words, they did not know what they were buying. 

Some on my side of the political spectrum, influential figures such as GlennReynolds have suggested that those who bankrolled the Romney campaign should instead have bought some women’s magazines.  These magazines were telling women who read them that Republicans were going to outlaw contraceptives, as part of their “war on women.”  The whole concept of any party declaring a war on women was so bizarre that I was convinced that it would be ineffective.  But it wasn’t because it was part of a broader tidal wave of emotion that told the impressionable that Obama was “cool” and that unless you wanted to be “uncool” you had to support him.  That may be high school level psychological manipulation but it worked well enough with many impressionable women.  
Cathy Seipp reviewed a book in 2004 that addressed the issue of the Liberal views promoted by the women who publish the women’s magazines. 
Spin Sisters is a well-researched polemic that argues the media is run by an ossified elite who came of age in the '60s and '70s and have never questioned their formative beliefs: that bigger, better government is the answer to many personal problems. 

As an example, here’s Cosmopolitan’s analysis of Obama vs. Romney.  If this is what you know of Obama and Romney, and were on the fence, who would you vote for?
Glenn Reynolds also believes that political money would also be well spent on creating web sites that are the electronic versions of Cosmo or Good Housekeeping.  That could also work.  But I want to dissent from my brethren on this issue somewhat.  Too much attention is being paid to middle class women in this discussion.  Yes, they are important and we need every vote we can get, but I think that this overlooks the genuine low information voters that turned out in droves for Obama. 
 
I'm thinking of the ones who live in the precincts that voted 100% for Obama.   Assuming that there was no voter fraud, these are the real, hard core low information voters.  They are the ones with ultra-high unemployment rates. They live in homes that are not broken because they were never created; where daddy, if he’s around at all is really an “uncle.”  They are provided with “education” whose primary purpose is not to educate but to provide jobs to members of teachers unions.  They are warehoused in “projects” where police enter only to count the bodies.  They are assigned to a life of poverty by a party that has one use for them … as human ballots.   
Because they leave school as virtual illiterates (47% of Detroiters are functionally illiterate), they don’t read Cosmo and don’t surf the net.  They do watch TV, talk on cell phones and go to movies.  They also “hang out.”  Lest I be thought as painting too bleak and monochromatic a picture, it isn’t that black and white.  It’s worth reading Code of the Street Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City to see that there are people who can be reached.  But that reaching has to be done on a very basic level; the picture book level, the TV show level. 
 
If Sheldon Adelson really wants to make a difference he will send someone to Philadelphia and the Bronx and Los Angeles.  He will find out what’s on the news-stands and what’s playing on TVs in the inner cities.  And he’ll buy a tabloid, or a comic book publisher or a half hour block or TV time on BET.  And then he will NOT put on a version of Firing Line, or National Review.  What he will do is hire people who can be as basic, as crude, as hip as Snoop Dog and start to make some of the locals politicians and community “leaders” uncool.  If “pimping’s” cool, make pimps uncool.  If drug dealing’s cool make the dealers uncool.  Expose the dirty dealing that’s done at the expense of the people in the projects while the leaders are riding in fancy cars with fancy women while stealing; not from “the man” but from the “brothers and sisters.”  Ridicule; ridicule relentlessly.  As we have seen, there’s no defense. 
Then move up the food chain.  Obama the Mac Daddy may be cool, but Obama the reincarnation of Louis XVI and Michelle as Marie Antoinette is not cool.  Wearing low riding pants may be cool, but wearing mom-jeans is not cool.  Saying you’re not going to take any shit from anyone’s cool.  Saying it’s not my fault is not cool. 
 
One of the problems that the Right has had is that we have demanded that people hear us at our level.  They don’t.    They hear at their level.  And if we want to be heard and have our views respected, we have to learn to communicate in ways that are understood.  May be we should learn Ebonics rather than making fun of it. 

Comments:
You make good points. That will mean the Republicans have to do more than not offend the Independents. And maybe they will need a new set of advisers; people like Alfonzo Rachel and Greg Gutfeld.
 
"...but it worked well enough with many impressionable women." -
When it comes to convincing voters that bigger and bigger government is better, 'impressionable women' is a redundant term; for the most part.
 
You buried the key point.

"They are provided with “education” whose primary purpose is not to educate but to provide jobs to members of teachers unions. They are warehoused in “projects” where police enter only to count the bodies. They are assigned to a life of poverty by a party that has one use for them … as human ballots."

Democratic rule in most major cities is nothing but a patronage system designed to keep people poor and stupid so votes can be bought with our tax dollars. It's the biggest story in America the media won't report on. The KKK couldn't have come up with a better plan to destroy black families. It's the ultimate racist system.

Why do you think Obama is so big on transferring more tax dollars to the cities? It's the key part of the corrupt system. Stop sending federal dollars to the cities, and not only would you break the Democratic monopolies on power, you'd make a big dent in poverty and ignorance. And our taxes would go down, too.
 
Well, you're right as far as you go...but why assume there was no voter fraud?

It's pretty clear that there was, and that it was massive. Until we fix that, it won't much matter what we do or how hard we work in other directions.

 
You're forgetting your Orwell.

You can't say "liberty" in Ebonics. They don't have a word for it.

Lou Gots
 
The notion that slave creole would not have a word for "liberty" is absurd. Moreover, Orwell's "Newspeak" is the creature of the defunct (or at least highly suspect)Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/SapirWhorf.htm

For those who are sympathetic to The Virginian's suggestion that ebonics is worth investigating, here's a decent place to start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English

If you have a message to communicate, making the effort to put it in the vernacular of your target audience is a powerful way to demonstrate that you are serious about it. Some Christian missionaries were told by skeptical audiences, "If your god is so smart and powerful, why doesn't he know and use our language?" The modern Bible translation movement was one of the responses, and its impact has been great. http://books.google.com/books/about/Translation_As_Mission.html?id=YHkuW2mpqaMC Go and do likewise.
 
Yet another proof that the greatest handicap our side faced during the campaign was the sudden, irreplaceable loss of Andrew Breitbart. He understood the disease before anyone else - and could have been the cure.
 
As a white guy born and raised in West Philly, I can assure you that those precincts that voted 99%+ for BHO were not cases of voter fraud. That's simply how it is there.

Fraud elsewhere? Sure, of course. But Mittens getting 5 of 700 votes in a precinct is really not a surprise.
 
Folks, this is true in a proximate sense, but the GOP has a bigger, deeper problem, one going back decades, and that doesn't have an easy solution. I wasn't surprised Romney lost, just as I wasn't surprised McCain lost. The very things that made them appealing to the GOP pundit clas and elites made them undesirable to broad swaths of the base. The elites assumed that Obama was scary enough to overcome that, and they were wrong.

There were only 2 GOP Presidents between WW II and the Reagan Revolution, and both of them were more-or-less New Dealers (Eisenhower and Nixon). The Dems controlled the House from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Nixon won his landslide against McGovern because of _cultural_ issues. It wasn't that the electorate had turned against the New Deal, they had not, they were upset about the 60s, not the 30s.

Reagan was careful to emphasize that it was the Great Society he opposed, not the New Deal. He had to. Likewise, the GOP finally won Congress in 1994 based on public outrage at the extreme social liberalism of the early Clinton Administration, and
esp. his attempt to create Hillarycare. When Clinton beat the GOP down in 1996 and 1998, he didn't hit them on social issues, he knew better. He hit them on their supposed (not even true) attempts to 'cut' Medicare. In short, he got them on economics.

The GOP shot themselves in the foot in 2006 with amnesty for illegals, which infuriated their won voters and didn't gain them a thing on the other side.

This same thing just trapped the GOP again. They won their biggest victory in 80 years in 2010, based on public hatred of Obamacare and Obama's overreach on social issues. They immediately started trying to dig out their old economic agendas, 'economic liberty', 'freedom of contract', deregulation of business, free trade, etc, while ignoring the social conservative concerns and distancing themselves from opposition to Obamacare. They ran Romney, who created the State-level prototype of Obamcare, and who picked Ryan as his veep. Ryan was the face of the GOP's latest attempt to 'save' Medicare and Social Security, whcih the electorate interpreted as 'cut them', he was possibly the worst possible choice Romney could have made, politically. The GOP saw their momentum from 2010 evaporate almost the moment Paul Ryan started talking about entitlements.
The 2010 election was a repudiation of Obamacare, not a call for laissez-faire or Medicare cuts or privatization.

The average GOP voter is, _at best_, ambivalent about the conservative economic agenda. They are more concerned about the social issues, immigration, national security, they are somewhat protectionist, and Romney embodied much of what they dislike about their own party. Our voters (not just the general electorate, but our own voters) are mostly _not_ libertarian. This is a fact of life that the GOP has to come to terms with if we want to stop the Dems from doing any more damage.

It's bad news, because it means that the things the much of the GOP activists most want to do are probably permanent electoral losers. It means that GOP talk now about entitlement reform is probably helping the Dems for 2014. It means that the immigration-reform efforts of Rubio and McCain are counterproductive as well, infurating our own voters and having little to no effect on the Dem base.
 
It's good to see GOPers and conservatives finally recognizing that culture supercedes and dominates politics, but they have to have something relevant to _say_ to sway others. We're not going to win a working majority on global free trade, business deregulation, and open borders immigration. Generally, the more the chamber of commerce likes a policy, the less likely the public is to embrace it. Likewise, if we want to reach out and bring in minority voters, we have to figure out what _they_ want, what _they_ care about...and it won't be what the business and investor class wants. Capital gains tax cuts may or may not be good policy, but they don't motivate the electorate.

This problem isn't new. The GOP has been through this cycle repeatedly. The Dems overreach, the electorate punishes them by giving more power to the GOP, who then proceed to ignore the issues that elected them and try to implement a business/investor agenda that the public is (at best) indifferent to, and they find their momentum gone. A voter who votes GOP because s/he hates abortion doesn't necessarily get exicted or pleased about more free trade deals. A voters who wants national sovereignty emphasized doesn't necessarily support open-brders immigration policies, even though the chamber of commerce craves cheap labor.

The Dems were able to paint Romney as the greater evil in large part because the public was already instinctively inclined to think that way, for reasons going back decades. He came out fo the finance industry, which Americans have historical distrusted, he was prone to gaffes, he gave the impression of being primarily interested in business issues. It was almost trivial to demonize him starting from that basis, and he played into it by running away from issues the electorate does care about but which the business class hates.

Note that the 'dream candidates' the GOP pundits kept drooling for, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Jeb Bush, would all have had all the same problems as Romney, and would probably have lost by even more, since, again, the things that made them appealing to the elites make them unappealing to the potential GOP voters.
 
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