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Facts do not necessarily win political arguments. The sooner the progressive left realizes this, the better. As a progressive lefty I’m consistently amazed by the voting patterns of the common people i.e. the people the political left is supposed to represent. Recently in Canada our most populace province decided to elect an business sense challenged, no political platform, boorish individual who spoke not in terms of political policy, but in catchy, folksy, accessible language:

His populist message resonated with voters who were unhappy with the provincial Liberals. Ford promised “buck a beer,” ten cents off a litre of gas and major tax cuts. He also promised to cut government spending by $6 billion but didn’t say how.”

Like, jesus christ in a fuckbasket, what kind of platform is that?  Anyone with more than two neurons to rub together can see the bread and circuses messaging and the usual conservative trojan-horsery going on here.  I’m not sure people get it, so let me state it here.  Conservative party policy focuses on maintaining the good times for people who most likely are not YOU.  The business elite, the wealthy, the current power structure are all beneficiaries of conservative rule – the hoi polloi – is not.

Not ever.

But hey, my fellow Canadians, enjoy your cheap beer while the newly minted government savages and merrily defenestrates the social safety net and related infrastructure that makes your life bearable.  Your vote indicates that you are good with that.

Why I shake my head (more) is that these paradoxical voting patters are nothing new.  Sharun Mukand and Dani Ridrik expound on how world view memes (in the Dawkins sense) can influence people to vote against their self interests.

 “Importantly, identity and worldview memes do not prevail equally across all subgroups of the population. Political entrepreneurs target these memes toward the electorally critical subgroup. Our model predicts that identity polarisation and support for policy memes will both see their greatest rise within the lower- and middle-income group of the majority-identity group. These are the potential switchers to whom the memes will be targeted. We should not expect those memes to operate as strongly among the wealthy who belong to the majority group or the minority-identity group of all incomes.

Increased inequality raises the reward to the rich from successful ideational politics. The returns from discovering a policy meme that persuades the median voter, for example, that lower taxes are in the interests of not only the rich, but also the low-income median voter are much higher when inequality is high. Similarly, an effective identity meme that catalyses identity around issues such as gay marriage, women’s rights and immigration can also serve as a ‘wedge’ giving low-income voters a reason to vote for the high-income party. As one team of economists concluded in 2015: ‘Despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution … demand for income redistribution in the US has remained flat by some measures and decreased for others.’ This is remarkable. And it happened, as our research framework suggests, thanks to the role of ideas as a catalyst for policy change. The elite, along with an allied ‘political-ideational complex’ (including academics, think tanks and talk-radio), successfully disseminated the worldview that rising inequality was an inevitable byproduct of structural changes in the global economy, which in turn necessitated the adoption of financial deregulation, low capital-income taxes and the embrace of globalisation.

Ideas and interests both matter for political change, and the two feed into one another. On the one hand, economic interests drive the kind of ideas that politicians put forward. As Kenneth Shepsle, professor of government at Harvard University, put it in 1985, ideas can be regarded as ‘hooks on which politicians hang their objectives and further their interests’. However, ideas also shape interests. This happens because they alter voter preferences and/or shift their worldviews ex-post, in both cases shifting rankings over policy.”

Fuck.  I wish the notion of concise writing would make a comeback in academia.  There are the makings of a great article in this piece, but it is severely hampered by clunky, inaccessible writing.

The gist is that you make people focus on an bullshit issue(s) that has little relation to the actual levers of power in society.  Once elected, on said mountain of bullshit, its like “Oh, by the way, along with your buck-a-beers, we’ll be needing to privatize healthcare (and other policies that screw the Average Joe and Jane sideways).

This isn’t magic, folks.   Honest.

“For those who view politics in terms of a narrow and static notion of interests, the electoral support for Trump, Brexit and other populist movements seems to pose a puzzle. It seems as if many poor people are voting against their self-interest. But the puzzle is more apparent than real. It is rooted in a habit of thinking of interests only in economic terms, and also as fixed. Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon understood well that interests are malleable. With the right message and framing, Bannon noted in 2013, you could change the political calculus by shaping popular perception of self-interest: ‘Trade is No 100 on the [Republican] Party’s list. You can make it No 1. Immigration is No 10. We can make it No 2.’

What appears to be culture might be economics – the consequence of identity or worldview memes marketed by economic elites for their own self-interest. For example, Reagan used the imagery of a ‘welfare queen’ to attack unemployment benefits and the welfare state. So identity politics was being deployed by him to ensure that voters supported the Republican low-tax economic agenda. Similarly, what might look like economics might be shaped by cultural predispositions that provide voters with their interpretive frameworks – such as Merkel’s celebration of the ‘Swabian housewife’ when making the case for austerity.

Defeating autocratic and nativist political movements will likely require strategies based on both ideas and interests. As we have seen in recent elections, proposing policies that are better suited to the economic needs of middle- and lower-income voters will likely not be enough. Successful challengers will also need to come up with narratives that help to reshape peoples’ worldviews and identities”

What a long way of saying is that left needs to up its bullshit game, so we can baffle the brains of the populace and then introduce policy that will actually benefit them.

Interesting conclusion though, is that the right consistently wins through the bait and switch that treats people as if they were feckless, greedy, morons.   Yet, the left politic seems hesitant to do so, as if somehow the patronizing authoritarian method is somehow disdainful and wrong.  I’m at the point of ‘fuck it’ and do what works already, because I’m tired of the Right being the sole benefactors of this proven, winning political strategy.

(The best part is that the Right always accuses us lefty types of elitist authoritarian tendencies, all the while exemplifying the best practices of the former.   Like, okay, then let’s do this then, and beat them at their own shitty game.)

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