Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, John Dewey said, and there’s a great truth in that statement.
But politics is also the shadow cast on society by psychology. Of course an aspiring clinical psychologist would say that, but I think I can support the claim. In fact it’s probably self-evident.
In something resembling a democracy, individual psychology clearly influences, and usually determines, personal voting patterns. If you see yourself as weak, helpless, and in need of outside forces to keep you from doing bad stuff, as the Southern Baptists I grew up around apparently do, then you’ll gravitate to strong leaders and forceful foreign policy and anything that makes you feel less insecure. Whereas if you feel confidant, capable, and self-directed, you’re more likely to vote to help others, and to have some compassion for people on the other side of whatever divide is being confronted.
At a higher level, what you think is going on in the world determines how you understand new information and what you think about events that take place. If, for example, you see the Republicans as just this side of evil, and the Democrats as disappointing but noticeably better, then your mental model of how things work involves the ideological necessity of keeping the Democrats in power pretty much all the time. The problem soon becomes apparent, and you realize that, but you still can’t see it.
People don’t like politicians who are weak and don’t know what they believe. If the [Senate health care] bill was worth passing yesterday, it’s just as worth passing tomorrow. All the meta-politics about being for something before you were against it, knowing what you believe or not knowing, being able to get something done. It all comes down to stuff like this.
Late Update: Here’s an unnamed “presidential advisor” quoted in Politico who should get a promotion: “The response will not be to do incremental things and try to salvage a few seats in the fall,” a presidential adviser said. “The best political route also happens to be the boldest rhetorical route, which is to go out and fight and let the chips fall where they may. We can say, ‘At least we fought for these things, and the Republicans said no.’”
I cannot say this enough. The policy front speaks for itself. But the meta-politics is real. It’s a big. But it’s something Democrats have great difficulty with. For a whole variety of reasons voters clearly have a lot of hesitation about this reform. I think the polls make clear that the public is not against it. But the reticence is real. If Dems decide to run from the whole project in the face of a single reverse, what are voters supposed to draw from that? What conclusion would you draw about an individual in an analogous situation in your own life? Think about it.
To me, Josh comes across here as completely bereft of a clue; it’s hard to know where to start. With “politicians who are weak and don’t know what they believe” — recognize any current President in that? Or how much the current Democratic dilemma arises directly from the complete absence of evidence of the President “fight[ing] and lett[ing] the chips fall where they may”, so that it’s now way too late? Or “run[ning] from the whole project in the face of a single reverse” — this is the only negative indicator the Democrats have seen for completely caving on health care reform? What about Obama’s sliding popularity? What about the polls on the bill itself — will the Democrats in general follow the lead of Martha Coakley and claim they didn’t have enough money for tracking polls?
Such a viewpoint leads to frustration, to telling people to just STFU, because it conflicts with reality. Cognitive psychology tells us that emotions are a reaction to the difference between what actually happens and what we expected would happen. Thus we can control our future emotional reactions by setting our expectations appropriately.
If we expect something unrealistic, we can call ourselves realists but events will not meet our expectations. When that happens, people get frantic.
“If it’s the end of health care, it’s the end of the Democratic majority.”
That’s Paul Begala from a few moments ago on CNN when asked whether a Brown win meant the end of health care reform. So true. It really is nothing to fear but fear itself. The Dems have no choice but to finish the job. No choice.
And I strongly suspect that means the House has to pass the senate bill.
One cannot even imagine anything more horrible than the end of the Democratic majority. Therefore, passing a terrible bill that everyone knows is only being enacted as a political ploy to keep the Democrats in power is the best, in fact only, move, because it keeps the Democrats in power.
And I just have to point out one more time, there is no health care in this bill. It mandates the purchase of insurance, but does not mandate that insurance companies pay for whatever care you need. Who’s gonna come out ahead in such a transaction?