Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Asswipe Factor in Politics

People are disposed to see themselves as rationally evaluating their political choices, whether it be on dimensions that commonly are loosely described as liberal or conservative.  Actually, that dimension, more continuous than dichotomous, is further complicated by there being at least three factors: (a) the social liberal/conservative factor, (b) the economic liberal/conservative factor, and (c) the degree of government intervention factor.  And, obviously, there can be very practical or philosophical reasons a person may cite for his choice.

But there's another, somewhat less admirable factor, that can also play a point.  That's being influenced in your voting by not wanting to be affiliated even in that way with people you hold in contempt.

Let's use the example of the Presidential election of 1884.  In that year, Grover Cleveland defeated James G. Blaine because Cleveland won New York because of what a Dr, Samuel B. Burchard said in a speech:
We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag.

That remark antagonized opponents of Prohibition and Catholics, both major sources of votes.

In short, Blaine was screwed by one of his supporters' unfortunate remarks.

And this can happen at other times.  I call it the Asswipe Factor in Politics: sometimes a candidate's supporters can be a burden.  The candidate may be perfectly reasonable, but he's surrounded by a bodyguard of idiots.

After I voted for President in 2008, I had a most depressing thought:  I voted for the same guy that Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Paul Krugman supported.  It spoiled for me any pleasure in my having voted that day.  (In compensation, if I had voted for the other candidate, I would be sobered by the thought that I voted for Rush Limbaugh's candidate!)


  1. Both your lists of goofy supporters could go on and on. There just aren't any moderates anymore. I've got a good post on cons and libs I'll do in a few days.

  2. People in entertainment find a natural forum for self-advertisement in politics. It puts and keeps them in the news, with less wear-and-tear than the nightly clubbing. And many of them are quite narcissistic: they know in their hearts that everyone else is interested in who they support.

  3. This is a brilliant concept! I hadn't considered the idea of people being swayed in their opinions just because they didn't want to be identified as "(being) affiliated ... with people (they) hold in contempt." I have to think this one through a bit more, because I'm probably as guilty of this as anyone. I'm a generally conservative person, but hold the current Republican party in such complete contempt that I often find myself ready reflexively to reject even those Republican ideas that make sense. Great post. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement, Mike, Elvis, and Bilbo. Perhaps I was a bit harsh on those extremists. Oh well......

  5. Rush Limbaugh managed to creep out from under his rock and made an ass out of himself recently.

  6. Rush Limbaugh needs to take the advice that "You should not speak up unless you can improve on the silence." He's a prime example of what I speak, and Exhibit A on why we have suck as nasty national political dialogue.