googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Yawn Factor

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Yawn Factor

People who read my blog have probably already guessed that I'm very disappointed and a little surprised by the election results. There's been a lot of talk from the right since Tuesday about why we lost the election and theories abound. In my opinion, Obama rivals Jimmy Carter as the worst President in my lifetime. Both are failures in their foreign policy. Both presided over disastrous economies. Both saw fuel prices sky rocket during their terms. At least Carter can be thanked for real estate values rising during his time in office (a silver lining in the gloomy cloud of the high inflation seen in the 70's) but home owners have watched the values of their homes fall below the amounts of their mortgages due to Obama's lack of a plan to save the housing market.

As much of a failure as Obama had been, I was under the impression that there was no way he could be reelected. The disappointment in his policies hasn't just been felt by me and other Republicans, many Democrats have felt the same way. Support for Obama has waned considerably since 2008. Obama was elected into office with 69,498,516 votes. That was nearly 10 million more votes than McCain received. In this last election, 9 million fewer people voted for Obama. If just ½ of those 9 million had voted for Romney this time, he would have been elected. Instead, they must have decided to stay home.

The ebb in Obama support is only ½ the story. If Romney could have held on all the McCain voters, he would have only needed a few hundred thousand more votes to beat Obama. With the eagerness of the right to get Obama out of the office, I would have thought everyone and his brother would drag people to the polls to vote. But it was not to be. Romney actually got 2 million fewer votes than McCain did!

It seems to me that elections are being decided not as much by the engaged voters but rather the apathetic couch potatoes. Conservatism beats liberalism every time and if we had true conservative candidates, people would turn out in droves to vote for him. Every primary, though, Republicans vote for the candidates they think are the “most electable.” They look for moderates who will supposedly appeal to the “independent” voter so we end up with weak candidates like Romney, McCain, and Bob Dole.

There's nothing appealing about Obama's policies. He certainly can't boast a successful record. He should be an easy candidate to beat. Why couldn't we beat him. We don't have a candidate that conservative voters can be enthusiastic about.

Have you ever heard a Republican say he would hold his nose and vote for McCain or Romney? It's because they're not excited about the candidate but would prefer him over a Democrat like Obama. If a Reagan-like conservative were on the top of the Republican ticket, people would turn out in droves to vote for him. As it it now, they vote reluctantly or stay home.



Todd Williams said...

I wonder if Marco Rubio will run in 2016?

RKBentley said...

Rubio is one of the names often floated as a promising candidate next time around. I think he would be a little more exciting and a lot more conservative than a Massachusetts Republican.

Thanks for visiting. God bless!!


Steven J. said...

Forgive a lengthy and speculative post. Many years ago, the libertarian economist David Friedmann introduced the idea of "rational ignorance" in voting. Given the scores of millions of voters in any national election, the odds of any single vote deciding the election is very small (Friedmann estimated it as ca. one in a million). Now, suppose that it's worth $100,000 dollars to you for the right candidate to win (this is everything from additional income due to better economic policies to the intangible satisfaction of seeing him rather than the other guy on TV during Presidential addresses); Friedmann noted that for most people, it would in fact be worth less than this.

Now, by classic economic reasoning, if these assumptions hold, it is worth ten cents to educate yourself about the issues (so you know which candidate is better for you) and cast that vote. That's, what, a minute and a half of effort at minimum wage? Looked at in this light, the wonder isn't that so few people vote, but that so many do: rationally, it isn't worth their time. Friedmann theorized that voting is like rooting for a favorite team: done for reasons other than strictly material interest.

Five years ago, Brian Caplan, in The Myth of the Rational Voter, extended Friedmann's thesis to its horrifying conclusion: what one might call (though he doesn't) "rational irrationality." Since your vote doesn't normally matter (once, before an election, I received a mailing urging me to vote, telling me about national elections that would have been altered if one person in each precinct in the country had voted differently; it did not consider the effects on my life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, or gas or postage bills if I'd actually tried to cast a vote in every precinct in the country), not only is it not reasonable to spend lots of time and money educating yourself on the candidates, it isn't even reasonable to try to choose rationally.

Voting isn't very important in deciding how the country is actually governed (note: this has nothing to do with the system being rigged, or vote fraud, or a biased media, or unaccountable bureaucrats; get rid of all of those and basic arithmetic still reduces your franchise to nugatory value), but it has much to do with how you feel about yourself. It's like pinning on a red, yellow, or blue ribbon: it may do nothing to reduce the incidence of AIDS, terrorism, or child abuse, but it tells you (and anyone else who notices it) that you care, that you're a certain type of person.

If Friedmann and Caplan are right, voting has less to do with advancing one's own or the nation's political or economic interests, and more to do with being "cool" or "compassionate" or "patriotic." And apparently more people think Obama is "cool" than think Romney is.

And no, I have no idea what to do about this.

Steven J. said...

First, believe it or not, I am not an Obama fan and voted for Romney. But I'm not sure that a more conservative candidate would energize the base sufficiently to make up for more centrist votes that he scared away (cf. "Akin" and "Mourdock").

Second, I fear that your proposal is an exercise in cat-belling (i.e. a fine idea, except how do we do it?); I would think that core voters are more likely to be primary voters, and more likely to pick hard-core conservatives (or progressives, for the Democrats) than the general run of the electorate would be. Obviously, a lot of voters prefer Obama's policies to any plausible Republican's (though see my follow-up post).

It's possible that the various True Blue Conservatives wipe each other out in the primaries, each siphoning off a fraction of the right-wing vote, leaving the field for the rarer moderates, except do you really see that as having happened in this last primary season? It seemed to me that most of the serious candidates for the Republican nomination were running to Romney's right (I recall the National Review complaining about the timidity and selfishness of possible right-wing candidates who simply didn't make any effort, or at least any serious effort, to get the nomination).

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

It doesn't surprise me that you're a Romney supporter. From your comments, I can tell your too rational to be a flaming liberal (though you could be left leaning). Hard core liberals are complete strangers to normal thinking.

Politics are often personal and many people vote only for what is in their own best interest. The old saying is that when you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can count on the support of Paul. I believe Paul has spoken in this election. The ½ of the people who don't pay taxes voted for the candidate who promised to make the wealthier people pay more taxes in order to pay for more “free” stuff. This was Romney's complaint in his much-maligned “47%” comments.

We need to get people to understand that high tax rates, over regulation, and welfare programs actually hurt the poor. But, like you said, the average voter is frightfully uninformed and short sighted. It's a tough row to hoe but we need to win the argument with one voter at a time.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!


Carvin said...

Obama isn't improving the economy because he's basically a Republican. He's constantly proven he isn't progressive. But, he is bought just like everyone else. Romney, though, looked the part. And his hypocrisy of opposing the healthcare reform that he created so that he could seem even more conservative than Obama did cause the yawn factor.

But, this is the failure of the system. If Republicans had put up a Giuliani that didn't constantly talk about 9/11 (seriously, he was a pretty good mayor, and he totally blew his good will), McCain with a running mate America didn't fear, or maaaaybe Ron Paul- there would have been a chance. But, Romney had more money so he won the primary. But at least they didn't put forth a Newt Gingrich, a dead-beat dad who cheated on his wife while she had cancer.

Anyway, if you want a real progressive, we'll need to look towards greats like Al Franken and more so Elizabeth Warren. I don't know many other politicians that actually serve Americans, rather than American business. And that includes Obama and other Democrats.