And I Thought I Was Being Too Negative….

I sometimes feel guilty about the fact that so many of my posts to this blog are dispiriting. Then a friend shared a link to an article in Salon, saying “read it and weep.”

I’m weeping.

The article analyzed recent polling, and found that 96% of those who voted for Donald Trump say they would do so again. Only 85% of Hillary Clinton voters, however, would stick with her.

That’s not because former Clinton supporters would now back Trump; only 2 percent of them say they’d do so, similar to the 1 percent of Trump voters who say they’d switch to Clinton. Instead, they’re more apt to say they’d vote for a third-party candidate or wouldn’t vote.

President Donald Trump is the antithesis of what Hillary Clinton’s voters desired in a candidate. And in many ways Donald Trump’s incompetent, ignorant, reckless, racist, demagogic and cruel behavior in office is worse than even his most concerned and cynical critics had predicted. This outcome should motivate Clinton’s voters to become more engaged and more active, instead of making a decision in a hypothetical election that might actually give Trump a victory in the popular vote.

The findings from this new poll are troubling. But they should not come as a surprise.

Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly documented that the American public does not have a sophisticated knowledge on political matters. The average American also does not use a coherent and consistent political ideology to make voting decisions. As Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen demonstrate in their new book “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” Americans have identities and values that elites manipulate, which voters in turn use to process information — however incorrectly.

I have read the Bartels and Achen book, and it is hard to argue with their thesis. I also have a young colleague who studies “correct” voting–defined as casting a vote for the candidate whose positions come closest to the positions the voter has identified as important and motivating. (Spoiler alert: a lot of voters don’t vote “correctly.”) As the Salon article puts it,

American voters en masse are not rational actors who seriously consider the available information, develop knowledge and expertise about their specific worries and then make political choices that would maximize their goals.

These matters are further complicated when considering right-wing voters. While Trump may have failed in most of his policy goals, he has succeeded symbolically in terms of his racist and nativist crusade against people of color and Muslims. Given the centrality of racism and white supremacy in today’s Republican Party specifically, and movement conservatism more generally, Trump’s hostility to people of color can be counted as a type of “success” by his racially resentful white voters.

American conservatives and right-leaning independents are also ensconced in an alternative news media universe that rejects empirical reality. A combination of disinformation and outright lies from the right-wing media, in combination with “fake news” circulated online by Russian operatives and others, has conditioned Trump voters and other Republicans to make decisions with no basis in fact. American conservatives do, however, possess a surplus of incorrect information. In that context, their political decisions may actually make sense to them: This is a version of “garbage in, garbage out.”

Republican voters also tend to be have more authoritarian views than the general public. As a type of motivated social cognition, conservatism is typified by deference to authority, groupthink, conformity, social dominance behavior and hostility to new experiences and new information. These attributes combine to make Trump voters less likely to regret supporting him and in some cases — because of a phenomenon known as “information backfire“— to become more recalcitrant when shown that Trump’s policies have failed in practice.

There’s a wealth of social science research confirming these observations.

The 64-thousand-dollar question (as we used to say back when sixty-four thousand dollars was a lot of money) is: what the hell are we going to do about it?


  1. From the article: “The Clinton supporters who reported that they either would not participate or would choose a third candidate if they were able to vote again would select a decision that would make matters worse, by effectively guaranteeing that Trump — the candidate they claim to reject — would be elected.”

    What the hell are we going to do about it? you ask. How do you fix stupid? How do you educate a huge mass of people in electoral math? How do you teach people that, because you can’t have ‘your’ candidate, you don’t simply stomp your feet, take your ball home, and leave the entire country with the bully in charge for four years? I certainly hope brighter minds than mine are also working on these questions.

  2. to say that Americans are not rational actors when it comes to voting, is to confirm what James Madison thought, which is why we have a “representative” government rather than a true Democracy. Madison’s comments in the Federalist papers about how the existing structure would prevent most problems seem quaint in today’s context.

  3. Even being a woman and knowing that “we” have been the “behind the scene head-of-household” even in good marriages; believed 2016 was NOT the time to nominate a woman for president. The Democratic party, full of itself by getting our FIRST Black president elected, mistakenly believed they could follow that historic win by getting a woman, any woman, elected to the presidency. It simply was not the right time and Hillary Clinton, with all of the repeated unproven accusations of wrongdoing, was not the right woman to put forth. She WAS the most qualified but this country and the majority of its voters operate on gut feelings…which is what I am doing here. Gut feeling always take over when it comes to survival.

    Americans began disliking Hillary when she was First Lady due to her overt (qualified) involvement in politics; forgetting the strides First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made for this country and for women, decades earlier. This is still a male-dominated country at all levels and, the accusations counted against her even after being “acquitted” by authorities (till Comey’s letter), she was unforgiven by those mistakenly still in control of elections…the Electoral College which appears to be governed by gerrymandering.

    I voted for her selfishly to protect myself from what is currently happening to this country; now headed by Trump & Company. The only way to kill a snake is to cut off the head; but the knife-wielders are the Republican party, funded by the 1% who will reap more financial benefits by keeping him in place. Those who should be ACTIVELY investigating all of his actions, inactions and blatant Tweeted stupidity, are those who should be investigated themselves. Had Hillary Clinton been rightfully elected, we would be facing four more years of Congressional control of our president rather than the current Kakistrocracy (I love that word) which describes the inmates currently running this asylum…into the ground.

    “The 64-thousand-dollar question (as we used to say back when sixty-four thousand dollars was a lot of money) is: what the hell are we going to do about it?”

    Sheila’s final question/comment says it all; especially after the “Breaking News” on Rachel Maddow’s Thursday night broad cast reporting Trump’s threatening comment regarding North Korea. What the hell CAN we do about it?

  4. As cynical as I am, and as much as I agree with this take on voters’ mentality, there are two mathematical realities which is at least offer a chance to work on fixing the situation. Gerrymandering turns some state wide majority Democratic votes into a majority of Republican Congressional reps. The electoral college turned Clinton’s popular vote win into a loss.

    Yes, these are long shots because they’ll take time to change and might never change. In the meantime our only shred of hope is that all the corruption we know is there will get addressed enough to get rid of some of the current mess.

  5. In response to JoAnn, I’m tired of Hillary bashing. She won over 3 million more voters than Trump despite the efforts of the KGB and the FBI. That’s nothing short of amazing. Our outrage should be directed towards the FBI and the Russians supporters in our midst. Furthermore, the media in the last analysis gave us Trump. He still knows how to manipulate them. Did Clinton have baggage? Of course. But only a few years before she was the most respected woman in the country as Sec. of State.

    We can’t know how another candidate would have performed. Kurt Eikenwald wrote a great piece after the election on the opposition research the Trump camp had on Bernie and it was formidable. Most of it has never come out. Hillary never really used it (she also had it) in an effort to unit the party. Joe Biden never had the full-throated support of any specific constituency. There will never be a right time to elect a woman president.

    What we do now is what we are dong. The question is…will people who are comfortable continue to have the strength and tenacity to keep going to marches, fighting for town halls, writing letters and financially supporting candidates and causes? And, in a climate where we will all need to volunteer more to support those organizations being destroyed in this budget. Furthermore, we need to get solid candidates to run for office. Here in the 9th CD…do we have a moderate, well-know community/business leader who has the fortitude to run against Hollingsworth? I hope so.

  6. It may not be as bad as we think. There seems to be a math problem. This is what my friend Bruce Lindner (who has pretty good insight in the current goings-on) posted on FB a couple of days ago:

    “Did you see this poll yesterday? Don’t you believe it. Maybe 96% said that to the pollsters, but that’s FAR from the truth. Look at the math.
    There are 321M people in this country (and that includes children too young to vote, folks who aren’t registered, people incarcerated, etc. — Everyone). Of that 321M, 62M voted for Trump. That’s 20% of the entire population who voted for him. 1 in 5 living, breathing Americans pulled the lever for Trump. And 1 in 5 pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton.

    At the time of the election, Trump’s approval rating was at its apex. As I recall, around 44%-45%. Still nothing to write home about, but Hillary’s was low too, thanks in large part to the GOP’s and Putin’s hatchet work. Trump’s approval rating today is somewhere between 35% and 40%, depending on which poll you’re reading and who he bombed last week. That’s a 10%-20% drop in three months. In other words, nationally, he’s gone DOWN across the board. ⬇There hasn’t been a single credible poll taken since November that shows his approval on the rise. And he’s never, EVER been above the waterline. These are national polls, not regional, not party-specific.

    And now we have this poll that says only 2% of Trump voters regret their vote. How does that work, exactly? If he’s dropped by that much nation-wide since November, and (roughly) just as many people voted for him as voted for Hillary, then how is that figure possible?
    It isn’t. They’re lying. Look at the situation. Only the dumbest of dummies can examine the political landscape today and still claim he’s doing a good job. His supporters may like certain things he’s done, but of those 96% who responded to this poll who claim they don’t regret their vote, I believe they’re saying that out of a combination of pride, stubbornness and embarrassment. Of course they aren’t going to admit he’s been a disaster. Because then they’d have to admit they’ve been played by a charlatan. Something no one likes to cop to.

    I have several conservative friends that I’ve been bantering with online for years. Before the election, it was Trump this, Trump that, Hillary’s a bitch, Benghazi, yada yada… They were enthusiastic, true believers in him, and we corresponded daily. Sometimes hourly.
    But today? None of them want to discuss him anymore. In fact, two have gone incommunicado entirely. They won’t even respond to my emails. Seems odd, doesn’t it? I mean, your side won, right? Shouldn’t you be taking that long overdue victory lap? At a time when only 2 out of 100 Trump voters supposedly regret their vote, the wind is completely out of their sails.
    I was born at night, but not LAST night. This doesn’t square.

    Even the conservative pundits on cable news and on NPR, the BBC, etc, they’ve ALL lost their spirit. They’re down and dejected. They read the same tweets, see the same idiotic interviews and hear the same lies and moronic sound bites that we do. Only a blithering fool would still defend this man.
    Which isn’t to say, there aren’t a lot of blithering fools who voted for him. There are. But not 96% of the 62,979,000 who did. At best, I’m guessing 35%-40%. The rest are just hoping it doesn’t get worse, or are too humiliated to admit they’ve been conned by a charlatan.
    So to them, I say take your seats alongside the folks who invested in Trump University—they feel your pain. It takes courage and integrity to admit when you’ve been hoodwinked by a snake oil salesman. In time, many of you will. But for now, the rest of us understand why you’d prefer to lie about what your vote has wrought.

    Pride goeth before a fall.”

    I haven’t been able to find fault with his math.

  7. This message is for the DNC. Can we please have a statement of principles from the party? What do you really believe in? I understand that there is a great deal of pragmatism that goes into governing, but while you’re waiting for the next young Senator from Illinois to step forward, why not give that person a reason to step forward?

    Part of the problem with the Democratic party has been that they have been afraid to be openly progressive ever since Walter Mondale said we would need to raise taxes to do what we need to do. Look what happened to poor Walt. People will agree to raise taxes, if they see positive results from those taxes, so target those tax increases to specific measures. You might actually win an office that is currently held by a Republican. Remember that Republicans can be for lowering taxes because they favor not doing anything in governing.

  8. With the comments on voter ignorance, deception, and party politics I think you are taking a BIG “D” view of what I believe is rational behavior. I was an R but voted for Johnson and I too would do it again. In my case, I assure you it is not due to bias or racism but I believe in making money the old-fashioned way, by working for it.

    Businesses are not loyal and they are surprised when their employees are unmotivated. Nearly all of us have our biases and I consider them all valid but often misguided. We all look for data that supports our positions and most are very inflexible in their views. If the right is, as you say, a lot of ignorant bumpkins are you saying the same about Hillary’s voters that would now go third-party?

    They clearly seem to think they made a mistake. The deck was loaded by the debate formats. Luckily that will not happen again. I believe most of us are trying to see things in black and white and consequently don’t even see shades of gray let alone the rainbow of promise and potential we really have.

    You are surprised so many are ignorant? Our schools are not world class, there is a complete lack of consistency between the rich and poor school districts, higher education is prohibitively expensive for most of our citizens.

    A lack of education is a lifelong economic straight jacket. It steals from both the individual and society. It steals our enthusiasm, our productivity, and our health. Compound that with a non-functional and poorly financed health care system with no mental health treatment for those who do need it. Throw in some alcohol, tobacco, and firearms and it gets real dicey.

    So yes, I too mourn the impending loss of our Republic. I feel like it is slipping away and it is ultimately going to be a winner (hint- 99% are not going to win) takes all oligarchy. The consolidation of industries is both of anti-resilient and unsustainable.

    The only way this gets cleaned up, in my opinion, is reaching a critical mass of citizens and getting them actively involved. But most of us just don’t have (we believe) enough time. We suffer from work stress and self-inflicted stress from our high material expectations.

    We relax with drugs, alcohol and for the masses and plain idiots, the boob tube is 21st Century Soma. It is an addictive and degenerative combination.

    With all of that as a backdrop is it surprising, we are unraveling? Seems to me it is irrational to expect anything else. I believe our 2-party system has failed us dramatically.

    We need at least 3 political parties so that there is a real need to cooperate, compromise and create a coalition to govern.

  9. Peggy Hannon +1 !! “This message is for the DNC. Can we please have a statement of principles from the party? What do you really believe in?”

  10. Alphons,

    I believe polling is largely why Hillary lost. She had it in the bag according to the pollsters. I think that alone held down participation as many thought she was a shoe-in.

    She wasn’t elected so why would you believe the polls now?

    As far as R’s having the wind out of their sails I have not seen the phenomenon. Many of my R friends have either blocked me or unfriended me both off and on Facebook. They are very celebratory and still as angry now as before the election.

    I see damn few on either side getting involved in the process and few of them think they don’t already have all of the answers. Marches are nice but as I stated earlier we need people to do the heavy lifting and dirty groundwork. We need to be a learning society that is open-minded and equitable.

    That takes sustained and steady commitment. We don’t do that well in America anymore either.

  11. Republicans are good at framing “the issues,” a debate tactic which the cognitive brain scientist George Lakoff points out in his books and papers. This is all about winning the debate by adroit framing before the actual issues are up for discussion, as in ” Have you quit beating your wife” and other such framing where the debate is won before the debate is even had. Lakoff points out how to counter-frame such tactics in his book, The Political Mind, which is now in paperback and which I encourage all to read.

    When aggressive framing is added to fake news and well-financed propaganda by libertarian zillionaires (all aided and abetted by the Flynns and Putins and Comeys of this world), we have a difficult environment in which to argue for reason and fair play in government’s interaction with its citizens, but it is not insurmountable.
    Even with such a gullible audience of voters, voter suppression and out of control gerrymandering, we can and will overcome. We are going to be aided in the midterms by the demonstrated and terminal inability of Republicans to govern, an inability so glaring that the usual framing, propaganda and gerrymandered districts will not work. We must persevere, tell the truth, hit the streets and work ceaselessly to save our democracy, all with a view toward citizen rather than control of our government by the 1%. That’s what we can do about it, Shelia.

    Pollyanna thinking – way out optimism? Perhaps, but that is what naysayers said about Reconstruction following the Civil War, correction of the Gilded Age excesses etc. I do not pretend to have all the answers to correct the current political exercise in chaos and ad lib policymaking on the run and am open to any other ideas on how to rescue our government from the elite moneychangers who are now in charge under cover of anti-hero populism run by a clueless nincompoop. Any other ideas?

  12. Reflection and self-criticism is always good. And it’s good to take a step back to find perspective. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to list all of the people who use “in my lifetime” in reference to our current circumstances. This is an unprecedentedly bad administration, by any standard. Normalizing it is inherently compromising to our values. Being led by the most ignorant leader in living memory, supported by the most uninformed, most politically naive voters, does not bode well for our country. It’s not a big “D” or big “R” perspective that is threatening the small “d” democracy or our small “r” republic. It’s an institutional fluke that was effectively exploited by a determined, well-financed foreign adversary. We need to fix our institutions and harden them against further attack, while we work on educating our population against propaganda campaigns of disinformation. We’ve neglected doing maintenance on our civic virtues and our small and large “c” constitutions.

    Keep writing, keep pointing out what’s not right. We need more voices like yours and we need to let people know that they are not alone in their views about the nature of this administration.

  13. Rick Smith – I appreciate your comments. I was mostly trying to make the point regarding the math and did no want to edit my friend’s thoughts, lest I’d muddle the issue. I agree that much more action is needed. Social media outrage is clearly not enough. I do see however more people wanting to run for office, mostly local and statewide, but they are predominantly from the “Bernie” camp – and I am using that term loosely. That is to say they’re enthusiastic, but new to the political system.

  14. I agree. I too have observed similar well meaning but short term committed behavior after an illness and a death. People really want to do well. That was why I expanded on the lack of Business loyalty on the part of many businesses to their employees.

    If you look through another lens you get a different viewpoint. The issue I see is much soft corruption is already baked into the cake in both parties. In some areas, it goes beyond soft corruption and becomes like a diamond – hard, cold, sharp, and at the same time mesmerizing.

    Then a new season of Zombie Apocalypse comes on and as citizens, we come up short, again.

    I don’t think you wait for the D’s to provide an agenda. You do the legwork locally, develop a consensus and a local platform, elect leaders from those who will emerge. Promote your values and pronto you have a start to a successful local campaign. If we did that everywhere as a nation, even if it was both parties engaging we would see dramatic improvements.

  15. Everyone who knows government knows how unqualified this administration is. I won’t bother to list their shortcomings. Most every day there is news about their blunders.

    But, most people get up and go about their lives relatively comfortably. The news may be troubling for some but many would say this administration is working maybe not smoothly but we don’t see any flames.

    If we are right it’s a matter of time. When does reckless driving get into the richly deserved accident?

    I believe that it’s unavoidable. I believe that it will be painful for most all of those not padded by immense fortunes. I hope that it happens before 2020 and not after. I hope that we are protected from what’s certain to be Donalds temper tantrum from failure. I hope that enough survives to allow rebuilding according to the intent of the US Constitution.

  16. Winners rarely abandon their camp if their ideals are being promoted successfully. Recently a survey showed that a male gay black taxi driver who votes democrat decided to vote for Trump and will vote for him a second time. He stated that business was his number one priority regardless of all the progressive ideals that were promoted during the last administration. He felt that the last administration has not successfully used government for his benefit. Many people came to their senses after seeing a $9 trillion debt increase by the federal government and noting that many of its political partisans and Wall Street insiders were lining their pockets with tax Supported economy. So the true outcome were the advent of many new young Bernie type voters instead of the establishment Mondale type of democrats that use government to advance social policies. recently a discussion in my neighborhood brought about the fact that many doctors were dropping out of the practice due to the overreaching policies and regulations of Obamacare. The wife Of pa doctor said her husband was selling the practice prematurely because of the opera reaching regulations of Obama care. also I recently in the last few days I’ve had a discussion with a medical provider they had to take a huge suspension for not properly fill email newly required forms. Disposition of the last few decades has changed several lives, But since we have a self-absorbed overreaching government his ability to reach his clientele has abruptly been shut down. This reminds me of the old Russia state or people were thrown in jail, sent off to the gulags, or lost their livelihoods simply because they were not following a corrupt and overreaching government.
    On the flipside Hillary voters may just be leaving her camp simply be leaving her campbecause she lost
    It’s not so much that the DNC or the RNC or polarized but whether or not we can push forward laws regulations and institutions a benefit everyone and not just a few.

  17. Ken, the deficits under Obama covered the necessary recovery from Bush blundering and plundering. Here Daddy tax cuts, holy wars, high test recession fueling low interest rates, the strangulation of regulation and the inevitable collapse they caused.

    Obama rescued those who needed it because that was his job be they corporations or the man on the street.

    Trumpty Dumbty wants to build a Great Wall. Useless but magnificent to challenge those desperate for survival. It will be the smallest obstacle they face.

    He wants to replace the State Dept with more massive military so he can do the Kim Jong-un strut.

    Of course he is willing to sacrifice our entire future by throwing everything else American under the bus.

    To pay for that he chooses a country free of taxes except for those paid by the wrealth creators which of course excludes he and his entire family and their friends.

    I have never before been totally embarrassed by my country but live with it every day now.

  18. Deficits per se are not necessarily bad. It depends upon the purpose of having them, and big tax breaks for the rich and corporate class (such as Bush gave us during a war) are bad. The way to reduce the deficit is to tax the rich and corporate class and make its members pay their fair share of the load. That group has been on the gravy train long enough, and while we’re at it, we can rid our code of carried interest and treat stock options to corporate executives as ordinary income, among other initiatives designed to reduce our deficit. There is no great mystery in how to reduce our debt; what is missing is the political intestinal fortitude to do the right thing while eschewing political contributions from the 1%.

  19. Drumpf has intimated several times his intent of a’ hands on’ policy towards Ivanka. If she doesn’t wish to be another statistic she’d better keep an eye on dad and her distance as well.

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