Higgins: Cognitive dissonanceWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of the political pundits have put their two cents in on the November 2012 election and telling us the same things they have for some months, and mostly the same as in previous elections. Depending on whom you listen to, the election will be about the economy, gas prices, unemployment or Obamacare. I have a slightly different take however, believing it will be about all of these things and none of them. The majority of the electorate is easily diverted where the issues are concerned, having been so often led astray by the mainstream media and the spin masters of political campaigns. Instead, I believe that 2012 will be about cognitive dissonance.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with this term, it’s one from psychology used to describe the ability to hold incompatible and even contradictory beliefs simultaneously, a condition that’s sweeping the nation. One has only to look around to see that apart from hard-core loyalists, the majority of the electorate seems unconcerned with the apparent disparity between what they know to be true and what they believe is true because they were told so.
People having less want to be taxed less (excepting, of course, for the evil rich, who, though paying the lion’s share of the taxes, have yet to apparently pay their “fair share”). They recognize however that Congress is largely incapable of asking more from the 1 percent who are their biggest donors without simultaneously providing them with loopholes to escape payment. They also understand that almost half the people in this country are getting more back from the government at tax time than they put in, but dare not admit it, since many of this 50 percent believe they’re getting free money and won’t vote for someone taking it away.
Having cut local funding, many also want more in federal funding for programs for schools, parks and infrastructure, even while vaguely recognizing that these federal dollars also come from the taxes that they pay. They’ll unite behind local officials seeking state and federal grants and loans to do work that they would reject doing with local capital and agree to kick in matching funds that they don’t have to get them.
Voters want “too big to fail” companies to be done away with to end the corporate bailouts. If one of those companies offers to build or expand operations within their locality however, they’ll stand in line to offer tax incentives that are little more than corporate bailouts in order to lure them into providing jobs to the area that will likely disappear when the incentives do.
People understand that there are problems with existing health care insurance in this country, from the inconsistency of how Viagra is provided to men and birth control to women, to the help that should be provided for those with pre-existing conditions who struggle to get it. They even admit that doing so in large government program is going to cost a lot. They seem willing to acknowledge that previous programs have tended to increase costs and stifle competition, while promoting waste, fraud and bureaucratic nightmares, yet call for it anyway.
They are beginning to understand that the pyramid scheme of Social Security has become upside-down and broke as the baby boomers begin to retire in significant numbers and know that the program is probably unsustainable. Most of them have been pouring money into the gaping maw of this government leviathan for 40 years or more however, and still expect to get their money back (and more), whether it’s there or not.
Voters will tell you that they want more freedom and less restriction on their activities, then ask their representatives to pass legislation to do just the opposite in the name of a safety that doesn’t exist. They’ll look at the price tag for these unwarranted (pun intended) programs, and understand that this violates their rights and exacerbates government spending that’s already greater than the money it takes in. They know that such practices make no sense and are unsustainable, but hold to them without concern.
Perhaps most telling in this is that independent voters (the true majority), are able to hold the idea that there are fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans in balance with the reality that the very same policies seem to grow and gain acceptance regardless of the party in power.
There is little doubt therefore, that the man who manages to get this electorate to reconcile these disparate positions in his favor or who makes them believe that his opponent will further aggravate these concurrent but seemingly irreconcilable ideas will have a distinct emotional advantage with the voters. I therefore believe that the candidate who is best able to use this cognitive dissonance to his advantage will probably win the election.