Why are the chickens voting for Col. Sanders?
Why do people fervently support political parties, policies and politicians who are detrimental to their own best interests?
This was the question burning a hole in my head after the 2004 presidential election. This was the question that prompted me to become a blogger - and this was the question that led to my new book The Price of Right.
As I write this, we are hanging by our ragged, bleeding fingernails trying not to slip off of the edge and plunge headlong into economic, social and political collapse. The last eight years have brought us to a place that many of us could never have imagined that we would see in our own country - a nation at the mercy of a rogue-elephant administration, with seemingly no remedy in sight.
We are teetering on the brink of a second Great Depression and a Third World War, yet as the middle class are becoming the working poor, as the working poor are becoming the indigent and homeless, as we become an aggressor nation which is feared and loathed instead of respected, as any moral authority we once possessed as a nation is long gone, and our Constitution and Bill of Rights, once the pride of a free and fearless nation, has been ripped to shreds, there is still a sizable group of people who fervently and enthusiastically (dare I say ‘religiously’?) support the ideology which brought us all these things.
I began looking into the core principles of conservatism, since this has been the ideology that has dominated our government with precious little opposition or mitigation for the last few years. It soon became clear (to me, at least) that there was a gigantic disconnect between the stated aims of conservatism and the actual results. To give only one example, we were assured that massive tax cuts for the rich would lead to prosperity for the rest of us - the ‘rising tide that lifts all boats’. The conservative theory was that reward and punishment were the prime motivators for society, and if those who ‘achieved’ were properly rewarded for their ‘hard work, discipline and risk’, instead of being penalized for their success, then the results of that bounty would be reflected in the rest of society. When the exact opposite, happened, however, and a large budget surplus inherited from the Clinton administration turned into a horrifying and unprecedented deficit, to my astonishment not only did conservatives not reject this policy, but embraced it as the solution to the problems it caused!
The cognitive disconnect between stated policy and measurable results confounded me. And as I continued to find example after example of this disparity between theory and fact, I had to ask - what in the blue blazes is going on in the conservative mind? Can’t they see what has happened to this country and the world as a result of conservatism in action?
Before November 2004 I was still under the impression that if people only knew the facts, they would reject these ideas and the people who perpetrated them.
How very, very wrong I was.
The flip, easy answer is to label conservatives as stupid, crazy, or just plain evil. The problem with that is that it is not true. Of course, there are conservatives who are stupid, crazy, or evil, but there are liberals who are stupid, crazy or evil also. And it leaves out many conservatives that I know - close friends and family, who I know for a fact are good-hearted, honest, decent people who are doing the best they know how to be moral people and good citizens. So why do they trust the people who are stealing their jobs, money, security, freedom, and indeed their very lives?