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August 25, 2004

Poltical Burnout

This is exactly how I feel today, after being involved in a pissing match over Kerry:

Converse claimed that only around ten per cent of the public has what can be called, even generously, a political belief system. He named these people ideologues, by which he meant not that they are fanatics but that they have a reasonable grasp of what goes with whatof how a set of opinions adds up to a coherent political philosophy. Non-ideologues may use terms like liberal and conservative, but Converse thought that they basically dont know what theyre talking about, and that their beliefs are characterized by what he termed a lack of constraint: they cant see how one opinion (that taxes should be lower, for example) logically ought to rule out other opinions (such as the belief that there should be more government programs). About forty-two per cent of voters, according to Converses interpretation of surveys of the 1956 electorate, vote on the basis not of ideology but of perceived self-interest. The rest form political preferences either from their sense of whether times are good or bad (about twenty-five per cent) or from factors that have no discernible issue content whatever. Converse put twenty-two per cent of the electorate in this last category. In other words, about twice as many people have no political views as have a coherent political belief system.

It's probably more fair to say this is what the little man on my shoulder is telling me all the time. To listen or not to listen, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to put up with the Coulters and Moores that American political life is heir to, or to take up arms by way of a think tank or 527...

Posted by mbowen at August 25, 2004 11:53 PM

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Boy, you are no joke when it comes to the elitism, thing, huh. The article's well-written (to be expected coming from an English p'fesser i guess), but I always get my hackles up when i read articles like this with no accounting for dissenting opinion. Indicating that these aren't necessarily his own opinions (ha!) doesn't go far enough. to be legit, he needs to find counter-arguments (and you know there're plenty) and dissect those. otherwise it's just a book review -- or at least it should be. but it's not. he goes so far as to include his own guesses re certain cause-effect relationships. without the counter-arguments, it's just a "shortcut" to validating elitist beliefs.

But anyway, no doubt, the masses are not deeply-informed about the issues. hardly any of them have the skills in (say) philosophy to better assure that their entire political belief system is logically sound/consistent. hell, not too many people do. but i don't think for a second that the majority rely on talking heads in the way they might rely on a knowledgeable uncle to help buy a stereo.

A smart stereo purchase might require some technical expertise. A vote, however, is more like writing. Writing, as a skill, is grossly undervalued. Most people think they can spell and write competently, and that is enough. A "writer" is someone who can "wordsmith;" y'know dress things up a little, make it pretty. Same with voting. Everybody has one so everybody's an expert. Talking heads just give me a little better ammunition when i'm arguing with my buddies.

Undecideds, i believe are either overwhelmed by the responsibility of their vote and the complexities of voting when you agree with planks on both platforms, or they're indifferent. more's the pity.

Posted by: memer at August 30, 2004 08:21 AM

I think you grasp exactly why I want to see XRepublic built. What I have found consistently is that people know sports much better than they know politics, and that is because the amount of inside information that pulls no punches is always available. But it is also because sports fans *played* sports, and they understand and recognize the subtleties because they have tried them themselves.

You don't have to be a theoretical elitist to understand and recognize what an amazing thing is a 100mph Nolan Ryan fastball. You only have had to try hitting a 60mph fastball. American politcs and polling, the way it is currently structured, doesn't give Americans any batting cages. XRepublic is all about that.

Posted by: Cobb at August 30, 2004 10:52 AM

Well said. I'll take another look at XRepublic (the first time i peeked i didn't fully get it within the first 10 seconds, so lazy sod that i am, i surfed on).

Posted by: memer at August 30, 2004 11:49 AM

so lazy sod that i am, i surfed on

i know, i know, i just proved the point ;-)

Posted by: memer at August 30, 2004 11:51 AM