“Ideological Voters Are Easy to Manipulate”

The Atlantic had an interesting article recently entitled Ideological Voters Are Easy to Manipulate.  Its argument is that ideologues can be manipulated to passionately support a candidate—-even one for whom they have misgivings—-through rhetoric or controversies.  For example, many conservatives have been tepid about Mitt Romney, but now there’s a good chance that they will rally behind him due to that lady on CNN saying that Ann Romney has never held a real job, which many have construed as an attack on stay-at-home mothers.

I have to confess that this was true of me back when I was a right-winger.  For example, in 1992, I had misgivings about George H.W. Bush because he raised taxes, talked about a new world order, appointed a pro-choicer to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, and had a head of the National Endowment for the Arts who tolerated funding smut with our tax dollars.

But did it take a great deal of effort to win me over to George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election?  No.  Bush and Quayle tossed out some Republican red meat blasting Bill Clinton as a tax-and-spend liberal.  Pat Buchanan at the 1992 convention gave me some more red meat by blasting Hillary and Al Gore.  Dan Quayle stood up for family values and attacked Hollywood and Murphy Brown.  Was there substance to any of this?  Well, I suppose that it was legitimate for Dan Quayle to raise the issue of single parenting and whether that was best for children (and I will not comment on whether he was right or wrong in his assessment).  But, seriously, was Bush planning to do something about single parenting were he to be re-elected as President?  The Republicans were simply tossing out the usual rhetoric that the right-wing base loves.  And controversies encouraged the right-wing base to increase its opposition to those it considered to be elites (i.e., Hollywood, the media, Democratic politicians, etc.), while standing with someone professing to be its guy, even if he wasn’t fully.

Am I the same way now that I’m more on the Left?  Not as much, I don’t think.  I’m at the point where I’m not overly interested in what a politician says.  I’m interested in what a politician does.  And, in my opinion, Barack Obama has shown his commitment to health care reform and to student loan reform through his deeds.  Is he perfect in the area of taking action rather than just talking?  No.  But politics is a matter of selecting among the choices that are presented to us.

Tim Tebow and the She-Bears

At church this morning, the Pastor Emeritus conducted the service, since our Pastor is on vacation.  In the children’s part of the service, the Pastor Emeritus was criticizing those who mock Tim Tebow for praying in public, when there are so many real problems in the world.  The Pastor Emeritus then referred to the story in II Kings 2 of the kids mocking the prophet Elisha, with the consequence that she-bears came out and mauled them (see my post on II Kings 2 here).  The Pastor Emeritus said that God does not like for his children (Christians) to be mocked.  He also said that we should not judge whether or not Tebow was sincere in his prayers, for that is between him and God.

I think that people have made legitimate criticisms of Tebow-ing: that we shouldn’t pray for something trivial like a football game, when there are real problems in the world, plus we should not assume that God supports one sports team and not another; that Jesus tells us to pray in our closets rather than flashing our religiosity in public (Matthew 6:5); and that Tebow should pray with his team-mates before a game rather than going out by himself and praying before an audience.

(UPDATE: See Yvette’s comment under my post here and the documentation she provides that Tebow does not pray for his team to win the game, but rather that he might handle the game in a godly manner and that God might protect the players.)

I also think that it’s all right to criticize Christians.  Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day.  And sometimes people need to talk about their negative religious experiences in order to heal.

But I am trying to get something edifying out of what the Pastor Emeritus said this morning, because I did feel that he was on to something, even if I did not agree with him completely.  First of all, like the Pastor Emeritus, I don’t think that it’s my place to judge whether someone else is sincere or not.  I’m not being absolute here, for there is corruption that should be exposed, but I cannot judge whether or not Tim Tebow is sincere when he prays.  Second, I don’t want to mock people for having religious beliefs, for I respect that religion is how many get through life.  Third, I agree that there are more serious problems than Tim Tebow praying before a football game.

Published in: on April 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Contract with the Earth 15

In my latest reading of A Contract with the Earth, Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple talk about such issues as people who have planted trees that have removed air pollution, the role of cleaner cars in reducing pollution, Shell Oil’s acknowledgement of human-made global warming and support for alternative energy, and George W. Bush’s support as Governor of Texas for renewable energy.  This is a very optimistic book, which is why I enjoy reading it.  I’d like to think that there are a lot of people out there who want to do the right thing.  But there is an opposite tendency in human nature, as well.

Published in: on April 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 15

In my latest reading of The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, I learned about being diplomatic and not always blurting out what I think.

Something on page 209 stood out to me:

“In our eagerness for our children to be socially engaged, we encourage them to talk, we reinforce them when they respond, so they get in the habit of offering their opinions without being asked—-and we delight in their social participation.  But not all situations warrant a verbal comment; it’s an unwritten rule in certain social relationship settings, both personal and professional, that keeping silent is preferable over offering an unsolicited opinion.”

I do not think that I should wait to be asked for my opinion before I offer it.  If I were to do that, I’d probably never say anything, since a lot of people like to hear themselves talk and do not ask others for others’ opinions.  Temple herself does not think that she should always be silent, for she talks about expressing disagreement (albeit tactful disagreement) on the floor of a conference.  But I agree that there are many times when I should just remain silent—-when people do not need to hear my opinion.

Temple also offers tips on how to interact with professionals.  When they ask her what she thought about their presentation, and she does not like it, she first identifies something positive about it, then she offers suggestions for improvement.  I am not exactly in a position to suggest areas where my academic colleagues can improve, for what do I know?  But I often blurt out to fellow academics where I disagree with them at the outset, and that can put them on the defensive.  I’d probably do better to commend their presentation, and then to ask a question about it (albeit not in a manner that puts them on the defensive).

Published in: on April 15, 2012 at 5:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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