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.