The Psychology of the 2008 Election
With the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, the true nature of politics in 21st century America is being revealed. Curious things are happening in the wake of this decision.
Liberals in the Demo Party and the media immediately responded to Palin’s selection by asking incredulously, “How will she have time to raise her kids if she becomes the Vice President??” Can you imagine them ever asking that about a woman nominated by their own party? The Democrats are the party of Feminism and the N.O.W. Under normal circumstances they would never imply that a woman’s place is in the home raising her children. Yet suddenly now with Palin they are sounding almost, well, downright conservative.
When Palin and the Republicans came forward with the information that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant out of wedlock–which they did voluntarily, by the way–the liberal media and members of the Democratic Party (minus Barack Obama, I must admit) immediately jumped on it as supposed evidence that Palin is not a suitable candidate for the socially conservative Republican Party. They expected Republicans, and especially evangelical Christians, to respond in horror and turn against McCain (they could only wish for this outcome in their fondest dreams). To their surprise, though, conservative voters have, in almost liberal fashion, rallied behind Palin and been very quick to forgive. And after hearing her speech at last night’s RNC meeting, they’re now ready to jump on board with her as McCain’s running mate.
It’s very interesting–Democrats expressing concern over a woman allowing the duties of high office to distract her from her motherly responsibilities, and being shocked that the woman’s daughter is pregnant out of wedlock, while Republicans hail the woman as a new heroine for the party and wink at her daughter’s moral indiscretion. These are interesting times indeed.
What this odd juxtaposition of events reveals is how much ideology drives the perceptions of political candidates in America. If a particular candidate holds the same worldview and beliefs as you do, you’re much more likely to excuse their behavior. Likewise, any candidate whose views oppose our own we are likely to scrutinize carefully for any failing or foible which might be used to criticize them.
Republicans will look for anything they can find to de-legitimize a Democratic candidate, and Democrats do the same with Republicans. For example, consider the age and experience of the candidates on both sides in this election:
Republicans criticize Barack Obama for being too young and inexperienced, yet Sarah Palin is almost the same age as Obama and has about the same or less years of political experience. Nevertheless, Republicans laud her as the new young hope for the Republican future. Likewise, Republicans trumpet John McCain’s many years of experience on Capitol hill while at the same time criticizing Joe Biden–who is younger than McCain–of being just another “old” Washington insider.
Lest we think this is just a Republican trait, we can readily see that the Democrats are doing the same thing. They promote Obama as the new voice of “change” and “hope” while saying Sarah Palin–again, about the same age–is too wet behind the ears, even though she has more executive experience than Obama. In a similar way the Dems hail the experience Biden brings to their ticket while making fun of McCain’s age.
It’s all so hypocritical, on both sides. So what’s really driving all this? Ideology. Worldview.
The two parties represent opposing ideologies which, judging by polls and the results of previous elections, are held by roughly equal portions of the electorate. One of these worldviews, that held by the Democrats, typifies everything the 1960s cultural revolution stood for: So-called sexual freedom, pacifism, feminism, civil rights, and now also gay rights. Along with this is the assumption that the government is responsible for fixing poverty and social inequalities.
The worldview held by the other half of the electorate, represented by the Republican party, in many ways represents a desire to recover aspects of American society that were changed by the 1960s. This group longs for a return to old-fashioned values with regard to sex, religion, and personal morality. This group also favors free market capitalism and believes government involvement in economic and social issues should be minimal.
These two sets of American values are in direct opposition to one another. It’s a situation in which, if one set of values is allowed to take hold, the other set is rendered null and void. For example, the Democrats (by and large) favor abortion rights and gay marriage, while the Republicans (for the most part) are against abortion on demand and are strong proponents of traditional marriage.
These two sets of values are in such strong opposition, and are the kinds of things people feel so strongly about, that it promotes an “end-justifies-the-means” kind of mentality in American politics. Thus you have Democrats, who would normally be thrilled at the prospect of a woman in high office, chilled by Sarah Palin, because she’s not the right kind of woman–she’s a woman who doesn’t share their ideology. This goes to show that for Democrats it’s more important that their overall ideology be supported than that a woman be elected. This is why Palin makes them so mad, by the way–because her presence forces them to make a choice they’d rather avoid–between their ideology and the chance to accomplish one small part of their platform: to have a woman in office.
Lest we think it’s only Democrats who display this kind of hypocrisy, though, we can be assured Republicans do it, too. The way Republicans have been so willing to forgive Palin’s daughter’s indiscretion shows this. Not that they shouldn’t be understanding about it. But can you imagine how Republicans would respond, and especially conservative Christians, if a similar revelation came out about a Democratic candidate? They’d likely pounce on it faster than a boa on a rat, and be making all kinds of complaints about how someone like that isn’t fit for office. In truth, conservatives who were very hard on the Clintons (and rightly so, in my opinion) have been much more willing to look the other way when it has come to questions about the actions of the current administration.
I personally can’t understand why many people in this country are so willing to let traditional marriage between a man and a woman go the way of the dodo bird. But there are many who seem to want that–or else have succumbed to peer pressure and allowed themselves to be bullied into it. But for those who hold to this position, they will go to any lengths to try to insure that a candidate who holds their values is elected.
By the same token, those who prefer the government to stay out of regulating big business have an equally strong stake invested (no pun intended) in electing a candidate who will allow their practices to continue unchecked. So they are equally motivated to promote a candidate who will support their values.
These are just two examples. But the point is that both sides see the stakes as being very high, and are motivated by this to use whatever means necessary to get elected, even if it requires a little hypocrisy here and there. Such, I guess, is the nature of politics.
And, I must confess that I’m just as guilty as anyone else. For me, a candidate’s views on issues of personal morality are of paramount importance when considering a candidate. Even though I sympathize with the Democrats on certain issues, it’s ultimately where the candidates stand on moral issues that will determine how I vote. In this case, even though McCain is more liberal than I would like, Obama is far more liberal. Overall I think McCain is much closer to my values than Obama is, and so I will probably reluctantly cast my vote for McCain. I do admire him for his war service and his long career of integrity in the Senate. Even so, though, I am choosing to wink at a few things, because I feel that electing McCain will promote my values and beliefs much better than a vote for Obama would.
That’s my 2 cents on the coming election. And if I’m not mistaken, for most American voters, the candidate they choose in November will be determined by how well that candidate seems to represent their personal values, regardless of whether that candidate has been entirely consistent in his actions…..