Stayin’ Alive: Political Science, continued


Now I’m going to talk a little bit about politics in the US Elections, certainly not in the US, are not machines for turning voters’ political preferences into a representation that produces them. Let us consider a current and very clear case. Polls consistently find that close to 70% of the electorate do not want Roe v. Wade is annulled and wants abortion to remain legal. Yes, opinions vary about the circumstances in which it should be legal, but there is little support for bills moving through many state legislatures that would ban abortion outright or allow it only under very limited conditions. But despite what is presumably 70% voter support, the Senate was unable to pass a bill that would codify access to abortion.

This is different from many political issues in that people are aware of it, understand it, and can’t help but feel that politics will affect their lives or the lives of people they know, and exactly how. Most people have limited information or understanding of most political issues, and that is one of the main reasons why the electoral system is not primarily about converting popular will into politics. People know that they receive or will receive Social Security benefits, so it is very difficult to take them away. But people don’t understand the complexities of the health insurance markets or the tax system and can be easily misled by the rhetoric. “I’m going to cut taxes,” when they really mean taxes on rich people, not you. Many false beliefs are valuable. For example, people overestimate the percentage of the federal budget that goes to foreign assistance by orders of magnitude.

Of course, people’s votes are also influenced by factors that have nothing to do with politics, there is always racism, sexism, religious or ethnic allegiance. People also respond to personality and charisma. Supposedly, people voted for George Bush II because he was someone they wanted to have a beer with and Al Gore was not. Republicans somehow manage to effectively present themselves as part of and champions of the common people, while portraying their opponents as “elitist.” It doesn’t matter that Bush graduated from Andover, Yale and Harvard, he inherited a fortune and his cowboy accent was completely fake. Somehow this works. (Namely J. D. Vance.)

But the issue of abortion does not have those kinds of complications, which allows us to isolate ourselves in a couple of factors. The first are the so-called concentrated versus diffuse interests. For many people who oppose legal abortion, probably the majority of them, it is the issue that they care about the most, possibly the only issue that matters to them. It fully determines your voting options. However, for the majority of that great majority who are in favor of legal abortion, it is only one of the many issues that matter to them. While Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land, in fact, it didn’t seem to matter much to most people, who just assumed that what politicians said about it was pretty much irrelevant.

That may change now, but in the meantime, the issue has benefited abortion opponents because if you can guarantee that 30% of the people will vote for you based on that issue alone, you can elect another 20% who will vote for you. other reasons. That 30% also tend to be activists, donating money and volunteering for campaigns.

We have a federal system, of course, and in some states support for legal abortion is lower and even below 50%. Therefore, it is not surprising that legislation to ban abortion is advancing in some states. But in America, conservatives have advantages that magnify their numbers. Liberal voters tend to be concentrated in urban areas, while conservative voters are distributed in less densely populated regions. That means all those Democratic voters can be concentrated in a single district where Democrats win overwhelmingly, while Conservatives can win three districts by a much narrower margin. This is a built-in advantage, but can be exacerbated by manipulation.

Then, of course, there is the Senate and the electoral college. For Wyoming to have the same number of senators as California is just ridiculous, but it is. Because electoral votes are allocated based on representation in both the House and Senate, small rural states also gain an additional advantage in presidential elections.

Finally, there is the intractable problem of the corporate media, which pays little attention to public policy issues and focuses instead on personalities, electoral horse races, and stenographically and uncritically channeling political rhetoric. The exception is the Fox News propaganda network, which continually spouts lies and bigotry. That seems to work for a lot of people.


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