Wednesday, November 10, 2004


One week later, it's time for more meta-level reflections. There are different underlying approaches to the disaster that was the 2004 elections, to explaining why people would elect a president who is so wrong for their lives, their children, our future. Let's consider them at this meta-level.

A. CONSPIRACY THEORY - This theory isn't packed away just yet, with reports of voting machine tallies way outstripping the actual numbers of voters in some republican counties, it seems. And the discarded votes, and untallied absentee or provisional votes, and long lines orintimidation driving blue-ish voters away. And from the White House, escalated color-coded threats, inflated reports of job growth, and ties to swift boats for deception.


  • IGNORANCE - True enough, given how little people read and where they get news, but not truer than other places and periods and not a sufficient explanation.
  • FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS - There's a cynical elite who brainwash gullible masses, accompanied by that time-tested opiate, Christian evangelical religion. Not to be dismissed, this view. In Marxist terms, it's accurate -- many people say they voted for Bush even though they disagreed with or would be harmed by his policies. Many poor people did vote for him. One problem with this approach is their consciousness of false consciousness -- they see voting against their interests as a badge of honor, a sign of integrity, a commitment to something greater, a respect for his resoluteness despite immediate self-interest. Another is that wealthy progressives also vote against their simple class interests, at least in terms of taxes.
  • FEAR MONGERING - People were afraid because the Bush administration has fostered orange alerts and diffuse anxiety about terrorism (and perhaps about gay marriage). See cynical elite above. When afraid, they choose the familiar, the same horse in midstream, and an image of strength (rather than actual experience).
  • "CULTURAL ISSUES" AND "VALUES": LEFTY - The male left thinks that issues like abortion and gay marriage are a cultural fog that obscures the true economic & class interests of people. The decline of union power supports this vision, as does the limited powers of socialism in US history. See Harpers Magazine, Zizek in LRB, David Harvey, among others.
  • "CULTURAL ISSUES" AND VALUES: CENTRIST - Since Clinton, mainstream pundits have repeated their chants that Americans were disgusted by Clinton's behavior and flocked to Bush in search of good honest family values. See Maureen Dowd. For a trenchant critique, see Joan Didion, Political Fictions.

C. PSYCHOANALYSIS/POP-PSYCH - Is there some pervasive psychic structure at work in the denial of reality and the longing for fabricated masculine protection? Is it diffuse masochism? Is it basic Oedipal compensation? (We need to pay more attention to psych-ops, to the use of a crude psychology in military and intelligence operations.)


  • ELECTION AS ENTERTAINMENT AND SPECTACLE - what role does news as entertainment, reality TV, media conglomeration play? (But careful that this doesn't simply duplicate false consciousness above.)
  • NARRATOLOGY - The story of Bush is better than the story of JFK2.
  • VICTIM POLITICS, INFANTILE CITIZENSHIP - Something about the wounded attachments of voters. See Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown.
  • THE SECOND MARRIAGE OF CAPITALISM AND PATRIARCHY - At a systemic level, how capitalist interests and agendas coalesce with, or use, patriarchal ones.
  • HISTORICAL MATERIALISM - How longer trends have produced these voting blocs -- the long duree, with regional shifts, economic conditions, party membership and so forth. Nixon's Southern strategy, Dixiecrats, shifting populations, etc. Always good for the broad conditions, bringing analysis to the doorstep of individual lives.
  • RATIONAL CHOICE - Rational choice would assume that voters were voting in their best interests, to maximize something to their advantage, wouldn't they?


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