Reality vs Malarkey In Electoral Politics
“Facts are the cornerstones of reality,” wrote Peter Dockrill for Science Alert last week. “At least, they used to be. In today's ultra-polarized environment, however— marked by deep political divisions, heightened social tensions, and a deluge of misinformation and fake news— facts are rather less certain in people's minds than they once were. Because of this strange ambiguity in how we now perceive 'facts', using them to support your moral or political argument about something is no longer a surefire strategy, researchers say, despite what our own intuition and logic might suggest. Instead, if you really want to stand a chance of changing somebody's mind on a serious topic, there's something else you should be telling them: Your own personal experiences.”
"Political opponents respect moral beliefs more when they are supported by personal experiences," a team, led by first author and social psychologist Emily Kubin from the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany, explains in a 2021 study.
"Furnishing perceptions of truth within moral disagreements is better accomplished by sharing subjective experiences, not by providing facts."
Relying on facts to convince those with opposing beliefs to our own has a long history, going back to the Enlightenment, and its promotion of rationality based on truth and logic. Grounding your argument in facts, once upon a time, was considered a sound way to command respect in debates, and win over opponents.
Rationality itself hasn't necessarily gone out of style, but it's become ever harder to use facts to win respect in a debate, the researchers say, given facts themselves are now so frequently debated, due to the fractured nature of today's political spectrum.
"The effectiveness of facts is unclear in concrete cases, such as when arguing with a stranger about gun rights," the researchers wrote last year. "The problem is that facts– at least today– are themselves subject to doubt, especially when they conflict with our political beliefs."
While it might seem like a paradox, the route to rediscovering perceived rationality and respect in a political or moral debate could be by sharing your own subjective experience in place of objective facts– because it's more likely to seem like a true, believable thing to the person disagreeing with you.
In electoral politics “I like [his or her] story” is now considered a meaningful substitute for actual accomplishments. How did someone like Madison Cawthorn ever get elected to Congress? How did someone like Lauren Boebert ever get elected to anything? Both are loud morons who spout, objectively speaking, pure nonsense. But both have compelling personal stories. He’s a party boy who lost the use of his legs and dick and still managed to… visit Hitler’s lair, the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, fulfilling the lifelong dream of any devoted Nazi. The rest of his personal story was 100% made up… but it was compelling for Republican voters in a red district.
Boebert— a high school dropout who got knocked up by various men, one of whom she married when he was too drunk to know any better, in the front seat of her pickup truck and has children by fathers unknown— still managed to start a gun-themed restaurant in a Colorado town called Rifle, which has since gone belly-up for poisoning half the town. And give birth on the same seat of the same pickup truck at least once! Doesn’t she sound like someone who belongs in Congress?
And then there’s the GOP Senate candidate in Georgia, Herschel Walker. He has a basis for a compelling personal story: he was a Hesiman Trophy winner when he played college football and wound up with the Dallas Cowboys and then got traded to the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles and the NY Giants… and then Dallas again. In 1999 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That’s pretty much it— except for the made-up stuff, which is basically, the rest of a fantasy life being sold to Georgia voters: pretend business ventures, huckster for bogus products, a personal life from hell with women and children stashed across the country, overcoming severe mental health problems that are still anything but overcome, a losing contestant on Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.
And almost daily, he babbles complete nonsense about serious policy. This week it was his position on climate: "Since we don't control the air, our good air decided to float over to China's bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then— now we got we to clean that back up."
Not even Georgians— outside of stalwartRepublicans in a half dozen of the most socially primitive counties in America (Echols, Pierce, White, Brantley, Glascock, Banks)— are going to buy that load of crap. As CNN put it yesterday, “This is, um, not how things work? All the ‘bad air’ doesn't move en masse. And it certainly doesn't all move in a direct line from China to the United States where we, uh, clean it back up… For Walker, who is running against Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, this nonsensical answer on climate change is in keeping with a number of self-created controversies he's faced recently. There was the report that Walker claimed to be in law enforcement when he wasn't. And the public acknowledgment of having three children with women he was not married to. And his answer on gun control in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, mass school shooting. And the problems with his business record.” The debate should be fun— if it ever happens (unlikely).
Will stories of personal natures save the 10 insurrectionist congressmembers named yesterday for their efforts in the attempted coup? Maybe, maybe not— but the reality of their unassailably gerrymandered districts make them feel pretty safe from any other kind of political reality. These are the 10 perps, along with their districts’ partisan lean:
Gym Jordan (R-OH)- R+40
Matt Gaetz (R-FL)- R+38
Scott Perry (R-PA)- R+9
Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA)- R+45
Andy Biggs (R-AZ)- R+24
Paul Gosar (R-AZ)- R+33
Brian Babin (R-TX)- R+35
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)- R+50
Andy Harris (R-MD)-R+25
Jody Hice (R-GA)- R+31