Real Americans: Political Narrative & Public Opinion

I keep noticing a particular schizophrenic divide in the minds of Americans. It’s hard to grasp what most people actually believe. I try to stay informed with various data from polls and other research, but the overall pattern isn’t always clear. In this post, I’m going to point out a pattern I’ve seen before and have written about before. I’m going to do this by connecting it to the recent issue of immigration. My sense is that this pattern extends beyond any single issue.

Let me lay out the data first.

More Americans identify as conservative than identify as liberal.
But more Americans support or lean toward many of the major liberal positions.

According to some polls, most Americans were against the “socialist” Obamacare.
But it supposedly was based on a proposal made by Republicans in the 1990s.
And, when asked about specific items in the health insurance bill, most Americans supported them.
In particular, most Americans supported public option.

Most Americans support the Arizona immigration law in requiring immigrants (and those who look like immigrants) to carry identification.
But most Americans are against Americans carrying national identification cards and against racial profiling.
And most Americans support civil rights.

Let me dissect the immigration issue. Basically, many Americans are fine with treating latinos differently than other Americans. Of course, majority white Americans don’t like latinos because latinos are threatening their majority position, but I’ve seen videos of blacks who claimed latinos were a threat as well. It’s easy to argue for this kind of law when the person doesn’t think it will apply to them or people like them. Most whites and blacks who support the Arizona law assume that if they visited Arizona they wouldn’t be jailed if they didn’t have their papers on them.

For argument’s sake, let’s turn this situation around. What if all the states along the northern border passed similar laws which said all Canadian immigrants had to carry identification at all times? What if this hypothetical law said that it was legal to ask any person who looked Canadian (i.e., white) to show their identification? Would Sarah Palin support whites being treated in the same way latinos would be treated under the Arizona law? In terms of blacks, the charge is often made that blacks are pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black). What if it became legally required for police officers to pull over all black people because they might be illegal immigrants from Africa?

I see several aspects to this confused thinking of the American people. There is the us vs them mentality. That isn’t specifically what interests me at the moment, but it relates. Seeing latinos as different is a failure to generalize, a failure to see all humans as being considered equal under the US Constitution. Also, it’s a failure to see certain specifics. The person who supports the Arizona law apparently lacks the imagination to see how it could apply to people like themselves. People often forget that, when one person or group has their rights undermined, it undermines the foundation of the rights for all (“when they came for the…”). So, in that sense, the failure is in not generalizing enough. But getting lost in generalizations can also be dangerous… which brings me to another point.

Generalizations make for useful talking points and useful political narratives. I’ve noted in the past that conservatives have been very effective in controlling the narrative. Take my first example of how most Americans identify as conservative despite the liberalism on specific issues. Even the mainstream media often repeats the conservative narrative that America is a center-right country; this is interesting in light of the other conservative narrative about the mainstream media being liberal… which the mainstream media often repeats as well.

I kept hearing the mainstream media (not just Fox News) repeat over and over again that most Americans support the Arizona immigration law. However, they rarely go beyond this talking point. Where are the polls that break down the specific issues of the Arizona law, of immigration reform and of immigration in general? Why isn’t the media looking at the broader context of issues? Why isn’t the media looking at other aspects? Why continually bash the American public over the head with the same limited set of info?

Yes, the GOP probably has won the narrative war as they often do. Most Americans may support the Arizona law. But how many Americans actually understand the Arizona law? How many Americans understand the history of immigration? How many Americans understand the history of US relations with Mexico? How many Americans know that undocumented immigrants cause less crime than the average American? How many Americans have seen the data showing that the War on Drugs is failing an is causing Mexicans to try to escape the violence in their own coutnry that the US government is helping to cause? How many Americans understand that undocumented workers come to the US because business owners hire them and because US and state governments don’t stop nor penalize business owners from hiring them?

I’m willing to bet if you informed the American public and asked them about specific issues related to immigration, a very different public opinion would become evident.

So, what does it mean to be a conservative or liberal in the US? Why, in a country built on immigration, is being anti-immigrant (or having anti-immigrant sentiments/suspicions) a conservative position? What does ‘conservative’ mean if the majority of Americans both identify as conservative and support liberal positions? What does ‘liberal’ mean when, according to Pew data, those who identify as liberals show the strongest support for fiscal conservatism?

In the broad view, Americans are mostly conservatives who are against socialism and for nationalism.
In the more detailed view, Americans are mostly liberals who love their socialist services and are increasingly embracing multiculturalism.

Which represents the real American?

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Rep. Weiner Goes Off On Republicans Over 9/11 Health Compensation Act

In my last post Cost of War, I was expressing my outrage at the ignorance of the American people and the immorality of the American Military-Industrial Complex. It pisses me off. Why do people refuse to do the right thing? Why do people cowardly hide behind political rationalizations, behind patriotic rhetoric, behind empty moralizing?

For once, politicians quit acting like weasels, capitalists quit acting like selfish assholes, and American citizens quit acting like ignorant morons. Just for a moment, act like human beings who actually care about other people.

To demonstrate how outraged I feel, watch the following video.

Cost of War

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

 ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

1 Soldier or 20 Schools?
By Nicholas D. Kristof

In the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama promised to invest in a global education fund. Since then, he seems to have forgotten the idea — even though he is spending enough every five weeks in Afghanistan to ensure that practically every child on our planet gets a primary education.

We won our nation’s independence for $2.4 billion in today’s money, the Congressional Research Service report said. That was good value, considering that we now fritter the same amount every nine days in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama, isn’t it time to rebalance our priorities?

I’ve known these kinds of statistics for a long time, but the comparisons help to put the abstract numbers into practical terms. I always wonder why it is that conservatives see it as a patriotic duty to support the military at all costs even when the cost is high… in terms of money spent and in terms of loss of moral high ground and loss of global goodwill. Why is it that data like this tends to only make sense to liberals? Why shouldn’t conservatives care about making the world a better place, about actually helping the Afghanistan people rather than merely bombing them into oblivion?

(By the way, when I speak of liberals I’m not equating them to Democrats. Most Americans, including most Democrats, identify as conservatives. It’s liberals, whether Democrats or Independents, who were the most critical of Bush on his wanting to start wars and who are now the most critical of Obama for wanting to continue those wars.)

The cost of such wars wouldn’t be too high if the end result was worthy. I’d be more than happy if all my tax money was spent on building schools for poor people instead of bombing the homes of poor people. Even if you’re selfish and hate the idea of helping poor people in other countries, then why not bring our troops home and use the money to help the poor in our own country? Or even if you hate all poor people including those in the US, why not spend the money on building infrastructure or for loans to small business owners?

The worst part is that the cost isn’t just money. In our War against Terror, we’ve merely created more terrorists who will have to be fought in the future by the next generations. Also, US veterans come back with severe disabilities, brain trauma, PTSD, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment, homelessness, and violent tendencies. To put it simply, war fucks people up. No one is a winner in war.

You want to know why wars go on? There is the wealth elite who makes massive profits off of war. Military contracts are probably the single largest industry in the entire US economy. This is what Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex. And guess what? The children of these wealthy elite aren’t the soldiers dying in foreign lands. It’s the children of the poor and the working class who are dying for the profits of the wealthy elite.

I understand that the wealthy elite want to maintain their power and increase their profits. That is normal human behavior. They are acting in their own self-interst. What I don’t understand is why do the American people (in particular, conservatives) continually believe the lies and propaganda? When will the American people wake up? Why does the average American want to pay into the wealthy elite’s profit-making so that the wealthy elite can send their children off to die killing the children of poor working class people in other countries?

Tell me that Bill Maher is wrong when he says Americans are stupid. I want to believe Americans aren’t stupid, I honestly must say that any American who believed the rationalizations Bush gave for going to war is a complete and utter retard. If you supported Bush in his warmongering, you are fucking worthless. It’s because people who simply do what they’re told and don’t question that the world is so fucked up.

I hope that one day Americans will know all the misery they’ve caused around the world by toppling democratically elected leaders and supporting oppressive governments, by bombing innocent people. I hope one day that Americans personally experience all of the horror they’ve inflicted on others. I can promise you that if Americans ever do experience the same amount of suffering that the US military and CIA has caused, the 9/11 terrorist attack will seem like child’s play.

There would be a lot less suffering in the world if people had to experience the same suffering they cause others. Just imagine if wealthy politicians and capitalists had to experience the suffering the poor parent feels when their child is brought home in a body bag. Just imagine if the soldier had to feel the suffering of all the people disabled from the bomb he dropped, had to feel the suffering of the child who lost her father. Just imagine if the American people had to feel all the suffering of the people living under oppressive regimes supported by their tax-funded government, had to feel the suffering of people living in war zones created by the US military.

Media, Race and Obama’s First Year

I think this is what fairly could be labelled as institutional racism.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=60139

As a group, African Americans attracted relatively little attention in the U.S. mainstream news media during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency — and what coverage there was tended to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the lives of blacks generally, according to a year-long study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its Social and Demographic Trends Project.

From early 2009 through early 2010, the biggest news story related to African Americans was the controversy triggered by the arrest last summer of a prominent black Harvard University professor by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer. It accounted for nearly four times more African American-related coverage than did either of two biggest national “issue” stories covered by the mainstream media during the same period – the economy and health care.

The study finds that 9% of the coverage of the nation’s first black president and his administration during Obama’s first year in office had some race angle to it. Here, too, this coverage was largely tied to specific incidents or controversies rather than to broader issues and themes.

Read the full report, Media, Race and Obama’s First Year on the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

PKD’s Exegesis: 2 vol. release in 2011

For any PKD fans, there is good news. A new version of his Exegesis will be released next year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/books/30author.html

It sounds like it will be a more complete version and will be published in two volumes. I have a copy of the first publication of the Exegesis (In Pursuit of Valis). It’s a very nice book to own because there hasn’t been much else available, but it only provides excerpts of the Exegesis.

If you’re interested in reading some of PKD’s Exegesis, I posted one of my favorite passages a while back:

PKD on God as Infinity

And here is my favorite quote from the Exegesis:

PKD’s Love of the Disordered & Puzzling

I actually had to develop a love of the disordered & puzzling, viewing reality as a vast riddle to be joyfully tackled, not in fear but with tireless fascination.  What has been most needed is reality testing, & a willingness to face the possibility of self-negating experiences: i.e., real contradicitons, with something being both true & not true.

The enigma is alive, aware of us, & changing.  It is partly created by our own minds: we alter it by perceiving it, since we are not outside it.  As our views shift, it shifts in a sense it is not there at all (acosmism).  In another sense it is a vast intelligence; in another sense it is total harmonia and structure (how logically can it be all three?  Well, it is).

(R) Wants To Deport US Citizens

flowergirl1313 wrote: Cenk missed the biggest irony in this whole situation. The 14th Amendment is what gives anyone born in the US citizenship (even if your mom is illegal ). AND the reason we have the 14th Amendment is because racists after the Civil War were claiming former slaves weren’t citizens because their parents were never citizens.