Political Elites Disconnected From General Public

There is an interesting article by Alex Preen on Salon.com:

Politicians think Americans are super-conservative
A survey of thousands shows candidates from both parties think the electorate is way more right-wing than it is

“According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are. Unsurprisingly, Republicans think voters are way more right-wing than they actually are.”

It’s unsurprising that right-wingers are clueless about the average American. That is the nature of being a right-winger, often not even realizing one is right-wing, instead thinking one is a normal mainstream American

“Liberal politicians, meanwhile, don’t imagine that their constituents are super-liberal. A majority of them also believe that their constituents are more conservative than they actually are. Which, well, that explains your Democratic Party since the Clinton administration. They weren’t polled, but I’m pretty sure “nonpartisan” political elites in the media share the exact same misperception. (“It’s a center-right country,” we hear all the time, which it turns out is both meaningless and untrue.)”

Now, this might be surprising to many, especially those on the right. It’s far from surprising to me. The average American is way to the left of what is considered ‘liberal’ in mainstream politics and media.

“Left-liberals who actually pay attention to surveys of popular opinion on things like raising taxes on rich people and expanding Medicare instead of raising the eligibility age are frequently a bit annoyed when they watch, say, the Sunday shows, and these ideas are either dismissed as radical or simply not brought up to begin with, but all of Washington is still pretty sure that Nixon’s Silent Majority is still out there, quietly raging against the longhairs and pinkos. In fact the new Silent Majority is basically made up of a bunch of social democrats, wondering why Congress can’t do serious, sensible, bipartisan things like lock up all the bankers and redistribute their loot to the masses.”

I’m one of those left-liberals who actually pays attention to surveys of popular opinion. The one thing that surprises me is that so few people do pay attention. You’d think it would be a politician’s business to pay attention. Their whole job is theoretically to represent and yet they don’t know who they are representing.

One commenter put it well:

“Constituents? Who cares about them? MONEY votes conservative, and that’s what counts. to both parties.”

Another commenter extended that thought:

“I suspect what’s going on is that many politicians (a) feel they’re supposed to represent their constituents, (b) find they’re compelled to represent their donors and other fat cats, and (c) mitigate the cognitive dissonance by telling themselves (a) and (b) aren’t far apart, although, of course, they are.”

I makes me wonder. Can these seemingly clueless people really be that out of touch and just plain ignorant? People in politics and media tend to be people who are above average in both IQ and education. None of this polling data is a secret or difficult to find.

At least for those on the right, not knowing or pretending to not know is conveniently self-serving. The way they act and what they support implies that on some level they do know, as a commenter put it:

“Republican politicians may be in the grips of delusion about the beliefs of their constituents, but at the same time they understand the need for gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other aggressive antidemocratic uses of power, when they have it, to enforce rightwing priorities. Something isn’t quite right here.”

I care less about the politicians and media. If the public became self-aware of their own leftism, it would become more difficult for the mainstream elites to keep their ruse going.

28 thoughts on “Political Elites Disconnected From General Public

  1. I spend so much time contemplating this conundrum. It is hard to wrap one’s mind around it.

    I’d be more accepting of the rightwing US govt if it actually represented the beliefs, values, and expectations of most Americans. I’m not one to want to force my views on others, but neither am I one to want others to force their views on me.

    Since my views are part of the majority, it is a farce to claim my govt is democratically representing me and people like me. Either we live in a democracy or we don’t. It truly is that simple. Most Americans should be severely bothered by this. It is the kind of thing that starts revolutions.

    On the other hand, I’m not deluded about the American majority being Marxists, communists or anarchosyndicalists. Americans are leftists relative to what goes for mainstream liberalism. But mainstream liberalism is no more liberal than US democracy is democratic. A liberal in the US maybe could more accurately labeled as center-right or moderate conservative… while self-identified conservatives are mostly right-wingers without much conservative instinct.

    Most Americans are leftists. But what does this mean? Probably something akin to social democracy as practiced by the sewer socialists or other similar political persuasions. This is a rather tame form of leftism, a simple focus on the public good.

    This tame leftism only seems radical because the ruling elites have been pushed so far to the radical right. Americans probably haven’t become aymore leftist than they ever were. It’s just the whole spectrum was shifted to the right.

    • I’ve never been a Democratic partisan. But what I used to be was a fairly standard liberal. I wanted to believe the Democratic rhetoric.

      Even though I didn’t regularly vote Democratic, I had the sense that the Democrats were at least better than the Republicans. Now I see both parties as complicit in the same problems, just playing different roles.

      Lesser evilism seems entirely meaningless to me these days… not that it ever was all that compelling, much less inspiring.

    • I think that they’ve run up against the limits of propaganda. The Democrats are very much overestimating their appeal.

      I suspect that Bernie Sanders would have been able to appeal to the large numbers of working class whites (because he was one himself).

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