Friday, April 24, 2015

Deception as a campaign strategy

A key criticism that Dissident Politics (DP) has with standard two-party politics is the dominance of spin in rhetoric and debate.[1] DP has argued that the cost of spin in politics is much higher than most people are aware of or would be willing to accept as true. Given the reluctance of people to understand how pervasive spin in politics is, the best way to demonstrate its influence may be by occasional explanation of recent examples of how spin is used to deceive or mislead the public.

The republican immigration policy challenge
On April 23, 2015, The Federalist, a conservative opinion website, published an article describing the "serious immigration challenge" that republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election face. The challenge is that there is a major disconnect between what most republicans want for immigration policy and what most Americans want. Most Americans (54%) favor immigration at roughly current levels and while about 39% want lower immigration. The 39% number is a historic low. By contrast, about 84% of republicans, particularly base or core active voters want lower immigration levels.

The author of the article, summed up the "challenge" like this: "But even if the public at large is less in favor of lower immigration levels, the Republican Party has much stronger views on the subject, and this creates a natural tension between what potential candidates might say to win a GOP primary and what they may do to win over Independents in a general election."

In other words, republican candidates are between a rock and a hard place. Someone is going to have to to be spun, i.e., deceived or misled. The questions are who will be spun and how is it to be done? The article acknowledges the problem: "But all the candidates face a challenge here: they will need to convince voters they aren’t just telling donors one thing while saying something else on the stump. This could prove difficult, particularly if it’s exactly what they’re doing."

In DP opinion, that is an explicit acknowledgment of the need for spin to win elections. Candidates need to tell donors what donors need to hear but they also need to tell voters what they need to hear. Those needs often or usually differ but the needs must be fulfilled, otherwise donors and voters wouldn't be donors or voters for a given candidate. In other words spin trumps truth and being honest with the American people. Winning, not honesty, is what counts.[2] Based on past behavior, campaign rhetoric is likely to not reflect what the candidate really wants to do if elected to office. Independents are the ones likely to get spun (deceived or lied to) the most. There is nothing new about that.[3] The only thing new here is that it is April of 2015. Sophisticated political scheming to deceive the public before the November 2016 election is already well underway.

Sadly, with American two-party politics as it is and spin being constitutionally protected free speech, unspun truth and unbiased logic are rarely employed by candidates.[4] Apparently, they don't need to.

1. Essentially all spin in politics is protected free speech. Spin includes lies, misinformation, withholding relevant important facts or arguments, deceit, eliciting irrational emotions, mainly hate, anger and fear, and subconscious or not, the use of fact and logic that is distorted by biases, mainly self-interest bias and political and/or religious ideological biases. Most of the effects of human biases on fact and logic is subconscious. Many people simply deny that the impact of bias applies to themselves or that ideological bias can create false fact beliefs. That is something that science refutes.
2.  Leon Panetta's opinion on elections and governance: "It's all about winning, it's not about governing anymore."
3. A commentator's opinion about spinning on independents: "After the primaries are over, politicians need the independent voters to win and woo them with attention in November. But once they have their victory or -- to use the vernacular -- get what they want, independent voters are forgotten as quickly as a one-night stand."
4. A commentator's opinion on candidate honesty: "Politicians break their promises and modify their positions all the time, of course. They BS us about their opinions and carefully craft identities that are palatable to the average voter. When a person enters this political universe, we need accept that most of the things we hear are, at best, poetic truths." Belief by the two sides that the other side routinely lies is fairly common (democrats lie, republicans lie). That is more evidence of the ocean of spin the public has to navigate to arrive at opinions. It is no wonder that many Americans are badly misinformed about most political issues.

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