Conspiracy theories

Facts Don't Matter

Facts Don’t Matter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Robert A.  Levine

Facts still don’t matter. Perception does. Half a year after Donald Trump unwillingly stepped down from the Presidency, his lies and falsehoods are still accepted as facts by the vast majority of his acolytes. The most damaging of his lies for America’s democracy is his insistence that he won the presidential election and that it was stolen from him by Joe Biden. Because of this lie, a large proportion of Republican voters (between one third and two thirds depending on the poll) believe that Biden is an illegal president and that Trump actually won the election..

Some of Trump’s base believe that somehow Trump will be restored to the presidency in August, though it is unclear how this will happen. There is some talk of a civil war against the current government or other violent means for Trump to be reinstated. All of these ideas to destroy our democracy flow from Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen from him and that he should really be the president. All of his challenges in the courts and in different states have been rejected or shown to be false, but this does not stop Trump from denying the facts.

Hitler’s propaganda machine was based on the concept that if you repeatedly tell a lie, after a time it is accepted as a fact by a large proportion of the population, particularly those who are uninformed or uneducated. These are people who do not get their news from multiple sources to decide what is accurate and what is not. In general, they read very little, particularly about politics. They would rather stick to a media source that echoes their own beliefs even if they are untrue since they don’t know the difference. Often, they follow a tribal path in assessing what is real and what is not, taking their cues from friends, family and neighbors. In other words, they do not think for themselves.

On the other hand, Republican politicians at all levels know what is true and what is not but are afraid to say what is true. Instead, they are repeating and supporting the big lie because they are frightened of Trump’s power and worried that he will not back them when they run in their GOP primaries. Their cowardice and unwillingness to stand up to Trump aside from a few brave souls has completely distorted our democracy and made it harder for Joe Biden to get anything done. Actually, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader of the Senate and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Minority Leader of the House have stated that they will fight Biden’s agenda and don’t want him to be successful. Republicans do not care that Biden’s legislative successes will help America and they care more about their party than they do about the country. These are people who know what the facts are but deny them constantly to win Trump’s approval. For America to function well as a democracy, the two parties have to agree on the facts publically. They can react to them in different ways, but the facts are still the facts.                                                 www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


Partisanship vs. Centrism

Partisanship vs Centrism

                        Robert A. Levine

Gallop polls in the first quarter of 2021 showed that more Americans were Democrats than Republicans, but the largest bloc of voters identified as independents or centrists. 30 percent of people in the survey called themselves Democrats, 25 percent Republicans, 19 percent were independents who leaned Democratic and 15 percent were independents who leaned Republican. Thus, independents overall were 34 percent vs 30 percent Democratic and 25 percent Republican.

According to various polls during the last decade, pluralities to small majorities of Americans identify themselves as centrists, moderates, or independents. The variability in statistics are probably related to how the surveys were conducted and questions asked, what year  data was collected, and whether bias was present in the polling organizations. Notwithstanding, moderates and centrists were usually the largest bloc. This means extremists in both political parties, generally the most vocal, do not represent most of the citizenry, though avid partisanship among politicians makes government dysfunctional.

In October 2013, an NBC News/Esquire poll had 51 percent of Americans labeling themselves as centrists, 44 percent of whom did not believe their views were represented by either party. A poll by The Third Way published in May 2014, had 37 percent moderate, 42 percent conservative and 21 percent liberal. 42 percent of millennials identified as moderates in this survey. These were the youngest group, seeming to indicate America will be growing more moderate in the future. Similarly, non-white and Hispanic participants described themselves as moderate by a plurality of 44 percent.

A poll by the Pew Center in April 2015 revealed 39 percent of Americans considered themselves independents, 32 percent Democrats, and 23 percent Republicans. The data came from interviews with more than 25,000 citizens. In more than seventy-five years of Pew polling, this was the highest percentage of independents ever reported. Those with post-graduate or college degrees leaned Democratic as did racial minorities and those religiously unaffiliated. Millennials also favored Democrats 51 to 35 percent. Mormons and white evangelical Protestants were overwhelmingly Republican. White Southerners and white men without college degrees tended to be Republican, and there was a GOP bias of four percentage points among citizens over sixty.

Though centrists may represent the largest political group in America, animosity and partisanship between parties is the strongest it has been in decades according to a Pew Study in 2016 and Washington Post poll in 2017. Party members associate negative qualities with members of the opposing party, a rising tide of mutual antipathy making it challenging for the two parties to govern together. Negative feelings between party members have increased over the years, more so since 2000, the process labeled ‘affective partisan polarization’ or negative polarization by political scientists. Antipathy towards the opposition party is a major motivating factor for partisans, and it is difficult for democracy to function as each side demonizes the other and compromise is a struggle.

Though various surveys show a plurality or majority of Americans are not extremists or partisans, the partisans are more politically active than their moderate brethren. Their agendas are the ones debated in the halls of government, determining the laws that are or are not enacted. A CBS poll in 2011 had 85 percent of Americans favoring compromise by politicians to get things done, including 75 percent of Republicans. However, their message was apparently not transmitted to politicians in Washington and state capitals. Another factor driving partisanship is that the wealthy top one percent is politically zealous and contributes large sums to officeholders and candidates with views similar to theirs.

Partisanship is also more evident now because the percentage of Americans labeling themselves ‘consistently conservative’ or ‘consistently liberal’ has doubled in the last twenty years from 10 to 21 percent. In addition, Democrats and Republicans are more likely to socialize with people having similar political positions. There are also media voices that amplify differences between the parties and benefit from the ‘climate of bitterness.’ Polarization in both Houses of Congress is at its highest level in nearly a hundred and fifty years.

In many democracies, ‘identity’ is the critical determinant of how individuals cast their ballots. People vote for politicians because they share the same religion, race, or ethnicity. These factors may be more important than whether candidates are honest or competent or have the same positions on issues, though often voters are in the dark about these aspects because they have not investigated them. Identity politics reinforces partisanship, particularly in nations riven by tribal, religious, or ethnic hatreds and fears.

American politics has become more tribal in the last quarter century, dominated by partisans in both parties. With their own values, each tribe has its own facts regarding history, economics, and science. Beliefs about climate change and global warming is an example. Members of each tribe tend to think similarly and have similar interpretations of events and views about political figures, as well as comparable personality traits. Interestingly, CT scans of brains in each group show similar structural changes. Conservatives tend to have larger amygdalas, part of the limbic system involved in processing emotions, such as fear, anger, disgust and pleasure. Liberals tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that deals with uncertainty, handling conflicting information, impulse control, morality and ethics. In both tribes beliefs can be changed, but it is difficult when brains may process information differently.

‘Tribalism’ has been critical in the growth of partisanship. In the past, citizens’ identities were through families, communities, churches, employment, unions, clubs, lodges, and so forth. People were part of something greater than themselves. But these bonds have been sundered by modern society. Divorce and single parent families are common. Small towns and rural communities are in decline, with young people moving away. The lack of connection and of belonging to something has impacted Americans negatively. Alcohol and drugs have been an escape for some and others have chosen to be active members of political parties, adopting the characteristics of their ‘tribes.’ Social media may also augment the stances partisans take. This makes it harder to compromise or see the humanity and understand the positions of opponents.

Americans need to learn to treat political opponents with respect and dignity which may be difficult when opponents support bold-faced political lies. Particularly harmful is the lie that the presidential election of 2020 was stolen and actually won by Donald Trump, when there is no evidence to support this claim. If American democracy is to thrive, the flame of partisanship must be lowered to allow both Republicans and Democrats to work for the good of the country rather than constantly battling each other. And we need more independents to speak up.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Where is the GOP Going?

Where is the GOP Going?

                        Robert A. Levine 5-18-21

Since Trump took over the Republican Party in 2015, the question that needs to be asked is where is this political party headed?  What is their raison d’etre or reason for being? In the 2020 election, the Party ran without a platform or specific policy objectives. The only factor that bound members together so it could be called a party was its support of Donald Trump. That would be fine if Trump espoused a specific ideology, but he doesn’t. He is defined by populism and nationalism, but his allegiance appears to be primarily to people of wealth and perhaps how to help them get more. Though he is thought of as a populist and is adored by a large segment of the population, during his term in office he did little to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. He seemed to be mainly concerned by how to make his own life better along with those of his family and friends.

Having lost his bid for re-election, he still claims that he won and that the election was stolen from him, mostly because he does not want to be labeled as a “loser”. To obtain Trump’s support in future elections, the overwhelming majority of Republicans have backed his claim that the election was stolen though they all know this is a boldfaced lie. But few Republicans want to cross him in any way. Though he is out of office and does not have the bully pulpit any longer, he is still the leader of the GOP and all of its members must pay fealty to him or suffer the consequences. Aside from loyalty to Trump, the Republicans still have no specific policy proposals on which to run a campaign. They do oppose virtually every idea that the Democrats have brought up and tried to make into law, but opposition alone is not enough to define a political party. They need specific proposals that they are trying to make law, but thus far have not come up with anything concrete. Recently, it appears that some Republicans in the Senate may be willing to compromise with the Democrats over infrastructure plans. But this still does not a party make. They are also willing to have their members support conspiracy theories like QAnon and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene

The Republicans who oppose Trump for the most part call themselves conservatives, but they also have not come forth with a specific platform they can stand on. They are anti-Trump and anti-Democratic Party, but what are they for. What new laws would they like to see enacted? So Republicans of all stripes, pro-Trump and anti-Trump appear to be lacking goals and ideas that they can trumpet to their base and independents to help them get elected or re-elected. Are there any Republicans who know where their Party is going aside from how it relates to Trump? And outside the Party, do the Democrats or Independents know what Republicanism stands for at this point in time?

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                  

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QAnon and Other Conspiracy Theories

QAnon and Other Conspiracy Theories

                        Robert A. Levine 5/3/21

It is truly amazing how many Americans accept QAnon and other conspiracy theories as truth and spread various conspiracies over the internet, through social media and by word of mouth. While conspiracy theories did not begin with Trump’s presidency, he formulated many of them and spread others, before, during and after his term in office. Even before he lost the election in 2020, he complained that the election was rigged and that if he did not win by a huge margin, Americans should realize that the election was fixed.

Then afterwards, he has continued to claim that the presidency was stolen from him by the Democrats even though multiple recounts and the courts have reinforced the fact that he lost fair and square. Conspiracies regarding the voting machines have also been found to be false and re-checks have found that the machines worked perfectly well. Trump’s lies about the stolen presidential race have heightened his adherent’s willingness to accept various other conspiracies theories with or without Trump’s imprimatur.

QAnon is the mother of all conspiracy theories, seemingly gaining more advocates every day though its beliefs strike many people as totally bizarre. Even some people in foreign countries accept some of the ideas that QAnon is spreading. Its concepts began prior to the 2016 election when it claimed that a pizza parlor near Washington was the headquarters for a Democratic pedophile ring run by Hilary Clinton. QAnon said that Democrats were pedophiles and were kidnapping American children to satisfy their pedophile members. There was absolutely no truth to this claim but millions of Americans believe it. Apparently, there is some leader of QAnon called Q who periodically comes out with proclamations advising his acolytes what to believe and what to do. A few years ago, one of his followers shot up the pizza parlor hoping to free the children that supposedly were imprisoned there but found nothing. That’s because there was nothing and QAnon is a total hoax that numerous Americans consider real.

Many Americans believe that climate change is a hoax, that the corona virus pandemic does not exist and that vaccines are an attempt to control your body with implanted chips installed whenever you get a vaccine shot. The pandemic and the chips placed in one’s body are blamed on Bill Gates and George Soros who want to control the world. Conspiracy theories seem to be mainly accepted by Republicans

One wonders how so many Americans could be so naïve and gullible to accept the conspiracy theories often born on the internet and spread without any evidence they are valid. Would anyone like to buy a bridge I have for sale?

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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