2016 — September 5, 2015 at 11:11 am

Why conservatives love ‘low-information candidates’


ZIMAGE - Donald Trump - Flickr - Gage Skidmore

A “low-information voter” has come to mean “anyone not smart enough to vote the way I do.”

The discernment is not usually made on facts, since we all choose which facts to focus upon. Voters are not generally rational actors making perfect decisions, no matter how much we like to pretend we are.

For instance, I know studies have shown that for the last century, the economy — in terms of job growth, stock market gains and alleviating inequality — has done better when a Democratic president is in office. So I think that’s why I’ll vote Democratic for president. In reality, my tendency to vote progressive has more to do with my belief that my freedom depends on widespread opportunity and prosperity. And I’d vote for progressives if I had facts to back that up or not.

This kind of thinking can definitely lead to voting against their own interests. For instance, person who is fervently opposed to reproductive rights will never vote Democratic, even though abortions are at an all-time low under President Obama. You could say that this is logical because this person wants abortion to be illegal. True! Except abortion tends to be common where it is illegal.

What I’m saying is that it’s easy to assume your opponent is stupid. And it’s a terrible strategy — even if he gives you a lot of evidence that it’s true.

On Thursday, Donald Trump went on conservative talker Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and made a clown of himself:

At one point, Hewitt asked Trump if he was familiar with “General  Soleimani” and the “Quds Forces.” (He referred to Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.) Trump said he was but then appeared to mistake the Quds for the Kurds, a Middle Eastern ethnic group.

“The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us,” said Trump.

Hewitt corrected him: “No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.”

I’ll be honest. I could not have named Soleimani or identified the Iranian Revolutionary Guards by the term “Quds,” which is fine because I’m not running for president — yet. I wouldn’t have complained about this line of questioning being “a gotcha” because I’m a grown-up who recognizes that the most powerful person in the free world needs to know stuff.

But this line of objection worked for George W. Bush and it will work for Trump because being a conservative is all about grievances. To be a conservative enduring the regime of Barack Obama and facing the end of the end of white Americans making up the majority of population is to be a person who is justifiably pissed at everything. Hewitt has many fans on the right, as does Megyn Kelly. But they’re the media. Trump, by putting them in their place, is championing your right to humiliate your opponents the way Trump stomps on anyone who attempt to put his blathering, mean-spirited gibberish in context.

It’s important to point out a section of the conversation that really underlines Trump’s appeal to the right beyond race baiting — his chauvinistic militarism.

After bragging, “I will be so good at the military, your head will spin,” he added:

“No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed,” he said. “They’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh.”

MacArthur was a great military leader who served  nobly up until the point in history where Harry Truman had to fire him because the general was challenging civilian control of the military by trying to enlarge the Korean conflict. Truman fired him even though MacArthur was extraordinarily popular and Truman was the opposite of that, with approval ratings that rivaled Nixon during Watergate and George W. Bush when we figured out he was George W. Bush.

Thus Truman avoided all-out war with China. And maybe Trump is saying he thinks that was a bad thing.

Essentially the GOP frontrunner is promising to listen to his generals. If Kennedy had done that in the Cuban Missile Crisis, we might not be here to discuss this. However, if George W. Bush had listened to General Eric Shinseki, he’d at least had invaded Iraq with sufficient forces to secure the country.

For many conservatives, not needing to know names is a sign of strength. They want a guy who brags about how good he’d be at war the way a 9-year old brags about his Halo II kills.

For them, it’s not stupid to get behind a reality star, a CEO who continues to fail up and a brain surgeon whose favorite political documents begin FW:FW:FW. Their selling point is that they have never been elected to anything because government is the problem. Once you get the filth on you, you can only delouse by shutting down the government every 24 months or so.

We’re all voters with “motivated reasoning” and the information we seek tends to justify reasons. And the fact that Trump is proud to not know stuff and mad at anyone who points it out may be contradictory, but it’s the kind of contradiction that his supporters love.

[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]