Don’t They Know What’s Good For ‘Em?

The BBC is running a charming story about how stupid Americans are, at least according to some smarmy British political scientist (*snicker*). You know: false consciousness and all that. The idiots don’t know what’s really good for them. The fulcrum of the argument is President Obama’s ambitious and embattled health care plan, once the flagship program on the Democrats’ agenda. Alongside scary pictures of scary old women shouting and arch references to “barely suppressed violence,” the story laments we Americans’ barbarous and uncivilized (or is that ‘uncivilised’?) opposition to nationalized health care:

[I]t is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.


It might be tempting to put the whole thing down to what the historian Richard Hofstadter back in the 1960s called “the paranoid style” of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington.


If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

Well, thank goodness the BBC is here to treat us otherwise, what with their patronizing anecdotes about Al Gore’s stuffy adherence to facts losing out against Dubya’s populist scare mongering. Oh, and apparently President Obama really screwed the pooch by not trying to pin the problems plaguing his administration on his predecessor:

Obama’s administration made a tremendous mistake by not immediately branding the economic collapse that we had just had as the Republicans’ Depression, caused by the Bush administration’s ideology of unregulated greed. The result is that now people blame him.

Evidently the BBC and the brilliant academics it consults with haven’t been keeping track of the number of times the word “inherited” has been used since January 20, 2009. But none of that matters, it seems, because the Republicans have evidently become adept at “blinding” their constituency to its own “real interest” which means, evidently, “voting for Democrats”:

[Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter With Kansas”] believes that the voters’ preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs.


[W]hen the politicians say to the people protesting: ‘But we’re doing this for you’, that just makes it worse.

Yes we can! Hope and change!! Wait, what was that you were saying about patronizing intellectual snobbery?


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