Vote Against Your Interests?

Voting against your interests

Illustration: David Klein, WSJ

P.J. Sullivan

Why do so many people vote against their own interests? Because they are misinformed. Why are they misinformed? Because they get their news—and their views—from the media:

  1. CLIMATE CHANGE. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, droughts, heat waves are amply covered in the media, but as natural disasters, usually with no mention of the human activities that are magnifying them. The links between climate change and the wars in Syria and elsewhere are not mentioned. The impending extinction of the human species is not considered newsworthy.
  2. INEQUALITY. The growing gap between the rich and the poor is rarely mentioned in the media, while Trump’s lopsided tax cuts are normalized.
  3. U.S. IMPERIALISM. Rarely mentioned as such in the media. U.S. military interventions around the world are presented as humanitarian missions, police actions, treaty obligations, or restorations of “democracy.” Americans continue to insist that their country is not an empire, though it exceeds in power and scope all the empires of history. Meanwhile, the media quote without comment Trump’s complaints that the rest of the world is ripping off the U.S.
  4. ELECTION FRAUD. How many Americans know that provisional ballots are not counted? How many understand that the 2016 election was stolen? How many understand how it was stolen?
  5. IMMIGRATION. The refugee caravans are amply covered in the media, but without mention of the U.S. complicity in the conditions that are causing them. Their connection to climate change also is unspoken. Refugees are called migrants or even invaders rather than legitimate refugees from intolerable violence and corruption.
  6. VACCINES. The media exhort people to get their shots, but rarely mention the risks involved. This is not entirely a fault of the media, as most adverse reactions to vaccines are not reported to authorities. Most are never even linked to vaccines.
  7. BERNIE SANDERS. The most popular candidate in the 2016 presidential election campaign was—and still is—ignored by the media.
  8. LATIN AMERICA. The misery in Venezuela is blamed on socialism, without mention of U.S. meddling and sanctions. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is blamed for resisting coup attempts against his democratically-elected government. U.S. and IMF involvements in Latin America are rarely mentioned. Socialism is demonized everywhere.
  9. OVERPOPULATION. Everywhere there are too many people, but you’d never know it from the media. Only an occasional report on advances in fertility treatments. The BBC recently did a program about the “problem” of human infertility.

What a different world it would be if people got the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from their media! But the corporate media dispense propaganda rather than truth.

P.J. Sullivan is the author of three books of historical non-fiction.

5 thoughts on “Vote Against Your Interests?

  1. I can’t argue with the overall thrust of this post, but I must continue to argue that RACISM was the overwhelming factor that paved the way to the Trump presidency. Pardon my indulgence in a bit of stereotyping (gasp!), but the general mindset of a Trump supporter predisposes him/her to swallow the nonsense spewed by Fox “News,” Breitbart, “InfoWars,” etc. If the mainstream media refer to desperate migrants as “invaders,” they are only directly quoting Trump or offering an opinion column by a rightwinger. It appears to me that CNN, thanks to Trump singling that organization out for public abuse, is now The Opposition Party, given the weak-kneed Democratic Party leadership. CNN and The New York Times ARE willing to report objectively on scientific findings regarding Climate Disaster, though they don’t necessarily focus on it. After all, to focus on it to the extent that its threat to the planet’s future merits would alienate advertisers whose products epitomize pollution and global warming. So, yes, the problem is dear old Capitalism. “Our” legislators in D.C. won’t act on the problem for the simple reason that their pockets are being lined by lobbyists for Big Oil, the Automobile Industry, etc. We are told endlessly that “socialism doesn’t work, never has, etc.” No alternative to the status quo of Capitalism! That it will lead to the premature death of the ecosphere doesn’t bother the Know-Nothings who happily lap up the drivel streaming from the media outlets they patronize. The fundamental issue is that without a market ready to absorb the Fox, etc. nonsense, those media outlets could not survive. First came the market, then the rightwing media outlets to amplify the noise and satisfy the market. What is the raw fuel of this market? See my opening sentence!

  2. Turns out that many, if not most, people “vote against” their obvious economic interests. How else to explain that most well-to-do liberals gladly vote for more taxes? They have other goals in mind, and possibly a clear sense of what they consider “the greater good.” What people often seem to vote for is a candidate who represents what they believe is the right paradigm for managing the trade-offs in society and their view of what the social contract is all about, whether or not that trade off is in alignment with their immediate , or even long-term, economic interests.

    • I disagree that most well-heeled “liberals” GLADLY vote for being taxed at higher tax rates! (That is, are willing to vote for candidates critical of massive tax giveaways a la Trump and previous GOP occupants of the White House.) As I understand it, Warren Buffett supports Planned Parenthood, one of the extreme right’s favorite whipping boys (whipping girls?). He and his frequent Bridge partner, Bill Gates, have gone on record saying the uber-wealthy SHOULD, indeed, pay more income tax. But I suspect they don’t toss and turn in bed nightly, agonizing over their reduced tax bills of late.

    • CP.. In my opinion there is a vast difference in the “world views” of those who may be struggling financially but vote for Republicans who will de-fund vital services they may need , and what you refer to as ” well to do liberals.” In today’s political climate a large group of people who vote against their economic interests are Evangelical Christians who are inclined to vote for the party their pastor assures them is more “Christian”. because they support religious schools over public education. Then there are the low information voters who really believe the Republicans when they say they are “cutting taxes” for everyone and it’s really just another scam for the rich.
      “Well to do” Liberals “world view” I believe fundamentally differs in that they see themselves as part of a society that will do better if all do better. They will take the time to lift the carpet to see if there are any bugs in new legislation.

      • I say the following with no intended facetiousness whatsoever: Many of these “Christians” follow the “Gospel of Prosperity” hokum peddled by televangelists/pastors of “mega-churches.” That is, if you grovel before Jesus with sufficient vigor, you too will become rich as Croesus!! Then you can turn your back on your economically struggling neighbors and vote for pols who will reduce your tax rate. With a clear conscience, you see, because you’ve got your guaranteed spot in Heaven reserved! Astonishing ideology, is it not?

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