It’s Their Happiness, Stupid!

Source: The Economist

Gulf Shores  James Carville’s quote in the Clinton campaign “war room,” that “it’s the economy, stupid!” will be in his obit.  I’ve read one report that argued that Trump would be re-elected, regardless of his polling numbers and approval ratings, if growth was above 3% in 2020 before the election.  The notion that economics drives politics has an almost ideological weight no matter what the form of government and whether in the USA and India or China and Russia.  One could argue that in this area, inarguably, Marx was right.

What explains the support for radical, far right politicians and parties all around the world even when economies have improved?  Some now argue it’s as much, if not more, about happiness and personal perspectives on well-being, as it is about economic security and expectations.

The Economist really took on this question.  They started by referencing a study by George Ward of MIT, where he,

“…confirmed the political significance of happiness. He looked at what best explains the variation in the incumbents share of the vote in 15 European elections between 1973 and 2014.  Life satisfaction, he found, was twice as important in explaining how incumbents did as the unemployment rate and about 30% more important than GDP growth.  Ward also found that…almost half of those who were very satisfied with their lives said they would vote for the incumbent while less than a third of those who were not at all satisfied would.  Research from America suggests that happiness has as big an effect on voting patterns … as education.”

Now that’s interesting.  It aligns to some degree with the increased importance pollsters and pundits have placed on right track versus wrong track surveys of popular opinions about the direction of the country that are also decoupled from pure economics.

The Economist, being a conservative-leaning, business-supporting journal, is worried about this, especially in the face of one rightwing party after another in Europe and politicians like Trump and Ford in North America being elected despite improving economies.  Additionally, they, and others like-minded, are confused that older people rather than becoming more settled and satisfied after reaching the age of 60, are raving mad and throwing their votes into this same radical fire.

They raise the distinction between “evaluative” versus “hedonic” happiness being important.  Evaluative looks at how you view your life today.  Hedonic responds to how you felt yesterday.  Measures including the World Happiness Report see an upswing towards hedonic happiness confronting politicians that have always assumed evaluative happiness was the ticket to ride.  Some US polling indicates that the results of basketball and football scores for favored teams can alter voting patterns in this way.  In Switzerland, rain can throw governments under the bus.

Maybe this isn’t new, because the real deal may be how unhappy people feel when they feel things are getting better, but that they are being left behind, which is certainly part of what Trump is banking on.  The Economist notes that would not be new.  Seymour Martin Lipset noted the contradictory surge for the Ku Klux Klan during the boom times of the 1920s in the US.  More contemporary work from economists in the Netherlands found growing support for the radical right in Europe from those feeling slighted.

Maybe it’s not enough for politicians to just line the pockets of the rich, and then for them to tweet and Instagram their good times.  If looking differently at happiness makes politicians look at all of the folks left behind, not just the rightwing shouters, it would be a great thing for all of us on the bottom.


Why Won’t Mitch McConnell Secure Voting?

New Orleans    Reading about the Robert Mueller testimony and the disappointment of various pundits and politicians that he didn’t make their life and decisions easier, I find such a head-scratcher.  He’s a lawyer.  He’s the former head of the FBI.  He’s a man of rules and secrets.  What were they thinking?  Preposterous!

On the other hand, Mueller was clear when he was in the lane he travels, rather than the one that others wanted him to navigate.  The Russians, maybe the Iranians, and who knows what other state actors like the Chinese, the North Koreans, and god knows who else, realize that they can hack into our hooptie voting machine apparatus and raise holy hell with our elections.  In, Mueller’s words:  it’s happening now!

For a hot minute there seemed to be a bipartisan interest in taking action at the federal level to make sure the elections were secure from hacking and interference.  Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood in the aisles and put the kibosh to that.  Articles started appearing from hither and yon, insinuating that that McConnell was a “Russian asset.”  Some were reportedly calling him “Moscow Mitch.”  McConnell was clearly upset about not getting away with election machine stonewalling this time.  He whined about not liking the nicknames to the press.  He cried about the fact that his patriotism was being questioned.  He should of course expect and receive no sympathy, since these kinds of red-baiting and scurrilous attacks have been his go-to calling cards for years.

But, why is he stopping action on an issue that seems to straight forward?  Why won’t he allow the debate and action in the Senate that would prevent foreign interference in domestic elections?  That’s an interesting question to me, since it seems like such a no-brainer.

His claim is simple.  He doesn’t want the federal government to interfere with the way states regulate voting, hiding behind a state’s rights position.  This argument clearly holds no water, because why should states control anything about federal elections?  Obviously, the federal government should be able to mandate how voting is handled and secured in federal elections.  President Trump who has bounced around about whether he would accept or reject foreign assistance in elections, even tried to argue that voter IDs should be federally mandated.  Perhaps he doesn’t understand the McConnell obfuscation around states’ rights or more likely, this is a “pick and choose” thing on whatever each one of them thinks helps their candidate and their party the most.

The only way to understand McConnell’s resistance to protecting the ballot and leaving it in the hands of the states is that he knows the Republicans are going to need more and more help at the state level in terms of gerrymandering and voter suppression in the future to survive.  He sees protecting the ballot from foreign interference as opening the door to blocking domestic interference as well.

McConnell may not like being seen as unpatriotic for allowing Russia and others to subvert our elections, but being anti-democratic in the way he seems to prefer is also unpatriotic, even if he wants to claim that partisanship and court packing our justice system is all’s fair in love, war, and, I guess, politics.


Please enjoy  The New Pornographers  – Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile.

Thanks to KABF.