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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

 
Conspiracy a-go-go

by digby
















Increasingly I feel as if I'm living a country full of people wearing tin-foil hats. This NY Times article explores the reasons for the conspiracy mongering we see in the Trump campaign:
The political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, who wrote the book “American Conspiracy Theories,” say that those on the left and the right believe in conspiracies roughly equally. But education can matter: “Forty-two percent of those without a high school diploma are high in conspiratorial predispositions, compared with 23 percent with postgraduate degrees.”

One of the highest correlations for Trump support is being white without a high school diploma. People with postgraduate degrees are increasingly leaning to the left.

Mr. Uscinski and Mr. Parent found that high-stress situations like job uncertainty “prompt people to concoct, embrace and repeat conspiracy theories.” Other research shows that conspiracy theories can be a coping mechanism for uncertainty and powerlessness. (Another predictor of strong Trump by county is a high proportion of working-age adults who aren’t working.)

One study found that conservatives who believe in conspiracy theories know more about politics than conservatives who don’t. This correlation was not found for liberals. Presumably, these politically engaged conservatives would be more likely to vote in primaries.

Last week, Public Policy Polling revisited Mr. Trump’s attraction to conspiracy theories. Among voters who viewed him favorably, PPP found that 65 percent think President Obama is a Muslim; 59 percent think he was not born in the United States; 27 percent think vaccines cause autism; 24 percent think Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered; and 7 percent think Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. (We should probably allow for the possibility that some survey-takers wanted to poke or provoke with their responses.)

A big source of conspiracy theories is elections. Many Americans believe they’re often decided by cheating. In The Los Angeles Times in 2014, Mr. Uscinski and Mr. Parent wrote:

"Near equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats (between 40 percent and 50 percent) said fraud would be very or somewhat likely. Each side believes that if they lose, cheating is to blame, and they believe it about equally. Nobody likes losing, but it appears hard for about half the country to accept that they lost fair and square."

The birther movement, which essentially gave life to Mr. Trump’s political career, is an example; it argues that President Obama did not actually win his elections because he was ineligible to be president.

That way of thinking suggests a possible out for Mr. Trump if he loses in November: accusations of cheating by the other side. Those wishing for him to be humbled may be disappointed. Could he really lose if he never accepts the loss?

I think some of this is a matter of temperament as well. For the same reasons I don't buy into a lot of superstitions or supernatural stuff, I tend not to buy most conspiracy theories. And with the decentralized, totally idiosyncratic local nature of our election system, the idea of massive voter fraud in favor of a particular candidate in one election is ludicrous.

I suppose this thinking has been around forever but it does seem to me that we're seeing an uptick in people believing that there are puppet masters conspiring behind the scenes when I think our problems with corruption stem from much more abstract concepts like systemic incentives. I tend to believe that most people have many different motivations and usually believe they're righteously ethical in their behavior. But that's just me.

Millions of people will never believe that Trump lost legitimately in November, if in fact he does. And the conservative movement will continue to profit from this lie as they have been doing forever. And yes, the same phenomenon now exists on the Democratic side. Good times.

I wrote about this before, here. And it applies to what happened in Nevada over the week-end. If you don't like Nevada's byzantine delegate selection process there's a legitimate way to fix it besides doxing local officials. Go to the meetings and volunteer for the committees that do all the work of local and state party elections. The woman who received death threats isn't an elite member of the oligarchy,  she's the day manager at a local restaurant --- which was also inundated with threats. The people who make these rules are mostly volunteers doing their civic duty which consists of years and years of boring, tedious meetings in their off hours. It's open to anyone. All you have to do is join the party. There aren't even any dues.

Party electoral processes are something everyone is empowered to change right there in their local communities. It's not sexy but it's very doable.  If you start now, by the next presidential election you could have made a real difference.

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