Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Fear, Hope, and Polling

Headlines this morning: Biden's poll numbers continue to fall despite surging economy!

Oh no!

What are we gonna do! 

CNN has a whole panel of earnest looking talking heads enthusiastically opining on the subject. Dire! Woe! Terrible! The End is Near! 

It's the same over on Fox, except the talking heads are all gleeful and showing a lot of cleavage. 

My social media feeds are clogged with MAGAs (or foreign intelligence assets pretending to be MAGAs), all pushing the same message:

See the common theme? 

Fear sells. 

Rage sells. 

Anger sells. 

Cleavage sells ... okay, that's probably not the point here, but anyway. 

It's not about the economy. Not this election, not really. 

"The Economy" is just a convenient narrative the press and politicians use when they don't want to do any actual work. It's an easy fiction that no one bothers to dispute. 

Gotta be the economy, Stupid. 

No kidding, right?

But it's bullshit. Voters don't show up because gas prices are high. And they don't show up because prices are low and there are plenty of jobs. They'll bitch and complain about inflation and the cost of milk, but they don't show up either way. 

They do show up, however, because they're mad about something.

Or they're afraid of something.

Or they hate something. 

Rage, fear, anger are all far more powerful motivators than the economy. That's why the press and the politicians spend so much time making you mad and afraid -- and the easiest way to do that is "The Economy" because America is a capitalist society and Americans are all driven by money. 

You mention money, Americans get very, very afraid very quickly. 

That's the entire basis of supply-side economics: fear. What's good for business is good for us. What's bad for business is bad for us. If business doesn't have to pay taxes, isn't hobbled by pesky regulation, isn't constrained by antitrust laws or any concern for the environment or the health and safety of consumers, then we all profit. Now, it's true that some profit a lot more than others, but that's the American way, isn't it? We gotta make the rich richer so some of it trickles down to the rest of us. That's what they tell us -- they being the rich. If business fails, we all fail. Be afraid. Be afraid of anyone who might put constraints on profit. 

That is the entire message of our economic system. 

Americans were afraid of inflation, but business boomed. Profits are way up. The stock market is riding an all time high. Because Americans paid more for goods and blamed the White House, but it wasn't actually inflation at all was it? It was that business blamed the economy while conspiring to raise prices and pocket the difference. 

See the price of eggs and gasoline et al. That wasn't inflation. That's the rich raising the price of goods to make themselves richer. 

Americans were afraid of COVID, but business got bailed out on the backs of Americans who'd lost their jobs, and not a single wealthy CEO lost even a penny's worth of income. 

That's the lesson the rich learned from the Great Depression: never gamble with your own money. 

A rising tide lifts all boats, which is great if you've got a boat. When things are good, the poor and middle class sacrifice to make the richer richer on the idea that some of that largess will trickle down to them. And when things go bad, the poor and recently unemployed lose their homes, college funds, and retirements and pay for bailouts to those same failed businesses while the rich pocket bonuses and then declare bankruptcy and leave the government they so utterly despise to clean up the economic, social, and environmental wreckage left in their wake which is also paid for by the middle class and the poor. 

That's how it works in America. Profits are personal, but the risks all public. 

Republicans hate "socialism," but they sure do love socializing failure. 

Profit is a privilege of the wealthy, failure is the responsibility of the poor, and you don't have to look any further than Donald Trump's business record to see it. And that is what republicans love about him, right there. And that is the thing the rich are terrified you'll figure out -- because the guillotines typically follow that social epiphany in short order.  So they push fear, fear of economic failure. What's bad for them is bad for you. Fear of losing your job, your income, your retirement, your home, your healthcare...

That's what actually trickles down, you know. Fear. That fear. That fear the rich will lose everything and we'll have to pay for it. 

But you know what? Hope is a hell of a motivator too. 

Yes it is. Remember that guy? The one who talked about hope and change? He pushed hope instead of fear and he won, won big. Twice. That's a lesson everyone seems to have forgotten. Because hate, rage, and fear are all a hell of a lot easier. 

You gotta be a hell of a leader to win on hope instead of fear. 

And those sorts of leaders are in short supply these days.

My point here is: those polls? Yeah, polls are like the Bible, they tell you whatever you want to hear. Polls are absolute evidence of whatever narrative the shouty guy up front wants you to believe today. Tomorrow they'll be absolute evidence of exactly the opposite and no one will even notice the switcheroo. 

Don't listen to the polls, they're trying to manipulate you, trying to make you confidently hopeful so you'll stay home because you believe the job is done, or trying to make you depressed and defeated so you'll stay home because the job isn't worth doing. 

Don't listen. Don't listen to the talking heads, their only interest is rage, fear, and anger because that's what sells advertising copy. That's what makes them rich. The more terrible the world, the richer they get, so they have an interest in making the world seem a worse place. 

Steady on, Folks. Be hopeful instead. 

Show up and you'll win.

You want a better nation, be a better citizen. 


  1. "Show up and you'll win.

    You want a better nation, be a better citizen. "

    We need a NATIONAL campaign putting this up on billboards in EVERY STATE, particularly every *major* city.

    1. Absolutely. If somone organizes it, I'll donate.

    2. Agreed. Billboards are still the best advertising for the buck.

    3. How about a bumper sticker? I mean seriously, who pays any attention to billboards? But, bumper stickers, who doesn't read those?

  2. We are a stupid lot. Fear filled sacks of limbic system-led protoplasm. Just vote dammit!

  3. Trump learned two valuable lessons in life. From his father, he learned NEVER spend your own money. Want to make an investment? Borrow from the bank. Let them take the loss when you declare bankruptcy and don't repay the loan. Second, from Roy Cohn, he learned ALWAYS attack. ALWAYS blame someone else. ALWAYS find a scapegoat to deflect attention. NEVER admit a mistake or apologize. And the CEOs of nearly every corporation follow the same playbook.

  4. Louder... for the folks in the back. We need to amplify this message. MAGAts won't hear it but the fence sitters just might. Show up. Vote. Block these a-holes.

  5. We need to redefine what profit is.

    The only way to do that is vote.

  6. Hi Jim, typo, should be manipulate: Don't listen to the polls, they're trying to manipulated you

  7. Fear sells. Fear mixed with stupidity gets you a cult. Right now that’s the red hat cult.
    I’m applying for citizenship and you better believe I’ll vote - in every election.

  8. I could not agree more. I do have one question: do you read Corey Doctorow? His works are worth checking out if you haven't.

  9. Do these guys really think that because they’re painting a picture of gloom and doom, I’m suddenly going to clutch my pearls and vote for authoritarian nazi scum? I don’t even need hope…though I do prefer positive campaigning over negative. I only need to remember the hell that we lived in for 4 years under mango mussolini. For example, over 400,000 Americans died from a virus he could and should have taken swift action on. To date, the number is over a million, thanks to his initial indecisiveness.

  10. Does anyone know anyone that has been contacted by pollsters? I sure don’t.

    1. Nope. I get email polls but I know that they're only looking for a donation so even if they say "Do you support Biden" I ignore them.

    2. Pollsters talk to people who answer anonymous calls on landline telephones

    3. Pollsters contact people who answer anonymous calls on landline telephones - so, not in a long time

    4. I have not been polled in the Trump (and in Wisconsin the Scott Walker) era for 13 years. No am I aware of any other Dem having been. The key will be to ignore the noise and just vote in every race that comes down the pike as if your life depended on it because it does.

  11. I love this essay Mr. Wright! Thank you!

  12. I have hope for our future. I know that the majority of US citizens want a democracy. If enough of us show up to vote, we will win.

  13. THIS!! In this holiday season, the George Bailey quote comes to mind (during the bank run), "Can't you understand what's happening here? Don't you see what's happening? Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicking, and he's not. That's why. He's picking up some bargains." - Greg Levy - ETC(SW) USN Retired

    Couple of typos - In the rising tide paragraph - ". . . poor sacrifice to make the richer richer" - should be making the rich richer, right?
    Don't listen to the polls paragraph - they're trying to manipulated you (should be manipulate), right?

    George Bailey knew a thing, or two about fear and hope. There's a lot of social justice to be found in It's a Wonderful Life (and A Christmas Carol, for that matter) that seems to bear on what Jim's saying here. One more quote - "Just a minute... just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was... why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why... here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!"

    1. Just saw another old movie that is nearly as appropriate...Meet John Doe. Only DB Norton isn't nearly as bad as Trump if only because he didn't have one of the two political parties behind him.

    2. "Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000?" Is still as relevant today

    3. " Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000?" is still as relevant today as it was in 1947. I have a damn good income as a widower with all my kids grown, and minimal expenses, and it STILL would take me a year to save $5,000. My kids would need 10 too 15 years to save as much (depending on the kid)

  14. Spot on as usual Jim. Polls don’t dictate how I vote, and it shouldn’t for anyone. Remember Nate Silver predicting Hillary Clinton by at least 25%? That was a poll that was nationally followed, but I digress. People need to show up. They need to vote for the candidate that hasn’t been impeached twice. Someone who doesn’t have a dozen Felony charges hanging over his head. Someone who does the job for the good of all people, not just the richest 1%.
    Show up and vote. Show up and vote like your country depends on it, because it does.

  15. The polling in swing states is pretty clearly related to Biden's support of Israeli ethnic cleansing, young people simply aren't going to show up for that. Biden is directly responsible for providing arms to Israel which are used to flatten Palestinian homes, hospitals, schools, etc... You haven't mentioned Israel either here or on Facebook from what I can see. Maybe I'm not spending enough time looking.

    Anyway, that's what's on my mind and that's what's on the mind of the people I regularly talk to. Biden hasn't fought nearly as hard as he could for many of the things he's promised and now he's aiding literal ethnic cleansing while negotiating in good faith with Republicans on fascist immigration policies. Why do you expect people to show up for that, despite the obvious downsides for the other guy?

    Sure, I'll show up for him, I'm nearing fifty, am well off, can provide for my family on my income, and live in a state with mail-in voting, it costs me next to nothing to vote save five minutes (if I want to just mark "D" down the line). What about these kids suffering from crushing debt, working three jobs, living packed into small apartments due to housing costs (or just fucking outright homeless), and watching the world burn because some old windbag who has trouble forming a complete sentence won't actually fight for something?

    1. What a load of absolute horseshit. I can see why you post anonymously.

      It's obvious you get your worldview directly from the Russian Federal Security Service and I'm irritated you would post such utter drivel here.

      But you are right about one, thing: you haven't been paying attention.


  16. Of all the content on the former twitter, I miss yours the most. Thanks chief, I try to caution those I know about the fear merchants, to no avail.

    1. On that note, with vast trepidation I finally succumbed to the siren’s musky call only to find you’d left. Thank you, I’m free again!

  17. I pay very little attention to polls. To me it sounds like the polls are skewed in someway. I take polls regularly. It sounds to me like they are set up now to make democrats stay home. I’m voting for Biden. I’m not super well off. I’m retired have limited income, but I see corporate money grabs and price gouging everywhere. When the cost of gas went up, they raised prices on everything. Went the price of fuel went down, the prices in the stores stayed up. The sizes on my regular buys are a few ounces less than a year ago. I notice these things. And yes the price of fuel is down. I can add and subtract. Trump keeps saying it’s up, but it’s not. The media keeps saying Biden did this or that. I think they will say anything to get readers.

    As far as Israel is concerned, I think I might have done the same thing they did, when Hamas attacked. Hamas takes the money we send to Palestinian aid and builds tunnels and buys weapons, not food or education for the people but supplies for war. Palestinians are okay with this. They support Hamas. The atrocities they have committed against the Israelis in this action warrants the extreme measures. No more sympathy from me. I hope I’ve not been too offensive with this.

    1. Not a bit offensive. You have a right to your opinion, just as we all (PEOPLE) are guaranteed. Think though for a minute how the original USAans endured nothing like the Palestinians have for 130 years; how we had no claim to the Americas other than being first to appropriate them, and under the flag of our ‘despot’; and were never herded into a 25 mile by 6 mile kennel. Yet we went to war…


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