Post-Election Observations

I live in the state with by far the lowest expenditure per pupil for public education, a state filled with overcrowded classrooms and underpaid [by any standard] teachers, a state where only 20% of new teachers remain in the classroom after five years. On my ballot were two initiatives to improve education funding, one of which would have added a ten cent a gallon gasoline tax to provide funds statewide, and a second which would have allowed the county in which I live to float some school bonds – which wouldn’t have added anything to local property taxes, but would have extended a current, very modest, levy for five years, after which the school levy would have dropped. Now, I’ve lived all over the U.S., and my current property taxes are lower in both total and percentage terms than anywhere I’ve lived. Needless to say, both initiatives appear to have been soundly defeated because I live in rock-red Republican country, where people talk sanctimoniously about children and education while refusing to support either financially. Yes, business is booming here in the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret, but one in seven children are going hungry, and more and more of the students entering college cannot write a coherent paragraph, although they “test” well.

And the election returns, for the most part, seem to be following a similar trend.

Those voters who talk the most about “traditional” values, such as life, children, education, and the American way are voting against people and programs that support those values and for politicians who vote for tax cuts that barely help poor and middle class families while enriching the richest Americans the most, for politicians who want to relax clean air standards and clean water standards, even after the children of a major municipal center suffered brutal lead poisoning, and when the ambient air quality in metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake and Denver, to name just a few, is worse than ever.

The election returns illustrate an incredible cognitive dissonance, where a huge percentage of Americans are voting for candidates whose actions are not only totally at odds with the physical and economic well-being of such voters, but even at odds with the beliefs that they profess, which suggests either incredible ignorance and/or hypocrisy, or that the need to belong to “their tribe” actually outweighs pretty much everything, including basic human decency.

And these election results also showed that this tribal polarization is still increasing, since most of the incumbents, in both parties, who were defeated were considered moderates.

Such indications scarcely bode well for the future.

5 thoughts on “Post-Election Observations”

  1. Tom says:

    ‘The election returns illustrate an incredible cognitive dissonance, where a huge percentage of Americans are voting for candidates whose actions are not only totally at odds with the physical and economic well-being of such voters, but even at odds with the beliefs that they profess, which suggests either incredible ignorance and/or hypocrisy, or that the need to belong to “their tribe” actually outweighs pretty much everything, including basic human decency.’

    OK so I agree because this phenomenon is not just in your county but in mine as well and if one looks it is increasing throughout the “free” world.

    All three causes you suggest are possible but they are also obvious and what I do not get is why we would still continue to visit this destruction to ourselves and our children?

    What makes us act out the scheme of “Waterhole Three” – do unto others before they do unto you! I do not think this is the theme Churchill was seeking in the dessert.

  2. John Prigent says:

    Ihave a sneaking suspicion that most of the opposition to higher local taxes comes from the firmly-held belief that the extra money will only be siphoned off to pay more bureaucrats and/or give the existing ones higher pay and higher pensions. That certainly seems to be the attitude here in the UK.

    1. I can see that for the tax, but the bond issue was earmarked specifically for new buildings to deal with the increasing number of students, not for any administrative uses.

  3. Phineas says:

    You know that by casually dismissing people who don’t vote the way you think they should as ignorant or hypocritical you’re actually contributing to the tribal polarization, right?

    One of the problems with civic discourse in our country is that nobody recognizes the value of being able to represent someone else’s viewpoint in a way they would consider fair and accurate. In that spirit, I think it’s worth noting that “education” as an ideal and our public education system, which is intended to act on that ideal, are not one and the same. It is actually possible to be for education (and children and families) but against the public education system.

    1. I fully understand that some people oppose greater funding for education. I don’t have a problem with their having that opinion, although I usually am for increased educational funding. I do have a problem when people offer great and sanctimonious verbal support for education and then oppose increasing funding while doing absolutely nothing to improve or change the system. I’ve been pointing out problems and offering various solutions for years, but unless and until changes are made, we’re stuck with the current system, and failing to fund it adequately only jeopardizes the next generation.

      As for pointing out hypocrisy… that has little to do with with either beliefs or polarization. It has to do with honesty. If someone or some group’s acts are contrary to their professed ideals or beliefs, pointing out their hypocrisy isn’t an attack on those beliefs, but an attack on their integrity. And, unhappily, political integrity seems to matter less and less.

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