h/t to Dan_in_DE fellow commenter over at Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog for the oil example
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. – Ernest Hemingway
Let’s face it, there is a certain percentage of Americans in 2008 who did not trust then candidate Obama. After he was elected, nothing changed for them. They still didn’t trust President Obama. And nearing the end of his first term, they continue not to trust him.
The question that plagues many liberals is why and why to such an extreme degree? We’ve spent, collectively, tons of time and millions of words on this topic alone. Every time there is a new conspiracy theory on the right, it’s ugly head crops up again. Here’s an example of one of those “conspiracy of lies” adding one more brick to the wall of distrust that many conservatives have been carefully erecting for the last four years.
Item A: from the Pres The U.S. is at peak oil production and so much so that we are actually exporting more oil than we are importing. This is in part due to less driving (due to recession and more fuel efficient cars), to more drilling (and fracking, etc) permits being granted by the Federal Government within the U.S., and the increasing diversification of our energy sources (natural gas, ethanol, solar, wind, etc.). I.e., President Obama has helped the country reduce it’s dependence on foreign oil from 60% in 2005 to 45% in 2011.
Item B: from the Internet While overall use of oil has gone down, it has only gone down because of the Recession. As a percentage of the oil we use, foreign oil has actually gone up under Pres. Obama about 3%.
Okay, so a rational person would say, let me check out the data to see who is telling the truth. To verify the President’s data you should look at many federal agencies, such as the EPA, the Department of Commerce, the Port Authorities, etc, etc. To verify that the second item’s data you would look at one site (and then see it repeated and spread to other sites)–a blog by a guy by the name of Misha, who says he is an “investment advisor” for a capital management company who got his data from a reader, who’s name is Tim Wallace. We are not given any other information on this Tim–no claim to expertise, no location, no research study to read, no source for the data, at all.
So would a rational person believe Item A or Item B? Item A because 1) the data sources have a lot of expertise, that’s what they do. 2) There’s a lot of different agencies involved in determining what resources we are using and from where and then the calculation is done by yet another agency, etc. If it were a lie, it would be lie being perpetrated by thousands of people employed by the Federal Government across several states over a long period of time. That makes the odds that this is some conspiracy infinitesimally small.
But what do conservative voters believe? Item B because they just do. Let me give you another example. Take a look at the chart I made below. According to my sources of information the U.S. did not experience a Recession recently. See that line, clearly GDP has been rising so the Recession must have been a lie.
My Example: The GDP from 1960 to Present
Except you KNOW that the Recession wasn’t a lie. You know or have experienced yourself the economic downturn. You can see its effects everywhere. Furthermore, see that dip there in GDP? That’s the recession and it may not look like alot but remember we’re talking trillions of dollars here. Also, note that GDP only took a temporary downturn so now it is up. So I’m not lying when I say we’re not in a Recession now but that is only part of the story. So what did I do? I made the chart lie and I used some partial truths. Here is what the GDP chart REALLY looks like and the source is the World Bank, an authority on such things.
The REAL chart: GDP from 1960 to Present
Who am I? I could be anybody. What expertise do I have in regards to economics? None, but I could give myself all kinds of advanced degrees and experience and you would have to accept what I say (otherwise you would have to go to great lengths to see if my bio was real or not, which no one seems to do for many posters who claim expertise on the Internet). Plus, even the mainstream media thinks it’s okay. How often do you hear, “Some people say….”. That’s not a friggin journalistic source. My eight year old daughter often says that “time is passing so slowly” but that doesn’t mean I can say on Fox News that, “Some people say that time is slowing down.”
So we’re back to WHY do conservative voters not trust Pres. Obama–why are they more likely to believe the word of an anonymous person on the Internet but not the thousands of federal employees and their agencies, the White House staff and the President himself? In pondering this question this morning, I realized something important.
I remembered that I never trusted Pres. G.W. Bush. Back in the run up to the war in Iraq in early 2003, I asked people around me, “Do you trust him? What if he’s lying about the WMD? What if he’s lying about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq?” A year later I read the 9/11 Commission report and knew he had lied about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. And the country found out about that the WMD’s didn’t exist. Whether Pres. Bush lied about it is still being debated today. I, obviously, felt vindicated, but it was not all that pleasant since far too many people had lost their lives. I would have rather been wrong.
So what did I base my distrust of Pres. Bush back then? It was a predisposition on my part to distrust someone like him. That predisposition included 1) a deep disdain for silver spooners who have had everything in their life handed to them, 2) a resentment of people that fail over and over again in spectacular ways that hurt other people but still they are given a million chances to do it again, 3) he wasn’t a true southener. My experience in life has been exactly the opposite. My family has been in the South for over 200 years, before we were even a nation. Furthermore, I had to fight for every little thing in my life (but some good luck played into it too, that I don’t deny). But at some very crucial points in my life I have lost out on some incredible opportunities because a “silver spooner” got the opportunity instead. Merit had nothing to do with it, but who you know, how much money you have, and the presence of a penis did have something to do with it. And Pres. Bush was bad at everything he did in life. His time in the National Guard was a joke–they’re not even sure if he was in the state (FL I think) at the time he was supposed to be serving. He ran the Texas Rangers into the ground and then foisted the losing baseball franchise on the taxpayers of Texas. He did crappy in one of the best schools in the nation (which he never would have qualified for if not for his family). Let’s face it, if he had been from an average family, he’d be lucky to rise to the level of middle manager at some company. And if he’d been born to a poor family, he’d be lucky to manage a Fast Food Restaurant (I’m not disparaging those jobs, BTW, having worked in middle management and fast food restaurants myself on my way up the ladder).
Could conservative voters feel the same way about Pres. Obama? Do they distrust him because he seems so different from them and their experience? And if so, how so? There were three narratives about the President’s bio that were pushed into the media very effectively by the right without any legitimate proof whatsoever. There’s the Birther/Islamo-Fascist narrative, the elitist academic snob narrative, and the typical African American thug from Chicago narrative. All of these were thrown at the wall to see what stuck and surprisingly, to me and other liberals at least, all three stuck. So much so that you will often see conservatives ranging from one narrative to the other in a single conversation. Why were they so ready to believe he was a Manchurian candidate with ONLY a blurry and clearly photoshopped birth certificate online? Why were they so ready to condemn him as elitist for using bigger words than the previous President? Because they were predisposed to not trust him, and again we come back to why?
The reality is that Pres. Obama’s story is an excellent example of the American Dream, and he and I have many similarities in our life story (raised by single parent, put self through school and grad school by working and student loans, had to travel to meet father, struggled as a teen, etc). Moreover, he and I agree on many ideas about government, domestic and foreign relations, economic theories, etc. His values matched my own pretty closely. So I was predisposed to trust him. I am sure many conservative voters would say that he did not match their values and that’s why they didn’t trust him. But what are those values? They tend to be Christian–he’s a Christian. They tend to be middle class either from middle class families or from lower class families–he was, socieconomically, lower class that climbed the ladder to the middle class, until he wrote his best selling books and then he became upper class. They believe in higher education as a vehicle to move up the social ladder- so does he and he’s living proof of it. They have had to work their ass off to get where they are–so has he. They believe in the traditional family–so does he, his family is the perfect example of a healthy, traditional family. They love their Medicare and he has promised to keep it safe. They hate the deficit and so does he. What is so different about him?
Conservatives will counter with “buts…” and I can counter again with my own “howevers”. 1) “he also believes in non-traditional families”–true, however he was against a national law declaring marriage as being allowed for everyone, and proposed that states figure it out individually. 2) “he didn’t go to a traditional Christian church…he went to one preaching hate against America”–partially true, partially false, he went to a traditional African American Church that did some preaching of Liberation Theology–a very common thing in the U.S. that most white people aren’t aware of because they don’t go to black churches. 3) “he didn’t produce his actual birth certificate”–true, however no President has ever been able to get their ACTUAL birth certificate. The original is ALWAYS kept on file by the state-ALWAYS. The only way to SEE it is to get a certified copy from the appropriate state agency…which he did and which he posted on the Internet PLUS had the original certified by Hawain authorities like all the Presidents before him. Do you see what I mean? It’s all a matter of trust. The facts in the end don’t matter to most people.
I know what’s in my own brain and what my biases are. The problem is, the average voter probably doesn’t. That introspection is completely lacking with many conservative voters and perhaps it’s because what they might find is probably disturbing or at least should be disturbing. Their willingness to always find “buts” and look for the disimilarities, even the far out and completely untrue dissimilarities, confirms a bias. Many have said it’s racism and I think they’re right for some conservatives, who really knows how many. Could it just be a party loyalty thing? Sure. Could it be a generational thing? Sure, he is pretty young. Could it be a jealousy thing? Sure, he’s smart, he makes everything look easy and he’s made it to the big leagues whereas most people haven’t. But are any of those things enough to justify the level of distrust and in many cases hatred of him? No, I don’t think so. So after having gone through the elimination of all the things above (and many more I won’t continue to bore you with), I can’t think of anything else that’s left but racism? Can you? This is another one of those instances where I hope I am wrong and that the American people are better than this.