Sunday, June 25, 2023

A Quirk of Human Nature

During the Republican National Convention in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush was facing a tight race for President against Michael Dukakis. Therefore, encouraged by Karl Rove, he declared

And my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again. And I’ll say to them: Read my lips. No new taxes.

Bad policy, great politics, and Bush went on to defeat Dukakis- and later to raise taxes. As Time magazine reminisced 

Before his first year in office was complete, he had signed into law a “stealth budget” that, while leaving the income tax alone, raised various fees and levies. In 1990, David Letterman was joking that Bush’s catchphrase should be updated to “Read my lips: I was lying”; sure enough, it was clear that the original promise had to go.

The following year, I was talking to a friend of mine, a moderate who was a big supporter of President George Herbert Walker Bush. He was not a fan of paying higher taxes, and I asked him how he still could be a supporter of Bush, who appeared to have lied about something so important. 

I can remember his response only roughly because I didn't realize how telling it was, and it was over thirty years ago. He stated in essence "But that he promised that made it clear that he wanted to lower taxes."

He wanted to lower taxes, it was reasoned, and by voicing his intent demonstrated that he wanted to help taxpayers. We currently have a prominent politician and ex-actor who strategically makes ridiculous and outlandish claims (even more than his rivals).



Donald Trump tells evangelical activists that he's being prosecuted- and he means persecuted. The man who once declared "I am the Chosen One" also says that he is being indicted for you.

This is not unintentional and it is not stupid, but rather impressive strategy. When Trump was to be nominated, he selected for his running mate Mike Pence, who was not only a favorite of such Christians but an evangelical himself. Trump's strength among these voters grew and solidified but reportedly has slipped in the past couple of years. The ex-President, still the favorite for the GOP nomination, nevertheless hears footsteps, and not only from Ron DeSantis. Tim Scott is at least somewhat of a threat and Trump needs to shore up his support among religious conservatives.

Most of those voters don't buy the idea of Donald Trump, he of the "Two Corinthians," who says "I drink my little wine (and) and have my little cracker" at communion is one of them. Most suspect, if not believe, that he's not the believer that they are.

Nonetheless, he pretends to be, even claiming the Bible as his favorite book. And in pretending to be, he is obviously trying to appeal to them. He clearly values their support and is essentially asking for their vote. Claiming he was "indicted for you," he is trying to forge a bond with those individuals, and they sense it.

Running against Bill Clinton for the 1992 Democratic nomination for President, former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas spoke disparagingly of the former Arkansas governor as "the pander bear" and "someone who will say anything to get elected." As it turned out, voters felt positively about the "I feel your pain" guy precisely because he did pander to them.

It sent the message that Bill Clinton understood that voters were important enough that he would try to appeal to them.  When Donald Trump says "I was indicted for you," some Republicans believe him and some don't. However, most of them appreciate a politician who will take on their burdens for them. And if a few find that it reminds them of their savior and redeemer, even better.

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