Voting: Financial security, illiteracy and moral framing.


Frequent reader S introduces the topic of voting (and non-voting) patters of the financially insecure with this comment.

This probably says a lot about New Albany. It surely affects local elections even more, I would guess. Perhaps a different kind of “Get out the vote” campaign strategy is called for …

Perhaps the most noteworthy revelation to be drawn from the survey is the very existence of Americans who feel financially secure.

Study: Financially Insecure Americans Less Likely to Vote (Associated Press)

Less financially secure Americans lean toward the Democratic Party, but are also less likely to vote, especially in midterm elections, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan Washington-based research group looked beyond income to measure economic security, instead considering such factors as whether people are employed, have difficulty paying bills or possess a retirement savings account.

Those who Pew ranked as the most “financially secure” were almost certain to be registered to vote, with Pew classifying 63 percent as likely to vote in November. But among the bottom 20 percent, only 54 percent are registered and only 20 percent were likely voters in the midterms.

In this excerpt from Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, Henry Giroux takes it a step further: Illiteracy isn’t just about being unable to read words on a page. Rather, it describes the loss of a filter by which one translates “private troubles to broader social issues.”

The Spectacle of Illiteracy and the Crisis of Democracy, by Henry Giroux (Moyers and Company)

Wright Mills argued 50 years ago that one important measure of the demise of vibrant democracy and the corresponding impoverishment of political life can be found in the increasing inability of a society to translate private troubles to broader public issues …

… It is not that we have become a society of the spectacle — though that is partly true — but that we have fallen prey to a new kind of illiteracy in which the distinction between illusion and reality is lost, just as the ability to experience our feelings of discontent and our fears of uncertainty are reduced to private troubles, paralyzing us in a sea of resentment waiting to be manipulated by extremists extending from religious fanatics to right-wing radio hosts. This is a prescription for a kind of rage that looks for easy answers, demands a heightened emotional release and resents any attempts to think through the connection between our individual woes and any number of larger social forces. A short list of such forces would include an unchecked system of finance, the anti-democratic power of the corporate state, the rise of multinationals and the destruction of the manufacturing base and the privatization of public schooling along with its devaluing of education as a public good. As the public collapses into the personal, the personal becomes “the only politics there is, the only politics with a tangible referent or emotional valence,” the formative educational and political conditions that make a democracy possible begin to disappear. Under such circumstances, the language of the social is either devalued, pathologized or ignored and all dreams of the future are now modeled around the narcissistic, privatized and self-indulgent needs of consumer and celebrity culture and the dictates of the allegedly free market. How else to explain the rage against big government but barely a peep against the rule of big corporations who increasingly control not only the government but almost every vital aspect of our lives from health care to the quality of our environment?

Depressed yet?

Let’s not neglect George Lakoff, whose work was considered in this space a few weeks ago. Added to a variable consciousness borne of financial insecurity, and illiteracy as launching a crisis of democracy, there’s the familiar but now modeified “illiterate and impoverished chicken who when bothering to vote at all opts for Colonel Sanders,” owing to unconscious “strict father morality.

Lakoff: ” Poor conservatives vote their identity as conservatives, not their lack of material wealth.”

… George Lakoff, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley, has been working on moral frames for 50 years. In Communicating Our American Values and Vision, he gives this precis: “Framing is not primarily about politics or political messaging or communication. It is far more fundamental than that: frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality – and sometimes to create what we take to be reality. But frames do have an enormous bearing on politics … they structure our ideas and concepts, they shape the way we reason … For the most part, our use of frames is unconscious and automatic.”

Unless the school corporation referendum brings out municipal voters in May, there’ll almost certainly be another historic low in turnout.

Who’ll be the ones pulling those metaphorical levers?