I don't know whether to be angry or laugh. Laughing seems somewhat inappropriate, and being angry just seems futile. So, I am writing this in the hopes that perhaps some people will realize exactly what mental gymnastics we are dealing with here, as we try an extricate ourselves from a pending Dark Ages.
My parents live in Alberta Darling's district. My mother is a teacher. My father has reaped substantial benefits from my mother's union employment going back to the 1970s, including healthcare while he started up a small business. He would never be able to get insurance on the open market now. He currently receives Medicare and has a history of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and has a degenerative neurological disorder.
My father historically told all of us what to think politically. In an effort to make him happy, I cast my very first vote for Bush I. Then I went to Madison. And woke the hell up.
Somehow, you can live the kind of reality my parents did, and then still vote for Walker and Darling and what they represent, even as they take away your safety net, chunk by chunk.
The frog in boiling water allegory comes to mind.
Understanding my father is easy. My father is a completely spoiled Baby Boomer first son who had all the authority in his nuclear family. He has a clear Just World fallacy - everyone deserves what they get all the time, including poor people. Especially poor people. And women who have abortions deserve any negative consequences from that and it should be illegal. I tend to think that people like my father are lost causes. There is too much wrapped up in being "right." I feel like he is firmly standing on deck of the Titanic, insisting that there is no possible way that the ship could sink. After all, it is designed not to. So how could it?
There isn't much you can do to argue with that. Either they get in the lifeboat, or they don't.
My mother is a harder case and these are the kinds of people I feel like we might be able to reach, but we face substantial challenges. I would liken my mother's mindset more to that of a horse in a burning barn. It's touch and go as to whether they will allow themselves to be led out, or flee, or whether they will stay in the perceived safety of the barn and burn to death.
Here's what I mean: my mother hates Alberta with a passion and voted absentee against her for the recall. But the reason she hates Darling is completely baffling. She gets angry that Darling is anti-education, and yet she voted for Walker. When Walker showed his true colors, my mother was baffled. I asked her, "Why in the world are you surprised?" She said, with all sincerity, "He never said he was going to do anything like that."
Uh...yeah? But if you are aware at all what the Republicans are about, this shouldn't be a shock.
Yes, but, she says, he never said he was going to try and bust unions.
She still defends Walker as acting in the best interest of the state by cutting costs. My father insists (again, remember that he gets union insurance and my mother's income is supporting them right now because business is down) that "we'll see if these measures do indeed save money" (with the clear implication that he believes they will).
My mother will send me items that are anti-Darling, including the fact that she used to be on the board of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
But then today she tells me she is angry about the phone calls and fliers telling her to get out and vote and insists that money could be "better spent on both sides, instead of trying to kill each other everyone should just get along." She doesn't even seem to understand the war that Walker opened up, and how Darling and the other Republicans up for recall are captains in that war, and this is why she is getting phone calls from Colorado and Oregon.
She knows that I have basically made my living advocating for progressive causes. And yet her professed happiness at my level of intelligence and competence disturbs her not at all. I have absolutely no political credibility.
How can you be so unaware, but then have a small amount of awareness that something is wrong? Why would you not pursue that feeling of wrongness?
From my experience dealing with my parents (they are mortified I am a liberal) I can only assume that there are many people like my mother who have always voted Republican. They simply don't see the change in the Party, or if they do, the alternative is too scary. Considering the possibility that one has been lied to and used for a long, long time, causes shame. People don't like to feel shame. Many times they will do absolutely anything to avoid feeling it.
I think we underestimate the difficulty inherent in the "conversion" factor when we talk about people who historically voted Republican to vote Democratic or become Democrats, especially older adults. I get the feeling that not only is Republicanism integral to one's world view, it is entangled in one's identity. Maybe we should ask ourselves if the same is true for us. Unzipping one's identity is a lot to ask from people. Does it need to be done sometimes? Yes. Are people going to fight to keep that from happening? Yes.
We should be asking ourselves how we can get that horse out of the burning barn when the horse is absolutely, positively, convinced that the barn is the safest place to be.