Yesterday I caught a little of Sean Hannity’s radio show, which I had not heard in several years. Apparently, he is on the same page as Rush Limbaugh (I know, shocking!) in telling his conservative listeners to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Why? Because keeping the Democrats in disarray helps Republican nominee John McCain; Clinton and Obama will be beating up on each other and not on McCain, or so the theory goes. At the end of the primary season, whoever wins the Democratic nomination emerges bloodied and battered.
Immediately some guy calls in to rail on this tactic. Hannity explains his reasoning, which I’ve outlined above, and the guy keeps coming back with “But we don’t like Hillary Clinton!” Nothing Hannity says matters: “But Sean, WE DON’T LIKE HILLARY CLINTON!”
No matter your political stance, the tactic of supporting one of your enemies in order to “kill off” (the caller’s words) another enemy is time-tested. Mike Huckabee won the West Virginia Republican primary because McCain supporters voted for Huckabee to deny Mitt Romney an otherwise likely win in the south. But for some Republicans, strategy doesn’t matter. There is simply no way they can stomach supporting Hillary Clinton in any way.
I thought about how irrational that is from a political point of view. If it helps your candidate, you do it, unless it’s unethical or illegal. But then it reminded me that so much of what we would like to think is reasoned and well thought out is done on a gut level. We value the way we feel about things more than we do ideas and facts and reason. A long time ago I saw an interview with some Peronistas at a political rally in Argentina. Not one could articulate what the party’s or candidate’s position was on any of the pressing issues. They just supported the “ideals” of Peronism. And those “ideals” are more often than not nebulous feelings about what we think are our core values, and we may not even understand them.
Sometimes I wonder if that’s how I live my life. I sometimes make major decisions because it does or doesn’t feel “right,” and sometimes those feelings are dead wrong. But I keep doing it. Much of this, I suspect, is conditioned into us, in the same way that certain people bristle at hearing Barack Obama’s middle name or seeing a man with a turban.
Sometimes this irrationality can be exploited. I worked for a while for a large multinational corporation. Our biggest competitor? Halliburton. We were a larger company with probably just as many skeletons in our closet as Halliburton has, but no one batted an eyelash when I told them where I worked. If I mentioned that we competed with Halliburton, people would invariably say, “I hope you guys run them out of business.” I’m sure the executives at my company were thrilled to be able to do business with all the negative attention going directly to our largest competitor. Who wouldn’t?
So I wonder if all the “progress” we’ve made as humans comes not because of following our “guts” but in spite of it.