Voting Against Your Own Best Interest

Some party hack decreed that the people had lost the government’s confidence and could only regain it with redoubled effort. If that is the case, would it not be simpler, if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?”

-Bertolt Brecht-

“The people have voted against their own best interest”

This is a losing concept. Making such a statement admits political defeat.

The statement implies that people are pathological for not agreeing with your political ideas. You have evidently lost touch with “the people” to such an extent that the unpopularity of your ideas creates a level of cognitive dissonance for you that can only be resolved by blaming others, rather than yourself.

This statement can periodically be heard from any part of the political spectrum and is espoused in an effort to explain away one’s own political failings. Almost any political persuasion understands itself to serve “the people” in some way or another. Hence, discontent about these “people” can come from any politician who is angry that the people he thinks he understands himself to serve, do not do or want the way he or she would like them to.

Instead of introspectively investigating whether one’s own political offerings and opinions might be outdated, ineffective, or otherwise unwanted — the only explanation for the unpopularity of one’s political program has to be found in the people it is meant to serve. At least that is what resorting to rhetorical device of “voting against their own best interest” implies.

Anyone who disagrees with me is insane

Saying that others vote against their own interests is borderline authoritarian thinking. To argue that people vote “against their own best interests” assumes that you know best what people’s interests should be. It also assumes that could make better choices for them.

You elevate your own ideas by implying that the only way to disagree with you is to somehow be deceived by others or to be unable to understand your arguments or be irrational to the point of insanity. You rule out that people might disagree with your arguments, simply on the basis of their merit. How do you even know if others might have pretty good arguments for disagreeing with you? Do you ever talk and listen to people who disagree with you and truly consider their point of view? No, because the only way you can explain to yourself why someone would not follow your ideas is that they are insane — and there is no point talking to insane people.

You don’t get to decide what people’s interests are!

Stating that someone should be interested in their economic welfare over other factors, for example, involves a massive value judgement on your part, which is now extended to everyone else. Sure, economic factors are massively important to most people, but that does not mean that people are insane if they make certain decisions based on other factors that they deem more important at the time.

Nobody’s perfect

I am not implying that political manipulation and deception are not real, but I heavily disagree with the practice of explaining away one’s own political defeats by blaming the people who didn’t vote for you.

People are imperfect but you don’t get to decide in what ways. Your opinion on what people should do and want has no relevance and does not give you any authority over people. The only legitimate action is to offer a political program that you believe in and attempt to convince others on the merit of your proposals. Pouting and blaming others for not being convinced by your arguments is immature and not productive.

People tend to have solid reasons for their voting decisions. If you disagree with those choices, it pays to investigate what really drives people to vote for what they do. Simply assuming that you are always right takes away your ability to learn something about the world.

If your environment does not reflect the implications of your theories, maybe there is something wrong with your theory rather than your environment.


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