That line comes early in this clip, and it’s not the most interesting line she delivers. The most interesting line comes later, long after she says her husband Barack Obama can be president because he deals with her, at the :53 mark when she says that people have voted “against their personal best interest” in supporting Republicans. Where that comes from and what that means after the clip.
So Mrs. Obama riffs on the “fear mongers” (meaning the Bush administration and anyone who supports the war) before deriding voters for voting against their own “personal best interest.” That line about voters (voters who vote Republican, not Democrat, of course) voting against their own self-interest dates back to the Howard Dean campaign in 2004:
As much as Dean would like to focus the election on jobs, healthcare and education instead of “guns, God, and gays,” Lakoff says trying to appeal to practical issues is no way to beat George Bush.
“The conservatives understand that poor conservatives are going to Bush not because it’s in their self-interest,” he says. “People vote their identity much more than their self interest.”
That’s George Lakoff talking. He’s the author of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, which judging by the ways politicians like Dean and Mrs. Obama use it, must be one of the sillier political tracts of recent years. Lakoff and therefore Dean and Obama argue, with a straight face, that voters who support tax cuts, robust economic growth, smaller government and a strong fight against the global jihad are all voting against their own self-interest. They argue further that such voters should realize that their self-interests are better preserved by progressives implementing policies like high taxation, weak defense, burdensome regulation and all the rest that goes along with progressive politics. It’s nonsense, but it sounds good to liberals like Mrs. Obama because it makes it sound like they’re appealing to some high moral purpose.
How about just making the government competent to perform the actual, stated purposes it is supposed to fulfill, and leave the high moral purposes to religion and religious figures or non-governmental things like reading a book or pursuing a hobby? Well, for liberals government is a form of worship and faith in government approaches religious zeal, so they naturally fuse high moral purpose with government bureaucracy. It’s in their spiritual DNA. Lakoff is their Rick Warren: He gives liberals a purpose-driven politics.
As we get closer to the ’08 election, expect more of this nonsense to come dripping out from all the Democrat candidates and their surrogates. Just because Dean flamed out in 2004 spewing garbage like this won’t stop others from trying to appropriate it. It sounds high-minded to talk about voters voting against their own self-interest when voting Republican, but it’s actually an appeal to cognitive dissonance: We support a strong national defense because it’s both in our national interest and in our self-interest to do so. We would rather kill jihadis overseas than have another 9-11 here that might harm our own families and hurt our country. We like personal freedom and reject dhimmitude. We support tax cuts because we would rather spend our own money than trust it to government.
Now, these same liberals who’ll argue that voting for liberalism is a vote for your own self-interest won’t hesitate for a second to deride “the rich” for supporting Republican tax cuts. And they’re the same people who support intervention in Darfur, where there’s no obvious national interest involved, but want us out of Iraq, the central front in the war against the jihad. Well, aren’t those rich people just doing what Lakoff and Mrs. Obama would have them do, and vote for their own self-interest? Of course they are. And as I said above, support for the war makes perfect sense from a self-interest point of view. The problem is, rich voters who support tax cuts aren’t voting in ways that help liberals’ self-interest, and that’s what really matters to the liberals. Likewise, Darfur fulfills their government/spiritual needs precisely because it doesn’t intersect with any obvious national interests. Iraq is a dirty war to them in part because it’s all about national interest and has been predicated as a fight for our national defense and survival. That’s not high-minded enough for them.
But getting beyond all that, it was Democrat John F. Kennedy who argued that we should ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Today’s Lakoff Democrats don’t say anything like that and don’t believe in it. Their misguided appeal to self-interest to promote collectivist progressive politics is a repudiation, conscious or not, of the JFK ideal. With his broad-based tax cuts, strong stand against the USSR and appeal to idealism, it’s unlikely that JFK would even be welcome in the Democrat party if he were alive today. JFK would stand alongside Joseph Lieberman and now Bob Kerrey, branded heretics for breaching the progressive faith.
(clip via Beyond the News)
More: Reader Gabriel suggests that Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas is another source of the “Republicans vote against their self-interest” meme. And he’s right.
The largely blue collar citizens of Kansas can be counted upon to be a “red” state in any election, voting solidly Republican and possessing a deep animosity toward the left. This, according to author Thomas Frank, is a pretty self-defeating phenomenon, given that the policies of the Republican Party benefit the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the average worker. According to Frank, the conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans’ actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class. Thus the pro-life Kansas factory worker who listens to Rush Limbaugh will repeatedly vote for the party that is less likely to protect his safety, less likely to protect his job, and less likely to benefit him economically.
And so forth, according to the blurb at Amazon. Boiled down, it’s a liberal sneer: They’re just too stupid to know what’s good for them and vote for us!
More: Our mole at the Yearly Kos fest last year ran into a Lakoff session. Said mole was unimpressed, though the Kossacks were evidently inspired.