Books & MagazinesBooks: I recently purchased a book I've been pining for since first reading about it in the NYT magazine on August 1st. I even paid full price for it -- hardcover. For those who know me, this is a rare event. I tore into it (my mother told me growing up I was "a voracious reader") and though only clearing 160 of the 800ish pages, I am pretty confident this will be worth the hardcover price.
Magazines: Today in the mail I got this week's New Yorker -- a behemouth tome (for some reason seemingly centered around articles and metaphors of cooking -- perhaps riding on the unfortunate passing of Julia Child). The sad news is, I haven't yet finished last week's. Regardless, I would like do a shout out for an article in it (last week's) by Louis Menard, titled "The Unpolitical Animal: How political science understands voters." I consider myself an unpolitical animal trying to rehabilitate myself -- and a neophyte history graduate student who converses with only a single political science student, over coffee, and speaking French (broken). It (the article) was short and sweet and revealing for me. I had assumed that political scientists looked at voters as rational beings, and tried to draw (direct) correlations between political issues and voting habits. I now see that a form of "bounded rationality" is employed. Three different frameworks for considering the voters are given and I think it's worth noting them:
1. The outcome of elections is arbitrary -- that voters respond so impressively by slogans, sensational news, misinformation, random personal associations that it drowns out those who vote for "substantitive political arguments." [The demise of democracy, long live democracy?]
2. A group of elites have great power -- and their opinions are communicated to the voters "by various cues, low-content phrases and images (warm colors, for instance) to which voters will relate."
3. People use "heuristics" (shortcuts) to make their candidate decisions ("low-information rationality"); reliance on experts combined with a "gut feeling" provide a way for voters to make up their minds without having to spend too much time parsing all the issues. These shortcuts include the all-important "political party" shortcut -- voting across the board with a single party affiliation.
Menard takes the third most seriously, and it appears to me as the framework with the most potential (and the most malleable and employable) of the three. All of Chris' braying (a little pun never hurt anyone, n'est-ce pas?) on Bushisms and the reception of the RNC delegates in NYC, these aren't mere lipservice. What I'm getting right now from all this is this: when reading in a book that person X was elected to office because of, say, a particular economic condition, I will be taking that with a grain of salt. Though it might be a factor, it is possibly hiding a behind-the-scenes story involving not only the political issues, and the politicians, but also throws in, on yeah, the voters.
Yeah, and as a neophyte history graduate student, I'm still trying to decide my take on causation. This bounded rationality (what does he call it again? low-level something or another) leaves room for some causation, some contingency... It's late and I've stopped making sense I think.
With that I bid you adieu,