The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

I Can’t Imagine Why People Are Willing to Gamble On Change

They just don’t know all their self interest. If only they understood everything that has been done for them.

“Poor people in the U.S. may not be many times better off than people in Africa or in India,” said Deaton, who added: “Many areas of Appalachia and Mississippi Delta have lower life expectancy than Bangladesh.”

I, uh, have lived in Bangladesh, albeit a long time ago now. I understand things have improved, still, you have to work really hard to go lower than Bangladesh.

As I’ve said before, people in these communities (and others in decline) know what the status quo offers, and pegged Clinton as a status quo continuation. Thus, they were willing to take a chance on Trump.

That doesn’t mean he may not be bad for them, it means that their lives are already unbearable, their futures moreso, and they’re willing to take even bad gambles for a chance at improvement. (This is also why poor people often buy lottery tickets. The odds are terrible, they’re pissing away money, but they have not even a miniscule hope otherwise of a better life.)

Trump and the Republicans’ repeal of the ACA will kill a decent chunk of people due to the end of the pre-existing conditions clause (assuming that isn’t kept, which seems likely, though Trump has said he wanted to keep it). Tax cuts for the rich and corporations will be bad for the poor and the middle class. But Trump also promised to shake up other things, like trade and tariffs, which may benefit them.

In any case, sometimes a roll of the dice seems like the only option–especially when the option of keeping things as they are is unbearable.

*While the poor and working class did not make up the biggest chunk of Trump’s voters, the shift in their votes was part of what allowed Trump to win. In an election as close as the last one, a lot of things are “the cause.”

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  1. realitychecker

    A very smart guy once told me the key variable in whether one feels happy is the difference between what expectations one had, as contrasted with the reality one actually is getting to experience.

    We were led to have very high expectations in this country throughout my long life, not only materially, but also in terms of our ideals and principles.

    We have come to a place where, for most people, the disappointments on both fronts have been mammoth. For folks like me, the latter group are by far the most important, and also the ones which have by the greatest measure failed to measure up to expectation.

    So, no mystery to me that folks are willing to contemplate some political unknowns to get some real change that moves things toward their old and cherished expectations.

    To me, the only mystery is that most still think such changes can happen without some people being treated very harshly in the process. What I see are that people are still not even able/willing to discuss what kinds of actions might be required, still hoping for some deus ex machina to save them without anybody having to get their own hands dirty or suffer any real inconvenience or disruption or risk in their own lives.

    IOW, they still want the system that has fucked them and failed them to save them. If they can’t get their eyes open wide enough to consider more options, then they deserve their fate, IMO.

  2. Arthur

    I think that part of the problem is that most people can’t look in the mirror and honestly accept what’s staring back. I have never had a problem admitting where I’ve fucked up. To me it’s just a question of accepting the obvious. However, this simple acceptance of reality just seems to be beyond many, indeed too many, people. I believe that is one of the reasons this country and the world is in the shape it’s in.

    And now I think we’ve come to the beginning of the end. To me the only question is how long will the end take and what will come after. I imagine the after part will depend on what’s left to build with.

  3. EmilianoZ

    No matter how bad things are, it can always get worse.

  4. Ian Welsh

    Individuals have a lot less say in their fate than they think. The environment they live in, the history, generally matters more. That’s not to say as individuals we have no responsibility, just that it isn’t as big as most believe.

    The GI generation is the generational avatar of that. Right place, right time. Silent too, and true of the first half of the boomers.

    Where and when and to whom you are born determines how good you have to be and how much luck you need. Some people need a lot less luck and hard work and good decisions than others.

  5. Webstir

    You stated “this simple acceptance of reality just seems to be beyond many, indeed too many, people.”

    Like you, shortly after the election I had to step back and re-evaluate “what I knew.” I thought that Hillary would thump Trump. I thought the Obama coalition would hold. And I admit, as a Sanders supporter I begrudgingly voted for her, if for no other reason than to at long last secure the SCOTUS for the left for a while. And also like you, I accepted the obvious, which like Ian is saying, there are a lot of people out there hurting a lot more than I had previously thought.

    And I agree with your statement I quoted above. So many of my left-leaning friends are acting out the definition of crazy. Trying over and over the tropes that got us where we are today. They are doubling down, knashing their teeth, blaming and rationalizing instead of adjusting their worldview and seeking to get back to the roots of what once made the left a viable alternative to the right.

    But there is, I feel, a very good reason for this. They are conditioned to their “identity,” in-group responses. So much of what I’m seeing is habitual. Knee-jerk responses to the right, instead of reasoned responses to the fact that the traditional left/right lines have broken down.

    I have a pretty good idea why I’ve been able to transition my thinking relatively quickly: (1) an undergraduate in psychology, (2) many years working in the therapy field, (3) I’m a lawyer who has been trained to always look at both sides of an issue, and I think most importantly, (4) I’ve been sober for going on 11 years now. I know how to listen to my maladaptive thoughts. But without some kind of experience in being able to recognize the reasons behind why we think the way we do, and then change the behaviors that ultimately change those thoughts, people are really nothing more than a rote set of conditioned responses. Which explains … why we so rarely seem to learn.

  6. Tom W Harris

    It’s always darkest before the dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

  7. Tomonthebeach

    Although poverty in some pockets of the US is inarguably severe, comparisons with extremely poor countries is probably misleading. The percentage of the electorate who live in abject poverty is most surely NOT large enough to have turned the tide toward Trump.

    As a psychologist, I concur with the notion that expectations are at the root of the switch, but I do not see the change to Republican (perhaps Trump too) as an anything’s-better-than-this choice. It would seem that serial bad life choices are responsible for most people’s financial woes. Spending vs investing; smoking, drinking, and drugging; not diversifying investments are all examples of everyday choices that suck 10’s of thousands of investable income out of annual household incomes. Why do people do it?

    My hunch is that expectations in the US are always unrealistically high. Whatever causes people to choose a gas-guzzling F150 over a miserly Corolla is more likely the cause for gambling on change. That is, if they are wrong, things will probably just stay the same – what electing HRC offered. If Washington does get less corrupt, things will probably get better for me.

  8. Webstir


    As I said above, I’ve been sober for over a decade now. Well, one of AA’s most oft repeated pithy little mantras that helped me the most was:

    “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

    Couple this with the incessant creation of demand through psychological tricks in advertising such as selling sex and power rather than a product, and yeah, you’re going to generate some hefty resentments.

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