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April 15, 2011

Preference Cascades And Forbidden Thoughts

Kaus talks about Jay Cost's article on Obama's incompetence at politics.

I'm not sure if Cost is quite right about that; Obama is good at some things in politics. The thematic stuff. And he successfully diagnosed the reason people had such irrational faith in him -- he actually called himself an empty screen on to which people may project their hopes.

That's a weird thing about Obama -- he sometimes just sort of says stuff like that. Maybe he's got an honest streak somewhere? Or maybe he's just been so coddled and endlessly promoted beyond his abilities that he doesn't realize people should keep things like that to themselves?

That is, if you're hoodwinking the public because they're gullible and have a general preference for Symbolic Ciphers over genuine accomplishment and qualification, maybe you should keep quiet and not draw attention to that, rather than confess out loud that your supporters are self-deluded naifs.

On the policy stuff, and on reading the mood of the electorate -- I don't know if he's a bad politician so much as a radical true-believing red-diaper baby lefty who is simply convinced that Socialism = Prosperity.

I think it's just that he's a true believer. This guy was part of the expressly socialist New Party, after all. Not that your media will tell you that.

At any rate, back to the point I actually wanted to make.

AmishDude brought up preference cascades. If you don't know what they are, read this archived Glenn Reynolds piece.

Now, Mickey Kaus is a neoliberal. Don't be fooled by the fact that he says a lot of conservative-sounding things. He does do that. But he identifies as a neoliberal and I think his self-identification is basically accurate (although I also think he's more of a conservative-tilting neoliberal than he thinks).

Point is, he's a neoliberal. The company he keeps is braying jackasses like Robert Wright and the rest of the crew from Slate.

Even though he usually gets a pass from these folks on his typical Devil's Argument/blasphemous truths style of criticism of liberal doctrine, there are some lines you don't cross if you want to keep your good standing among fire-breathing liberals. And not even neoliberals, but just plain old liberals, paleoliberals, and lefties.

And, this is one of those things you don't say:

Cost doesn’t go into why Obama managed to get to the top of politics without being all that good at it. The answer is distressingly obvious: Obama’s the biggest affirmative action baby in history. When other pols are trying, failing, learning, while climbing up the middle rungs of the ladder, he got a pass[.]

Yeah, Cost didn't go into that, Kaus, because we often don't say what's obvious because of social stigma.

But you're right, it is obvious.

Kaus wasn't the first to say it; others have said it.

But he wasn't even close to have been the first to think it.

A lot of people have been thinking this.

This gets into my point about Obama and polling. Race undeniably helped Obama. This is also obvious.

But as people begin leaving wait-and-see mode and entering evaluate-and-judge, are they going to keep thinking "Well, he's black, so I should studiously scour any and all negative thoughts from my mind, even though he's brought my family and my business little but misery for three years" or are they going to think, "Gee, maybe I shouldn't have voted for him last time just because he was black. Maybe this time I should ask about his actual accomplishments and qualifications, apart from his general resemblance to a mash-up of a Heroic Young Crusader played by Will Smith and a Gentle Older Sage played by Morgan Freeman."

Preference cascade -- when once-falsified (falsified even to oneself)suppressed ideas are suddenly too glaringly obvious to be falsified any further and break, unexpectedly and tectonically, from the repressed subconscious to the conscious mind.

Thanks: To RD, for finding a link to the archived Reynolds article.

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posted by Ace at 05:34 PM

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