MORE

In his book, A Theory of Justice, John Rawls asks the question: what do people want? His answer was: more. I have, over the past several years, come to a deeper appreciation of this observation. It may profitably be used as a standard by which to measure what is going on at the moment in American politics.
A few days ago, Americans across the country overwhelmingly voted in the Republican candidates for federal, state and local offices. Republican political leaders immediately and vocally concluded that the people have identified themselves with the goals of Republican politicians. At the same time, however, those same Americans voted in various referenda — raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, etc. — in a direction that Republicans traditionally oppose.
This apparent schizophrenia has happened repeatedly in the past. Voters have overwhelmingly leaned in one or the other political direction, only to completely reverse themselves in the very next election. The only possible explanation for that seemingly fickle behavior is that the defining interests of the electorate are only coincidentally aligned with one party or the other. Rather than any monolithic orientation, what is going on is that there is an amalgam of groups, each with their own interests, and they align only if one group sees its own interests more likely achieved by promoting some other group.
It strikes me that one may untangle these fleeting alliances by using Rawls’ observtion to correctly identifying why the alliances take place. So, start with politicians. What is the more that they want? More years in office. They want to get re-elected. Why? Damned if I know, but the pay is good, the adulation is enjoyable, and it’s an exciting game. I don’t discount the altruistic motive of wanting to help one’s fellow citizens, but I suspect that motive is not the one that adequately defines politicians as a group.
What, then, do the moneyed interests that, particularly since Citizens United, feeds the politicans’ drive for re-elections, what do they want? Well, more money. Yes, the conservative money promotes specific conservative causes — banning abortion, promoting religion in schools, etc. But do you really think that the Koch brothers spent three hundred million dollars for prayer in school. No, it was a sound investment. So long as the moneyed interests can keep taxes on the wealth at their current all-time low, they will support anyone and anything that doesn’t tip over that apple cart. When they tell you it’s not about the money, …
That leaves us with the real mystery. What is the more that the electorate wants? Clearly there is no such thing as a singly-directed electorate. The people are, themselves, an amalgam of interests. I think it safe to say, however, that there are some common strains among them. The American people want more ease in making it through life. They want more jobs, more net income, more access to health care, more safety and security and more opportunities for their families and children.
How, then, does it happen that the interests of the electorate aligned with those of Republican politicians? I don’t know how, but I’ll take one guess. It was a negative vote. The electorate looked at the deadlock in national politics, and it decided that the fault lay with the Democrats. That is, in my opinion, an amazingly inaccurate conclusion. The Republican flagbearer in the past six years, Mitch McConnell, made it his single focus to obstruct absolutely everything and anything President Obama tried to propose, which fully justified characterizing the Republican party as the party of no. In this realm, however, as in so many others, appearance is reality, and, however they did it, the Republicans sold that package to the people.
To those, then, who would interpret Tuesday’s landslide Republicn victory as a watershed change in the direction of the country, I recommend that they read a bit of history. The people want more, and it isn’t your more, and, if you don’t give them their more, 2016 is going to be a very interesting time.

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