Friday, September 30, 2016

ANS -- There’s No Such Thing As A Protest Vote

This is an excellent article that clearly describes why there is no such thing as a protest vote.  It's fairly short.  Please read it, and maybe send it on to anyone you know who is thinking of "voting their conscience".  

There's No Such Thing As A Protest Vote

We're in the season of protest vote advocacy, with writers of all political stripes making arguments for third-party candidates (Jill SteinGary Johnson), write-in votes (Bernie SandersRod Silva), or refusing to vote altogether (#NeverTrump#BernieOrBust.) For all the eloquence and passion and rage in these arguments, however, they suffer from a common flaw: there is no such thing as a protest vote.

The authors of these pieces rarely line up their preferred Presidential voting strategies — third-party, write-in, refusal — with the electoral system as it actually exists. In 2016, that system will offer 130 million or so voters just three options:

A. I prefer Donald Trump be President, rather than Hillary Clinton.
B. I prefer Hillary Clinton be President, rather than Donald Trump.
C. Whatever everybody else decides is OK with me.

That's it. Those are the choices. All strategies other than a preference for Trump over Clinton or vice-versa reduce to Option C.

People who believe in protest votes do so because they confuse sending a message with receiving one. You can send any message you like: "I think Jill Stein should be President" or "I think David Duke should be President" or "I think Park Eunsol should be President."

Similarly, you can send any message you like by not voting. You can say you are sitting out the election because both parties are neo-liberal or because an election without Lyndon LaRouche is a sham or because 9/11 was an inside job. The story you tell yourself about your political commitments are yours to construct.

But it doesn't matter what message you think you are sending, because no one will receive it. No one is listening. The system is set up so that every choice other than 'R' or 'D' boils down to "I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens." It's easy to argue that our system shouldn't work like that. It's impossible to argue it doesn't work like that.

This is frustrating, of course, but that's how our Presidential elections are set up. Democracies alternate the coalition in power, but different systems do so in different ways. In multi-party systems, voters get the satisfaction of voting for smaller, ideologically purer factions — environmental parties, anti-immigrant parties, and so on. The impure compromises come when those factions are forced to form coalitions large enough to govern. The inevitable tradeoffs are part of the governing process, not the electoral process.

In America, by contrast, the coalitions are the parties. Our system also produces alternation of power, and requires compromises among competing interests, but those compromises happen within long-standing caucuses; issues come and go, but the two parties remain. This forces the citizens themselves to get involved in the disappointing tradeoffs, rather than learning about them after the fact. No one gets what they want in a democracy; two-party systems simply rub voters' noses in that fact.

People who plan to throw away their vote on Option C usually argue that theirimagined protest won't be futile, by offering one of three theories of change: their protest will work as a boycott, or as a defection, or as a step to third-party victory.

The first theory of change, the boycott, assumes that if people simply refuse to vote, it will threaten the establishment with loss of legitimacy. This will in turn cause that establishment to become more responsive to the demands of the boycotters.

Boycotts can work in countries where voting is mandatory, because not voting can be an act of civil disobedience. In the United States, however, voting is not and has never been required. (Our elites have always preferred minimal participation, and laziness is a cheaper tool than suppression.) In Presidential elections, non-voters always outnumber voters who choose the winning candidate. With that much passive non-participation, active non-participation gets lost.

The second theory of change is defection, where voters believe they can force a loss on either the Democrats or the Republicans, and thus make that party adopt their preferred policies, rather than face another such loss in the future.

Damage from defection has sometimes happened, as with James Weaver taking votes from Benjamin Harrison in 1892, but the two most widely-discussed recent cases — Ross Perot taking votes from George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Ralph Nader from Al Gore in 2000 — are not clear cut. In Perot's case, he drew votes from Clinton and Bush; in Nader's case, it's not obvious how many of his voters would otherwise have stayed home.

Furthermore, even in rare cases where there was the damage, the losing parties did not heed the defecting voters: the Republicans did not become notably friendlier to urban workers after Weaver, nor did the Democrats become more notably anti-corporate from the perceived threat of Nader.

The third theory of change from protest voting is the obvious one: outright victory. This has never happened. Third-party candidates come in third, for the obvious reason.

In two centuries of American politics, only 54 such candidates have ever received over one vote in a hundred. None won, and the only second place loss, Teddy Roosevelt, had already been President twice, before he ran as an outsider against his hand-picked successor, William Taft. He failed at the election, but succeeded in splitting the Republican vote so badly a Democrat became President for the first time in twenty years.

It's clear why third-party candidates want votes, but it's not clear why voters would want third parties. The Green Party, for example, hasn't elected so much as a member of Congress, much less fielded a credible Presidential candidate, and their organization does no actual environmental work. Greenpeace helps the environment more in any given week than the Green Party has in its entire existence, a problem common to third parties generally. If you're a Libertarian, you're better off donating to Cato than voting for Gary Johnson. If you're a paleoconservative, you're better off donating to the Rockford Institute than voting for Darrell Castle.

This is the legacy of protest votes: None of the proposed theories of change change anything. Boycotts don't work, since non-voting is a normal case. Defection elects the greater of two evils from the voter's point of view — and that's if it works — while doing little to the parties. And victory never happens; not one third-party candidate has ever won, or come close. Advocates of wasted votes don't bring up this record of universal failure, because their votes aren't about changing political results. They're about salving wounded pride.

Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as 'voting your conscience', but that's got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren't voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.

The people advocating protest votes believe they deserve a choice that aligns closely with their political preferences. With 130 million voters, hundreds of issues, and just two candidates, this idea doesn't even make mathematical sense, much less political sense. No matter who you are, voting isn't about you. You are not promised a candidate you love, or even like, because no one is guaranteed that. Presidential voting is an exercise in distinguishing the lesser of two evils. Making that choice is all that's asked of us, and all that's on offer.

Picking the lesser of two evils is an easy choice to dislike (who likes it?) but when a winning candidate has to appeal to 65 million or so citizens with diverse interests, that's a forced move for most voters most of the time. People who choose Option C aren't being purer about their political choices — they've abandoned politics altogether. (The strategy of voting third-party in safely red or blue states just makes this explicit; those voters only indulge their fantasy that their vote will make a difference if they're guaranteed it won't.)

None of this creates an obligation to vote, or to vote for one of the two viable candidates. It is, famously, a free country, and you can vote for anyone you like, or for no one. But if you do, don't kid yourself — and certainly don't try to kid anyone else — that you are creating some kind of positive political change. Noisily opting out as a way of demonstrating your pique is an understandable human act. It's just not a political act. It's an elaborate way of making the rest of us do the work of deciding.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

ANS -- A neuroscientist explains what may be wrong with Trump supporters’ brains

This is an article by a neuroscientist about Trump's followers and what is going on with them.  You've wondered, haven't you?

A neuroscientist explains what may be wrong with Trump supporters' brains

Audience member Robin Roy (C) reacts as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets her at a campaign rally in Lowell, Massachusetts January 4, 2016. (BRIAN SNYDER / Reuters)

There's no doubt that Donald Trump has said many things that would have been political suicide for any other Republican candidate. And almost every time he made one of these shocking statements, political analysts on both the left and the right predicted that he'd lose supporters because of it. But as we have clearly seen over the past year, they were dead wrong every time. Trump appears to be almost totally bulletproof.

The only thing that might be more perplexing than the psychology of Donald Trump is the psychology of his supporters. In their eyes, The Donald can do no wrong. Even Trump himself seems to be astonished by this phenomenon. "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible."

Senator John McCain, who has been a regular target for Trump during his campaign, has a simple explanation for his unwavering support. "What he did was he fired up the crazies."

While the former Republican presidential nominee may be on to something, he doesn't exactly provide a very satisfying scientific explanation.  So how exactly are Trump loyalists psychologically or neurologically different from everyone else? What is going on in their brains that makes them so blindly devoted?

  1. The Dunning-Kruger Effect:

Some believe that many of those who support Donald Trump do so because of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it's ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The seemingly obvious solution would be to try to reach those people through political ads, expert opinions, and logical arguments that educate with facts. Except none of those things seem to be swaying any Trump supporters from his side, despite great efforts to deliver this information to them directly.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn't just that they are misinformed; it's that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed. This creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, "The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment." Essentially, they're not smart enough to realize they're dumb.

And if one is under the illusion that they have sufficient or even superior knowledge, then they have no reason to defer to anyone else's judgment. This helps explain why even nonpartisan experts — like military generals and Independent former Mayor of New York/billionaire CEO Michael Bloomberg — as well as some respected Republican politicians, don't seem to be able to say anything that can change the minds of loyal Trump followers.

Out of immense frustration, some of us may feel the urge to shake a Trump supporter and say, "Hey! Don't you realize that he's an idiot?!" No. They don't. That may be hard to fathom, but that's the nature of the Dunning-Kruger effect — one's ignorance is completely invisible to them.

  1. Hypersensitivity to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A classic study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

So how does this help explain the unbridled loyalty of Trump supporters? These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you've found your protector, you become less concerned with remarks that would normally be seen as highly offensive.

  1. Terror Management Theory

A well-supported theory from social psychology, called Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump's fear mongering is doubly effective.

The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one's death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habitsin favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increasedsupport for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn't lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

  1. High Attentional Engagement

According to a recent study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn't necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level.

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America's addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn't matter what Trump actually says because he's so amusing to watch. With Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

Of course these explanations do not apply to all Trump supporters. In fact, some are likely intelligent people who know better, but are supporting Trump to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Hillary Clinton that their vote for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington.

So what can we do to potentially change the minds of Trump loyalists before voting day in November? As a cognitive neuroscientist, it grieves me to say that there may be nothing we can do. The overwhelming majority of these people may be beyond reach, at least in the short term. The best we can do is to motivate everyone else to get out to the booths and check the box that doesn't belong to a narcissistic nationalist who has the potential to damage the nation beyond repair.

Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a science writer. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, and he has written for The New York Times, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Slate, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post. He also runs the website Science Is Sexy. Follow him @BobbyAzarian.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

ANS -- What Happens in Our Minds When We Say 'Donald Trump'—A Sound Symbolism Tour by a Cognitive Linguist

Here's an itneresting George Lakoff article.  I'm not sure about the suggestion he ends with, but the ideas about words and their sounds meaning something is fascinating.  


What Happens in Our Minds When We Say 'Donald Trump'—A Sound Symbolism Tour by a Cognitive Linguist

Why we're thinking 'Thwimpie'—a spoiled brat named Little Donnie Thwimp.

Photo Credit: Punyaruk Baingern /

As strange as it may sound, the sound symbolism of a name has become an unnamed central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. As a cognitive linguist, my job is to study the issue and, at the very least, to name it.

Perhaps the best-known discussion of naming occurs in Juliet's soliloquy in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Here is Juliet, proclaiming that all that divides her from Romeo are their family names.

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.


Shakespeare here was writing about love, not profit or politics. Donald Trump's father changed the family name from Drumpf to Trump. It was a name change worth billions. Herr Drumpf understood the power of naming, as has his son, who renames his rivals: Lyin' Ted, Little Mario, Crooked Hillary.

Trump has made his fortune by marketing and selling his name. He slaps his name in large bold letters on Trump Tower, Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks, and so on. He has even managed to get his name on property he doesn't own

 The name Trump is his brand, his product; he sells his name. When he seeks financial backing for a project, he insists that he be paid very well for the use of his name, even if his name is used just to get investors or bank loans. The condition is that he gets paid for the use of his name, even if the project fails and goes into bankruptcy. Time and again, his companies have gone bankrupt; but though others — builders, employees, investors — lose money, Trump is always paid for the use of his name.

What it is about the name "Trump" that sells, and would it sell if it were changed a bit?

Sound Symbolism

There is a subfield of cognitive linguistics that studies sound symbolism, where there is pattern in a language linking sound structure of a group of words to what is called an 'embodied conceptual schema' that characterizes a significant part of word meaning, though by no means all word meaning. To give you a feel for sound symbolism, consider words ending in –ip: drip, clip, snip, rip, dip, sip, whip. There is a pattern here: the meanings all involve a short path to a sudden stop. This is what the mouth is doing; there is short path of breath to a sudden stop. The pattern is called an "image schema." It provides structure to a meaning, without filling out the whole meaning. Moreover, the pattern does not cover all –ip words or all short paths to a sudden stop. It is simply a pattern that fits a significant number of important cases.

The –ip sound is called a rhyme, which occurs at the end of a syllable. Sound symbolism also occurs at the beginning, or "onset", of a syllable. Consider words beginning in cl-: clap, cling, clasp, clump, clench, cleat, cloak, closed, club, cluster, … . The pattern involves things coming together: either the part of the hand in clench, the two parts of a clasp, the two hands as in clap, the members of a club, the trees or plants in a clump or cluster, the cloak what comers together with the shoulders it is attached to. When the blades of scissors come together in a short path to a sudden stop, there is a cl+ip, as in clip. English has dozens of such sound-symbolic patterns, as observed by Richard Rhodes and John Lawler in their classic paper "Athematic Metaphor" (Chicago Linguistics Society, 1981).

TR- Words

This brings us to tr- words. When you say tr- in English, your tongue starts out with the tip just in back of the teeth and pressed along the top of the mouth to pronounce an r. Then a vowel follows and the mouth is forcefully opened, moving with the vowel in one direction or another. In short, there is forceful press and a forceful release. Not surprisingly, English has a very common sound-symbolic pattern in which the initial cluster, the onset tr- expresses Force, with a forceful tension followed by a forceful motion.

There are many kinds of forces involved in many kinds of forceful actions and experiences. As a result the tr- words span a wide range of meanings in which an initial force is part of the meaning of the word. Start with tr+ip, trip — a verb expressing a force resulting in a short path to a sudden end: you can trip on something that exerts force on you sending you moving to a quick sudden stop, or you can trip someone else sending them moving to a quick sudden stop.

Then there is try, in which someone exerts force to achieve some purpose. Trap can be a forceful action by one or more people to retain someone, or can refer to a mechanism that exerts force to restrain someone. A truss holds an injured body part in place by force. And to trim or truncate something is to forcefully cut it shorter. To forcefully start something is to trigger it. A tremor is a forceful movement of the earth, as in an earth quake. A trench is a long hole dug with force. A trumpet is a musical instrument that takes force to play and as a result of the force makes a loud sound.

Then there are machines that exert force to move things: a truck, a tractor, a train, a trolley, a tram, and forms of transit. Motion across some area usually requires force to carry out the notion. Trans- means across and in the right word, it can express forceful motion across or forceful change, as in transmit, transfer, transpose, and transfigure.

The forceful motion of a train moves along a track, while heavy steps on wet ground can leave tracks. The forceful motion of people over a landscape creates a trail that others can move along. Forceful motion on a landscape over a distance can be a trek. Forceful walking is treading, with the past tense trod. And the tires of a wheeled vehicle need tread to forcefully grip the road. To forcefully step repeatedly on something to destroy it is to trample it. And an object to jump up and down on forcefully and repeatedly for the sake of exercise or play is a trampoline. The successful use of force to achieve something significant is a triumph. A problem that can be solved by forceful action is tractable. A trend is an event sequence understood as exerting a force in itself to continue motion in the same direction in the future.

Some forceful events exert harm, for example, a trauma, a tragedy. The very thought of them can exert the force to make you tremble. A trial is an event you undergo that can seriously harm you and that takes forceful action or resilience on your part to avoid that harm. A tribulation is a harmful effect you undergo when you experience a trying experience.

You can sense the force of the tr- sound in a word if you try to rename an object or experience. There is a reason why a tractor is not called a yiss! Or why a trauma or a tragedy is not called a "wug." In studying sound symbolism, you need a sense of your own reaction to the sound of word and what would happen under a renaming.

-UMP Words

Now we move to the sound symbolism of –ump words. In the pronunciation of –ump, the u is a schwa, a mid-vowel, neither high nor low, front nor back, a giving up of breath, as in "uh." The nasal m is pronounced by opening the nasal tract allowing air to move up and around the nasal tract and then down to the mouth to stop at p. There is release of low energy "uh" tracing a rise in the nasal tract 'm' and then a lowering and stopping of the breath at p.

It is a sound pattern that expresses entities of low or no energy having a 3-dimensional shape that can be traced over time as a rise and then a fall. We can see this sound symbolism in bump, lump, hump, rump, plump, and stump, which in each case has a 3-D shape that can be traced by a rise and then a fall. A clump (say, of trees) is a group brought together (cl-) with that shape. A pump is an instrument for blowing up stretchable objects into that shape. A jump in place is a rise and then fall. When you dump something, it goes downward (d-) and what is dumped has the -ump shape. A frump is a low energy person with such an appearance. A grump is someone who makes a growling sound and has that appearance. To slump is to take on such a shape, and a baseball player goes into a slump when his hitting becomes ineffective and his batting average falls. A chump is an ineffective person who is a "fall guy" in interacting with an aggressive effective person who can take advantage of him. And a thump is the sound made by a low energy fall against a solid resonant object.

This bring us to tr+ump — Trump as a name. It has a causal structure: a causal force (the tr-) followed by a person or object (the -ump) that the force acts on and affects. The person or object either already is an -ump or is made into an

-ump by the force. As a person's name, tr- followed by -ump symbolizes a person who acts with force on existing chumps or creates them by his exertion of force. In short, it names someone who has the power to take advantage of others. In business, it names a person who can profit by taking advantage of others. Similarly, in the game of bridge, trump is a card of a suit that will always win the trick, that is, it has power over a competing card of lesser strength.

That is why he can sell his name in a business deal, market his name by plastering it on everything he owns — the Trump Tower, his airplane, his steaks, wine, suits, ties, with signs in bold letters. He even has managed to get his name on buildings he does NOT own.

Tr+ump is a perfect last name for a presidential candidate who offers himself as the ultimate authority, able to turn others into chumps in politics. It is the perfect name for the ultimate Strict Father and authoritarian ruler — the ultimate authoritarian who makes those ruled into chumps.

The Renaming

The point here is that Shakespeare was wrong. A rose by any other name need not smell just as sweet. Tr+ump is a great name if you want to vote for a powerful person who can take advantage of others — make chumps out of people you don't like: liberals, Mexicans, Muslims, the Chinese, blacks, and people who can't take care of themselves, namely, the poor.

If you are among the tens of millions of Americans who wholly or mostly idealize strict father morality, someone named TR+UMP sounds like your man.

But what if he didn't have that name? Would you be voting just for the name, not the real person?

It has been observed that he often acts like a spoiled child. In fact, he was a spoiled child. When his father tried to teach him personal responsibility by making him take on a paper route in Manhattan, he kept out the rain by getting the family chauffer to drive him around in the family Cadillac on his paper route!

In financing building, he got loans on his father's collateral housing empire that would not rent to African-Americans or Latinos. He got tax breaks through his father's influence with city officials, who depended on his father's political donations. When things don't go his way, he just makes up lies and depends on then power of his name to get him through.

And he renames is opponents: Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, Crooked Hillary.

Suppose he were renamed.

If there is any a putative strict father cannot be, it is childish and spoiled — and weak. Some children at a young age have trouble pronouncing T+R. The R turns to W after a T, as in Twump, and the T may weaken to Th, as in Thwump. Suppose we change the U to I, to indicate smallness. That would be Thwimp: Little Donnie Thwimp. The –ie on Donnie is called a "diminutive," it makes someone or something sound smaller. Thwimpie is a possibility.

Imagine a national renaming campaign, starting now. Imagine those with photoshop skills might change the name on the image of his Tower to Twimp Towie. Changing the letter on his plane to Twimp, and have it falling toward the ocean. Photoshop campaign signs to Thwimp / Punts. Imagine running Twitter campaigns with #Thwimpie.

The fact is that Little Donnie Thwimp is something a strict father authoritarian cannot be named because it is a weak childish name!

Little Donnie dreams of being the ultimate strongman, like Putin, and to cover his weakness, he tells lies, he tells BIG LIES, REALLY BIG LIES! But the bigger the lie, the greater the weakness. He is weak on foreign policy. He is weak on economics. He is especially weak on history. He is really weak on his taxes and has to hide them. And he is dangerously weak on the facts about the use of nuclear weapons!

Twimpie's weakness is revealed in his exaggerations: What he likes is "terrific." What he dislikes is a "disaster." All or Nothing. Weak on careful, subtle reason.

Would voters who want a strong authoritarian vote for someone named Thwimp? Or Thwimpie? Or Little Donnie?

Do the Thwimp polls. Let's find out.

Democratic candidates need not engage in the renaming. Let the ordinary people who understand the lies and the weaknesses do the renaming on social media.

But isn't this just fun and whimsical? Shouldn't everyone be focused on fear — the fear that he might just get elected. The fear is real and justified. But the problem with justified fear-mongering is that it gives power to the person you're afraid of. By all means discuss why the fear is justified. But take the power away. Rename and rebrand: Twimpie.

If people vote for someone on the basis of the sound symbolism of his name, change the name. Let them try to say they want to elect a Thwimp with a straight face.

The Point

What's the point of a Thwimpie campaign? The candidate is not going to change his name, and reporters are not going to do serious investigative reporting using only the candidate's new name.

The point is simple: The President of the United States and the Leader of the Free World should not be chosen on the basis of the sound symbolism of his name.

The sound symbolism is unconscious. This paper brings it to consciousness. Offering an alternative with very different sound symbolism is crucial if Americans are to become aware that the sound of the name can be working on them unconsciously and against their better judgment.

Sound symbolism is an issue in this presidential campaign — as weird as that sounds. The issue can only be brought up with a discussion of what the sound symbolism is and what a very different sound symbolism might be.

The issue may sound laughable. But it is quite serious. It needs to be brought to attention, and to be reported on.

And it should raise ratings. Because while being serious news, sound symbolism is not just informative; it is fun. Fun in the news raises ratings.

Fear also sells in the media. Shouldn't you be afraid that someone has a chance of being elected president based on the sound of his name?

This is a real fear, as well as fun.


George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

ANS -- he lousy reason I didn't vote in 1968 — and why Sanders supporters shouldn't fall for it

This is sortof long, but it is worth reading, especially if you are not excited about voting this November.  It talks about a failure of moral imagination. "Those of us in the student antiwar movement see Humphrey as profoundly corrupt, profoundly tainted by his support for the war. We hate Nixon, but in truth we have not experienced what a right-wing government can do. We have come of age and to activism in the years since 1960 — so we only know Kennedy and Johnson as presidents, we have only experienced a liberal domination of national politics, and, more often than not, the policies we are protesting are the policies of liberal Democrats.
In the fall of 1968, we experience a great failure of political imagination."  

The lousy reason I didn't vote in 1968 — and why Sanders supporters shouldn't fall for it

I thought there was no difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. I was wrong.

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

It is 1968. Year of blood. Year of protest. Year of insurgency. Year of a pivotal election: Republican Richard Nixon versus Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

I decide that Nixon and Humphrey are indistinguishable, and I refuse to vote. I encourage others to do the same.

It's a mistake I regret to this day.

At first, students on the left were full of hope about the 1968 election

I am a New England regional organizer for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the largest New Left student organization spearheading the opposition to the war in Vietnam. Living in Cambridge, I swim in a river of others just as young and just as committed — committed to ending the war in Vietnam; committed to radical change for black Americans; committed to creating an American New Left, rooted in American realities and traditions. But in this year of 1968, what we most want is to end the seemingly endless war in Vietnam, a responsibility that rests uncomfortably on our too-young shoulders.

The weight of the damn war presses down upon us. Day after day, each week, each long month, we carry it with us, though we don't experience the savage horrors of those who actually fight in it. Images, facts, lies, replay in our minds, in our dreams. A silent monk in flames. American boys dying in tall elephant grass. A naked girl running from inferno towers of napalm, arms extended, mouth open, silently screaming. … A war measured in nightly "body counts."

A friend's cousin from Ohio, a first lieutenant, dead in the Ia Drang Valley.  Napalm, jellied flame, jellied death. Endless lies. Escalation without end. Willie Pete — white phosphorous that burns to the bone, burns even in water, burns unchecked when exposed to the very air we all breath. Agent Orange. Waves of B-52s dropping 7 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia — more than twice the amount of bombs dropped altogether on Europe and Asia in World War II.

Uncounted villages destroyed. Uncountable dead. Dead "gooks" who are in reality mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, fathers, and grandfathers. Ben Tre: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." A million, 2 million, 3 million dead Vietnamese.

Where there should be the exuberant joy of youth, there is a sense of death all around.

Guilt boils under the surface. Guilt at not going; guilt knowing someone else goes; guilt at not stopping them from going; guilt at not being able to stop this abomination, so wrong, so unnecessary, so wrong.

1968: a hinge year. History is going to change. What we do will make a difference.

As 1968 unfolds, it seems as if the entire globe is caught up in a struggle between the old and the young, between a tired, bloody present and a very different future. In Prague, reformists challenge Soviet domination and orthodoxy. In New Hampshire, anti-war Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenges Lyndon Johnson, and suddenly Vietnam is the most important issue in the Democratic presidential primaries. The forces of change and of the status quo keep colliding.

On the right, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, he of "Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. And segregation forever," campaigns as an independent candidate for president, drawing large and very angry and very white crowds. The people turning out to cheer him are experiencing profound change and do not like it.

As McCarthy surges, along with antiwar sentiment, Robert Kennedy finally takes the plunge and announces for president. He campaigns against the war and for a vision of economic justice that appeals to both black and white working and poor families. President Johnson announces he will not run again and will seek a negotiated peace in Vietnam.

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, and America's urban black neighborhoods from Oakland to Boston erupt in sadness, in anger, in rage and frustration.

We, in SDS and the antiwar movement, have legions of students with us, literally hundreds of thousands. We can play a pivotal role. Some "get clean for Gene" and knock on doors and power the McCarthy "revolution." Others, really only a few, jump into the Kennedy campaign.

Most of us who have built the antiwar movement demonstration by demonstration, dorm meeting after dorm meeting, are so sickened by the corruption of American politics that we refuse to participate. Despite there being two candidates opposing the war, Kennedy and McCarthy, we think American politics has been so corrupted that real change has to come from outside the system.

The rules of the election game are rigged to favor the corporate elites. We are so habituated to being the prophetic minority that we cannot understand that a majority of the country is swinging against the war. We are so disgusted by all we have experienced that we want to "up the ante." We think our job is to create so much disruption that the elites will be forced to end the war. Our slogan is Vote with your feet, vote in the street.

But then reality set in

Student revolts rock Germany and Paris and Mexico. Students led by SDS occupy buildings at Columbia until violently evicted by police. The Soviets crush the Prague Spring. American cities are occupied by the National Guard. Everywhere the forces of the old are battling the forces of the young: The forces of the old include the old men in the Kremlin, the old men in power in Paris, the old men entrenched in Mexico City who will order their troops to fire on students; the old men who run the Republican Party and the old men who run the Democratic Party and have prosecuted the war.

Bobby Kennedy is killed. Once again, the gun will bend America's future, warp what is possible. Now the leading candidate on the Democratic side is the feckless Hubert Humphrey, once the tiger of liberals, once the "happy warrior," now the soulless candidate of the establishment.

We have nothing but contempt for him. He sold out the Mississippi Freedom Party, the only integrated Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic convention, so that he might become Johnson's VP. This from the man who first made his name as the spokesperson for integration at the 1948 Democratic convention. For the past four years, he has been a pathetic irrelevancy in the Johnson war White House. Now, with a chance to lead, he refuses to denounce the war.  He makes us sick. Politics makes us sick.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This only gets worse when antiwar protestors "bringing the war home" flood the streets of Chicago outside of the convention hall. The nation watches on television as the Chicago police force flies out of control, riots, and beats anyone and everyone that they perceive as possibly "other," everyone possibly with the protestors. It doesn't matter; journalists, delegates, family of delegates, younger Congress members — they all are attacked by the rampaging cops with many a score to settle, urged on and unleashed by the profane mayor, Boss Daley, kingmaker, Democrat.

We are disgusted. The Democratic Party is torn apart. Humphrey becomes the nominee.

Richard Nixon becomes the Republican nominee. He promises he has a plan to end the war but will not announce it. He and Henry Kissinger secretly commit treason by interfering with the peace talks in Paris between America and the Vietnamese, making sure there is no breakthrough for peace. Nixon, even before entering the White House, subverts the law, prolongs the agony of the war.

In the wake of the civil rights successes, Nixon adopts the first "Southern strategy," which will reshape the Republican Party, wipe out the once dominant Southern white Democrats, and alter the direction of American politics for decades.

Nixon adopts a law-and-order campaign. He declares to the Republicans gathered in convention in Miami Beach, "As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish: Did we come all this way for this?"

Why we thought it didn't matter if Nixon or Humphrey won

As America lurches toward Election Day, it is clear that this will be a very close election. Humphrey has the entire Democratic establishment desperately working as hard as they can. They will not be enough in what will turn out to be an election decided by less than a percentage point.

Those of us in the student antiwar movement see Humphrey as profoundly corrupt, profoundly tainted by his support for the war. We hate Nixon, but in truth we have not experienced what a right-wing government can do. We have come of age and to activism in the years since 1960 — so we only know Kennedy and Johnson as presidents, we have only experienced a liberal domination of national politics, and, more often than not, the policies we are protesting are the policies of liberal Democrats.

In the fall of 1968, we experience a great failure of political imagination.

We think it doesn't matter if Nixon or Humphrey wins. We think the war will keep going the same no matter who wins. We cannot imagine that it will expand, that there will be a simultaneous policy of "Vietnamization," so that the American body count decreases, and escalation that will claim another million more Asian lives. We cannot imagine the disaster that will befall Cambodia because of Nixon and Kissinger and the Christmas bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong. We do not see what is coming — at home as well as internationally.

We do not understand that soon Nixon will invite to the White House and celebrate the leaders of building trades unions who led violent attacks on antiwar protesters in New York. We think the well of black sadness cannot get any deeper. We are wrong. We cannot imagine what will be unleashed against black leaders and the black community. We do not imagine that the FBI and Chicago police will shoot and kill Black Panther leader Fred Hampton as he sleeps in his bed, possibly drugged.

We have no idea the damage that will be done.

We cannot conceive of the manipulative use of a "war on drugs" to go after black communities and the antiwar movement. As cynical and as sophisticated as we think ourselves to be, we cannot conceive of policies that, years later, Nixon's top aide, John Ehrlichman would bluntly describe to Dan Baum of Harpers thusly:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. … You understand what I'm saying?

We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. … We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Despite our growing dread, we do not imagine that protesting students will be gunned down at Kent State and Jackson State. That Hoover's FBI will get the green light to go after Nixon's enemies.

We have a failure of political imagination. We have a failure of moral imagination.

We sit out the election. We organize street protests. We march. We mock. We do not organize young people to vote in one of the closest elections in American history. There are tens of thousands of young people looking to us for direction. We do not say, "Make history. Swing this election to Humphrey and show how powerful we as a group now are." No, we say, "A plague on both your houses," and walk away.

Nixon wins. Without knowing it, we have missed our moment.

We failed to understand Nixon and what was at stake

Looking back, we young idealists and activists were not so much wrong in our assessments of Humphrey as we were totally wrong in our assessment of whether it matters if a corporate center liberal is elected over an insecure, unstable, right-wing candidate who does not respect the Constitution.

Our failure was not in our assessment of Humphrey but in our failure to understand Nixon and what was at stake. We could have turned the close election in favor of Humphrey. We could not have moved the election results by 5 points, but we certainly could have moved the needed one.

Our refusal to participate started a process of making our movement profoundly irrelevant. We allowed Richard Nixon to come to power.  We allowed a right-wing counter-reformation to hold power and warp American politics for most of the next four decades. Within our movement, we allowed militancy to replace strategy.

We would continue to march. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of us would continue to protest the war. We shut down campuses. We helped organize returning veterans to join the fight against the war. Many long-term, positive, and enduring movements and changes in the country have their roots at least partially in our efforts. However, none of that changes the mistake made in 1968.

The great cost of the Nixon presidency

Any history with "ifs" is hugely problematic. I cannot predict with any confidence what a Humphrey administration would or would not have done. I am sure it would have had its share of evils. However, the difference between a president who is not doing enough for progress — even one wedded to the national security state — and one who is using the power of the office actively to reverse progress and mobilize racists, the xenophobic, and the elites against progress is enormous.

The toll of the Nixon administration is long and heartrending. Internationally, more than a million Cambodian lives lost and a million additional Vietnamese and Laotians killed. In South America, the cost is perhaps best symbolized by the pain of Chilean singer Victor Jara, as the soldiers in the US-backed coup against an elected socialist president first chop off the fingers of his guitar-playing hands and then shoot him dead.

Domestically there was a cost, too, as Nixon started the counter-reformation to the '60s, flouted the Constitution, created enemy lists, launched the war on drugs that would eventually lead to mass incarceration, and cynically did everything he could to destroy the leadership of the black community and the antiwar movement.

We who want to revitalize our democracy, fight against inequality and for justice, and work for change need to be able to imagine a very different, exciting alternative future. We need that positive vision. However, we also need the imagination to understand how profoundly bad it can get when demagogues come to power.

The only way Donald Trump does not become president of the United States is if Hillary Clinton does

No, 2016 is not 1968 — but there is a lot of similar sentiment: disaffection with establishment politics, young people who care about justice, a Democratic candidate whom many of those young voters are not excited about.

Some supporters of Bernie Sanders seem intent on making the same mistakes we did in that fateful year of 1968. Some of the pioneering, innovative protesters who have created Black Lives Matter seem to share our 1968 disdain for electoral politics, as if elections and who is in power could be ignored in the struggle for profound social change.

Others, the perpetual Hillary haters of the left, once again suffer from a profound failure of imagination. Unable to imagine how bad it could become, they preach about refusing to be forced again to "settle for the lesser of two evils."

Young people may play a pivotal role in this election. For the very first time, "millennials" now are as large a group of potential voters as my tired generation, the baby boomers. The pool of younger voters is also far to the left of the older voters. The young once again have a moral passion that could produce real change.

But there is a world of difference between pools of potential voters and actual voters. Whether young voters will actually vote this November, and whom they will vote for if they do vote, is still very much up in the air.

Some Sanders supporters still say they will stay home. What is currently altering the dynamics of the race and whittling down Clinton's lead is the attraction of younger voters to the third-party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein. Where Obama in 2012 received 60 percent of voters under 30, when Johnson and Stein are included in the polls, Clinton is receiving only 31 percent of those voters. A significant group of Sanders supporters cannot bring themselves to support Clinton, the candidate of the establishment, no matter what the threat from Trump and no matter how hard Bernie campaigns for her.

recent YouGov poll shows only 60 percent of Sanders supporters choosing Clinton, with Jill Stein getting 11 percent and Johnson getting 6 percent and many still undecided. If Clinton could get 80 percent of the Bernie voters to support her, she would be back at her comfortable lead of early August. As pollsters turn to quizzing the smaller pool of "likely voters," many of the groups that most oppose Trump diminish, as so many of those people do not actually make it to the polls.

The one irreducible fact of this bizarre election is this: The only way Donald Trump does not become president of the United States is if Hillary Clinton does. In any closely contested state, staying home or voting for a third-party candidate is, in its impact, a vote for Trump. It does not take a great leap of moral or political imagination to envision the damage a Trump presidency will bring to our nation and to the world.

The support for Sanders among younger voters, the organizers of the Black Lives Matters movement, and the urgent efforts of climate change activists, all led by young people, are all good signs and potentially powerful forces for change.

I only hope that our peculiarly American penchant for historical amnesia will not stop our new young leaders from learning from the mistakes of those of us who have gone before.

Michael Ansara spent many years as an activist and an organizer. He was a regional organizer for Students for a Democratic Society; chair of the Harvard Strike Committee of 1969; a founder of the Old Mole, an underground newspaper; and a leader of national and regional antiVietnam War protests. Since then, he has founded and run two successful businesses. Currently he writes poetry  and is a co-founder and chair of the Board of Mass Poetry.