Rational Ignorance Within the Republican Party

There’s no doubt that if you log onto Facebook and other social media sites, conservative posts about hot button topics often clog your newsfeed. Conversations and memes about abortion, gay rights, gun control, and religion are all the rage. While such subjects are extremely important, they tend to solely determine red votes among the American people.

Why is this the case? Because when it comes to political issues that are more complex and less black and white, like the economy, the average Republican, and in a lot of cases Democrats, would rather be told what to believe on deeper issues than to do the research themselves. They rationalize this with strong feelings of controversial topics and vote accordingly. This, my friends, is the rational ignorance effect — political style.

As stated in Common Sense Economics, “there is little incentive for voters to be well informed about either candidates or issues. In a large number setting, an individual voter will not decide the outcome of an election.” Furthermore, Americans rarely directly feel the consequences of their voting actions. Only in severe cases, like the entire Bush administration that plunged us into the great recession, does America wake up to smell the roses.  That is why so many senators and congressmen on capitol hill maintain power, they fly under the radar.  This combined with the fact that media plays a huge roll in swaying voters makes picking a candidate based on television or conversations with family and friends feel acceptable.

Voters, especially conservatives, are notorious for political gullibility. For example, when Barack Obama took over in 2009, Republican politicians saw an opportunity to play on this naivety to hook future voters, giving the president a title for their party to follow: a socialist. Most right wingers never bothered to check into this label because they too often believe that whatever people like Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin say is gospel.  A 2010 survey done by the Daily Kos revealed that 63% of polled Republicans believed Barack Obama to be a socialist. Fair enough, we saw that coming but what is ironic, is their support for conservative politicians who do their “dirty” share of endorsing and supporting socialism along with the fact that most, if not all of the 63%, receive some type of socialized benefit.

For example, the infamous Sarah Palin pushed for a gigantic tax increase on oil companies throughout Alaska in 2007 that bought in 6 billion dollars in revenue. What did she do with the extra money? According to the Seattle Times, “Alaska officials [were] in the enviable position of exploring new ways to spend the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus.” In other words, they could redistribute the money however they deemed fit. Is that not what socialism is? Am I missing something here? When she was launched to the national platform in the 2008 election, almost any voter had the tools to review this information and yet, Palin and McCain won over the Republican party by preaching against such methods of politics but more importantly, playing up the ignorance of their supporters. Supporters who were more concerned and distracted about what the McCain administration would do socially and diplomatically compared to what they would do economically.

A more recent example of Republicans taking advantage of the benefits of socialism lies within Marco Rubio’s State of the Union Rebuttal. Rubio reveals that during his younger years he took advantage of federal financial aid to pay for secondary education saying that he “couldn’t have gone to college without it.”Again, financial aid is a part of socialism. The $100,000 that Rubio used to pay for college did not just poof into existence, it was taken from tax payers and given to students who were less fortunate. Of course there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of governmental assistance, but please recognize that such assistance is not part of capitalism.

What’s most astonishing, personally, is that most Republicans that scream socialism have no idea what socialism actually is.  As Americans, the “s” word touches our lives on a day to day basis. So many conservatives aren’t aware that post offices, social security, public roads, medicare, medicaid, street lamps, fire hydrants, school busses, pantrans, welfare, and public schools are all part of the socialistic aspect of our economy. Without these components, we would be up a creek.

The point here is that Republicans are so eager to vote against Barack Obama and the democrats, labeling them unfit to run government even when the candidates they do end up voting for use their public speeches to stir the fire that burns brightest in the belly of any Republican while doing god knows what behind their backs.  These voters are blinded by promises of anti-gun control legislation and strict takes on immigration. Earl and Larry have this notion that the right wing is going to keep the president from “taking their guns” and “enabling illegals” but they fail to recognize that economic strategies, like Rand Paul’s useless penny plan, and Marco Rubio’s lack of an economic plan all together, are bigger fish that we need to fry.


Watch a video recap of Republican ignorance here:

Jocelyn Robinson
Jocelyn is a liberal photojournalist from West Virginia. A political news junkie, she spends her time working for the local newspaper, attending college, and running her own business. Check out her work here: https://www.facebook.com/jlrphotographs.