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political psychology

Why does Ted Cruz’s Speech Bother Me So Much?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m trying to put my finger on exactly why I found Ted Cruz’s remarks Wednesday night so incredibly distasteful.

The Pledge thing is a goodly part of it.

Simply put, the parties to the Pledge Ted Cruz signed were only Ted Cruz and the RNC (by extension, you can probably include the delegates and voters, too).

The Pledge promised support, including data, from the RNC in exchange for Ted Cruz’s endorsement of the eventual nominee.

However, the Pledge that Ted Cruz signed with the RNC did not include Donald Trump. Trump’s signature is nowhere on the Pledge Ted Cruz signed. Therefore, the suggestions that somehow Trump can change the terms of the Pledge is ridiculous (and a little embarrassing, frankly).

So yeah, as a matter of fact, Ted Cruz broke that Pledge and in doing so broke his word. A word he has repeatedly claimed was a sacred trust.

That’s no good, but that’s not why I’m so bugged.

Then there’s the boorishness of his actions. Someone else said it best, when she described Ted Cruz’s speech akin to being invited to be the best man at your ex-girlfriend’s wedding, and then when it was time to toast the couple, instead implore the ex to run away with you!

Torturing the metaphor even further: this morning, the debacle continued when the rebuked Cruz kicked over their chocolate fountain, slapped the groom, insulted the bride, and was finally booted out by the rest of the wedding party.

Really bad, right? But no.  That’s not the thing, either.

Maybe it’s the squandered opportunity.

Donald Trump gave Ted Cruz free reign to do the right thing and follow through with his commitments to the Republican Party, its delegates, and voters. Trump’s people reviewed Cruz’s remarks and did not demand they be reworked. Instead, Trump left it up all up to Cruz.

Donald Trump provided Ted Cruz prime-time air to say anything he wished, without restriction, and with it, all the rope he could possibly ever need to pull himself out of the hole he was standing at the bottom of, as well as use to pull together the Republican Party.

Instead, Ted Cruz used that premium time, that golden opportunity, in a room rooting loudly for him, to deliver a speech that was all-too-typical of today’s political class: a too-cute-by-half, snidely performed speech designed to serve no one except Ted Cruz.

But believe it or not, that’s not what bothers me so very, very much, either.

No. What bothers me is far more odious, more destructive, and more revealing of the brutal ambition animating the junior senator from Texas.

What really got to me was that he did all of these things on the back of a little girl who just lost her Dad in the cold-blooded police shootings in Dallas.

He traded on her grief, going out of his way to create connections between them both.

Just five paragraphs in, he said:

“Just two weeks ago a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was living a carefree Texas summer. Swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all the things a happy child might do. Like most children, she relied upon the love that she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith.”

As I watched Ted Cruz speak, that queasy uh-oh feeling suddenly wracked me.  You know the one: that intense, looming dread that sends slippery ribbons of nausea that somehow extend to the bottom of your feet.

He’s lost me. Perhaps forever:

“… Caroline gave him a hug and a kiss as he left for work, but as they parted her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before. ‘What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me?'”

I physically cringed when he said:

As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith’s story weighed on my heart. Maybe that’s because his daughter Caroline is about the same age as my eldest daughter, and happens to share the same name. Maybe it’s because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her Daddy’s last question to her.

Good. Lord.

After several minutes of freedom-liberty-constitution pabulum, he called back to poor Caroline:

“We’re fighting not for one particular candidate, or one campaign, but because each of wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids, our own Caroline’s, that we did our best for their future and our country.”

Followed by a reference to her Dad:

“Sergeant Michael Smith stood up to protect our freedom. So do the soldiers, and sailors, and airmen, and Marines everyday fighting radical Islamic terrorism.”

And the gut-wrenching finale:

“And it is over that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving nine- year-old girl in Dallas, and God willing, propel her to move forward, and dream, and soar, and make her daddy proud. We must make the most of our moments, to fight for freedom, to protect our God-given rights, even if those with whom we don’t agree so that when we are old and grey, and when our work is done, and when we give those we love one final kiss goodbye we will be able to say freedom matters and I was part of something beautiful.”

What a ghoul.

Ted Cruz used this defenseless little girl and the horrific murder of her father as his personal human shields to shame people away from criticizing him for breaking his word and using valuable, prime-time air for his own, too-cute-by-half, non-endorsement of the Republican Presidential nominee, and to promote his own, exclusive interests.

That’s what bothered me.

I’m not sure what’s in store for Mr. Cruz.  Hell, I’m not sure I care very much at the moment (or if I ever will).

But I’m fairly certain that whatever positions he may hold in his lifetime, a real chance to earn the nomination to the Presidency of the United States will never be among them.


Christina Botteri is a founder of the original National Chicago Tea Party and the newest Hennessy’s View contributor.
Transcript source: http://time.com/4416396/republican-convention-ted-cruz-donald-trump-endorsement-speech-transcript-video/

One Strong Leader Can Keep Congress In Line

Reading Time: 2 minutes

gentle_persuasion

Why do our members of Congress disappoint us?

Why do they seem to put their personal interests ahead of the mission we elected them to do?

More importantly, how we can we deter Republicans or bring them back to the fold?

Study Shows How Communities Keep Members In Line

New research by University of Oxford and the ETH Zurich could provide an answer: one strong leader.

When non-cheating members of a community empowered a strong member to challenge the anti-social cheater, the cheating stopped.

More importantly, when potential cheaters became aware of the presence of a “strong man” within the community, they were far less likely to cheat.

Here are some details on the experiment via ScienceDaily.com.

Researchers involved 120 volunteers, divided into groups of four, to play games with money tokens. Each player was given a bank of 140 money tokens with one of the four randomly assigned as the cheat. The cheat could decide whether to refrain from cheating and gain nothing, or risk cheating to potentially gain 70 tokens from each of the three players. The three players had to decide independently whether to challenge the cheat to reclaim the money for themselves, as well as the other players — the snag being that the challenge would entail a monetary cost to the challenger while the free-riding players would retrieve the full 70 tokens. However, if none of the players challenged the cheat, the cheat would keep their tokens and get away with it.

Members of Congress are part of our community. If we don’t challenge them, they vote wrong get re-elected, and continue to cheat our mission. When we elect a conservative who runs on small-government, Constitutional conservatism, then votes for big spending, big government, it’s cheating. Call it that.

There are even more great lessons from the study:

  • Certainty of punishment was more important than the size of the punishment
  • Community strongmen recovered 83 percent of the cheaters’ gains
  • Knowing that the community backed a strongman was a huge deterrent

It’s important to empower strong leaders who can challenge the cheats. We empower our leaders by guaranteeing to protect them when they take a risk.

We Can Devise a Strategy To Deter Bad Votes in Congress

Based on this research, we can formulate a strategy:

1. Let members of Congress know who we will back in opposing them.

2. Fight like hell with Congressmen push back.

3. Sacrifice what we can to support opposition leaders.

I think we can use the Heritage Action Scorecard as the measure of cheating in Congress. Erick Erickson of RedState explains

This is another reminder of why Heritage Action for America’s scorecard has become the gold standard for measures of conservatism in Congress. They, by the way, give McConnell a 75% rating.

As long as conservative groups continue to entangle themselves with the Republican Party and give Republican leaders undeserved passes, conservatives will keep yanking their own footballs away.

Vote wrong on key votes, and we’ll be on you. And “on you” means our strongman or strongwoman can attack without fear of backlash from the community.

Use This One Word Because It Makes You More Influential

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Don’t ask me to explain why the human brain works the way it does. And don’t ask me how scientists get the idea for some experiments.

Instead, take note of the most influential work in the English language, because I want you to be more influential.

What’s that one word?

It’s not “you” or “free” or “instantly” or “new.”  They’re very powerful words, as every copywriter knows. But they’re not the most influential.

The most influential word comes from The Wizard of Oz.

wizard of oz because
Because, because, because. This is amazing science that will make you more influential

Becuz becuz becuz becuz beCUZ!

Because Is the Most Influential Word, Because It Is

Researcher Ellen Langer wanted to see how to make requests more persuasive. She had her researchers approach lines to copiers in busy offices and asked if they could go next. Each time, researchers used a very specific request: “Excuse me, I have five pages. Could I use the copier next?”

When asked this way, sixty percent of the time the people already in line let the researchers butt in. Not bad.

When the researchers added “because I’m in a rush,” the number soared from 60 percent to 94 percent!

But here’s where the word “because” really earns its stripes.  Researchers realized “because I’m in a hurry” made sense.  What if the “because” clause was meaningless.

They ran the experiment one more time, this time asking, “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies.”  Well, of course, they had to make copies. Why else would they be asking to use the Xerox machine?

You’d think such a silly request would prompt the people in line to say “get lost.”  But that didn’t happen. What did happen was astonishing, and it made the word “because” easily the most influential word in English.

When asked “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies,” 93 percent of the people in line said “sure.”

Like I said, don’t ask me to explain why the brain works this way, just remember that it does.

When you ask someone to go vote on April 2, add a because clause.  “Will you vote on April 2, because it’s an election day,” will be as effective as “will you vote on April 2, because your liberty depends on it.”

Now, go find out:

Why the Sequester Was Worse Before It Happened

How Psychological Biases Hurt Government

And here’s the book that’ll make you more influential: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Source:  The Xerox studies can be found in: Langer, E., Blank, A., and Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of “placebic” information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36: 639– 42. Retrieved from Goldstein, Noah J.; Martin, Steve J.; Robert B. Cialdini (2008-06-10). Yes! (Kindle Locations 2882-2884). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

If You Want Fewer Abortions, Stop Talking About How Many There Are

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m using abortion as an example, but this bit of science applies to all political messaging.

What’s wrong with this headline?

55,772,015 Abortions in America Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973 - LifeNews.com_thumb[2]

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It shouts: “Everybody’s getting an abortion!” Even if connected with messages that say abortion is wrong.

In numerous studies, messages intended to discourage a behavior by promoting the number of people engaged in the behavior (called negative social proof) actually caused the behavior to increase.

In the most famous study by Robert Cialdini, Steve Martin, and Noah Goldstein, researchers wanted to reduce theft of artifacts from the Petrified Forest National Park. Theft of artifacts is a serious problem, and signs installed by the park service hadn’t helped.

The scientists believed the signs in the park were actually encouraging people to steal petrified wood. The park’s signs read:

“Your heritage is being vandalized every day by theft losses of petrified wood of 14 tons a year, mostly a small piece at a time.”

To test their theory, the researchers placed two different messages in different areas of the park and marked artifacts in the area to track them. Here’s a description of the experiment:

The negative social proof sign said, “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, changing the natural state of the Petrified Forest,” and was accompanied by a picture of several park visitors taking pieces of wood. A second sign conveyed no social proof information. Rather, it simply conveyed that stealing wood was not appropriate or approved, saying, “Please don’t remove the petrified wood from the park, in order to preserve the natural state of the Petrified Forest.” That sign was accompanied by a picture of a lone visitor stealing a piece of wood, with a red circle-and-bar (the universal “No” symbol) superimposed over his hand. We also had a control condition in which we didn’t put up either of these signs.

Goldstein, Noah J.; Martin, Steve J.; Robert B. Cialdini (2008-06-10). Yes! (Kindle Locations 372-378). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The results: the negative social proof sign caused the number of thefts to triple!  That’s right, three times as many people took petrified wood from the area with the negative social proof sign.

The theory held. The National Park Service was actually encouraging people to steal, and anecdotal evidence bore this out.  The researchers learned of the wood-theft problem from a former grad student who took his fiancée to the park.

. . .  a woman he described as the most honest person he’d ever known, someone who had never borrowed a paper clip without returning it. They quickly encountered the aforementioned park sign warning visitors against stealing petrified wood. He was shocked when his otherwise wholly law-abiding fiancée nudged him in the side with her elbow and whispered, “We’d better get ours now.”

This study has been replicated repeatedly. When you tell people that lots of people are doing something wrong, you increase the number of people doing the wrong thing.

Use the Science of Social Proof Effectively

The authors of the study point out that more effective message would be the opposite of negative social proof. Instead of talking about 55 million abortions, talk about the declining number of abortions. Find statistics that show how unusual it is for a woman to get an abortion.

The incidence of abortion has been declining for over a decade, and it plummeted 5 percent in 2009 alone. The ratio of abortions to live births declines every year. The rate of abortions declines every year. Two-thirds of women never have an abortion. If trends continue, someday there will be no abortions in America.

Smoking Turned The Corner When They Stopped Talking About How Many People Smoke

For years, the CDC and the Surgeon General and all sorts of health groups complained that people just refused to listen to their messages on the dangers of smoking. As evidence, in the 1980s, they decried the large number of teens taking up cigarettes.  But they were wrong. People were listening. And here’s what they heard:

  • More teens smoking
  • Smoking up in 43 states
  • Despite the risks, Americans smoke more than ever

All of those messages told people “everybody’s doing it. Why aren’t you?” Or, as the grad student’s fiancée said, “we better get ours now.”

In the 1990s, the messaging shifted. Instead of talking about all the people smoking, they started talking about all the people quitting.

Suddenly, quitting became the in-thing. And fewer people smoked.

This Isn’t Just About Abortion Messaging

Back to Cialdini, et al:

More generally, political groups of all sorts misunderstand the impact of their communications by condemning the rise in voter apathy and then watch their communications backfire as more and more voters fail to turn up at the polls.

You should see all the emails, blog comments, and tweets I get that use negative social proof. “Most kids will vote for Obama no matter what.” “Most teachers are socialists.”  “Every kid under 30 was indoctrinated to hate Republicans.”

Those messages only increase the outcomes you don’t want.

I understand why people—even professional marketers—use negative social proof. They see a problem that’s big and growing, and they want to alert others of the danger.

That works if it’s an agreed upon danger. An angry giant descends the beanstalk. The wicked witch brews a potion to turn everyone into toads. The Cubs win the World Series.

But it doesn’t work if the danger is not agreed upon. Thirty-eight million Americans wear contact lenses! Okay.  So what?

To the 51 percent of Americans who call themselves “pro-choice,” the LIfenews headline is as ho-hum as the contact lens headline. To the smoker, hearing that more teens are smoking is a yawn.

Instead, flip the message over.  Only 16 percent of Americans smoke. Since 2002, there are more former smokers in the US than smokers. Eighty-eight percent of Americans do not wear contact lenses.

Back to Martin, Goldstein, and Cialdini:

If the circumstances allow for it, focusing the audience on all people who do engage in the positive behavior can be a very influential strategy.For instance, imagine you are a manager recognizing that attendance at your monthly meetings has gone down. Rather than calling attention to the fact that so many people are missing the meetings, you could not only express your disapproval for that behavior, but also highlight that those who don’t attend the meetings are in the minority by pointing out the large number of people who do actually turn up.

Goldstein, Noah J.; Martin, Steve J.; Robert B. Cialdini (2008-06-10). Yes! (Kindle Locations 390-391). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I hope this news helps. I know there’s a tendency to shout out big numbers, but don’t shout big numbers unless you want them to get bigger. People do what they think others are doing. Call it the bandwagon effect, social proof, or monkey-see-monkey-do, the science is clear: calling attention to a behavior’s frequency will only increase it.

Why GOP Pandering to Young Voters Backfires

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marco Rubio gave the Republican response to the State of the Union address for two reasons.

First, Rubio’s Cuban, and the GOP wants to court Latinos.

Second, Rubio’s relatively young, and the GOP wants to stop the bleeding when it comes to young voters.

But there’s a fundamental problem with the Republican approach, and it stems from the GOP’s least favorite discipline: behavioral science.

Young People Are Naturally Skeptical

You hear about scams that target older folks all the time. If you’re like me, you’re tempted to blame it on media sensationalism. After all, ripping off a retiree on Social Security pisses us off a lot more than stories of scamming a 24-year-old single guy.

But 80 percent of scam victims are over 65. It’s not sensationalism by the media to drive up ratings. And it’s not senility. It’s the human brain and aging.

Insula-BS

In a study, researchers found that older people are far less able to detect a scammer than younger people are. Follow-up investigations using functional MRIs that watch the brain while it’s working revealed that a part of the brain that signals danger declines as we age.

From “Why Old People Get Scammed” in Science Magazine:

In the study, appearing online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the“untrustworthy” faces were perceived as significantly more trustworthy by the older subjects than by the younger ones. The researchers then performed the same test on a different set of volunteers, this time imaging their brains during the process, to look for differences in brain activity between the age groups. In the younger subjects, when asked to judge whether the faces were trustworthy, the anterior insula became active; the activity increased at the sight of an untrustworthy face. The older people, however, showed little or no activation.

Aging depresses our bullshit detectors. And the Republicans better come to grips, because their message isn’t selling among people with strong BS detectors—people under 30. Like it or not, they are tomorrow’s voter.

Pandering might work with the elderly, but it becomes less effective as you move down the age scale.

Young People Are Cynical Idealists

Instead of pandering with Marco Rubio and amnesty, why not take John Mackey’s advice? That advice is simple: find your purpose.

Mackey is the co-founder of Whole Foods Markets. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian equally uncomfortable with the big brother government as with crony capitalism. His employees are young and cynical, but at the same time visionary and idealistic.

Mackey offers five big questions to help organizations their purpose:

  • Why do we exist?
  • Why do we need to exist?
  • What is the contribution we want to make?
  • Why is the world better because we are here?
  • Would we be missed if we disappeared?

Republicans should focus on that last question: would we be missed if we disappeared? They should ask people under 30 who call themselves fiscal conservatives, “would you miss the GOP if it disappeared tomorrow?”

More and more, the answer in my head is “not really.” (Frankly, I have almost the same response when applying the question to the tea party movement, and we need to fix that, too, or stop existing.)

If the Republican Party doesn’t provide a viable alternative to planned economies and regulated lives, another party will fill the void.

Let’s be honest: America and the ideals of liberty and free market capitalism need a vibrant, purposeful political engine more than they need a network of grassroots activists. And nature abhors a vacuum.

Imitating Reagan Isn’t Enough

Cynical idealists respond to people who demonstrate a clear sense of purpose and a commitment to making life better. Young people flocked to Reagan (as compared to many other Republican candidates), both as governor of California and as President of the United States. They may not have agreed with him, but they recognized a shared worldview: trust, but verified.

Trying to recreate the Reagan Era is as futile and counterproductive as trying to rebuild the Berlin Wall. But we can learn something from Regan’s vision.

Reagan simultaneously cast a jaundiced eye on our institutions and systems while maintaining in his mind’s eye the shining city on the hill. He was a cynical idealist, and it worked. The cynical idealist made the world better – for a time.

Science confirms that saying the right things but doing the politically expedient might endear you to the oldest voters, but it makes the youngest puke.

As long as the GOP believes pandering to the young will cure its problems, more and more people will come to realize we wouldn’t really miss the party if it disappears tomorrow.

 
Update: Rush Limbaugh agrees
 

Mackey, John; Sisodia, Rajendra (2012-12-25). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (Kindle Locations 886-887). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.