In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2008 18 Tishrei 5769

The Irrational Exuberance of November

By Suzanne Fields

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Throw the bums out!" That's one of the most familiar campaign cries in our history. It's even more effective than Herbert Hoover's slogan of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" and stirs the blood like "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too" never could. Sometimes a little bum-throwing makes sense. Sometimes it doesn't.

In just over three weeks we'll elect a president who, whether it turns out that he's John McCain or Barack Obama, has crossed his heart and hoped to die if he doesn't make good on his promise to throw out the policies of an embattled president, if not that president himself. "President Obama," if there is one, might even chase George and Laura down Pennsylvania Ave., throwing sticks, stones and harsh words at the moving van.

A lot of the rhetoric of any campaign is designed to encourage foolishness, like expecting voters to believe everything they hear from the platform. Voters often relish being unpredictable and make unlikely choices. The political scientists and other academics who demand a rational explanation of things for which there may be no rational explanation often rail at "public ignorance" as the cause of not seeing things as they think the public should. These wise men think all that's important is "policy" and a candidate's ability to define undefined presidential "doctrine," or to play a version of Trivial Pursuit, such as identifying the middle initial of an assistant associate undersecretary of state.

Larry Bartels, a professor of politics at Princeton, suggests in a fascinating article in the Wilson Quarterly that the proper response to such thinking is a mocking, "So what?" Voters usually get to the place they want to go, and they choose how they get there.

"The political consequences of 'public ignorance' must be demonstrated, not assumed," argues Prof. Bartels. "And that requires focusing not just on what voters don't know, but on how what they don't know actually affects how they vote. Do they manage to make sensible choices despite being hazy about the details of politics and government? . If they do, that's not stupid — it's efficient." These political scientists might make the common academic assumption that voters are always rational, "but a half-century of [scientific analysis] provides plenty of grounds for pessimism about voters' rationality."

Nothing annoys academics like the notion that faith in native common sense trumps arcane argument, that voters will take a lot on faith if they decide a candidate is likeable, down to earth and serious enough to be trusted. Sometimes voters make choices that seem to be textbook cases of irrationality, never more so, for example, than election results in Arkansas in 1968. Voters there on a single day gave resounding victories to George C. Wallace, a third-party segregationist candidate for president; William Fulbright, a moderately conservative Democratic incumbent U.S. senator; and Winthrop Rockefeller, a moderately liberal Republican running for governor. They still talk about that one in political-science seminars.

Sometimes voters just want to express unfocused anger, and take it out on whoever is unlucky enough to be at hand. Like this year. George W. Bush is not available as a target, so for some voters John McCain will have to do.

There's a bizarre precedent of sorts. In the summer of 1916, killer sharks repeatedly attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, killing four of them over a period of weeks. The attacks were brazen, even for hungry sharks. One shark even ventured up a freshwater stream to find a victim. The attacks were unprecedented, and the tourist season was ruined. Several hotels were all but forced into bankruptcy when vacationers abandoned the shore by the thousands and didn't return.

Jersey residents demanded that Congress pass a law, or something, though killer sharks are notorious for not obeying the law. So Jersey voters took it out on a popular president, who had been the state's favorite son from his term as governor and, before that, the president of Princeton. Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president that November anyway, though not with much help from voters in the towns along the Jersey shore.

History is an unreliable guide for Messrs. McCain and Obama because nobody can ever be sure where whimsy — sometimes defined as "irrationality" in college lecture halls — will be aimed. Just as in earlier election years, millions of voters will act on hunches and guesses next month, on feelings held deep in the pit of the stomach. Therein lies the secret to the great political success we call democracy.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.


Suzanne Fields Archives

© 2006, Creators Syndicate, Suzanne Fields