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I am not sure the conclusions are particularly revelatory. The political system in the US appears to rely on using tribal association - Democrat/Republican, Conservative/Liberal - to get people to group themselves (by branding each tribe) then the political class just inserts whatever policies suit their goals and the masses fill in the blanks of justification. From the last decade alone there are countless examples of Bush policies opposed by D voters and supported by R voters yet when the same policies are enacted by the Obama administration people take the opposite positions. We all know it happens and see it every day.



Given that the study was funded by the Swedish research council and by a Swedish professor from Lund, and that the participants were recruited randomly from people in a park (assuming one in Sweden) I would guess they were Swedish. I share your disappointment about the current cliquish political environment in US, but that may not be a good explanation of the results. It might well be that such behavior is universal, but that will need more substantiation/exploration.


I think the GP was just giving a local example (for them, at least) to support an argument for a universal phenomenon. They probably didn't mean to imply that anyone associated with the study was American or particularly influenced by American thought (or, for that matter, that tribalism itself is a uniquely American quality).


Right. That's exactly what I was saying. I think this is a universal phenomenon, for which we have clear evidence in front of our eyes played out on the most public of stages. It was not meant to link the US and the study, nor was it to indict/laud the US system. Merely a neutral commentary that popped into my mind reading this study. You said it more concisely than me - thanks :-)


It's not just the political system in the US - this has been going on since the patricians and the plebs, and is unlikely to change. I'm not sure that it is some form of elitist conspiracy though - people form tribal associations all the time even without the encouragement of leaders online or offline.


> countless examples

name one.

> We all know

I think you see what you want to see, and not any reality.


Here's one example: some twenty years ago, "science" was a dirty word among liberals, Newton's Principia was a "rape manual", quarks were "constructed", and "scientism" was but another tool in our evil western civilization's arsenal for oppressing minorities and other cultures.

Nowadays, liberals are all about science. Anyone who'd dare to question the scientific method is corrupt or crazy or both. All it took was the climate change and the controversy around teaching evolution in schools.


I was around 20 years ago and I have no idea what you're talking about. Mainstream liberals were anti-science?


Was Richard Rorty not a mainstream liberal? Anyway, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_wars could be a good starting point if you care. The phenomenon was mainstream enough for say Steven Weinberg to have noticed and devoted some pages to it in his books.


The Republicans owned NASA and space science in the 80s. Yes there was definitely an anti-science bent in mainstream liberalism for quite some time.


I worked for NASA then, you are making stuff up.


Government surveillance. Government secrecy. Willingness to tolerate war crimes and "move on". Torture. Gitmo. The Bush Doctrine itself.

Not that I subscribe to the "no true Scotsman" style of argument, but ... Obama liberals, as opposed to liberals, don't seem to have noticed the lack of follow-through on what I thought were pretty cogent criticisms of Bush's entire oeuvre.


> surveillance

Obama changed his support for FISA updates and telecom immunity in the summer of 2008, well before the election. So some (I doubt more than a small vocal minority of progressives and civil liberty types) were upset for that, but I don't see them flip-flopping o. that.

> move on

Obama did not campaign on bringing Woo et al to justice. Progressives certainly angry about that.

> Torture

I'm unaware of Obama's deviancy from his proclamation to end support for the Bush/Woo policies. I doubt myself that torture has actually ended, but we have no evidence like we did with Bush.

> Gitmo

Some democrats do indeed perceive Obama to be the king that Bush was, but he has a little problem with Congress there...

> Bush Doctrine

Neo-Wilsonians would argue they aren't Neocons. I'd agree, they're not as smart as the neocons, and that isn't a complement. But given Democratic support for "containment" of Saddam via weekly bombings and Kosovo, I really don't think the mob of Dems have flip-flopped on


The question isn't whether Obama did X, Y or Z. It's whether Obama supporters will rationalize his actions and support them even when they are consistent with policies they opposed under Bush. Likewise whether Bush supporters now oppose similar actions by Obama (or previously under Clinton) that they supported under Bush.


I see zero links with polls of mainstream dems flip flopping. Where is this countless data?


Several of Obama's policies (not including the health care bill) have been exceedingly pro-capatilism, and Obama is making huge huge pushes to bring manufacturing back to the states and create American jobs. Both of which you would think would cater to the Republican philosophies, but no, he's just seen as even more "socialist" with them.

And to try to lend a little credit to my statement, I'm independent, and tend to vote conservative/libertarian.


> bring manufacturing back

Well, I'd say Republicans mouth those ideals and then vote for nafta/wto/etc. And so did many Democrats. So did Clinton. But I don't see bringing jobs back as anti-Democrat, I'd see it as more of a progressive/workers thing. The only people screaming about Nafta were unions, socialists and paleocons.

edit: I'd add that as for economic philosophies, Reagan Democrats are still Reagan Democrats.

> credit

I'm sure that in your mind, democrats flip-flop all the time. I just don't see any evidence of that regardless of your personal enlightenments.


So here I think you're nicely highlighting the earlier point. You are more interested in defending Democrats from some imagined charge of flip-flopping all the time. That's a charge I never made. The point I was making is that there is a lot of continuity in US policy from one admin to the others. This leads voters to rationalize their support/opposition to such policies based on who's in power. If you don't see that happening, that's great.


The word continuity does not appear anywhere in your OP. The statement that voters take opposite positions depending on who is in power does.

I'm more interested in you documenting, factually with polls, countless examples of D's doing this flip-flopping. Exactly who was against Afganistan but suddenly rationalized supporting it when they learned Obama was for it?


>> "I'm sure that in your mind, democrats flip-flop all the time. I just don't see any evidence of that regardless of your personal enlightenments."

I'm not entirely sure how I implied dems flip-flop, or do so more than repubs? I was more making the case that people will stick to their "tribe/pack mentality" even when the other side is doing something congruent with their "beliefs". I also wasn't attacking Obama above, but supporting some of his actions.

But now that you mention it... Obama pledged to bring change and transparency to the presidency, but he's been the harshest president on whistle blowers, and actually operates more behind closed doors than any before him. He also flipped on the gitmo/prisoner thing. They all flip-flop (politicians, red or blue), this is politics, say whatever it takes to get yourself in office, then say whatever it takes to keep yourself there. The American public is buyin.


Sure. Just without thinking about it I can pop off a couple...

The economic rescue packages enacted during the period spanning the end of the Bush era and the start of the Obama era.

Attitudes to military intervention abroad. When 80s Republican administrations were coddling Saddam Hussain as an ally, liberals were screaming about the injustices in that country and calling for intervention; when conservatives flipped to wanting to oust Saddam Hussain liberals were largely against it - though little had changed for the better internally in Iraq. The flip on Libya when it was the Obama admin working towards the overthrow of Gadaffi, etc. The Republican history of isolationism flipped to a bold militarism. Bush running against nation building/intervention then building a Presidency on it.

The free trade/human rights dichotomy re: China - where the parties swap positions from agitation to accommodation depending on who's in power. Similarly with NAFTA.

I suspect if you don't see policy continuation between administrations in the US, despite the extreme polarization of politics where most R voters will argue against ANYTHING done by a D administration and vice versa, which is exactly the point made, then it may be you seeing what you want to see.


As one of a handfull of liberals who protested Saddam with Iranian expats (many who then went back and died in that war), there was no liberal or democratic opposition to thatsupport, and much of it was secret at the time. Nobody flipped. Not one. When they became aware of it later (Iran/Contra) and the first Iraq war ramped up, they were consistently against it.

Republicans haven't been isolationist since the 40s.

There is little, if any extreme change in D voters over the last several decades. There is no vice-versa, it's false equivalence nonsense.


war in afghanistan

2008 bailouts


Where are all these 'Democrats' that hated the Afghan war and now love it? You do know that Obama campaigned on doubling down in Afghanistan? So did those Democrats flip-flop while he was a candidate or after?

Or are there 'Republicans' protesting against the Afghan war now?

As for bailouts, can you name a Democrat who was against before they were for it? Because I don't know a Congessperson with a 'D' who voted against the bailouts.


http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/world/asia/11military.html

http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll681.xml


And yet most of the Democrats in Congress voted for the surge. Schumer did not switch to a withdrawal position until June of 2011. Is that a flip-flop, or soemthing more nuanced?

http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2011/06/16/schumer-urges-afg...

IMO, he had just decided the 'Decent Interval' strategy was decent enough.

TY for the link, certainly more Congressional dissatisfaction than indicated. I will note that both Administrations supported the bill, so I'm still not sure who flip-flopped except for the House Republicans (it had failed an earlier vote and Pelosi publically said she'd just wait for the Republicans to cough up enough votes, which they did).


The original point wasn't a party political one, but I think your reaction demonstrates it nicely. What the administrations do isn't the question, its that their tribes convince themselves that their team has been consistent and that they haven't changed their minds... which is what the study was trying to show as well.


You keep focusing on those elected, where the point was about those doing the electing.


That's the best description I've ever seen of the two party system. People will defend their fox news or cnn to the DEATH, no matter how much it goes against their actual self interest. Politics/tribes do crazy things to people...


You're assuming that one's political views should reflect one's self-interest. I think it's morally consistent to hold to principles even when they don't benefit you; it's not necessarily evidence of political trickery at work.


I think too many people think the is a difference between self-interest and morality. They are one in the same. For example, you could say helping spread wealth to the poor is not in your self-interest, but it is morally appealing to you. But that is wrong, if it appeals to your morals for whatever reason (you like helping people, you think it will create a better world, you think everyone deserves more opportunity) then it is clearly also in your self interest. (although not immediately apparent, as it means less wealth for you).

The issue here is that the political parties seem to have a "tribal" divide, where parties on both ends refuse to acknowledge that the other side may be doing things according to their ideology, simply because it is the other side...




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