April 12, 2012 - 12:58 pm
Trolling the interwebs for content, which is an activity much akin to stirring bogholes with a stick, I came across an article title that inspired a “You really have to ASK?!!” reaction in me: Rick Santorum: What Went Wrong?
No few of the respondents had about the same reaction I did, which was that the reason for Santorum’s dropping out of the race was self-evidently contained within his campaign and within Rick Santorum in general, but a lot more chalked it up to having less money than Romney, having somehow failed the timing on the early races, not getting enough media attention, incorrect humors, or whatever other reasons than that only a minority of even Republican voters found him palatable.
Santorum’s campaign in general, and most especially what I saw in his supporters, struck me as yet another case of election-year Just Exactly Like Me Syndrome. This malady can occur at all times of year, but never attains its full flowering at any other time than election year. The most susceptible victims are those who have been living under opposition party power for a few years.
The central disorder of JELMS, from which all symptoms flow, is the idea that the vast majority of Americans are just exactly like the afflicted voter or candidate, with all clear and inarguable deviations representing lunatic fringes or tiny minorities that the “real Americans” dislike and automatically dismiss as irrelevant. The problems, priorities, and perspective of the average American, who obviously represents a clear majority, are assumed to be functionally identical to the JELMS carrier, so that objections to positions or statements of the candidates in question must obviously be trivial because they don’t really impact the JELMS carrier. Since they are not his problems, they are not really problems, or aren’t important problems but rather trivial special-interest gadfly issues. If they are sufficiently oppositional objections, clearly the objector represents the JELMS carrier’s idea of everything that is wrong with America that real Americans are fighting tooth and nail against. In that case, they may not only be dismissed, but active vilification is encouraged. Sandra Fluke and Joe the Plumber should get together for a beer sometime.
Class issues are common plagues of the JELMS-afflicted, since essentially all political candidates and most of the people who make a living commenting on political issues or have the time to lustily follow them share a perspective that has certain luxuries attached to it. Whether it’s talking as though all Americans have the capability to welcome and support as many children as come along within a family (often while simultaneously demonizing the “culture of dependency” welfare brings), or attempting to empathize with difficulties obtaining enough arugula while simultaneously lecturing Americans for their eating choices (without realizing that “fattening” food is often interchangeable with cheap food), speculating about the racial overtones of pickup trucks, or attempting to draw derogatory comparisons between one candidate’s level of extreme wealth in comparison to one’s own, no matter which side of the aisle it comes from, the JELMS sufferer manages to reliably alienate while assuming that it won’t matter to the people he’s alienating because, as it is not a big deal to him, it obviously won’t be to them.
Other common symptoms of JELMS:
- When managing to alienate sections of a different group in numbers large enough to show up in the polls, the discussion within camp is framed as that group being stupid and easily manipulated by the opposition.
- When asked by a perceived in-group member why candidate is not concerned about (issue they believe to be important), the answer received boils down to, from the candidate’s perspective, the issue is not important and some other issue more important to them should be discussed instead.
- Candidate’s perseverating on issues supporters have vaguely realized aren’t highly important to a majority of voters is framed as “messaging trouble” rather than a major disconnect.
- Successes are credited to the “just exactly like me” assumption being fundamentally correct rather than compared against the weaknesses of the competition.
- The successes of the opposition in past years are credited to having deluded the real American majority as opposed to having offered (and even sometimes given) them something they wanted.
- Mockery of the NJLM outsiders fliply phrased in class, race, gender, and other “outsider” pejoratives, with no apparent consciousness of alienating people who might be something other than a tiny and deeply entrenched oppositional minority.
JELMS is bipartisan and equally likely to occur on both sides of the political divide, though its most serious carriers are usually found within the party out of power. This makes it all the more difficult to highlight the perils of the problem, since by the time the dust in an election settles multiple different carriers on both sides probably had the opportunity to do plenty of damage that will not be recognized as such.