Politician Guide to Voters’ Psyche

There is a popular saying. “People vote with their wallets.” This is based on estimates that, more than all other factors, like social issues, or even security, it is the state of the economy that matters most to voters. This was specially proved correct when Donald J. Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the US presidency.

Throughout most of the entire United States election cycle, the only issue that polls saw in Trump was that he was rich, and not on important national issues such as on the economy or national security. Given the amount of fact distortion that occurred, it is very hard to say what helped Trump win.

He promised to bring back manufacturing jobs from China and other countries with low labor costs and requirement. He also promised to cut taxes for the rich and remove regulations from banks. Both of these promises were actually carried out by Ronald Reagan’s administration and both failed to fulfill the desired outcomes.

Reaganomics – Reagan’s economic policies – or voodoo economics as the first George Bush once described it, was a short-term success but long term pain. Actually, it was a disaster, a time bomb almost. Cutting taxes for the rich, in the hopes that the rich would invest in job creating business enterprises, in a stratagem dubbed “trickle-down economics,” simply ended up making the rich richer.

The rich failed to invest in risky ventures like startups and instead put all their money in already established companies with a history of high returns. And the removal of regulations allowed banks to take massive risks with customers’ savings. All of this climaxed almost 30 years after Reagan left office, with the painful recession. These two courses of actions, in a step towards brutal capitalism, are policies that should make the working middle class cringe with fear.

Clinton, on the other hand, promised to cut taxes for the poor and middle class, while making the rich pay more and close loopholes used by big business to avoid paying taxes. She also wanted to bump up minimum wage and opposed (as did her Republican opponent) the TransPacific trade deal. And although she did show a desire to completely move away from steel and coal industries, she also wanted to reform education policies so that the same workers who lose (and lost) their jobs as a result would acquire new skills.

This should have made Clinton a friend of the middle class, but it did not. The argument that people vote with their wallets in this incident is at best shaky and at worst laughable. Nonetheless, people do vote with their wallets, albeit, when they can afford to, when social and security issues are not overwhelming.

We should not discount the fact that most of the wealthiest nations in the world have what are generally considered democratic governments. A democratic country, for the record, is not a western country but any nation that does not confuse opposition parties with terrorists, and grants comprehensive freedom of speech opportunities. It is true to those that allow individuals to hold power only for a limited amount of time (say, 10 years) and does not send journalists to prison.

By these standards, Western Europe, and some eastern European countries have open democracies. When their people vote, they usually vote because they believe the candidate could increase their bank account. Most of the security and social issues are supposed to be bipartisan.

The left and right wings of the government may argue on how many refugees to take in but not on issues like minority discrimination. They may argue if they should build walls on their borders, but not if they should or should not wipe out the Islamic State. Neither the left nor the right considers the bedrocks of democracy (freedom of press, right to vote) partisan issues. These are some of the things the West does not, for the most part, worry about, so they vote freely, with their wallets. Not all wealthy nations operate in this manner.

There are no better specimens for this than Saudi Arabia and China, two countries that unlike most others never became democracies after becoming rich. Saudi Arabia is a country where women are not allowed to drive cars or vote (until very recently). The country is still a monarchy – its rulers do not pretend and call themselves presidents or prime ministers.

To survive in this state, the government has not isolated Saudi Arabia from the rest of the world, like in the case of North Korea, to keep its grip on power. Nonetheless, the autocracy does still enjoy an annoyingly decent popularity among Saudi citizens.

But then again the Saudis are not bombarded with the usual working hours the citizens of other rich countries are overwhelmed by. Saudi schools are also nowhere that rigorous, schooling is not even compulsory. Regardless, GDP per capita is among the most respectable in the world, thanks to the country’s natural oil resources, and the subsidies the government offers its people.

In other words, even most low income families do not have to worry about the costs of goods. In Saudi Arabia’s case, the people do indeed vote with their wallets (if there were any major elections). China’s case is a little bit more complicated. The country is nowhere as oppressive as Saudi Arabia; the Chinese are allowed to do pretty much anything, as long as they do not distort the ruling party’s mandate. Still, there are no meaningful elections.

At the moment, the recently wealthy middle class is comfortable with the government – President Xi Ping’s party enjoys pretty healthy favorable ratings. Again, we could claim votes are directly aligned with bank accounts. But unlike the Saudi’s, the Chinese have to actually work to earn, and this phenomena might just be the answer behind the reason to what irks voters in an election season.

As China’s economy begins to slow down, will the nation’s all-but-capitalist government face threats to its existence? That is for us to know and for Xi Ping to find out!

By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye is a film critic whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling. He can be reached at christian.tesfaye@yahoo.com

Published on Jan 10,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 871]



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