The resident faculty left a pointed clue this week. Outside the mail room we found a copy of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, with a sticky note asking: “What’s the matter with his argument?”

People don’t vote for Who I Am. They vote for Who I Want to Be. (More)

First we thank last week’s guest lecturers. Last Tuesday, Professor of Jobdefiliberantology J Brunner Fan shared thoughts from President Obama’s Cleveland rally in What Enthusiasm Gap? Last Wednesday, Professor of Commuhealthmemiofieldrogueology TheFatLadySings suggested Democrats should be Organizing to Pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Both were excellent discussions and are well worth reading.

This Tuesday, Professor of Topofclassclownistics JanF will be Digging Deeper into the proposed Serengeti Road in Tanzania, and the dilemma we face when a local economy clashes with its environment. And this Wednesday, Professor TheFatLadySings returns to discuss how we can bring rural minorities into the Netroots. As always, Chef will supply coffee and bagels and the Professor of Astrology Janitor will demand cleaners and buffers.

Note: The Authors Notes box in your dorm room lists the week’s openings in each category: Morning Feature, our campus soapbox Furthermore!, our people-watching Midday Matinee, and our evening environmental series Our Earth. If you would like to contribute at BPI, go to the Authors Notes box, scroll to the category you want, and type your user name (“I” is not enough), topic, and the date you want under the category, then click “Save Notes.” I’ll put you on our Schedule and remove your note. If you don’t have an Authors Notes feature in your dorm room and want to write at BPI, please contact our site administrator and ask to join our Authors.

Also: Please share your stories of offline political activism in Things We Did This Week.

That leaves the question of what’s the matter with arguments like the one in What’s the Matter with Kansas? And the problem with those arguments, quite simply, is that most people do not base voting decisions on naked self-interest. Too often Democrats ask people to treat voting as a vending machine – What’s In It for Me? – and appeal to a very immediate version of Me: Who I Am. We offer facts and statistics to prove our ideas will help average voters as they are, then wonder like Thomas Frank why so many instead choose a party or candidates whose ideas will not help average voters as they are.

But as those studies show, most voters don’t ask “What’s In It for Who I Am?” Instead, they ask “What’s In It for Who I Want To Be?” … and we’ve given Republicans an open field on defining and appealing to Who I Want To Be. We talk about facts and statistics while they talk about values and aspirations. We let them define what a Real American is, and we let them appeal to voters’ desires to be a Real American.

Consider this lecture by Dan Ariely:

None of the factors Dr. Ariely discussed – reading a non-existent honor code, a poser cheating while wearing the local college sweatshirt or a rival’s sweatshirt – changed the basic economic calculation on cheating, of “What’s in it for Who I Am.” Thus Dr. Ariely describes those factors as “irrational.” But they’re really not. Each factor subtly changed the students’ idea of Who I Want To Be, e.g.: I don’t want to be like a cheater from a rival university. And that shift in Who I Want To Be changed the students’ behavior.

So this week we’ll offer some Democratic definitions of a Real American, and discuss how we must join the national dialogue on values … and appeal to Who I Want To Be.


Happy Monday!