I just got off the phone with a client of mine from Arizona. Really sweet little old lady, 66 years old, living on Social Security. Every time I talk to her, she always likes to chat about politics with me. Usually it's her doing the talking and me doing the listening because in the past, she hasn't always connected the dots in a logical way, but no harm, no foul, I'm just here to listen and help her with her legal problems.
But today was different. Today she asked me if I listened to the State of the Union address. I confirmed that indeed I had, as well as all the analysis from the various networks. She then proceeded to tell me that she was a proud member of the Tea Party (alarms began going off in my head) and that Barack Obama had no right to be our president because while he won the electoral vote, but he did not win the popular vote in 2008.
I sat there on the other end of the line in silence, my mind spinning for information that I knew was in the rolodex of facts that I keep in the filing cabinet of my mind. Popular vote count 2008 presidential election...
I knew it had been a landslide. I had made a huge map of the United States and colored in red when McCain had won a state and Blue when Obama had won a state. But what were the numbers?
I'll tell you what the numbers were -- yes, Barack Obama destroyed McCain in the Electoral Vote (3165-173). But the Popular Vote was even more stunning -- Barack Obama garnered 69,456,897 votes from the American people while John McCain gathered only 59,934,814. Barack Obama won the Popular Vote by 10 million freaking votes.
But again, that's not the point. The point is that this little old lady heard from somewhere and someone that Barack Obama shouldn't be President because he didn't win the popular vote. And she believed it without checking her facts. And she was angry about it. She formed hundreds of other ideas about the President and politics because of this misinformation.
And then I went further in my silent analysis -- if she's upset about the concept of a President winning the Electoral Vote but not the Popular Vote (I believe her exact quote was "The American people should choose the President, not some Electoral College"), then really she should be up in arms about the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore when the Popular Vote totals were in favor of Gore by 543,895. But that's a whole other can of worms.
My client went on to complain to me about how her Social Security Income was so low and had not been raised to account for cost of living increases. that she had worked her whole life to better our country and now was being left for broke. But wait, little old cute lady, you're a member of the Tea Party? Isn't Social Security Income one of those "entitlement programs" that the Tea Party and the Republican Party are both so opposed to? More silence.
Oh and then this same client told me that President Obama "shot himself in the foot" by bringing up reducing the corporate tax rate and closing corporate tax loopholes. She wishes that would happen (I didn't realize closing tax loopholes was a Tea Party stand). She explained by stating "Doesn't he understand that all the big businesses are run by Democrats?" ...................Silence on my end again.............
As I processed all this information while on the phone trying to advise my client about her legal issues, I realized that there are some people, I guess a bunch of people, in this country who are just misinformed. It wasn't for the first time I realized this, believe me, but it never fails to shock me.
These people have some preconceived notions about issues and how things work in politics. And when someone somewhere preys upon those preconceived notions and feeds them misinformation, disinformation, whatever you want to call the propaganda and lies and spew that this particular client of mine has latched onto, their minds are made up and they are the followers, marching in lockstep to the beat of Michelle Bachmann's, Sarah Palin's and whoever else's drum who doesn't care one bit that these people are voting and thinking against their own interests.
This is the real battle - the battle of thoughts. And it's an uphill one for us fact-based thinkers who hunt for the evidence instead of just taking the TV talking head's word for it.
I didn't try to rewire my client's thought process today. But I owe her a letter about her legal issues. And maybe I'll attach a post-it note to the letter with the actual 2008 Presidential Election's Popular Vote count. Just to pay it forward.