by Sam Holloway
The bipartisan hold on the overwhelming majority of our nation’s elected offices may be linked to a previously unrecognized cognitive disorder, according to results of a recent university study.
Sociology doctoral candidate Karl Müdjen of Gulf Isthmus University announced the findings at a press conference yesterday in front of the university’s crumbling Social Sciences Hall.
Through a series of controlled studies, Müdjen and colleagues established that in a voting context, many Americans lose the ability to count past three. The findings may help explain features of American politics that scholars have long found puzzling. Müdjen explained, “It’s not only the dominance of the two parties, despite their logical inconsistencies and moral bankruptcy, it’s why policy discussion is so limited and alternatives are shot down so quickly.
“We have Democratic voters who claim to want peace, and then elect—and re-elect—a president who regularly slaughters civilians with drone strikes,” added Müdjen. “We have Republican voters who say it’s all about individual freedoms, but vote for politicians who attack the freedoms of large numbers of their fellow citizens. Yet, we see very little challenge to the two parties.” The research originated when Müdjen noticed that online commenters who raise these kinds of inconsistencies or point to possible policies outside the platforms of the two major parties are quickly dismissed as “promoting a third party.” The use of this term intrigued him.
Müdjen and his team staged a mock election, complete with mock exit poll, using a representative sample of moderate to left-leaning voters, monitoring each participant with an electroencephalograph (EEG).
Of the 113 subjects involved, 110 were registered Democrats, two were Greens, and one was an unaligned Marxist-Leninist. The ballots listed only the presidential candidates from the 2012 national general election. Predictably, the Democrats and Greens voted along party lines, while the Marxist-Leninist crumpled the ballot and walked out, saying “[Expletive] this [expletive].” What intrigued the study team, however, was the results from the EEG.
Junior psychology major Albert Loft handled polling and the EEG monitoring. “Like, 88% of the Dems had like close to zero activity in their, you know, parietal and frontal lobes. In every one of them, though, the cerebellum—especially, like, the amygdala and the hippocampus—was lit up like a Burning Man.”
“You should’ve seen the liberals’ amygdalas explode when I asked them about Nader in 2000,” said Loft, with a laugh. “But that was Karl’s idea. I have no idea what the question meant, but it was cool.”
The other exit poll question got to the point of what had initially piqued Müdjen’s interest.
“We asked all of them if they had ever voted ‘third party,’” he said.
All but three of the Democrats said ‘no,’ and both Greens disputed the question. “One of the Greens, she goes, ‘that doesn’t make sense. There are more than three parties out there,’” reported Loft, with a low chuckle.
During that portion of the questioning, the brain readings of nearly all the Democrats decreased significantly. “It was like everything but the reptile brain shut down,” said Loft.
Once Müdjen noticed this trend, he added another element to the study. He called back the participants the next week, and had them step into the mock voting booth again.
“I put in a different ballot, one with a Democrat and a Republican at the top, and then a Green, a Libertarian, and two other parties,” he said. “Instead of voting, I asked each subject to count the parties out loud using ordinal numbers.”
Every Democratic voter began by identifying the Democrat as ‘first’ and the Republican as ‘second.’ Starting with the Green candidate, however, every other candidate was announced as ‘third.’ Müdjen repeated the entire process twice, and the results were identical.
“After the elections I had each one of them count ten marbles the same way, and they had no problem naming ‘first, second, third, fourth, fifth,’ and so on,” he added.
There was enough left in the budget to repeat the counting experiment with a control group made up of eighty different Democrats and two Greens, and the results were the same.
“It seems that when their minds are fixated on voting, self-identified Democrats have trouble processing ordinal numbers. Everything after ‘second’ becomes fused into a single entity, without significant differentiation,” said Müdjen. “Given the data we’ve accumulated, I think it’s safe to call this pathological.”
Müdjen speculates that this inability to count is caused by a wider shutdown of critical reasoning functions when otherwise thoughtful and intelligent Americans think about electoral politics. “The shutdown of broader analytical thinking is necessary for the individual to associate with such a fundamentally rancid thing, in this case the Democratic Party, without suffering horrific shame and guilt,” explained Müdjen. He plans future research to explore how this phenomenon affects policy preferences.
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