Paul Krugman, at his blog, has just explained why austerity-favouring politicians in Britain might well get re-elected. He writes:
Well, you could blame the weakness of the opposition, which has done an absolutely terrible job of making its case. You could blame the fecklessness of the news media, which has gotten much wrong. But the truth is that what’s happening in British politics is what almost always happens, there and everywhere else: Voters have fairly short memories, and they judge economic policy not by long-term results but by recent growth. Over five years, the coalition’s record looks terrible. But over the past couple of quarters it looks pretty good, and that’s what matters politically.
This is the common sense understanding of how people work that liberals generally (always?) prefer, that they're basically good but have certain weaknesses that make them exploitable. He's wed to it, unfortunately, so that if it was only one quarter that looked pretty good, he'd of made the exact same argument. If it wasn't even that ... if there weren't any promising economic quarters but conservatives we're dangling goodies of some kind, like tax cuts, it would be amended slightly, but he'd in essence argue the same thing: These good people's weakness isn't their "fairly short memories," but their "sweet tooths" -- sadly ready to gobble down anything sweet-sounding given to them without thought of the long-term. The liberals role is to press and educate, get the news out, so that perhaps these instinctive tendencies in the populace can be abated by forcing them to do some hard recall, some temporary restraint and denial ... this too -- thank God! -- they're capable of.
I think this common sense understanding of people is wrong, and, other than deMause, the only person I've heard argue that people actually know what they're getting when they vote in people that will ensure hard times, is the conservative historian John Lukacs. Lukacs had argued that people knew the kind of world Reagonomics was about to bring, they weren't fooled or conned or exploited, and that the people chose it because they knew it was required to breed character, something Lukacs believed it did as well (and also David Brooks: his new book is all about it). To him, it showed something impressive about them that they intrinsically preferred a "testing" environment to one always dispensing "candy."
Lukacs is a very erudite nut, of course. It's de Mause who's got it right. At certain times, people vote in politicians who will ensure further suffering and growth-inhibition, because, without it, they will feel something worse: complete abandonment by their mothers, installed as alters in their right hemispheres.
De Mause would argue the should-be-common-sense argument that voters actually well-remembered the five years of suffering, not the two quarters of economic improvement; and in fact are maybe about to vote back in conservatives in spite of the fact of recent economic improvement. In de Mause's view, the people aren't good but prey to unfortunate weaknesses, but rather people who rightly fear the feeling of apocalyptic abandonment they experience when they know they've still been enjoying themselves way too much, making life "selfishly" about themselves, rather than the group (the mother). In de Mause's view, people aren't those out of some quaint Irish village that are maybe prone to drinking too much and forgetting themselves, but rather those who've seen wicked terrors and can spot those who'll invite them back -- i.e true society-advancers -- progressives -- a mile away. He sees them as more "Grimm," and rightly.
De Mause says that most children did not have parents who could be completely enthusiastic about their children's growth, and tended to punish them, abandon them, when they focused too much on their own needs rather than those of their own. He argues that most children conclude out of this experience, two things: one, self-attention and growth is bad, a sin; and two, that being vulnerable -- what they most felt like before being abandoned -- is itself a terrible, punishment-worthy crime. This they learn so hard it changes their brains -- "super ego" develops ... which to super-ego-almost-never-saying de Mause, is really internal perpetrator alters. If you renounce growth, you're not anywhere near as deserving as punishment. If the 60s and 70s had just continued on, it would have driven people mad.
Not you or me, no -- but we were better loved.