Most People Don’t Understand How Power Works

Julie Hotard
7 min readFeb 17, 2022

How power works is a huge blind spot in U.S. culture. Most people in the U.S. have no idea how power works. For example, many people think that if most Americans are in favor of women’s rights, that we will have those. That’s not true. It doesn’t matter if most Americans want women’s rights. It matter whether the president and Congress members and state officials we elect — whether THEY want women to have rights.

Here is another one of dozens of examples. Many Americans think that — because most Americans want Medicare to be able to negotiate down drug prices — that this policy should be easy to pass through Congress.

Note that the article above is from 2015.

Now who did people vote for in 2016 for president and Congress? Do you see why there was no bill passed allowing the government to negotiate down drug prices?

Who did the people vote for in 2020? Do you see why there then was a bill passed for Medicare to negotiate down drug prices?

There was a famous 2014 study by political scientists in which “political scientists Martin Gilens, of Princeton, and Benjamin Page, of Northwestern, found that the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans.”

However, this seems to be a case where even political scientists don’t understand how power works. There is an obvious reason why the preferences of rich people have a larger impact than those of poor people, that these researchers didn’t discuss.

No — It’s not the usual reason people think of — about political donors and their lobbyists — although that is certainly influential too.

It’s a fact that all voters need to wake up and recognize and get through all our heads: It doesn’t matter what voters want.

It matters what the politicians want — the particular politicians whom voters vote for. And it matters if large numbers of people don’t bother to vote.

It’s not that “Congress” — as if it’s one big uniform blob — doesn’t care what voters want. It’s not that “Congress” — as if it’s one big undifferentiated mass — is controlled by political donors.

What matters most is whether the individual Congress members who are elected — and their parties — care what voters want. Most Republicans don’t care what voters want. Most Democratic Congress members do care what voters want — although Democrats In Name Only such as Manchin often don’t.

Many American voters cast their vote for candidates who don’t want what the voter wants, in local, state and federal elections.

Voters do that because of Right Wing disinformation in Right Wing media and also to some degree in mainstream media. Voters are lied to. They’re also hate/fear/grievance mongered at . These intense emotions shut down critical thinking, and make people more vulnerable to taking in and believing lies.

Most people are aware there is too much money in politics. Most people are unaware that a lot of the money in politics bankrolls Right Wing lies and other manipulations done on Right Wing Substacks and podcasts, and done by social media pundits. Even Fox, the king of Right Wing media outlets that sets the talking points for others, was heavily bankrolled. It kept powering on and developing its stratgegies, through years on end where it had large losses of money. When Fox began, it lost over a hundred million dollars a year for years on end, while it developed its propaganda style and targeted its audience.

Right Wing radio, TV, newspapers and social media demonize Democrats and anyone the Right Wing associates with Dems — including minorities, scientists, teachers, health care workers and mainstream media journalists.

Right Wingers in mainstream media — which covers “both sides” — are less extreme. But they also bash Democrats and show heavy unfair anti-Democratic pro-GOP bias.

For example, right now mainstream media consumers are constantly told the economy is bad . Even in the middle of a stronger than expected economic recovery, Biden is incessantly bashed. This is reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton email coverage.

Corporate America — who loved the Trump tax cuts — is doing its part to help bash Democrats. Despite booming profits, companies keep raising prices — and blaming it on inflation supposedly caused by Biden. But most mainstream news media are not alerting consumers to the fact that these companies are causing inflation, rather than reacting to it.

I have written extensively about our disinformation problems and what to do about them.

If Americans would get it through all our heads that politically it doesn’t matter what we want — and that it DOES matter if Americans vote for politicians who want what the voters want — we will be a lot better off. Also, people need to be aware that due to propaganda, tens of millions of Americans vote for politicians who do not want what they want.

Please spread the word to everyone you know, every chance you get. If you are on social media, feel free to post something about this every single day. That’s not too often.

And when you hear someone who may be well meaning, talk about “Congress” or “the government” as if it’s one big undifferentiated blob — please remind them that it makes a very large difference WHO we elect to Congress and other government positions.

In addition, people need to realize that just talking about or posting on social media about an an outrageous situation will not solve it. Even protesting in the street to bring public awareness to a problem is only the first step toward solving it. It doesn’t matter how aware the public is of racial justice issues, women’s rights or environmental issues. If the public is not made aware of which politicians, if elected, will solve those problems, the problems won’t get solved.

This is why being nonpartisan usually doesn’t work in the present environment. One party is for democracy, civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights and environmental stewardship. If the public is totally aware of those issues but not aware of which party and which politicians will do something to address them — then the public may as well not be aware of the issues at all, as far as the final results are concerned.

There are too many people feeling as if they must be “nonpartisan” — pretending that making the public of all parties aware of an issue will cause the issue to be solved. It won’t help, if voters don’t know which party to vote for, in order to get it solved.

That’s because the Right Wing lies so much that voters don’t know anything much about who or what they’re voting for when they vote Republican.

The Virginia governor’s election, where people voted for a “moderate” Republican, only to see him carry out Trump-like policies, is one of many examples of this.

Last but not least, someone has to tell voters the dangers inherent in voting Republican. Someone has to tell voters what the GOP stands for and does when in office. Some, but not many, Democratic politicians, have what it takes to do that aggressively. So the best solution seems to be for liberal organizations to do the Democratic party’s messaging for them.

The GOP doesn’t do its own messaging. The Right Wing radio, TV, newspaper and social media network does it. Why should Dems do their own messaging? Maybe political parties weren’t meant to do their own messaging. Maybe they have too much else to do.

Please feel free to join my letter writing campaign to try to get this going.

By the way, for those interested in the subject of power, here’s a video with some more aspects of power, of which most people are unaware.

Rules for Rulers

In the future, humankind could benefit from more open observation, research and brainstorming about how people and groups acquire, maintain, exercise and increase their power within social networks and social hierarchies.

There also needs to be much research into corruption and how to stop it. Corrupt people often use propaganda, disguises and emotional manipulation in the service of their corrupt goals. They even pretend they are acquiring and exercising power on behalf of the community when nothing could be further from the truth.

Most people are uninterested in politics. That’s their right to be that way. Yet when people are uninterested in — and blind to — politics — whether office politics or national/international politics — they are at extreme risk of being controlled by it.