The wayward son of an extended family, upon request, offers his post-Thanksgiving thoughts on what the 2008 elections mean within an increasingly polarized nation.
My household is a dual-income one, now, which means two sets of job responsibilities. So the political loudmouth could not make the trek “home” for the festivities. It would appear, from my e-mail, that the extended family that could so journey, got into a little bit of a polite dust-up around the table.
I continue to marvel at what an incredibly rare event it is for yours truly to actually bring up the subject of politics — compared to the way people recall it later. Thinking back on it, it almost never happens. I’m not saying that to be funny; it’s true. People come to me with questions. I’ve always had this appealing trait that when people ask me what time it is, I tell ’em how to build a watch…so I suppose it’s natural that when you’re talking about one thing when you go to ask Morgan about the particulars, and by the time Morgan dishes out his monologue you’re talking about ten things, you should recall later that Morgan brought up the subject.
That’s quite understandable.
Doesn’t make it true.
Be that as it may. The subject of the elections came up at a dinner table which was separated from me by about eight hundred miles. So I can’t tell you how. I can only say the inquiry that came my way, was about people becoming tragically polarized, and the question that emerged was in what way did the recent election results address this trend, if they did at all. I take it the options were that the election manifested it, the election healed it, the election opened a new chapter of it, or…some smorgasbord of other alternative answers. Had I already “blogged” about this? What, if anything, is out there that has been written about this?
The reply follows, with just a few minor corrections (and one meaningful one — why do we always see these things after we hit the “Send” button?).
There is quite a bit inspecting the underlying causes, without attempting to attack the problem you specify directly, but you have to understand how to look it up. For example: The 527 groups. They can be used to channel large amounts of money into advertising campaigns *provided* the campaigns are not affiliated with, or directly advocate the election of, any specific candidate.
As anyone who’s been placed on their mailing lists knows, a victory for the opposing side brings on an avalanche of form letters from the 527. If these form letter campaigns are effective — and they must be, otherwise they would not take place — the money comes in. So right there is an artificial device put in place to keep your gas gauge at 50% or very close to it…the effect of this is that a massive war chest will be accumulated on the Republican side as the democrat party continues to run everything…with no opposition anywhere. It is quite unavoidable. Two solid years of form letters from Republican fund raisers to loyal Republican supporters to the effect of “Guess what they’re up to NOW?” is bound to have an effect. Mistakes will be made. Real life will bring challenges to everyone…it always does. Can’t blame conservatives for any of it. There aren’t any.
Also — there is a cause-and-effect relationship between all these drives to “get the vote out.” I’m sure you’ve seen these, all these PSAs, some paid-fer, some not…some of it just mindless pablum echoing from blogs — “Get out there and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!” as if the subject under discussion is bringing a sandbag to an overloaded levee or a bucket of water to a house fire. Left undiscussed, is that there is one surefire way to get people to vote, that works better than any other: Convince them everything’s going to hell. [Lack of] voter participation, contrary to popular belief, is a sign of good times. People stay home because they’re pretty sure everything’s working out more-or-less OK.
Finally, there is the question of John McCain himself. The Republican party picked him out of a desire to decrease polarization across the board, to help unify — choose someone closer to the middle. The Republican party officials…were after exactly what you are after, to somehow compel people to agree. Supposedly, this was a surefire plan to win the election. Act a little bit more like lightweight democrats.
What did the electorate do? Congratulate the Republican party on doing this wonderful voice-impression of democrats, pat ’em on the head, turn around and vote for the other guy. He was cuter. But the lesson is, when people get offended about things, they’re often getting offended on behalf of others — with whom they don’t even agree, and people who in all likelihood aren’t even getting offended. I see it with Sarah Palin; all these democrats running around talking (still?) about what a terrible VP pick she was, with that pregnant unmarried daughter and all. You think the average democrat gives a rip about that? No. They’re trying to agitate fundamentalist Christian Republicans…who they hate. Take a poll of all the people who are sympathetic to conservative principles, and the message comes back pretty resoundingly: Fred Thomspon would have been a much better pick, and probably would’ve won. It sounds fantastic at first, but how many Republicans would have stayed home to watch reruns with a Thompson/Palin ticket out there?
So when one seeks to win converts, it never helps to mute the message. Therefore, the moderate sub-spectrum is a politically unattractive place. We just ran the most-liberal-Republican against the most-liberal-democrat, and the Republican got his own hindquarters handed to him. It wasn’t about Republican-ness…it was about moderation. People say they want it. They don’t. They want a messenger who will stand up for his message. They don’t care that much about the contents of the message. Heath Ledger touched on this a little bit in The Dark Knight, giving a brilliant monologue as The Joker: Something about how calmed-down people are, when they know there is a “plan.” If the plan involves death and destruction, they’re not concerned, compared to the way they would be if they thought there was no plan at all.
So I don’t hold out a lot of hope for unification if the plan is to gather toward the middle. Seems to me that’s been tried already, just now. In fact, I don’t altogether agree with the goal. How many people do we want agreeing? Sixty percent? Eighty? A hundred? On how many issues? Some? All? This fixes what, exactly? Does it manifest that things are OK? If so, how? Quite to the contrary, it would be an enormous red flag that people aren’t thinking for themselves.
And we have that problem with things existing as they are right now. I see it in every Obamaton with whom I discuss these things…every single one, so far. Time comes to discuss what His Holiness the iPresident Man-God is going to do to solve our various problems, and all I hear about is ending the war, which means giving up. Close down Guantanamo, sign Kyoto, and roll back the tax cuts. That’s all. After that, the specifics come to an abrupt stop. There are none. It’s just how wonderful the Man-God is, how smart all His people are. This, to me, is not indicative of people thinking for themselves. They can name four specifics, maybe, on which they think they agree with the Man-God, and each item has to to do with helping our enemies, or dealing injury to ourselves. “I need some ‘Change!’ — two twenties for a ten?” “Uh…yeah, that seems fair, sure!”
And the problem exists on the Right, too, to be fair about it. Lots of quoting from scripture (much of it non-existent), lots of sloganeering. Not nearly as much as the hopenchange liberals this year. But it is there. And there is some negative feeling about it too. Sarah Palin gave her best speeches when she showed evidence of some independent thinking going on upstairs. Once she took the housewifey approach and prattled on about how wonderful McCain was, her support started to erode. People wanted to know if she stood for sincere, heartfelt, resolute support for conservative principles, and she made the mistake of giving them two answers. When she’s at the top of the ticket in 2012, hopefully she’ll be in a position to do a better job of it.
The irony? I think people *do* want to be unified. Support for the liberal ideas dissipates, just as soon as liberals talk about how to split us apart, which never takes long. Rich versus poor, gay versus straight, white versus black, man versus woman, labor versus management. Do I need to substantiate this point? Listen to Hillary Clinton talk about an issue…any issue…for fifteen minutes. See if you can pick out who the bad guy is, the Snidely Whiplash who needs to be taken down a peg or two. There always is one. The subject she discusses, doesn’t matter. There always is one. Even when she talks about a tragedy with no villains in it, like Hurrican Katrina, the Indonesian Tsunami, or the AIDS epidemic. If there’s no villain, she’ll make one. That’s emblematic of what liberalism is in 2008, of [what] people chose to buy with their votes this year. They came together, to drive a wedge amongst themselves. Now there’s one-party rule so no wedge-driving will be possible. It’ll be interesting to see how they pull this off.
PS: A great hue and cry has arisen about how President Bush should resign before January 20, and (as usual) if enough people complain, we can make it happen. As a commentary on that, I designed a new bumper sticker:
This morning I woke up to find my hit counter had spiked, because of this. [Note: This was mostly a result of linkage at Maggie’s Farm, so welcome to The Blog That Nobody Reads, you Yankee farmers.] So there seems to be widespread recognition of this. We seem to have a lot of people living among us, who live their lives, perpetually, on a turning point. Always one revolution away from happiness. No schism, means no revolutionary event, and no revolutionary event, means a stultifying boredom [of such magnitude] that they’d never be able to tolerate it once they had it.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.