Thursday, September 4, 2008

What Does This Say About Us?, Part 2

Who knew clowns voted? Anyone who's seen the results of our elections recently.

Image credit: This Is London

Glenn Greenwald made some astute observations this morning:

Ever since Ronald Reagan's election, this is what the Republicans do every four years. They render issues irrelevant and convert campaigns into cultural wars and personality referenda. They converted our elections into tawdry reality shows long before networks realized their entertainment value. And every four years, Democrats seems shocked and paralyzed by all of this and desperately delude themselves into believing that mean-spirited "negativity" and nastiness will alienate voters, while the media swoons at the potency of these attacks.

The derisive attacks on Obama's character last night were exactly what Democrats decided -- yet again -- that they would studiously avoid at their own convention when discussing John McCain.

The GOP's Cheerful Viciousness

OK, I admit it, I didn't watch either convention this year. Part of the reason, though, is that I've seen this sad story too many times already. Glenn's right, this is the way it's been since the Reagan era. Little has changed, beyond the vastly greater power of the Republican noise machine, thanks to its consolidation of the news business under its ownership.

Personally, I don't have a problem with the Democrats not being negative at the start. I go by John Sheridan's father's advice: never start a fight, but always finish it. If the Democrats get back up and fight this time, though, I'm all for that, too. Just remember the second clause of that advice. So far, they've shown little sign of having heard that part.

Glenn goes on to observe:

None of this is to say that the GOP attacks will enable them to win the election. It is quite possible that enough Americans this year are so alienated from the GOP brand that they are now largely immune from these kinds of substance-free personality assaults, that they won't be blinded by cultural tribalism and personality appeals into handing this political party an additional four years of power. But these tactics have worked in the past because cultural tribalism, resentment and alienation are very powerful influences in how people think -- in general, they're more powerful than rational assessments of policy positions or even one's self-interest -- and the Democrats' gamble that they can win this election without really engaging those issues, while allowing that war to be waged in a one-sided manner yet again, is a true gamble.

The GOP's Cheerful Viciousness

He's right. These tactics work. If they didn't work, George W. Bush wouldn't have been re-elected. It's pretty clear that a substantial portion of the voting public is persuaded by this nonsense. Will the average American voter's skills at critical thinking remain so low that these tactics will always work? They probably will.

It's not as though I haven't written about this before. Specifically, I wrote this:

People didn't want to take the time to understand what each candidate stood for, if anything, and what his record really was. They either trusted their opinionated friends, or the cool guys on radio or TV, or they just figured they could determine whom to vote for based on how they looked or how they shook hands.

I often wonder just how stupid you have to be to think that's a good way to choose a leader. I suppose it's better than the way chimpanzees do it, but it sure doesn't say much for our intelligence, does it? For anyone who might feel that they can read a person this way let me tell you something.

You're an idiot.

The Price Of Freedom

It's not as though we haven't noted already that a large portion of this population is shockingly uninterested in learning about the world they live in. The problem, as I've also mentioned before, is that what this means is that we will be doomed to the sort of leadership we've had until these people finally wise up.

How long that process will take is anyone's guess. My own guess is that it will take a disaster of the kind we last saw in the Great Depression. It will take that much upheaval and pain for these frothing idiots to realize that no nation is so powerful or comfortable that it can't be laid low by disasters of its own making. As I wrote before:

I'm not resigned to this situation we're in by any means, but there are times when I really wonder whether we're a society that's worth saving. Well, we're going to have to save ourselves this time, and if we can't do it because not enough people cared, I guess I have my answer.

The Price Of Freedom

Ignorance, and even stupidity, can be cured. It's not easy, and the lessons are often expensive. I keep hoping we can do it on the cheap, but lately I really have my doubts.


Dana Hunter said...

Scary thoughts, but true thoughts.

I don't know what it's going to take to get voters to decide elections on policy rather than personality. "Enlightened self interest" seems to be in short supply.

Maybe if we turn our elections into a reality show in which personal attacks get you voted off the island...

One Fly said...

You are correct Cujo as I have been saying the same. It will be a "disaster" that will bring awareness to those who pay no attention now. The deck is too stacked. Something has to give period and will sooner than later.

Cujo359 said...

Hi Dana and One Fly,

It's hard to imagine a crazier way of electing a national leader than the way we do it now. A game show with call-in polls might actually be an improvement. At least people might have to pay attention.

I think this has a lot to do with the sorry state of our educational system, but even that probably doesn't explain it all. Why is that system so bad? It's not just greedy Republicans and ignorant religious fanatics who have been encouraging things to become the way they are.

Anyhow, yes, I think we're going to fall quite a bit further before we wise up. And I'm really sorry, but I just don't know what to do about people not caring.