A Level Gaze

"What effect must it have on a nation if it learns no foreign languages? Probably much the same as that which a total withdrawal from society has upon an individual."
--G.C. Lichtenberg


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Saturday, October 11, 2003
Like a bad penny

Nearly a year ago, following the midterm elections, I made a crack about how democrats need to show some leadership if they're ever going to get the public behind them, to wit:

Giddyap Horse!

I'm deeply grateful to Media Whores Online for all the long hours of sleuthing they(?) put in, and for their valiant efforts to push the other side back, even if it's just a bit.

They had some items today that have me scratching my head though:

But do not adopt the media whore/Naderite narrative: Democrats lost because they don't stand for anything, and Tuesday proved they must move to the left in order to energize their base.
That sounds like exactly what we need to be doing. If we don't move left, we're in the mushy center, which is practically the definition of not standing for anything.

The problem for Democrats was not that more would have been motivated to vote if only Democrats had opposed war with Iraq more strongly or proposed repealing the disastrous Bush tax cuts, the consequences of which are not yet clear to most. While most Americans are uncertain about war with Iraq, it was not an exploitable issue by itself. The truth is, Tuesday's characteristically pathetic voter turnout supports the point that most Americans don't care at the moment whether it happens or not, and they couldn't be made to care in time. As for proposing a repeal of tax cuts - vigorously opposing them before they take place is a winning position, repealing them isn't.
Repealing that god-awful insult of a tax cut isn't a winning position? I beg your pardon? It wasn't all that long ago we could energize people by saying something like 'they're gonna take your money and give it to, of all people the rich! America, is that what you want?' With repetition and coordination, it would have sunk in and won us a lot of races.

Yes, this debacle of an election is the media's fault. But it's our fault as well, and we need to drastically change the way we do things in the Democratic party, not diddle around with how to phrase things to make them palatable to the electorate. If we have to drag American voters, kicking and screaming to chose their own interests, so be it.

Otherwise, let's just give up and leave the fray to Nader.
This prompted Armed Liberal to comment. A few days ago, my referral log started hopping with it again, in the context of, as he put it, liberals' "underlying position of obnoxious superiority."

Dave Yaseen, of the usually smart blog A Level Gaze, posts what I pray to Woodie Guthrie is a slip of the liberal tongue. His post concludes:
Yes, this debacle of an election is the media's fault. But it's our fault as well, and we need to drastically change the way we do things in the Democratic party, not diddle around with how to phrase things to make them palatable to the electorate. If we have to drag American voters, kicking and screaming to chose their own interests, so be it.

(emphasis mine)

Well, damn. That's the way to reach the poor uneducated voter and get them onto your side...
Comments like mine are taken to be one of the Big Things wrong with the left--we supposedly think we're smarter than everyone else and aren't too shy to say so. Well, I stand by the sentiment, even if the phrasing was heavy-handed, and a bit off. What was I trying to say there? Does anybody to the left of Limbaugh really believe I meant to round up all the stupid "little people" and forcefully indoctrinate them in the ways of proper thinking? What was I referring to?

It was, and still is, about leadership. It was about getting out from under the calculatedly stupid tutelage of DLC-minded types who urge us to swing towards the center and co-opt the less egregious positions of our opponents as a winning strategy. I'll admit such tactics occasionally work, but then we wind up holding our noses while our leadership does things like vote to give Dubyah the authority to invade Iraq.

Besides, where did the other side get their positions in the first place? Did they go to the public and hear an outcry for lower taxes for the rich? Did the majority of American people tell republican pollsters they wanted a return to massive defecits that would gravely imperil the future of Social Security and Medicare? Did the electorate tell them they were sick and tired of the onerous burden of environmental stewardship? It's at least somewhat plausible they did, because that's what a lot of them voted for. But it isn't true; republicans listened to the special interests that pay their bills, formulated a platform, and sold it to the public. They led.

And how do we respond? We make tentative policy proposals, and back down the second the other side starts wailing about it. Then we slap together some not-quite-as-bad-as-the-other-guy platform and wonder why there's no voter loyalty behind us, no passion. What Clinton tried to do back in his first term with health care, that's what I want to see more of. Sure the right cranked up the Mighty Wurlitzer and screamed it down. But at least he did something. Does anybody think it's "arrogant" to make an initiative to bring free health care to the people, as is the case in every other industrialized country in the world?

There's a reason we call them leaders. It's because they lead. We choose one person to represent a whole bunch of others. I'd like to presume that at least some of the basis of the choice of representatives has to do with the person's knowledge of the interests of his/her constituents, and his/her having some idea of how to address them. It's plain that voters can be manipulated, and that there are powerful vested interests that work very hard to move policy in a direction contrary to the interests of the majority. Over time, this propaganda gets into people's heads, and takes on a life of its own.

Most people are too busy living their lives to examine the whole spectrum of thought about every issue and formulate the policies that they know will bring them the best results. Ask a lot of people in this country what they want out of their leadership, and they'll regurgitate right wing talking points to you, because that's what they hear. From the left, they've heard nothing coherent or concrete. When we try to put something together, we're shouted down as elitists. It's a double standard, and it's crap. Maybe we need to change our tone (mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), but we need to do our own thinking and communicate the results of it forcefully.

There's nothing "arrogant" about the people whose job it is to come up with policy initiatives actually doing so. This isn't about "dragging" the voters somewhere bad for them; it's about holding up our end of the tug-of-war against the machinery of the right.

UPDATE: Changed above. Avedon didn't comment on liberals' "underlying position of obnoxious superiority," Armed Liberal did. My bad (again).