Thursday, November 04, 2004

Opening a dialog

(This is a response to Jimmy, a Bush supporter who responded to this post.)


Thanks for posting.

I was not trying to imply by my statement that Bush supporters are to lazy to learn the truth. I'm just saying that the majority of people in this country just simply don't have the inclination to follow politics to the level of detail that we do (I assume, because you are posting here, that you also follow politics closely). We are political geeks.

My point was that the greater mass of people don't want to get bogged down to much in the details of each individual candidates policy proposals. They just don't have the time to do it and most of those details just bore them to tears. This is not a criticism. This is just a fact.

Democrats have made the mistake over the last several years of assuming that "if people just knew the facts they would vote for us".

Bzzzt! Wrong answer! Thanks for playing and now here's your consolation prize.

In depth policy analysis is a concern of governing. Politics, on the other hand, is a matter of impression. Which is to say that, in politics, first impressions matter.

Whether John Kerry was or was not a flip-flopper is irrelevant. What matters is that he came off that way to the casual observer. And to those Kerry supporters who would reflexively argue that that was just because of the spin job Rove pulled on Kerry I would respond that the most effective spin is that which is based on a grain of truth.

I believe that Gore and Kerry would have been far superior presidents to Bush. I voted for both. But I will concede that Gore could sometimes come off as sounding like a know-it-all and Kerry could sometimes come off sounding like he was trying to thread the needle between contradictory policy positions.

The message Democrats should take from the phenomena of George W. Bush is that, in politics, clarity beats nuance. If Democrats cannot express their core values with clarity and conviction then they will always start the race at a deficit. They might still win, but only if their opponents massively stumble. We can't rely on that.

I appreciate that you want to engage in a dialog on this because I think it is not in your best interest to have a crippled Democratic party. History shows that when one political party dominates a weak opposition for to long it can become atrophied and corrupt (this is what happened to the Democrats in the 70s and 80s). A strong opposition helps keep each side honest. It provides the necessary checks-and-balances that keep our political system healthy.

I would hope that those who believe in free market competition would appreciate that position.

I am not a Democrat out of any purely ideological bent. In fact, until Howard Dean came along, I was a registered Independent. But I've come to realize two things in recent years: (1) on most issues, I find myself siding with the Democrats and (2) the Democratic party is the only viable tool available to me to put the brakes on the ideologues who have taken control of the Republican party. I don't like ideologues of any political stripes. I am convinced that much of histories great tragedies can be directly blamed on the disproportionate influence of ideologues on the political system. It is my firm belief that the Republicans have become to ideologically rigid to be trusted with the reigns of government.

My biggest problem with Republicans today is not their particular policy positions. In fact, I agree with them on more than a few issues. My problem is with their increasing tendency to govern as if they were they only ones entitled to govern. Whether it is the continued daemonization of all things Democratic by right-wing radio or the gerrymandering of house districts to effectively shut out Democrats or the systematic efforts to beat down people who express a contrary political opinion (by, for example, deliberately painting opposition to Bush as opposition to the troops), the Republican party demonstrates that it believes in democracy only to the extent that it gives them what they want.

It is that attitude more than anything else that makes me fearful for the future of my country.

Thanks for opening the dialog Jimmy. Here's to the hope that it can lead to something better for both of us.


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