?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
11 September 2008 @ 09:28 am
Why Democrats "Don't Get" Republicans  
Via the_gwenzilliad:


What Makes People Vote Republican

From the introduction:

Diagnosis is a pleasure. It is a thrill to solve a mystery from scattered clues, and it is empowering to know what makes others tick. In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the "war on terror" and repeal of the "death tax") that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.
 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
 
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on September 11th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't disagree at all. The point of the article isn't to claim that narrow-mindedness is one sided. It is to point out that there are more than just fundamentalist power freaks on the Republican side, and those who vote for them aren't just stupid or duped.

The Republicans found themselves in a situation of being in the minority for decades, and finally worked out what they needed (not least of which a connection to an easily-stated and simplistic religious viewpoint) to put themselves where they are today. That they now cynically use the emotions that got them into power to stay in power isn't their method alone. One could say that the same thing happens when the powers that be stop funding just the things good for the country and start funding everything in sight so people feel happy and vote for them, an action certainly not limited to one party in the history of democracy.

In order to win the hearts and minds of the country, not just those already convinced, the Democrats need to do more than just assume Republican voters are idiots and either ignore them or pander to them. They need to understand what those voters stand on when they look at the country and the candidates, and frame the message so that it addresses those underlying foundations.

markbernsteinmarkbernstein on September 11th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
That they now cynically use the emotions that got them into power to stay in power isn't their method alone.

Granted. But I do wonder a bit at your phrasing, as I think they were just as cynical when they used them to get into power in the first place.

In order to win the hearts and minds of the country, not just those already convinced, the Democrats need to do more than just assume Republican voters are idiots and either ignore them or pander to them. They need to understand what those voters stand on when they look at the country and the candidates, and frame the message so that it addresses those underlying foundations.

Far, far easier said than done, I fear. How do you successfully frame that message, and get it out to people, when so much media coverage is given over to repeating distractions, distortions, and outright lies? One need only look at cable news over the last few days, and the massive amount of time spent on the idiotic and utterly false "lipstick" pseudo-controversy, to have this question come to the forefront.

And by the way, I consider it right and proper that each party ignore some portion of the other's members, as there are certainly Republicans who will never vote Democratic, and Democrats who will never vote Republican, so efforts to reach them would be a waste of time. Both parties work on solidifying the base and attracting swing voters, and that makes sense.

Oh, one more thing. How do you define "pander"? Is it pandering, for example, to point out that Obama's tax plan will offer far more relief to the middle class than McCain's? I'd honestly like to know your view on this.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on September 11th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Granted. But I do wonder a bit at your phrasing, as I think they were just as cynical when they used them to get into power in the first place.

I think that may be an example of the disconnect the article discusses. In thinking back to the 80s, it seems pretty clear that the Republicans were actually connecting with specific issues that a large group of voters felt weren't being addressed properly. Now, that's not 100%, of course, but it was certainly a different party than it is today.

How do you successfully frame that message, and get it out to people, when so much media coverage is given over to repeating distractions, distortions, and outright lies? One need only look at cable news over the last few days, and the massive amount of time spent on the idiotic and utterly false "lipstick" pseudo-controversy, to have this question come to the forefront.

To a certain extent that is where the grass roots come in. The first step is to connect with people outside of their normal information channels (i.e. don't try to out-Fox Fox "News"). I truly think most people can distinguish between pseudo-issues and real ones, except when they use them as "reasons" to reinforce a mind already made up, as suggested in the article.

However, the grass roots need to realize the point of view here and come into their community organizing with a broader perspective.

And by the way, I consider it right and proper that each party ignore some portion of the other's members, as there are certainly Republicans who will never vote Democratic, and Democrats who will never vote Republican...

I'm not talking about ignoring the fringe Right (or Left, if we go from a Republican perspective). Yes, that makes sense. However, the electorate right now is so split down the middle that it is crucial to get more than just some nominative swing vote group ("the silent majority", "soccer moms", whatever they are this year). If we want to truly unify the country, not just win another 50.1%-49.9% election (or lose one and blame it on the Electoral College or skullduggery in a single state), we absolutely must start getting the confidence of more than just those already inclined to be more independent.

How do you define "pander"? Political pandering is to take an action based on what people say they want not because you agree or even care but because it is a cheap way to buy their votes. A certain amount of such action is necessary for successful compromise. Too much indicates either that the candidate/representative has no stand of his own or that he doesn't care enough to find out the underlying meaning or consequences of the action.

Some examples might include pork-barrel spending, stopgap measures to cut taxes or to fund particular individual programs, changing one's stand on an issue after the fact due to political pressure, selection of certain nominees for high public office who stand close to the Presidency, and (in my mind and particularly so today) voting for acts to provide a President and government with unprecedented powers against the country's own citizens when belonging to a political party claiming to be for free and independent thought (or a political party claiming to be for less government interference, take your pick).

Again, none of this is meant to say that Republicans are or have been the good guys. But if Democrats want to really be the party of change, if they want to win, they need to do something different from what they've done the last decade (I'm including the last part of the Clinton administration here). It's all well and good to blame the media and spin, but if you have a real understanding and connection then you become media- and spin- and sometimes even scandal-proof.


Edited at 2008-09-11 06:36 pm (UTC)
markbernsteinmarkbernstein on September 11th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think that may be an example of the disconnect the article discusses. In thinking back to the 80s, it seems pretty clear that the Republicans were actually connecting with specific issues that a large group of voters felt weren't being addressed properly. Now, that's not 100%, of course, but it was certainly a different party than it is today.

I can accept this. I was never particularly drawn to the Reagan Revolution myself (I voted for John Anderson in 1980), but I'll grant that the man appeared to be sincere. I was thinking more of the Gingrich Revolution of the 90s and Dubya's campaigns, which I *do* regard as cynical.

To a certain extent that is where the grass roots come in.

Obama agrees with you. :) It doesn't make the news, but a huge amount of the money and volunteer effort in the Obama campaign is going to the ground effort - voter registration (millions of new voters registered - I recently saw a figure of 400K new voters in Michigan alone), organizing, and GOTV efforts are, in many ways, the centerpiece of his electoral strategy.

I'm not talking about ignoring the fringe Right (or Left, if we go from a Republican perspective).

Neither am I, depending on your definition of "fringe". I'm referring to the historical fact that it's incredibly unusual for any Democratic or Republican presidential candidate to pull less than 40% of the vote. There are a *lot* of people whose minds won't change, and the reasons vary. I don't, for example, regard as "fringe" someone who always votes Republican because being pro-life is their most important issue. Or someone who always votes Democratic because they're an ACLU member whose primary interest is protecting First Amendment rights.

If we want to truly unify the country

I don't know if that's possible. This country, as far as I can tell, only shows a high degree of unity when attacked. Other than the short period after 9/11, you have to go back to WWII, I think.

Some examples might include pork-barrel spending, stopgap measures to cut taxes or to fund particular individual programs, changing one's stand on an issue after the fact due to political pressure, selection of certain nominees for high public office who stand close to the Presidency, and (in my mind and particularly so today) voting for acts to provide a President and government with unprecedented powers against the country's own citizens when belonging to a political party claiming to be for free and independent thought (or a political party claiming to be for less government interference, take your pick).

Again, none of this is meant to say that Republicans are or have been the good guys.


That last line made me stop and blink. I see everything on that list as things that Republicans have done in my memory. None of them strike me as primarily Democratic sins.

It's all well and good to blame the media and spin, but if you have a real understanding and connection then you become media- and spin- and sometimes even scandal-proof.

And it's all well and good to make these sorts of generalizations, but history has shown how difficult it is to achieve "real understanding and connection". I think that the cable news era has made it even harder.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on September 11th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
"voting for acts to provide a President and government with unprecedented powers against the country's own citizens when belonging to a political party claiming to be for free and independent thought (or a political party claiming to be for less government interference, take your pick).

Again, none of this is meant to say that Republicans are or have been the good guys."

That last line made me stop and blink. I see everything on that list as things that Republicans have done in my memory. None of them strike me as primarily Democratic sins.


Last I checked, the "Patriot Act", excesses and all, passed both houses of Congress each time with majorities far exceeding party differences.

It has been a while since Democrats have been in control of both the House and Senate, so I suppose some might think that pork-barrel spending was invented in 1994 by Newt Gingrich. I assure those with shorter memories than you or I that it was not. I also point to a Democratic majority in the House that doesn't seem to be quite as willing to challenge the status quo as they campaigned on, seeming to be more willing to let things slide so that they could continue to point to the failures of the Administration.

And yes, the "close to the Presidency" line was meant to point to a certain current VP candidate I view with a non-zero amount of cynicism. Never say I don't throw you a peanut sometimes (*grin*).
markbernsteinmarkbernstein on September 12th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
Then we agree that members of both parties have been guilty of all the offenses you list. I had inferred from your previous comment that these were, in your eyes, primarily Democratic sins. I see now that's not the case.
Steve Simmonsscs_11 on September 14th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
To say "That they now cynically use the emotions that got them into power to stay in power" is off the mark (no pun intended, Mark B.) It's to say "Oh, they don't really believe those things, they just say them to stay in power."

No. Even among the power brokers, the ones who've learned to use the phrasing consciously rather than instinctively, they really believe those things.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on September 15th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)
I truly feel there are many who believe to the extent of X but are willing to exaggerate the threat to X+a bunch in order to stir people up the way they need to.

Of course, some of those are called "media talking heads who need something to hang a promo on", but they encourage each other.
Steve Simmonsscs_11 on September 15th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
I agree that some of it is exaggeration, but some of it is necessary summary or abbreviation. "I'm for/against abortion" is the kind of sound bite that can make the news. "I'm opposed to abortion after the fourth month except in cases of rape or threat to the health of the mother, and in all circumstances after the 24th week" will never get on the air at all. As you and Mark mention, the media is as much to blame for that as the parties and candidates - but the candidates have to get on the air.