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Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

 

After the vice presidential debate last night (October 2, 2008), one thing became clearer:

The Republican party does not take citizens of the United States of America seriously, which at certain points, like the debate last night, turns into almost insulting Americans.

Let me spell out what I mean…

When Sarah Palin was announced as the VP pick, I immediately thought that this was an insult on the intellect of the women of this country. The thought that she could get the votes of former Hillary Clinton supporters was nothing short of offensive for those people who had supported Hillary because her political views and her inspiring political trajectory as a woman (not solely because she had one extra chromosome). Even though Palin had possibly swung some potential votes during her glamorous introduction to national politics, later on, it became clear that women did not buy her argument. The demos showed that they can tell the difference between the original and the fake. A splash of lipstick on Palin’s face was not enough to make her Hillary (much, much more is needed for that and I don’t even think a comparison between the two is fair to Clinton). From there on, the appeal to women dimension of the Palin candidacy was slowed down, if not muted totally.

As we watched the debate yesterday, we saw, once again, that the Republicans are trying this failed formula, this time designating the electorate at large as the constituency they would like to insult. Even if we leave aside the insulting choice of Sarah Palin, who does not have even a basic knowledge of the economy (or foreign policy), the debate last night, as well as John McCain’s performance in the last two weeks showed that the Republicans are out there offering nothing but platitudes about the economy and how they both are mavericks. We are in the midst of one of the worst crisis in the US economic history and they cannot / do not talk about what they will do if elected. Despite repeated questions, Sarah Palin could not/did not speak about deregulation. All she said about the economy was to continue the party line, a blind belief in “trickle down” theory of economics, that has been unsuccessful or damaging for the working classes over the past 8 years. In effect this is exactly like trying to swing woman voters by telling them, “hey we are of the same sex, vote for me. I may oppose your right to choose, I will try to make abortion illegal even if you are raped but hey we are all women, vote for me!”  

What I call an insult at this point is to try to cover their lack of genuine solutions with a fake appeal to the people’s values, everyday American way of life, etc. It is the old “lipstick” problem, put on the last 8 years a lipstick (whatever flying colors you’d like to) and it is still the same. Telling to people that you are the agents of change without giving them any clue about how you will change things and telling them instead, “hey buddy you can have beer with me or sit around the same kitchen table” is a plain insult. This is like saying, “hey vote for me men, I’m against everything that’s good for you, but I can tell you all about that around a kitchen table, or in a diner booth. I can even use a northern small town accent and wink at you with my folksy (foxy?) manners as a treat.”

 When the economy is in good shape, this may work, which is what we have seen in the last two elections in the United States. But when the economy is in bad shape and when the things to put on that kitchen table is diminishing each day, people may not care about sitting down with you on that table or listening to your oh so American remarks about the economy you don’t know. They care more about how you plan to change it and they care about knowing that before the election day. I believe, hitting this note of “I’m a hockey mom”, “I’m a Joe Sixpack” too much as an alternative to offering solutions to people’s problems risks more and more making those people angry, an effect which is totally opposite what the McCain camp would want.  

What distinguishes Obama /Biden ticket is this point. They try to lay out their plans. They say, they are going to do X, Y and Z. They tell people, this is the plan. To be clear, their plan is not great. The available room for maneuver in a system like this is rather small –and bad for the working classes- anyway. But they seem to take seriously the people and offer them with their plan, rather than, saying, hey let’s have beer and I will pull a rabbit out of my hat later to fix the economy. If the “ideal” of democracy is about communicating your solutions to the public in a reasoned discourse, then Obama and Biden come closer to this ideal way more than McCain and Palin. Their position in this sense is much more respectful towards the people, they are seeking to lead.

People identifying with the candidate is also greatly important of course. Of course, in today’s elections, issues are much less important compared to the past and choosing someone you feel close to is a motive that leads people to vote for candidates who they would like. Palin is obviously trying really hard to hit that note. But as I said, at a time when identification (with the politician) means nothing more than the continuation of (economic) misery, politicians trying to play that game risk being seen as “out of touch”, “arrogant” and BSing, despite their belief that they are doing the opposite. (Especially if one of the guys on the ticket cannot even remember the number of houses he has. Well all that lipstick thing all over again.)

 

 

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