Skip to comments.Why can't the Democrats seem to get it together? (GREAT blog post, must read!)
Posted on 08/05/2003 11:03:20 AM PDT by Timesink
A couple of weeks back, Randy Barnett wrote something to the effect that liberals live in a "culture of lies" while guest-blogging for Glenn Reynolds. Such statements set my teeth on edge. Whenever I hear anyone of a particular persuasion begin bloviating about how the reason that people of other political persuasions believe what they believe is that they are, as a group, much more [stupid/ greedy/ mean/ venal/ dishonest/ selfish/ hateful/ bigoted/ power-mad/ narrow-minded/ cruel/ careless/ hypocritical/ violent] than the blessed elite who share the views held by the speaker, I tune out.
But this sort of rampant silliness is certainly not, as I saw a number of commenters claim, confined to those evil bastards on the conservative side of the aisle, and it's just as grating when liberals do it. A couple of weeks ago I attended a luncheon given by The Week, where, packed more tightly than I have been since my high school friends and I decided to transport eleven people to Vermont in a Saab, I listened to Gary Hart, Michelle Crowley, Sid Blumenthal, and Ed Rollins (the Republican pollster) hold forth on whether or not the Democrats had a snowball's chance of beating Bush in 2004. The feeling was, generally, yes, Bush was beatable, but only if the Democrats offer some real alternatives that make Americans feel more secure both economically and national-security-wise. But as you can imagine, there was also a lot of gnashing of teeth from the Democrats, achingly familiar to anyone who remembers what the Republicans sounded like around about 1998, about their failure to make inroads into the President's popularity. One heard a fifth-grader's plaintive incomprehension in their questioning: why don't people like us?
When the Q&A came around, unsurprisingly, the majority of the questioner's turned out to be Democrats. And every single one of their questions started off something like this:
"I think that one of the major problems we face, as Democrats, is that our policies are all about nuance and deep intellectual focus on maximizing the welfare of the public at large, while Republicans are a pack of venal liars who want to kill poor people and minorities. The American public seems to be far too stupid to understand the subtle genius of our ideas. How do we, as Democrats, overcome that?"
The answer, from the Democrats on the dais, generally went something like this.
"While the rest of the American public may not actually be drooling lackwits who should herded into camps for their own protection, they are clearly struck insensible by the blinding power of our intellects. As their voting record demonstrates, they are constitutionally incapable of comprehending the overwhelming superiority of the Democratic platform on the merits. We will have to make sure that this election cycle we speak very slowly, and clearly, and make our visuals on very large sheets of construction paper with pictures of puppies. We may also consider lying, since after all, the shameless mendacity of the Republicans is the only reason anyone ever votes for them."
What is true is that Democrats, right now, have more ability to insulate themselves from being confronted with the views of the other side. Geographically, they can isolate themselves into coastal cities, which is why I never met any Republicans except my grandparents until I went to business school. And informationally, provided that they don't watch Fox news, don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, and keep the radio tuned to NPR, they can keep from ever hearing if the other side has a good argument.
They are thus prone to base their knowlege of the other side's ideas mostly on the work of ideologically simpatico opinion column writers, who are generally trying to make a snappy point for a column, not present their with a painstakingly unbiased account of all the salient facts. I know this will break your hearts, my little chickadees, but it is tragically true. Those columnists are just trying to sound clever in 1000 words. No matter which side of the aisle they hail from. That's not to say that they are wrong, or that they disbelieve what they write. But they are not going to present you with any contrary evidence that would take them more than two sentences to refute.
This is why the Democrats at that luncheon were so shocked and hurt. Not because they are stupid, or venal, or arrogant. But because they live in a bubble, and thus are genuinely not aware that the other side may occasionally have the better of the argument. The New Republic is about as far right as your average New Yorker generally goes, publication-wise -- and I am acquainted with a number of people who have dropped it because it's too right-wing these days. If the only explanation of conservatives beliefs you ever hear comes from the editorial pages of the New York Times, it is indeed incomprehensible that people out there could actually embrace such twaddle. I'd be looking under the couch for the Vast Right Wing conspiracy too.
An example: the 2000 presidential race. The entire City of New York seems to have collectively forgotten that the newspaper recount occurred. I mean, I spent quite a lot of time hearing about how when that recount came out, it was going to expose the Supreme Court as a partisan sham, and George Bush as the undeserving usurper who stole the election. Then the People would rise up as one body and throw the Republicans out, never to return.
Then the newspapers published their results. And everyone who had been anticipatng the outcome with only slightly less enthusiasm than a Trek convention waiting for William Shatner to come onstage -- all those people didn't just stop talking about it, but seemingly wiped the results from their mind. It is even now common at gatherings of New Yorkers to hear bitter recriminations about the Supreme Court stealing the election for Bush, even though the recount seems to have shown, as conclusively as anything can, that Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court had mandated the exact recount Gore's team wanted. It isn't disingenuous; they do not know this fact. And how do they not know it? Because there are five million or so other people around who constantly tell each other that the Supreme Court stole the election for Bush. And like anything that one hears over and over from sympathetic sources, it becomes true to them, just as most of us love our siblings even though we've never really stopped to consider the matter. Everyone says that people love their siblings; therefore it is so.
(Note: Nora, I really do love you.)
Not, mind you, that I think Republicans are more aware of Democratic arguments because they are naturally more intellectually curious. They are more exposed to alternative viewpoints only because they haven't got a choice. Most of their newspapers, weekly magazines, network news, etc. run liberal (even the ones with conservative editorial pages, as you'll find if you ever talk to Wall Street Journal reporters).
As a libertarian, I'm actually worried by the rise of Fox. It's nice to have an alternative viewpoint out there, no matter how pugnacious. But Fox represents an opportunity for conservatives to wall themselves off in their own intellectual ghetto so they won't ever have to ask themselves uncomfortable questions, or go through the coolie labor of reworking one of their political ideas.
Such insularity is awfully dangerous.
Any ideology must generally confront uncomfortable facts. I would like for tax cuts to raise tax revenue, but it is not so. Republicans who get their opinions on taxation only from conservative sources, however, tend to repeat this as if it were a known fact, rather than an unlikely assertion. My Democratic friends would like, for example, price controls not to decrease the supply of the items for which we are controlling the price, but they generally do, and there you are; we have to deal with the fact, not pretend it away. I oppose any movement that caters to the natural tendency of people to separate themselves from opinions with which they disagree in order to preserve their peace of mind.
(Although I should note that the phenomena of liberal types bewailing the fact that Fox will enable conservatives to get only conservative news does not impress me. It never occurs to them to suggest that perhaps their political compadres should add Commentary to their subscription stable; no, somehow it is only dangerous for conservatives to congregate with the like-minded.)
Which brings us, finally, to the reason I started this shaggy-dog polemic: Howard Dean. I find it hard to believe that he's going to be the Democratic nominee, but a number of Democratic political types whose opinions I respect seem to think there's a good probability he will be. He will be the nominee, they say, because base Democrats believe that the purity of their anger will ignite the population to throw out that evil pretender in the White House. They do not seem to realize that their anger is not merely not shared, but actively reviled, by the rest of the voting population. And they do not realize it because they do not know anyone who doesn't think like they do.
If they throw a tantrum and nominate Dean, they will need to hit a trifecta -- another recession, a disaster in Iraq, and a scandal in the White House -- in order to win. Better to lose honorably, say my Democratic pals, and I admire their spirit. Perhaps they can do what the Republicans did after Goldwater, and use the opportunity to build a base and some new policies and come back with a big win.
But not until they get in touch with the rest of the population. Find out what they're thinking, explain why they should think something else -- you can't do either if you're sitting around congratulating yourself on how gosh darn superior you are. And if the Republicans do sweep in 2004, I hope the lesson that they'll take from it is not that they're God's chosen people, but that it's dangerous to keep the dial tuned to Fox all day.
Posted by Jane Galt at August 3, 2003 02:53 PM
The answer to this one was first put forth by Thomas Sowell a couple of years ago. Democrats can't seem to "get it together" because their Marxist worldview only works in places like schools, government institutions and media outlets -- places where there is no real price to pay for failure.
Like the Dem's in Texas?
Generally, a good argument, but this one makes her look rather slow...
No one (with a shred of intelligence) doubts the reality of the laffer curve.
The laffer curve - Tax revenue will be lowest at a rate of 0% and 100%, it will rise from both ends of the curve and meet at a maximum somewhere between them.
That tax cuts "never" increase revenue is as asinine as stating that lowering a consumer price will never increase revenue. To say that tax cuts never increase revenue would require that you also believe that pricing gum at $100 a pack will raise 100 times more revenue than if you price it at $1 per pack. (Time is the biggest difference in the two arguments - buying gum is optional, thus pricing effects will be quick. Paying taxes, in the short-run, is required and will respond more slowly to rate changes.)
Tax rate increases will increse revenue if the rate is above the inflection point, it will lower revenue if the rate is below the inflection point. (Speculation - rates are higher for high income people - thus rate cuts increase revenue. Rates are lower for low income people - thus rate cuts decrease revenue. Tax cuts should ONLY be for the rich!!!)
Insularity doesn't explain the entirety of the left's hardheadedness. There's an intoxication which prevents them from seeing any other possibility, even when confronted with clear-cut evidence they are wrong.
No matter, the hangover's going to be a bitch.
: ''I dont know how Richard Nixon could have won. I dont know anybody who voted for him.'' - Pauline Kael's reaction to Richard Nixon's 49 state landslide presidential victory over George McGovern in 1972
It is even now common at gatherings of New Yorkers to hear bitter recriminations about the Supreme Court stealing the election for Bush, even though the recount seems to have shown, as conclusively as anything can, that Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court had mandated the exact recount Gore's team wanted. It isn't disingenuous; they do not know this fact. And how do they not know it? Because there are five million or so other people around who constantly tell each other that the Supreme Court stole the election for Bush. And like anything that one hears over and over from sympathetic sources, it becomes true to them, just as most of us love our siblings even though we've never really stopped to consider the matter. Everyone says that people love their siblings; therefore it is so.
Very true. Liberals cite each others lies so often, that they often become "facts" in their minds as well in the minds of the less informed public. Quite often I watch something untrue pop up on a liberal site (buzzflash, bartcop, du, etc.), and before I know it, other liberals are cutting and pasting that lie all over the internet on message boards, websites, and newsgroups. (The Lovenstein IQ hoax is just one of many examples. To this day, people, mostly liberals, are still falling for that lie.).
I am not sure your curve as described has an inflection point.
Limbaugh does the same thing in his own way. He definitely goes out of his way to gin up the hatred of liberals in order to keep them seething and listening.
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