An article in the Boston Globe says Democrats are becoming the party of elites, and Republicans are establishing themselves as more populist. That’s simplistic, myopic and insane. It’s class-war-mongering.
In football, a player carrying the ball in one direction might juke and run in the opposite direction. I once heard a football coach say that a player should never juke more than one time in one play. The implication is that the runner already had the defenders going in the first direction (and they might still be there), and if he decides to turn back, it means he shouldn’t have been making jukes in the first place. He should have been focused on where he was going, and not making little moves.
That comes to mind when I think of these horrible populist moves we see in politics. Politicians tell us they resemble, understand and fight for normal Americans. Then, we elect them and they burn us. They do the bidding of special interests and tell crappy arguments to unsophisticated voters they know aren’t true. I can’t name many politicians in this generation who pulled that folksy card and actually delivered on it (Biden? Ron Paul?). Whenever politicians attempt to juke in a populist direction, it’s always motivated by insecurity on long-term policy. If they saw daylight, they’d keep running ahead.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that no politicians in the country are regular folks. I just don’t see real ones talking about it. Or if they are real, you might not notice because they’re wearing a suit running for jobs that aren’t regular. So, when such an image gets cultivated in the media, it’s usually overblown. Farmers going into politics don’t usually need a marketing firm to make them look like farmers.
For my generation’s memory, it started with George W. Bush. He cultivated an image of a regular guy, even though he was the privileged scion of one of the most elite families in American history, and seemed to owe everything to that privilege. He cultivated an image of “a guy voters would want to drink a beer with” when he didn’t even drink, and he went on to be extremely unpopular, even on dumb retail issues. In the 2008 national election, most of the populist posturing came from Sarah Palin (I ignore Joe the plumber, who wasn’t running for anything, apparently not even plumber). Yet, she was plucked from obscurity and inexperience by Senator McCain, and has since become a millionaire author/talking-head/celebutante for doing nothing except quitting her job as governor. There’s nothing normal or relatable about that path. Even though most of us aren’t war-hero senators either, at least we can relate to the idea of getting somewhere through hard-work, courage, service and independence. There are small examples of that in most of our lives. Furthermore, even if Palin is pretty folksy in real life, her persona is so exaggerated that it seems phony.
There are pollsters and marketing people who say this stuff sells. But they can’t test it against solid, long-term solutions because there aren’t many such solutions. When better solutions aren’t on the table, science-driven politics treats the issues like a fixed pie. We trust that these messages “test well”, but our mistake is that the results aren’t valid if the science doesn’t find all the alternatives in the beginning, and we don’t try enough to do that.
Back to the article, the author’s mistake is that both parties are doing badly right now, especially for people who rely on government help and people who have trouble making ends meet because of taxes and the economy. If those are ordinary people and their plights matter, let’s focus on their real problems instead of how successful public figures spend their weekend. Let’s focus on the influence of corporations and special interests on legislation meant to help the general public. Let’s focus on the war or the economy. If we do, I think we’ll find a lot of sad stories that involve failure and aloofness on both sides of the aisle going back years.
But, this article is exactly the kind of thinking we need to ignore. It’s not even cute or interesting or funny. Shame on this lady.