Why do Liberals go limp in November while Republicans are fully aroused? So say the poles..,.I mean polls. All that corporate money pouring in and the power it implies must be inherently sexy. And maybe malice and mendacity turn folks on; a perverse form of ecstasy.
In any case the right wing’s appeal seems more to the glands than the brain. While Democrats split hairs over agenda or lie semi-moribund, conservatives unite, rally around old myths and control the narrative however simplistic and distorted it may be.
A reasoned argument from the Left, supported with policy statements seems to address deaf ears. Indeed the opposition has grasped the concept that arguments to a mass audience can be seductive using simple slogans, images and signifiers.
This seems particularly true in an off-year election in which the task of both parties is primarily the turn-out of their respective bases and secondly igniting the vast, low-information middle. This is where public relations firms and advertisers play a decisive role.
Selling a candidate is indistinguishable from selling a car or a box of cereal. Why do I drive a Honda? On some level below consciousness I have a bought into a cluster of images that makes a statement matching me with my car. I’m not a Mustang. I’m not a BMW…….whatever that means.
Americans are nothing if not consumers. We not only purchase goods but we buy services the same way; evaluating teachers, judging waiters in restaurants and voting for our representatives often by subliminal impressions. Bush’s affability carried the day for eight years. He was the guy you (not I) wanted to have a beer with. If a candidate can fake authenticity the rest comes easily. The media pronounces whether he/she looks presidential as if our leaders should come out of central casting.
The agenda, the record, the issues all become subordinate to a snap assessment of the buyer-voter. A significant portion of the American electorate responds more readily to fear and loathing than to empathy and reason. It is primal; an almost instinctual reaction from the reptilian brain. The Republicans have tapped into this.
In 2008 when Obama won over first-time voters and independents it was also a visceral connection. Some of us projected a lifetime of expectation on him. He received other votes just because he wasn’t Bush or McCain. Since then we’ve been reminded of the deep conservative roots in this country. If an election were Masterpiece Theatre we would witness the paradox of Downstairs voting for Upstairs. The under-served identify with the privileged.
I can only hope those young people, minorities and undeclared voters get Viagrified and see through the slick ads from millions of corporate dollars and turn out as they did two years ago.