Monday, February 6, 2012

The Political Divide

The Scalias party with the Ginsbergs every New Years Eve. Think all the things they must not talk about.

The two camps, like tribes, are sure of their righteousness. This probably describes 85% of the electorate. The undecided, generally low-information, fickle or cynical voters will determine our fate….if they bother to vote at all. We are in the hands of swing voters in swing states.

What moves these folks? Elections call into play the same function as buying a car or computer; associative images. Is this the man or message with whom I can identify? Will he quench my thirst, get me the beautiful woman or the house on the tree-lined street? Is he the guy who I want to look at for another four years or do I want a new face?

Americans are highly trained consumers sniffing out the hoax, the pretender, the hot air. Or we think we are. Then how did we end up with George W. Bush? The sellers more often than we’d like to think, out-think us. They know how to manipulate mass audiences using key words, repetitively, freighted with positives or negatives. Suddenly Saul Alinsky pours out of Gingrich’s mouth in every speech associating him with Obama as if he is test-marketing a new product. His audience never heard of Alinsky but knows he stands for Jewish, Russian, Trotsky, trouble-maker, not one of us.

We wait for our buzz words and they listen for theirs. We require a more compelling narrative. Everyone likes a good story. Republicans use the Puritan ethic fable; hard work is rewarded by God; idle hands are the devil’s tools. By extension this means that the unemployed are lazy and the handicapped are slackers, all taking advantage of a bleeding heart Liberal government. Crap galore, as my pharmacology professor use to say.

Liberals also have a story to tell which, I contend, has a more universal appeal. Rather than invoking Benjamin Franklin’s, God helps those who help themselves, which most Americans wrongly attribute to the Bible, we might remind others of Jesus’ words, to care for the least among us.

Americans are a compassionate people. We are taught to love our neighbors, to turn our other cheek, to accommodate diversity. We are charitable and empathic. And we do not have a truly meritorious ladder to climb. We have long recognized the role of government. I would argue that Republicans lie when they rant against government. Is that the same institution that grants fat Pentagon contracts, that sends troops abroad, overtly and covertly, to violate the sovereignty of other nations, the same government that offers oil and farm subsidies, the one that created our railroads and highways sprouting the Gilded Age, oil multinationals and giant automakers?

The Republican myth-makers obscure their greed and drive for un-bridled privilege, along with a twisted version of history which engenders fear and misdirected animus.

Can the great chasm between camps be closed or bridges erected? By any rational measure the 1% should not garner 50% support. The 99% who have been short-changed and deceived need to wake up and align themselves with their own Judeo-Christian values, if you will. The American model is an experiment in participatory government, not bestowed by the wealthy but acclaimed at the ballot box by the non-propertied, by woman and minorities…all of them denied, at first, by Conservatives. In time, the electorate/consumer will see that the house on the hill is not theirs.

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