Monday, September 08, 2008

Can Lefties Listen, Learn, Love?

The quadrennial prolonged moment of revenge is at hand. As my favorite Financial Times columnist Clive Crook notes, "If only the Democrats could contain their sense of entitlement to govern in a rational world, and their consequent distaste for wide swathes of the US electorate, they might gain the unshakable grip on power they feel they deserve."

Even after eight years of abject failure in every sense of governance, the Republicans might yet win this election. They are so cocky about it that they even pretend that for the past two years of a tissue-paper thin Dem Congressional majority it is the failure of the lefties and not the procedural GOP stranglehold of the Senate filibuster rule that has not produced a new tack.

In polls, much of America continues to look inexplicably to the GOP for what it has for so long been incapable and unwilling to provide. Meanwhile, Dems cluster and run into each other muttering questions about how GOP supporters could possible vote against their interests yet again.

Crook's script for Dems includes strains of "develop(ing) some regard for the values that the middle of the country expresses when it votes Republican. Religion. Unembarrassed flag-waving patriotism. Freedom to succeed or fail through one’s own efforts. Refusal to be pitied, bossed around or talked down to. And all those other laughable redneck notions that made the United States what it is."

As Barack Obama has already shown in his alert and open reaction to Sarah Palin's nomination as VP, he can sincerely pull that off. That likely relates in no small part to his starting out poor, albeit a city kid. He needs some support here.

It is much harder to imagine the born-privileged such as our John Kerry pulling that off. Yet, Hillary Clinton somehow managed to pander effectively to the working-class voter, despite her very white-collar and conservative upbringing before college and her rich-person's life after. That incongruity continues as John McCain, the wealthy admiral's son, plays so well to factory, farm and trade families. He is quite certainly that protected and hyper-wealthy elite by both upbringing and marriage whom he derides.

As Crook so sharply notes, it's all turned around. The party that is aware of and wants to ameliorate the problems of the middle and underclasses earns their distrust instead of their votes.

His prescription is simultaneously simple and hard — learn respect for what's important to the voters.

Intellectually it is frighteningly obvious that in the main the GOP uses and abuses the nation as a whole and particularly blue-collar and rural families. The disastrous economic, domestic and foreign policies should be more than enough to ensure a permanent Democratic regime...but it is not. If there is anything the Palin card on the table should make plain it is this.

We aren't going to get them with spreadsheets and history lessons only.

Despite the tendency of we lefties to puffiness on the obvious, this cuts several ways. We often like to say we are being rational and the other side strictly emotional. Yet, let us consider the implication. We figure that it is all to obvious that the GOP is extremely destructive to the interests of all but the wealthiest Americans and their business interests. We become so emotionally involved in that self-righteous recognition that it is we who let our emotion get in the way.

Even without the cynical play-acting of a John McCain or Fred Thompson, we can seal the deal. We need only look to Obama. He has not been insulting voters by pretending to be some squirrel-skinning exurbanite that he isn't. Yet, he listens and learns with a beginners mind to values of no-so-left voters. He points out errors and lies in McCain/Palin bluster, but without deriding Republican or undecided voters.

In short, he has been showing the type of respect that Crook advocates.

This go-round only has two months to settle. Longer term, we should not lose sight of that underlying issue. Yes, it makes perfect sense for ordinary folk to flock to Dem politicians who have their fundamental interests in mind always. As we should have finally learned, we aren't going to get them with spreadsheets and history lessons only.

It's likely that nearly all of us were brought up by folk who spoke of listening to and respecting other people. Many of us and the Democratic Party in general seems to have forgotten those lessons in the bustle and exigencies of adult life.

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Joel Monka said...

"In short, he has been showing the type of respect that Crook advocates." It sure didn't sound like it when he said, "they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

massmarrier said...

But Crook was quick to note, as Obama did, that that was an error. Obama has not repeated such mistakes.

Bill Baar said...

...that was an error...

It was a revealing error and most understand...especially the clingers... was Rev Jackson caught threatening emasculation for Obama talking down to black folks.

You understand when your a politically conservative UU and are kindly told your views are tolerated because were tolerent about folks who have been misled, bamboozled, scared into voting for Bush, and so on....

massmarrier said...

True enough...and many UUs tolerate Christians as well, somehow losing that link and overlooking the traditional inherent virtues. Some of the most socially active and generous UUs I have known are Christians, but they tend not to speak up much about it in their churches.