Sat. Jan 05, 2008
What Color Is Your Mud?
Once upon a time, the image, views, and positions of a political party were transmitted to the public in a limited number of ways, by a limited number of people. The candidates themselves were the primary means. The national party apparatus did their part to help sell the party vision. And a fairly limited number of openly partisan pundits in the media often sang along to the party tune, be it a in newspaper column in the NY Times, or on a talk radio show, or as a talking head on the political TV shows. All of them pretty much “household names” within the world of politics.
It was usually a fairly cohesive, coherent, and compatible set of policies and talking points, and was put forth fairly consistently by a literal handful of public voices.
My, how times have changed.
Now you’ve also got the Nutroots and the Freepers, and the leading lights of the partisan political blogosphere, all spewing their varied spleeny versions of My Party Line. And much of it directly contradicts actual events out in The Real World. In addition, while the mudslingers used to be relatively few in number and mostly well known, today there’s a virtual army of partisans on both sides, with their own pitching mound and barrel of mud.
The question becomes, who to listen to, and who to ignore? The answer is in Real World events, not virtual rhetoric.
Last week, I had just begun fuming after reading some of the leading lights of the “progressive blogosphere” trashing the whole idea of bipartisanship and bringing independents and “displaced” Republicans into the Democratic tent.
Matthew Yglesias: “John Judis and Ruy Teixeira take a look at the demographic and ideological characteristics of self-described independents and their potential role in the presidential election. It’s clear that the post-partisan rhetoric from Barack Obama that’s annoyed a lot of bloggers has tremendous appeal to this segment of the electorate.”
I think “annoyed a lot of bloggers” puts it mildly.
Atrios: “Since I’m not a politician I can say it: self-described independent voters tend to have that wonderful combination of arrogance and stupidity, along with a belief that the right politician will just wave his magic wand and the correctly colored pony will appear. They have little understanding of how politics works, and thinks that if someone says they’ll just ride into Washington and get things done by bringing people together and making it happen, that this is in fact a stunningly new concept never before communicated by any other politicians. And a pony.”
First of all, in 2004 the “pony” joke was a little funny, but two election cycles later, it is a tired and worn cliche of the left. Please find a new one. But thank you for assuming that someone who has not painted themselves Red or Blue has “little understanding of how politics works.” I get your message.
Or do I?
“...people misinterpret. I’m not talking about everyone who fails to register for one of the two main parties, or people who sometimes vote for the candidate from the other party. I’m talking about “self-described independents,” people who think their independence makes them somehow more objective and more wise than the rest of us and that the fact that they’re perfectly positioned on the mythical political center means that they are correct on all things.”
I see, so it’s an entirely passive-aggressive message you’re sending (“I really detest you independents and your pony colored dreams … oh, but not you independents, who are clearly entirely different”) aimed at “self-described independents” who think they are more wise than the rest of us. When it is clear it is the “self-described Democrats,” and/or “self-described Republicans” who’ve cornered the market on all political wisdom. Right.
Next, Open Left: “When a leader says everyone should get along or else politics is meaningless, supporters believe that leader. And then they will often be upset and disappointed when there’s no pony. I don’t understand why pandering to this illusion is considered necessary; if Obama or Edwards or Clinton said that partisanship is good and that it’s time for Republican rule to end because that party is a group of warmongering greedheads, people would believe that. Out in blogostan we get this, but I’m not sure how to transmit this to the rest of the political system.”
First of all, will someone please shoot that pony and put it out of our misery? It is also worth noting the above was written prior to the results in Iowa. And now one can’t help but want to ask, “out in the real world we get this, but I’m not sure how to transmit this to blogostan.”
So, what was the original article that got the above folks all astir?
Independents are voters who, when asked by friends or pollsters, identified themselves as “independent” of the Democrats and Republicans. In some states, these voters can register as “independent” or “unaffiliated,” but in other states, they register as Democrats or Republicans. Nationally, they make up about a third of all voters, but in some critical states like New Hampshire, they comprise over 40% of the electorate, both in general and most primary elections.
In the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific rim states, independents tend to be white, younger on average than the typical partisan voters, and middle class. They live primarily in cities and suburbs. They think of themselves as “moderates” or “centrists” who are to the right of the national Democrats and to the left of the national GOP. They are skeptical about “big government” and “big labour,” but supportive of government environmental and consumer regulation. They are opposed to the religious right’s social conservatism and laissez-faire economic policies of conservative Republicans. Unlike the neo-conservatives, they have little enthusiasm for overseas military adventures. Independents in the Southwest and Mountain states are equally distrustful of the religious right and neoconservatives, but are more strictly libertarian on economics and on gun rights.
What all these independents share, however, is skepticism about the two party system itself. Many of them voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. They see Washington as dominated by “special interests,” and unlike Democrats or Republicans, see the political parties themselves as “special interests.” The parties are part of the problem.Independents’ day
Goodness, I can see how that would be upsetting. Up to 40% of the electorate may be of the opinion that the two parties are part of the problem, “special interests” themselves. These “independents” are largely white, young, middle class … exactly the kind of people who showed up in Iowa and put Obama way over the top. But they bring along that peculiar idea that those who disagree politically are not The Enemy.
I have long gotten the impression that there is a particular portion of the “progressive blogosphere” whose primary goal is not victory, it’s The Fight. Vengeance for the Bush Era. And I almost get the impression they so detest those Indecisive Independents and Compromising Centrists that if victory means a coalition with them, well, victory no longer looks so good. They’d rather go down solo.
Because then they’d at least have The Fight that they so dearly seek.
Another Dem: “The national interest cannot be achieved by settling old scores, vengeance for past wrongs, and demonization of those with whom we disagree. History operates its own court of justice and vengeance is the enemy of progress.” Oh, my, what Democrat could have said such a thing? Oh, nevermind, it’s just Gary Hart, another one of those mealy mouthed moderates. Easily ignored.
However, it would seem all this talk of bipartisanship seriously endangered “The Fight,” if you judge by the number in the “progressive blogosphere” who spoke out against it, and its purveyors, like Obama.
And then, what happened Thursday in Iowa?
A record number of Democrats turned out to caucus — more than 239,000, compared with fewer than 125,0000 in 2004 — producing scenes of overcrowded firehouses and schools and long lines of people waiting to register their preferences.
The images stood as evidence of the success of Mr. Obama’s effort to reach out to thousands of first-time caucusgoers, including many independent voters and younger voters [...] Mr. Obama’s victory in this overwhelmingly white state was a powerful answer to the question of whether America was prepared to vote for a black person for president.Obama Takes Iowa in a Big Turnout as Clinton Falters; Huckabee Victor – New York Times
Exit polls indicate Obama took 57% of the under 30 Democratic vote, and 42% of those 30-45. 41% of Independents voted Obama, compared to 23% for Edwards and 17% for Clinton. Huge numbers of new young voters (long the Democratic campaign’s Holy Grail) and independents showed up to vote Democratic, specifically, for Obama.
Iowans turned away from the Change Fighter (Edwards) as well as the Establishment Fighter (Clinton) to vote for the Change Bipartisan (Obama). In fact, 71% of Iowan Democratic Caucus attendees voted against Clinton, who is seen by some as the “best prepared” to engage in a Mud War with the Republican nominee.
While there are those who’d prefer the kind of campaign we’d get in a Clinton vs. Guliani race … they’re not going to get that, on either side. At this point, I think it is far more likely to be Obama vs. McCain.
Which will be a battle for independent voters. Much to the dismay of many, I’m sure.
Let there be no doubt, this Obama supporter believes that, whomever is the Republican nominee, their party machinery will sling ugly mud as it has been retrofit to do for a decade or so. I just think (and so far have seen) that he has the skills to make that mud more transparent, or otherwise deflect it back on the flinger. The coming weeks will prove me right or wrong, that’s to be sure.
Yes, weeks, not months. Perhaps even days, given that the New Hampshire primary is only a couple of days away, and the word is the Clinton camp is ready to dump their barrels of ugly. Obama will get plenty of practice, because you have to slog through a lot of Blue Mud before you even get the “honor” of receiving Red Mud. And as I noted towards the beginning of this article, the number of pitchers has grown by an order of magnitude.
And for some, the urgency has grown. Because next Tuesday, the Bipartisan Wave could crash their beach party again.
And hopefully drown that damn pony.