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Our ADDled Electorate

Every now and then I come up with a theory about politics that I'm not that fond of, but seems to fit the known facts. And I'm having one of those right now.

Ever since the 2006 elections, there's been plenty of arguing over which way the American people are going. Are they moving left or right? What is the trend? Which political wing is ascendant, and which is falling?

After 2006, it seemed pretty clear: to the left. The Democrats took both houses of Congress. And that was reaffirmed in 2008, when they strengthened their hold and added the White House. Some Democrats even talked about how the Republicans were going to end up a "permanent minority."

But in the last few months, the Democrats have taken a huge shellacking. Four major elections, and they lost three outright. And that fourth... in upstate New York, the Democrat pretty much won by default as the rank and file conservatives turned on the very liberal official GOP candidate and drove her out of the race right before the election, and nearly got their third party guy elected.

Are things swinging back so soon? Were the 2006 and 2008 elections the aberration? Or is the current streak the aberration?

There's a very simple explanation that covers it all, wraps it all up in one neat little bow. And I don't like it one bit.

There are a lot of Americans who follow politics very closely, who give the matter a lot of careful consideration, and are remarkably loyal to principles and ideals. (That would be folks like us. Ain't we the best?) And there are also a lot of Americans who hold considerable fealty to their party of choice.

But there are also a lot of Americans who don't give a great deal of thought to politics at all. They are readily swayed by a simple (and simplistic) message that, when presented just right, by the right kind of candidate, running against the wrong kind of candidate, that almost guarantees a win.

That message? "Things stink, it's that guy's fault, and I can make it better."

Boiled down, that was the winning message in the elections in 2006, 2008, 2009, and so far this year.

That's it. That's all it takes. No statement of principles, no concrete plans, no record of accomplishments to establish credibility, no explanation of how largely well-intentioned people got us into the mess in the first place, nothing more than a slick, vague promise and some well-crafted vitriol.

It's the spoiled child approach, applied to politics. "I don't like it! Make it better!" It reduces elections to temper tantrums, and victory going to those who can best manage the fits.

As I said, i don't like it. I don't think it bodes well for the nation.

But I gotta admit, it just might be healthier than the hard-core political addiction a lot of us have...


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Comments (21)

I have a different interpre... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

I have a different interpretation. The large majority of American voters are not ideologues. They're pragmatists. They want to elect competent pragmatists who will fix the country's problems, not ideologues who will go on ideological crusades. From 2001-2006, a nonstop barrage of attacks from the Left and the press convinced the voters that Republicans were ideologues -- and worse, incompetent ideologues. Democrat candidates running in 2006 and 2008 ran and won as competent pragmatists.

But now we're seeing a Congress that is anything but competent and pragmatic, because it's run by a party that is dominated by ideologues. And the voters are rebelling.

Yes, liberal tantrums like ... (Below threshold)
914:

Yes, liberal tantrums like in 2000 allow them to vent frustration and go on with life ( hee hee ) but 10 years is a bit much for a tantrum to continue.. I think it's bordering on mental illness after about two weeks? No, im sure. Right Stevie G..

Setting aside My obvious conservative bias.. I think Bush is too blame for all of this!

There is a difference betwe... (Below threshold)

There is a difference between someone who is idealistic and someone who is an ideologue . An idealist will have principles and stick to them, but is also realistic in how those principles can be applied to the real world (like President Reagan). An ideologue will absolutely refuse to believe that he may be making a mistake in applying his principles to the real world (like President Obama) and will attempt to change the real world to fit his theories.

Then there are the politicians who have no principles other than attempting to gain power (like President Clinton). Unfortunately, many in the Congress (the opposite of progress) fit that model.

I have another theory ... I... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

I have another theory ... Its the liar theory ...

Everyone in a national or statewide election usually runs in the middle ... so ultra-liberals and ultra-conservatives have to lie about thier intentions.
Now both bases know their guy is lying and they like it because they know it will help get their guy/gal elected. The other side also knows their opponent is lying and votes against him for that reason.
This leaves the independents. A small percentage will know the candidate is lying and vote according to their leanings, but the great majority take these candidates at their word. And they get conned.
In most cases politicians can't pull this same stunt twice. If they run as a moderate they have to govern as one to get re-elected.
No matter what Bush was, in the end independents did not think he was not a moderate (see 2004 election).

Obama ran as a moderate. About 30% of America thought he was telling the truth and voted heavily in his favor.

Is there a truely independent voter in America today that thinks he has tried to govern as a moderate ? If you find one scratch him, beneath the surface you will find a liberal partisan.

So how do you convince someone who thinks you are a liar that you are not ?

More speeches with the same promises ?

Or you actually do what you said in the campaign ?

Does Obama look like a doer to you ?

(so why don't more actual moderates win primaries ? and thus general elections ? Money, money, money ... that comes from the left and right bases and they put their money on the folks on the wings and not the center.)

I think this anylysis, is p... (Below threshold)
Henry:

I think this anylysis, is pretty much spot on. Republicans are beniftiing now from the bad economy. Just like Clinton won because Papa Bush was president during a bad economy.

The masses look at the way things are right now and blame the guy in charge. If the economy is bad now, the guy in charge pays. If things start going well, even if long term damage is being created, then the person in power takes credit.

The danger with that kind of electorate is that politcians are rewarded for short term thinking. Right or Left, the person who wins is the guy can deliver the goods right now, regardless of whether it is good for the future of our country and in my opinion both parties will do this as both are usally about getting elected and staying in power above all.

Where the junkies come in and muddy the issues is arguing bitterly about what causes the long term damage and what is short term thinking and what is long term thinking. As a nation we can't seem to agree on this and therefore remain divided..

Demorats for example, would argue that spending on things like Health care stimulates the economy, with new investment which leads to growth.

Rpublicans would argue, that tax cuts lead to growth, and that spending creates deficts and hurts the economy.

Democrats counter, that tax-cuts equal less revenue and thus also create deficits, Republicans counter that tax-cuts stimulate the economy enough to create more revenue. and so on and so on. right down to finally calling each other wingnuts, and left-wing-loons.

That is the comedy of errors that is politics. I'm damn if I can think of anything that will change it anytime soon.


I read once that - since th... (Below threshold)
geminichuck:

I read once that - since the beginning - our nation has been roughly divided into three parts on major issues: 1/3 for, 1/3 against, and 1/3 "huh?" At the time of our revolution 1/3 wanted to fight to be free from the King, 1/3 wanted to remain loyal to the King, and 1/3 wanted to be just left alone to plant their corn. Now, we refer to that middle group as "moderates" or "independents" (not the same thing, though) and this is the group that politicians are always chasing because, as you say, they are easily malleable (also, very ignorant - and if they become extremely ignorant, well then they are modern day liberals). I believe the conservative mission is to spread (as wizbangblog does) the conservative principles to the muddled middle - counteract the lame stream media with knowledge and facts. The good news is that we now have the resources & avenues to do that. When I was 21 there was very little info available for conservatives (I learned from Barry Goldwater's book of that time) - now we have endless information resources. Thanks!

I'm with geminichuck on the... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I'm with geminichuck on the Revolutionary War. Many are not even aware that most of the Loyalists fled back to England after 1882, and we didn't live 'happily ever after'. There are extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. There are those who 'live' politics every day. However, I think most Americans are apolitical, no matter their professed political leanings. THEY WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE! - However, our political system that has evolved doesn't buy that message. There are some things 'government' is good at, but there are those in both main parties who always push the envelope. Government always seems to create more problems (unintended consequences) that it solves. Everyone brings something to the party. Sometimes it's just getting them to agree to disagree in a harmonious fashion. Given the current 'dumbing down' in our educational system (thanks to government) - students aren't taught how to spot the liars that appear to gravitate to public office. So we end up with wild swings when the electorate gets pissed off.

Many good points, and also ... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Many good points, and also in the comments, but I think the explanation is even simpler.

America gets very weary of war after no more than four years. We see it over and over. If Sherman hadn't taken Atlanta in September, Lincoln would not have won reelection in November. Truman couldn't even win the New Hampshire primary after only two years of no progress in Korea. LBJ went from a huge landslide to the most hated man in America in less than four years due to Vietnam. By 2006, with problems and casualties continuing in Iraq, America was just sick of it. We need look no further.

Thank God we managed to overcome the Battle of the Bulge, and dropped the Bomb on Japan, or the public might have demanded an end to that war, too.

It also applied to the elec... (Below threshold)

It also applied to the elections in 1980 and 1992. While Reagan said things that appealed to those paying attention, the mushy middle voted against 4 more years of Carter... the same way they voted against 4 more years of Bush I. And your theory can be applied to incumbents who hold serve.. 'however things are right now, things will be worse if you vote for the challenger'. It worked in 1996 and 2004 (Bush wasn't rewarded for all his great work as much as people were against giving John Kerry the keys to the White House).

"It's the spoiled child app... (Below threshold)
glenn:

"It's the spoiled child approach, applied to politics. "I don't like it! Make it better!" It reduces elections to temper tantrums, and victory going to those who can best manage the fits."

Well said. "I don't like it! Make it better!" ought to be the Boomer mantra.

Jim Addison: as all your ex... (Below threshold)

Jim Addison: as all your examples are of Presidents who weren't winning, I think it's probably more accurate to say that America gets weary not of war but of losers.

Simple is definitely all ov... (Below threshold)
WorldCitizen:

Simple is definitely all over this thread.

Jay Tea,

This simple message that you say sways most people just started to be used in 2006? Tell me what was the simple message in ...1976, 1978, 1980...1998, 1992...2000, 2002? I think the question I have is simple enough. Are you saying that this simple message will be use in 2010 and 2012 to throw the Democrats out of office or is this just the Democratic simple message of the last 4 years?

You make politics and campaigning sound so simple. How many campaigns have you run and what was your candidate's message? What a dumb question on my part...Of course it was "Things stink, it's that guy's fault, and I can make it better." Did they win?

"Jim Addison: as all your e... (Below threshold)
914:

"Jim Addison: as all your examples are of Presidents who weren't winning, I think it's probably more accurate to say that America gets weary not of war but of losers.


11. Posted by steve sturm | January 28, 2010 3:50 PM | Score: 0 (0 votes cast"

Agreed..And right now this presidency seems like its in its 6th year..

It's the spoiled c... (Below threshold)
kevino:
It's the spoiled child approach, applied to politics. "I don't like it! Make it better!" It reduces elections to temper tantrums, and victory going to those who can best manage the fits.

Minor nit: I'm not comfortable with the words "temper tantrum", because those words were used by a MSM liberal to describe the electorate in 1994 when President Clinton lost both houses of Congress.

However, if the voters continue to demand that the politicians make things better, then I agree. The electorate needs to stop looking at politicians as if they were magic elves working for the Great Santa Claus who lives in Washington. If they continue to wait for prosperity to come from Santa, then all they'll get is coal.

If the polls are correct, then most Americans say that they want to have smaller government, even if that means fewer services. Can the GOP deliver on that idea? I don't know. They certainly didn't do it in the past. Can the DNC deliver on that idea? Definitely not: they want to move in the opposite direction.

Someone needs to inform the electorate about the cost associated with all of these taxes, regulations, and other government intervention: namely, massive numbers of jobs leaving the country. It is an easy argument to make. Democrats nation-wide are doing what Democrats have done to states like CA, NJ, and MA for years: driving good jobs away and driving state governments off the cliff.

And smaller government has another huge benefit: it takes away the power of lobbyists. Lobbyists make money by paying politicians to get benefits for their clients. When Washington starts handing out fewer favors, there are fewer benefits to be had, and the lobbying industry goes away. Big government has the opposite problem. As P.J.O'Roarke once said, "When politicians control what is bought and sold in the country, the first things that are bought and sold are politicians."

The changes have to be made, and they have to be made quickly. We are almost at the point where the majority of Americans get direct benefits from the state. Many of these people have already learned that they can get ahead in this world by voting themselves better benefits. When they become the majority, we're all done.

"How many campaigns have yo... (Below threshold)
Carol:

"How many campaigns have you run and what was your candidate's message?"

This drivel is getting old. If bloggers and commentors have to have a certain kind of experience (which you get to define)in order to voice an opinion, then you need to go back to the swamp that is DU. They're just like you-ridicule, strawmen and put downs.

Over there they would think you are a genius. Here though, we just see it as a sign of ignorance and stupidity.

"This drivel is getting old... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"This drivel is getting old. If bloggers and commentors have to have a certain kind of experience (which you get to define)in order to voice an opinion, then you need to go back to the swamp that is DU. They're just like you-ridicule, strawmen and put downs."

Good one Carol. Unfortunately, this is WorldCitizen's stock in trade.

Carol,Thank you fo... (Below threshold)
WorldCitizen:

Carol,

Thank you for calling me out on thinking that maybe someone should expect any experience in a subject to voice an opinion on a it. This is America ain't it. That is what the First Amendment is all about. Even the most uninformed can get their opinion out among the populist masses. Wait, got a little communistic shiver with that populist masses reference back there.

I like to hear what people think. I would like that people thought a bit more about what they think. Damn liberal elitest propaganda, I know.

You know, I just looked at ... (Below threshold)
WorldCitizen:

You know, I just looked at what I wrote and I would like to apologize and not sarcastically.

It is the wisdom of the handy man and woman that get the human race through the day. Each and every day. I do not think that Americans are that different from each other. Would you fight? So would I.

I think that the highest form of government is of the people and its highest purpose is to take care of the people. You may differ with me on what that means up to a point, but food, water and shelter, the essentials of life are on the top of my list. Otherwise, what?

We are all we got.

Its the inquisition,... (Below threshold)
914:


Its the inquisition, and Barry has nary an alibi!

Left or right is fairly mea... (Below threshold)
Sharpshooter:

Left or right is fairly meaningless.

Perhaps a better metric would be "Statist vs (true) liberal" or maybe "individualistic vs collectivist".

Both the "left" and "right" have statist and collectivist tendencies, but not equally by any means.

"I think that the highes... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"I think that the highest form of government is of the people and its highest purpose is to take care of the people. You may differ with me on what that means up to a point, but food, water and shelter, the essentials of life are on the top of my list."

Maybe this is your idea of what goverment should do, but that is not our government's job. Nor is it what many of us see as our government's job. Providing food, water and shelter is charitable work. The government's job is to ensure there is equal opportunity for each of us to provide for ourselves.

What you've described is mom and dad's obligation to their children.

And before you ask me again, as you have in the past, .... the responsibilities of our government is in writing. Look it up.




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