President Obama is supposed to address the nation tonight about “health care reform”. I cannot say quickly enough that I do not care. I used to be all jazzed up for the prez. I used to be for the Democrats in general, as I was and still am an unapologetic Liberal. I started to not care right around the time that Al Franken was finally seated as the senator from Minnesota. I think if I hadn’t been in a state of I-don’t-care-dom, I would have been more upset when Senator Kennedy passed away (you know what’s kind of odd? Kennedy was in the senate longer than any of his brothers had lived. Food for thought). The Dems have the White House (which has made watching Glenn Beck all the more interesting), and both houses of congress. They say that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans nationwide. So why do I feel like I’m part of a loser party? I’ve noticed that even when the Republicans lose, they win. Even when they’ve been soundly trounced, they absolutely will not admit defeat. It’s kind of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He’s there, with his arms and legs cut off, but he’s still talkin’ smack to Arthur. He won’t admit that he’s been defeated, even when it’s clear that he can’t fight. He believes that he can win — and in a way, he does. The idea being that so long as you don’t admit that you’ve lost, you haven’t. Kind of like our strategy in Afghanistan. The strategy of non-admission is also a Repbllican strategy — and an effective one at that. The idea to being successful, politically, even when you’re on the losing end of the debate, is to “frame” the argument. You may have the lousiest argumen, but as long as it’s taken up on your terms, you’re halfway to winning the debate. Framing sets the tone. It says what language that we’re going to use and how. Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, (and author of Propaganda!, Crystalizing Public Opinion, and The Engineering of Consent), said, “You have to know your public and figure out how to make it respond”. Everything, Bernays and his brethren believed, is a matter of public relations, whether the poor folk out there know it or not. Bernays and his PR buddies invented the miracle of spin. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, used his uncle’s methods of psychoanalysis (that all human action was governed by unconscious desires) to sway the public’s tastes and opinions. Here’s a little on how Bernays thought: He believed that the public was a “herd to be led”, and that “those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country”. Bernays believed that the crowd (that’s you and me) isn’t ruled by reason, but by the spinal cord. People, Bernays believed, are moved by appeals to the emotions, and not by rational arguments. Bernays believed that people were like herds of animals and therefore most responsive to leadership (that leadership, of course, that specializes in manipulation of the people’s emotions). A perfect example of Bernaysian thinking is “The Mindmaker Song” from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. No Kidding. Of course, the most successful spin artist never admits that he is spinning (which is why Bill O’Reilly calls his show a “No spin zone”). A true bullshitter calls himself a straight-talker, who is going to tell it like it is, because he knows that his audience will stand for nothing less than the truth. The Republicans have become especially good at pulling this off. Strangely, the Democrats have not. Democrats, unfortunately, seem to come off as a bunch of Barton Finks when they attempt this strategy. That is, they come off as fakers. Although Obama won the election and the Democrats have both houses, when polled, this country tends to trend to the center, if not towards the Right. We’re a fairly conservative people. They say that Reagan appealed to Democrats during the 1980 presidential campaign by appealing to values instead of issues. That is, Reagan used appeals to the spinal cord rather than to the intellect to win against Jimmy Carter. Reagan appealed to the hard-workin’ everyman, the blue-collar workers and the regular housewives of America. These people were the “silent majority” that Nixon courted when he was president. The majority of Americans who were plain folk who believed in down-home values and the simple life. They weren’t a part of the, as the Conservative Club for Growth said of Howard Dean in 2004, “tax-hiking, government expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show”. Reagan’s Democrats were the people forced to accept Affirmative Action giving their jobs away. They were forced to pay for welfare queens, and to support gay rights, and white, heterosexual, male-hating feminists who wanted to promote abortion and an anti-Christian agenda. They were forced to accept God-hating atheists, tree huggers, bleeding-heart liberals, freedom-hating socialists of all stripes, activist judges, bureaucrats, overpaid government workers, illegal aliens, and unions. See how I framed that? How can you possibly carry on a sensible debate with anyone who says you’re a man-hating anti-American socialist, who wants to open the borders and let anyone from anywhere come in and destroy this great land, what’s left of America? It doesn’t matter if you have a sensible plan for actually solving any problem ( a weak economy, rising crime, illiteracy, etc), if you lack the proper values, your argument is dead in the water. Values matter most. Reagan, and every Republican since, is a warrior in the “culture war”. It’s those who love God and country against all who wish to destroy this great union. They must defend family values (which are never quite defined — I suppose for fear that many Republicans will be descovered as having violated them) against the culture-destroying influences of multiculturalism, diversity, and political correctness. The issues don’t matter because no matter the issue, people who lack American values will always undermine liberty and democracy. Try as they might to stick to the issues, Democrats will always lose out. First, these issues are boring when you discuss them in terms of numbers and formal, logically sound arguments. Second, Republicans are not at all squeemish about wringing the arms of anyone who strays from the party line. They will betray their own. The Democrats, because they do things like thinking, are often subject to things like forgiveness and the ‘let’s give the guy a chance’ way of thinking (which explains why Dems have been so nice about Joe Libermann).To get a good hear of what I mean, listen to Democracy Now!, then listen to Laura Ingraham. It won’t take long to tell the difference. It seems that the Democrats have perfected a losing strategy. And this is the strategy: Democrats try to give reasons for what and why they believe. By reasons, I mean they attempt to give legitimate, rational, perhaps logically valid reasons for taking up or rejecting any position or point of view. This fatal flaw is rooted in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Back in the 18th century or so, some dudes thought it would be really nifty to drop all that medieval thinking and actually use reason to discover things like truth and such. Kant said that the motto of the age should be “dare to know”. This is the beginning of the problem — knowing things, and encouraging other people to “know” things. All that knowing requires (all the epistemologists speak up) Truth. Truth is a necessary condition for knowledge. This is what the Dems do, they appeal to truth. The idea is, that given the right education (information or methodology for finding knowledge), a person would “arrive” at truth. They will decide wisely because they are thinking rationally. This is where they screwed up major. Allow me to demonstrate: the enlightened Liberal comes up with an argument somewhat like this: there are some premises, one of which will say something like, ” people are reasonable”. This will lead to a conclusion which will say something like, “therefore, people will make good judgments”. But there’s something wrong with this argument. Run the reductio! The problem premise is the mone I just named, that is, the assumption that people are reasonable. People aren’t. In fact,people tend to be highly irrational (it’s true, I looked it up). People often rationalize what they are doing, but are often highly irrational in what they do. By running the reductio, we’re supposed to find the bad premise that forces us to doubt, if not throw out whether our argument is true. The bad premise leads us to conclude something that isn’t true. But the Republicans don’t even go that far. They don’t bother with the argument at all. That’s why the Republicans win. They know that relying on something like reason is impossible, so they go straight for the emotions. They know that if they scare the bejezus out of you (like telling you that your African-born president wants to indoctrinate your children to do his bidding) , that you will react in a certain way. You can construct all the pretty arguments you want, they’d say, but as Freud observed, anatomy is destiny. Preying on the public’s psychological disposition will always yield the more sure-fire result. So what are the Democrats to do, ’cause what they’ve been doing isn’t working. I’m sure that Obama will lay out some very good reasons for supporting whatever plan he lays out. But as long as he’s competing with an opposition that merely yell “death panels” to win their side of the argument, he will never win. And winning is the point, isn’t it? So what should they do? Whenever the Dems try to act like Republicans, they come off wrong. It always backfires. When they’re sincere, they’re bullshitting, and when they lie, it just makes things worse. Actually, I do have a solution. But to reveal it would peg me as an operative of the New World Order. No, I’m joking about that. Here’s what I think, the Democrats should be doing. They should use the Republicans’ favorite guy against them. If the Reps love capitalism so much, then we Dems should get into using their favorite dude, Adam Smith. Smith said in Wealth of Nations, ” he will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for his own advantage to do for him what he requires of them… it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages”.
I usually try to stay away from political discussions. That’s an odd thing, considering that I not only have a degree in political science (which, does not in any way qualify me to speak with authority about anything), but I truly get off watching politics and the political process. As a matter of fact, I’ve made it my habit to avoid any serious discussion about anything that I love or enjoy doing. I suppose there’s some head shrinker’s couch waiting for me somewhere. But what’s got me, is the fact that everyone else seems to have an opinion about what’s going on out there in Washington, and are freely expressing themselves — for better or for worse — all over talk radio, web logs, and at bus stops. I’m the weirdo who dodges political conversations (for god knows what real reason). Which , by the way, is why I haven’t really said anything about our new Commander-in-Chief. If asked my opinion, I give my standard agnostic “we’ll have to see”. Meanwhile, I’m screaming a mile a minute inside my head all sorts of madness about Right-wing conspiracies, failed economic policies, and whether Plato had the right idea when he said that the rulers should lie to the public. As so many of my thoughts are motivated by conversations, I was thinking about how I felt — not about whether I think that Obama will solve our economic troubles ( it sounds so trivial to call an impending global depression “troubles”), but about the man himself. A few days ago, I was watching “the View”. Ann Coulter was on (god knows why) expressing her confusion over half-black notables who, despite being abandoned by their black fathers, seem to claim their black heritage while also abandoning their white parentage. I’m not going to say anything about Ann Coulter here, as there are lany people who rattle on about her in a negative manner. But, she did give a little food for thought. The food for me, it seems, wasn’t why halfsies only claim one side, but the idea of half-whatevers at all. I thought of an email I sent to a friend not too long ago that brought up the topic of race mixing. Let me say now that I’m not against the mixing of races. I don’t care who anyone marries as long as they are past the age of consent and the marriage wasn’t some sort of forced marriage deal. That said, there are times when the well-intentioned can say things that… well, make you stop wondering why there are Ann Coulter’s out there. A few months back, when the primaries were going on, I had a discussion with two other people about, which was at that time, the Obama candidacy. Ever the pessimist, I said that I was worried that some yahoo out there might want or attempt to do “something” to prevent Obama from taking the presidency. My conversation mates and I lamented the fact the the thought that someone may be so disturbed by having a black president to take up violent action had crossed each of our minds — a sign that we are not as far from racism as we may like to think that we are. Somewhere, and I forget who, someone mentioned something about Obama’s half white parentage. Now that I think about it, I think I mentioned the fact that hating Obama because he is black is sort of stupid because he isn’t a fully black person. (I know, liberal drivel about we’re all mixed anyway, blah, blah, blah…). I mentioned that I have several “goobacks” in my own family. (“gooback” is a term from the show South Park. It was used to describe people from the future who had interbred racially to the point that everyone had a tannish hue to their skin). Now, I consider myself a liberal. I’m into acceptance, not tolerance. I have no problem with the fact that my brother has chosen to create his own colony of goobacks, and as an American keenly aware of our past, I know that my own bloodline isn’t “pure”. But, there’s a sentiment that I just cannot stand, and I heard it out of the mouth of one of my conversation mates. It’s this: WE SHOULD ALL INTERBREED SO THAT WE GET SO MIXED UP RACIALLY THAT THERE WOULD BE NO WAY TO DISTINGUISH ONE RACE FROM ANOTHER AND SO WE’D END RACISM. Huh? You know, I’ve only heard this sentiment from the mouths of people who, although they express this truly endearing sentiment, never seem to live by the statement themselves.Or, worse yet, are the most racially isolated people that one would find. Now, I’m not saying that my conversation mate fits into either one of these categories, but from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did. It’s not even that the idea is wrong-headded or immoral. It’s a perfectly good solution for a problem. In the absence of specific breeds, we can’t discriminate against something that does not exist. I wanted, at that time, to ask that person who suggested that we all interbreed ( as that individual was a different race than I) if that person wanted to get down an start muddying up our gene pools right then and there. But, what overrode my sense of taking that person seriously was my disgust at what they had said. Sure, the sentiment seems like it’s from someone who is anti-racist. But that’s just it — it’s a sentimental, but ultimately meaningless statement. It’s empty in the face that it’s just not practicable. Unless you have some sort of forced reproduction program, my email friend wrote to me, people won’t voluntarily interbreed with anyone. What about those who are “pure” ? Will they become some sort of social outcasts? Will they be illegal? There’s this Dr. Seuss story called “the Sneetches”. There are two groups of sneetches, one who have stars on their stomachs, and those who do not. The ones with “stars on thars” are the superior sneetches and those who do not are inferior. As with life, those who do not have want, and those who do have don’t want the have-nots to have what they have. It all goes to shit when this dude comes around with a machine that can put stars on the non-starred sneetches. Pretty soon, no one can tell who is who. In the end, they realize that the stars don’t matter. Unfortunately, people don’t learn like Dr. Seuss characters do. Given a world of sameness, the inventive human will always find something. If not your race, then it’s your height, or weight, or you’re too cute, or not cute enough — always something. That’s why I found my conversation mate’s remark so offputting. It’s a cya thing to say. The worst of political correctness. Saying that we should breed out race sounds like you’re one of the ones who isn’t secretly carrying a confederate flag in his pocket, but, in turn, it reeks of the worst ersatz naivete well-meaning liberals often express. The kind that solves the problem by ignoring the problem. Instead of really confronting the reason behind something like racism, the response is to pretty up the situation by suggesting some kind of well-meaning, but unobtainable solution, that could happen, if people would only enlighten themselves or, more to the point, reject conservativism and become pacifica-listening progressives. I think I’m done with this one.