Monday, May 05, 2008

When Politics Gets Weird

I'm so inured to the idea of my fellow voters stupidly falling for everything that I often find myself kind of happily confused when some transparently cynical ploy fails. This has happened only a few times on major (non) issues that I remember -- the Clinton impeachment and the Terri Schiavo episode are the major ones.

It's too early to be confident, but I'm hoping that maybe the gas tax mess will be another episode of this kind. If the relevant points can be gotten into circulation -- the oil companies eat up more than half of the tax cut, and this is a dumb short-term fix that does nothing to address the deeper problem -- it's possible that a political debate will actually be won by educating people so they come to have the right views on policy. Weird.


Mary said...

OK, I can't not respond to this.

1. I'm voting for Obama. I had to let go of a lot of lifelong hopes, wishes, dreams to come to that decision.

2. My background is that of those folks whom he's having a hard time bringing on board--"my" people, if you will.

3. If the campaign does not lose the condescending tone I see represented in this post, it will not necessarily fail, but it will make the road that much harder.

4. It's not that you are not correct, you are, but I'm reminded of an old Simpsons episode where Bart is trying to teach the smart kid to be cool. The smart kid draws the conclusion, based on Bart's advice. that one's coolness is in inverse proportion to the proximity to the bus driver, something like that, and Bart says, "Yeah, but don't say it like that."

5. The Clintons are evil geniuses, and evil geniuses are fun. Obama often behaves like the tech guy who is brilliant, but you wait as long as you can before you call him to help you with a problem because you just can't tolerate his sneering and million passive-aggressive ways he lets you know how stupid he thinks you are.

Neil Sinhababu said...

The funny thing is, Mary, the kind of sentiments that you're responding to are a big part of why I was reluctant to support Obama for so long.

One of the big hopes that Obama's campaign is founded on is that he can win without treating the American people like idiots. He respects your intelligence and will give good arguments for the things he believes rather than being a demagogue.

I was reluctant to support Obama because I just didn't think that anything like that could work. We live in a country where polls regularly show that 30-40% of people think Saddam was involved in the 9/11 plot, despite years of evidence to the contrary! This country re-elected Bush after he led us into a disastrous war! It seemed to me that the only way to win in a place like this is to acknowledge that our countrymen are idiots and treat them accordingly.

One of the (many) advantages of Edwards, I thought, is that his way of pushing for his views was very idiot-accessible. Not that there weren't good arguments there, but you didn't have to understand them to support him. Hillary (and Bill, back in his days) often achieve Edwards-style idiot-accessibility, but a lot of the proposals are substantively bad like this one.

And this is part of why I feared Obama. Insofar as there's something really substantial about all the 'audacity of hope' stuff in the Obama campaign, it's the idea that what I've been thinking for the last several years is all wrong and that our political discourse can be lifted to a rational level.

He isn't the sneering IT guy who makes fun of you -- he's the guy who bothers to explain how things work because he thinks you're smart enough to be worth talking to. Hillary, on the other hand, will give you a baby-talk explanation of things and when you're gone, laugh behind your back with her friends about how you wouldn't understand anything more complicated.

Now I'm stuck with Obama, and I'm always nervous about whether his way is going to work. And I'm astonished when things look like they're looking here.

Mary said...

After hearing him Tuesday night, I think you're right. He seems to be coming back to being the person you're talking about, but for a while, he seemed to bristle a little too easily and could be a little annoying. I was upset about his "bitter" remark before Hillary told me I was supposed to be (and she was wrong about why it was offensive). Nobody likes it when someone from a world they don't inhabit draws simplistic, incomplete, and incorrect conclusions about that world.