"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Holy Cow ... a new post!!! It's been more than three months, and I've been meaning to get back to posting but haven't had the time. I just wrote the following in an email to my friend Rand, who sent me an editorial (excerpted below) from yesterday's NY Times. I decided to put it up here too ... mostly because I think my brother will fall out of his chair seeing that I've actually posted something....
Here's the editorial that started it:
The Center Holds By DAVID BROOKS
In the beginning of August, liberal bloggers met at the YearlyKos convention while centrist Democrats met at the Democratic Leadership Council’s National Conversation. Almost every Democratic presidential candidate attended YearlyKos, and none visited the D.L.C.
At the time, that seemed a sign that the left was gaining the upper hand in its perpetual struggle with the center over the soul of the Democratic Party.
But now it’s clear that was only cosmetic. Now it’s evident that if you want to understand the future of the Democratic Party you can learn almost nothing from the bloggers, billionaires and activists on the left who make up the “netroots.” You can learn most of what you need to know by paying attention to two different groups — high school educated women in the Midwest, and the old Clinton establishment in Washington.
In the first place, the netroots candidates are losing. In the various polls on the Daily Kos Web site, John Edwards, Barack Obama and even Al Gore crush Hillary Clinton, who limps in with 2 percent to 10 percent of the vote.
Moguls like David Geffen have fled for Obama. But the party as a whole is going the other way. Hillary Clinton has established a commanding lead.
Second, Clinton is drawing her support from the other demographic end of the party. As the journalist Ron Brownstein and others have noted, Democratic primary contests follow a general pattern. There are a few candidates who represent the affluent, educated intelligentsia (Eugene McCarthy, Bill Bradley) and they usually end up getting beaten by the candidate of the less educated, lower middle class.
That’s what’s happening again. Obama and Edwards get most of their support from the educated, affluent liberals. According to Gallup polls, Obama garners 33 percent support from Democratic college graduates, 28 percent from those with some college and only 19 percent with a high school degree or less. Hillary Clinton’s core support, on the other hand, comes from those with less education and less income — more Harry Truman than Howard Dean.
Third, Clinton has established this lead by repudiating the netroots theory of politics. As the journalist Matt Bai makes clear in his superb book, “The Argument,” the netroots emerged in part in rebellion against Clintonian politics. They wanted bold colors and slashing attacks. They didn’t want their politicians catering to what Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of the Daily Kos calls “the mythical middle.”
The thing is, I think Brooks misses the key point here ... and that's what media is shaping what group's opinions.
The netroots are largely confined to the smaller demographic group of the "affluent, educated intelligentsia" because that is the group that has both the continual internet access to read/participate in those online discussions and the time to do it. Many of them are people (like me) who spend a decent amount of their work time online and who use that time reading and writing about politics online. They are probably more likely to listen to NPR than Rush.
The broader demographic is shaped by the mainstream media. They listen to talk radio. They watch CNN and Fox News and the rest.
Mainstream media deals in generalities, broad brushstrokes and sensationalism. They have discovered that drama ... and melodrama even better ... draws viewers. One leve of this is when OJ breaks into a hotel room in Las Vegas, everything stops. But it also means that they buy right into fear-mongering, because fear creates drama in the mind and heart of the viewer. Fear gets the adrenaline going. Fear is seductive and makes you keep tuning in because you want to be informed and you don't want to miss anything.
Fear also encourages us to think in the same black-and-white, broad brushstrokes that 24-hour cable news is built for. Fear and anxiety also make people long for the secure and familiar. For Democrats or anyone who is leaning that way, that's Hillary. Obama is black and inexperienced ... people can get excited about new ideas and inspired to hear him, but new ideas are risky, and when you're talking about a huge demographic that has been baptized into the fear culture, risk isn't something you're really interested in.
Edwards isn't risky in that way, but he's risky in another in that he is so deeply colored by his past failure. It used to be that you could run for president and lose and come back again later (without having been VP in the interim). Not anymore. There is risk in supporting Edwards because that roll crapped out last time.
Is there risk to Hillary? Well, she's a woman and for some people that's a risk ... but compared with the other candidates, she is definitely the safest bet. She is a Clinton, and for most Democrats/liberals/centrists, the Clinton era is looking better and better every day. She's also turned into a real hawk, part of which is to counteract the possible perception that she would be soft because she's a woman but (I think) mostly because it sells to exactly the group of people that Brooks is talking about and that she is capturing. Hillary is blowing away the competition because she is a known quantity and she makes people feel secure. And when you have people who are shaped by a media that trades on making them afraid, the candidate who makes you feel secure is the one you're going for.
Most people are shaped by mainstream media so most people are going to go with the candidate that makes them feel more secure. People who are more educated and affluent not only have more inclination and time to be reflective ... because of their wealth they are more likely to feel insulated from fear and more likely to want their leaders to take risks. They are more likely to go for the risky candidates -- and are thus more likely to support candidates who just don't appeal to mainstream America.
What could shake this all up is a significant shift in who actually goes to the poll and votes.
Because there is a much larger group. A group of people who don't watch CNN or listen to NPR. They don't read Daily Kos or listen to Rush. Many of them work multiple jobs and many of them have no jobs. What ties them all together is that they will not go to the polls because they are convinced it doesn't matter ... or at least that it's not worth the piece of their overburdened time it would take to be an informed voter.
These people don't go to political rallies or post online. They don't call into Dennis Miller and they don't write letters to the editor of the NY Times. And when they talk to their friends, the only politics they generally talk about is local ... unless it's in broad, largely critical terms.
If there was ever a candidate that could ever rouse this mass of people it would change the face of American politics. The problem is, for any candidate to be financially viable on the national stage they have to be sufficiently removed from the reality of this mass of people to render them unappealing to that group. Who is the last candidate that the lower middle-class and below actually believed cared about them. Bill Clinton had it a little bit, but before then? It hasn't been in my lifetime -- and, the more I think of it, I'm not sure it's ever been. I'd have to learn a lot more about electoral history before I could say.
The funny thing is, might not even know a candidate was doing this until the votes were cast. Because most of the polls were of likely voters, and as Amy Gardner said to Josh Lyman about when a third-party candidate might ever win the presidency "it's going to be the unlikely voters who do it." Josh calls them the people who are "too lazy-ass stupid to even raise their hands." I (using my own broad brush) call them people who have been completely convinced that raising their hands makes no difference whatsoever.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
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it will be irrelevant."