Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why workers dump Democrats: Part II

The second reason that Democrats are unpopular is that they have no real message or ideology, and hence no unified propaganda. With the Republicans it is easy: they represent the interests of the rich, but they uniformly put on a "populist" face, saying that they are against big government and for the ordinary guy: "Joe Sixpack". That this is a lie is patently obvious to anyone who takes a moment to analyze what they have voted for and against, and who their big contributors are; yet, many people don't spend even ten minutes putting two and two together.

The Democrats, on the other hand, don't even have a uniform ideology or story, whether fact or phony. They trot out programs maybe, but no real principles. For example, Harry Reid in his Nevada campaign, seems incapable of defending the elimination of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, or healthcare reform, in terms of any general principles such as fairness or defense of the middle or working classes. He can't seem to talk about who is to blame for our recession, other than Bush -- as if Bush did what he did for himself and his family alone. While the Republicans and Tea Screamers decry the "socialist" Democrats, the Democrats can't seem to bring themselves to call the Republicans what they are: the Party for The Rich.

The Republicans had their Contract for America (Gingrich) and their new something-or-other. The Democrats have ... nothing. They don't talk about the New Deal anymore, or the Fair Deal, or any kind of Deal.

The Democrats aren't really a party. Although they were outmaneuvered by the Republicans at the time of Nixon and gave up the South (good riddance to the Dixiecrats!), they still have too big a tent, one which includes Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman (who supported George Bush), Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and the Blue Dog caucus in the House. These people are far less likely to take a progressive stance than, say, the two Maine senators are to hew to obstructionist Republican positions. When push comes to shove, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins vote with their party.

Maybe it was the decades of red-baiting, or the loss of the racist Dixiecrats, or the pervasiveness of corporate money, or simply a failure to think about basic issues and discipline. Whatever, the Democrats don't really stand for anything. They simply can't defend their disorganized stances on taxes (when ane why are they good?), healthcare (remember the jettisoning of the popular "Public Option" ?) or the military (did the party every object to a war? Why can't it end DADT?) in terms of any general principles.

Every movement, in order to become a "mass movement", must have some easily described overall belief or ideology; it must also be able to sell that ideology with a decent propaganda machine. For all its supposed connections with Hollywood and with artists, the Dems simply can't mount a good PR campaign. The Republicans have had the best films and ads and one liners. Remember Dukakis and the tank? Remember John Kerry the windsurfer? (Perhaps the most effective and brilliant political video ever.) Remember Sarah Palin saying "How's that Hopey Changey stuff workin' out for ya?"?

Many were excited when Obama was elected president. It has now become clear that although his excellent organization was an important factor, an even more important reason for his success was the total unpopularity of George Bush after 8 years as President. Yet: we still have Don't Ask Don't Tell; we still have Gitmo, we still have Wall Street traders getting rich(er), and we have the Republicans escaping to once again become a ruling party. The Democrats could never point out exactly what and why the PTR (formerly the GOP) did wrong, because the Dems either didn't know or couldn't bring themselves to say it.

A lot of folks are scared (with good reason). A lot of folks didn't and don't pay attention. A lot of folks have very short memories. And: a lot of folks are kind of dumb and don't read and don't think. But that's what we have to work with. The Democrats don't seem to get this and can't seem to work with this. Maybe it's impossible for reasonable, sympathetic and well-meaning people to retain power in this country (or any country). Solutions to complex problems are pretty hard to explain in simple terms, after all. That's why the conservative movement is so successful: it's answer to these problems is Guns, Gays and God -- and Tax Cuts of course. Can't the Dems come up with something?

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