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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why Spinning Is Often Political Suicide

Political atmospheric effects change quickly, and they shift in proportion to the intensity of the original storm. I was somewhat surprised to read the WaPo's editorial entitled "Louisiana's Looters":
THE NATION is at war. It is mired in debt. It has been hit by floods and hurricanes. In the face of this adversity, congressional leaders have rightly dropped proposals for yet more tax cuts, and some have suggested removing the pork from the recently passed transportation bill. But this spirit of forbearance has not touched the Louisiana congressional delegation. The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. ...
This left me wondering if the press isn't smarting from having been duped on several LA stories. Now that the truth has come out about them they seem to be almost hostile to LA's politicians. Granted, the 250 billion is an excessive request - but we are going to have to spend an awful lot to build up a flood prevention system for whatever will be left of New Orleans. I think the "looter" analogy is a low blow, and indicates genuine anger in the pressroom.

DU was all afire about the anti-war march, and some of them reacted quite strongly to the release of the Rasmussen survey. Over the weekend they had convinced themselves that they now had the majority of the US on their side. They don't seem to understand that people can both be opposed to the war but believe that a sudden withdrawal is not going to be a productive step. Quite a few DU'rs make the distinction in this thread:
OP: Most Americans (54%) believe that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq will make things worse in that troubled nation. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 20% disagree and say that troop withdrawal will make things better. These numbers are identical to the results of our August survey.

41. Was Viet Nam worse after we left? I don't think so.

42. Actually......... Vietnam did get a lot worse after we left. Communist forces completely overran Saigon. It was a bloodbath.

3. It is entirely possible to believe that the US is an occupying force and still believe that withdrawing all US troops will make things worse in Iraq. One only needs to look at other "exercises" in imperialism (think of all the African states that began as colonies) to see that total and abrupt withdrawal is socially, politically, and economically devastating to the oppressed region.
I'm not sure what to do -- I'm not that smart -- but I also believe that total, rapid withdrawal is the wrong thing to do FOR IRAQ. We created this mess; we need to figure out the right way to fix it.

48. 85% say there's a god; so fucking what?
Personally, I think the rabble is right on this one; were we to leave right now, it'd be a nightmare. The repeated point I like to make is that popular opinion is important for elections and the broad sweep of assumption, but it's not fact.
And finally, I think Schroeder may have overreached in Germany. This Spiegel article is harsh:
The results of the German elections eight days ago are clear: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's party got 450,000 fewer votes than the political camp supporting his opponent Angela Merkel. But he's still claiming the chancellery for himself. It's a political circus that threatens to make Chancellor Schröder into the lead clown.
He has staged the first putsch in German post-war history, a putsch against reality. On the evening of the election, he announced that he had no intention of allowing Angela Merkel to take the helm of a possible grand coalition between his own party and the CDU.

At last Tuesday's press conference, they literally glowed with self-proclaimed honesty, purporting to be the loyal servants of the election outcome. The numbers, they said, leave them with no choice but to claim the chancellorship for Schröder. ...

Their audacity brings to mind a phrase coined by artist Josephine Meckseper: "artificial political paradise." Schröder booked a long-term stay in that paradise long ago.
Putsch is a very strong word in Germany. I think Schroeder just outsmarted himself. The article goes on and on. It criticizes Schroeder, his personality, the drive to change the rules and count the CDU and the CSU as two different parties, etc, and stops just short of accusing Schroeder and Muentefering of plotting to seize control of the state. You have to understand German history in the 1930's to comprehend what an intense attack this article comprises. If it is any indicator of German opinion, Schroeder just castrated the SPD and the party will pay a bitter price in the future.

All of this reminded me of a post at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's last week on the perils of too much spin in politics:
Using media and PR to spin disagreements, rather than deal with them, is a recipe for disaster. Americans are smarter than that. They will agree to suspend reality and allow themselves disbelief for $7.50 and two hours of time. They will not accept the relevance of court jesters in their lives once the movie ends.
That is quite similar to a passage in the Spiegel article, by the way.

In his post SC&A referenced a post by Dr. Sanity regarding political hysteria. Both Europe and the US face the same problems, no matter how much we want to ignore that. We have to balance growth against caring for the vulnerable, goodwill internationally against dealing with the rise of some very frightening political ideologies, and our domestic priorities against dealing with global instability. None of these are false issues. They cannot be evaded or explained away, and attempting to rephrase and reform reality will probably not work for either party in the US. It may be hard for politicians to sit down and figure out what can be done to deal with the real issues, but at some point it becomes a much safer strategy. We may have reached that point here in the US.

There is a mood shift across the entire western world. I don't know where this will end, but you can read the news from Sweden and see it, you can read the news from Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Italy .... Everywhere, the old political paradigms are suspect and there is a groundswell of disatisfaction with the "consensus". This is bad news for the Kerry wing of the Democratic party, because their mindset is European. Is there enough of the Democratic party that is neither Marxist or Euro-lite to form a new consensus? I know there is in the Dems of the state parties in the south and middle states, but I am not sure that they are permitted to have much influence nationally.

Because of all this, you will see an incredible fight within the Republican party leading up to 2008. Unfortunately, the Dems have failed to take on the real issues, which has shifted the leading edge of change to the Republican party. Capturing the agenda flag within the Republican party is now the only hope for those who need real change on the ground. Among those people are the bottom economic 30% of the population, who are really suffering from the rise in gas prices and the resulting inflation in food and basic commodities plus the erosion of the job base and wage deflation. Competition from illegal aliens is part of that.

It sounds stranger than strange even to me, but I think the next Supreme Court nomination may represent Bush's chance at taking the political pot for the Republicans. The Americans who were paying attention (many more than you would think) liked what they saw of Roberts. If he can put forward a candidate even close to that caliber, the Democrats will find themselves forced by political forces to mount an attack that will hurt them terribly. If they don't, they will be castigated by the left wing of their own party. But if they do, they will hurt themselves with middle America in a way that will have long term consequences.

The Democratic failure to put forward real, feasible proposals to deal with current issues is paying a bitter fruit. They have left themselves at the mercy of passionate rhetoric and undercut their support in the moderate, unideological portion of the electorate. Now this has turned and is working against them. Any move to the center has political costs with the angry 10 percent, but the more they rely on rhetoric the more they undercut themselves with the rest of the electorate.

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