Ordinary people

The media, the intellectual establishment of both the left and the right, and other members of our ruling class are just pouring contempt on figures like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.  They are portrayed as dangerous, extreme, and just plain weird.  The criticisms, though, don’t get much traction with the public  because these women are so much like the rest of the public.

A review of a new book about Sarah Palin concludes at just how normal she is:

Her beliefs make her what we once called normal, at least in flyover country. There are moms like her, and moms who strive to be like her without ever thinking of it that way and who might even scoff at the idea, on every street and in every neighborhood in America. They run our offices and schools, they run the local diners and band booster drives, and they get the family from Point A to Point B with military precision. Or they try their best to do all that, while trying to work out what they really believe about everything at the same time. Palin managed to do it, even to the point of running a state while going on oceanic fishing excursions with her husband while her political opponents buried her in expensive, frivolous accusations designed to drive her from office. She sent a son off to war. She’s dealt with a pregnant daughter, a worthless almost son-in-law, and a child with special needs. She’s us, pretty much, except that she also happens to have been nominated for the vice presidency and now commands a national following while also attracting a ferocious national opposition that includes most of the mainstream press.  Her faith and her values have carried her through all the very high highs and the very low lows that life has thrown at her. The rest of us could only hope that we would handle the extremes of being Sarah Palin with half her grace.

The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America shows that Mrs. Palin is very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get: an authentically and uniquely American woman whose very ordinary beliefs have propelled her to do remarkable things.

via Pajamas Media » The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America (Book Review).

As for Christine O’Donnell, she is being mocked for agreeing with the teachings about sex of her Roman Catholic Church, along with a big percentage of Americans and the world.  She is also unemployed, like 10% of Americans, and her house has been foreclosed.  It’s odd to hear Liberals mock her for those two things.

The Democratic party was strong when it was “the party of the people.”  The Left was strong when it  was a populist movement.  Think of the collectivism of the union movement, “Solidarity Forever,” “Power to the People.”  Today, leftists have become elitists and the Democrats are the party of the “professional class,” people who think they are experts.  They are so out of touch with ordinary Americans that they think they are scoring points when they make fun of much of the American populace whose votes they would like to have.

Now, astonishingly, the populists have become Republicans, much to the disdain of that party’s old guard, with its wealth and country club status.  This is why the Democrats are doomed.  The left will only revive if it can become a populist force like it used to be.

UPDATE: So far, just about everybody who has commented has missed the point of my post: That populists used to be Democrats, and that now they are Republicans. In the olden days, when I was young and a Democrat, the politicians of the party were full of rhetoric about democracy, equality, “the people,” the common man, etc. Republicans were more suspicious of the mob, wanting exceptional individuals rather than the common denominator. Now the rhetoric seems reversed.

I did not mean this to be an endorsement of Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell, or even Republicans. Rather, I am trying to give Democrats some advice that, if they want to win elections, they need to rediscover their populist roots, rather than following the strategy of making fun of ordinary Americans.

As for me, I tend to be like the old Republicans, looking for merit, and, again, vocation. I’m uneasy about some of the people I am seeing coming to the fore in the Republican party.

The Tea Party insurgency

Peggy Noonan, no fan of Sarah Palin,  nevertheless sees something happening here with the Tea Parties:

The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.

Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party’s innovative, broad-based network: “In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists,” there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals “move the movement.” Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. “In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale.”

Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: “The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history.” “It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties.” “Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement.”

So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is “the reason we even have the Tea Party movement,” shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that “ran up deficits” and gave us “open borders” and “Medicare Part D and busted budgets.”

Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They’re “angry.” They’re “antiestablishment,” “populist,” “anti-elite.” All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, “They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed.”

via Peggy Noonan: Why It’s Time for the Tea Party – WSJ.com.

From the Left, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg sees the Tea Partiers as doing what the New Left tried to do.  From The Right’s New Left :

What’s new and most distinctive about the Tea Party is its streak of anarchism—its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent style of self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns. In this sense, you might think of the Tea Party as the Right’s version of the 1960s New Left. It’s an unorganized and unorganizable community of people coming together to assert their individualism and subvert the established order.

Will Republicans blow their big chance?

Tea partiers scored big in this week’s primary elections, defeating long-established Republican politicians with newcomers whose zeal exceeds their experience.  Now Democrats, just as they were getting resigned to a rout in November, are thinking that maybe they will do OK, that the Republican Tea Party candidates will be too extreme, too scary, or too unqualified to attract the larger public, who will instead be prudent and elect the Democrat.  See As the Tea Party Rises, Democrats See an Opening – WSJ.com.

What do you think of this analysis?

Loving austerity

You’ve got to hand it to the Brits, as Anne Applebaum explains:

“Vicious cuts.” “Savage cuts.” “Swingeing cuts.” The language that the British use to describe their new government’s spending reduction policy is apocalyptic in the extreme. The ministers in charge of the country’s finances are known as “axe-wielders” who will be “hacking” away at the national budget. Articles about the nation’s finances are filled with talk of blood, knives and amputation.

And the British love it. Not only is “austerity” being touted as the solution to Britain’s economic woes, it is also being described as the answer to the country’s moral failings. On Oct. 20, the government will announce $128 billion worth of spending cuts, and many seem positively excited about it. . . For these voters, the very idea of instant gratification is anathema, in theory if not in practice. And they elected this government because they’ve convinced themselves that they’ve had enough of it.

Austerity, by contrast, has a deep appeal. Austerity is what made Britain great. Austerity is what won the war. It cannot be an accident that several British television channels are running programs this year with titles such as “Spirit of 1940,” all dedicated to the 70th anniversary of that “remarkable year” of rationing, air raid sirens and hardship. One series, “Ration Book Britain” is even devoted to that era’s parsimonious cooking. “With bacon, eggs and sugar rationed, wartime cooks had to be jolly resourceful,” explains an advertisement for the show. Its host promises to “re-create the recipes that kept the country fighting fit.”

Sometimes the depth of the Anglo-American cultural divide reveals itself in unexpected ways, and this is one of those moments: No cooking show featuring corned beef hash and powdered eggs would stand a chance in the United States. Perhaps for similar reasons, nobody is talking about “austerity” in the United States either. On the contrary, Republicans are still gunning for tax cuts, and Democrats are still advocating higher spending. Almost nobody — not Paul Krugman, not Newt Gingrich — talks enthusiastically about budget cuts. Instead, our politicians use euphemisms about “eliminating waste” or “making government more efficient,” as if no one had ever thought of doing that before.

Despite the deep shock the United States supposedly experienced during the banking crisis of 2008 and the resulting recession, we are, in other words, still far from Clegg’s “long-termism.” Hardly anyone in America is talking about cuts in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, for example, the biggest budgetary items (even though “private” pensions now look a lot safer, even when taking stock market fluctuations into account, than those who will depend entirely on a bankrupt federal budget 20 years hence). In Britain, by contrast, everything is on the table: pensions, housing benefits, disability payments, tax breaks.

Politics explain some of this difference, but I reckon history explains more of it. The last period of real national hardship Americans might remember is the 1930s, too long ago for almost everyone alive today. But rationing in Britain lasted well into the 1950s, long enough to color the childhoods of many politicians now in power. Nostalgic Brits, longing to re-create their country’s finest hour, remember postwar scrimping and saving. Nostalgic Americans in search of their own country’s finest hour remember postwar abundance, the long consumer boom — and, yes, a time when even instant gratification wasn’t fast enough.

via Anne Applebaum – For the U.S., Britain’s austerity is a foreign concept.

The conventional wisdom is that politicians dare not ask Americans to make sacrifices of any kind.  Do you think Americans could come to love austerity?

The charge of Republican racism

Gerard Alexander disputes a narrative that we keep hearing:

The narrative usually begins with Barry Goldwater opposing provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and with Richard Nixon scheming to win the presidency through a “Southern strategy” — appealing to the racial prejudice of working-class whites in the South to pry them away from the Democratic coalition assembled by Franklin Roosevelt. In this telling, bigoted Southerners were the electoral mountain to which the Republican Moses had to come, the key to the GOP winning the White House. Wooing them entailed much more than shifting the party slightly away from Democrats on racial issues; in return for political power, Republicans had to move their politics and policies to where bigots wanted them to be. This alliance supposedly laid the foundation for a new American politics. . . .

First, Republicans did not decisively depend on white Southerners to create their modern presidential majorities when the race issue was at its most polarizing. The conventional wisdom is that the GOP had little choice in the 1960s but to seek out Southern white voters and tacked hard to the right on civil rights to do it. But Republican presidential candidates pried apart the New Deal coalition in the 1950s, with the performance of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Nixon in 1960. This chronology has big implications. From 1952 through the 1980s, GOP presidential candidates consistently beat or nearly matched their Democratic opponents, with the clear exceptions only of 1964 and 1976. Republicans did this mostly by crafting majority coalitions in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states, in the industrial Midwest and mid-Atlantic, and ultimately in California — and only partially by realigning several Southern states. Moreover, these were the least “Southern” states, such as Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

This means that the GOP presidential majority and much of the party’s modern policy agenda were forged not in the racial heat of the 1960s South, but first in the 1950s and across the country. . . .

The remainder of the region — the race-obsessed Deep South — repeatedly tried to be a presidential kingmaker in the 1960s but failed. Instead of reforming the GOP in its image, the Deep South’s white electorate was among the last to join an already-winning Republican presidential coalition in the early 1970s. Wallace voters ended up supporting Nixon, Reagan and other Republicans, but much more on the national GOP’s terms than their own. The Republican Party proved to be the mountain to which the Deep South had to come, not the other way around. . . .

This explains why the second assumption is also wrong. Nixon made more symbolic than substantive accommodations to white Southerners. He enforced the Civil Rights Act and extended the Voting Rights Act. On school desegregation, he had to be prodded by the courts in some ways but went further than them in others: He supervised a desegregation of Deep South schools that had eluded his predecessors and then denied tax-exempt status to many private “desegregation academies” to which white Southerners tried to flee. Nixon also institutionalized affirmative action and set-asides for minorities in federal contracting.

Not surprisingly, white Southern leaders such as Strom Thurmond grew bitterly frustrated with Nixon. This explains what Gallup polls detected in 1971-72: A large number of white Southern voters preferred Wallace to Nixon. Only when the Alabaman was shot in May 1972 did Nixon inherit Wallace’s voters — not because of Nixon’s policies on race but despite them.

via Conservatism does not equal racism. So why do many liberals assume it does?.

Like cats and dogs

Columnist Dana Milibank riffs on an analogy:

President Obama complained this week that his opponents “talk about me like a dog.”

No! Bad Republicans! Drop it! Now sit, stay — and listen: The president is not a dog, and it is insulting to talk about him as such. The president is a cat.

Dogs travel in packs and are easily led. They communicate by snarling, growling and snapping. They tend to bark and howl all at once. They are disciplined and obey their masters. Left unsupervised for long periods, they will destroy the house. They are, in other words, Republicans.

Cats, by contrast, are solitary, finicky and independent. They refuse to be herded and they hide under furniture when feeling threatened. They are not easily trained and rarely come when called. They are furtive and skittish. They are, in other words, Democrats.

via Democats, on the run from Republicanines.

Can you think of other analogies to make sense of our current political terrain?


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