Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Happens *After* the Election, John?

Let's be honest with ourselves: much of what John McCain's campaign has become is not just about "exciting the base" with the cynical Palin pick, or lying and distorting McCain's, Palin's and Obama's records to win votes. It is about the "culture war", and that in turn has a very large component of something people don't want to talk about: racism.

It seems nobody can even discuss this any more without getting a straw man shoved in their face: "oh, here we go again, saying everyone who votes for McCain is a racist". No, not "everyone" but a lot of people are voting for McCain because of "culture" issues now. That word "culture" encompasses many aspects, and one of them is race.

Look at the dramatic shift in the election because of Palin's selection. Do you really think that this was entirely because people love this phony "soccer mom reformer"? No, it was an opportunity for bunches of far-right-wing racists and rednecks to come out of the woodwork and put voice to their frustrations over issues such immigration, multiculturalism, and the view by right-wing whites that they are "threatened" by those "others".

Obama has been criticized for his 50-state strategy; people say it was a waste of resources, that he should have focused just on the swing states. But winning wasn't the sole reason for that tactic, it was to try to establish some legitimacy among all Americans, to show he cared about more than just winning.

In contrast to most candidates in recent times, McCain has decided not to try to go to the center and appeal to all Americans. For purely self-serving reasons, he has chosen a right-wing radical specifically to polarize the country. He's succeeded, and for this reason alone he has destroyed his reputation and shamed himself beyond redemption.

While reading through the comments on the website, I found these astute observations from a person who goes by the name "Cugel". I'm not sure if this is his or her original writing or if it is copied from elsewhere, but it's worth a read either way:
Why HOW you campaign matters. Why the politics of personal destruction leading to 50% + 1 is futile and self-defeating in the long-run.

Throughout history major empires have faced structural challenges whereby the interest of important elites are opposed to the welfare of the vast majority. Usually this leads to collapse, as it did with Rome.

At the time of the barbarian invasions Rome had over 330,000 men under arms, while it's barbarian enemies had typically around 1/10th as many. But, institutional failure left all those soldiers ineffective and unable to fight.

Economic decline for the vast majority inevitably results in collapse. That's the lesson of history.

Well, here in America we don't have a lot of time to start addressing these problems before it's too late. And whoever wins election will have his hands full.

Thus, alienating close to 1/2 the population by Karl Rove style politics of personal destruction leaves absolutely no reservoir of support when anything goes wrong.

Democrats never felt that George Bush was "their" president except in the afterglow of 9-11. And this election is even MORE divisive and bitter than the last, the problems are bigger, the failure of the American dream more obvious, and the racial politics that are ultimately behind the rejection of Barack Obama even more obvious.

Democratic Congress may well "come together in unity to solve the nation's problems" as McCain will demand in January if he wins, but the legacy of bitterness and division won't fade at all, but will be stronger than ever. One little slip by McCain (and the times almost make certain that he will make mistakes) and he'll be instantly another "unpopular failed President."

This used to be taken for granted in America, that's why most Presidents previous to Bush tried to govern from the middle.

But Republicans today don't care about anything but getting 1 more vote on election day so they can crow at the rest of us "Ha! Ha! Losers!"

This time it's PERSONAL. Destroy John Kerry with personal Swift-boat attacks? He's a rich white man, it's not really that personal. Destroy Barack Obama with lies and code-word racist attacks ("he's not one of us")?

Different story.

You're telling 26% or so of America that "you're not one of us" which means no matter how smart or skillful or accomplished you are, you can't succeed. Because too many White Americans won't accept you no matter what.

Kicking minorities aside is a long-standing practice in America, but as Blacks/Asians/Hispanics/Other become the MAJORITY, that's suicide for the Republican party.

And nobody is going to forget this election. Not for a generation. This is exactly the flip side in what the civil rights movement did in turning white America Republican back in 1966-68.

White backlash led to the Reagan coalition. It would have happened 6 years earlier, but for Watergate.

Of course that raises the obvious question: is McCain even bothering to think that far ahead? And does he even care?


soozzie said...

This is the whole religious/small values thing. These folks are taught that they are special, that God has blessed them as their reward for being special. By definition, then, anyone who does not share their values -- anyone who is different -- is not rewarded by God, and anyone who has not been rewarded is therefore not one of them. If you are downtrodden in any way you are just showing that you have not been rewarded, so God has deemed you less than they. Probably loved you less. So poverty, social issues, immigration -- it's all a religious value judgment made by God to be acted out by them. So not only do they not care, they actively believe that we others are all frowned on by God. So if we don't act and believe as they do, we show that God does not care about us, and neither should they. Their "world view" to borrow a phrase, means that none of the others of us count with God. No wonder they don't really care about the human toll of poverty or abortion or the environment -- only they are special. And no wonder they constantly try to control behavior -- it offends God and their chances of continuing to be chosen. THAT'S why this is all so scary. To me anyway.

Charles M. Kozierok said...

Can't disagree with much of what you said, but I do want to point out... most people in small towns really are good folks. And there's nothing wrong with being proud of who you are.

The problem is the way McCain is making the election entirely "us v them" to try to win votes.

Thanks for the comment.

Vicki Cana said...

Who has taught them that 'God has blessed them as their reward for being special?' - Not the Bible? My understanding of the Bible tells me that ALL are sinners and need GOd's grace, and that I should love my neighbour as I love myself. It has been a real eye opener to me(in a negative way) to see how some of the members of the 'religious right'[I hesitate to use the word 'christian'] have been expressing themselves on the blogs.

Sean said...

Vicki it's correct the God of the Bible does not advocate for such narrow minded, hypocritical, spiteful views...but to keep social dominance humans will twist the message of God as they see fit. Conservative "values" are not important because people actually want to obey them at all times (although some might) but they provide a worldview and hierarchical structure that allows them to stay on top, and gives them justification to suppress and disenfranchise possible opposing viewpoints, religions, cultures, and even entire racial groups that don't fit this world view. Thus maintaining social dominance and reinforcing their entitlement mentality.

The current culture war reflected in this election shows two sides the Conservatives, who wish to maintain social(and therefore cultural and economic) dominance, therefore avoiding having to compete for resources and the Liberal/Progressives who are encompassed by all those who have values, and/or physical traits that don't fit with the conservative worldview.

Charles, McCain is an old man clinging to what America used to be. And like many on the right he is disillusioned into thinking you can suspend time, and progress...forever.

ljs22 said...

This is an excellent post, and one that I wish I could get my small town relatives to read with an open mind. The world is changing, I want to say to them. Get with the program or get out of the way. We are running out of time. I agree, Charles, that small down folks are not "bad," but they sure are afraid. And McCain's campaign is doing everything it can to play upon that fear with bs about how things can be how they were (in some white man's dream Main St. USA, I guess).

I was thinking today about my own stepfather's rather vague racism and how to call him out on it. But how do I? He never even sees black people in his small Wisconsin town and the discomfort he feels at the idea of a black president comes not from some inherent evil in his heart, but from ignorance and an unwillingness to peak his head out from under a comfortable cushion of Packers games and the rhetoric of politicians like McCain and Palin who are only to willing to tell him what he wants to hear: pick us and nothing has to change, ever.