Friday, October 22, 2010Politics is about enemies. It's not pleasant to say it, but it's a reality. I'm not speaking about exploiting deep-seated racial, gender, and homophobic elements in society. It's really quite a bit more general than that. The only way one can get someone to the polls is to give them a stake in the election. Now sometimes this can be an affirmational vote, such as the vote of a lot of young people about Obama in 2008. But more often one needs more than this, if for no other reason than voting entails costs and there's not some perception of risk from not voting - as in you're screwed if the other side wins - then a lot of people are going to stay home. Especially when times are the bad, you need to pin the blame on somebody. If you don't, your opponents are going to pin the blame on you.
Which is where we are with the long-standing village obsession with bipartisanship. If partisanship is the problem, then nobody is really at fault - it's just 2 kids squabbling over crap in the schoolyard. It's nice for the media and the D.C. elite to hold partisanship responsible for the country's problems, or the voters, because it means that they don't have to look at themselves in the mirror, because it assigns responsibility nowhere. The voters aren't going to buy it, of course. They never have. So Obama's focus on bipartisanship has enabled Republicans to define a whole bunch of other enemies in American society - liberals, "socialists", immigrants, muslims, etc. - in part because Obama refused to assign the blame where it really belonged: conservative Republicans. He could have used their obstruction to fix them in the public mind as the defenders of the status quo. But he didn't, and here we are.
The dispirited Democrats are without a clear agenda to run on, which leaves us with only one message heading into the general election: that the Republicans are a bunch of psychos. Now this has the virtue of being true, but it would easier to make the case if Obama and his friends has been laying the groundwork for the last 2 years. Thankfully so many Republicans running for office are so looney the job is still doable, but a dose of political reality from the White House in January 2009 sure would have been nice.