03 November 2010

political musing

Something that strikes me as strange about both parties, and really all sides of the political arena, is this tendency to conceive of one's enemies as being navigated and orchestrated by shadowy and nefarious forces in the background. It was apparently impossible for far-left progressives to believe that Tea Party types existed and had internal and personal motivations, however ridiculous, irrational or out-of-step those might have been, they were internal and individual. They were not founded and funded and bought by shadowy corporate monies. Indeed, those shadowy corporate monies probably broke relatively even, at least considering who won and where and rarely have much influence to begin with. And the open corporate monies, represented by someone like Meg Whitman, lost. The same of course holds true for critics of progressives, believing its all an evil union plot or socialist or communist plot orchestrated by the Soviet Union in the old days, or something of the like.

It's apparently impossible for people of distinctly different political strains to believe really that their opponents can hold their views out of some deeply held ideological constraints. However misguided those beliefs are, they must be representative of a nefarious plot to take down America by corporate masters or communist oppressors or whatever. It makes for amusing rally cries and chants and makes elections seem like important decisions between two radically different choices, when they very rarely in fact represent significant choices that can be enacted into our legal shifts in the zeitgeist. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy describes a democratic planet ruled by lizards who hate the people, and the people who hate the lizards but when confronted on why people vote, it's naturally because if you don't the wrong lizard might win. It usually doesn't make any difference that the political class has a disdain for us and we for them, we pick our teams and go to war for them at election time and convince ourselves that we are really deciding more important matters or that much larger forces are at work than voting machines to make our quest feel noble and heroic.

What's more amusing still is how rarely those distinct divisions actually matter. Very few real progressives or far-right conservatives serve in high public offices. Even with the Republican party's swing farther to the right, there are still only 6 or 7 Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn types instead of 3 or 4 in the Senate. Several of them lost, quite badly in some cases. And probably only 20-25 such people in the House (and this includes Ron Paul, who's almost reasonable on some issues). It's a vocal and significant minority that will stir up some craziness now and then, but it's little different than counting up all the Kucinich/Pete Stark/Bernie Sanders types on the liberal aisle. The vast majority of political candidates are quite safely in a moderate position along the usual American political spectrum (that is, roughly center-right or center-left, depending on what part of the country you're in). To be sure there's evolution deniers and global warming science deniers and people who claim to have seen aliens. It makes for fun at mocking it all, especially when some unpolished rubes are running like Paladino or O'Donnell or Angle or Alvin Greene.

But it doesn't paint much of a picture of the dreary realities of our political choices.
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