Kinsley States it Plain

Not much to say about last night’s elections. Basically the Republicans just got rewarded for their policy of obstructionism and cynicism. Now they can return to their back rooms and laugh at all the suckers they fooled into voting for them. There are many villains behind this election, but we should probably reserve our strongest contempt for the folks who were just too unmotivated to vote last night. If all of the sensible people had managed to show up at the polls all the corporate money and sleazy television ads in the world would not have saved the Republicans.

At any rate, Michael Kinsley has an excellent column, actually posted a few days ago, that well-summarizes my own thoughts right now:

The theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters and approximately 100 percent of all U.S. politicians, although there is less and less evidence to support it. A recent Yahoo poll (and I resist the obvious joke here) found that 75 percent of Americans believe that the United States is “the greatest country in the world.” Does any other electorate demand such constant reassurance about how wonderful it is — and how wise? Having spent a month to a couple of years and many millions of dollars trying to snooker voters, politicians awaiting poll results Tuesday will declare that they put their faith in “the fundamental wisdom of the American people.”

Not me. Democracy requires me to respect the results of the elections. It doesn’t require me to agree with them or to admire the process by which voters made up their minds. In my view, anyone who voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and now is supporting some tea party madwoman for senator has a bit of explaining to do. But the general view is that the voters, who may be fools individually, are infallibly wise as a collective — that their “anger,” their urgent desire, yet again, for “change,” is self-validating.

Go read the whole thing!

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    November 3, 2010

    Well said!

  2. #2 Tyro
    November 3, 2010

    Apropos of nothing, this final note resonated with me. Tone-trolls pay attention:

    If you think a friend is talking nonsense or behaving in a way that damages both of your long-term interests, it is not elitist to say so. To the contrary, it is treating him or her like an adult and an equal.

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    November 3, 2010

    I also find it mind-boggling that this statement is considered controversial:

    Obama was asked during the 2008 presidential campaign whether he believed in American exceptionalism. He said, “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

    Patriotism is not the exclusive province of Americans. Recall that a certain Frenchman, a M. Chauvin, was so superpatriotic that the word “chauvinism” was invented to describe his attitude. But Newt Gingrich, who as a one-time history professor should know better, attacked this statement as implying that Obama thought the US wasn’t special. On the contrary, he merely said that everyone thinks his country is special. Historically, British exceptionalism almost certainly did happen in the Victorian/Edwardian eras, if my reading of fiction from and nonfiction about that era is representative.

  4. #4 Dan L.
    November 3, 2010

    If all of the sensible people had managed to show up at the polls all the corporate money and sleazy television ads in the world would not have saved the Republicans.

    I’m not rooting for a sports team, I’m voting according to my principles. If you want sensible people to vote, you need to give them sensible choices. I refuse to vote for a Democrat just because his lies are more plausible than the Republican’s.

    Considering how hard Democrats seem to be working to hamstring any sort of true progressive movement in this country, I’m a little surprised to hear you tut tutting those who’ve been disappointed rather than the ones doing the disappointing.

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    November 3, 2010

    Being disappointed doesn’t mean that you stop being practical. You should vote for Democrats because they pursue policies that are far more sensible than what the Republicans want. Simple as that. A lot of those Democrats who went down last night, the ones you so casually decry, did so because they voted in favor of things like the stimulus and health care reform, even though they knew it would hurt them politically. It’s easy for you to sit on the sidelines and kvetch, but you’re not the one who has to face the voters every few years.

    I grant you that being a Democrat means being disappointed much of the time. But allowing thoroughly rotten, corrupt and ignorant people to run the House of Representatives is hardly the cure for disappointment.

  6. #6 abb3w
    November 3, 2010

    “Democracy is where everyone gets the government that the majority deserve.”

  7. #7 eric
    November 4, 2010

    You should vote for Democrats because they pursue policies that are far more sensible than what the Republicans want. Simple as that.

    Jason, I think that’s overly simplistic. It assumes no voter thinks about the impact of (withholding) their vote on future elections. The tea party caused the regular GOP to reprioritize their platform and put the TEA economic baloney ahead of standard GOP social stuff (anti-abortion, etc.). Was that worth losing a few congressional seats the GOP might otherwise have taken? Some of them would probably say yes.

    Liberals can do the same strategic calculation. A liberal unhappy with the current democratic platform can ask whether altering the 2012 (and future) DNP platform is worth losing their district’s congressional seat now. And some (like Dan), are going to reach a “yes” answer.

    Now, this sort of strategy only works if you actually tell the party what you want. A non-vote doesn’t do that unless you accompany it with phone calls, or letters, or getting active in party politics, or putting up a primary challenger to some incumbent democrat. So my own response to Dan is a bit different: make sure you communicate (to your party) what would get your vote when you withhold it, otherwise you’re not accomplishing anything.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    November 4, 2010

    I’ll look forward to all the future progressive victories made possible by that brilliant piece of strategizing. Do you think Obama and co. heard loud and clear that they had better move to the left if they want anyone to vote for them?

    I am all in favor of running primary challengers against conservative Democrats, even though that entails the risk of handing the seat to a Republican (as happened with Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, for example). But when the general election comes and gives you such a stark choice, you go out and vote. It really is that simple.

  9. #9 eric
    November 4, 2010

    Do you think Obama and co. heard loud and clear that they had better move to the left if they want anyone to vote for them?

    Of course they didn’t. What they heard has all the specificity of a baby crying: which is to say, none. But that’s a problem of poor execution on the Dem side.

    I am all in favor of running primary challengers against conservative Democrats

    As am I. But the DNP opposes that (as does the GOP). They are never going to change their stance until and unless you show your support is conditional and not automatic. That goes for pretty much any issue.

    But when the general election comes and gives you such a stark choice, you go out and vote. It really is that simple.

    Politicians will ignore any voter they consider locked in. If you’re going to vote Dem regardless of who they put up, your vote is locked in. Its that simple.

    Lets say you give me a buck to go buy you a Chicago tribune. I go out and get you a WashPo instead, and pocket the difference. You complain. We repeat this every day for weeks; every day you ask for a Tribune, I get you a WashPo, you complain. What do you think is the best strategy for changing my behavior? Are you going to complain louder? Or not hand over the money for a few days?

  10. #10 Bernard Kirzner
    November 4, 2010

    1) Obama did a horrible job of advertising what had been accomplished during his leadership.
    2) Obama turned out to be a man of his words when it came to campaign funding from undisclosed sources. He flatly refused to accept money as the Republicans had…but here too he didn’t announce it, as a stark moral contrast to the Republican wash in private money.
    3) Apparently the Democrats who voted Liberal and didn’t sway to the middle did better than the Blue Dogs who tried to cover themselves by being not too Liberal. They were no match for the Tea Party.
    4) The Democrats had issue after issue in which the Liberal stance was morally and practically superior to the graft and corruption, support the wealthy, the Wall Street, the Health Insurance industries REpublican attitudes and voting…BUT THE DEMOCRATS WERE WIMPS. IF THEY WERE GOING TO GO DOWN AT LEAST GO DOWN FIGHTING. iNDEPENDENTS SAW LITTLE TO VOTE FOR WITH THE DEMOCRATS BUT THERE WEREN’T DEMOCRATS TALKING WITH THE INTENSITY OF A JUST CAUSE…LOUDLY.

  11. #11 Dan L.
    November 4, 2010

    Being disappointed doesn’t mean that you stop being practical. You should vote for Democrats because they pursue policies that are far more sensible than what the Republicans want.

    That’s arguable. I don’t actually think policies pursued by Democrats are particularly sensible. They just don’t scare me quite as much as some of the authoritarians on the other side of the aisle.

    Simple as that. A lot of those Democrats who went down last night, the ones you so casually decry, did so because they voted in favor of things like the stimulus and health care reform, even though they knew it would hurt them politically.

    I’m not sure how much sense it makes to ascribe election results to specific causal models. It doesn’t make much sense to me, certainly. Plus I’m not a supporter of the health care bill, and I don’t think voting to ensure the health of bloated insurance companies is indicative of any sort of virtue. But I do need to give the Democrats credit for passing a politically caustic stimulus bill, which I do think helped to prop up the economy and to prevent myriad human miseries.

    It’s easy for you to sit on the sidelines and kvetch, but you’re not the one who has to face the voters every few years.

    It would be even easier to forget principles entirely and adopt my stepfather’s philosophy of voting a straight republican ticket hoping for more tax cuts. I’d rather stick to my principles and not give anyone a vote he doesn’t deserve.

    I grant you that being a Democrat means being disappointed much of the time. But allowing thoroughly rotten, corrupt and ignorant people to run the House of Representatives is hardly the cure for disappointment.

    Ah, here’s the problem. I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t see how “rotten, corrupt, and ignorant people” excludes Democratic party pols. Again, my political opinions are the result of thinking about how my principles apply to real-world problems. I’m not rooting for a sports team.

    Do you think Obama and co. heard loud and clear that they had better move to the left if they want anyone to vote for them?

    Maybe it’s paranoid, but I get this sneaking suspicion that Democratic party strategy is first and foremost to move towards the right regardless of what the little people are screaming. In fact, judging purely by the “successes” of this administration, it almost seems like the Democratic party is trying to discredit progressive values and policies rather than implement them. Getting out the liberal vote — and this is an opinion based purely on observations of the conduct of Democratic politicians — seems to be completely incidental to what they’re trying to accomplish.

    This is what I meant about Democrats hamstringing any truly progressive movement in this country, by the way. If the perfect can be the enemy of the good, then so can the less bad.

  12. #12 BluesBassist
    November 5, 2010

    Although I don’t often agree with him, I think George F. Will states the reasons for the Dems defeats even more plainly than does Kinsley in this column:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/03/AR2010110303844.html

    Quote from column:

    It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever – ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

  13. #13 Cumberbatch
    November 5, 2010

    Well, I don’t think Kinsley’s column makes much sense. Yes, believing that democracy is the best form of government obviously doesn’t mean personally agreeing with the outcome of every election. But it really does mean believing in the “fundamental wisdom of the people,” at least for the purposes of governing. If Kinsley thinks there’s a better alternative, a “wiser” alternative, for governing than the will of the people, what is it, and why isn’t he advocating that we use it instead?

    And I’ll cheerfully count myself among the 75% of Americans who think the US is the greatest country in the world. That’s not a “conceit.” It’s a reasoned conclusion from values and evidence.

  14. #14 Tyler DiPietro
    November 5, 2010

    American voters are very predictable. Almost as predictable as the Democratic response to those voters.

    The biggest issue in this election according to exit was supposedly the deficit. This concern about the deficit and zeal for cutting spending will erode faster than support for healthcare reform once it becomes clear that middle class entitlement spending is first on the chopping block. These next are going to be fucking hilarious.

  15. #15 Deepak Shetty
    November 8, 2010

    If all of the sensible people had managed to show up at the polls

    Are you trying to state that the sensible people didnt vote? It didnt seem to be the case – just that they were outnumbered.

    To me it looks like the sensible people are not much bothered about politics in general and that we are to blame for not taking up a much more active stance in politics.
    For all that people write against religion , politics is where the final decisions are made.

  16. #16 Dan L.
    November 8, 2010

    And I’ll cheerfully count myself among the 75% of Americans who think the US is the greatest country in the world. That’s not a “conceit.” It’s a reasoned conclusion from values and evidence.

    Highest adult incarceration rate per capita and in the top 5 for capital executions per capita. Do those fall under “values” or “evidence”?

    What if we were less worried about how great our respective patches of dirt are and more worried about how the people living on those patches are doing?

  17. #17 Cumberbatch
    November 9, 2010

    Highest adult incarceration rate per capita and in the top 5 for capital executions per capita. Do those fall under “values” or “evidence”?

    There are thousands of social, political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural, military, etc. indicators that could be compared between nations. I don’t think two criminal justice statistics provide any reasonable basis for judging which country is “the greatest.” Even if you’re just comparing criminal justice systems, you’d need a lot more information than that.

  18. #18 Deepak Shetty
    November 9, 2010

    @Cumberbatch
    Perhaps the term you should be using is “least worse” rather than “greatest”, but even then you’d have to point out which of the thousands of indicators you are using to arrive at your biased conclusion.

  19. #19 Cumberbatch
    November 9, 2010

    Why do you think my conclusion is “biased?” And no, I don’t mean “least worse.”

  20. #20 Deepak Shetty
    November 9, 2010

    @Cumberbatch
    Because you haven’t provided any reasoning to support your premise. Even arriving at the criteria to determine “greatest” is a phenomenally difficult(and subjective) task , then actually measuring against those criteria is next to impossible. it would also need you to be extremely knowledgeable for quite a few contending countries.

  21. #21 Oyunu oyna
    November 10, 2010

    “Democracy is where everyone gets the government that the majority deserve.”

  22. #22 Cumberbatch
    November 10, 2010

    Because you haven’t provided any reasoning to support your premise.

    That makes no sense. The fact that a claim has not been argued in detail does not mean it’s “biased.” I’m not really interested in making a detailed argument. I think it’s pretty obvious that the U.S. is the most powerful and influential country in the world economically, politically, culturally, scientifically and militarily. If you seriously believe any other countries are remotely competitive with the U.S. in any of these categories, please identify them. The U.S. also consistently ranks among the top few countries in the world in comparisons of the welfare of individual citizens and residents — political rights, economic freedom, standard of living, education, and human development measures in general. A few nations sometimes score higher on certain individual measures of wealth, health, development, achievement, etc., but overall, in both per capita and national terms, I think the U.S. has an overwhelmingly strong claim to being the greatest country in the world.

  23. #23 Deepak Shetty
    November 10, 2010

    The fact that a claim has not been argued in detail does not mean it’s “biased.”

    It is when there is no proof anywhere for this claim.

    The U.S. also consistently ranks among the top few countries in the world in comparisons of the welfare of individual citizens and residents — political rights, economic freedom, standard of living, education, and human development measures in general

    But not the topmost and if I remember correctly places like Denmark and Sweden beat the USA quite consistently.

    Perhaps the US is the most powerful(militarily, economically) country. But it takes a pretty twisted definition of greatest to make it synonymous with powerful.

  24. #24 Cumberbatch
    November 10, 2010

    Since the question “Which country is the greatest?” rests in part on subjective values and preferences it doesn’t make sense to ask for “proof.” But even if it were a purely empirical question, your assertion of “bias” still wouldn’t make any sense. An empirical claim is not “biased” simply because it is not accompanied by proof, either.

    The rest of your comments are similarly confused, so I think I’ll just give up at this point. I can’t make sense of your last two sentences at all.

  25. #25 Oyunu oyna
    November 11, 2010

    Why do you think my conclusion is “biased?” And no, I don’t mean “least worse.”

  26. #26 Modusoperandi
    November 11, 2010

    BluesBassist “Although I don’t often agree with him, I think George F. Will states the reasons for the Dems defeats even more plainly than does Kinsley in this column:”
    It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever – ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

    Poppycock!
    * One party is terrible at saying what they’ve done to help and the other is excellent at demagoguing everything the first party does, even if what they say about them isn’t true (and of the two groups only the latter’s statements are repeated. And repeated. And repeated). One party is unwilling to defend what’s right, and the other fights hard when they think they’re right and even harder when they know they aren’t. These have the effect of demoralizing one party’s “base” while keeping the other party’s “base” permanently on the boil.
    * The so-called “liberal media” rarely researches any statement, never calls “bullshit!”, and confuses two arguing heads (even when one is wildly, madly wrong) with neutrality or objectivity. Add in the constant deluge from the Right’s Hate Machine and a disturbing percentage of the populace believe, to some degree, that Obama’s a elitist militant Islamist with extreme socialist values who passed TARP and raised your taxes and he’s a racist atheist Marxist who palls around with terrorists while taking away your guns and he wasn’t born in the USA (and that the Teabaggers are grassroots, and that the GOP really does have ideas, and ACORN and New Black Panthers, and SOCIALISM!!!…and…), and you’ve got a toxic mix where most of the Left is disappointed in what they know, most of the Right knows a lot and all of it is wrong, and most independents don’t know much and most of that is wrong.
    * Most people (full disclosure; including me) don’t know or care about the minutae of congressional procedure (like the fillibuster and the ease of its abuse).
    All this combines to form the majority of why they lost (besides liberal apathy and the fact that the in-power party generally loses seats in the midterms):

    “I’ve been out of work for a year. I’m about to lose my home. If the Democrats control the House, Senate and White House, why aren’t they doing anything?”

    Lastly, very few want actual “limited government”; the real argument revolves around which departments and programs they want to be omnipotent and which they want to be impotent. Two main variants: people who are for a government too weak to regulate corporations but plenty strong enough to police your uterus, and the opposite of that.

  27. #27 Craig Maciolek
    November 11, 2010

    Politics has become the opiate of the masses. I was religion back when religion was the only language of politics. But now everyone spends there time talking about how wrong everyone else is without doing anything different from them. The value of the argument, or the belief, is no longer found in the behaviors that the argument or beliefs represent… the value of the arguments are now, like money and grades, in the illusion of representing something tangible. Just like credit default swaps.

    Have a nice day C:)

  28. #28 david
    November 11, 2010

    Entertaining comments.

    Everybody’s a pundit these days, which makes the times dangerous, as not one of the pundits has read the Health Care Bill, and almost all 99% (about) have not read Roe vs. Wade, and none (almost) have studied Europe between the wars nor the Vichy regime, nor the Dreyfus affair, nor the velodrome roundup, nor the spirit of the times. Why should they, they know enough already. Just look at Fake News, see how it’s done. Numbers estimated above are based on conversations in which persons have talked about matters they know nothing about, and so their opinions are worth nothing, zero, nada, not one cracker in the barrel. But I’m in a backward city, backward county, backward state, backward region, backward country. Get out of there!

    @ all commenters, so far:

    John Godfrey Saxe was one of the most popular American writers ever in his day, a best seller with titles like “Poems of John Godfrey Saxe,’ according to this book I read once. But those of you who know everything, or talk like you do (your comments lack all persuasive basis in facts; you talk as if we should believe it just because it’s you; what channel do you get that from? ah well, you are no patsies of Murdoch, so you say, and you can spot where the mis- and unreasons are, so you say. They can’t fool you, except with a whole forest.) already know that.

    So back to Saxe, his poem, “It was six men of Indostan” would be good to teach to your children, but not to you, who already know it.

    But you are blind, missing the nature of the beast, so suggests Mr. Saxe, and I also.

    The commenter who suggests that politics (I don’t know specifically what he means, but let him have it.) is as vacuous as religion, may be on to something. Every man his own Jesus, every man his own politics. We are there?

    You remember in All Quiet on the Western Front, of course, the guys back home were having conversations very similar to the ones we are having now, similar in that they were not based in knowing reality, which did not stop the talk. No wonder the Nazis banned that book, couldn’t let that type of talk be mocked, especially by someone named Maria.

    Fin.

  29. #29 Craig Maciolek
    November 12, 2010

    Opiate: a) causing dullness or inaction, b) something that induces rest or inaction or quiets uneasiness.

  30. #30 SLC
    November 12, 2010

    In the good old USA, moronic idiots like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh can become millionaires by going on the radio and spouting prurient nonsense to the rubes. Where else can that happen. Is this a great country or what!

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