November 04, 2009

The rise of grudge voting in America

This gets confusing. I'm pretty sure Frank Rich of the New York Times, among others, confidently predicted the death of the Republican Party as recently as three days ago. Rich, in writing a GOP obituary on Sunday, noted confidently,

It’s also why [failure to take into account the changing demographics of the American population] the G.O.P. has been in a nosedive since the inauguration, whatever Obama’s ups and downs. In the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, only 17 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans (as opposed to 30 percent for the Democrats, and 44 for independents).

Then on Tuesday the Republican candidate wins the governor's seat in Virginia by a 60-40 margin, a state which Obama carried a year ago. In New Jersey, a reliably Democratic stronghold, a Republican defeats the incumbent Democrat John Corzine.

It's odd that Rich doesn't see the answer to the riddle in his own quoted stats. It may be that nearly twice as many people identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans; but the two parties together are only slightly larger than the Americans who want nothing to do with either party. If the Democrats can only claim 30% of the electorate, aren't they also in a "nosedive?" I guess Rich's training as a theater critic did not include a course in statistics.

I saw Jesse "The Body" Ventura on TV a couple of days ago, the former rasslin' governor of Minnesota (a state which must have been in a puckish, demoralized state of its own). He suggested that members of Congress should stop wearing business suits and instead copy the style of NASCAR drivers, silvery jackets emblazoned with patches and decals of their corporate sponsors. That way we would know who they were legislating for. There would be Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer all decked out in logo-splashed thermal suits emblazoned with "Goldman Sachs" and "Citigroup," with maybe a corporate motto thrown in: "Too Big to Fail." Senator Max Baucus in a gold satin jacket featuring "Blue Cross" and "Aetna" -"Our Profits Sky When You Die."

That's a very funny idea, Jesse. I wouldn't mind a system where the Congressional "drivers" were directly compensated for their endorsements, either. Let's keep it all above board. But slightly more seriously, let's face it: except for a tiny sliver of Americans actually directly involved in either Democratic or Republican politics (as part of the machinery, in other words), most Americans regard themselves as simply captives of a completely dysfunctional two-party system, and this includes, no doubt, significant fractions of those nominally "affiliated" with the two parties as registered members. The Democrats and Republicans pull votes because they're the only game in town. No serious third (or fourth or fifth) party is on the horizon to challenge their hegemony, and the Mainstream Media, which controls what is in the consciousness of its American subjects, is too invested in these fascinating two-party "horse races" to allow the choices to expand to include, I don't know, candidates and positions that have something to do with the reality of life for actual Americans.

So now you'll see lots and lots of stories from the usual pundits about how these two off-year elections are a "litmus test" for the Obama Administration, how he's let his "progressive base" (huh? who dey?) down, about the failure to enact "comprehensive health care reform with a robust public option," about the continued waste of two useless wars, on and on, signal "danger" for the Democrats in 2010, and the rest of it. Sure, go ahead and write that stuff. That's also part of the two-party paradigm: the analysis of everything in terms of the two parties.

I think it's simpler than that. The great majority of Americans hate everyone in office. They get tired of them, they resent them. They're sick of their lies and corruption. Yet they're trapped, without real choices, condemned to this pointless plebiscite on the rise and fall of whatever party is "in power" and is currently lining their pockets and letting America go to hell.
My hope is that the Republican Party becomes more "mainstream," less infested with wackos like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, or radically dangerous subversives like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, because they're going to get their turn again. American voters derive their one pleasure in voting from throwing out of office the people they've gotten sick of, and currently there are more Democrats to hate than Republicans. So the GOP will be back, we will remember how awful they are too, and then we'll throw them out get the picture.

I still think those logo jackets are a swell idea.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud2:50 PM

    Good article. I don't trust people and government is made up of people. I want it limited. I think term limits across the board might be a step in the right direction, but I guess that won't happen since the power brokers make the rules. I guess the same goes for the NASCAR Jackets.