When Every Faction’s a Swing Group
I’m not sure what to make of this, from David Brooks…
It was interesting to watch the Republican Party lose touch with America. You had a party led by conservative Southerners who neither understood nor sympathized with moderates or representatives from swing districts.
They brought in pollsters to their party conferences to persuade their members that the country was fervently behind them. They were supported by their interest groups and cheered on by their activists and the partisan press. They spent federal money in an effort to buy support but ended up disgusting the country instead.
… in light of this:
For all the attention generated by Barack Obama’s candidacy, the share of eligible voters who actually cast ballots in November declined for the first time in a dozen years. The reason: Older whites with little interest in backing either Barack Obama or John McCain stayed home.
Census figures released Monday show about 63.6 percent of all U.S. citizens ages 18 and older, or 131.1 million people, voted last November. Although that represented an increase of 5 million voters — virtually all of them minorities — the turnout relative to the population of eligible voters was a decrease from 63.8 percent in 2004.
That doesn’t strike me as a result easily interpreted according to the “disaffected moderates” storyline. A “moderate” could have found justification for voting for either candidate — with McCain, based on knowledge of his record, and with Obama, based on ignorance of his — but staying home? I suppose a disgust factor came into play, and probably some racism, in pockets. Still, I think the landscape is much more chaotic than pundits with such theories as Brooks’s allow.
The political landscape is currently like one of those made-for-gym-class sports that throws all of the equipment on the ground and puts a dozen teams on the field. Anybody who can snag the most visible ball is grabbing it and running toward a preferred goal, and even players who helped him or her get it have reason to consider tackling. Back to Brooks:
Nancy Pelosi has lower approval ratings than Dick Cheney and far lower approval ratings than Sarah Palin. And yet Democrats have allowed her policy values to carry the day — this in an era in which independents dominate the electoral landscape.
For whatever reason, players think Pelosi & Co. hold the advantage, but it’s an illusion. She’ll trip, and somebody else will have a go, and this will continue unless (until?) we manage to reassert the civic structures around which the nation was built. By that, I mean to suggest that this is a consequence of Big Government. In all of the various games that make up a society — each with its own emphases and dominant contenders — this single one has become too controlling.
The reason to spread out the power of a society into distinct arenas of pursuit is that it allows consensus to form on matters in their appropriate spheres and for conflicts between the spheres to work themselves based on broad cultural movements.