A Consensus of One-Third
A running interest of mine is the way in which individuals pile conclusions upon impressions upon experiences upon predispositions in such a way as to live as if in totally different worlds. Last week’s WRNI Political Roundtable piqued that interest with URI Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley’s heavily couched compliments of President Obama. The following was among the topics that she raised to support the suggestion that he’s doing pretty well, considering:
There’s now an emerging consensus that, to some extent, the stimulus package has worked.
Perhaps she means “emerging” in the way that the high tide is evidence of an “emerging” flood, but from my reading it’s difficult to comprehend how such a statement can be made. Even here in the heart of the Obama blues, only a dramatic minority count themselves among Moakley’s “consensus”:
Three-quarters of Rhode Islanders have a friend or family member who recently lost a job, and only a third believe the $787-billion federal stimulus package is doing much to help the economy, according to a new Brown University poll.
I wonder if other assumptions of Rhode Island’s commentariate are similarly questionable, including even the depth of the state’s progressivism. WRNI Political Analyst Scott MacKay lays the decline of RIGOP at the feet of social conservatives and later insists that:
If Anchor Rising and these right-wing blogs and these folks want to beat up Frank Caprio, that’s only going to help him in the Democrat primary.
He then goes on to highlight the fact that Caprio’s competition for the Democrat nod for governor, Patrick Lynch, was the first out of the gate for Obama during the last campaign season. The thread that MacKay misses, in my opinion, is that a majority of voters — including all “independents” and “unaffiliateds” — don’t view these races through a lens of us versus them partisanship. Similarly, it is not the objective of Anchor Rising to help or to harm a particular candidate, but to make an argument for a particular way of looking at the world and solving its problems.
According to that view, civic and economic conservatism will not function — meaning that human society will not endure — unless the culture does some of the work that liberals would put in the hands of government. This relates to MacKay’s conclusion in one of his radio monologues:
Rhode Island Republicans desperately need leaders to take them out of the tea party echo chamber, discuss the state’s deep economic problems, and give the Democrats some sorely needed competition for assembly seats, but if Republicans keep fighting among themselves, that day will never come.
If conservatives back down, Republicans may, indeed, gain a seat or two, although I’d predict the opposite, but the short-term political calculation is irrelevant. Longstanding pragmatic support for “moderates” will lead just as surely to societal decay as full-on liberalism. The pace and the route may vary by degree, but the result is identical, and the community — starting locally, moving through the state, and ending at the federal level — must be persuaded of that fact.