Issues

Friday, October 20, 2006
Loner made a very decent point concerning the banality of focusing on the horserace aspect of the current election. If one dreams of elections determined by observation of reasoned debate between candidates articulating carefully considered positions then one has to look at the current election campaign with horror.

The Republicans are starting a new ad campaign today that will clarify that the sole issue in this election campaign is power - who shall have control. They're going to focus on names sure to cause ill ease among Republicans with a bit of political awareness. What Republican doesn't feel nauseated contemplating a Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid or Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Conyers or Chairman of Ways and Means Rangel? This is the stuff of nightmares.

It is the stuff of nightmares, though, because each of those politicians has articulated positions concerning the issues of importance before the nation. They may hedge and stammer and elide but there is no question that they will seek to diminish anti-terrorism efforts while increasing patronage jobs for cargo inspectors at ports - they've promised to do so. Not to go to the shipping point and hunt down those who would fill a container with danger but to wait until danger is in the port and deal with it (or not) there. They have also promised to reverse tax cuts for the productive and to increase spending on the non-productive. That's not new - or news. They have proposed nothing else since at least 1964.

The other issue of interest upon which we may have an absolute degree of certainty regarding the Democratic approach is education, where the Democratic approach will not change from that of the past. Reward the teacher's unions with additional money for "smaller classes" where the horrors of discrimination will be opposed by failing to teach the techniques which allow students to discriminate between right and wrong and where loving tolerance will be taught - to the point where toleration of subjugation becomes generally acceptable.

The horserace aspect of following elections is truly banal - as are both parties. Granting the privilege of suffrage universally (or enshrining the privilege as a right) guarantees banality. How could it be otherwise? Issues must be reduced to cartoons in order to be understood by those whose intelligence does not quite make it to the mean, they are after all, almost the majority - as they have always been.

So, who's ahead today?

5 comments:

Bo Steed said...

Mr. Ballard: I have read your essays for some time, and find them to be almost always enlightening. Keep up the good work.

You understand that your point about banality rings especially true about the blogosphere as well, do you not?

Rick Ballard said...

Of course I do. I've done far more than my fair share to ensure that banality remains central to discourse on the blogosphere. Reality decrees that the vast majority of our time will be spent in dealing with the banal and the blogosphere does a fair job of reflecting reality (aside from eliminating the truly incoherent from joining the discussion).

Do you think it possible that the blogoshere might shift away from banality? Could you offer a conceptual strategy or propose a tactic for doing so?

I would be happy to try something a bit different.

truepeers said...

Well, there's dumbing down and then there's dumbing down. When one of the dominant ideologies in the land is that truth is power, or vice versa, what can you expect but a gangster dynamic over the spoils? But since many people do not vote, the average voter is presumably somewhere above the mean, and so shouldn't the average voter know something more than all that matters is power - I mean why are they going unarmed to the ballot box anyway? IN other words, the sick nihilism that peravdes the land should not be explained as the same old same old, or we miss the truly scary threat specific to our times.

But as for banality, I think it is by and large a good thing. It is a sign of stability and agreement on the fundamentals (and so I wonder if you really have it at the moment). Fighting over profound matters of life and death significance may be less boring but it is not obviously more desirable.

loner said...

Fighting over profound matters of life and death significance may be less boring but it is not obviously more desirable.

You think?

In times of peace and prosperity cities and individuals alike follow higher standards, because they are not forced into a situation where they have to do what they do not want to do. But war is a stern teacher; in depriving them of the power of easily satisfying their daily wants, it brings most people's minds down to the level of their actual circumstances.

So revolutions broke out in city after city, and in places where the revolutions occurred late the knowledge of what had happened previously in other places caused still new extravagances of revolutionary zeal, expressed by an elaboration in the methods of seizing power and by unheard-of atrocities in revenge. To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect. To plot successfully was a sign of intelligence, but it was still cleverer to see that a plot was hatching. If one attempted to provide against doing either, one was disrupting the unity of the party and acting out of fear of the opposition. In short, it was equally praiseworthy to get one's blow in first against someone who was going to do wrong, and to denounce someone who had no intention of doing any wrong at all. Family relations were a weaker tie than party membership, since party members were more ready to go to any extreme for any reason whatever. These parties were not formed to enjoy the benefits of the established laws, but to acquire power by overthrowing the existing regime; and the members of these parties felt confidence in each other not because of any fellowship in a religious communion, but because they were partners in crime. If an opponent made a reasonable speech, the party in power, so far from giving it a generous reception, took every precaution to see that it had no practical effect.


—Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

rick—

A discussion on universal suffrage between ourselves would, I think, closely mirror our discussion of Griswold v. Connecticut. Another time, perhaps.

We're keenly interested in the dynamics of political campaigns even when we're trying not to be. That this is not "normal" is not debatable. Whether it's "unhealthy" is. Also, perhaps, another time.

Best.

Blogger is killing me—metaphorically.

terrye said...

loner:

Maybe I am stupid but I have absolutely no idea why yhou posted that.