Tuesday November 09, 2010
Hertzberg on the Midterms
Hendrik Hertzberg's column in the latest New Yorker, about the midterms, is a must-read.
He alludes to why the Republicans should be angry with, rather than beholden to, the Tea Party:
The Democrats retained their Senate majority, now much reduced, only by the grace of the Tea Party, which, in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada, saddled Republicans with nominees so weighted with extremism and general bizarreness that they sank beneath the wave so many others rode.
In 2008, when 130 million people cast votes in the Presidential election, 120 million took the trouble to vote for a representative in Congress. In 2010, 75 million did so—45 million fewer, a huge drop-off. The members of this year’s truncated electorate were also whiter, markedly older, and more habitually Republican: if the franchise had been limited to them two years ago, last week’s exit polls suggest, John McCain would be President today.
He comes up with a better metaphor (big surprise) than the Dems' “they drove it in the ditch/we‘re pushing it out”:
By the time the flames [from the economic firestorm] reached their height, the arsonists had slunk off, and only the firemen were left for people to take out their ire on.
Best, there’s this graf, on the “cognitive dissonance” of the election—or, in layman's terms, the reason why it was so fucking annoying:
Frightened by joblessness, “the American people” rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits. Alarmed by a ballooning national debt, they rewarded the party that not only transformed budget surpluses into budget deficits but also proposes to inflate the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the least needy two per cent. Frustrated by what they see as inaction, they rewarded the party that not only fought every effort to mitigate the crisis but also forced the watering down of whatever it couldn’t block.
But the scariest graf is the penultimate graf, on the problems the Dems had this election: proving a negative (things woulda been worse without the stimulus), delayed gratification (the health-care bill doesn't fully enact until 2014), good-for-the-goose, not-for-the-gander logic (citizens tighten belts while government goes on a spree). Then he gets into what he calls “public ignorance”:
An illuminating Bloomberg poll, taken the week before the election, found that some two-thirds of likely voters believed that, under Obama and the Democrats, middle-class taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program are gone, never to be recovered. One might add to that list the public’s apparent conviction that illegal immigration is skyrocketing and that the health-care law will drive the deficit higher. Reality tells a different story.
He goes on to show that each of these things is not true, and, in the final graf, blames the Dems for not beating their chests enough. I agree, but also fault Hertzberg (and everyone) for not stating what this “public ignorance” truly is: the triumph of FOX-News, the Koch brothers, and a propaganda machine that went into 24/7 mode as soon as Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, telling us it was time to “get to work.” The propagandists listened. They cared not a lick for the act of governing; they weren't interested in sorting through proposals to see which were the best means of extracting us from the mess we were in; they were only interested in confusing the issues and demonizing opponents—often by accusing those opponents of the very things that the propagandists themselves were guilty of.
We need to call this what it is: propaganda. You don't need totalitarian control of the government, or the media, to effectively propagandize. You just need money, and a forum, and a message that appeals to our worst instincts.
The American people have been effectively propagandized. It can happen here. It has.