Sunday, May 31, 2009

Human Nature, vol. 189

by Rich Miles

Today, Sunday May 31, my friend Yellow Dog over at Blue in the Bluegrass got his teeth into this week's Frank Rich column ahead of me (he gets up earlier than I do most days). I was in the process of writing a comment to his take on Rich's column when I realized I had a bit more to say about it than that. So here I am, over here on my side of the 'Net, and here's what I have to say. Frank Rich is to be found at Who is to Blame for the Next Attack?, Yellow Dog is at Blue in the Bluegrass, and my take on all of that is...ummm...right here.

Ya know, though I agree with the main thrust of your argument in this piece, I want to point out a truism that, I think, relates to it:

A crowd is a dicey critter. You never know what it's going to do, what's going to appease it, what's going to set it off.

And when you have a crowd of 300 million, you have a whole new set of imperatives to deal with when addressing that beast.

This concept is, in my opinion, the genius of the Obama approach so far: Obama knows this, and is so far handling the crowd pretty well. Or so I think.

(I think I'm going to pop over to my blog and discuss this topic a bit further. See you at )

OK, now, as I was saying:

It's my opinion, based on observation of Preznit Obama in action and in speeches, that he knows that, when addressing the self-same issues, you say different things to a crowd of 100 than you do to the nation at large on national TV. You don't say things that diametrically oppose each other, so that you end up lying to one or the other or both groups. But you do temper your message to the size of the group.

F'rinstance: let's say it's 1942, you're president, and you tell the nation, on a national radio hookup, that "the only thing we need to fear is fear itself."

And then you go speak to the combined houses of Congress, and you say much the same thing, except that you alter the words slightly to make it clear that you know you're addressing a room full of more or less adults. Some of whom actually know what the Japanese and Germans are capable of, and apparently bent on.

And then you speak to the leadership of both houses - the smallest crowd so far - and you tell them what's REALLY up - all that stuff about how the Germans and Japanese are determined to kick our asses and eventually rule the world. And that we have to go to war with them to prevent this.

See how it works? Nothing really dishonest in any of the three levels of discourse. It's just that the larger the group, the less detail one offers.

And Obama knows this. Whereas Bush simply bullshitted us all, no matter what level he was speaking to. And even the most obdurately stupid and oblivious of us - well, not THE most etc., those are the hardcore Republicans - but nearly the most, started after a time to notice that Bush was talking down to them, and trying to scare them into line. And the one thing you must NEVER do with stupid people is let them KNOW you're talking down to them. So he, and his fellow repugnicans, fell out of favor in large part. And the opposition filled the vacuum. Which brings us up to November of 2008, and thence to today.

To wrap up this little exercise in human nature, let me relate something that Mitt Romney had to say on Chris Wallace's Sunday morning program today, the name of which program escapes me because usually I'd rather have my nipples ripped off than watch such a program: Ol' Mitt said, and I paraphrase since I can't remember the precise words, that when a political party has reached too high a level of power, and has been in power too long, they start to "think too highly of themselves", and they start to take things for granted, and to - in essence - screw up on a regular basis. And that, he thought, was what had happened to the Republicans in recent years.

This little piece of unintentional honesty - for I am convinced that Mitt had no idea how honest he was being - is an object lesson for the repugs, but more than that, it is a warning to the Dems. If only they will heed it. That's why we've heard so much in recent years about the political power cycle - First repugs have power, then Dems, then repugs, and etc. etc. etc. But is there any way to stop the swing of the cycle? If anyone (or any party) ever discovers it, we will have 200-year political power cycles, instead of about 20 or so as we do now.

That's all for today. Except this one final thought: political parties will never take real power until they learn to serve the needs of the people. Thoroughly, and consistently, conscientiously and well. When they stop treating us like obstacles to be gotten around on their ways to power and wealth, and start realizing that, if they treat us well and serve us well, the power and wealth will come, THEN and only then will we have leaders who follow us. The people.

Boy, that went on far longer than I thought it would. Comments?


Jack Jodell said...

Rich, I think you're really onto something here, especially regarding the power cycloes. We have apparently been brainwashed into thinking, and corporate America (our REAL enemy) is happy to perpetuate the thought, that we must only have a two-party system. Having to deal with only two parties makes it very easy for concentrated capital to infiltrate and corrupt, and therefore control, each in large part. Were we to have more non-party elections, or more multi-party elections, there would undoubtedly be more opportunity for really people-oriented legislation to be passed. If candidates were able to be presented solely on the basis of their arguments or positions on issues rather than having to be filtered through one of only two political parties, I think we would see a less watered-down government. But I also recognize what a hugely difficult task it would be to totally alter the existing modus operandi. As it stands today, it is nearly impossible for independent or third-party candidates to even get on ballots, let alone be elected. Independent undertakings are prohibitively expensive. So the only pragmatic choice is for progressive-minded, populist oriented people to tsunami the Democratic Party's caucuses and ensure that REAL people are nominated and elected rather than corporate puppets. This is something that cannot be accomplished in one or two elections, but could, over a period of 20 years or so, transform our sick political parties in a revolutionary way. How about it, progressives? How deep is your anger and determination, and how tough are your iron butts?

BimBeau said...


I hypothicate as long as the Dem-o-crats & the Dem-i-crats maintain a 2-party system the Republican'ts are irrelevant, regardless of Romney's Freudian slip. If we maintain our grip on ethics, find a way to vote a couplaguys out of office, Carville's prediction will become history, not an idyll boast.