The Ham Hock of Liberty

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Atrios posted about "dog-whistle" politics today, and the ensuing discussion about message versus policy got me thinking about how the parties dress up their respective ideas when selling them to the voters.

Wingnuts like pointing to the last several years of elections as proof that the GOP has "won the war of ideas," and paint the Democratic Party as intellectually bankrupt.

This is, of course, incorrect. The GOP has not won the "war of ideas." Their ideas, most thinking people realize, are regressive, short-sighted, and generally destructive. What the GOP has won, however, is the war of messages - they have managed to take their ideas, which appeal mostly to the id, the lizard brain, whatever you want to call it...and dress them up respectably enough to make otherwise average people find them palatable. When they vote GOP, they're satisfying their baser instincts, but convinced they're doing a nobler thing.

Of course, the GOP has an easier job of this, as their policies have a lot of appeal to peoples' uglier urges....greed, retribution, xenophobia, power, gluttony. Almost every deadly sin except lust, for that matter.

Progressive ideals, and legal equality, protection of the weak and disenfranchised, peace, civil liberty...these ideas don't sell as well to the lizard brain. They appeal to the superego. They require traits like empathy, sacrifice, self-reflection. And that's the problem, imo. The Democrats are trying to sell vegetables and fiber to a market that has been convinced that ice cream and cheetos are good nutrition. And that's what the GOP has done. The answer, Lieberman/Brazile/Shrum notwithstanding, is NOT to give in and start selling vegetable-flavored ice cream.

I'm not sure how to make a superego platform more palatable to the id. I've been hoping that the ruinous consequences of GOP policy would speak for themselves, and the voters might figure it out on their own, and to some extent, that's happening. But Democrats still need better marketing for their ideas. Not to sell out the ideas, as the DLC seems to think is necessary.


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