The modern practice of politics is, too often, the art of attaching blame. Whether or not a politician is popular depends, not on his or her policies or tactics, but on the way their tenure is framed by the political media. Barack Obama rode to the White House on a wave of positive feeling; his campaign was more positive than negative and the media embraced his personal story. Once in office, he experienced the other side of that media embrace; the side where the media grows tired of positivity and embraces the vitriol and controversy that sells ads.
There is no room for quitters or whiners in politics. It is for that reason that Sarah Palin should go away, and Robert Gibbs should stay away from lame criticisms of left-leaning media. The public is fickle; they may not understand all of the intricacies of policy, but they know weakness when they see it. You can blame media conspiracies for only so long before the public realizes that you are simply searching for an excuse. When it comes to scapegoating, the public is prepared to accept only that application of blame that is sanctified by the media, not directed at the media. Politicians that are successful over the long term happen on that success by virtue of their ability to get the media to sanctify their scapegoating.
On the issue of national security, the blame game has cycled between the liberal success at blaming conservatives for war and excessive spending, and the conservative success at blaming liberals for perceived weakness in the foreign arena. The facts of spending and foreign policy posture, as discussed in the last post, don’t matter in the discussion. The playing of the blame game, by itself, is enough to explain much of the war America has experienced over the last 50 years. When policy is enacted for appearances rather than results, tragedy is the normal result.
On the issue of the American economy, the blame game and its players are, perhaps, more muddled. The players are hard to define, and even harder to accurately slot into our ridiculous binary political construct. Are conservatives united behind the idea that keeping government out of business is a good idea, or do many small business operators clamor for an end to free trade? What are liberals committed to in the economy? Since Reagan’s first inaugural, Americans have become more and more committed to the notion that government is the problem. But if this is a government by the people, of the people, and for the people, then doesn’t that necessarily mean that the people are the problem?
As our country matures, it would seem evident that we the people should grow more sophisticated in our understanding of the role we play in our economy both as individuals and through our government. Instead, the opposite appears to be the case. During our thirty year crusade against the idea of government, we have become more and more frustrated with government’s inability to get the job done. Contemplate that idea a little further; we the people take away our representative government’s abilities to influence the economy, and then complain about our representative government’s lack of influence on the economy.
We have lowered, through a reduction in corporate taxes and the taxes paid by the wealthy, our representative government’s ability to develop commercial infrastructure. Our efforts have done the same to our nation’s intellectual infrastructure. These efforts haven’t helped the working class of our nation; the real wealth-producers. Over the last thirty years, the size of all government (local, state, and federal) has stayed the same as a percentage of gross domestic product. The government has not gotten smaller, it has merely shifted its source revenue from the wealthy to the working class, and shifted its spending to foreign adventures and the retiring baby boomers.
The inevitable result of this pattern of self-governance, is that we the people have increasingly handed control of the macro-economy over to two entities; large corporations and banks. At a time when central banks are the only bulwark against economic collapse, we the people now have the Fed in our sights. We continue to attack our own ability to influence the economic environment we live in. We swing blindly in our frustration and desperation, as a child would at a pinata. Much like that child, we change directions when we hear the reassuring voices around us, urging us along. Those media interests that all too willingly disseminate talking points in return for ratings act as the voices in our head.
We leave the blindfold on because it is easier to swing the bat blind then to choose an appropriate target ourselves. In our decline, the idea of math has become hideous torture to Americans. The most popular posts on the RM are those with catchy titles and a dearth of concrete analysis. Just writing the word “economy” is enough to chase away many readers; including economic analysis is a good way to the run off many of those who remain. It would seem that we would rather remain as pawns, moved around the board by the manipulators of opinion. In what other environment could Republicans spend weeks fighting spending that would preserve state jobs and pay working class bills on the basis of deficit control, then push for the extension of the single largest driver of the deficit?
These interests and political ploys only work when we the people divorce ourselves from reason and willingly marry visceral opinion. Interests fight blindly for union power, tax cuts for the wealthy, a near-useless minimum wage, obsolete energy production; it is the lobbies that have taken on the power that is vested, by the Constitution, in citizens who exercise their right and responsibility to vote. Happily, this power is easily and swiftly returned. Have a well-researched and supported reason to kick your Democratic Representative out of office. Embrace a rational argument for keeping Republicans who maintain George W. Bush’s economic policies out of power. Do the research, do the thinking, avoid the political labeling, and then vote!
The Rational Middle is listening…