Every now and then I come up with a theory about politics that I’m not that fond of, but seems to fit the known facts. And I’m having one of those right now.
Ever since the 2006 elections, there’s been plenty of arguing over which way the American people are going. Are they moving left or right? What is the trend? Which political wing is ascendant, and which is falling?
After 2006, it seemed pretty clear: to the left. The Democrats took both houses of Congress. And that was reaffirmed in 2008, when they strengthened their hold and added the White House. Some Democrats even talked about how the Republicans were going to end up a “permanent minority.”
But in the last few months, the Democrats have taken a huge shellacking. Four major elections, and they lost three outright. And that fourth… in upstate New York, the Democrat pretty much won by default as the rank and file conservatives turned on the very liberal official GOP candidate and drove her out of the race right before the election, and nearly got their third party guy elected.
Are things swinging back so soon? Were the 2006 and 2008 elections the aberration? Or is the current streak the aberration?
There’s a very simple explanation that covers it all, wraps it all up in one neat little bow. And I don’t like it one bit.
There are a lot of Americans who follow politics very closely, who give the matter a lot of careful consideration, and are remarkably loyal to principles and ideals. (That would be folks like us. Ain’t we the best?) And there are also a lot of Americans who hold considerable fealty to their party of choice.
But there are also a lot of Americans who don’t give a great deal of thought to politics at all. They are readily swayed by a simple (and simplistic) message that, when presented just right, by the right kind of candidate, running against the wrong kind of candidate, that almost guarantees a win.
That message? “Things stink, it’s that guy’s fault, and I can make it better.”
Boiled down, that was the winning message in the elections in 2006, 2008, 2009, and so far this year.
That’s it. That’s all it takes. No statement of principles, no concrete plans, no record of accomplishments to establish credibility, no explanation of how largely well-intentioned people got us into the mess in the first place, nothing more than a slick, vague promise and some well-crafted vitriol.
It’s the spoiled child approach, applied to politics. “I don’t like it! Make it better!” It reduces elections to temper tantrums, and victory going to those who can best manage the fits.
As I said, i don’t like it. I don’t think it bodes well for the nation.
But I gotta admit, it just might be healthier than the hard-core political addiction a lot of us have…