21 January 2010

Random Rants

In the wake of Massachusetts...

- Contempt for government is the norm. Has been since 1776.
- We do not trust institutions, only individuals, so...
- The personal really is the political, for conservatives as much as anyone.
- So we vote our gut, whether it's right or not, Which is why...
- Appearance is more powerful in politics than substance.
- When our gut fails us, though, we feel betrayed, which is why...
- Contempt for government is normal . Therefore...
- Trusting government at all is considered naive.
- That's why fear is the currency of politics.
- It is more powerful than hope in the short run, but weaker in the long run.
- But elections are short run, so hope generally loses elections.
- Therefore we are a conservative country, always have been.
- Liberals are needed only when conservatism drives us to, or over, the brink.
- But once we are saved, they are slapped back down, because...
- Contempt for government is normal.

2 comments:

Joel Monka said...

Excellent syllogism, but I'd offer one modification: it's not contempt for government, it's fear of government.

This is a rational fear. Once government acts, it's slow to react- it quite literally takes an act of Congress to change it. If a private corporation or organization flubs it, reaction is much quicker, as the spectre of bankruptcy and humiliation is always in the room. And there is a power differential; no matter how big a corporation or billionaire is, it can be brought low with a simple subpeona. Ask Leona Helmsly, or Madoff. But the lowliest government official acts with the knowledge that men with robes and gavels, and, if necessary, with guns will support him.

This is why the personal is the political- you have to trust that the person who can order that massive machine into action will do the right thing. We do not trust institutions because one cannot beg an institution for mercy.

And I don't think hope loses elections- in fact, the biggest landslides have been won by the candidates offering hope. Ask President Obama.

WFW said...

I think your points are astute, though I also think more than fear is in the mix. We are all, you and me I mean and those who think about this stuff too much, seeing but part of the whole.

Another midrash on this, again a partial view as no single view is comprehensive of all things, is that power is what we fear, however it is wielded.

When the man with the gun is facing us on the street, his immediate power over us trumps anything else. We indeed welcome the superior power of government to assist us in that case. Or the ability of government to send fire trucks with dispatch to redress the inhuman power of fire, to mention another. This is not an exhaustive list of course.

I merely desctribed what I believe is a common social-psychological pattern in our country, different from other countries because their experience of government power is different.

You are suggesting why that pattern exists, including a likely element. But it too is not exhaustive.

I do think that hope generally loses. Not always. If the country were not in the economic turmoil it was, when it was, along with other elements like the two wars in danger of quagmire, Mr. Obama would not have won. Hope wins when things have gotten so bad (at least in the citizens minds) that staying the course is more frightening than changing.

I did leave something out, having looked at my list several times. There should be a line inserted second from the bottom, to wit...

"- liberals trust government more than conservatives and...