Friday, January 11, 2008

"I Feel your Pain"

Jonah Goldberg makes some good points in his article, Voting in the age of Dr. Phil:

What Americans really want when they look into a politician's eyes is to see their own images reflected back, like in Narcissus' pool. The presidency in particular has become the highest ground in the culture war. Americans want a candidate who validates them personally. "I'm voting for him because he's a hunter like me." "I'm backing her because she's a woman too." "I'm for that guy because he's angry like me." Such sentiments have colored the presidential contest for so long, they've saturated it like stain into wood.

"Authenticity" -- on which voters supposedly place such a premium -- is really just a label put on self-validation. Bill Clinton infamously promised he felt our pain. Hillary Clinton similarly sold her 2000 bid for the Senate by arguing that she was more concerned about the issues that concern New Yorkers than was her competitor.

.....In a sense, this is populism updated for the age of "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil." Principles and policy details take a back seat to the need to say "there, there -- I understand" to voters. As Willie Stark, the populist protagonist of "All the King's Men," bellows to the insatiably needy crowds: "Your will is my strength, and your need is my justice."

Choosing understanding and false empathy over policy and hard decisions is not the way to choose a president.

Update: I see that Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism is up to #8 6 4 3 on Amazon and is now #1 in Politics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way Clinton or any other politician could feel my pain would be if he had been through all the crap I've been through and made all the mistakes I've made - but that would make him an idiot whom I would not want running the country. I definitely want somebody who's smarter than I am, wiser than I am, and in general better than I am.

As long as he doesn't act like he's better than I am...

I think that's how populism works.

10:34 AM, January 11, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Indeed. Why should my President be anything like me? In many ways, I should hope that the occupant of that high office is different than myself. I don't need a President who does as I would do if I were there - for the same many reasons. I don't need to even like the President as a person.

What I need is a President who is more interested in doing the right thing than satisfying the petulant buffoonery of an increasingly infantile populace, yet who can convey the reasonings behind why those actions are indeed the right thing.

I don't imagine that I'm totally free of narcissism; but at least I'm pretty sure of not drowning in it.

10:39 AM, January 11, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Policy is the primary basis on which to choose a president. Personality, communication skills, honesty, and that other stuff matter. Understanding and (genuine) empathy are major factors in choosing a friend, spouse or therapist.

The Clintons are masterful, sociopathic players. I'm continually amazed how many fall for their game. Of course, some are just looking for freebies (which are never really free).

11:20 AM, January 11, 2008  
Blogger goesh said...

- I feel the pain of not having a legitimate, viable 3rd party.....

1:04 PM, January 11, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

I belong to the Mormon Church,and as such, members of my congregation are generally politically and socially rather conservative in their views. But, in talking to a few female members of the congregation, I learnt that they will vote for Hillary Clinton, not becasue they agree with her politics, or becasue they like her as a person. they will vote for her becasue they think that "men are treating her so badly". How crazy is that?
Shows you how much our society has been Ophah-ised and DrPhil-ed.

11:35 AM, January 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is crazy. Hillary's just a girl so everybody should be nice to her? If the church ladies think she's being mistreated now, how do they think the boys will handle her when she's president? Shallow thinking there.

2:38 PM, January 12, 2008  
Blogger BobH said...

Goldberg's comments show why the "Porkbusters" crusade is sort of ridiculous. Legislators get pork for their constituents because that is what their constituents demand. If the legislators don't deliver, they will be fired.

There are apparently economists out there who take electing representatives pretty seriously and have proposed various ways of improving it, mostly by changing way voting is conducted. One of them, Kenneth Arrow, apparently won a Nobel Prize in economics for proving that it was impossible to create a voting system that was completely fair and rational.

2:40 PM, January 12, 2008  
Blogger Ellen said...

The public has a short memory. They are much easier swayed by general concepts that demonize Democrats like "cut 'n run", "tax 'n spend" ... while claiming "god" and "moral values" for the Republican party. The GOP is still trying to ride the coat tails of 9/11 into the White House - (an oxymoron since it happened on their watch).

Issues are lost, as is history.

History like the continued upward trend of the National debt during Reagan and Bush 41, followed by the unprecedented economic growth that included 3 consecutive budget surpluses under Clinton, and now... GW Bush's administration that has produced record spending and more money borrowed from foreign governments than all previous 42 presidents combined.

And now we have a recession looming.

3:58 PM, January 12, 2008  
Blogger # 56 said...

Bobh, Nonsense, who benefits from the pork? Sure there's 700K for a bike path for the poeple, but it's the 250m for the Bridge to Nowhere, or 10's of millions in grants to well connected contributors that does the real damage. It's not about what the voters/constituents want, it's payback for donations. In a nutshell it is graft, nothing less.

4:39 PM, January 12, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i wouldnt vote for anyone like me, because i know how bad i would do it. so they would be just as bad if not worse.

we have an unelected pm, and no sign of him calling or an election.

3:11 PM, January 13, 2008  
Blogger Jeff Y said...

I do agree that pathetic appeals seem more prevalent. Trouble is, they've seemed more prevalent to each generation. I mean, you can find these same worries in Plato's writings.

Now I do think Jonah is on to something when he writes, "In a sense, this is populism updated for the age of 'Oprah' and 'Dr. Phil.' Principles and policy details take a back seat to the need to say 'there, there -- I understand' to voters."

Have voters ever really analyzed policy, or cared to read other's analysis of policy? I think not. But I think there is a qualitative difference between the pathos of yesteryear and today.

In a word: multiculturalism. Once pathetic appeals used commonplaces like patriotism, traditional family life, the practical trappings of material success. But in a world without closely shared cultural experiences, candidates struggle to find such commonplaces.

Popular television may be the only common ground we have left. Oprah and Dr. Phil may be the culture from which rhetorical commonplaces emerge. 'Aint that scary?

12:34 AM, January 14, 2008  
Blogger William said...

Interesting take on Jonah at C&L:

Goldberg: "the only reason he [Mussolini] got dubbed a fascist and therefore a right-winger is because he supported World War I.

C&L: Um, actually, not so much. Mussolini was dubbed a fascist because he founded the Fascist Party. ... Jonah’s hatred of Hillary Clinton knows no rational bounds and he steals liberally from Naomi Klein to dive head first into the Godwin abyss with fantastical allusions to 1984 and some Big Brother bleak bureaucratic scenario of DMVs with Jumbotrons with nanny-state advisories on breastfeeding, based on Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village. The dizzying logic of it all just shows you why if Jonah Goldberg is one of the great thinkers on the right, the right is bankrupt of intellectual honesty and comprehension."

Even better, TP exposes him for what he is using his own quotes where he touts Joe McCarthy, banning books, praises sodomy laws, and makes excuses for why he wouldn't ever serve in Iraq.

Douchebag supreme. Amazing to see this guy touted by any blogger who is an educated professional. A pathetic state of intellectual integrity on the right, indeed.

1:54 AM, January 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it my imagination, or do liberals like to brag about their education and intellectual integrity an awful lot? OK, we get it - liberals should run the country because they are smarter than everybody else. Unfortunately for them, they still have to share the world with us dumbasses and we all get one vote each. Get over it.

As to that...whatever it is from C&L - an interesting specimen of freshman-level creative blurting, but otherwise a complete waste of time.

1:46 PM, January 14, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

bobh: Goldberg's comments show why the "Porkbusters" crusade is sort of ridiculous.

My uncle feels the same way and he is basically a liberal. He thinks if a party had control that dramatically cut spending, they would be voted out of office by a party that promised to raise spending.

There are apparently economists out there who take electing representatives pretty seriously and have proposed various ways of improving it, mostly by changing way voting is conducted.

I've heard that Arthur Schlesinger had a plan to change the Electoral voting system, but I haven't discovered what his plan was.

mercurior, Gordon Brown wasn't elected?

William, this is the second post you have blasted Goldberg. You really should read the Vox interview, he goes in depth on Italian Fascism and big government conservatives as per your previos attack.

2:14 PM, January 14, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

William, since you progressives love large government spending so much, consider this chart from the Treasury showing that Federal Revenues increased dramatically from 2003 to 2005. It must be from all of those tax increases!

2:32 PM, January 14, 2008  
Blogger Mercurior said...

serket no he is the interim prime minister, thers a 40 day change he has 40 days to keep continuity.

but he hasnt been elected by the voters. and he is waiting for the right time when the polls say he will win.

he was elected as a member of parliament, like the american system sentaors, but there is a seperate vote for PM. like the president there.

its like bush quitting and his deputy taking charge, (which has happend twice in the US)

5:10 AM, January 15, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

Jonah has another article called Conservatism's Buzzkill about Americans actions and words about small government.

12:07 PM, January 15, 2008  
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