Sunday, October 29, 2006

More politics: both cynical AND evil!

I'm going to be evil and cynical for a minute. The cynical: I'm not really expecting Democrats to take control of either house of Congress. The Democrats have spent years proving that they're not as good at playing politics as Republicans. A major part of the problem is that their message is more complex and nuanced. It's easy to for Republicans to keep hammering at a fake issue (national security) and to parrot talking points. National security is pretty much a lock for Republicans, and almost all of the single-issue-voter issues are Republican strengths: abortion, gun control, gay marriage, the flag-burning amendment, and a host of others. You'll also notice that these are all very simple issues; it's easy to tell which of two candidates is more in your camp. The traditionally Democrat issues are amazingly complex. Insurance reform and health-care policy, for instance, are overwhelmingly complex issues, and only the most informed voters have even a rudimentary grasp of what's involved. It doesn't lend itself well to ten-second sound bites or a bulleted list of talking points. The average American was a C student in school; sticking to complex issues won't win any votes from the bottom half of the population.

The other problem Democrats face is that they don't entirely own their strongest weapons. They can't spend too much energy decrying the war, since almost every Democrat voted for it. A fair number of Democratic congressmen and senators supported all the major malfeasance of the last six years: prescription drugs, bankruptcy "reform", war funding, The Fence, suspicious nominees, the utter lack of campaign and lobby reform, etc. One of the Dems' most potent rhetorical weapons is corruption. It would be nice if they could spend just a few minutes talking about the enormous corruption created by the Republican-led Congress and the Bush administration. But there are plenty of corrupt Democrats, too; they can't hammer too hard on this issue. Of course, Republicans would if the roles were reversed. They have a history of not letting facts interfere with good rhetoric. So I'm fully expecting the Republicans to retain control of at least one house of Congress.

That's the cynical. Now for the evil. Part of me is hoping the Republicans retain control of both houses. If the Democrats gain control of one or both houses, they'll be convenient rhetorical scapegoats for much of the continuing boondoggle in Iraq as well as just about everything else that goes wrong for the next two years. A good number of people are finally waking up to some of the damage the Bush administration and its pet Congress have caused in the last six years. And a surprising number of people still aren't seeing it. Surely everyone in the bottom three quarters of the economy has noticed that things have not improved in the last four years. Yet Bush's popularity hasn't taken that much of a hit. Sure, it's taken a bit of a hit -- but a lot of people still support him, for some inexplicable reason. I'm assuming his continued support comes primarily from the aforementioned single-issue voters. But I'm hoping that the Republicans get two more years, that things get bad enough that the Republican voter base finally realizes that elections have to be about more than gay marriage and abortion. I'm hoping that these people finally notice that complex issues like energy policy and health care reform have a real impact on their daily lives. And that abortion really doesn't.

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