Governor Scott Walker is back in the saddle, he’s spent some political capital on sharper, crueler spurs, and Wisconsin better be ready to be ridden – hard. Voters wanted someone to make those hard decisions, like whether to take millions from the Koch brothers or a couple thou from the unions – sheer agony! – and they got him. How did this happen? How did so many people vote against their own interests? This is supposed to be a capitalist society, everybody pursuing their own self-interest, and in the clash of all the different groups, a dominant direction emerges. But when people vote against their own interest, the mechanism is sabotaged and democracy fails. Who, or what, is to blame?
First, the two-party system. The majority of votes are hard-wired by party loyalty, which leaves a small percentage of swing voters in charge, and it is over their perceptions that the battle of ideas and influence is waged. You don’t have to fool all the people all the time, only a few some of the time. People are sensitive, and smart. Two words out of anyone’s mouth, and in a two-party system, you know to which side they belong, and you stop listening. During elections, it gets so bad you can’t say anything nice about anybody without implying something nasty about their opponent; the system freezes and you have one party with two labels, like a spinning coin. It matters which side wins, but it’s not the voters who decide. The choice is clear: 70-80% of voters are on one side of the economic divide, and 10% or so on the other, but the majority has no candidate. Instead, we have Mitt, hated by his base, and Obama, hated by his base, and the electorate is about evenly split.
Second, the media, who profit from the circus, and the biases they fling at us like armfuls of cheap Mardi-Gras beads. The sneakiest and most prominent of these is “fairness bias”. Watch for use of the word “both” in this cancerous distortion that infects even left-wing stalwarts like Jon Stewart, who recently said, “Both sides keep electing the most extreme members of the political spectrum.” This is just not so, and we have to wonder how so brilliant a commentator as he could say something so stupid. Truth is, Republicans are pushing the extreme on all fronts, and the Democratic reflex is to go centrist. That’s how we got Obama, with some help from the betrayed youth and the pitiful left. Here’s another quote, this one from Thom Hartmann: “The parties are becoming more and more polarized…” this more subtle, lacking the tipoff “both”, but note the metaphoric parity of polarity (it’s my rhyme!). A magnet has poles – two, at opposing ends of a magnetic field. The earth has poles – two. But, two parties does not polarity make. What exists in the political field is an extremist hawk wing pulling right, and a centrist chicken breast trying to play nice. There is no left pole, not in politics. Not allowed. Gravel, Sanders, Kucinich – they are untouchable, taboo. Too extreme. But Paul Ryan is a darling of the media, even though his math fails the ten-fingers test. The right-wing think tank machine would be asleep at the wheel if it didn’t notice this bias, and feed into it. Right now, their game depends on it. Here’s Thom Hartmann again: “Capitalism has winners and losers, and that’s fair, say right-wing economists. But how fair is it to let the losers be kicked out of their homes to starve in the streets?” There is a talking point, floated by the right. Again, notice the polarity, the fairness. You play by the rules… but in Capitalism, you need to be rich just to be a player. If you lose, you play again. But the people who lost their homes and the unemployed aren’t players. They never had a chance. They are the victims of Capitalism. So when Thom uses the idioms of the right, his language is infected by the fairness bias that was planted there by the right-wing wingdingers, like a virus that carries their twisted message into the discourse: “The market is all-seeing, all-knowing, benevolent, perfect.” Their words are poison, and everything they say must be carefully deconstructed before it receives a reply.
Third, it’s the money. The money has to stop.