Wednesday, February 23, 2011

People Aren't Cows

One of the key beliefs of those on both ends of the political spectrum is that politics aren't real.  You don't really need to worry about what other people think about your policies, and the rewards only go to those bold enough to take them.  Somehow, it never occurs to them that most long-time politicians seem to be of the wishy-washy middle-of-the-road types they deplore, while the few hardcore ideologues who last beyond two terms can only succeed in like-minded pockets and never in the Senate.

Because, as it turns out, politics are real.  It really does matter what voters think about you, and you can be punished for being bold, whether or not you're right.  And this isn't just the case in government, but throughout life.  No matter where you go or what you do or who you hang with, it's always a good idea to consider the feelings of others and try not to get on their bad side.  Do that, and you'll succeed.

And the thing is, yes, it's good to be bold.  It's good to have vision.  It's good to take a stand for what you believe in, still need to be able to sell your bold visionary beliefs, and if people aren't buying, you have to accept the consequences.  And the only way to sell your boldness is by embracing politics and learning how it works. 

Because in the long run, it's not about a good marketing campaign or strong propaganda channels.  It's about understanding human nature and getting people to understand why they should support what you're doing.  Democracy isn't a term-limited dictatorship.  It's a system where we all agree to play by the rules and understand that everyone else has as much of a right to their vision as we do. 

And one of the dumbest things a politican can do is to ignore the wishes of the people and imagine that they have the power to cram down their beliefs on to others.  For as much as ideologues insist that boldness is rewarded, the reality is that bold leaders who ignore the will of the people will find they've lost ground in the long run, and the surest way to push the country in one direction is to force them to the other direction for a short time.

Down with Unions

And I'm thinking the dumbo governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is beginning to realize that.  Not that he knows why he's facing so much opposition, as he probably believes his own spin that it's outside agitators causing the problem.  But it's obvious that he knew enough about politics to understand that he needed to ignore them and cram his vision down Wisconsin's throat as quickly as possible, because it wouldn't work if people were able to form an opposition.

But, well, duh.  Guess what, genius.  You just pissed off some of the most educated people in the state and they do know how to organize.  I mean, come on.  Teachers.  Like teachers don't know how to organize unruly groups of people with military precision.  I've been around enough kindergarten classrooms to know that these people are like magicians.  Seriously.  I've been put in charge of a few classrooms on a very temporary basis and saw how quickly it devolved into lord of the flies without a proper teacher in the room.

And taking on the rest of the union people is equally stupid.  Cut welfare benefits and you'll get a bunch of poorly organized poor people shouting, which only encourages the Republican base.  Crackdown on immigration and you'll see a bunch of poor Hispanics shouting, which only encourages the Republican base.  Crackdown on unions and you get a bunch of middle-class white people shouting.  And that doesn't help Republicans at all.  And no, this isn't fair.  But that's how it is.  You can hurt a lot of people, just as long as they're not non-poor white people.

Equal and Opposite Reactions

And Walker made the same mistake they all make.  Because yeah, sure, you can cram your vision down.  And according to the extremist belief system, that's always the thin end of the wedge which only makes future victories easier. 

But the truth is exactly the opposite: Every victory you get makes future victories more difficult.  Every mark you get on your side is another strike against you by the opposition, and you're just adding fuel to your enemy's fire.  As much as Republicans were always going to hate Obama, they hate him so much more because of what he accomplished; which is what motivates them so much.

And really, the ideologues who insist upon boldness aren't citing some well-known strategy for winning political battles.  They've got their goal in mind and they don't want anything to get in their way.  So they push the "bold strategy," not because it's a proven winner, but because they don't know what else to do.  In fact, they don't even understand how politics works otherwise and they end up like Donald Rumsfeld and his "coercive diplomacy," in which the word "diplomacy" has no meaning and they just mean coercion.

And in the end, it's all about the vote.  If you don't have the votes, you're not going to win.  And that's how it's supposed to work.  And yeah, that's understanding that corporate interests can buy the ads that woo the votes, but that's the whole point.  You can convince people to support you, even if it's against their best interests.  But conversely, you can get people against you, even if you're cramming the best of policies down their throats. 

That's just human nature and I like that about people.  We shouldn't treat people like cows.  They might all moo if the right commercial tells them to do so, but they have to want to do so.  And if your plans don't involve getting people to want what you've got to sell, then I don't want a part of your plans.  One man's utopia is everyone else's hell.

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