Published at 09:52 on 10 September 2019
Look, I don’t like the fact that people don’t politically act rationally very much, either.
The words in that opening paragraph were chosen carefully: “politically act rationally,” not “vote rationally.” Voting is merely one form of possible political action amongst many, and it’s questionable how rational being satisfied with the “choice” of voting for Establishment Candidate A versus Establishment Candidate B really is, anyhow.
But, to reiterate, people don’t politically act rationally very much. Not all people, of course, but most. It’s a general rule, and the exceptions prove the rule; they don’t refute it.
After all, if people acted rationally, class society would have died a long, long time (as in millennia) ago. But it didn’t. People do not by and large act in their rational self-interest; they tend to be quite willing to support authority hierarchies which are personally harmful to them. Like it or not, them’s the facts.
Faced with that, one must choose between making positive change with people as they actually are, or clinging to some comfortable myths about making change with people as one might hope they were. Yes, there’s the option of persuading people to change (and people have changed; slavery and feudalism were once considered inevitable), but that takes time, and we don’t have time. There’s a fascist (thankfully, an incompetent one, but he’s doing plenty of damage even so) in the White House and a climate crisis that’s getting worse with each passing year.
And it is in that light we come to some advice from former GOP political consultant Rick Wilson. I’m actually somewhat pleasantly surprised by how good most of the advice is; I was expecting him to waste much ink on his wincingly stupid “this is a referendum on Trump, nothing more” strategy. He didn’t.
Instead, he took issue with:
- The importance Democrats place on policies,
- The lack of importance Democrats place on the electoral college, and
- The importance the Democrats place on various shibboleths.
As he wrote, a good slogan or two is going to matter more than policy papers, no matter how logical and well-written the latter might be. People tend to vote based on emotions, not facts, and a well-chosen slogan can do a vastly better job of engaging emotions than the best possible policy paper can ever hope to do.
So far as the electoral college goes, it’s a hot mess, and no cogent argument exists for it continuing to exist; it just ended up facilitating the same intemperate extremism it was purportedly put in place to frustrate. But none of that matters: it’s in the United States Constitution, getting it out or neutering it is going to be a protracted process, and there’s absolutely no conceivable scenario for completing that process before the next presidential election. Like it or not, the 2020 election will happen via the electoral college. As such, it only makes sense to campaign in a way compatible with that fact.
And so far as the hot button issues go, most of them are either identity politics things which are nowhere near as important (or universally appealing) as class politics, or they’re just plain stupid things that miss the point. In the latter category we have the insistence on making health insurance government-run instead of making health care as universal and egalitarian as possible (don’t confuse ends with means, Democrats).
Then we have a recent article by Jennifer Rubin which goes into how Trump just pushed some big hot buttons for conservative and middle America types by stupidly planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David in the same week as the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
One could argue that it logically doesn’t much matter for the mechanics of negotiating a treaty, but this forgets the whole point of this essay: facts and logic are overrated when it comes to campaigns. Emotions matter a lot. Many people have a very negative gut reaction to what Trump just did. So why not capitalize on it and hit Trump hard where he’s weak?
Those who despise Trump might think the attacks a bit odd, but by and large we won’t be turned off by them. We’ll just think them odd, and vote to defeat Trump anyhow. Meanwhile, they might just persuade a few wavering both-sides-ists that the Democrats are better than the GOP (and to vote accordingly), as well as helping to demoralize a few Republicans into sitting this one out or casting a protest vote for a third party. And there’s only a few votes that need to be changed in a few key swing states to tilt the coming elections against Trump.
Yes, yes: This all sucks, and people arguably should approach things more logically. No arguments there. But, at this time, there is real value in hitting a reset button and getting a more sane Establishment (as opposed to a basically fascist one) in power. Therefore, there is real value in doing whatever it takes to unseat Trump, even if it means playing the standard stupid political games.