Monday, March 16, 2009

Loss Leaders

I think liberals and conservatives react differently to losing. When liberals lose, they tend to assume it's because they're too gosh-darned enlightened for the masses. Often, they get quite fatalistic: they'll never win because their opinions simply aren't that popular -- too progressive, too complicated, too fair-minded, too nuanced. As you press further to the left, this sentiment is amplified: the far left seems to revel in the moral superiority that only being part of a tiny fringe can provide. They barely even pretend to represent the masses, except by proxy (the vanguard of the revolution and all that).

By contrast, conservatives can't seem to even grasp the idea that they ever might be unpopular in a democratic system. The far right always viewed itself as being the silent (and silenced) majority warring against communism negro agitators political correctness. The more, er, mainstream right is no different. Take an example from this roundup of right-wing loons:
Edward Cline took a more someday-you'll-be-sorry approach, claiming that "Americans have come knocking on the doors of elitists or leaning over the café railings or invading their legislated smoke-free bars and restaurants to ask: What in hell do you think you are doing?"

That's funny, because I observed that Americans just put a man whom I'm told is basically a Marxist into office by astoundingly large margins. After spending the last year screaming that Barack Obama was liberal intellectual urban cosmopolitan elitism personified, you'd think his sweeping victory might give the right some pause. No dice -- they're still 100% positive the people are absolutely behind them. It's rather amazing to behold.

6 comments:

Patton said...

Massive delusion is a sight to behold, yes, but it's not going to do diddly-squat for the Republicans. BTW, David, did you see the video from the WBC protest at the University of Chicago?

Jack said...

I don't know. There are elites on the right who definitely feel about the public's response to their economic agenda the exact way liberals do. This is particularly the case in the libertarian camp- the public doesn't understand market economics etc. Similarly, while yeah, there are parts of the far left that see themselves as a proletarian vanguard there are other parts that oppose exactly that sentiment and just see themselves as empowering the poor and disenfranchised to pursue their own ends.

When was the last time you were worried the liberal message on education, health care, labor, the environment etc. wasn't going to play well? We worry that the public won't vote on those issues, but we're usually pretty confident the public is with us.

PG said...

When was the last time you were worried the liberal message on education, health care, labor, the environment etc. wasn't going to play well? We worry that the public won't vote on those issues, but we're usually pretty confident the public is with us.

I don't think so, if
the liberal message on education is "No vouchers, your kids have to go to public school, and we're lackeys of the teachers' union";
the liberal message on health care is "You're over 65, we don't have a dialysis machine for you today";
the liberal message on labor is "Unions always make everything better and therefore we're going to make it as easy as possible to unionize whether a majority of workers actually want that or not";
the liberal message on the environment is "Driving an SUV because you think it's safer for your kids makes you a bad person."

In other words, once the liberal message on most issues has been caricatured (but technically not completely mis-represented) by the right, the public is not with you.

David Schraub said...

Patton: No, I didn't see it. Anything interesting?

Jack: I dunno. I agree that libertarians are often also in the if-they-understood-us-they'd-love-us camp. But even on economic issues, liberals tend to moan about demagoguery and "what's the matter with Kansas?"

PG said...

I wish I'd had time last year to rush out an election book titled "What's the Matter with Goldman?" examining the tendency of people who would benefit from Republicans economically nonetheless donating to and voting for Democrats based on social affiliation.

Patton said...

David: You mean aside from guys standing in front of the protest, dancing to tunes in their underwear?