Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain Stuck Between a Base and Hard Place

It appears to be increasingly difficult to be a decent, honorable Republican politician. Within the bowels of the Republican base, there is an element of a tragically dis-informed, xenophobic, intolerant, angry torch-bearing mob. A Republican candidate needs these "super-core" voters to come out in order to win elections, but that also means giving these people the red meat they crave. Recently, the McCain/Palin campaign has been happily tossing out the political equivalent of bloody flesh, creating a veritable feeding frenzy. It's no great surprise, then, that when McCain stuck his hand out there with a conciliatory tone, the crowd bit it off with a chorus of boo's.
This made me think about the differences between the extreme Republican base and the reciprocal Democratic base. Over the past eight years, there has been a very angry and frustrated Democratic base. But did this base ever get racist, xenophobic, and culturally intolerant? I don't think so. Sure, the Democratic base has had very little patience for unfettered free markets, perceived social injustice and even a disrespect for the power of leadership and economic optimism. And it's also arguable that the Democratic base is not as effective, organized or loyal to their ideology as the Republican base.

But it seems to me that, at its worst, the Democratic base is not as morally bankrupt as the Republican base.
And when I say morally bankrupt, I am referring to our cultural and civic morals of social equality, fairness, and a respect for our fellow man. These are supposed to be the values that power American supremacy world-wide. Do we not advocate for tolerance and diversity as a national cause? Are we not a more morality-driven nation when we talk about good and evil on the global stage?

So, I ask you: When you listen to the words and sentiments of the people in line for the McCain rally in Pennsylvania in the link above, what do you make of these people? Do you think these are people that should be proportionally represented? Or do you think that the framers of our Constitution actually were counting on people like this not being able to locate the voting booth due to the steam emerging from their nostrils fogging their vision?

It strikes me as an under-reported and under-analyzed phenomenon that the super-core Republican base actually is out of touch with our broader moral fabric of what we stand for as a nation (and, ironically, specifically at odds with the teachings of Christianity -- which the Republican base tends to bear-hug). Again, the super-core Democrats are also clearly culturally out of touch with the mainstream, but are they just as morally out-of-touch?

In any case, this poses a serious problem for a decent soul like John McCain. He at once needs to court this "super-core base" and also somehow remain honorable by rebuking the angry-mob mentality. Tricky turf for a modern Republican candidate to navigate. In my view, Barack Obama has a much easier job: at its worst, the Democratic super-core base is downright ineffective and pathetic; but far from the morally questionable sentiments of their Republican counterparts.

I'm interested in hear views and counter-views around this topic, as I am quite open to modifying my views based on additional information being added to the mix.


Excellent points. When I think of the most furiously frustrated progressive Democrats of the last 8 years, I picture the retired teachers, librarians, college professors, etc. I know, all of whom read widely and can cite wide ranges of viewpoints in orderly paragraphs. To get them to step aggressively on a spider is hard, and they have been schooled to be deeply and politely respectful of just about anyone but a raving axe-murderer. These are Emersonian, La Follett-type folks, even embarrassed a little to quote Truman humor.

I've always considered the Republican base to be the "I've got mine and the hell with everyone else" mob and the the Democratic base as the "Hey! What about the Other Guy!" mob. But if we meet in the middle nobody wins. Well I'm the Other Guy so I say the hell with the republican base, I've been listening to their chant since Nixon.

There is a lot in this that is worthy of discussion. Some ideas for a future post include:

- are Republicans a simple representation of the id, and are Democrats, conversely, a simple representation of the superego?

- are Republicans the party of the animal, and the Democrats the party of the civic creature?

- are Republicans the party of tribal law, and Democrats the party of normative law?