Monday, September 1, 2008

All Spin, All the Time

It's become fashionable to decry partisanship these days. I see commercials featuring elephant/donkey hybrids kicking graphics representing intractable problems, implying that if we could only forget about those silly policy and values differences and work together, we could make short work of global warming, the energy crisis, and inadequate health care. Well, that's pretty silly. there are fundamental differences between conservatives and liberals on most issues of importance. And that's OK.

But what does bother me is that partisans today seem to consider facts as soldiers and analyses as campaigns in the political war. There isn't even a nod to truth. The editorial pages are schizophrenic. Half of the commentators seem to live on different planets from the other half.

There are many examples I could point to, but let's take the experience debate. I'm a Democrat supporting Barack Obama, but I'm not about to tell anyone that I'm confident he would come through in a pinch. I think he would, but he hasn't shown that he would. It's a genuine issue. Why not just admit it and address it?

Well, because it's got to the point where if you show any weakness or doubt, the opposition will pounce. They're not going to reciprocate by admitting that McCain's first few years in the Senate weren't so hot, or that his best days are behind him and he really hasn't done all that much in over two decades. They'll take your admission and run with it, overpraising McCain in comparison. You can take comfort in your openmindedness and fairness, but your opponent will outpoint you.

However, what good are those points? The idea, it seems to me, is not to win points or even arguments, but to win votes. Is 24/7 propaganda doing it? I don't know. In one-on-one conversations with leaners or undecideds, my sense is that it doesn't work. Admitting the other guy's strong points does establish some good faith basis for further discussion, and may make space for a real conversation. Just a thought.


Sinistral said...

In this age of cognitive science and message enforcement, I don't know if there's any way to deviate from that path.

I think you're right that experience vs. establishment is kind of a nonissue. (The true issue for Palin would be something more like "readiness" but "experience" is the buzzword nowadays.) But on the same hand, the last two election the Republicans beat the Democrats using nothing but terrible arguments, and won.

The new system is a game begun by the likes of Carville and (mostly) Rove, and it's become pragmatic to play it.

charvakan said...

Sure, but I don't have to play it.