Thursday, November 18, 2004

Reality-based community fails to connect with the undecided voter 

Remember how we all thought it was amazing that anyone could vote for Bush—but couldn't understand how anyone could possibly be undecided? Well, here's one answer....

[In the New Republic, Chris] Hayes portrays undecided voters as so fatalistic that Bush's manifold failures only confirm their conviction that the world's problems are intractable, a conviction that worked against Kerry's promises to fix things. He paints them as weirdly irrational, possessed of chimerical "facts," and unable to connect politics to material outcomes.

More disturbing still is Hayes' portrayal of the odd lacuna in voters' understanding of what a political issue even is. "As far as I could tell, the problem wasn't the word 'issue'; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the 'political,' he writes. "The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief -- not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December."

The depressing upshot of this is that Democrats can't make headway by configuring their policies. In the end, Hayes sees only two options: "either abandon 'issues' as the linchpin of political campaigns and adopt the language of values, morals, and character as many have suggested; or begin the long-term and arduous task of rebuilding a popular, accessible political vocabulary -- of convincing undecided voters to believe once again in the importance of issues." In other words, find a demagogue or educate the country -- either way, Democrats have their work cut out for them.
(via Salon)

Hmmm... I'm not sure it's either/or. Clinton could talk both issues and morals, in a vocabulary anyone could understand (one of the many reasons the wingers had to destroy him). And someone like, oh, Barack Obama could too...

Or, for that matter, Howard Dean. His idea that "you have the power" attacks the fatalism directly (one of the many reasons the political class had to destroy him).

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