The politics of pettiness ctd.


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

27 Responses

  1. Avatar Jivatman says:

    I was a participant in the Ron Paul campaign, where the original tea parties and avid use of revolutionary war regalia was started. I love to quote Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Franklin (both geniuses with an extremely diverse range of interests, while they are nearly the same in political ideology, they are IMHO the archetypes of the best aspect of liberal and conservative sentiment, respectively).

    It’s clear now, that the tea parties have been co-opted by the republican establishment. The more libertarian of us may find some other theme eventually, but, still, hearing every GOP politician invoking the founding fathers in every breath is very, very grating in most contexts, including:

    -In defending the absurd federal military spending, whereas the founding fathers were against the very idea of standing armies.
    – Defending interventionism, whereas the founding fathers were against entangling alliances. Even John Quincy Adams, the writer of the Original Patriot Act that Jefferson and Madison fought using states rights with the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions , eloquently warned against “Going abroad in search of monsters to destroy”.
    – Feigning fiscal conservatism while pretending to ignore the elephant: desperately needed entitlement reductions (politicians such as Paul Ryan, being an exception)

    There are many more, of course, but I guess in some ways, it was inevitable. The Ron Paul campaign (and now the C4L and other libertarian orgs) was/is only a very small core of dedicated and knowledgeable people. It’s just sad to see that they have stolen the style, while entirely ignoring the substance of the movement. The philosophy (in this case, of liberty) comes first, political power comes second. But politicians of course, only care about political power, and for them, it’s useful to cynically ape our regalia in order to try and fool some people to think that they have the same principles.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Absolutely lovely!

      The optimistic portion of me says “the people aren’t likely to be fooled again!”

      The pessimistic protion of me asks how many times has such been said by how many people right before being fooled again.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      -In defending the absurd federal military spending, whereas the founding fathers were against the very idea of standing armies.

      Which is why George Washington’s cabinet had a Secretary of War and John Adams’ cabinet had a Secretary of the Navy as well.

      – Defending interventionism, whereas the founding fathers were against entangling alliances. Even John Quincy Adams, the writer of the Original Patriot Act that Jefferson and Madison fought using states rights with the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions , eloquently warned against “Going abroad in search of monsters to destroy”.

      1. They were not omnicient.

      2. They lived in a world where transportation costs were exceptionally severe and geographic features could provide greater protection.

      3. They presided over a modest regional power which lacked the resources to project its forces in the manner of the great powers of the day (Britain, France, Spain, Prussia, Russia, and the Hapsburgs).Report

  2. Avatar Bob says:

    “…I was writing about the problems with elites manipulating it for their own purposes….”

    Where do you mention this in your original post? I don’t find the word elites there. I don’t find a hint of such a notion expressed there.

    You’re just making stuff up.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      I agree that this post seems to take a different part of the previous post and flesh it out considerably more. And it also seems quite possible that much of the thought behind this post was due to counter-arguments leading to further development of the ideas behind it. (And that’s not a bad thing.) And although I haven’t performed a word search, I’m happy to take your word for it that the actual word “elites” does not appear in the text. But you don’t find a “hint of such a notion expressed there?”

      E.D. : The first problem with the rule of the mob is the sort of leaders it produces. Every mob needs a despot. That’s why we have a Democratic Republic in the first place as opposed to a more free-wheeling Democracy. Pure, unadulterated democracy is too close to mob rule, places too much political power into the hands of the majority. All too quickly such democracy leads to tyranny of one variety or another.”

      Did you not read the post?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Thanks RTod. Dude, Bob, if you want to be endlessly hostile to me that’s up to you, but it grates after a while. I think, as the quote above proves, I fairly directly approached the idea of the mob and tyranny – the masses and the elites who manipulate them. That I did not use the word ‘elite’ doesn’t change the fact.Report

  3. Avatar Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    “In many ways the people out there opposing the Iraq war or the tea-partiers out there opposing big government or any of these grassroots groups are good people, honorable people doing good and important work. ”
    According to the MSM, the 24-hour Tea Party People are salt of the earth, while the anti-war protesters wer and remain a bunch of DFH.Report

  4. Avatar mike farmer says:

    I think we are just beginning to see the political effects of the Information Age. This, in my opinion, has less to do with old players like Gingrich, or even new players like Obama, and more to do with the public paying attention to what is going on in government. I don’t believe there is much trust placed in Gingrich or any of the other political class, false-elite. The elite of the future will have to earn the status, not acquire it through inside connections, longevity in office or being a member of the club. The public, although it has its share of dummies, is like a large, sharp intelligence turning its giant focus on politics.

    This is a political lesson in spontaneous order, or synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Maybe so, Mike. It certainly does seem more hopeful than ever that this may be happening….Report

      • Avatar mike farmer says:

        I have a good feel for it, E.D., although I could be wrong. It makes sense, though, that the Information Age would have an effect like this. Usually when people are given a broad array of ideas and reports on what’s happening, they sift through and react reasonably. Americans have historically been pretty common sense-type people and eventually come to the right conclusions. I think they turned away from politics for a long time, and now they are returning with interest and concern, and not a little disgust — with politicians, and with themselves for not paying attention.

        As I recently wrote on my blog, I think the only thing that might cause the public to shrink from their independence is a terrorist attack that works and does terrorize the public — then we might have a much sadder change in direction — let’s hope not. I think we should all prepare for such an attack and use as much reason as possible.Report

  5. Avatar Sam M says:

    “They are stooping to petty rhetoric and exaggeration and sometimes outright lies to rile up the base”

    Well… yeah. That’s human nature. To get people to ACT, you have to rile people up. And Newt really does think it’s bad policy to read that guy his rights. I am sure that, even though I disagree with him, he can cite all kinds of precedent and legal arguments and history to make his case. Is that REALLY what you think is supposed to happen at, say, the Clearfield County Republican meet-up? Mark Twain talked about this forever ago, in Corn-Pone opinions. What portion of people who had strong views about the Gold Standard REALLY understood it? Maybe one percent? The rest of the people oursourced the decision process to elites. THAT’S WHAT ELITES ARE FOR.

    This happens in every facet of life. When I was in high school strapping on a football helemt to go crush some kid from a town seven miles down the road, the people in charge of such things goaded me to real violence. Screw those other people and their seven-mile-away folkways!

    Do we really expect there to be a sit-down in which someone discusses the difference between towns, the importance of localism and tribalism, the history and significance of athletic competition, and the various ways it has been manifested in small town America? No. YOu tell the kid to go stick his helmet in someone’s crotch. Which I did.

    When my Italian mother told me that lingiuni with clam sauce was a superior dish to any crap coming out of a French or German kitchen, she did not use reason to prove it so. She also tool special care to explain why people from any region of Italy other than hers was not really an Italian, but a dago who was not to be trusted. Unless the only other option was a German. She was agnostic between Germans and Sicilians. And never, not even a second, of reasoned debate.

    I am just not sure why it is you think any of the masses really WANT to be given the long, complicated, tedious facts, and reasoned arguments that are based on those facts. People vote based on a complex series of emotions and biases and interests. They can’t be bothered with some dunce like Gingrich carefully explaining where a potential terrorists fits within the structure of American jurisprudence. They want that dude locked up. Many people very likely want to see him raped in prison. (This is the saddest for me.) And they want to hear that anyone who has other ideas is a radical. Or a commie. Or something bad.

    The other side is just as guilty. Bush can’t be an economic illiterate, or someone who thinks differently. BUSH LIES.Report

    • Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

      Sam, if you ever write a book about football, eyetalian cooking, politics, or human nature let me know. I’d like to read it.Report

      • Avatar Sam M says:

        Ha! I already did. It’s called “The Urban Hermit.” It got some decent reviews, but also got crushed several times. Some lady from an alt-weekly in Sacramento declared (I am quoting from memory, here) that the book “symbolizes everything that is is wrong with post-millenial America.” Wow. Everything?

        Get the paperback. It’s cheaper, and some of the editorial mistakes are cleaned up. Or… get it at a library. It’s cheaper yet. And I won’t have to feel bad if you hate it. Did I mention that a lot of people hate it? Lots of swear words and musing about personal responsibility. On the other hand, I do mention a Dukes of Hazzard in Sperryville, VA. So there’s that going for it.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle says:

    Perhaps this is distantly related or not at all but it struck me, Erik, when you wrote Democratic Republic that these days we tend to omit the latter descriptor. 150 years go, this was the Republic, not our democracy…I wonder what that means.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I’d say it means quite a lot – and probably a lot of that has to do with the shift in the proportion of government that has shifted from state/local to federal over the years (decades…centuries?)Report

  7. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    In the words of the immortal American icon, “Republic…you can’t handle a republic!”
    Actually Kyle, I think you’re stirring the pot unnecessarily here with all this radical talk about a ‘republic.’
    Can’t we just have our socialist democracy and be done with it?Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    It is that they are all busy people. They have kids. They work for a living. They don’t have as much time, money, or education as the elites do. They don’t have the connections or the wherewithal or the behind-the-scenes knowledge of the political system. They’re not as connected to government or the media. This doesn’t make them foolish or ignorant or bad. Quite the contrary.

    Maybe they’re just afraid.

    And that would explain why I often end up feeling like conservatives are bullies in discussions; they’ve already gone into fight mode because they’re feeling a flight response.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I don’t know. One of the jokes I tend to make is “Free Psychoanalysis!” when I encounter something like this.

      It feels like Kristof’s argument boils down to something like this:

      “You have said that P leads to Q, and X is evidence for P, and Y is evidence for P, and you have shown us X and Y and, from there, led us to the conclusion Q. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about how only people with the following negative traits would want Q to be true.”

      It’s a brilliant double attack. It changes the subject away from X, Y, P, and Q and it makes a guilt by association thing (you people think this way because you have the following negative traits).

      The giveaway, to me anyway, is that the argument paints “you people” as having negative traits and “us people” as holding the views “we” do because “we” are virtuous. It flatters the reader.

      When a guy starts to tell you that you are a good person, put one hand on your wallet and your other on your gun.Report

  9. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Why not just write about public policy. Attempting to assess the manners of various participants in the political world is an endless task and you lack the standing to be a credible scold.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus says:

    I think this site’s a pretty good start. I don’t remember reading a post here and thinking it was petty. Mike Farmer might be right that the Information Age will improve the quality of American politics. Certainly there need to be better news sources. I’m usually impressed by the coverage in The Economist, but people like Gingrich seem suited for the cable news cycle. Maybe the secret is to become the media.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I don’t want to come off as an inveterate Obama-bot, but I do think the accusation that what he did politically was simply to attempt to co-opt an already-surging populism (remember, he is at this time among the politicians currently farthest away from having directly to politick for his job — those days were two and three years ago now, crucially, pre-bailouts) is just clearly false on the facts. There is absolutely a divergence between his governing actions and his campaigning rhetoric, but in my recollection when he came on the scene there was little evidence of an active populist uprising of any kind, (I’m sure many will claim the emotions driving what we are now seeing were seething below the surface, but those are not the same thing). Obama clearly tapped into always-present anti-Washington sentiment in the country, but far from simply coasting on an existing populist wave, in my recollection through his rhetoric he did quite a lot to give sentiment political form. What he didn’t do at all was to give it substantive form — or limits. In my view, he is reaping results of that incaution now, as by my lights he seems to gotten himself pretty well cross-ways to the visceral populist reaction to the policies of Washington over the last eighteen months (which he fully owns, of course). However difficult that situation might make the next couple of years for him — very, is my expectation — I’m having a pretty hard time seeing where it’s one which you can fairly say that he is co-opting a populist movement for hi political benefit. Just trying to survive it, is more like it.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      The actions of Congress and the Administration are absolutely unsurprising: an attempt to effect a permanent increase in the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product (that is, a permanent increase in the degree to which the fruits of productive activity are allocated by men such as themselves) and the subjugation of commercial enterprises that they might serve the imperatives of politicians. The end is visible and varies little: the maintenance of an entrenched class of political operators (some in legislatures, some staff to legislatures, some in an establishment which floats between positions in government, campaigns, and lobbying firms). They, in turn, are a patrons of a permanent class of supplicants (state dependent firms and the employees and clientele of welfare bureaux). They also have an opportunity for riches by peddling influence or by acquiring positions in state-dependent businesses which can be looted (see James Johnson and Jamie Gorelick’s take from Fannie and Freddie, which was in turn under the protection of Barney Frank). It’s a hive of crooked operators, cuttin’ up the cash.Report