Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Voltage of Dissent

Voltage is the difference in electric potential between two points, which develops for any number of reasons. The difference here feeds the dynamic flow of power, like from a generator to your home, a cloud to the ground, or from a doorknob to a hand about to grasp it. Given this is a political site, we should all be familiar with the way power flows, but often enough we visualizing as resting in one place or another. The thing about power is that it doesn’t rest. It exists in a constant state of unrest, a fact that politicians can sometimes ignore to their peril.

Often times, the appearance of permanence is only that. A home can be permanently perched on a hillside until the hillside decides to move to a new location. A good soaking or shaking (or both, in a phenomenon called liquefaction) can undermine foundations and tear houses from them. When that happens, the acceleration of gravity takes over. The acceleration is always there, most of the time resisted by something else in the way. The more the give of that material, the greater force gravity can move us with.

When I've heard GOP strategist talking about the permanent majority, I've found myself instantly doubtful. Even with sixty years in the majority, the Democratic Party was pushed and pulled in all directions, at times losing the Senate and the Presidency. The consensus position on the political spectrum changed from year to year. Democratic Party Power, no matter how long lived, was impermanent, maintained largely by the consensus of the older generation for the New Deal, and the residual presence of that as that generation faded from prominence.

Social forces, too, operate on equilibriums, and because change can sometimes be slow, things can evolve without folks realizing what's happening. Take rock music. Many of the new conservative programs use it, but in the old days, what conservative would be caught dead using it? There's even Christian Rock now. Who would have thought of such a thing in the late sixties, when the conservative movement first took off? It's not just rock and roll that's filtered across. Look at the way today's conservatives and liberals dress. Look at what entertainment they enjoy. If there's one reason why I don't hold too many grudges against rank and file Republicans, it's that they're little different than most Democrats! Where a Liberal might justify his or her excesses under the heading of rebelling against the old musty morality, the Republicans do the same in the name of political incorrectness, bucking the rules set down by those control freak liberals. Whether they realize it or not, they've repeated the sins and mistakes of their rivals.

I do speak of the right and the left, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, all the old labels, but at heart, I do not believe that those labels represents things that are hard and fast. Rather, they are points of equlibrium, strange attractors in the pattern of our interactions, pulling at our behavior and our ideas.

It's useful to look at things this way, because it's easier to recognize the dynamics of a party, if you don't treat it as a thing in and of itself. Parties are composites, and pretty much have to be to have nationwide presence, because of all the diverse communities they serve. What makes things even more complicated is that the individual voter is a composite, too, their minds binding together a set of views that are typically set in some kind of dynamic equilibrium. That last part is very important. It's at the center of why I bother to think at all that the other side can change. People can, and they do, and what's more, the keys to putting that change in motion are already there.

This kind of view of things, though, is rare. Many look at this in the pseudoscientific certainties of focus groups and poll numbers, using the statistics as an excuse not to think of people as human beings in context. That's the important part. People aren't simply puppets to be moved around. They are sentient beings with instincts, imagination, and observational skills. People are smarter than this culture gives them credit for, even if the general foolishness and imperfection of human beings gets in the way of our seeing that.

The Republicans have had a good deal with their media machine, their network of talk-radio hosts, columnists, thinktanks and television/news personalities. They've done a good job of rapidly penetrating the GOP view into society. I think it is an essential part of what has maintained the current Republican majority, and suppressed the Democratic comeback. It has come at a price, though.

The first price is that the GOP has managed to raise the expectations for its performance pretty high, and put the Democrats pretty low. Had the GOP remained as effective as it seemed in governing the country, this might not have been a problem, but now, faced with real situations, the Republicans are screwing it up. Having boasted so proudly of their military prowess, their economic sense, their fiscal discipline, and their ability to handle both manmade and natural disasters, they have failed some crucial tests.

The second price is that they've kept their real views pretty quiet until recently, while they've sold some American on things like compassionate conservatism, and others on the good old-fashioned type. They couldn't keep that up forever, and now with issues many Americans find important on the table, Americans are finding themselves at odds with the majority party on one issue after another. Worse yet, in their desperation, the Republicans are bouncing back and forth between pleasing most of the rest of their country, and pleasing the base, which is far to the right of most. In serving two masters, the Republicans please neither.

The third price for such a successful media operation is the disconnect between the politicians feeding the operation and the voters, a disconnect allowed by the willingness of their media machine to uncritically pass propaganda and rationalization to the average citizens. Without the need to convince skeptics of their performance, they do less and less real work, less and less good work. They grow lazy and complacent, corrupt and bubbled off. It doesn't help that their constituency is so passive about the matters, since they already believe government doesn't work. It helps to keep expectations low and ward off outrage by keeping their voters cynical about the possibility of improvement. It can't last forever, though.

Having encased themselves in a protective bubble, they've trapped themselves in it, too, made themselves dependent on it. As they try and control their political fortunes, things slip more and more from their grasp, because what all this has done is create potentials within the government and within society. Whether that's expectations of performance that demand they meet them, a false impression of their philosophies that the pattern of their actions might reveal, or the ugly secrets waiting to be revealed to voters, these potentials are eroding the equilibrium upon which their power depends, changing the dynamics of America's political landscape.

It's an open question of what the Democrats will be able to gain from this. I hope we learn our lessons from what happened to the Republican party. Then again, this might be a third party's chance to arise.

The lesson to learn here is to be honest and virtuous. No, really. People talk about Social Darwinism as if a winner-takes-all attitude is the best way to success. The reality is, few people are ruthless enough to survive like that, and event the ruthless can end up part of the feeding frenzy. No, there are reasons that trust, love, honesty, and any number of other virtues have not been bred out of the species. When people know what to expect, what they can expect, they can be bolder, more adventurous, and can afford to make more mistakes. When everything becomes chaotic, people become more hesitant to take chances, less generous of their time, money, and loyalty.

The Republicans have made the mistake of being weak on policy and strong on message control at the same time, failing to acknowledge failures, failing to take heed that voter's perceptions were no longer so aligned with theirs. They have in fact made people very conscious about the shortcomings of this party, highlighted against the background of all the promises made about superior governing abilities in different fields. They have set up a very powerful dynamic, in short, taking people from agreement to disagreement, a dynamic which is poised to take the Republican majority, and bring it down in ruins, like so many houses that were set on the hilltop to be permanent additions to the landscape.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 6, 2006 5:05 PM
Comment #154918

Looks like a new hand book for all Democrats ———-A must read,at least twice——

Posted by: DAVID at June 6, 2006 8:02 PM
Comment #154924


As always you make sound and valid points.

But, you must take into consideration the “extreme” right wing. I live here in the Bible Belt and I’ll tell ya’ popular opinion indicates everything is the fault of “those damn Democrats”.

I wonder if there is a way to overcome that.


Posted by: KansasDem at June 6, 2006 8:23 PM
Comment #154932

Nice statement. The profile of a political group is only the cross section taken at a specific moment in time.
The failure to comprehend this dynamic nature of politics and perception has additionally resulted in the right wing’s characterization of anyone who has changed their mind about any issue as waffling or as weak minded. With the constant changes in information and the development of new and relevant developments, a closed and petrified mind set should be a major indication of someone inadequate to any position of power.
Now that we have seen a large shift of public opinion away from the support of Bush, I hope that public might be more resistant to the Republican’s use of a changing opinion as a condemnation. After all, the majority of the American people changed their mind about Iraq.

Posted by: dana at June 6, 2006 8:52 PM
Comment #154982

Sounds good BB,

Let’s see, we can call it the PRCCM, or prick-em for short.


Posted by: KansasDem at June 6, 2006 10:43 PM
Comment #154986

Kansas Dem
You might have the water supply analized. There must be something in it. See all that bottled water paid off.
Seriously,it was not always so. The mid-west was once a center of populist politics. The grange movement was radical in its day. During the depression there were regions where banks would not dare to forclose on farms.Take heart.
I think it would help the Dems to get off that stupid anti-gun nonsense. It just gives the right an opportunity to infect people with the rest of their nonsense. Folks in rural areas see guns differently. Big spaces and few police. The police most often just fill out reports after the crime has happened when they finally get there.
Where I live the shoe is on the other foot. There is only one Rep in county office and he is mellow. The rest are Dems. Nearly the same with the state(Ca.) and will be 100% Dem after we dump Governor grab ass. All the cities in my county have majority Dems on their councils except mine. Here it is majority Green.

Posted by: BillS at June 6, 2006 10:47 PM
Comment #154993

Bill S,

I don’t really buy the whole “liberal Democrats want to take away all the guns” thing anyway. Increased registration yes. And why not? You must register every vehicle you own.

I own several guns. They’re all in my son’s gun safe because I can no longer safely handle a gun due to neurological damage. Even before then I kept none of my guns at home because my youngest son is bipolar. I felt the threat of having a gun at home was a greater threat than that of robbery or such.

I also think this idea of legalizing “concealed carry” is insane. Jusat yesterday I read this report:

Rage Disorder More Common Than Thought;_ylt=AoW3GRVHAjto51JnkU7jybrVJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

I just think we’re flirting with disaster. It almost seems as though, rather than moving forward, we are moving backward to the turn of the last century in many of our laws.

The greatest long term disagreement I hear is that of abortion, but please let’s do that on a different thread or Stephen will skin alive.


Posted by: KansasDem at June 6, 2006 11:08 PM
Comment #154994

That should be “skin me alive”.


Posted by: KansasDem at June 6, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #155032

I agree with KD
While I don’t own any guns and have a much more restrictive preference in gun control, the democratic agenda has NEVER BEEN as facist as the republicans make it out to be. The thought of private handgun and automatic rifle ownership scares me, but registration and background check are an acceptable middle ground. The right to carry concealed scares the hell out of me, but licensing is an acceptable middle ground.

I don’t think republicans have to be re-educated… they just need to be told the truth. The single most under-reported crime in America is fraud… especially fraud perpetrated by a skilled con artist. The reason for that is because in order to report the crime, one must admit publically how stupid they were to have been duped. Do you suppose those proud bible belters who drank the bush kool aid are ready to step up and confess their stupidity at having been sold a pig in a poke?

Posted by: Thom Houts at June 7, 2006 3:22 AM
Comment #155214

There is a few new sheriffs in town.This should get very interesting.Get your facts strait dems. you will be truthified from this point on.

Posted by: lookingout at June 7, 2006 2:38 PM
Comment #155242

Do me a favor and clear things up, if you will. Lend us your wisdom on this subject. Why is it that Republicans in government have become so out of sync with the rest of the country, so ill-discipline as to suffer such an unceasing series of failures?

It’s easy to tell everybody what you’re doing right. What are you doing wrong?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 7, 2006 3:51 PM
Comment #155252

STEPHEN We are trying to fight a politically correct war.We should kick the media out of the middle east.We should fight this war with no rules I repeat no rules.Kill the enemy with no I REPEAT NO REGAURD for what the liberals of this country have to say about it!Charge anyone and every one who leaks secret information with treason and send them to the firing sqaud.Iwould gladdly volunteer to be the man pulling the trigger on those who commit this treason free of I REPEAT FREE OF CHARGE weather it be my brother or your brother of this i would be proud to do!!

Posted by: lookingout at June 7, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #155282

——Stephen—The Republicans are all on the lookout for all their talking points from the Right wing of the White House. Like sheep, they just follow their leader and seem unable too see right from wrong.

Posted by: DAVID at June 7, 2006 5:16 PM
Comment #155403

senators are so kind when replying to imput. It doesnt mean a thing. Why don’t they tell you how many people were in favor of something and how many against. They just do what they want to without any accounting to the people. Its time to remove all the self surporting egotist that are in office. Get some knew ones who will be responsible to the People.

Posted by: John at June 8, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #155459

To lookingout. I would like to know if you think this war is justified and why. Just something short so I can make sure I know where you stand cause I am new here. Next ? is do you think that it has been ran the right way and what would you really do differently to end the war. I assume that you support bush and his policies but I want to make sure. Do you support bush and if you do why ? Just some quick backround info would be nice. What other policies would you like to see bush put some time into. Not just the ones he was elected on but some policies that you really belive in or things that you would change if you were in the white house. Thank you .

Posted by: truck doctor at June 8, 2006 6:33 AM
Comment #155520

Truck doctor Yes sir i do think the war is justified and i am a Bush supporter.The reason i think its justified is for the simple reason that if you are to be taken serious as a world leader you have to inforce the laws of the land.If as a world leader you do not inforce the 17 resolutions the have no credibility in the future.If you allow a country to fire on your airforce on a daily basis and take no action you have no credibility.If you allow a dictator to attemt to kill a former president and do nothing you have no credibility.If you allow a dictator to pay 25000 dollars to those who strap bombs on and go into isreal to kill innocent people you have no credibility.To be a leader you must have credibility.This has not been a perfect war but there is no such thing as a perfect war and i would never second guess the pro’s.I like what bush is doing i see a bright future for the middle east and a brighter trade future for the united states of america.One thing for sure Freedom never hurts the cause it only brings hope to those who never knew hope before.I will always give the benifit of doubt to america i will never go against the country i love because i know whats in the heart of america.AND THAT IS TO DO THINGS THAT BRING JOY TO PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD.Might sound wishy-washy but it is the truth!!

Posted by: lookingout at June 8, 2006 9:57 AM
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