The article I cite here is from the 19th. I wrote this entry last week, but left it to marinate in my brain because I wasn’t sure I said anything worth publishing. This needs to be fleshed out more, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced even myself. I’m posting it raw for future possibilities to build on the idea.
Megan McArdle asks a question:
Assume, for the nonce, that come January 2009, there will be a Democrat taking the oath of office. What will the blogosphere look like?
Compared to the netroots, right now, the rest of the political blogosphere is a demoralized and listless place. Libertarians are abandoning their mild preference in favor of Republicans, not for the Democrats, but for despair. On the conservative side, even ardent supporters of the president have tired of him. Everyone is out of plausible policy proposals. What is there to be in favor of? More tax cuts? An even more aggressive foreign policy?
Her answer is good and worth reading. Blogging is mostly a response, so it’ll morph into something new and interesting as the world changes. I think mostly is the key, though. What will blogging do to politics.
If nothing else, blogging has better shown how ridiculous political debates are, how unprincipled the arguments and, particularly, how despicable the players are as leaders. There is no audience that won’t be sold to a higher bidder. Only the most rabidly blind partisan doesn’t know that. (Admittedly, that’s a large-ish group, but the point is basic.)
What is there to be in favor of? This concerns me. I think we’re already seeing the future of this problem, represented by Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama. Not all of this is bad, probably, but the potential is dangerous.
Candidate Huckabee is a creation of the blogosphere. Without a swell from whatever corner his support crawled¹ out of, his candidacy wouldn’t be news. He’d still be a no-name governor from a bottom-ranked state who pedals too much Jesus and too much nanny-state socialism. In the end this will probably be his undoing, as the blogoshpere invokes some of the corrective potential inherent in the American readiness to knock down those it builds up. A little extra light shows him to be the calculating politician he clearly is. And there’s a large segment of the population that hasn’t seen his shtick up close yet. (The blogosphere giveth, the nation taketh away?)
Ron Paul is a more compelling example. He is selling a set of solutions, which too much of the blogosphere is buying without sufficient skepticism and investigation. Too many of his ideas are simply wrong (gold standard) or worse, morally indefensible (immigration). The blogosphere is not as good at delayed, thought-out responses as it is at offering immediate, emotional defensiveness. The latter builds short-term momentum.
Carried on for too long, this becomes a phenomenon. I don’t think we’re there yet in the blogosphere’s influence, but it could happen. Support for the candidate centers on what his supporters claim he represents, not what he offers. With Ron Paul, he is the libertarian candidate while holding very few libertarian positions. His appeal rests on a dream of what might result that is neither claimed nor implied by what he’s saying. Unintended consequences fall on non-sober, well-intentioned dreams as easily as they fall on sober pandering.
Barack Obama is the most compelling example of what might happen, although compelling does not necessarily mean good. He’s changing the rhetoric of our current political climate by focusing more on optimism and change. That’s a winning formula, as the blogosphere’s reaction seems to embrace his effectiveness at speech-making with little-to-no concern for the sense of what he’s actually saying. His policies are little different from any of the other Democratic candidates, yet he gets a free pass on dumb. The search for the appearance of leadership explains this, I fear.
What is there to be in favor of? Huckabee’s supporters look to his faith in Jesus. They do not worry that saving people from themselves and for Jesus isn’t the job coming open next November. Paul’s supporters look to his lack of faith in the federal government. They do not worrying that he’s not against the states violating the rights the federal government violates. Obama’s supporters look to his faith that government can help people if it has the right leaders willing to solve the problems. They do not worry about how much this will cost or that it be the most efficient solution as long as the leader makes the government appear to care more. None of these approaches is good for us.
I admit I’m cynical about politicians and what they promise. But I can still react to what they say with a fair analysis of each proposal. On solving the issues, every candidate is awful. Of course I’m biased in thinking that the government shouldn’t be involved, but supporters of the government intervention every candidate promotes² should explain why each solution is the best solution, with details that do not rely on moral platitudes involving the poor, the rich, public health, family values, or our children. How will each solution help individuals without doing so at the expense of another?
Instead, each part of the blogosphere is promoting an atmosphere of unquestioning built on receiving from the Dear Leader it chooses. As I mentioned, I think there’s a corrective built into the American psyche. But I’d be happier if we engaged pro-actively in solutions rather than reactive adaptations to flawed ideas after they’ve come into ugly, morphed reality.
¹ Maybe I shouldn’t use a term that implies evolution. Without a wave of His finger from the entirety of Heaven that God created Huckabee’s support in His universe, to enable the Huckabee/Christ ticket…
² Spare me the rhetoric about how Rep. Paul is not promoting government intervention.