Is Al Gore Weird?

By amba | Related entries in Economy, Elections, Environment, General Politics, Ideas, Social Programs

Or is it that “the GOP and its media and energy constituencies will do everything they can to discredit attempts to deal with global warming or other issues that undermine their respective agendas. And they do it by playing the normal/weird card”?

Jack Whelan at After the Future has a keen analysis of how the Beltway media shifts in unison, like a school of fish, to ad hominem mockery of the messenger — his dress code, their geeky earnestness, her sex life — whenever the discourse cuts too close to the interests of established power and wealth.

You don’t have to like Al Gore (or Hillary), you don’t even have to be as alarmed as Al about global warming, to listen carefully to what Jack has to say. He’s saying that your perceptions are being easily manipulated for an agenda, and that this slant is slipped in before you even have a chance to make up your own mind. He’s saying that he himself was fooled by this in 2000. Jack is a sort of neotraditionalist populist progressive (to all-too-crudely plot his position using existing categories), but he thinks one of the chief offenders is The New York Times.

After you read that, read this brilliant post on the longing for a lost “normal”:

The Democrats have become identified with the forces of normless chaos, the Republicans with the forces of what used to be thought of as “normal.” For many people it’s that simple and that primitive. It has hardly anything to do with the specific issues. It’s all a matter of who they believe at an unconscious level will be more effective at maintaining and promoting the feeling of order and security that comes from the world being normal again.

But as I’ve been arguing for some time now, voting Republican doesn’t slow down the change. It just gives people the illusion of control. It gives people a feeling that their vote is all about trying to bring back the old, normal America. This is a politics of nostalgia and it’s just shot through with delusion. It’s a politics that refuses to deal with the world as it is. But the GOP understands this dynamic and exploits it to spectacular effect.

It helps to explain why people are so easily manipulated, and why the Dems as presently constituted are not the answer:

The GOP realizes that this is an image game, that the game is being played in the cultural values arena where people form their team loyalties, and it will do everything it can to keep the game there, because as long as they do, they win. The substance or reality doesn’t matter; only the image does, for except for the relatively few truly independent minded, most people form their allegiances superficially on the basis of who’s saying what they want to hear. The GOP understands this in a way the Dems have not been able yet to grasp. And so the Dems lose the image game in the cultural values arena time and time again. I don’t see how that’s going to change, at least any time soon.

Jack continues in the comments:

Most normal people need to feel a sense of order and comfort, and until the Dems come up with a better way of presenting it, the Republicans are the comfort party. They understand how to play that game and the Dems have not yet figured it out, and I don’t know if they can.

Their attempts to play the normal game have been pathetic and transparent. Remember Kerry’s hunting expedition. And now look at how Hillary is inauthentic pandering. It’s just so obvious that what is normal to normal America is not normal to Dems. Everybody seems to get that except the Dems themselves.

As has been pointed out here before, it’s the Republicans who realize how stupid and gullible the American stereotypical way of thinking is. They are the ones who have the real disdain for normal Americans and for the Democratic process. But they are the ones who have been winning more consistently at the ballot box because they are more cynical . . .

Listen up!! Not only progressive but centrist strategists need to be reading this guy. I don’t agree with Jack that the New Deal is the real “normal,” or ever can be again, or that this makes the Democrats “the real conservatives.” (The ’60s legacy of the New Deal ironically helped to destroy the internalized traditional values of “personal responsibility” that made the New Deal work in the first place.) But I must agree with him that there’s a powerful and cunning movement afoot to take the country to the other extreme, to create “an opening for the most predatory elements in American society, these wolves in traditional-values sheep’s clothing” who are “unfettering the forces that will return us to brutal conditions more typical of the laisser faire late 19th century.”

This entry was posted on Monday, May 29th, 2006 and is filed under Economy, Elections, Environment, General Politics, Ideas, Social Programs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Is Al Gore Weird?”

  1. DosPeros Says:

    Thanks, Amba. Interesting stuff.

    “unfettering the forces that will return us to brutal conditions more typical of the laisser faire late 19th century.�

    That might be a little dramatics, but I agree the plight of the corporate wage slave is an increasingly Hobsian existence.

  2. Donklephant » Blog Archive » “Conservative” Doesn’t Mean What You Think: A Guest Post By Jack Whelan Says:

    [...] Many of our commenters on this post (at AmbivaBlog) took issue with the spirited defense of New Deal-rooted American social democracy expressed by Jack Whelan at After the Future. In my opinion Jack is hands down one of the best thinkers and writers on the Web; I’m particularly blown away by his “post-secular” take on religious tradition and spirituality. While I don’t agree with every point of his politics, I am grateful to him for making me question what I fear is fast becoming a knee-jerk or herd-instinct libertarianism (is that an oxymoron?!) in much of the blogosphere. I hope you will read, consider, engage, and discuss. ~ amba [...]

  3. Don Lapre Lover Says:

    “Most normal people need to feel a sense of order and comfort, and until the Dems come up with a better way of presenting it, the Republicans are the comfort party” is a falacy if I ever heard one. the GOP is im more of an upheavel than the DEM’s ever were. WOW! I want to get up an a soapbox bad but I’ll leave it at this.

    Don Lapre Lover
    [email protected]

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