November 10th, 2004


Don't Blame Your Fellow Victims

93, all!

There's been a lot of understandable post-election misery on LJ*, particularly understandable from those who feel most threatened by the outcome (gays, military or military-age folks, those who love their freedoms, and the like). There has also, IMO, been a persistent tendency to misplace the blame for that outcome. I'll try to keep this focused, and for the sake of argument pretend that there was no vote-fraud involved, e-vote, optical scan, fake-registration or otherwise: that the outcome was precisely as advertised. Okay? Okay! Even granting that premise:

Not To Blame: "The South" or "The Red States," in which millions of people voted the same way you did, and are just as horrified at the result; it is insulting (and self-destructive, if you'd ever like to win again) to turn this into a ritual bashing of regions or states. Even "Rural Voters" isn't right -- some strong libertarian and pro-military voters in those regions worked very hard to try to change things, in this election; the same is true of "Religious People," many of whom made fine efforts to get their country back. As for "Stupid People," I admit I dislike the category: I'm not sure, absent actual brain deficiencies, that I believe there are "stupid" people...and I know for a fact that many people you might consider "stupid" also voted for your guy, and that (worse yet) substantial numbers of obviously smart people voted against him -- not all of them rich, either.

Okay, then (you're thinking) -- let's not say "stupid"; how about "ill-informed"? Now we're getting a good deal closer to the truth (though let's please recall that people may not be entirely to blame for the quality of the information they receive**). Still, many millions of people watched the debates, or at least saw (in the swing states, anyway) tons of TV advertising that hoped to inform (or at least sway) them. And finally, it's just ludicrous to think that all, or even most, folks who voted (as I see it) against the survival of the American republic and its ideals (and power) were motivated by "evil"; on the contrary, an unusually high percentage of them believed themselves to be motivated precisely by a transcendent "good," whether religious, political, or otherwise.

But I think we can isolate a single human quality over all others, one which (IMO) runs through the vast majority of those who voted for what Paul Begala once called the "Texas Taliban": they're "faith-based" voters, okay, but not necessarily religious. They are, IMO -- just like the administration they supported -- the Dangerously Naive.

Canny people -- like, say, the founders of this republic -- knew the dangers of unrestrained power, hence designed the Constitution to keep it in check (and, largely forced by the citizenry that had won the revolution for them, added the Bill of Rights to restrain it even further). Dangerously naive people see no problem with supporting, say, government use of torture, preventive detention, imprisonment (even execution) at the sole, unreviewable pleasure of the monarch, because they genuinely cannot imagine that such measures will ever threaten them, or anyone they like. Canny people know that theocracies always turn into nightmare states (and, ultimately, failed states); the dangerously naive think their theocracy would be utopia. Canny people know that you cannot successfully fight a world war without public unity, raised taxes, and sufficient numbers of troops; the dangerously naive seem (to my personal astonishment) to believe that bitter national division, massive tax cuts, and a shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class will work just fine...and, I assume, that soldiers grow on trees.

Finally, one group in the Republican coalition deserted it this time, in droves (bless them!): the libertarian folks, particularly on the very grounds I've noted (suspension of constitutional freedoms, imposition of theocracy, gay-bashing, etc.). Other than those who (also with dangerous naivete, IMO) think they're defending Israel, I confess I don't understand the small group of libertarians who'd vote for massively increased government size and intrusiveness; I can only assume that their overriding issue is an end to social spending. This too is dangerously naive, btw. The rulers of this country didn't create a social safety net in the first place out of misplaced generosity, but to prevent riots in the streets; how far their successors can now remove those protections without prompting said riots, I guess we'll be finding out.

Finally, canny people understand that there has been an American Empire for over a century now, most especially in the half-century since the second world war; dangerously naive people believe that America can impose its will worldwide even as it bankrupts itself, rejects its longtime allies, sows dissent among its own people, and (btw) reassures those people that they will have to make no sacrifices whatever to make the empire work. This has already had a catastrophic effect on American business, worldwide, and I suspect we ain't seen nothin yet.

The bad news is, I'm afraid that only vastly destructive experience will educate the dangerously naive people I'm talking about -- voters, pundits, and rulers alike. The "good" news is, I'm pretty sure it's coming right up. If that latter bit strikes you as also very bad news, no wonder you're miserable, these days...but at least you know now to blame the actual culprit, not your fellow victims.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* And some less understandable: e.g., do the people who won ever plan to stop whining about it? Guys, you won. Have a party, and try to be gracious winners, whaddaya say? Gloating is ugly but at least comprehensible; "But we were right to win, and you guys ought to agree!" strikes me as kinda silly.

** Many billions of dollars a year are spent to misinform the American people, and not just on obvious propaganda outlets like Fox "News," either. The astonishing thing is that so many people manage to see through the lies, which dominate mainstream "news" as well. (In short, enjoy the internet while you can. ;) )