I just read a fascinating post over at Pandagon. Amanda Marcotte raises an issue that I’ll roughly translate as follows: liberals and progressives too often use a style of argument that is too esoteric and boring to win over conservatives. Of course, Marcotte says so much more than that, so you should read the post yourself.
However, I’d like to address the issue from the perspective of this statement that Marcotte makes:
But you have to be fair to people; they aren’t generally into the sound bite argument because they’re morons. They simply don’t have time to learn about economic theory well enough to understand wonkery.
I think commenter btk gives a very good response to this point:
I hear people saying they don’t have time to learn the issues of the day all the time. Work and family take up so much time they simply can’t be bothered with their citizenship duties. BULL.
Their ignorant voting choices directly affect the well-being of their family members. Tax policy directly affects families job prospects and economic landscape. Foreign/corporate policy affects American’s safety throughout the world and their children’s life expectancy. Ignorance of the issues of the day materially degrades our descendant’s future. Ignorance causes people to become one issue voters and allows ‘christian poseurs’ to take power.
You’d think that people would believe that protecting their families was paramount but it’s obvious they’d rather spend their time watching the latest ‘realty show’.
I tend to agree with btk. Suggesting that conservatives support harmful and destructive policies because they can’t help but not know better is letting them off the hook. In fact, this goes beyond self-identified conservative members of our electorate.
I submit that the U.S. electorate in general is like the apocryphal/stereotypical ghetto single mother whose young teenage son starts bringing home piles of cash and brand-new, top market appliances. Knowing that the son has no means of gainful employment, the mother asks no questions while continuing to enjoy the wealth.
We all know our economy– with its cheap fuel and sweatshop-labor-produced goods– is run on smoke, mirrors, and blood. We all know that our foreign policy– directly and indirectly– causes the perennial deaths of thousands and the continuing suffering of millions.
Some of us are more reactionary about facing it, to be sure. Some of us are more reactionary, period. Like my friend’s father-in-law, who after my friend’s wedding reception looked at a CD I’d burned for the newlyweds and saw the word “Bargain” among the song titles. He lowered his gaze, looking over his glasses at me as though I were a small child suspected of mischief, and asked with undisguised suspicion, “What does that mean?” Did it occur to this man that on a freaking music CD that “Bargain” was a song title? Did it occur to him that, as I was friend of both bride and groom, that it could be taken for granted that no insult or slight was intended to his daughter? No, the dude saw something unfamiliar and assumed the worst. Out of a fucking wedding gift. That is the sort of mentality that eagerly laps up right-wing politics and damns itself (and us) at the polls. If there is anything vital they’re not seeing, it is because they don’t want to see it. No matter how you show the light to them, they will insist that it is darkness and that the darkness is so much brighter. These are the people who found and perpetuate sundown towns, and they are the people who insist that we coulda’ won Vietnam in ’68 if not for the dirty hippies. They are my politically benighted colleagues, who can regularly be seen smirking as they deny global warming (I’m sure that smug denial has nothing to do with their collective affinity for large pickup trucks, SUVs, motor boats, Harley-Davidsons, etc.).
One need not be a reactionary, though, to carry on in apocalyptically willful ignorance. Centrism– sometimes known as sensible liberalism— wears its own karmic bullseye. In any case, we are supposed to be a representative democracy. It is our duty to educate ourselves about what our government is doing, and what it ought to be doing. That takes time, to be sure, but it can’t be considered optional. We are responsible for the actions of our government, and we are ultimately responsible for the condition of our country. If it all goes to crap because of something we didn’t see coming, then it is our own fault for not paying better attention.