Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When good people do bad political things

The average rank and file Republican and Democrat generally plays fair in his personal life, I believe.

Yet both parties have an element that wants to do whatever it takes to win.

They face a challenge: how do you get people who normally play fair to fight dirty?

One way is the way Bush II justified the vicious things he had his proxies do to John McCain in 2000 when both were vying for the GOP nomination. Bush II said, in effect, that it was a game, and the rules were that there were no rules. You can see this from the way he defended his actions when McCain confronted him over his dirty tactics.

But the most common way is to convince your rank and file that they face an existential threat. That they must circle the wagons and shoot to kill--that they must, as a political metaphor, declare "martial law" for the duration of the emergency.

This is why the Cuban communist regime still speaks in revolutionary language half a century after the revolution ended. And it's why the GOP harps about "gay marriage" and guns and God yada yada, so you'll be distracted while they're picking your pockets, and even if you notice that they are, you'll excuse it as the price of beating back the threat to your tribe.

The Democrats' rabble rousing efforts lack the intensity of the Republicans' but they still give it their darndest. The latest from FactCheck.org, summarizing the year's best whoppers, doles out prizes aplenty to both sides. And if you look at those prizes, you'll see the underlying pattern: to get you to feel there's an emergency that requires you to suspend your ordinary sense of fair play.

Look at it and see if that pattern doesn't jump out at you.

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