Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Responding to the complaint by Chief Justice Roberts that President Obama's Supreme Court criticism in the State of the Union address was "troubling," John Cole writes:

When did the Republicans become such whiners? Was it always this way, because right now the entire party seems to be based on a perpetual whine. The elitists don't like us. The media is unfair. The Democrats aren't being bi-partisan. They want to force gay cocks down our throats. They want to raise my taxes. Jon Stewart was mean to Marc Thiessen. Katie Couric asked mean questions.

On and on and on and on. Nothing but grievance after grievance building into one long sustained whine....

I'm not sure what Republicans' motivation is -- personally, I think they really are whining crybabies who can't endure not getting their way even once in a while (they were like this even when they held power, weren't they?). But I think the real reason they keep doing it is that it works politically.

It works because it solves a problem in modern politics, one that affects both parties: what do you do to sustain the loyalty of a large number of ordinary American voters when you either can't improve their lives (because your fat-cat donors won't let you) or won't improve their lives (because you actually agree with the notion that helping fat cats is the proper way to govern)?

Well, if you're not going to make voters happy by doing anything for them, you can at least show them you feel their pain. Democrats do it by campaigning on some variant on New Deal-ism -- which they then abandon as soon as they're in office. Republicans? They show they feel voters' pain by whining about political and cultural insults -- which is just what their base voters do. And that's something they can do every day, even as they're failing to improve the lives of the people who voted for them. Their voters love them fort it. And Democrats don't have anything like it.

There's a feedback loop at work. Fox and right-wing radio talkers link heartland resentment of coastal elites to right-wing political resentments, which gets listeners and viewers excited about politics (it's about their grievances, so it feels personal) ... and then GOP officials have a well-cultivated voter base, and they fan the resentments even more. Everybody wins: Fox and Limbaugh get great ratings, Republican officials have a surefire way to please base voters.

While Republicans are doing this, Democrats are failing to govern in a way that helps ordinary people and failing to turn ordinary people's frustrations into political rhetoric. Every few years, when Republicans fail at governing, Dems make up for at least the latter failure a little bit -- but they don't know a way to show cultural solidarity with voters.

Or at least they don't know a way that's as effective as incessant whining.

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