Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Code words and What's the Matter with Kansas?

RSR heard Bill Maher discussing Code Words, IDC in particular:
While it is true that some proponents of intelligent design are utterly sincere -- we're convinced there are at least six of them in North America -- there are many others who see it as just the vehicle -- a Hummer, perhaps -- to drive through the front doors of your local high school in order to put creationism into the public school curriculum.

And those are the good guys.

There are some more Machiavellian types -- Karl Rove comes to mind -- who see both intelligent design and creationism as the ideal blunt instrument. The perfect accessory for the well-dressed culture warrior.

And for them, the culture wars have little to do with abortion, gay rights, public education, and the Ten Commandments. For them, the culture wars have everything to do raising money to elect politicians who will maintain the system of crony capitalism that came to power with the Bush family. Their job, as they see it, is the sale of the people's government to the corporate class. All prices have been marked down. No reasonable offer will be refused. Everything must go.

In this context, intelligent design can proudly take its place next to States Rights, Southern Strategy, Defense of Marriage, Activist Judge, and Family Values as the double talk that now dominates our political life.
This is precisely what Thomas Frank was pointing out in What's the Matter with Kansas? The problem is not that people vote against their own self-interest, as some have characterized it, but that the "culture wars" are a massive bait and switch.

A voter gets all riled up over activist judges, evolution in the schools and abortion. Republican candidates talk about those things, getting the voter more riled up. Thinking s/he is voting in the interests of society and him/herself, the voter picks the Republican.

In the next term, the Republican votes to cut benefits to the voter, remove the social safety net, allows the voter's job to move overseas, and guts the voter's Social Security and Medicare. Never does evolution, abortion, or an activist judge get dealt with.

At the end of the term, the politician comes back on the campaign trail, railing against activist judges, abortion, and evolution, maybe tossing in gay marriage, to boot, the way his predecessors stopped complaining about busing and focussed on "bra-burners."

The voter, still worried about all that evolution, abortion, and judicial activism, pulls the lever for the Republican once more. Upon reelection the Republican does not, and can not, address the issues the voter got all hot 'n' bothered about, but does manage to lower taxes for the very rich, necessitating another cut in the voter's unemployment benefits.

And so on.

No one minds if voters pick a candidate for unselfish reasons. The problem is that voters are picking candidates for reasons that are irrelevant to the position they're voting on. In the last election, Kris Kobach sent out 4 pieces of direct mail attacking Dennis Moore on:
All but the last are essentially beyond the power of a congressman to influence. If Kobach were elected, he wouldn't ban video games, he wouldn't ban flag burning, he wouldn't ban abortion. At worst, he'd undermine the 9/11 commission's recommendations.

But he'd spend most of his time on trade deals, military appropriations, budget deals, arguing over Social Security, and trying to do something about taxes. Do lower capital gains taxes help most voters? Probably not. Do most voters care whether dividends are taxed? No. Did they have a clear picture of the Bush Social Security plan? No.

When they did learn about it, they didn't like it one bit. But that's what Kobach was going to be fighting for, not video games, not abortion, not the flag, and not even the intelligence budget.

That's the code word strategy. It's Ronald Reagan kicking off his campaign in Philadelphia, MS, site of the murders of three civil rights workers by the KKK. You govern like a plutocrat, campaign like a concerned citizen.

George W. Bush doesn't care about evolution, creationism, or science in general, but he sure cares a lot about keeping himself and his allies in power. If throwing a sop to the creationists helps him keep enough power to get his personal economic agenda through, that's good enough. Same for Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts, and the rest of them.