Many liberals are fond of saying it’s really stupid when someone votes against their best interest. Many other liberals will say that the two party system is broken, and voting a party line for Democrats is stupid. What they don’t realize is how stupid it is to say that—at every level!
They say other stupid stuff too, like “they’re (but they usually use their when they write it out) all alike,” or “I vote on principle,” as though stupid people—like Republican voters—do not vote on principle, albeit principles that are hard to reconcile with the reality of the outcomes of their vote.
The kind of comments may have had some basis in reality as late as three decades ago, but, at the first level, they are nothing short of cynical nonsense today. You can mark the date that the transition from all but indistinguishable differences in the parties began to shift to today’s diametrically polarized parties with Strom Thurmond’s switch from the Democratic party to the Republican party on September 16, 1964 over the issue of civil rights. The realignments of the 1970s were characterized by marked increases in defections by southern Democrats, and the 1980s saw expansion of the trend into the Midwest.
The stage had been set by 1992, and the Republicans were able to capitalize on a “solid South” that was newly realigned with the Republican Party to take control of Congress in 1994. The GOP would retain hegemony in Congress over the next two decades with only a slight interruption from 2007 until 2009, when the Democrats lost their super majority in the Senate. Republicans then regained the majority in the House in 2010, due primarily to cynical Democrats believing they could register their dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s failure to address the issues of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the POWs in Guantanamo, and the use of drone and other targeted attacks that resulted in “collateral damage.”
The media, and the knowing political analysts do not talk about the polarization of our body politic simply in the abstract. The reactionary shift to the right with the advent of Tea Party activism is real, almost to the point of being tangible. We can, in example, see and feel the real differences the various stands on global climate change make. There are also a number of states in which pregnant women considering abortion can feel the difference when they find themselves subject to mandatory vaginal probes. Working women who earn 70% of the income their male peers earn also see the differences in the balance of their bank accounts, and the working poor feel the hunger they must suffer due to the cuts the Republicans have demanded in social programs. Public sector employees who lost their jobs, or had their bargaining rights stripped from them also feel the pinch.
By and large, liberals looking for an alternative to the Democratic Party look to the Green Party for a solution—on principle of course. The irony in this is that it was just that kind of principled vote that resulted in the election of George W. Bush in 2000. No, it was not the Supreme Court decision in Bush vs. Gore that stopped the recount. There would have been no need for a recount were it not for the liberal votes that went to Ralph Nader—in either Florida or New Hampshire!
Anyone can make a stupid mistake, and it’s a refreshing rare instance when they admit it. Bill Maher had been among those who voted for Nader in 2000, but had learned his lesson by 2004. “The first time, I never blamed Ralph for Bush winning, though I know a lot of people did,” Maher had said. “But this time, everybody I know who voted for Ralph last time is not going to vote for him this time. We all got a little reality slapped into us by George W. Bush. I regret that vote now. I see it as a bratty thing to have done.”
Liberals are also fond of saying, “you can’t fix stupid,” when referring to Republican voters. It’s only logical to say that ignorance can be remedied through presentation of fact. The inference then is that someone who is presented with fact, yet holds on to a false belief must be stupid—and this Facebook commentary (you must have an account) demonstrates that liberals are not necessarily as intelligent as they believe themselves to be.
It’s no accident that the words belief and believe were used above. Like Republicans, cynical liberals are motivated by an ideology that does not address their flawed perception of reality. Oh, Democrats are especially vulnerable to criticism from the extreme left on issues related to “peace,” and the cynics can dredge up a lot of evidence on that issue. They can however not demonstrate how a policy of peace at any cost will serve our national security interests. This lack of pragmatism on their part virtually assures political rejection of third party candidates by all but a fringe element on the left.
Several Democrats are also vulnerable on environmental issues. Most notably Mary Landrieu (LA) whose life-time voting record is scored at 51 percent by the League of Conservation Voters—the lowest of any Democrat in the Senate. Contrast that with the Senate Republicans’ average of 17 percent, and 5 percent average in the House, and a striking difference should become immediately evident.
The role played by Democrats like Landrieu is far more important to politics than just their performance on individual issues—or even the issues in general. Like her, other conservative Democratic Senators in red states, Jon Tester (MT), Max Baucus (WV), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Begich (AL) and others have secured Democratic control of the agenda in the Senate, which has prevented the GOP from the legislative hegemony that would have necessitated the kind of veto battles that could well dog President Obama through the last two years of his last term. Tester, Begich and Baucus have already decided they cannot win, and the outcome of the contests facing Hagan and Landrieu will decide whether the Republicans take control of the Senate.
If the Republicans win control of the Senate, the issue of Democratic obstruction that will be necessary to stop the GOP juggernaut, or the veto will likely dog any Democrat that runs in 2016, win or lose—and these issues will surely become another hurdle the Democratic candidates will have to clear in order to win. The rhetorical mastery of the right, and poor rhetorical performance of the left will certainly make the races close at best. That depends of course on how the cynical left votes—and the stand of cynical environmental purists does not bode well for the Democrats.
President Obama is an enigma at best when it comes to the environment. Though he took an early stand against the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) early in his administration, his State Department has come out on the side of KXL with its environmental impact study. Similarly, his EPA has come out in defense of the oil and gas drilling industry’s shale play, as does his Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz. Then there are Obama’s famous “all of the above” statements in his State of the Union Addresses. While neither issue garners wide opposition on the left, the opposition on the left is significant—and enough that no Democrat can win without the support of that segment of the Democratic base.
This of course brings us to another significant difference—the contrast in the stand of the Democrats and Republicans on support for development of alternative energy technologies and production to address global climate change. No Democrat has denied either the reality of climate change, nor that it is a man-made problem rooted firmly in reliance on fossil fuels. Efforts to subsidize renewable energy production are entirely backed by the Democrats, and opposed by the Republicans. On the other hand, efforts to end subsidies for fossil fuel production are entirely backed by Democrats, and unanimously opposed by Republicans.
Failing to realize that the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans as a whole are real—and strikingly so—is stupid, a kind of stupid that cannot be fixed. The evidence will be the rejection of this reality by those whose principled rejection of the two party system will argue against the arguments made here.