The White Working Class

Sorry for not blogging more during this convention. However, it looks like there’s more than enough reporting on the convention to go around. Especially from the bloggers.

This week of the Convention has made me think a good deal about what it’s going to take to change undecided minds in November, and what people are looking for in a candidate or platform.

Ruy Teixiera has a post where he argues that the only way Bush can win is if he retains his massive support in the White Working Class (WWC). Ruy notes that Clinton’s victories in 92 and 96 were due, in large part, to the WWC defecting (many of them Reagan Democrats, no doubt) back to the Democratic fold to vote for Clinton.

Elsewhere on the web, people are wondering how Clinton’s free trade stances could have gotten him so much of the WWC vote. I think it’s pretty simple. The WWC, perhaps more than any other constituent group, is prone to act according to the Gut Reaction Theory, first posited on DeskJockeys. This theory says that most voters have a gut reaction to a candidate, which trumps all other policy details about the platform. Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush all succeed in attracting Gut Reaction voters.

Kerry will have a hard time attracting the WWC, because his Gut Reaction Quotient is relatively low. The WWC vote doesn’t hinge on NAFTA, welfare, or anything remotely policy-oriented. It’s all about the gut.

Speaking of gut reactions, Barak Obama was, indeed, wonderful to listen to. It’s a pleasure hearing a Democrat use the phrase “I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs.” Gave me chills.

Quick Note on the Drug War

Thanks for the comments regarding my piece, “On Goon Squads.”

I feel like the (lost) War on Drugs is something that I’ve spoken and written about extensively (aside: the first essay I ever had published — in my high school newspaper — was about the ridiculousness of the drug war … for those who care about such things, at that time I’d consumed no mood- or mind-altering substance of any kind save sugar and caffeine). So this is an issue that I’ve been addressing for a long time, and my opinion has changed very little.

RMW wrote: “I like how Amsterdam handles it. They’re not as intrusive as the States are and they’re still proactive. I think the fact that they decided to separate how they deal with hard drugs and soft drugs was smart.”

And, in my mind, that’s exactly right. Drugs aren’t legal in the Netherlands — they’re decriminalized. It’s a subtle difference … too bad America is such an unsubtle country.

The key is that it’s a market-driven approach. By separating the markets for hard and soft drugs, the Netherlands have acheived heroin addiction rates below those of neighboring countries. Meanwhile, numerous econometric studies, including this one demonstrate conclusive, tangible benefits from a Dutch-style approach.

And in the context of my essay, legalization clearly obviates the need for goon squads. If junkies buy their smack at a corner store that’s run by the state, and are allowed to consume in their homes or in carefully monitored public places, then there’s no more need for tactical teams.

Of course, when have economics ever mattered to a conservative? They’re more interested in the ideology of hate than the logic of progress.

Anne Coulter for the Hugo Prize

I have to admit that I was a little surprised when McNewspaper booted that scion of objectivity, Anne Coulter, off its editorial pages. And then I read the article.

Who takes this woman seriously? Any liberal who feels bad for degrading political discourse should read this and feel better. If there’s an effort made here to actually convey some relevant fact (or even a substantiated rumor), you tell me where it is. When USA Today boots you for being unjournalistic, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror.

While there’s so much here to dissect that it may seem like a stupid thing even to try, we must at least make the effort to rebut. Like monks transcribing Greek in the 7th c., we must believe that someday it will be important that we have a created a record of our opposition to this vitriol. Someday, in the general ledger of our nation’s rights and wrongs, perhaps small tokens like taking five minutes to point out what a jackass this jackass is will matter.

So let me dive in. Since there’s so much here, I’ll take an easy one. Coulter writes: “For 20 years, the Democrats wouldn’t let Jimmy Carter within 100 miles of a Convention podium … Maybe they just want to remind Americans who got us into this Middle East mess in the first place.”

Ah, Anne? Jimmy Carter is not the cause of Islamic fundamentalism. As Stephen Kinzer persuasively argues, in his book All the Shah’s Men, the U.S. IS to blame for the modern jihadis, but it was because of the CIA’s decision, under Eisenhower, to use religious Iranians as a counterbalance to Persian communists in the 1950s.

Of course, facts seem not to matter to either Anne or to her devotees. More’s the sadder that so many of her loyalists stand to benefit most from the new, compassionate and informed, society we progressives seek to create.

Kerry-Edwards Magnets

What’s up with this? Kerry-Edwards magnets? Talk about hedging your bets! I mean, I still see a few Gore-Lieberman bumper stickers around Seattle, and I like it. Shows a sense of history, and some degree of party cred (Ok, so those of us who are driving around in ’89 Subarus with the “Clinton-Gore ’92” sticker have cred to spare).

Imagine being able to withdraw your support for Kerry-Edwards the minute they tank on election day? That’s no fun. I mean, I still have my Adlai Stevenson bumper sticker around here somewhere…

Allawi The Strongman

More and more reports keep surfacing of what a tough guy Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi is. Apparently the rumor around Baghdad is that he’s personally executed some terrorists! Most folks don’t think that’s true, but it does burnish his strongman image nevertheless. Mickey Kaus postulates that short-term democracy might have to be abaondoned to ensure it’s long-term success:

In general, could Iraq be in a situation in which (as a Marxist might argue) the transitional methods necessary to establish the rule of law are themselves inconsistent with the rule of law?

Forget Marxism, look at the early American republic! George Washington was considered a tyrant by some Americans because believed that a strong hand was needed at the beginning to make sure that everyone got in line (see: The Whiskey Rebellion).

On Goon Squads

The police busted a house in my neighborhood the other day. Drugs, presumably. And good riddance. I’m all for people doing what they want with their own time, but the knocks on the neighbor’s door at 4 a.m. and the needles in the parking lot were getting, um, “annoying.”

I struggle with reconciling my feelings of satisfaction with seeing a presumed dealer taken down with my basic anti-establishment views. And this is the crux of the problem, isn’t it? For too long, we liberals have hung our hats on moral relativism and drank deep of the intoxicating whine of “I’m okay, you’re okay.” So we’ve let nasties like Ashcroft and his bosses seize the initiative — our way or the highway. Aggressive action to correct the problem, or shut up and get out of the way. Even their neo-conservatism, which was original conceived by anti-Kissingerians sick of realpolitik, has been corrupted into a philosophy of power and domination.

So we liberals, with all of our talk, are merely left to sit on the sidelines and complain that the show isn’t very good, and then occassionally feel secret, guilty pleasure when the machinery of the state works in our favor. There must be something we can do to be proactive in our own way — something that gets rid of the dealers without busted doors and tactical squads — but what?

I’ll sleep with one less lock on the door tonight, but with one more trouble in my head.