Saturday, September 06, 2008

The GOP's cheerful viciousness

Yet again, the GOP launches brutal personality and cultural attacks on the Democratic candidate. Yet again, Democrats seem determined to allow it to do so.

Glenn Greenwald

Sep. 04, 2008 | With last night's cheerfully vicious speeches from Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, the Republicans did what they always do in order to win elections: they exploited raw cultural divides while mocking, belittling and demonizing Democratic leaders. Yet again, they delivered brutally effective and deeply personal blows to the Democratic presidential candidate grounded in the same manipulative and deceitful yet very potent themes they've been using for the last three decades.

Ever since Ronald Reagan's election, this is what the Republicans do every four years. They render issues irrelevant and convert campaigns into cultural wars and personality referenda. They converted our elections into tawdry reality shows long before networks realized their entertainment value. And every four years, Democrats seems shocked and paralyzed by all of this and desperately delude themselves into believing that mean-spirited "negativity" and nastiness will alienate voters, while the media swoons at the potency of these attacks.


None of this is to say that the GOP attacks will enable them to win the election. It is quite possible that enough Americans this year are so alienated from the GOP brand that they are now largely immune from these kinds of substance-free personality assaults, that they won't be blinded by cultural tribalism and personality appeals into handing this political party an additional four years of power. But these tactics have worked in the past because cultural tribalism, resentment and alienation are very powerful influences in how people think -- in general, they're more powerful than rational assessments of policy positions or even one's self-interest -- and the Democrats' gamble that they can win this election without really engaging those issues, while allowing that war to be waged in a one-sided manner yet again, is a true gamble.



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