November 07, 2004

An Immoral Win

Today's WaPo has an article about Rove's victory and how he has moved the country from a 49-49 tie.

John Weaver, a strategist for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who ended a longtime feud with Rove this year when Bush sought McCain's help, said Rove has moved closer to the goal of creating a Republican majority not by seeking one big realigning election, but by recognizing that political change often is incremental and using every election to get a little bit closer.

"He gets three feet here, three feet there, constantly eroding the other side and grabbing turf," Weaver said. "He has proved his point that you can expand the base, and not just among white males, without drifting or modifying either language or policy. I'm not sure it would work with any other candidate, at any other time. But it worked, and he proved the skeptics wrong."

Rove's assessment is that the 2004 election pushed the country away from deadlock, where it had come to rest after the disputed election four years ago. "We now clearly are not the country that was 49-49," he said. "We're now at 51-48 and may be trending to 51-47. It is incremental but small, persistent change. We saw it in 2002, and we saw it again this year. . . . It tells me we may be seeing part of a rolling realignment."

Yet, despite the laudatory praise given by this article, the truth is that Karl Rove's win was based on ugly tactics -- tactics that are likely to destroy our Constitutional democracy. Karl Rove and George W Bush have tapped into demagoguery to create their win.

What is demagoguery and why is it so antithetical to our Constitutional democracy? In a very fine article published at the History News Network, PM Carpenter says that the characteristic signs of demagoguery can be qualified by two things:

  1. An emphasis on simplification and repetition. He calls the one-sided simple messaging characteristic of a demagogue unidimensionality. The demagogue employs one-sided messages so as to exclude the arguments or input from others.

    Put simply, unidimensionality denies the synthetic benefit of the dialectic and therefore the necessary deliberative nature of an engaged, democratic society.

  2. A demagogue can be identified by the targeting of selected groups for condemnation known as scapegoating. And Carpenter says, those who are scapegoated are identified by the demagogue as much more powerful than they truly are.

During the past 4 years under Bush, the targets chosen for scapegoating have been the liberals (carrying on from the tradition of right-wing rhetoric from the John Birch society through Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the hysterical rants of the right wing today who state that liberals are traitors) and in this election especially, gays. And this from people who personally don't actually hate gays. They just use the hatred to gain power and to motivate their base.

There is something deeply immoral in winning an election using such tactics and something that would cause our forefathers to turn over in their graves. Mark Schmitt expresses the outrage well.

In my moral code, it's pretty clear to me that, whatever is in your heart, there's nothing more contemptible than to increase or exacerbate the level of hate and intolerance in the world, and to do it willfully for personal gain is despicable. I'd be a lot quicker to forgive someone who had been deeply racist "in his heart," because of how he'd been brought up or whatever, than someone who merely used racism. I think that like Wallace, Karl Rove, Bush and the Cheneys, as pure as their hearts may be and as much as they may love their gay family and friends, are the more morally contemptible for the willfullness by which they choose to stoke the hostility and intolerance of others.

Frankly I reject that Rove has actually won what he thinks he did. Yes, he got a majority of the voters, but there are still plenty of people that voted against Bush and even more that might have voted against him if they had not be so thoroughly sold on the Rovian characterization that smeared John Kerry and so stayed home. Those who voted for Bush because they thought he was better on terrorism won't necessarily cheer the coming taliban state and could still reject the hate and fear Bush and Rove trade in. One things that is clear, we cannot just let those who would traffic in demagoguery to go forward without a fight.

Posted by Mary at November 7, 2004 02:30 PM | Philosophy | Technorati links |