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Sunday, November 10, 2002

Dark Days of Democracy

Tim Blair notes this hysterical column from Will Hutton in the London Observer.

Hutton writes:

And so one of American liberalism's darkest days was repeated across the country. Minnesota and Missouri, long-time Democrat strongholds, fell.

Huh. Missouri, a stronghold of liberalism. Well now I've heard everything.

It occurs to me that these British types don't know what the hell they're talking about (yes I know that's not exactly a revelation), so for their benefit, I bring you a short

Bestiary of American Politics

Remember, this is the short, simplified version. There are no shades of gray, let alone colors.

There are basically two types each of Democrats and Republicans, as follows:


The Workin' Man: This is my native tribe, and the type which predominates in Missouri, especially outside the cities. They like Social Security, minimum wage laws, and workplace safety laws. Anything that prevents the Fat Cats (see below) from grinding the Workin' Man under their heels is OK with them. Protectionist tariffs, to keep American jobs in America, are also good.

They tend to be socially conservative and don't mind the government encouraging marriage and religion and discouraging pornography, as long as it's understood that they don't actually have to stop doing whatever they're doing. It's other people who are immoral. They don't care about this issue as much as the Americans for Jesus (see below), which is why they're Democrats and not Republicans. They are often bigoted. Most don't know the Social Heelers (see below) are part of the Democratic Party; they think the Social Heelers are from Mars, or California.

Social Heelers: These are the people who want to heal all the wounds the world is capable of inflicting, from racism down to playground taunting, through legislation. And what do you fight when you've licked injustice? More injustice! That's right, when they have finally wiped out all the injustice in the world, they're gonna go back and clean out all those little injustices they missed the first time. Whoops! In the process of fighting injustice, we've tracked a little injustice into the room. Get out the mop!

The Social Heelers can't stand Republicans of either variety (although contributions from "contrite" Fat Cats are always welcome). They are often bigoted, but only against The Rich, of course. They're frequently suspicious of the Workin' Man, as well, because of his tendencies toward tribalism. The dimmer Heelers think the Workin' Man is one of The Poor (which is what the Workin' Man thinks, too), and so they get along OK. This is pretty much the situation as it stands in Missouri.


Fat Cats: Fat Cats are rich businessmen. They're the people the Workin' Man traditionally thinks of when he thinks of Republicans. They are 100% against any kind of government interference in trade, unless, of course, their business turns sour. Then they need a little hand-out to keep their industry---vital to the nation as a whole---afloat. They're also fond of protectionist tariffs, as long as some other country isn't imposing them, in which case they demand free trade.

Fat Cats can't stand Social Heelers, but will hold their noses and buy them off, if they can be bought (and many can). They are often bigoted. Some of them see the Workin' Man as their enemy, but they're thinking more of the Social Heelers of the Workin' Man (Union leaders). They're frequently embarrassed by Americans for Jesus, but they see them as useful tools which can be discarded when they've outlived their usefulness.

Americans for Jesus: This group thinks that morality---defined in their terms, of course---is important for nations as well as for individuals. They believe that the country will return to the paradise it once was if we will just put God back at the center of our national life, where He belongs. Many Americans for Jesus are deeply suspicious of government interference in private lives, except when it's outlawing pornography and abortion.

Americans for Jesus are usually of the Workin' Man class, and would be Democrats except for the Social Heelers wing of the Democratic Party. They believe Social Heelers are the Spawn of Satan. They are often bigoted, although "Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight". Americans for Jesus are sometimes horrified at the moral flaccidity of the Fat Cats, but regard them as useful tools which can be discarded when they've outlived their usefulness.

Here you see very interesting cross-threads. The Fat Cats and the Workin' Man are very similar: each is suspicious of big government except when it will guarantee him what he (thinks he) deserves. The Social Heelers and the Americans for Jesus are united in their belief in the power of Right Thinking to cure a multitude of social ills.

OK, again, I stress that this is a simplistic analysis. For one thing, most of the bloggers I read don't fit neatly into any one category; nor do I.

But any twittish Brits who would comment on American politics at least ought to know the different zoological types.

To continue with Hutton's delusional drivel:

This is the most fiercely reactionary programme to have emerged in any Western democracy since the war, and for which last Tuesday's vote, argue Republicans, is an explicit mandate.


Yeah, I agree it's horseshit. But if he thinks it's horseshit, why'd he write it? (Maybe it's an editorial comment by the editor.) Anyone who thinks this "is the most fiercely reactionary programme to have emerged in any Western democracy since the war" must have spent the Reagan years---all twelve of 'em---in diapers.

America is not a happy place. A generation of increasingly conservative policies has shrunk the American middle and induced not just fantastic inequality but a sharp decline in social mobility and opportunity.


Consumer confidence is low; job insecurity high.

Firstly, eight of the last ten years saw a Democratic president in office, so those "increasingly conservative policies" cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the Republicans.

Secondly, I (barely) remember the late '70s and early '80s (within a "generation") as being a less happy and more insecure time than today. We'll also remember that the later '80s, and parts of the '90s, saw a tremendous economic boom, in which the lower as well as the upper economic strata benefitted. So don't give me this crap.

American capitalism is viewed with deep scepticism

By Guardian writers. What else is new?

The trouble was that this silent liberal majority was only prepared to voice its preoccupations at state rather than national level, if it bothered to vote at all.

Now this is rich. Some commenters on this Jane Galt post seem to think that Republicans won because most people who didn't like Republican policies stayed home whereas most people who were satisfied with them came out to vote. That's the opposite of what long, long experience has shown for almost any venue you'd care to name. People who are angry and unhappy get up and gripe about it; people who are satisfied are far less likely to speak up to say they're satisfied.

What happened here, Slick, is 9/11. The Fat Cats and Americans for Jesus are going to vote Republican anyway. The Workin' Men will switch on an issue they care enough about, and there are few things the Workin' Men care more about than making sure they're not slaughtered wholesale. This leaves only the Social Heelers to turn out in droves enough to make a difference, and they didn't do it. One might imagine that a few of the Social Heelers are averse to being slaughtered wholesale as well.

Other issues? You mean, there are other issues? Well, of course there are. But I suggest that they just didn't have the resonance that national security does right now. Mind you, this is not an issue on which the Democrats will automatically lose (though the track record's not great). But this particular batch of Democrats---and much more importantly, their Social Heeler supporters---positioned themselves as being somewhat indifferent to national security. Frankly, I'm a little surprised they didn't lose bigger.

(The thing that puzzles me is where the Americans for Jesus are being kept. They were very important in politics in the '80s and early '90s. Could it have finally dawned on someone that most people do not favor government in this part of their lives?)

We close with this gem, which will delight my Blogger SuperPals:

Last week represented the highwater mark of American conservatism and, although it looks bleak, the beginnings of the long-awaited liberal revival. Not just the United States, but the world, needs it badly. In the meantime, despite its flaws, give thanks to the European Union for partial shelter from the conservative storm.

Ah ha ha ha ha ha! Thanksgiving's coming up, so give thanks to the EU for serving as a bad example and providing some much needed comic relief.

UPDATE: You know, a bestiary ought to have some actual beasts. So those Heelers and Cats ought to be accompanied by, say, the Workin' Hoss and the Lambs of God.

When I wrote that I thought it needed work, and if I were a professional writer I'd work on it more. But ya get what ya pays for 'round this here blog. That's why there's no tip jar. If I got money to blog, I'd feel like I had to do a good job or sumpin.