Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Infantilizing the Electorate

It comes as no surprise to anyone that an awful lot of pundits are over-analyzing an off-year election in which the results were pretty affirming of the status quo. A lot of that is fueled by the fact that Kentucky elected a Republican Governor for the first time since 2003. Of course, one has to balance that with the fact that Kentucky went for Mitt Romney by 22% in 2012 and regularly sends two Republicans to the Senate - one of whom is the current Majority Leader and another is running for president.

But the pundit that did the worst job of drawing conclusions from this election is none other than Ron Fournier. His article is titled, Kentucky's Trump with the subtitle: "If the next president doesn’t heal our politics, angry voters may reach further to the dangerous fringes." Here's how he articulates that in the article:
Should the next pres­id­ent—like the past two—break his or her prom­ise to unite the coun­try and ad­dress the na­tion’s long-term prob­lems, the an­ger will boil hot­ter, voter back­lash will hit harder, and the path to power for a hate-spew­ing me­ga­lo­ma­ni­ac will be easi­er.
Finding ways to address the nation's long-term problems will certainly be on the next President's desk. But it is important that we ask ourselves what it means to suggest that it is a president's job to unite the country.

Need I remind Mr. Fournier that the first three words of our Constitution are "we the people?" It just so happens that right now "we the people" are divided. There are a lot of reasons for that. Most notable is that we are in the midst of huge changes when it comes to demographics, cultural mores and an increasingly globalized economy. Add to all of that the fact that we have one political party that is intent on fear-mongering about those changes and a media that is dedicated to sensationalism over substance and you get a pretty toxic mix.

To assume that - in the midst of all that - a president can simply unite us by sending us all to our rooms for a time-out is to infantalize the electorate. President Obama has given us an alternative story of America in an attempt to inspire unity in speech after speech after speech. He has been willing to reach out his hand to work with the opposition to the point that a lot of people in his own party accuse him of being "naive." The one thing he has not been willing to do is let the American people be hurt by the divide in our politics as long as there is something he can do about it.

Ultimately it is not up to the president whether or not we continue to be divided or come together in unity to solve the challenges that face least not as long as we live in a democracy. As much as there are times when I'd love to see a leader tell the malcontents to "sit down and shut up," I fear a system where that can happen more than I do the malcontents.


  1. And of course, plenty of noise about how Democrats didn't motivate their base enough. Look, one of the very few expectations on citizens in a democracy is that they need to vote if they want to be heard; you shouldn't need someone jingling their keys to get your attention and get you to do your duty.

    Sadly, too many people on the Left are comfortable in a position of defeat and self-imposed powerlessness; the better to rail at everyone else for not doing good enough of a job while not taking responsibility for themselves.

  2. We did just fine in our Seattle elections with 20% turnout

  3. It's also a backhanded slap at President Obama, defining him as a person of broken promises who has failed to address our long-term problems. Of course President Obama has broken fewer promises than any president I can remember, and those few were either because the situation changed, or because there was no way around the intransigence of the Republicans. And as for addressing the long-term problems we face, as soon as he had mitigated the IMMEDIATE catastrophic problems of 2009 he set to work doing everything he could to address the long term problems. (Your point is a much bigger one, but this purposeful, vicious, and false interpretation of his presidency makes me very angry.).

  4. What means "unite the country"? What a lot of empty rhetoric.