Monday, August 2

Slogan Think and Cave Dwelling

On July 30, the Jim Lehrer News Hour assembled "likely voters" [video link] after they had watched John Kerry deliver his nomination acceptance speech, to discuss their reactions to the speech and the Democratic Convention as a whole.
What disturbed me to the point of making me want to crawl into a cave and remain there till November 2nd, biding my time by praying that some sense might be visited upon my fellow citizens, was the tendency among these "likely voters" to "reason" by means of slogans. Two examples:
Lu Ryden said: "I keep thinking of him as the number one liberal in Congress." And, "as you know, he's the number one liberal... and... Edwards, the number four liberal."
The interviewer did not ask Miss Ryden what "number one liberal" is supposed to mean, let alone "number four liberal," nor who established this order and by what criteria. This phrase is supposed to evoke something ominous, if I understand Miss Ryden's use of it. But why? The whole "ordering of liberals" reminds me of the playing cards passed around in Iraq by the U.S. military as a demeaning and cynical way of identifying members of the Hussein regime. It betrays an arrogant "gotcha" mentality that is even less welcome in domestic politics, since it seems tailored to dispense with argument and fact-checking in favor of demonizing labels.
Jim Zemlin, an "undecided" Republican, self-described as one who has "started businesses and taken risks," said this: "My concern was a sort of class warfare theme that I got. You know, tax the rich, give to the poor."
I recognize this phrase as one that has been belched out of radios by the likes of Rush Limbaugh for years. The curious distortion wrought by this charge of "class warfare" is that it is applied not to the Republican policies that strangle the middle class and choke off opportunity for middle-class entrepreneurs such as Jim Zemlin by raising their share of the tax burden, but only to those who take the Republicans to task for such measures. So, tell me, why does the Democrats' saying they are for giving the middle class a chance constitue "class warfare"? Why does the struggle for the middle class constitute class warfare, whereas the struggle for the wealthy few does not?

If such slogan think is widespread, I can understand how it is that Kerry and Bush are still running neck 'n' neck, but that doesn't leave me feeling any less saddened at the spectacle of citizens who, seduced by a label, vote against their own interests.

Any speliologists out there who would kindly suggest a place I might settle?