“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I want a good Daddy! and a Good Mommy!

There is a curious dream that is dreamt among my liberal brethren. Every election year it will be expressed, in a distressed tone of voice of a man invoking Miss Manners. In this dream, elections are not bloody things involving people, but rather, dressed up events involving earnest high school students debating the finer points of property tax law.

The NYT has an oped piece by Barry Schwartz that is as relentlessly programmatic in this respect as a clock is with regard to midnight and noon. First, of course, we begin with a lament about the election year party. This year, we asked everybody to bring healthful dishes and non-alcoholic beverages. We also tried to supply some hymn books and pamphlets on abstinence. But to no avail!

“SWARTHMORE, Pa. -- ANOTHER national election season has come to an end -- the sorriest, sleaziest, most disheartening and embarrassing in memory. The best one can hope for is a candidate who is a complete cipher. How has American electoral politics come to this?”

Sleaziness – as in actually looking up the records of the cut outs that we are going to send to Washington, D.C., on their all expense paid internship for various lobbying firms – is, contrary to the shocked Mr. Schwartz, not the problem with our system – it is the lack of willingness to be really sleazy. That is, to have a good, warts and all impression of the candidate, the kind of impression one has of one’s fellow employees. The system that doles out the power tries as hard as it can to deny us any glimpse into the backstage of its 24/7 impression management.

Schwartz illustrates the sad sadness of violating Mom’s rule (if you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all!) with a psychological study showing that positives and negatives stand out given changing instructions in the way we are to evaluate people (via a hypothetical child custody decision balancing the traits of Parent A and Parent B) - even though the list of negatives and positives are stable. Now, one would think that this would reconcile him to humanity’s perpetual need for sleaze – or at least make him curious about the arts by which we do gain our impressions of people, and how these are reflected in elections. But not Mr. Schwartz. He goes from telling us about human nature to urging us to forget human nature and to treat elections as a technocrat would treat putting together a toy railroad set for the kids. Such is his love of humanity that he urges us to slough it off when electing our rulers. Such is LI’s contempt for the technocratic viewpoint, however, that we find this advice, to say the least, ludicrous.

“If somehow the cynicism lifted, and we saw ourselves charged with the task of deciding who to say yes to, we'd have more candidates like Parent B. Just one negative feature would not be enough to disqualify someone, in our minds. There would be little to gain by capturing and broadcasting ''macaca moments,'' or subtly invoking old Southern fears of black men cavorting with white women. Candidates would be able to take positions and speak their minds. This might lead to the arrival of candidates who actually have positions and minds. We might even be willing to risk generating a little enthusiasm at the prospect of being led by them.”

Actually, not only do I have little enthusiasm for being “led” by those I vote for – they can suck my big cock (oops - this is not tea party language) - they can, uh, kiss my ass if they think I’m voting for them as “leaders”. I vote for representatives, that is all. I can fucking lead my own self. That Schwarz can so easily equate the publicity given to a candidate given to uttering racist statements with a racist advertisement tells us all I need to know about his own ability to evaluate Parent A and Parent B. It sucks. And I’m not looking, myself, for a big Daddy or Mommy to govern me. I already have a Dad and a Mom.

The Schwartzes of the world - the snooty reformers, always looking to get politics out of the hands of the unwashed - inject liberalism with that reputation it seemingly can't shake: its allergy to the people it supposedly wishes to benefit. He is the perfect complement to the millionaire rightwing populist. The two of them drive me fucking nuts.

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