Monday, November 28, 2011

All of this has happened before

...and will happen again.

Haven't been blogging much. Made a few posts at some other sites, but I'm frustrated. Once again, political history is rhyming, as Mark Twain might have put it, and not a lot of folks seem to have picked up on it.

Candidates, parties, various “movements”, newspaper editorials, talking heads on Sunday morning shows, political operatives... the public at large... Everybody seems to be acting as though they haven't actually learned anything from recent history.

If you've read much of my writing for the last few years, particularly at PAWaterCooler, you might have noticed that I've tried to put a damper on the over-reliance on the left-right ideological paradigm when plotting political actions and communications. At a certain point, it becomes blindingly obvious that voters don't rely on ideology nearly as much as it is supposed that they do. Once you see it, every abuse of the old conventional wisdom sticks out like a sore thumb.


At first I thought this might present a personal opportunity. In most fields, having insight or knowledge that others lack creates an advantage. In most fields, that is. Of course in some circumstances, if you're promoting a heretical view... well, Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest. They don't give people house arrest for heresy anymore. They mostly just ignore you.

It's hard to whittle down into an “elevator pitch” the debunking of over half a century of conventional wisdom in your field, which to be truly convincing would necessitate several pages of charts and statistical data. I've tried. I think I even got close to convincing a semi-prominent politician over dinner. Or perhaps he was just being polite.

I've argued it from every angle I can think of. I went technically philosophical. I went economical. I used statistics. I used anecdotal reasoning. I even offered to literally draw certain people a picture... only half jokingly.

I know my particular heresy is correct. Or at least, it's as correct as Galileo's heresy was, which is to say that it's a vast improvement over the prevailing theory. I often cite the two academics whose insight I have come to rely upon.

I've come to wonder if one specific word I used -“academics”- is perhaps part of the problem. There's not much “political science” in politics these days. It's all communications, or if you're lucky, “political communications” people running the show. Are the people I'm trying to convince literally unable to understand what it is I'm trying to tell them?

Of the people I know who are smart enough to understand, I think there is some natural disbelief. They have come to rely on survey data of ideological identification for so many years that to discount that data seems ridiculous. And yet, it is so. That which gets measured gets managed, and the eggheads are trying to manage ideology because they can measure it.

But in the last few years, the exact things I tried to warn against and mitigate have turned into the familiar intra-party feuding that I believe will mean electoral failures next fall. The same players keep making the same categorical mistakes. (But hey – they're the professionals.)

All of this has happened before, and will happen again. Or so it seems right now.

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