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Question of the week: will demagoguery triumph in 2010?

August 16, 2010

In the light of the recent efforts to exploit fear and prejudice with respect to both birth-right citizenship and the New York mosque project, the question is: will demagoguery be the main tool that the Republicans utilize in the 2010 U.S. national elections? And, if so, will they ‘win’?

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32 Comments
  1. grega permalink
    August 16, 2010 5:27 pm

    They will win because the people that really count- independent voters – will sniff out unprincipled ‘leaders’ like Harry Reid without even trying hard.

  2. digbydolben permalink
    August 16, 2010 6:33 pm

    Yes, the Republicans WILL win with demagogic tactics, but it’s Obama’s fault for handing them all the opportunities they could want, in order to win with such tactics. I DONATED to him in 2008, but wouldn’t give him a cent or make a single phone call now.

  3. phosphorious permalink
    August 16, 2010 7:28 pm

    “Yes, the Republicans WILL win with demagogic tactics, but it’s Obama’s fault. . .”

    Obama has his shortcomings, but the demagoguery of the right is the fault of the right. They don’t have to rile up xenophobia, do they?

  4. August 16, 2010 7:51 pm

    Fear is the path to the dark side.

  5. August 16, 2010 8:23 pm

    It’s always worked before, why not this year?

  6. August 16, 2010 10:41 pm

    Can you believe that the Republicans are actually worse than under Bush? I never would have thought that possible.

  7. Jeff permalink
    August 17, 2010 7:11 am

    Republicans are certainly one notch below Democrats on the scale of demagoguery.

    But they’re all loathsome, one side fears the demon socialist behind every tree, and the other fears the demon racist.

    Trying to make the Democratic party appear favorable when compared to excremental Republicans is akin to arguing the virtues of one porn film director over another.

    Does President Obama have more refined technique, better lighting, creative use of technicolor? Of course he does.

    And it’s still porn.

  8. grega permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:08 am

    Personally this liberal is more than a bit tired of the ‘look the bad Republicans do this and that’ – they play to win and say what they have to say – if you want it both ways on issue after issue chances are this will catch up with you. Regarding this issue Obama gives a great speech, says the correct thing just to have Reid tackle him from the Republican side for opportunistic personal reasons.
    I hope the one senate seat the democrats loose is Harry Reids. This drama will be with us for the next decades.
    You know the Democrats are all but assuming that they will have it made in the long run with increasing percentage of American voters of hispanic heritage – oh what a song and dance it will be until this is settled. Clearly Caucasian America will not let go of majority privileges without a fight.
    We just see the beginning of this drama.
    And yes the catholic church will be in the middle of it – we see it already – the future of the catholic church is one as an advocate for the underprivileged of the world – the have nots – just like back in Christs days really. The push of quite a few in this fine country towards caucasian dominated conservative Roman Catholicism pre Vatican II is part of this.

  9. August 17, 2010 12:37 pm

    When Republicans win, it is always through demagoguery.

  10. August 17, 2010 2:29 pm

    When Republicans win, it is always through demagoguery.

    It’s ok to stop doing parody every once in a while, Michael.

    Republicans will win because the economy is terrible, just as Obama did. In between lots of people in both political camps will say terrible things about each other and demagogue any issue they can. That is politics. Imo, the Republican response to the ground zero mosque has been appalling; but certainly not any worse than the Democratic smear that all unborn children are disposable commodities.

  11. phosphorious permalink
    August 17, 2010 6:21 pm

    “the Democratic smear that all unborn children are disposable commodities.”

    name the democrat who said that. That’s a parody (speaking of parodies) of the pro-choice movement. Besides, while republicans were dealing with important issues like Obama’s birth certificate, it was Bart Stupak, democrat, who held the ground for the pro-life movement.

    That didn;t stop anyone on the right from calling him a “baby killer,” but still, he deserves some respect.

  12. August 17, 2010 8:22 pm

    Phosphorious,

    It’s not a parody at all; an unborn child is a commodity, an object, to be disposed of as the mother wishes according to many pro-choicers. Stupak is no more representative of Democrats than Joseph Cao (a courageous and honorable politician, btw, who voted for the original health care bill) is of Republicans – and in the end Stupak deliberately lied about the significance of the executive order. I agree he deserves some respect, but I also think he forfeited a significant portion of it with his transparent and flagrant dishonesty at the end of the saga.

  13. phosphorious permalink
    August 17, 2010 9:12 pm

    John Henry,

    According to many pro-choicers. . . whom you do not name.

    If you ever had to argue agaunst an honest to God pro-choicer, you would be completely unprepared.

    And how did Stupak lie about the executive order? The order was not deemed sufficient by the pro-lifers, but nothing short of complete aboliton would be.

    • August 18, 2010 2:17 am

      phosphorious

      Well, let’s be clear. If GW Bush had been President while the reform was being passed, there would have been no executive order, and everything would have been seen as pro-life because he was President. But when Obama is president, you are right; incremental improvement against the status quo is not how legislation is viewed under Obama — rather it is all or nothing when he is president.

  14. August 17, 2010 11:06 pm

    In between lots of people in both political camps will say terrible things about each other and demagogue any issue they can. That is politics.

    “That is politics.” Why am I not surprised that this is how you define “politics,” Mr. Henry? That sure explains a lot.

  15. Thales permalink
    August 18, 2010 7:17 am

    If we’re looking for demagoguery when it comes to abortion, why talk about Stupak? He’s clearly one of the more principled Democrats. Instead, talk about any of the Democrats on the Pro-Choice Caucus or those who are full-throated full-abortion-rights supporters.

    But count me as another who’s tired of blanket labelling of one political party vs. another. Each party has instances of demagoguery, each party has examples of thoughtfulness. You may not like his economic theories, but can you really claim that even-tempered Paul Ryan (GOP) is a demagogue? Or that Alan Grayson (Dem.) is an example of reasonable statesmanship? Heck, as much as Teddy Kennedy did great things during his time in politics, he practically invented demagoguery with the infamous Bork speech.

    My point is that this blanket labelling is not useful or productive for a thoughtful discussion.

  16. August 18, 2010 7:42 am

    If you ever had to argue agaunst an honest to God pro-choicer, you would be completely unprepared.

    I’ve argued with pro-choicers for years and been through all of the arguments a thousand times. Granted, one takes a different tack when arguing with pro-choicers rather than indifferent pro-lifers, .

    And how did Stupak lie about the executive order? The order was not deemed sufficient by the pro-lifers, but nothing short of complete aboliton would be.

    It’s not that the executive order didn’t go far enough. It’s that the executive order didn’t accomplish anything; it was purely superfluous, because an executive order cannot over-ride Congressional legislation. If you want me to dig up links to Ezra Klein and others saying as much, I will, but the point was so widely acknowledged that I’m amazed at your ignorance. Stupak claimed the executive order was essential to his vote and changed everything; but it obviously changed nothing, so either he was completely ignorant of that (which makes him very foolish) or he was lying. I’d have a lot more respect for him if he hadn’t lied about his reasons for switching.

  17. August 18, 2010 7:44 am

    “That is politics.” Why am I not surprised that this is how you define “politics,” Mr. Henry? That sure explains a lot.

    I think you’re confusing a definition of politics with an observation about what tends to happen in practice in politics. If you think demagoguery is confined to one side of the aisle, then you obviously don’t know much about politics.

  18. grega permalink
    August 18, 2010 10:46 am

    I took Michaels demagoguery remark more as a cry of frustration. Obviosuly it is not quite that simple and shortcuts are used by all sides involved in politics.
    I have both liberal and conservative friends – they all have reasons for their positions – sure some are deliberately ignorant regarding certain topics but hey aren’t we all. I think it would do all of us a world of good to by default assume that our political opponents are just as smart and responsible people as our political friends. Plenty of details to discuss and disagree about – it is not right to call ALL this or that. Much more nuance is required.

  19. digbydolben permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:30 pm

    John Henry, the problem is that the AVERAGE person–or average “television viewer” is DROWNING in demagoguery. I think the REAL problem, for thinking “conservatives” and thinking “liberals” in this society (who probably COULD hammer out pragmatic compromises, if their “parties” would let them), is that both journalism and the education system in this country have so terribly failed to create an informed, critical-thinking citizenry that all the busy person gets is “entertainment as news.” This mosque thing is really just designed, as far as I can see, to sell television ads and increase Palin’s audience at TWITTER. Why some “liberal” politician couldn’t have explained, early on, the difference between jihadists and Sufis, and why some “conservative” politician couldn’t have assured “Tea-Partiers” that the Muslim conference centre would be strictly monitored and that “triumphalist” radicalims wouldn’t be allowed–both those failures are beyond me, and I suspect they’re DELIBERATE–just as I said, to sell television ads and media hoaxes.

  20. August 18, 2010 12:35 pm

    The two main GOP Seantors talking Birthright Citizenship is Kyle and Graham. Allies as to Comp immigration reform. They are not preaching fear

  21. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:37 pm

    It’s not that the executive order didn’t go far enough. It’s that the executive order didn’t accomplish anything; it was purely superfluous, because an executive order cannot over-ride Congressional legislation.

    If the executive order is “superfluous” it is only because the original law placed an appropriate limit on abortion funding. Appropriate, that is, unless you are a republican. The only reason the executive order was issued was because conservatives think Obama is a baby-killer and don’t trust him to enforce the law on the books. Stupak did not lie about the executive order.

  22. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:40 pm

    I’ve argued with pro-choicers for years and been through all of the arguments a thousand times.

    And yet you still believe that they are motivated by a belief that the fetus is a “commodity.” The health, life and dignity of the mother has never come up?

  23. August 18, 2010 1:19 pm

    The health, life and dignity of the mother has never come up?

    Of course it has. But what does that have to do with whether the fetus is regarded as a disposable commodity?

  24. August 18, 2010 1:43 pm

    If the executive order is “superfluous” it is only because the original law placed an appropriate limit on abortion funding. Appropriate, that is, unless you are a republican. The only reason the executive order was issued was because conservatives think Obama is a baby-killer and don’t trust him to enforce the law on the books. Stupak did not lie about the executive order.

    You appear not to understand the relationship of the executive order to the health care reform bill. Even if the bill allowed for federal funding of abortion, the executive order would have had no effect on those provisions; the executive order was of no legal relevance whatsoever (see, for instance, Slate’s article subtitled “Why did Bart Stupak hold out for a meaningless executive order”).
    Stupak said the following:

    “There has been some question raised by different groups, that in this health care reform package, that somehow some way, the abortions could be performed at the community health centers. The President’s executive order makes it very clear that will not happen.”

    But the executive order does no such thing; it has no practical effect at all. The executive order explicitly stated that it would not provide any additional restrictions on abortion coverage. And so Stupak was either culpably ignorant or lying when he said that it the executive order clarified anything. See for instance, law professor Ilya Somin:

    “But Stupak and his allies claimed they weren’t satisfied with such assurances. If so, they should have been equally unconvinced by the new executive order, which adds nothing to them.

    Even if the executive order did try to restrict abortion funding otherwise required by the Senate bill, it would be unlikely to succeed. An executive order cannot override law enacted by Congress. And, obviously, an executive order can be repealed or modified by the president or his successors at any time.

    Why then did the Stupakites change their minds at the last minute as a result of this essentially meaningless White House concession? One possibility is that they simply didn’t understand that the order will have no real effect. That’s certainly possible. But it seems unlikely. Even if they themselves lack legal expertise, they certainly have staffers who do. Thus, it seems unlikely that they were unaware of the points I made above.

    Unlike members of Congress, most voters are rationally ignorant about the details of policy and are unlikely to have either the time or the expertise needed to study the order in detail and determine whether it is likely to have any effect. Thus, pro-life Democratic voters might well accept Stupak’s, Obama’s, and the media’s claims that this order represents a significant change.

    If this conjecture is correct, the Stupak reversal may be another example of the political exploitation of voter ignorance.

    http://volokh.com/2010/03/22/the-stupak-conundrum-why-did-the-stupak-nine-change-their-positions-on-the-health-care-bill-in-exchange-for-a-meaningless-executive-order/

    Stupak was either remarkably ill-informed or he lied about the executive order. Those are the only options on the table.

  25. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 2:22 pm

    Of course it has. But what does that have to do with whether the fetus is regarded as a disposable commodity?

    Absoultely nothing. . . which is why I have never engaged in a discussion of abortion rights where the phrase “disposable commodity” has come up.

  26. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 2:27 pm

    Stupak was either remarkably ill-informed or he lied about the executive order. Those are the only options on the table.

    No, there is a third. Given that the executive order was superfluous. . . it did not add any anti-abortion provisions to already existing law. . . then presumably Stupak figured it provided him with cover. He could say that he didn’t cave into a “baby-killing” health care bill, but rather that he ensured that the already existing provisions would be strictly enforced. As Ezra Klein put it, the executive order was essentially a law saying that Obama would promise to obey the law.

    This hardly qualifies as a lie.

    But your problem is not that Stupak lied about the executive order, but rather that he is a baby-killer. He’s not.

  27. August 18, 2010 2:38 pm

    Phosphorious – You crazy kid, you. If you don’t mind, I’d rather you didn’t put words in my mouth. I never claimed Stupak was a baby killer. I said that he lied, and, remarkably, you agree. Here’s you making the argument for me:

    “Then presumably Stupak figured it provided him with cover. He could say that he didn’t cave into a “baby-killing” health care bill, but rather that he ensured that the already existing provisions would be strictly enforced.

    It provided him cover, but it wasn’t true. In other words, he lied. Again, he’s not the worst person in the world for lying. Politicians do it all the time. I said above that he deserves some respect for holding out as long as he did; but in the endgame he did make false claims about an executive order that had no legal relevance whatsoever (not even making the law ‘more strictly enforced,’ whatever that means).

  28. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 3:09 pm

    John Henry,

    You’re right. . . who was that who called him a baby-killer? In Congress? Some republican congressperson. But not you.

    Why are we discussing Stupak again? The post was about demogoguery, I pointed to Stupak as an example of a democrat who went against his own party to defend life (which he did). . . and then you denounced him as a liar.

    Do I have that right?

    Since the point of the post was to criticize demoguogery, let me change course:

    Is there any democrat who is not either a baby-killer or a liar or in some other way unfit for civil discourse with a republican?

  29. August 18, 2010 3:23 pm

    Phosphorious,

    I observed that Stupak lied about the significance of the executive order, and provided documentation to support the point; you’ve conceded it. As far as I can tell, now you’re shadow-boxing with an imaginary interlocutor who says ridiculous things. Go for it. I’ll stay out of the way.

  30. phosphorious permalink
    August 18, 2010 3:42 pm

    Go for it. I’ll stay out of the way.

    Probably for the best. Talk about fruitless discussions.

  31. August 18, 2010 4:09 pm

    Well, again, if you’re going to make self-evidently ridiculous statements like “Is there any democrat who is not either a baby-killer or a liar or in some other way unfit for civil discourse with a republican?, it doesn’t appear you’re looking for a fruitful discussion.

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