Urbanski on the Campaign Trail ’16
This article will kick off my series throughout the next 16 months or so where I will be acting as a correspondent for the U.S. Presidential campaign of 2016. Now, you might realize there’s a couple of things wrong with this: First, I’m not an American citizen. Second, I don’t actually live in the United States. But hey, the good folks at EveryJoe like to think outside the box!
Anyway, electoral campaigns don’t really happen in town hall rallies in Wichita anymore (though if EveryJoe’s Invincible Overlord wants to foot the bill for me to travel to Wichita, I won’t say no; I’ve never been to Kansas). Even if some politicians still want to pretend otherwise, the real place that the campaign happens now is in the news media, and we all know that the media do very much like to take sides.
Take Salon.com, for example. They just put out an article saying that “America is ready for Socialism!”, and claiming that the vast majority of Americans agree with the things that Bernie Sanders believes in, and so Bernie should be elected President (and even if he isn’t, his campaign will “change the course of American history”). At the same time, they set up a comparison to him (as the example of great Democratic leadership) against Donald Trump (as an example of what Salon thinks represents Republican leadership).
Now you might think this is ridiculous, and it definitely is. But it’s also the way that elections get made in the modern internet age, through the power of propaganda. And unfortunately, it’s a game that the left is way, way better at playing.
There are two spectator contests that happen every four years that I go crazy for. One is the World Cup (blame it on my Latin blood). The other is the U.S. Presidential elections. They’ve always been fascinating. Unfortunately, the last couple were a bit disappointing. Not because Obama won, but because it was like the American election had been turned into a farce. We got to see a middle-of-the-road self-serving liberal-Democrat get turned into a Messiah figure with a campaign propaganda system so incredibly effective that he left half the population of the U.S. thinking he was going to Literally Save the World, and the other half thinking he was the reincarnation of Stalin. When actually, he wasn’t either of those things. He was mostly boring.
But the propaganda was so amazing that not only did leftist dreamers buy it completely, the right did too. Conservatives fell into the trap of feeding right into the furor that got Obama elected. And it really didn’t help that the Republicans presented a song-and-dance show of candidates that were almost all either clowns (that no one would have taken seriously before) or bland suits with nothing original to offer.
The left-wing media knows how to take full advantage of that. Look at what Salon did in their article: for starters, they compared Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. They might as well have made a political comparison of Sanders to Alf, who, by the way, looks a bit like Trump.
Bernie Sanders, as wrong as he might be, is an actual politician. Donald Trump is a C-list celebrity and a D-list businessman with an F-grade brain. He’s a delusional narcissistic orangutan that would barely be worthy of appearing on a TLC reality show with Honey Boo Boo, not a serious candidate worthy of the highest political office in the most powerful country in the world. He is, in other words, a joke. In older times before the 24-hour media circus and the cult of celebrity he’d never ever have been taken seriously. He’s the kind of ridiculous character that used to run in third-party independent campaigns that had no chance of getting any air time. Of course Bernie Sanders looks a bit better compared to him, as he would compared to any absurd moron of equal caliber.
Now let’s look at Salon’s other blatant propaganda tool: their poll that “proves” that most Americans “want socialism.” This was a poll done by a group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t exactly sound like a neutral and unbiased organization. In fact, their whole agenda is to “build progressive power.”
The poll was done by asking people whether they support ideas like “Giving students the same low interest rate as big banks”, “Universal pre-kindergarten”, “End Gerrymandering”, “End Tax Loopholes for Corporations that Ship Jobs Overseas”, and “Fair Trade that Protects Workers, the Environment, and Jobs”.
So in other words, hugely leading questions! And from this, they conclude that it means Americans want socialism, and Salon says they must want Sanders.
But they might as well have been asking, “Would you like a Unicorn that farts gold bricks?” Hell, who would not want students to have decent interest rates, or for every toddler to get early education? Or for corporations to abuse the overly-complex tax system? And if someone could wave a magic wand and give us an economic policy that would be good for jobs AND workers and clean up pollution in the process, why wouldn’t you be for it? I’m surprised they didn’t ask people if they like puppies.
These are all ideas that people might think sound nice in theory, but it doesn’t mean people actually think they are good policy in practice. It’s telling that the poll didn’t ask, “Do you think that Democrat-run big government would be able to make these things happen with no negative consequences?” Because I bet that any fair poll of the American people would not answer ‘strongly agree’ to that one. Much less if they asked, “Do you think Bernie Sanders is the man for the job?”
Then Salon uses the Sanders vs. Trump set-up to talk about their favorite subject: how dumb they think conservatives are. They claim that Trump’s absurd Mexican rapists are coming to take our women hysteria-mongering proves that conservatives only deal in “broad sweeping appeals,” but Sanders’ big-government ideas prove that Democrats actually deal in “focusing on how to fix specific problems.”
But that’s not it at all. Comparing Sanders and Trump does prove something, but it proves that in the last few elections the Democrats have been better at selling fantasies than the Republicans have been at selling nightmares. Obama’s election was all about fantasies, and they were so appealing that he didn’t just get elected, he won the Nobel Prize for not being George W. Bush! As for Republicans, they’ve been really bad at selling ideas, and have mostly resorted to selling scare-stories about what might happen if the other guy wins. Neither the fantasy nor the nightmares are really true: Obama hasn’t managed to bring about a new age of world peace, but he also hasn’t become the next Pol Pot.
If in this election the Republicans choose to be more bold and focus on the many good conservative ideas that Americans could get behind, it would be a different story. Even the Salon/PCCC poll pointed out that Americans want a simpler and more straightforward tax system (74%), want to stop the big-government NSA from being able to spy on you without a warrant (71%), want transparent international treaty negotiations (66%), and don’t want “too big to fail” bailouts (55%). None of those are “socialist” ideas, they’re the kind of ideas that you see the liberty-focused wing of the Republican party support. And of course the poll didn’t even ask about things like reducing government bloat, defending freedom of speech, or encouraging the free market and small businesses.
I’ll say this for Bernie Sanders: at least he really means it. Not like Hillary, who doesn’t stand for anything. She just wants to be President because it’s her turn, and because she thinks she’s entitled to it, and because she’s a Clinton, because she feels the world owes it to her. I think Sanders is wrong about most of what he thinks, but at least you can actually believe that he stands for something.
But Salon’s insane fantasies aside, most Americans don’t actually believe in the big-government socialism that Bernie Sanders really believes in. Now imagine for a second if the Republicans could get their act together, and instead of being distracted with the clown-car and scary-storytime of the likes of Trump, or the empty suits that don’t stand for anything except getting to be President (including guys who think they should win because it’s their turn, or because their last name is Bush), and picked someone to run who also actually stood for something. What if we had a guy on the right who really means it? And who believes in things that most Americans can get behind, like personal freedom? Or a smaller government that doesn’t try to run your life? Or a fair market for everyone?
You know, someone like Rand Paul.
The left can only try to sell us fantasies, because their actual practical realities mostly suck. If the right stops trying to win with just scare tactics, and gives us a guy who can stand for ideas that are both real AND already popular to Americans, they could actually make this an election worth caring about.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
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