Saturday, September 15, 2012

Two Major Reasons That Politics Is Broken: Flattery And Lies

A frequent commenter at the Madville Times contends that politics is about knowing ones audience and telling them what they want to hear. That sort of pandering has created all sorts of problems and prevented the United States from solving many of its problems.

People naturally seem to want to hear that they're wonderful. Andrew Sullivan points to an Andrew Polasky post that illustrates the dangers of flattering voters:
Flattery and pain don’t mix well. After all, if we the people have been as dedicated and selfless as our leaders tell us we are, then we cannot possibly be responsible for the mess we’re in. And if we have been so virtuous, surely we should not be asked to pay (through reduced benefits, higher taxes, or both) to clean up the situation. ... Flattery works as a political tool, but a public that has been told only of its goodness will not understand why it should be penalized for its virtue. When the American people wake up the morning after the great political seduction, they will have a nasty hangover.
If one is worried about the effects of flattery, one can always just tell people whatever pops into one's mind even if those thoughts are lies. Conor Friedersdorf posts about a Karl Rove effort that takes one of Obama's sentences and twists it beyond recognition:
You'd think it would be uncontroversial to note that, for a lot of folks a bit farther down the income scale, certain moments in life aren't the best time to blow a lot of money on a Las Vegas binge. So when President Obama said in 2010, for example, "You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college," fair to say he's expressing a truism, rather than casting aspersions on wining, dining, gambling, Celine Deon, or performance artists covered in blue.   

Enter Karl Rove's political ad factory, a shop of hackery so shameless it sees common sense and reacts with attacks like this:

The promises of bread and circuses cannot be long in coming.

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