The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The perils of arguing against an idiot.

For nearly six years now Democrats have been calling George W. Bush a moron. He can't put a coherent sentence together, he has admitted only one mistake (taking responsibility for Katrina screwups) to date, and he seems to be screwing up Iraq, which pisses me off because I think that the democratization of Iraq would have been a very good thing.

But forget about all of that for a minute. Texans probably think that W sounds just fine, he did admit a mistake, and President's make foreign policy snafus. It happens.

The fact is that Democrats and Republicans are locked in an ideological battle. Each believes that implementing their policies will make the country and the world a better place, while enacting the opponent's platform will lead to a country filled with either slack-jawed, bumbling, racist hicks being ruled by four rich oil corporations or, alternatively, communist, possibly homosexual hippy deadbeats with STDs.

The Democrats are, of course, in favor of stopping us from making people feel bad. They're preferred method of doing so is to pretend that all inequality is based on some kind of "ism," and then, when someone is a victim of some kind of ism, to give them some of my money. Or your money. Not the victim's money though.

You know, everyone wins and no one loses, and we want to give people benefits strictly based on their skin color, but we're not racist, and that's not insulting to minorities at all, and greed is bad but we need more tax money, and we need to get the money out of politics but we like free speech, (as long as no one hears it) and we're open minded and consider all opinions so long as we agree with them, and you must be some kind of privileged insensitive white male for writing this.

They also want to fix any perceived problems with the world without regard to cost. The Kyoto treaty, increased funding for Social Security, higher wages for unskilled workers, etc.

Some of these may be good ideas (note: not the Kyoto treaty) but the only way to figure that out is by examining the benefits and the costs.

Republicans, on the other hand, don't like to take your money. They like to take money from the unborn. You know, your kids, your grandkids, etc. It's easier that way, as they cannot yet vote. (Note: I also think that this goes a long way towards explaining the Republican stance on abortion.) They do this by pretending to cut taxes for you. Cutting taxes is often a good idea. Taxes in this country used to be intolerably high. However, it is only a good idea to cut taxes if you also hold down spending. If you do not do this second step, you are only deferring taxes.

Republicans claim that they're good at holding down spending, and, at least in terms of discretionary spending, this used to be true. Lately, Republicans have fallen in love with spending. They want to fly to the moon and build bridges to uninhabited places and give big contracts to people with connections, and give free drugs to old people while arresting young people who paid for their drugs.

While Democrats don't want you to hurt anyone's feelings, Republicans want you to be a good person. You know, don't do drugs, m'kay, and don't buy beer on Sunday and don't have sex, and don't use any protection while you're not having sex, and make sure that you stare directly at the Ten Commandments behind the judge while he's sentencing you for having the wrong kind of sex, and consider Intelligent Design along with evolution even though they just made it up out of thin air and it has no scientific basis, and drive 55.

As you can see, other than the desire to waste your money on a bunch of worthless garbage, the parties are very different. They want to boss you into doing completely different things. This is why calling the president a moron is such a bad idea.

Democrats, apparently, don't have much faith in their ideas. As I reread the list above I can't say that I blame them. If they had faith in their ideas, the moment that they lost power to the Republicans they would have made a wager. They would have stated that they were beaten, fair and square, and that now the country will get to see what it's like to be run by Republicans. In other words, they would have assumed that the Republicans would screw things up, and they would have tied this eventual failure to Republican philosophy.

Maybe a few brave democrats did this, but if they did, I don't remember it. What I do remember is the constant refrain: George Bush is an idiot. Claiming that the president is a drooling nincompoop takes the onus off of Republican philosophy and places it on the man himself. Not only that, it assumes that if the President was a smarter man that his philosophy might actually work!

The Democrats have, essentially, left the Republicans a loophole. If W goes down in flames, they can simply disown him, find someone intelligent, and start over.

This is the peril of arguing with an idiot. It is very likely that you will win, but if you do win, no one cares. You've just beaten an idiot. And while there is almost no benefit to a victory, a loss carries a terrible stigma.

The Democrats have squandered an opportunity to make enormous gains by simply connecting a president's mistakes to his philosophy. They will probably make some headway during the elections next year, but if they ever want the presidency back, they must stop simply ridiculing their opposition, and start showing some respect, whether or not it is deserved. If their ideas lack so much substance that they are reduced to childish name calling then they need to get some new ideas.


  • "...and give free drugs to old people while arresting young people who paid for their drugs."


    I'm a Libertarian. Can I still call Bush an idiot?

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 12:53 PM  

  • I think we can do whatever we want. To paraphrase an annoying line from Spiderman, with no power, comes no responsibility.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 1:03 PM  

  • I don't think the Democratic leadership has focused on the moron factor, but the rest of the Democratic supporters are not very well disciplined / good at staying on message. Maybe they'll change now that Bush himself has no elections left.

    Of course focusing on Clinton's sexual embarrassments did help the Republicans in 2000, even though it had nothing to do with the Democratic platform, but rather one person's behavior. Bush's faults are more translatable. I do recently see Democrats building a concept of Bush tied to cronyism (Katrina), focusing on the needs of rich political supporters and not the people (Iraq, taxes), and beholden to religious fanatics(Schiavo [Republican, not Bush, but people will forget his keeping mum]). These things Democrats can translate to Republicans in general, especially because so many have unfailingly supported the President.
    McCain has played this well by standing up to the President on select issues (but not becoming a shill by arguing on all of them). Of course, he still has a long haul to win a primary.

    As a moderate, I can call Bush an idiot because what bothers me most are the stupid non-party ideaology things he messes up. I mean it's bad enough I have to put up with the usual Democratic or Republican stupidity, but plain old ineptitude on top of it?

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 5:16 PM  

  • Oh, by the way, good point in the post.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 5:17 PM  

  • Last year, I saw a lot more anti-Bush bumper stickers than pro-Kerry bumper stickers. What does it say about Kerry and the Democrats when the people who wanted Kerry to win so badly that they were willing to cover their car with idiotic bumper stickers denouncing Bush couldn't even manage to publically admit that they supported Kerry.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 8:17 AM  

  • first, this was a fantastic post. good sheet.

    i've been thinking lately that the whole liberal-whining movement has been counterproductive, and i couldn't put a finger on exactly why. but you did, so thanks.

    also, focusing on clinton's bj did have something to do with the an issue bigger than one man - what the rep's think of the dem's "morals". they didn't just call clinton an idiot, they said "is this the type of immoral leadership you want?" and pushed morals to the forefront of their own platform. that's very different than saying "bush is an idiot because he's a bad public speaker." what are they going to do, push public speaking to the front of their platform?

    By Blogger ethan, at 2:08 PM  

  • Thanks Ethan. And everyone else.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:38 PM  

  • Precisely Ethan, the point of the Clinton reference was to suggest that even though the "Bush is a moron" mantra is counterproductive, attacks on the person of the President can be used to benefit the opposing party. Obviously the Dems didn't do this well prior to 2004, but there is some evidence (as suggested in my prior post) that the Dems may be moving in this direction for 2006.

    Your post insightfully suggests that focusing on the directly contrasting positive qualities of your own party is an essential element of doing so.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 4:44 PM  

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