Friday, October 01, 2004

Bush v. Kerry: Round One

Large Stupid Men Tee Shirts - LSM

Americans by a margin of more than 2 to 1 believe that Kerry won last night's debate on Iraq, terrorism and homeland security, but the polls haven't changed and the majority still believe that Bush would do better on Iraq, terrorism and homeland security than Kerry.

Is this consistent?

Yes, if you assume that the ability to speak articulately about the issues and win arguments has no bearing on performance. This is indeed what a significant number of Americans believe and it is why Kerry's performance in the debates, even if it were stellar, would make little difference. Bush's supporters view debating skill as nothing more than a clever trick and take Bush's inarticulate grunts, repetition, and posturing as signs of strength.

The source of this extraordinary view is lower class sexual dimorphism. Both Republican and Democratic campaigns feature elite women in suits doing the same jobs as their male counterparts and behaving in much the same way as elite males. But further down the social scale, sexual dimorphism becomes salient.

Working class men do the grunt work; working class women do the paperwork. Even in pink-collar clerical and service work women need to be literate, articulate and socially presentable. Working class males just need to lift heavy things. They regard fluency, social finesse and even intelligence as womanish-- signs of weakness that disqualify man from leadership.

Prima facie the Republican Campaign was insane to make military leadership an issue when Kerry was a decorated war veteran and Bush was a National Guard drop-out. But they knew their base constituency--dumb white men. It didn't matter that Kerry served in combat, that he was 5 inches taller than Bush or even he was a booming bass to Bush's reedy tenor: the mere fact that Kerry spoke French made him, in the eyes of working class males, a wimp.

Bush gets macho points for being inarticulate, simple-minded and dogmatic: working class machismo isn't a matter of what you can do but a matter of what you cannot or will not do. Heavy lifting is optional, so long as you're not very smart.


Barney said...

As one of the hewers of wood and drawers of water, it is my sincerest hope that you are merely playing the agent provocateur and was ineptly attempting to boost responses to your latest blog. The gross generalization that “working class males just need to lift heavy things” smacks of a rather hateful class prejudice that points to why the Democratic Party has suffered so many humiliations over the past thirty years. It is this arrogant display of palpable contempt by the Democratic leadership and its ancillaries (academics, feminists, multiculturalists, etc.) that have driven many “stupid white males” (and stupid white females) into the waiting arms of the Republicans.

By your own admission, you have little familiarity with the toiling masses (“Glass Houses” 9/9/04) – and it shows. Like so many of your class, you assume the world simply could not go on without you. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. How many stockbrokers, Sociology professors, and priests do you know who could build your house, sew your clothes, and grow your food? You know…that whole “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” thing. Never mind the fact that the books you read are printed by beer-swilling louts, and the aircraft you ride at 39,000 feet are maintained by drooling deltas.

Sure, it is dismaying that so many of my fellow hod carriers are being seduced by the blandishments of the Republicans - what are their alternatives? Please don’t suggest the other effete pro-business party currently known as the Democrats, but then, I suppose, what choice have we? Sort of like people who must try to choose between an abusive spouse and an unfaithful one.

While I might be forgetting my place (as he sets down his eighty pound bag of concrete) to suggest that we stupid white (and stupid black, brown, red and yellow) men may not be enchanted with Mr. Kerry’s Francophile tendencies because we would rather have him speak Chinese, Hindi, or Spanish in order that he might negotiate a better trade deal for us.

Still, there are a sizable number of us (if we’re not too busy crushing Milwaukee’s Best cans on our foreheads) who will vote for Mr. Kerry because we have the alternative is worse.

Humbly, with the tip of the cap and averting our eyes downward,

Barney F. McClelland

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you express your contempt for "dumb white men" using terms like "macho" and "machismo". These terms are taken from the lexicon of what one might call (using your model) "dumb brown men". But are there any "dumb brown men"? Or would you say that such a notion is (figuratively and literally) 'beyond the pale'?

I wonder whether you have anything negative to say about the Latino gangs that are currently terrorizing your part of the world? I wonder whether, if you were car-jacked by a macho Latino thug, you would sneeringly refuse the assistance of a "dumb white" cop (or even a "dumb brown" cop, a "dumb black" cop, or a "dumb yellow" cop)? I suspect not. But, hey, one's practice needn't agree with one's theory, right?

You're a Johns Hopkins philosophy graduate? Alrighty then.

H. E. said...

Remember the surprising phenomenon we're trying to explain here: the fact that acknowledging Bush lost the debate on Iraq, terrorism and homeland security and recognizing that his military record doesn't compare favorably to Kerry's, Americans still regard him as better qualified to be a strong leader in time of war and to protect the country from terrorism. A phenomenon this surprising calls for a really audacious explanation, as does the equally surprising fact that lots of white working class males vote against their own economic interests.

I'm sure there are lots of stupid brown, black, red and yellow men also--as well as stupid women of every color: they just aren't as likely to vote stupidly.

Anonymous said...

H.E., you ought to re-read the first few pages of Book II of Plato's "Republic". There, Glaukon and Adeimantos lay out the case for preferring injustice over justice. When they're done, Sokrates says this to them:

"... something quite divine must certainly have happened to you, if you are remaining unpersuaded that injustice is better than justice when you are able to speak that way on its behalf. Now you truly don't seem to me to be being persuaded. I infer it from the rest of your character, since, on the basis of the arguments themselves, I would distrust you" (368a-b, Bloom's translation).

So well did Glaukon and Adeimantos speak on behalf of injustice, that Sokrates had to resort to his knowledge of their character—their unspoken character—to convince himself that they did not truly believe what they said.

You seem to believe that because John Kerry spoke cleverly (in a deep voice!) at the debate, he should be elected President of the United States. But a man can speak cleverly (in a deep voice!) and speak misleadingly and insincerely and even self-contradictorily. Unless one has access to knowledge of his unspoken character, it's not easy to judge what he has said and whether he means it or not.

Much of what we know about John Kerry's unspoken character suggests that he would not make a good President, despite his ability to occasionally speak cleverly (in a deep voice!). You seem to believe that his military record is somehow superior to President Bush's record, and that that, too, means he ought to replace President Bush. But he has already been forced to re-state several aspects of his record, placing both his first and third Purple Hearts in question. As for his excellent Cambodian adventure (which he attempted to use to rhetorical advantage again and again over a period of decades), we now know that he invented that wholecloth—there's no truth in it at all. And have you heard him talking recently about his 'magic hat', the hat which he spoke about so glowingly in the "Washington Post" a few months ago? No, I haven't, either. Not to mention the 'magic dog' (which no one else on his boat remembers existing)—you know, the dog that got blown off the deck of Kerry's moving boat by a mine explosion (that didn't happen, according to all available records) and then landed, unscathed, on the deck of another moving boat yards away from his. Heard about that 'magic dog' lately? Me, neither.

The man is, at a minimum, a serial mis-representor and exaggerator of his own exploits, military and otherwise (he doesn't fall down, remember?). He's an older, gaunter version of Shakespeare's Falstaff, the risible miles gloriosus. But he's also got the "lean and hungry" look of Cassius—his desire for "advancement" is palpable (Shakespeare is breaking out all around here!). It's not enough that he has twice married women who inherited (not earned, mind you) enough money to support several small cities of ordinary, working-class people; it's not enough that he stabbed in the back every one of his fellow Vietnam veterans—the dead, the still in country, the still in country in the clutches of brutal captors, the returned home—in order to advance his own political career (he literally ratted them out in order to gain attention and political advancement). No, all that isn't enough. Now he wants to be President of the country that he sneered at as a younger man. This Swiss boarding school, French-speaking pseudo-aristocrat wants to be our President!

H.E., I don't know how to break this to you, but that ain't gonna happen.

All of us stupid people are going to see to it that the full-of-hot-air John Kerry has bumped up against the ceiling of his career. He'll remain in the Senate for a while, of course (he wasn't about to resign his Senate seat for this campaign, was he?). And then he'll retire into the loving embrace of his acid-tongued (but redeemingly rich) wife and they'll windsurf back and forth roughly towards (or maybe away from) the sunset.

And as for your "audacious explanation" for the poll situation after the debate, it's audacious all right, but classist and racist, too. Classist, obviously; but racist? Indeed. You write:

"I'm sure there are lots of stupid brown, black, red and yellow men also—as well as stupid women of every color: they just aren't as likely to vote stupidly."

This is the racism of ameliorative condescension: they're stupid, but not as stupid as white people when it comes to voting. You won't even grant that stupid non-white people are able to vote just as stupidly as stupid white people!

"Enough! or too much."

—Ann_Observer (writing as Anonymous)

Anonymous said...

Ann_Observer's post is definitely Enlightening, so I think we can all be grateful for that.

There are scores of important issues to argue at this point in U.S. history: the war, the economy, technology, public policy, etc., etc. But Karl Rove Theory has become ingrained in the heart and soul of the Right, it's clear, and personal smear has now officially become the debate tactic of choice. I'm actually quite cheered up by this, in fact, since the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the Bush camp doesn't think it can win the argument on the points.

Classic stuff, there. Misdirection: the thing about alleged problems with Kerry's "first and third" Purple Hearts as a way to distract from the fact that he volunteered and served under fire, unlike a certain POTUS we could mention. Non sequitur: a "magic dog" from 35 years ago? (For the record, Ann_Obs: only die-hard dittoheads and/or political junkies know or care anything about this. It's called "minutiae," and it smacks of desperation.) Irrelevancy: Kerry's wife's money (inherited money, not earned, mind you - as if a certain POTUS we could mention didn't have a bit of an issue in this area!). A charge of "racial bias" - when the argument is clearly about easily-verified (and, I suspect, true) empirical facts about voting patterns.

One thing is clear: the Right has definitely "jumped the shark" at this point. Something about "absolute power corrupting," I think, and the echo chamber of talk radio and FOX News. This is Bush's problem as well, it's pretty obvious: with Republican control of the House and the Senate, and sycophants everywhere around him, he naturally considers himself a genius, and infallible, since nobody will tell him otherwise. How the mighty have fallen, and what good news for the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

(Wednesday, November 3, 2004)

To the 5:52 AM Anonymous:

It would appear that my analysis of what was going to happen in yesterday's election was correct, as I fully expected it to be when I wrote it. Despite the best efforts of the three old-guard television networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and all the rest of the traditionally liberal media, President Bush has been re-elected with the largest popular vote majority in history. Tom Daschle has lost his Senate seat (and also his position as Minority Leader, something which hasn't happened since 1952). The rest of the good news is also well-known by now.

Anon, power in a democracy comes from the orderly expression of the prevailing will of the people. The notion that the Bush administration has been or will be unanswerable to the people is arrant nonsense. To believe it is to have drunk the Kool-Aid of the 'progressive' true believer.

While it might comfort you to believe that you're smart and supporters of President Bush are dumb, simple statistics should suggest to you that among the 58+ million voters for Bush are people who are in fact smarter than you and more knowledgeable than you in a wide variety of areas. So the 'smart is to Kerry as dumb is to Bush' proportion just doesn't survive contact with the facts.

Since it's unlikely that you're reading this, I'll simply close by saying that I wish you well in your journey through this life, and I hope that you never find yourself confronted with problems that you're unable to solve.

--Ann_Observer (writing as Anonymous)

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