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September 20, 2004

In Cod They Trust

Matt from AOL comments on the idea that Democrats have only cod liver oil to sell to the American people.

Brilliant. As far back as it goes, but how on earth did Jimmy Carter convince us to take the cod liver oil in 1976?

Well, for one, Carter's message was mostly "I will never lie to you." The 76 race was so warped by Watergate that neither party really put out much of a default message--I remember this well, as I was all of 11 at the time, and the intricacies of political thought are an eleven-year-old's meat and potatoes, as we all know. Couldn't figure out how to convey that idea in one or two sentences, so I said the hell with it. For two, I felt the post as a whole worked better when only two ideas were juxtaposed. Introducing another theme removed the punch. I also had to be at a meeting in 9 minutes.

But mostly because I think that Carter, with his talk of malaise, brought to the fore the idea that America was ill, or bad, and needed fixing. The idea was the natural outgrowth of the 60s philosophical rebellion against "The Man" From "The Man" to the culture as a whole is a small step, and when Carter began talking down, and down to, the American people, the boomers in the Democratic Party bought it hook line and sinker. Their strength was such that the cod liver meme has affected almost every Democratic presidential candidate since.

It's an ironic twist, from a moral standpoint. Thanks to the presidency of an unchurched actor, conservatives--who have always bought into the idea of original sin--sing the praises of the American people and their collective wisdom. On the other hand, Liberals, who are much more likely to state that "at heart, all people are basically good," damn Americans for their stupidity, crass materialism and sheep like nature without a second thought--thanks to the presidency of a born-again Southern Baptist farmer.

Once upon a time, the Left was the party of the working man. A some point--let's say 1950, when Adlai Stevenson was nominated to run against the everyman Eisenhower--the Democrats began to consider themselves the party of the thinking man, and began their long drift away from the mass of public opinion. Kennedy and Johnson stemmed the tide somewhat, but in many, many elections since 1950, the Democratic platform in presidential elections has smacked of intellectual superiority--the thought that "this is what's best for the country, and if you disagree with us it's probably because you're too dim to understand."

That worked so well for the Dems in the Reagan years that they've rolled it out again, with added fillip that "If it's not because you're dim, then it's because you're evil." It's quite the sales pitch, if what one wants is to alienate the customer.

It doesn't drive away all the customers, mind you, because some customers are masochists. I should know--I've voted Democratic almost all my life.

But when faced with that non-starter as competition, it's no wonder Republicans keep winning elections. Bill Clinton knew this. For all of his other faults, Clinton didn't speak down to the American people. However, the Democratic Party as a whole--despite Bill's best efforts to educate them--hasn't been able to figure this out. Like a school nerd with a color-coded lunchroom-seating chart running for class president, the party seems to blindly expect the public's votes because of its obviously superior nature, only to be shocked when it gets trounced by a beer-drinking football player whose idea of social commentary is audible farts in study hall.

Since 1980, when their cherished philosophies were first sent to the dustbin by a chimp's costar, a significant chunk of the Democratic Party has spent the years shuttling back and forth between the first two stages of mourning; Denial and Isolation, and Anger--and they don't show any signs of leaving soon. The party as a whole either spends its time looking numbly at its cafeteria seating chart, muttering "But it was so obvious. We could have shaved 15 minutes off the time required to feed the school with the efficiencies my plan brought to lunch!" or indulging in elaborate revenge fantasies, wherein the prettiest American voter of them all falls to her knees, crying and begging forgiveness for her mistake. Most of them are still there. Visit one of the self-proclaimed lefty sites--atrios springs to mind--and the impression one comes away with is one of sheer outrage, coupled with a large (though expected) dollop of intellectual condescension on the part of the site's publisher.

One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar--or cod liver oil. Until the grass roots of the Democratic party realizes this, the party will continue to lose elections left and right--no matter how superior their seating plan is--and its constituents will continue to be outraged at the American people for electing chimps and their costars.

Posted by Bigwig at September 20, 2004 12:40 AM | TrackBack
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Slight problem -- I don't think Carter talked about a "malaise" until well after he was in office. In fact, this link claims that although the word appeared in a memo to Carter from aide Pat Caddell, Carter himself never used the word during the 7/15/79 speech now known as his "malaise" speech.

Posted by: Lex at September 20, 2004 03:57 PM

But the point remains that he started talking that way before 1980, which is when the time period started in the initial post.

Posted by: Bigwig at September 20, 2004 04:13 PM

I dunno - I like visiting Atrios, because it's good to be reminded once in a while that if you don't agree with Barney Frank, you are a retarded sub-human Rethuglikkan hate-filled scumbag fascist pig who ought to be exterminated.

It's good in the same what that it's good to be reminded that if you don't agree with Oliver Willis, you are a big ol' racist (like Glenn Reynolds) or that if you disagree with Kos you want to repeal the Constitution and put the Blacks back on plantations, along with women and the poor.

Most of all though, it's good to be reminded, that a goodly number of the lefty bigshots in the blogosphere are funded by David Brock's Soros-funded public relations outfit. But that's okay, because Soros really cares about this country and rescuing it from the horrid incivility and vicious habits into which it's fallen...

Kinda makes you wonder, if Kerry would have a decent shot, but for the nastiness of the attacks launched by his proxies...

Posted by: Blackavar at September 21, 2004 08:01 AM

Another reason why I read Bigwig:

Like a school nerd with a color-coded lunchroom-seating chart running for class president, the party seems to blindly expect the public's votes because of its obviously superior nature, only to be shocked when it gets trounced by a beer-drinking football player whose idea of social commentary is audible farts in study hall.

Not sure I agree with the analogy of Republicans as farting jocks, but the description of the Democrats is right on.

Besides, after reading that, who can deny the beauty of Bigwig's prose?

Posted by: Captain Holly at September 21, 2004 10:37 AM

You might read that again and see all of the casual arrogance in the last 3 paragraphs. I have a hard time figuring out if you are writing in their voice or your own.
My own perception is that the Democratic Party has developed a core of secular fundamentalists who place Government in the role of God. How dare the common man think he knows as much as the priests. How dare anyone hold another god before their God. And those heretics who don't believe deserve no respect, quarter, or decency. I think it's a good analogy.

Posted by: Brett at September 21, 2004 11:44 AM
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