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Friday, September 17, 2004

We would rather sulk than switch

From Digby, showing how and why, in issues of politics, environment, economy, and maybe even technology, people won't switch until its too late.

Consider the following as the conventional wisdom, ostensibly practiced among observant folks, worried about the environment and our energy future:
Democrats are panicking because they aren't thinking about how this election looks to the median voter. A partisan Democrat looks at Bush and sees: 1) upcoming disaster on Iraq and Al-Qaeda (latter brought about by former); 2) upcoming disaster on climate change and the environment; 3) upcoming disaster on the economy; 4) upcoming disaster on the Supreme Court. Then he or she wonders, "how in the world could anyone vote for this man? We're going to hell in a handbasket! The fact that Kerry isn't miles ahead shows that he's an abysmal candidate, and can never win!" And then Kerry becomes Gore-ified, with the potential of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But this is the way things are:
The problem with this model is that all these disasters are UPCOMING. Policy wonks, politically educated and motivated Democrats can see them (or at least they think they can). But there is absolutely no reason for the median voter to look at the situation that way. The voter is rationally ignorant. He or she is not going to spend time digging into policy details, considering potential budget models, etc. What does this voter see? The economy isn't fabulous, but it isn't terrible. Maybe there will be environmental problems, maybe not, but at this point, there isn't anything in front of his or her face. Newsweek might say that Iraq is a disaster, but I don't see it: maybe it's just tough. I'm not comfortable with it; we probably made a mistake, but it's not clear what we do now. Besides--in Vietnam, we were losing 2,000 soldiers A MONTH. We were told that Reagan's deficits would kill us, but they didn't: every economist has some model. I'm not real satisfied with the way things are going, but things could definitely be worse, and it's tough out there. 9/11 taught us that.

So I sees a middle-aged guy pedalling down the main avenue's sidewalk, looking pretty comfortable leaning back on his 3-wheel recumbent. But the effect was pretty much ruined, as I noticed a cigarette providing the cyclist with an extra calming influence.

What was that famous cigarette line? I would rather fight, than switch.

In my opinion, it will be almost impossible to achieve a forward-looking culture, burning smartly on all cylinders, doing the right thing on all fronts. Instead, it might be enough to pick 'em off one at a time, on a first-come, first-served basis.


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