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Krugman: Flags Versus Dollars:
"But the right opened an increasingly effective counterattack, with a strategy that included using racially charged symbolism to get Southern whites to vote against their own economic interests. All Mr. Dean was saying was that Democrats need to understand and counter this strategy.
I don't know about the "South" so to speak since I'm not sure that OKlahoma has a typical southern mentality. At least not like Mississippi or Alabama or your other Deep South states. Here the big wedge issues are Guns, Taxes, and Religion. The theme revolves around a general fear that the government (aka The Liberals) are always looking for ways to take away the guns, ban religion and raid our homes with goon squads. And the only method to fight back is to cut taxes.
This attitude has been nurtured by an extreme polarization of issues, a world in which one step onto the slippery slope of compromise leads to utter oblivion, a nightmarish police state.
Examples include the NRA, who frame any attempt to regulate gun ownership as "taking away our guns". An objective look at the legislation proposed makes this claim look alarmist. But by equating attempts to restrict gun access to criminals as an assault on the rights of hunters to own firearms you mobilize a constituency to vote according to that issue despite its lack of real relavence. Nothing suprises me more than to have a group of hunters state that people like myself, who favor some form of gun control, want to take away their guns. I want nothing of the sort. They can keep their rifles and handguns for all I care. We have laws governing their use on other human beings. I would however support limits on who can own a gun (known criminals) and what types of firearms are considered too lethal for public consumption (assualt rifles).
Another example would be the so called ban on school prayer, often stated as "kids cannot pray at school". This is an overstatement of the reality. The issue has always been about government sponsorship. Some people overstep the bounds and push to impose religion on others. When they are stopped a cry ensues that "The liberals are trying to get rid of religion". Again, not true. But both cases serve to shore up political support. When Judge Moore attempted to place the ten commandments monument on government grounds he was clearly out of bounds. The issue was reframed to equate people that wanted the monument removed to people that wanted religion obliterated from the face of the earth. Again, not so. I have no problem with people building churches, putting crosses on their lawns, painting "Jesus Saves" in big red spray pain letters on their RV's. I would just rather not have the judge behind the bench judging me on anything other than my guilt or innocence. A compromise position has already been reached. Publicly owned institution should not promote any one religion, but then government should not try to restrict religious practice by individuals on their own private property. That was easy wasn't it?
There are of course some elements that want to see extreme positions taken and will support ideas that are outside of the mainstream. But the best solution to most of these issues is some form of compromise. What's standing in the way of good practical solutions is the political usefulness of a divided public. It becomes harder to identify your core constituents as they become less polarized. By building these stark groups of idealogically driven voters you make it easy to target your campaign messages. Also by doing so you can get people to vote against their interest in other matters by making them focus on the issues that have been designed to influence their voting behavior.
I don't want to make this seem like a strategy employed only by the right and the republicans. The left has their own issues that wedge voters into their camp, most notable among them, abortion. But the right has been more successful at defining their issues and delivering their message. I can't tell you how many times a debate has disintegrated to a repetitive litany of talk show platitudes.
What seems to have gotten Dean into hot water this past few days is his suggestion that people should look beyond these narrowly defined wedge issues (like the confederate flag) and think in broad terms about what would be best for themselves and their families. This strategy should seem counter-productive for Dean who has thus far been able to pump an issue (the Iraq War) for political gain. He seems to be suggesting that when we elect representatives along such narrow lines we don't always get politicains that reflect the needs of the broader public.
An idea that makes a lot of sense, even if it was so poorly stated.
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