Monday, February 27, 2006

The Social Psychology of Politics

I thought again of the idea of a displacement issue in media and politics. The society can’t face the real political issues of the day, so they channel their energy and dissatisfaction into a side or displacement issue. The target of the criticism, in this case Bush, has to be in a weakened political position for the faux issue to gain traction. It’s a way for people to attack the person they have doubts about, without confronting the real issues or crimes committed by that person.

Currently, it is the dustup over Bush allowing the United Arab Emirates to manage several US ports. Even in the domain of US ports and national security that is not the real issue. The lack of examination of cargo containers is a bigger port issue. Kerry tried to raise it during the campaign but got no where with it. But on bigger issues such as the failure of the Iraq war and occupation, sanctioned torture and Bush’s admitting to breaking the law by wiretapping without a warrant, the opposition got no traction. The public and the media still need to cling to the myth that Bush is their protector and so they’ll allow any crime. But underneath, the public is wary enough of him that the press, the Democrats and even some Republicans who need to distance themselves from Bush before the 2006 elections, can jump on him for something relatively minor, as long as it can be couched as him not protecting us.

2 comments:

Jason H. Bowden said...

Jeff--

Most people know that Bush isn't the sharpest tool in the box. However, the Democrats think they can defeat Elmer Fudd by running C3P0 against him. If the Democratic message is "We're doomed!" and "We surrender!" -- the GOP wins by default. Given a choice between incompetence and Dhimmitude, the majority with opt for incompetence.

Remember this next time the Democrats advocate secrecy for al-queda phone calls into the United States, or nukes for religious zealots like Ahmadinejad, or a U.N. veto over American security, or letting al-Zarqawi turn Iraq into a terrorist state.

Jeff Meyerhoff said...

Jason,

Ouch! You sound like a pretty severe conservative. You couldn't make the comments you make in your second paragraph without some rigid black and white thinking going on.

Even in the mainstream press there is the understanding that the FISA Act allows wiretapping without an immediate warrant in case of emergency and that the FISA court very rarely has turned down a request. This is part of the mainstream debate yet you make this silly comment that "the Democrats advocate secrecy for al-queda phone calls into the United States". That's just knee-jerk partisanship. Let's analyze the strengths and enormous shortcomings of both the Democrats and the Republicans instead of needing to have one be good and the other evil.

Your other examples are similarly extreme.

As for the first paragraph. I don't see that the Democrats have any sense of how to market themselves, but that Bush is doing enough damage that they might be able to do well in 2006 without a coherent message. If the Dems can score some more points with the Bush-is-not-our-protector stuff, as with the Dubai thing, they may be able to wound him where he's strongest: The myth that he will protect us from the fear he exploits in us. With the Dubai incident now the Dems can exploit that fear.

Jeff