David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

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John F
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David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by John F » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:27 am

The campaign isn't just dull, it's making a mockery of the democratic process. Probably nothing here that many of us haven't already observed, though it's refreshing to hear it from the (moderate) Right, but when all put together, it's even more worrying and should be distressing. Not that any of us can do anything about it.


Dullest Campaign Ever
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 30, 2012 11

A few weeks ago, Peggy Noonan wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal that perfectly captures my attitude toward this presidential campaign: It’s incredibly consequential and incredibly boring all at the same time.

Since then, I’ve come up with a number of reasons for why it is so dull. First, intellectual stagnation. This race is the latest iteration of the same debate we’ve been having since 1964. Mitt Romney is calling President Obama a big-government liberal who wants to crush business. Obama is calling Romney a corporate tool who wants to take away grandma’s health care.

American politics went through tremendous changes between 1900 and 1936, and then again between 1940 and 1976. But our big government/small government debate is back where it was a generation ago. Candidates don’t even have to rehearse the arguments anymore; they just find the gaffes that will help them pin their opponent to the standard bogyman clichés.

Second, lack of any hint of intellectual innovation. Candidates used to start their campaigns by giving serious policy addresses at universities and think tanks to lay out their distinct philosophies. Bill Clinton was a New Democrat. George W. Bush was a Compassionate Conservative.

But the ideological climate has ossified. Candidates know that they’d be punished for saying something unexpected — by the rich, elderly donors and by the hyperorthodox talk-show hosts. Instead of saying something new, now they just try to boost turnout within their own demographic niches and suppress turnout in the other guy’s niches.

Third, increased focus on the uninformed. Four years ago, Barack Obama gave a sophisticated major speech on race. Mitt Romney did one on religion. This year, the candidates do not feel compelled to give major speeches. The prevailing view is that anybody who would pay attention to such a speech is already committed to a candidate. It’s more efficient to focus on the undecided voters, who don’t really follow politics or the news.

Fourth, lack of serious policy proposals. Has there ever been a campaign with so few major plans on the table? President Obama’s proposals are small and medium-size retreads, while Mitt Romney has run the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime. Republicans spend their days fleshing out proposals, which Romney decides not to champion.

Fifth, negative passion. Both parties are driven more by hatred than by love. Both sides feel it would be a disaster for the country if the other side had power during the next four years. Neither side is propelled by much positive enthusiasm for their own side.

Many Democratic politicians think Obama looks down on them as a bunch of lowlife hacks. As Noonan wrote in that column, he sometimes seems to regard politics as a weary duty on his path to greatness. The Republican coolness toward Romney is such that he’s having trouble recruiting people to work on the campaign.

Sixth, no enactment strategy. To avert catastrophe, the next president will have to rally bipartisan majorities around a budget deal and many other things. That will require personal and relationship skills neither has demonstrated. The polarizing, negative tactics the candidates use to get elected will make it impossible to succeed after one of them wins.

Seventh, ad budget myopia. Both campaigns fervently believe that more spending leads to more votes. They also believe that if they can carpet bomb swing voters with enough negative ads, then eventually the sheer weight of the barrage will produce movement in their direction. There’s little evidence that these prejudices are true. But the campaigns are like World War I generals. If something isn’t working, the answer must be to try more of it.

Eighth, technology is making campaigns dumber. BlackBerrys and iPhones mean that campaigns can respond to their opponents minute by minute and hour by hour. The campaigns get lost in tit-for-tat minutiae that nobody outside the bubble cares about. Meanwhile, use of the Internet means that Web videos overshadow candidate speeches and appearances. Video replaces verbal. Tactics eclipse vision.

Finally, dishonesty numbs. A few years ago, newspapers and nonprofits set up fact-checking squads, rating campaign statements with Pinocchios and such. The hope was that if nonpartisan outfits exposed campaign deception, the campaigns would be too ashamed to lie so much.

This hope was naïve. As John Dickerson of Slate has said, the campaigns want the Pinocchios. They want to show how tough they are. But the result is a credibility vacuum. It’s impossible to take ads seriously. They are the jackhammer noise in the background of life.

This is the paradox. As campaigns get more sophisticated, everything begins to look more homogenized, less effective and indescribably soporific.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/opini ... ever.html?
John Francis

Teresa B
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by Teresa B » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:02 am

Brooks's comments are pretty much on-target. I wonder if all this prolonged campaign idiocy would be mitigated if we enacted one new rule: Limit all campaigning to 6 weeks before an election.

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Bro
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by Bro » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:17 am

Teresa B wrote: new rule: Limit all campaigning to 6 weeks before an election.
Sounds good to me. How about we also limit campaign spending to public funds only.



Bro

Teresa B
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by Teresa B » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:41 am

Bro wrote:
Teresa B wrote: new rule: Limit all campaigning to 6 weeks before an election.
Sounds good to me. How about we also limit campaign spending to public funds only.
Bro
OK :D
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

jbuck919
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:20 am

I don't care much that it is a dull campaign, since such a number of "new" ideas used in previous campaigns have been at best gimmicks and at worst guarantees of disaster. I mean, just look at Romney's new idea that in several different respects diplomacy should be thrown to the winds regarding Israel. If carried through, that idea could put us right in the middle of the next ruinous international political maelstrom and perhaps even war.

On the other hand, among the lack of ideas there is one that stands out like not a sore thumb, but let's say an entire gangrenous torso, and that is Romney's lack of ideas on how to achieve what he himself pays lip service to as the most important goal: getting people back to work. At least Obama has ideas on that, which Brooks belittles per se rather than because Obama can't implement them without the cooperation of Congress. I don't live in a state where there is or is going to be a huge ad campaign to turn voters, but I do wonder if the Obama campaign is doing very effectively the left-cross-right-jab of no ideas to create jobs and tax breaks for the rich plus deregulation won't work.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:29 pm

jbuck919 wrote:but I do wonder if the Obama campaign is doing very effectively the left-cross-right-jab of no ideas to create jobs and tax breaks for the rich plus deregulation won't work.
No it's the rope a dope muhammed ali used against liston and
Joe frazier! Len :)

Dennis Spath
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Re: David Brooks: Telling it like it is - again

Post by Dennis Spath » Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:21 pm

Has any one of you viewed the egomaniacal Bill O'Reilly and mindless Sean Hannity lately? It's truly amazing what passes for "Fair & Balanced" on FOX lately!
It's good to be back among friends from the past.

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