Opinion: Don’t play the popularity game

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Alan Xiang

“If you voted for President Bush, congratulations: You are the ultimate winner … So crack open an ice-cold Bud Light, because today, we salute you, Mr. Republican Voter”

– Chuck Prochaska, DI columnist

Mr. Prochaska and many fellow members of the faithful right have confused the presidential race with a horse race. Prochaska seems to feel a great sense of personal accomplishment that his choice horse won on Election Day. Horse racing is just fun and games, but unfortunately, politics is not.

A hot topic among liberal “soul searchers” and conservative gloaters after the election is how the Democratic Party can reform its strategies to better sell the platform to moderates. Whatever direction the party decides to take in the future, it should be mindful that there is more at stake than winners and losers.

Two key lessons emerged from this year’s election: 1) Honesty and nuance is not the most practical way to win votes. 2) Never underestimate the immovability and size of the religious base. The Republicans took advantage of these truths and the Democrats did not. The currently popular, but ultimately wrong, advice to Democrats: “do what the Republicans do.”

The Bush administration is the standard-bearer of successful public deception through “half-truths and strategically ambiguous language.” A book called All the President’s Spin by the editors of the nonpartisan Spinsanity.com, documents how the GOP has made the media parrots for their political message.

One problem is the standard of objective journalism. “Reporters attempting to remain objective often fail to evaluate claims that are misleading but not obviously wrong.”

For example, while making the case for rushing to war, the

White House repetitively framed the invasion of Iraq as

“liberation.” There was little discussion in the media of how the Iraqis might view U.S. citizens as occupiers.

The Bush administration also manipulates news coverage by stonewalling their accessibility to contentious reporters. Also, from All the President’s Spin, “The Bush administration offers reporters an unending supply of carefully scripted talking points … When talking points are all officials will repeat, it gives reporters literally nothing else to quote.”

The Bush White House is clueless on how to run a country, but they are public relation geniuses.

The other suggestion for getting more Democratic representation into the government is to have candidates frame their social platform through a Christian perspective. “Moral values” were the most important issue in this year’s election according to exit polls, and the majority of this country holds conservative views.

In a country supposedly proud of its heterogeneity, the discourse for “moral” votes in the 2008 election should not be a mater of “which line of the Bible is more important.” To go down this path, the Democratic Party would marginalize, and offer little alternative to its current composition of diverse minorities. It would also sell out a central principle Sen. John Kerry articulated in the debates: Making legislation using only articles of personal faith as justification is wrong.

It’s entirely consistent to hold a Christian belief, while acknowledging the lack of observational evidence behind the faith outside of the Bible. Many voters were lost on this point, but true social progress comes in hand with gaining new insight, not pandering to ignorance. Reforms made for the wrong reasons, if shown to be beneficial, positively reinforce a flawed system of policy making. In the long run, it is a disservice to us all.

The last thing a true patriot, as apposed to a political glory-monger, should do is to “fight fire with fire” using Bush’s tactics. Such strategies might win more seats, but will society be better off? That is the litmus test, and the answer is clearly “no.” The ultimate goal of holding elections isn’t to sort the winners from the losers; it’s to improve the way we live. If manipulation and backward thinking is the pragmatic road to victory in the popularity game, then winners are unfit to lead.

Alan Xiang is a sophomore in engineering. His column runs alternate Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]