Why Liberalism Fails
From a Marketing Standpoint
Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2011 22:10
The news has just come in: Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Months before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the so-called "mastermind" of the deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil has been dealt swift and gratifying justice. In an unscheduled address to the nation, the President calmly and coolly reveals the chain of events that led to his administration's greatest foreign policy victory yet. Elation follows. Scores of college students take to the streets, celebrating the symbolic end of their collective nightmare. Blowhards/armchair psychologists appear on television, labeling Bin Laden the millennial "boogeyman"—the real-world equivalent to Lord Voldemort. Conservatives, for once, are forced to give credit where credit is due (that is, until Bush apologists emerge claiming that it was his policies that enabled the Obama administration to hunt down Bin Laden). Tea Partyers smell a conspiracy—but it doesn't matter. Two wars and a great recession later, the good guys have won.
Barack Obama is losing momentum.
Since May, his poll numbers have plummeted. On the Right, he faces mounting opposition from a party has been infiltrated by pseudo-populists who are actively working to undermine his presidency. His base has largely abandoned him, having grown disillusioned with his seeming inability to exert his influence in any real or tangible manner. Instead of invoking legislative giants such as Lyndon B. Johnson, the President has appeared increasingly weak and ineffective, leading some to compare him to Jimmy Carter. Ralph Nader, desperate for attention, recently announced plans to launch a primary challenge against the President.
Things don't look good. Being likable, it turns out, is not enough.
Worst of all, this was a presidency that the world wanted to believe in. Eight years of living under George W. Bush were more than enough to convince sane, reasonable people that conservatism had failed—or at least needed to be taken back to the drawing board. For the first time in decades, liberals had an opportunity to make their case and they squandered it—completely. Once again, the GOP has done the impossible: it has convinced vast numbers of poor people and small business owners that fucking themselves over for the insanely rich makes economic sense.
What other conclusion can be drawn when the most impoverished regions of the U.S. consistently vote Republican? Apparently they'd rather not be seen as reliant on government handouts—they have higher aspirations. And that's the problem: liberals have allowed themselves to be defined by their enemies as the party that hinders growth and success. In the eyes of voters, the Democratic Party is synonymous with obstruction.
But there's hope.
Thus far, the Republican Party has offered a slate of dumb and dumber candidates who've catered to the lowest common denominator of the American public. Mitt Romney bears a passing resemblance to an intellectual—his poll numbers have declined accordingly. Rick Perry is an inarticulate Texan with secessionist tendencies whose idiocy has managed to alienate the Republican base—an anomaly in the GOP's recent history. Michelle Bachman is insane. Herman Cain exists to make Republicans feel better about themselves. Ten year past his use-by date, Newt Gingrich is a cantankerous, arthritic Machiavelli—an ancient political reptile that slithered out of the Louisiana Bayou in the ‘90s and decided to stick around. Santorum is Santorum. A likable and affable human being, John Huntsman stands absolutely no chance of winning anything, let alone the Republican nomination.
Science? Fuck it. Booing gay servicemen at primary debates? Why the hell not? During the CNN/Tea Party debate, Ron Paul was asked whether someone without health insurance should be left to die. Before the congressman could answer, an audience member shouted, "YEAHHH!"
Somewhere, outside the city, there are literally thousands of small towns where what just transpired not only made sense, but resonated. I know. It's terrifying.
Should the President win reelection next year, it will have less to do with his legislative accomplishments than with the absolute mediocrity of the candidates offered by the GOP. Then again, in today's political climate, mediocrity tends to go over well with voters. Think of the American electorate as a summer movie audience that has paid its parents' hard-earned dollars to see Transformers 3. All its members require to sustain them is a healthy dose of inane storytelling, explosions and vapid characters. Sure, every once in a while you might come across some weird, misanthropic loser who laps up that Focus Features shit, but for the most part Americans just don't go for that. And thank GOD, because if they did, David Foster Wallace wouldn't have had anything to bitch about.