thinair Boulder, Colorado. elevation 5400 feet.

Political introspection and the G. W. Bush administration

How did I become a registered democrat? I'm not going to analyze the evolution of my political beliefs here. I started there. It was really boring.

I grew up in subdivisions on the south and south-east side of Green Mountain, a part of Lakewood just over the hill from Golden which is the Jefferson County seat. Jeffco is one of the more conservative counties in the Denver metro area and maybe in Colorado itself. [1] Dad and his family are proud republican natives with roots on the Western Slope and Mom was a republican when I was young, as are at least some of her siblings. Given those significant influences it's somewhat surprising that I find myself so deeply opposed to the Bush administration.

My first memory of showing any interest in politics was in junior high or high school when I asked Mom about her political views. She described herself as a republican but disagreed with the party on a few key points. She supported a strong military, favored business, and particularly emphasized fiscal responsibility [2] while favoring democrats with regard to the pro-choice, gun control, and environmental issues. It wasn't a long conversation, but it introduced me to the US political battle lines. It's also where I started politically -- a little right of center. Most people in this state would tell you I have spent too many years living in the People's Republic of Boulder.

Then there's my other notable childhood political memory.

I was over at my best friend Shannon's house when Reagan was elected to his first term. I didn't understand much about politics. Dad sometimes called people jackasses which explained the donkey, but I couldn't figure out the elephant and didn't know which mascot belonged to which party. I knew democrats were left and so were communists. But I couldn't make heads or tails out of the red connection between the commies and the republicans.

We were up way past my bed time. My eyes were swollen, my nose was running, and I was having trouble breathing -- allergic reaction to the dog, cats, rats, gerbils, and probably the tarantula, iguana and boa constrictor too. The room was dark, lit only by the glow of the television. On it was a map of the United States almost completely colored in red. Shannon stood between me and the TV with both middle fingers extended at the country exclaiming "You mother fuckers asked for it! You fucking asked for it."

We were eleven years old.

I'll repeat that for emphasis: we were eleven years old. He was precocious and obviously not a republican.

Tonight Sarah and I listened to Fresh Air on Colorado Public Radio. Terry Gross interviewed Richard Clarke about his book Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror. With the recent 60 minutes interview with Clarke and the testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Clarke is getting a lot of air time. My reaction to the interview this evening wasn't what I was expecting.

Clarke's story is everything I want to hear. It confirms all my darkest suspicions about the Bush administration -- everything is exactly as bad as I feared. And that is exactly the problem. The match is too good. It is propaganda.


Effective propaganda must be true. But it must also be completely one sided. Nothing in life is ever so clear cut. Everything has complicating nuances. Propaganda simplifies issues to serve an agenda, and Clarke's agenda clearly includes undermining Bush's re-election. Clarke believes his own story, which explains his agenda. He believes the Bush administration has undermined the security of our nation. But my awareness of the spin denied me my self-righteous indignation.

Here's the problem. The United States is really two completely different countries. They read their books and listen to their news sources and we read our books and listen to our news sources. They use their propaganda to dismiss ours and we return the favor. Actually I have that wrong. There's a third country in there composed of citizens who don't identify with either party, and those who are convinced that their vote and their voice doesn't matter because its only one among hundreds of millions.

Alas, my enthusiasm for self-righteous I-told-you-sos dried up in arid and barren realization that I would be preaching to the choir and ignored by those I would hope to persuade. In that cracked lake bottom I wallow frustrated and maybe a little depressed. Gary Hart convinced me that I have a civic duty to remain engaged, but there is no engagement. Only a lot of passionate yelling of propaganda -- no listening, no real dialog.

Taxes blah blah blah. War blah blah blah. Terrorism blah blah blah. Break to commercial.

[1] I tried to dig up some stats to back up that claim, but couldn't turn anything up quickly. I'm often struck by the huge contrast between the ease with which I can find technological things via google vs. how often I fail to find the social and political things I want there. Is it google, or the demographics of the web, or just that I don't have the right vocabulary to increase the accuracy of my searches outside of technology?

[2] My drift away from the right is strongly related to the complete failure of any recent republican administration to demonstrate any fiscal responsibility whatsoever. Apparently that's not really a republican value after all.

el chele commented

29 April 2004 at 21:31

"My drift away from the right is strongly related to the complete failure of any recent republican administration to demonstrate any fiscal responsibility whatsoever. Apparently that's not really a republican value after all."

Eric-If you think that fiscal responsibilty is a democratic value, then I'm afraid that you are in for further political disillusionment.

el chele

eric commented

30 April 2004 at 10:49

el chele, you're probably right about that. The Clinton administration did balance the budget and pay down the deficit which is better than either Bush or Reagan administrations. But that doesn't mean it's a core value. And there's no doubt I'm in for more disillusionment, regardless.

el chele commented

05 May 2004 at 11:06

Remember also that the Clinton administration sat across from a Repbulican-controlled congress when it "balanced" the budget. This is almost a cliche, but antagony between the branches of government almost always work in the nation's favor simply because less gets done. And whatever does manage to get done gets done as a compromise that whittles away the superfluous.

(Please note, though, that the budget was most definitely not balanced in the 90's--social security revenues were treated as ordinary government revenues to be spent along with everything else in order to make that claim.)

el chele