This meant that the Republicans had to appear to move to the Left, closer to the Center, while the Democrats had to appear to move from the fringes toward the Center, usually by moving to the right. As a result, the National parties and their presidential candidates, with the Eastern Establishment assiduously fostering the process behind the scenes, moved closer together and nearly met in the center with almost identical candidates and platforms, although the process was concealed, as much as possible, by the revival of obsolescent or meaningless war cries and slogans (often going back to the Civil War). As soon as the presidential election was over, the two National parties vanished, the party controls fell back into the hands of the congressional parties, leaving the newly elected President in a precarious position between the two congressional parties, neither of which was very close to the brief National coalition that had elected him.
The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. (Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, P1247) (Emphasis added)
That phrase “obsolescent or meaningless war cries and slogans…” would read today as “wedge issues.”
I’ve been dabbling here and there around the blogs, and realized after a particularly exasperating exchange with Big Swede that there is a reason why elites eschew politics. There are too many fifth graders among us. Most TV and radio ads for candidates (please see this for yourself) are aimed at the fifth grade level of education. They emphasize one easily memorable point using emotional music in the backdrop, with flattering pictures of the favored candidate and unflattering ones of the opponent. The issue in question might be a one single vote among hundreds, or something to do with gun control, abortion, or immigration. The vote does not have to matter, usually does not. The impact of the ads is not in the apparent message, but in the emotional subtext, good versus evil.
Shit works. Not kidding. It does.
In this system it is easy to see why the people who actually have to run the country pay little heed to public opinion, other than to manage it. American public opinion is a reflection of the American public, distracted, uneducated, uninformed, emotional and full of hatred and resentment.
Here’s another quote I ran across, this from Richard Nixon as he ran for reelection in 1972:
“…The average American is just like the child in the family. You give him some responsibility and he is going to amount to something…He is going to do something…If, on the other hand, you make him completely dependent and pamper him and cater to him too much, you are going to make him soft, spoiled and eventually a very weak individual.”
I suspect Nixon was addressing welfare concerns in this statement, but it resonates for me in another sense, that we can be better than we are, that we do have more capability, but nothing is asked of us other than to vote, shop, and watch sports. We are everything expected of us at this point, which is a sad state of affairs.