It’s that time again, when voters in about 20 states get to choose a president for the rest of us. Being in Texas, where I get only a symbolic vote in the presidential election, I am at some leisure to observe the mechanics of the election and consider how they might relate to the art & science etc.
There’s not a whole lot of difference between the two major parties. That’s what comes from having a two-party system: the parties cluster close together in the middle of the political spectrum because if one moves closer to its own pole (socialism on the left or fascism on the right), increasing its distance from the other party, it will lose some of the voters between the two.
I don’t like being lied to. A politician who lies to get a vote doesn’t deserve it. I also don’t like politicians trying to scare me. I have a pretty good idea of how dangerous the world is, so I recognize political scare tactics as untruths, if not lies. I believe that government should be a little smaller than possible.
When Republicans are in the process of making government bigger, I’m a Democrat. When Democrats are, I’m a Republican. Now, after eight years of a Republican administration spending money (my children’s and grandchildren’s money) like sailors on shore leave, and giving that money to big businesses, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d vote for anyone from that tradition for president. I think that’s a pretty widely-held position. So it’s interesting to see what the Republicans are doing to try to keep the White House. Not discussing the issues, certainly — that’d be death to McCain’s campaign, and the campaign knows it.
I’ve written quite a bit on government’s use on all levels, including in courtrooms, of fear to induce the people’s compliance (before I started using categories; search for “fear”). That works, but it’s nothing new (how much of the Republican Party’s election playbook is based on Joseph Goebbels’s?).
What interested me about the convention speech written for Sarah Palin was the invocation of a quintessentially American fear: “those people think they’re better than us!” and its natural follow-up: “let’s teach them a lesson!” There is little we Americans dislike more than the idea that someone, somewhere, might have a sense of superiority to us.
Whether based in fact or not (“bitterly clinging to religion and guns” on the one hand, we’re “a nation of whiners” on the other), this is a potent metaphor in American politics . . . and in the courtroom. The Republican speechwriters’ description of how those Democrats feel about people from small towns probably matches how most Americans think lawyers feel about them.
The Republican campaign managers’ hope (that the voters’ visceral reaction to “they think they’re better than us” will distract them from the issues for long enough to hold on to the White House) would have been relentlessly focus-grouped before the metaphor was released into it into the wild at the convention. Lawyers will do well to remember this. Jurors are more likely to identify with the witnesses (and sometimes even the defendant) than with the lawyers or the government.
A lawyer who goes into court with anything other than a humble appreciation for the time that witnesses and jurors are spending to help get a matter sorted out is asking to lose the trial.