Friday, November 12, 2004

Am I missing something here?

In all of the post-election gum flapping about what Democrats need to do now, one consistent theme is the need to address red state cultural anxiety. The line of reasoning is that dems need to take a page from Tipper Gore's book and start criticizing the gratuitous sex and violence of today's pop-culture to prove they are in touch with red-state values without reversing long held positions. On Nov. 4 in Slate, Robert Wright wrote:
If Democrats felt a little freer to moralize, they wouldn't, of course, take over Bush's evangelical base. Still, without giving an inch on gay rights, abortion rights, school prayer, etc., they can make some inroads into the "moral" component of Republican support. But so long as they consider it their sacred duty to applaud Quentin Tarantino or to quietly endure Britney Spears, they may stay where they were this week: 140,000 votes shy in Ohio

And today, New Donkey writes:
We're the "wrong track" party when it comes to the cultural direction of the country, and we have to decide whether to bravely swim upstream out of loyalty to hip-hop and Michael Moore and Grand Theft Auto IV and Hollywood campaign contributions, or do something else, like at least expressing a little ambivalence about it all.

OK. Perhaps decrying the tawdry spectacle of American pop-culture will be the silver Sister-Soulja bullet the dems are after. They may as well go for it, and I hope it works.

But leaving aside cultural criticism's effectiveness as a tactic, I'm confused by the intended audience. It's a given that parents, particularly in red states, see Hollywood as a moral cesspool churning out ever more grotesque slabs of prurient, mind-warping crap. They may be right, but Hollywood isn't making billions of dollars each year selling its crap to itself. I just don't understand how people can watch television in rapt attention while complaining that the programs are destroying civilization. You either watch "The Swan" or you take the high road-you can't do both.

If Madison and Conner are punching each other's sweet widdle faces and cursing like sailors, are the people who make Grand Theft Auto games and Eminem records more to blame than the parents stuffing the kids' stockings with them? It's amazing to me that the electorate wants to hear politicians condemn the very tripe that they wallow in every day. If they don't like what's on TV, they should turn it off, and keep the kids away.

But I think the lesson to take away from this seeming paradox is that people don't vote their interests, so much as their hopes. They vote from the perspective of what they wish they were. So even if they are broke and morally degenerate with nary a second thought about the cultural sewage they pipe into their offspring's head, a lot of people vote for tax cutting bible thumpers catering to the interests of the people they think they ought to be.

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