At least one reader of this blog noticed, as I have, that The New York Times, our ruling class’s paper of record, has been having a gran mal hissy fit over the Republican wave. In its headlines, the paper characterizes the voters’ verdicts as fueled by rage, which is to say, as Justice Kennedy might, by “irrational animus.” “Negativity Wins the Senate” headlined the paper’s editorial on the election’s meaning. Today, David Firestone, an editorial board member who writes some of the editorials, expands on that insight. Excerpt:
The clichéd term for what happened last night is “wave election,” but if natural phenomena are going to be evoked, the more accurate expression is “tornado election:” widespread destruction in weird, jagged patterns that are often difficult to explain when it’s over.
When a force that powerful is fueled by anger rather than careful analysis, it produces results that can seem irrational. More than a third of people voting for a Republican House candidate said they were unhappy or even angry at the Republican leaders in Congress, according to exit polls, but they did so anyway, producing a House that is even more right-wing than the current one.
Does it not occur to Firestone that these people may not like the Republicans, but the alternative, to them, is worse?
Some of us are old enough to remember the gobsmacking the mainstream media took in 1994, when the Gingrich-led Republicans took over the House of Representatives. Then, as now, the MSM mandarins responded in the same way. I was working as a Washington journalist then, and I remember this undying gem from ABC’s Peter Jennings:
“Some thoughts on those angry voters. Ask parents of any two-year-old and they can tell you about those temper tantrums: the stomping feet, the rolling eyes, the screaming. It’s clear that the anger controls the child and not the other way around. It’s the job of the parent to teach the child to control the anger and channel it in a positive way. Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage. The voters had a temper tantrum last week….Parenting and governing don’t have to be dirty words: the nation can’t be run by an angry two-year-old.”
You longtime readers know that I’m not a big fan of the Republican Party, but this kind of thing from liberals and Democratic Party supporters reminds me why theirs is a bubble I cannot possibly enter. It explains, though, the contempt so many of them, in the media and elsewhere, have for their fellow Americans who do not share their views on homosexuality and abortion. It cannot possibly be a principled disagreement; it has to come from “hate,” a “war on women,” or some other conceptual framing that reduces the Other’s viewpoint to emotion-driven insanity — which is something that doesn’t require refutation, only defeat.
Of course Republicans have fallen to this kind of epistemic closure and the resulting hubris too, and they will again. Look at what this GOP Washington big said today:
The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee thinks the GOP might run Congress for the rest of our lives, and then some.
“We’re as back to a majority as any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said, according to The Hill. “It may be a hundred-year majority.”
Pride goeth before a fall. In any case, though I am skeptical that the GOP wave will do much good for the country — I hope it does, but I’m not optimistic — the delightful thing about the GOP wave is the Schadenfreude things like the Times’s reactions provide.
UPDATE: I should add that it is certainly possible that any particular electorate, on any particular day, could vote out of rage, or some other irrational emotional impulse contrary to reason (like, say, believing that the Republicans are going to take away contraception, or that the Democratic candidate is a “light worker”). I don’t believe in the principle of vox populi, vox Dei. Surely, though, it is unwise to make “rage” (or whatever) the first thing you grab for when your side loses an election.
UPDATE.2: Mighty Favog, the other sage of Omaha, comments in the thread:
Perhaps the Times ought to look at the data before emoting in print. Some of it’s ideology, some of it’s fear, some of it’s “Let’s try something different,” and some of it’s plain old anti-incumbent sentiment, given Congress’ track record the past few years.
Here in Nebraska, among the reddest of red states (but not Deep South or Texas knee-jerky, in my opinion), we gave an eight-term Republican the boot in the (Omaha-area) 2nd Congressional District, electing the first Democrat since 1994. And though I’m pro-life and have no more love for the Democrats than I do for the GOP, I voted for the Democrat, who in objective terms is more of a socially wishy-washy, moderate country-club Republican.
Why? Because the Republican, Lee Terry, was awful, voted (in my opinion) totally wrong on economic issues, is a doofus, can’t keep his foot out of his mouth and is callous toward working people. He also ran a sleazy, demagogic campaign, attempting to “Willie Horton” his opponent, Brad Ashford, as well as tie him to to Islamic terrorists. Both attempts were patently ridiculous and as sleazy as the day is long.
Dude needed to go. Badly.
I almost left the congressional race blank on my ballot, but after thinking about it a couple of minutes decided that a) social issues are by and large out of the hands of Congress now, if they ever were political in nature as opposed to deeply cultural and b) that not voting in the race at all pretty much equaled a vote for the slimebag Terry.
Who needed to go. Badly.
Nebraska also voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8 an hour immediately, and then to $9 an hour after a year. Given how Republican this state is, the minimum-wage initiative (put on the ballot with something like 130-something thousand signatures on the petition, including mine) had to have gotten a sizable number of GOP votes.
Fine bunch of right-wing nuts here, huh? Something tells me Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would not have approved.
Journalists always get in trouble when they wear their venting spleens on their shirtsleeves and can’t be bothered to look at the data, and then look at the data again.