Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Principle of the Bogeyman

I have recently begun contemplating whether having an effective bogeyman is key to building a successful coalition. Generally, the various factions that make up a party are in a zero-sum competition to move their own bits of policy to the top of the agenda, bits that do not necessarily enjoy majority support; being behind a losing agenda item may destroy the party’s base of power before action is taken on your own item. So there is a lot of intra-party bickering. We are witnessing this exact difficulty in the Republican party, which is fracturing because of Social Security reform and Terry Schiavo among other social issues. But all the various factions of the Republican party can always put aside their differences to get together for a good old fashion hippy ass-whomping. The hippy is their Bogeyman.

A Bogeyman is somewhat different from a Scapegoat. A Scapegoat is something to blame when times are getting tough. A Bogeyman is an entity that arouses a combination of fear and potency in the audience because it represents an enemy easily defeated, and indeed that has already been largely defeated. It is a scapegoat for when times are good. The two are really identical, the use of one term or the other is really a socioeconomic barometer. I hypothesize that Hippy would morph into Intellectual as we move from Bogey to Scape territory.

So who is our Bogeyman? The Crony Capitalist. Just like the Republicans and hippy-ass-whompings, there isn’t a Liberal on the planet that doesn’t get a smug sense of self-satisfaction when they see a man in an expensive suit getting led away in hand-cuffs. We may not all agree on universal healthcare, tax rates, or gay marriage, but we all love watching this Abramoff thing unfold. We may not agree about gun control, but we all love that sense of satisfaction we get when we see a company being busted for dumping pollution. And we all love to hate Halliburton.

The more we concentrate on grinding our boot into the face of crony capitalists, the better our internal cohesion will be as well as scoring points with swing voters. Boot grinding is an all around inclusive democratic activity, and the party that can organize a more effective (which is to say more enjoyable and satisfactory) stomping will usually control the democratic process. (Of course, that is a weakness of the democratic process. Thank G-d America isn’t a democracy.)


Blogger Lis Riba said...

Have you reread Watchmen by Alan Moore?

[If you have, you'll understand its relevance to the subject of your post. If not, I recommend it. I haven't thought of it in a while, but suddenly the ending reminds me of 9/11.]

12:40 PM  
Blogger TheJew said...

Y'know you could have just linked to the Wiki article.

Exaggerating a threat in order to produce political unity, very 9/11 indeed.

Fortunately or unfortunately, crony capitalists don’t need a whole lot of exaggeration.

5:08 PM  
Blogger DBK said...

As for exaggerating threats to produce political unity...Reichstag anyone?

I don't know that I would agree that the Republican party is fracturing because of Schiavo and other issues. I think the part of the base that believes in sound fiscal policy is the least "holdable", to coin a word, part of the base. More to the point, I think the religious extremists are the real base now, and that the other pieces of the coalition, and any party is a coalition fo interests, are sort of nostalgic Rockefeller and Goldwater Republicans who have not yet recognized that their party left town and became something altogether different. But I'm just rambling here.

11:31 AM  

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