|I don't know if I agree with E.J. Dionne about the innate intelligence of the American voter, but here you go:
All of a sudden, the culture war seems entirely beside the point, an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic turmoil. What politicians actually believe about the economy, what fixes they propose, whether they side with the wealthy few or the hurting many -- these become the stuff of elections, the reasons behind people's votes.
And nothing more exposes the hypocrisy of financial elites riding the coattails of those who revere small-town religious values than a downturn that highlights the vast gulf in power between the two key components of the conservative coalition. Even cultural conservatives will start to notice that McCain's tax policies are geared toward the wealthy investing class and Obama's toward the paycheck crowd. Even the most ardent friends of business have begun to argue that a re-engagement with sensible regulation is essential to restoring capitalism's health.
For some time, McCain's strategists figured they could deflect attention from the big issues by turning Palin into a country-and-western celebrity and launching so many ill-founded attacks on Obama that the truth would never catch up. The McCain strategists' approach reflected a low opinion of average voters, and some Obama supporters began worrying that their opinion might be right.
But those so-called average voters understand the difference between low- and high-stakes elections. They develop a reasonably good sense of who is telling the truth and who is not. And though it sometimes takes a while -- and a shock like this week's economic news -- these voters almost always turn on politicians who manipulate cultural symbols as a way to escape the consequences of their policies.
We'll see if he's right. I surely hope he is. But I suspect that even in the face of clear evidence that the GOP, McCain's party (whether he wants to admit it these days or not ...) is, and will continue to, pursue policies that benefit the monied elite at their expense, many lower-middle and middle class white voters, especially in the industrial heartland and certainly in the south, will continue to vote social issues and "culture," especially with a black man on the "European" ticket. These voters don't get, or simply don't care, what Republican party policies do to them, or to their finances, because they culturally ignore government. What they want is a president who "shares their values," and with whom they are personally comfortable. After that, the government can do its worst. They just keep trodding on. That, unfortunately, is America -- or at least a good 50 percent of it.
Labels: 2008 election, John McCain, politics, Republicans, the Bush recession, u.s. econony, Wall Street