NEW NORMAL

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10th, 2013 by Ed

Rolling Stone has a great piece on the new, ultraconservative state government in Kansas, from the legislature to the Governor's mansion. Don't worry, they're trying to fix it so that Brownback can appoint the judges himself, too. Two things that are particularly striking:

1. Though the author does not say so directly, this is where we see the real impact of Citizens United. The piece notes how mind-blowingly easy it is for Gov. Brownback to eliminate his political opposition, provided of course he remains in the good graces of his sponsors. 2012 showed us that throwing money into a presidential race – even an astronomical amount of money – has a marginal impact on the outcome because there are so many other factors at play in that race. Similarly, there is only so much a handful of loyal Koch-backed Senators can do in a body of 100. But in state legislative elections, the unlimited cash is decisive. In a race wherein both candidates might ordinarily spend a combined $50,000 it tends to be decisive when Koch Industries dumps a paltry (on their scale) $150,000 into the race. Most people don't even know who their state legislator is. Eighteen negative mailers in twenty days before a (low turnout) primary makes quite a difference. This is why we see so many state legislatures turning into circuses this year; with enough financial might, it really is possible to get just about any asshole elected to a state house. Comparatively, races for president, the Senate, or governor's mansions are hard to influence with similar brute force financial tactics.

2. The Lakoff argument has been fairly well beaten to death over the past decade. We know the benefits and limitations of "branding" and the use of purposive language to make a candidate or agenda more appealing. Personally, I think the GOP stranglehold on the agenda and discourse has loosened, if only a bit, since 2001. But there is one problem that refuses to go away:

"What bothers me is there are places in America that have gone so far to the left that they'd look at us as nutcases," he says pleasantly. "I consider us in Kansas mainstream America – normal, red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution of the United States. Yes, we're conservative, but we're not a bunch of gun-toting cowboys." A few moments later, he slides his chair back, and the wheel makes a loud cracking sound when it hits the plastic floor coaster. "That wasn't gunshots, by the way!" he cackles.

People on the left forever have to fight against this entrenched notion that mainstream America is an old, psychotically conservative white person / yeoman farmer. We see this still during elections, when the media frets endlessly over what working class whites and white rural people more generally think, despite the undeniable statistical evidence that 1) there aren't that many anymore and 2) they're an ever-shrinking portion of the electorate. It speaks to the larger obstacle wherein everything conservatives believe is normal, mainstream 'Murica and anything else is defined as the Other. Any competing argument is to be treated with skepticism and/or derision until it gets the OK from Real Americans – old, white ones.