Meat-counter politics

If you want to know why we lost, ask the lady at the Wal-Mart deli counter.

I was picking up a pound of salami on Tuesday when she asked, “Have you voted yet?”

No, I told her. I was shopping for some groceries and then heading home. The polling place was on the way and since it was about 2 p.m., I’d be fine.

“I wish they’d tell me who to vote for,” she said with a sigh.

They are, I explained. The ads, the news, hell, everyone is telling you to do something.

She kind of lowered her head a bit, her plastic hairnet pulling back against her bangs. She seemed to be in her mid-60s. She had the look of a woman who was pretty once and still remained so in the mind’s eye. Her smile had dulled under the weight of reality, her hands nicked and gnarled by her work. She wore a plain wedding band that hung loosely on her finger. I think her nametag said “Dorothy” or “Delores,” a pretty name, but one people don’t give to kids any more.

She reminded me of my grandmother a bit.

“I know,” she said, sighing again. “But they all tell me different things and they all yell at each other and I’m just tired of listening. I just want things fixed. Just tell me what I should do.”

Just tell me what to do…

The Republicans represent the guy in the office who tells the fat secretary that she looks good and mmm… Break me off a piece of that! And by the way, can I have those reports by 5? They tell the guy with no hair he looks younger every day. They tell the unathletic guy that we need him on the company hoops team. They tell the grandma how cute her grandchildren are as they are setting fire to the printer during “Take your demon-seed to work day.”

Then, they go home, pour themselves a huge drink and say, “What a bunch of fucking idiots.”

The Democrats are the socially awkward kids that no one wants to play with. When you ask them how they’re feeling, they tell you about a boil on their ass and how they’ve got an itchy spot near their wee-wee. They accidentally blow snot on their shirts when they laugh. They think appropriate dinner conversation can include an explanation as to why the salt you’ve just used will make your arteries shrink up, shatter and kill you. The only time they can be viewed as cool is when you need to copy last night’s homework from someone who surely has the right answers.

They go home, alone, and wonder why people don’t like them.

The Republicans have all the best answers: We need jobs! Wisconsin is “Open for Business!” Keep your money and make the state better! You look good in that muumuu and sponge-roller outfit!

The Democrats have all the honest answers: You can’t unfuck things in 22 minutes. You’re not rich, and will never be, so the Bush tax cuts aren’t helping you. You and your 10th grade education are probably screwed, but let’s put the money into schools so your kids won’t be. Yes, those jeans make your ass look HUGE!

If ever there was an election that typified this, it was 30 years ago with Reagan-Carter. We had a Georgia peanut farmer telling us that we were in a crisis of confidence, that things were going to be hard and that we all needed to sack up. We had a slick actor guy telling us, “You’re so beautiful! We’re all ready to go! It’s morning in America again! And by the way, can I get your vote by 5?”

You can make the point that the educated among us won’t fall for this kind of crap. It’s true to some extent, but we all have that touchstone thing that we need to be told to make us feel better: jobs are coming, our money is safe, we’re not bigots because we don’t like “the gays” getting hitched, evolution is just a theory, “it” will grow back etc.

When it comes to both parties, the realities are the same. The message is different.

And we just want to be told what to do.

18 thoughts on “Meat-counter politics

  1. “Just tell me what to do…”
    Oh Jesus Christ. We are a nation of children.
    How cynical is that? The GOP preaches “personal responsibility” all the while knowing that what most Americans want is to FOLLOW THE LEADER. Sheeple, indeed.

  2. This scared me, it’s so on target.
    But I have to feel bad for the lady who wanted to be told what to do. She probably didn’t start out in life that way. How much you wanna bet the world that the righties have unleashed has just beaten her down to the point where that’s all she can honestly muster?

  3. Good post, Doc.
    I’ve a hunch that Democrats’ reluctance to assert authority is a bigger factor than their candor. In other words, Democrats would win more elections despite not blowing smoke up the voters’ ass if they were more willing to tell people what to do. But that’s not our style.

  4. And the moment some Democratic politician tried to “tell [them] what to do,” an entire chorus of wingnuts, Blue Dogs, pundits, and “principled” Dems would denounce it as demagoguery or worse. Look how they dismissed Alan Grayson — he was “proof” that “both sides did it,” but funny how only one side ever has to pay the price.

  5. What Michael F said.
    I’d like to know how the “tell me what to do” dynamic fits into the whole messaging game. If people are really saying “tell me what to do” and the GOP’s answer is “be mad about government spending and ZOMG the budget deficit is HUGE!” I don’t get how that is effective. The GOP could have said “be mad at the guys in charge.” They didn’t. They just stoked fear at the usual convenient targets and harped about government spending.
    I am very confused.
    We lost because unemployment is high. The stimulus wasn’t enough, not enough was done to fix the economy FAST. Maybe we should have put off healthcare reform until the economy was on a sounder footing. I dunno.

  6. The Republicans are made up of two groups:
    Group A: people who want/need to be told what to do.
    Group B: people who ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit Group A.
    It’s as simple as that.
    If this election was about anything, it was about how many people define their lives by hate and fear, and that is a message for which the Republicans are masters.

  7. I’ve been worrying about this. Be like the people we don’t like and tell the electorate what to do? Or, tell them this is what is good for them and, if they aren’t going to think about it, go ahead to do the good thing, not necessarily the right thing, anyway?
    I’m leaning more and more towards the latter because my position is:
    Listen to me now, let me put you in a position to teach yourself, make your own decisions later. As opposed to: Listen to me now, let me make you dumber, keep listening to me.

  8. Listen.
    The progressive message is about peace and hope for a better future. It’s about working together for the mutual benefit of everyone around you. It’s about aspiring to be a better person, not just for yourself, but for the human race. You know, all that homo Socialist crap. It lives in that part of the brain that separates us from most of the other animals on this planet, where reason and the higher-order brain functions exist.
    The Republican message is about hate and fear. It’s the lizard brain whispering to you that you need to whack the person next to you before he whacks you because you live in a country where you can fucking starve to death. It doesn’t matter that it’s because of the Republicans that you can fucking starve to death, because that would require using those higher order brain functions to figure that out, and the lizard brain doesn’t live there. The free market is like the lizard brain, and that’s why people fundamentally identify with it.
    And that’s the problem. It’s hard to aspire. The capability to reason is new. It’s still evolving. Fear is easy. Hate is easy. The lizard brain is as old as time. It’s the first voice we hear practically when we pop out of the womb. I’m hungry — cry for some food. I shit myself — cry til someone wipes my ass. It isn’t until later the we get taught how to feed ourselves and wipe our own asses. And wasn’t life so much easier when someone else did it? Isn’t it so much easier when someone just tells us what to do?
    That’s why we need to keep speaking the message of hope and aspiration as loud and often as we can. So that maybe the Democratic leadership will wake up and remember the message. And to drown out the lizard brain. Because the lizard brain is always whispering in the background, and that’s all most people seem to want to hear.

  9. The assumption that most fellow Americans are ‘stoopid’ and incapable of thought or decision-taking is, I think, peculiar to the Left. Their constant and loud repetition of their low opinion is, perhaps, one of the reasons why they were so ravaged in this election. Also it is, and this is an irony so delicious that it makes me whinny with pleasure, very, very ‘stoopid’!

  10. Wal-Mart deli counter lady is the new foreign cabbie? Please don’t Friendmanize this awesome blog.

  11. I couldn’t even find “friendmanize” in a search, so I have no idea what I’m doing here…
    I’m not saying she’s the pinnacle of anything. It just struck me as part of that day. I also don’t think we’re stupid, just that we have a natural inclination to like to hear certain things better than others. It’s why my students always like an A, my kid likes hearing she’s smart, I like hearing that I’m not bald and it’s good to hear such things like “great post” when people might or might not feel it was great.
    In her case it was just “make this easy.” However, as we all know, this whole thing isn’t easy.

  12. thanks to frontierism, freudianism, we americans existing in nuclear family isolationism, and we have no where to turn but the Televison for information, baby-sitting, sedation, and even sadly education. the masses can’t take advantage of the internet cuz its choked with the same kind of insidious drivel you find in big media.

  13. Doc, I understand and agree that we all prefer to hear what we like to hear but that is no excuse for sitting around the guillotine nodding and knitting as Lefties metaphorically chop off the heads of fellow Americanssimply because they disagree with their politics. It is the almostreligious fervor of the Left which is so off-putting. Of course, the Right has a similar but opposite fringe but nothing to compare with the Left which seems, ‘en masse’, incapable of accepting that people can come to opposite conclusions to themselves.

  14. The scary part in your piece,in my opinion, is the part where the woman wishes someone would “tell her who to vote for”. THIS IS A DEMOCRACY. YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GATHER FACTS AND THINK FOR YOURSELF. Otherwise, it don’t work.
    It’s in countries like Soviet Russia that they tell you who to vote for. If this is what the majority of our electorate is like, it’s no wonder our country seems to be getting more and more authoritarian.

  15. Reading all of the above, I have to assume that Europe is more advanced genetically. They apparently have evolved faster or longer than we have. It is an inescapable conclusion, from what I read here.
    Europeans have no problems with using the best parts of Socialism, when that benefits their society. They actually work to get even more socialism in their economic mix. They seem to have evolved past the lizard brain responses, towards the reasoning responses.
    Could this be because they had first hand experience of the natural consequences of lizard brain responses? They have also had first hand experience with being told what to do, and being forced to do it. With us, it is still largely theoretical.
    Europeans are also moving past the need to have a religion, another sign of advanced evolution.
    I think this is all because of the wine. I’m working on accelerating my evolution.

  16. By Friedmanize, I meant the ability to curiously find “folk wisdom” (in his case, it seems to be the cabbie of whatever exotic far away place he’s in that lets him know what “the people” really think) from colorful characters that conveniently provide us with “data” on which we can spontaneously mount an argument and/or base a defense of a view the author already had and is trying to push, which just so happens to coincide with what people “already know and actually desire.”
    Not that I disagree with your point of view. I just have a reflexive dislike for this technique of validation of one’s ideas.

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