Sunday, June 11, 2006

Greetings and Salutations

I know the description of this Blog says you should expect political commentary, but since this is my first post I think introductions are in order.

So here I am, a 27 year old lawyer, days away from becoming a 28 year old lawyer, up since five in the morning because my son decided sleep was too good for me (or at least that's how I think of it - for him, it was probably just a bad dream, a growth spurt, or deciding that sleep was too good for me) and finally taking the time to put this Blog in motion. I've been thinking of doing something like this for a while - mainly I've been thinking of writing a book of political commentary, but it finally dawned on me how pretentious that would be. I'm a neophyte to this world; I've never so much as taken a political science class, and it would be singularly insane of me to pretend to speak for the center in this country when I've spent all of my life on the East Coast, barring a year or so in LA when I was a baby. Personally I don't think that counts for anything; my brother, who was born there, thinks it qualifies to allow him to root for the Lakers. Perspective really is everything, I guess.

So I'm going to do this in Blog form, and we'll see how it goes. I'm keeping the title for my book, though (and the sub-title, which became the description). Hey, I'd worked hard coming up with it (yeah, that's as far as I got) and I'm not going to waste it. Plus, it was available, and if you've tried to start a Blog on this site in the past year or so you know what a minor miracle that is.

So why Rallying the Base? Because from the first time I heard the term used to describe the play-to-your-core-supporters, red-meat-tossing, get-out-the-vote political strategy that's become the scorched earth basis for most of the campaigns in recent memory, I picked up on the double meaning. Yes, when political consultants use the term "base" they're using it to mean "foundation" - the core voters who will vote Republican or Democrat no matter who the candidate is, as long as they vote. Rallying the base is all about getting those foundational voters energized and excited about your candidacy (or about the dangers presented by the opposition candidate) so that they actually do go vote. Playing to those voters by running hard right or hard left is more important than appealing to centrists, the thinking goes, because in moving to the center you risk losing more of those foundation voters than you gain in swing voters (who are an ever decreasing portion of the population anyway, it seems, as political views ossify and society grows ever more polarized).

But there's another meaning of "base", and one that I think fits equally well when politicians are described as rallying the base, or playing to the base. To quote from the American Heritage Dictionary (how's that for an appropriately named source?) base also means "having or showing a contemptible, mean-spirited, or selfish lack of human decency; devoid of high values or ethics; inferior in value or quality." And that's what I think about when I see politicians rallying the base: the politics of the lowest common denominator, of sound bite policy and poll driven "leadership", of politics as a game to be won with an opponent to be defeated, rather than the method by which we as a society collectively determine how we should live our lives, on the basis of a dialog and debate between often opposing views of how to reach a common goal - making America a stronger, safer, happier and above all else better place to be.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm sick of it.

Hey, I guess we did get to the politics after all.