Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kabuki and Behind the Curtain

ka·bu·ki - popular drama of Japan, developed chiefly in the 17th century, characterized by elaborate costuming, rhythmic dialogue, stylized acting, music, and dancing, and the performance of both male and female roles by male actors.

An alternative definition in Greater Left Blogsylvania - elaborately staged responses and accompanying rituals of Lamestream Media Pundits and Politicians in response to issues or people of the day, to generally hoodwink the population that those actors really care, when they don't. They just want their way, their sense of outrage or opinion to prevail, really. See also "SHAM."

There are two major kabuki plays going on right now. I call the first one "The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether." (If you like, you can hear the song of the same name here.)
The kabuki goes like this: one Dem candidate cannot win the primaries without (recoil in disgust) SUPER DELEGATES! The Horror! That candidate should quit for the good of the party! Behind the Curtain: since Super Tuesday, no candidate wins without SUPER DELEGATES.

And frankly, more of the Blogosphere is playing into this than the MSM. Unless one of the candidates bows out of the race (highly unlikely in my view) imagine the shock most folks (read non-bloggers) in the country will have when they actually wake up and read in the paper or see on their teevee one day "BROKERED CONVENTION - SUPER DELEGATES BREAK TIE!" And that's a generous enough. Surely the kabuki will kick in, and it will more along the lines of "CANDIDATE STEALS NOMINATION!"

The candidates stated policy positions are about within 90+% of each other, and I think that's why the race is so close. As of today's writing, they're around 100 pledged primary delegates apart out of more than 4,000 total available, and less than 1 Million popular votes apart out of about 130 million folks of eligible voter age, with millions more expected to participate. A reason that it's important to ordinary schlubs and the pundits is the need to feel that their person won! It's a horse race after all, and dammit my pony better win! My pony is shinier and nicer than your pony. But when the Super Delegate fix comes in, tons of people will be outraged and pissed off.

What makes the difference to me is that neither candidate has true progressive values. They are both centrist pragmatists and politicians of the species politicus normalus, vulgaris. In the last eight years, neither has blazed any truly bright trail, and in some cases have been part of the damage done. They both have a notable absence on the final FISA vote. Restore the Constitution much? Evidently not.

Which brings me to the second kabuki, that plays after Dr. Tarr etc. I call it "Circumstances - Plus ça change, Plus c’est la même chose"

Once we get past poo-flinging primary season, the outrage etc. and there's a solid contest set up for November, barring anything totally and cosmically breathtaking, I'm of the opinion that the country will repudiate Republican rule. As commenter Dave of the Jungle often says "Prepare for the Landslide Punitive Election of 2008." There will be some predictable kabuki running up to November like the "Dems Are Weak On Terra" play, and the "Dems Will Tax You To Smithereens, Including Taxing Your Death" play among others, but since we've seen that on cable so many frikking times, I think folks will turn the channel.

This kabuki is still a little foggy in the Unconventional Crystal Ball, since anything can happen and who knows who the next Democratic President will be, but let me make a few guesses in the form of question. And you have to apply a little theory tool called the Overton Window.

...Delivering rhetoric to define the window provides a plan of action to make more acceptable to the public some ideas by priming them with other ideas allowed to remain unacceptable, but which make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison. The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:

- Unthinkable
- Radical
- Acceptable
- Sensible
- Popular
- Policy

The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

So think "Bell Curve" and move whatever you think the Overton Window limits are around the distribution of people's current political thinking since the electorate has been quite conditioned by the Overton Window. Think of any past President ever being able to get away with saying "The Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper." See? By the use of rhetoric according to the Overton Window theory, that behavior moved from Unthinkable to Acceptable. Is it on the way to sensible? I digress.

Behind the Curtain: April 30th, 2009 will mark the new President's 100th day in office. (Harken back to the heady days of re-taking the House and Senate Majority, and remember those first 100 days for a comparison.) How many troops will have been withdrawn from Iraq? After all the 6th anniversary of occupation will have passed by then. How many Executive Orders by Bush will have been withdrawn, or for that matter, any of the previous legislations signing statements? How stalled will any health care legislation be in Congress? And by the way, both candidates plans are sweetheart deals mandating coverage, not actual care. Will there be any criminal investigation into former administration officials? Insert you own list of questions, for that is what the candidates chould be asked for in detail. What day for beginning withdrawals, which EOs will you rescind, which signing statements and by when?

But none of those lines of questiong are acceptable in kabuki. This is the most powerful kabuki that they have going, because it's true: the more that things change, the more they stay the same. You have to remember, kabukis are plays. And plays need producers and production money. They're called Lobbyists and Special Interests. There's no budget for a pony for you. I know. I asked the Magic 8 Ball.