Thursday, September 12, 2013

A sad political truth

By Richard K. Barry

I'm currently working my way through Rick Perlstein's brilliant "Nixonland." In a section I just finished, Perlstein writes about a discussion paper prepared by a young Nixon staffer prior to the 1968 election. The staffer was Kevin Phillips, who is still around as a writer and commentator on politics, economics, and history The document he prepared was entitled, "Middle America and the Emerging Republican Majority." He later wrote a well regarded book with the title drawn for the earlier paper. 

One nugget from the document, as boiled down by Perlstein,  is that "elections are won by focusing people's resentments."

It sounds simple and obvious, but it's also a thought worth slowing down to ponder. It is, I would suggest, as sad as it is true.

The only saving grace I can offer is that it is, happily, only a part of the truth. The sometimes larger part is that people often vote for the positive change they would like to see. But any politician who fails to understand the significance of resentment in the total equation is unlikely to win very often. 

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