Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Is This Election Any Different?

The search for a master narrative has already begun, so let's take heed not just of me but of smart folks who study American politics that there is not a single master narrative.  The pundits will try to make it so, but there is not.

However, we can consider whether this election is different--are things worse now?  This morning's conversation went thusly:

 And so I pondered--are there more mentions of Soros, a signal by anti-semites to anti-semits, than before?  I was thinking it would be, but nay:

Interesting--Soros is searched for during election cycles.  Hmmm, I wonder why?  Well, my original thought was not about Soros mentions by everyone or searches by everyone but by prominent GOP mainstream types, like the President, like members of the Congress, etc.  I don't have time to do that search--I have faith that folks will do that content analysis for their papers for the next American Political Science Association meeting.  What we do have instead is, I think, a record number of GOP ads that feature the combo of Jewish candidates and handfuls of $.

So, yeah, Trump and others have normalized anti-semitism and all the rest of the hates.  While white supremacy/nationalism may not be the only factor at work in this election and thus not THE master narrative, it is far more prominent and far more destructive than in recent elections.  The GOP has always played with this stuff to divide the Democrats and because it helps to turn out an important segment of their base. But they are far more shameless.  And that, alas, gives permission and encouragement to those who have imagined grievances and a willingness to hurt people.  First you hurt the women in your life and then you hurt those who are demonized by politicians and media (thanks Fox!). 

This election is different in many ways and similar in others.  A blue wave will be read as a repudiation of white nationalism, and a failed wave will be read as support for Trump's normalization of hate.  There will be more to it than that and lots of this is traditional stuff--what happens to the party of the President in midterm elections, the fact that most of the Senate seats were won by Democrats 6 years ago in a very pro-Democratic elections, that candidate emergence is a dynamic thing (GOP stalwarts dropped out knowing that they would be in minority, stronger Dems ran not just because of Trump disgust but because they saw this as a favorable election), etc.

What is the message here?  Hate is bad and getting worse but beware of the master narrative.  These elections are fought one district and state at a time.  And this post is appropriately incoherent--because it has no master narrative either.

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