Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Politics of Smug

Suciô had thought to call today's piece "From Bromance to Tragedy" but, on reflection, the story of Patrick and Obama is the story of an electorate wallowing in smugness.

The radical wing of American politics has always been about self-righteousness: from the opposition of Yankee smugglers to British tariffs, to the abolitionism of slave-free Northerners, to the temperance of teetotalers and support for redistributive taxation from trustafarians. The left never feels better than when it's making grand gestures with other people's money. (Suciô is not attacking these causes - merely observing that their main supporters were not the ones picking up the tab.)

There's is no better icon of this urge than the Toyota Prius: its owners get to ride around basking in an aura of self-satisfaction while being subsidized economically by the tax-payer and environmentally by the Chinese neighbors of Lanthanum processing facilities. There's just one catch - the buyer pays a circa $5k premium for the privilege. A premium that the average owner is unlikely to recoup in fuel savings after 10 years of shopping runs to Wholefood Markets.

The 2006 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was a revelation to many potential Prius owners: they could feel just as good about themselves without spending their own money. The answer? To vote for a negro! Suciô's use of the word is an attempt to capture the frisson of excitement, the tingle in the leg felt by Patrick voters. They didn't care about Patrick's experience, qualifications or beliefs. All that mattered was that he was black - but packaged in a non-threatening - cuddly even - way.

Two years later and Patrick's Harvard Law School classmate was wheeled out to provide the same opportunity to smug voters nationally. The Patrick formula was followed so slavishly that at one point accusations of plagiarism were made by the Clinton camp.

Two years after the election of Obama it's clear that the whole country is picking up the tab for the electorate's 2008 feel-good binge. Suciô believes that in 2012 voters will swing in the opposite direction. Instead of asking:
voters will be asking themselves whether their candidate would be the right kind of sleazy, double-dealing, unprincipled son-of-a-bitch to sell a used car on their behalf. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Suciô will be ready to answer the people's call.