It may be election year silly season, that interim time before the nominating conventions ignite the run to Election Day, but, as Sara Robinson notes so colorfully below,”McCain’s shooting live rounds; and as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back.”
The roots of progressive candidates’ failure to respond in kind to the lying liars of the right can be found in this nation’s earliest history, if the socio-history referenced in Robinson’s blog post has validity.
Why We Don’t Shoot Back
By Sara Robinson | August 5th, 2008 – 6:44pm ET
Drew Westen and Mike Lux both have cogent and persuasive posts up that deftly explain — and raise the alarm about — the timidity that’s recently settled into Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain’s shooting live rounds now; and, as usual, the Democrats are refusing to fire back. If that doesn’t change — this week, before the Olympics starts — this could all too easily turn into Dukakis-all-over-again. …
We’ve all got our short lists of books that changed the way we look at things forever. One of the ones I keep going back to is Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, published in 1989 by Brandeis historian David Hackett Fischer. Fischer’s basic argument — which he supports with a weighty and richly researched sociological survey that runs to 700 pages plus another 200 pages of footnotes — is that most of America’s most enduring cultural and political conflicts can be traced back to essential differences between the first four groups of English settlers, who brought four very different worldviews with them, and set deep patterns that continue to influence America’s identity and choices to this day.
D. H. Fischer’s concept, as abstracted by Robinson, is that, many generations later, and hundreds of millions of immigrants and their progeny later, the progressives and conservatives in the U.S. follow behavioral patterns laid down by response to conflicts between the four earliest groups of British immigrants.
Fischer noted that the four groups have radically different approaches to conflict. Cavalier and Borderer cultures are extremely honor-driven. A person’s good name is their most cherished asset. Any challenge to that must be answered. Anyone who is unwilling to defend his or her honor, or to stand up for his or her own kin, or defend his or her principles, reveals his or her essential unworthiness to lead others. A Cavalier will challenge you to a duel. A Borderer will start a fistfight. … You call these folks out, and you are going to have to reckon with some consequences.
In the southern and western areas that were dominated by these two cultures, many people simply don’t understand and won’t accept leaders who shy away when attacked. Strength matters. … Failure to exercise that strength is fatal. People figure that if you’re not even willing to defend your own honor and interests when someone confronts you directly in public, how on earth can we ever count on you to fight for the rest of us on the stuff that really matters?
The northern Puritan and Quaker cultures, on the other hand, have much more measured and careful responses to being challenged. Publicly question the honor of a Boston gentleman, and he probably won’t dignify the challenger with any response at all. … If you ignore ugly, it will go away. Under no circumstances do you take matters into your own hands.
So, this is the issue: the Northeastern, progressive tradition (and regardless of his Kenya-Hawaii-Indonesia-Kansas background, Sen. Obama’s Harvard education has refined his instinctive responses to lowball challenges) simply turns the other cheek, in the spirit of its Quaker and Puritan forebears, rather than stoop to the level of its mudslinging opponents.
Admirable, in the Dukakis and Kerry spirit, but a pathetically losing strategy when dealing with the 44 non-New England states.
It’s a fascinating thesis, and worth your time to read in full.
So, the prescription to the swift-boating and roving that has already begun is clear.
Hero that he undoubtedly once was, Sen. McCain has a substantial number of dark corners that will, if illuminated effectively, enlighten that part of the electorate that prefers only to see the war hero.
They should learn more about heavy-drinking flyboy (with the Teflon heritage) that flew himself into trouble over North Vietnam; the involvement in the despicable Keating savings and loan scandal; the adultery and quick second marriage after his first wife was severely injured; the life in the back pocket of lobbyists regardless of “straight talk;” and, let’s face it, a seventy-two year old mind that, perhaps exacerbated by the abuses of alcohol and, yes, torture, sometimes behaves like its age or older.
Shoot back, and take no prisoners.
Let’s win this thing.
It’s it for now. Thanks,