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devil duck

A successful Republican strategy

Imagine you read, on the front page of your local paper, that Joe Schmoe was under investigation for child molestation. You'd be a little worried about having Joe Schmoe around, but you'd probably withhold your full judgment until the police investigation and court proceedings were finished.

Three months later you read, on the front page of your local paper, that Joe Schmoe is under another investigation for child molestation. Now you're more worried; you haven't heard what happened to the previous investigation, but you wouldn't want Joe Schmoe anywhere near your child, just to make sure.

Three months later you read about yet another investigation of Joe Schmoe for child molestation. And this goes on for years, a steady drumbeat of investigations of Joe Schmoe in connection with child molestation. Of course, any one of these accusations might be unfounded, but with this many accusations, you figure, it's almost certain that some of them are true. "Where there's smoke, there's fire," and there's been a lot of smoke. Joe Schmoe is now a serial child molester in your mind.

One day, throwing out some old newspapers, you see a page-6 item saying the first investigation had been closed, having found no evidence linking Joe Schmoe to child molestation. "Well, I guess he got off from that one." And it turns out the second investigation was also closed with no charges or indictments. "I guess he's got a really good lawyer." In fact, if you were motivated enough to track down all the page-6 announcements over the years, you might find that one or two found "inappropriate behavior", not serious enough to bring charges, and the rest found nothing at all. But that would take work, and why bother when you already know Joe Schmoe is a serial child molester?

It also turns out that several of the investigations were repeated investigations of the same incident, and all the investigations into child molestation by Joe Schmoe were led by the same prosecutor, which might raise some concerns in your mind that it's a personal vendetta by that prosecutor. On the other hand, it is the prosecutor's job to investigate child molesters, and everybody knows Joe Schmoe is a serial child molester, so I guess he's just doing his job.

If this is your first Presidential election, you've seldom heard the name "Clinton" except in the same sentence with "scandal". Not because the Clintons have done more scandalous things than most politically-visible couples, but because there's been one Republican Congressional committee or another investigating them for a scandal -- often the same scandal over and over, and usually finding no actual wrongdoing -- for most of the past 25 years. And the neat thing is, they don't need to find any actual wrongdoing; they only need to keep the words "Clinton" and "scandal" close together in the news for enough years that people associate them. If you really want to know how trustworthy the Clintons (or for that matter the Trumps) are, do some real research and look not only at the number of investigations, but at who brought those investigations and what they found. You'll probably find neither angels nor demons.

Another effective psychological strategy on the part of national Republicans: as some talking-head on NPR said yesterday, "today's young people have never seen government do anything except occasionally turn out the lights." Ever since Reagan ran for President on the slogan "Government doesn't solve problems; government is the problem," Republican strategy has centered on making government look corrupt and ineffective, sabotaging all government attempts to solve problems and spreading the Republican distrust of government to everyone under the age of thirty.

Really, folks, government used to accomplish things, and members of different parties used to talk to one another and cooperate. We have cleaner air and water today than when I was born, and a lot of species including the bald eagle are no longer on the brink of extinction, because of laws passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Republican President. Blacks and whites sit at the same lunch counter, drink from the same water fountain, swim in the same pool, go to the same schools, marry one another, raise children together, and are both allowed to vote (in most places, until recently), because of Supreme Court decisions and laws in living memory that, while deeply divisive at the time, eventually won bipartisan support. Until a few years ago, we knew who was donating money to bribing politicians, and a billionaire couldn't donate bribe much more than an ordinary person, because of Federal laws. The Federal budget used to be roughly balanced, after inflation, year after year and decade after decade, and the government didn't shut down or threaten to default every few years in partisan temper-tantrums. Your bank account is safe, even if your bank fails, because of government action. If you have a job, you'll get paid at least a certain fixed amount, and your working conditions can't be too horribly dangerous, because of Federal laws. If you get laid off from your job, you'll get unemployment insurance, food stamps, and health insurance, because of government action. When you get too old to work for wages, you'll still get Social Security checks and medical care, because of government action. Government isn't the solution to all problems, but it can solve some problems, and it can make ordinary people's lives better -- if it actually represents the people.