Saturday, February 12, 2011

Politics is Not About Policy

Robin Hanson famously said that "Politics is not about policy, it is not even about power, it is about status." I concur.

An anonymous poster on Unqualified Reservations said:
*talk matters*.

Clinton talked left, and acted right. Clinton was an amazing president in many ways. Black incarceration rates tripled under Clinton (, one of the main reasons behind the drop in crime in the 1990's. Clinton pushed deregulation and capitalism.

Bush talks right and acts left. That's why the left hates him, even as he gives them NCLB and illegal aliens and Medicare spending and "the government is here to help".

Therefore, whatever you want to do in politics, you can (and possibly should) talk in whatever way appeals to the majority (i.e. the median voter), specifically by saying good things toward groups and behaviors they want to be high-status and bad things toward groups and behaviors they want to be low-status. And especially you should say things toward groups whose status the majority hopes will change.

You can also tailor this message toward a particular audience, depending on where you are speaking.

And then govern whatever way you want, or at least push the envelope as far as you can in the direction you want it to go.

On the other hand, this doesn't always work. It worked fine for Clinton and Reagan, and and even for Junior Bush (since because of his rhetoric and personal style he is still hated by leftists and respected by some conservatives, despite all his left-wing policies) and it seems to not be working at all for Obama. So there has to be some finesse in the execution. Of course, if you come up with garbage policies like the PPACA (a/k/a "Obamacare") you will get despised no matter what. You know, for some supposedly bright guys, they came up with some dumb policies -- and speaking as a bright guy who also considers himself pretty good at politics as well as policy, I don't buy the "We had to compromise in order to get it passed" excuse, on that piece of . . . legislation. Or on anything else.

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