Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Appealing to the "Base"

It is commonly reported that President Obama has to appeal to his “base.” Similarly, Romney must not only appeal to his base but also apparently appease those who constitute it. We all know more or less what is meant by a base: the foundation of a building, the lower part of a wall, the bottom or support of something, the starting point, and so on. In politics the base is that group of loyal followers that can be pretty much depended upon to support and vote for a candidate. The term “base,” however, also has a meaning as an adjective as well as a noun. As an adjective it can be seen to mean something like, without morals, mean, or the lowest point of immorality. At the very least it seems to imply something inferior, something somehow lower down on the scale of worth, something of which one might be scornful. This is the meaning reflected in this passage from Shakespeare:

“Tis a common proof,

That lowliness is young ambitions ladder,

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;

But when he once attains the upmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend.”

Julius Caesar, Act II Scene I

This raises an interesting question because it would seem to be possible (both theoretically and actually) for a political base to be both “the base” and “base” at one and the same time. While it is obviously difficult to define precisely what any given base is like, and it may have more than one component, I think it might well be said that at the moment the Republican base is both noun and adjective. I don’t know if the current base is entirely without morals or the lowest point of immorality, but it most certainly is “mean.” This would seem to be pretty clear when you consider their “war on women”, their apparent willingness to abandon large portions of the population to increased poverty and ill health by doing away with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, infrastructure, environmental quality, and so on. Insofar as Romney has to appease this base he is, of course, appealing to the most “base” elements of his base. While he might well not keep his promises to them after his election this can be difficult and at least some damage will be unavoidable. You might observe this has been the pattern of the Republican Party in recent years. There is no doubt they have encouraged Evangelicals and even racists to vote for them even though later scorning them afterward (until they needed them again). It is apparent that the big money and the corporations are not truly concerned about abortion, Gay marriage, contraception, and such things, except insofar as they can use such issues to their advantage during elections. They clearly are not much interested in the well-being of the 99%.

There may be similar forms of hypocrisy with respect to Democrats and their base, but what constitutes the base of the Democratic Party is not as clear cut as in the case of Republicans, nor would there be a similar level of meanness involved. Indeed, this may well be the most importance difference between the two parties at the present time, with Democrats at least trying to at least somewhat defend the 909% against the obvious attacks by the “right.” You might say that whatever the Democratic base is, it is not as “base” as the Republican base. What is the most upsetting about our political system at the moment is the lack of interest in the public well-being. Both parties are motivated mostly by their greed for power and control. If the public good falls by the wayside, well, politicians need lots of money to stay in office, money that can only be obtained by serving the interests of those who have it, and their interests are definitely not in public well-being. By appealing and appeasing the base, politicians are guided by the lowest common denominator of public input rather than attempting to move both the base and the nation forward and upward as they should. Put in the most stark terms, our political/economic system now operates primarily by greed and the quest for profit, the public good be damned. That may be proper way to run a railroad but it is not the way to good government (if anyone can remember such a thing).

In the beginning there was nothing. God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.

Ellen DeGeneres

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