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a lou dobbs election

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From James Wolcott today:

More and more, I’m sensing that the 2006 midterms, for better or worse, will be a Lou Dobbs election. (No single forum was more instrumental for aborting the Dubai ports deal than his.) The midterms will be fought not over cultural-war values like gay marriage or abortion, but over the sorts of economic and sovereignty issues Dobbs hammers on about every weeknight on CNN: the squeeze on the middle class; Washington’s runaway budgets and the explosion in deficit; the gutting of pensions; the hollowing-out of America’s industrial base; the war over immigration; globalization and free trade. I don’t think all of this is bad: Dobbs’ program is one of the few on cable that addresses the plight of workers (as opposed to maximizing investment gains and extending corporate power–the mandate of Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show), the negative impact of globalization, and the frustration over the influx of illegal immigrants. (You don’t have to agree with Dobbs’ tone or solutions to recognize the frustration in the Western states particularly has been bubbling hot, and has been too long ignored by the media-political elite.) But Dobbs also runs a regular segment on China called “Red Storm” that’s like a blast from the Cold War past, and intended to raise alarm. It’s like something out of the National Review circa 1958. One of the great paradoxes of our age is how the US can be so dimly complacent and so sharply fearful in the same breath. We’re in a constant state of sluggish agitation, worked up into a righteous state of indifference.

I happen to think Wolcott couldn’t be more right about the coming “Lou Dobbs election.” I’ve been saying this for months now, maybe even a year. (Well, to my wife anyway, as we eat our takeout and change the channel on old Lou…) And Wolcott’s absolutely right, Dobbs focuses on economic issues while the rest of the media fiddles away at supposedly hot-button irrelevancies (best case) or celebrity updates and health tips (more usually). He seems to have acquired a huge following and not a little political clout. The Dubai ports issue seemed to be largely his doing, illegal immigration is bubbling up again, and there’s are hints that ordinary folks are starting to look at the cheap DVD players a bit askance as they spend their unemployment checks on cheap and crappy food at Walmart.

If you live outside of the big cities, read the letters to the editor in your paper. Count the days when you don’t find references to Dobbs’s pet issues.

Anytime the zeitgeist blows back toward economics, and popular economics, that has to be a good thing, right? It’s easy to get a sick sort of leninist chill up your spine, sensing that things are finally becoming hard enough for enough of the voting middle class for things, perhaps, just possibly, to change.

But what terrifies me – and I’m sure terrifies Wolcott, though he perhaps doesn’t make it clear enough here – is that the single connective strand that runs through nearly all of Dobbs central issues is not just populist economics but rather national or racial explanations for economic problems. The issue is never simply Walmart, but Walmart and “Communist China.” (He pointedly always refers to the PRC in this way). The Dubai ports deal (which, come on, the proper question was always why are our ports being “sold” in the first place, not what nation is buying them, something, of course, that the Democrats couldn’t understand, as Schumer manned the barricades flying the flag of “turbans need not apply.”) And, last but not least, the crown jewel in the Dobbs’s ideological crown: our porous Southern border. This one explains itself. If you think low-wages and unemployment are caused by mexican landscapers… Seriously, back to school with you.

Dobbs couldn’t get audience if he provided rational answers to economic questions. Rather, he asks some of the right questions, and provides answers are both easy to understand and which play upon the worst impulses of an audience both bruised and confused. It is a rare and amazing thing when Americans start to pay attention to their actual problems, rather than concerns that waver between the mystical, absurd, and grotesque. But it is less amazing when we figure out that what they’re hearing here, on Dobbs show, is that the answers are those that there fathers and grandfathers and greatgrandfathers had told them, always already. That it’s the blacks or the Chinese or the hispanics, terroristic petroarabs or call center Indians that have caused the problem… That if only “our” politicians could “get tough” with these groups, could look out for “our” interests for once, we could right the ship of state, make auto parts again, take Emmylou to the high school dance.

I have a feeling strange things are going to happen in November 2006. I have a feeling those things will make it terribly clear that a third party could gain 33% percent of the vote in 2008. Up with socialism, of course. But remember what horrid acronyms and shorthands are birthed of the mating of Nationalism and Socialism in times of crisis.

(But even as the cloud gather, there are signs of hope as well.)

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 24, 2006 at 11:05 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I don’t mean to be Jonathan and complain about your color scheme…but I really can’t read the white-on-periwinkle. I’ve adjusted my monitor, fiddled with my display settings, but the only thing that works is highlighting the entire page. All I’m saying is: hitting Ctrl-A is an arduous task, and one I shouldn’t have to perform regularly, what with all the other hard manual labor I do…

    Scott Eric Kaufman

    March 25, 2006 at 9:37 pm

  2. Hmm… you seem to be running Windows, and I just pulled the page up my my wife’s laptop, and must admit the color’s not as nice – and harder to read than on my mac.

    It’s really important to me, Scott, that you can read this page.

    Buy a Mac, OK?


    March 25, 2006 at 9:56 pm

  3. So I’ve changed schemes from “Parliament Light” to “Parliament Ultralight.” Whatcha think?


    March 25, 2006 at 10:16 pm

  4. I like! (And I’d buy a Mac, but then I’d have to…buy a Mac. As a life-long PC guy, I’m afraid to make the switch.)

    As to the content of the post: yes, VOTE DOBBS in ’06! (Seriously though, I didn’t realize Dobbs was driving these issues because I can’t watch him for two or three minutes without wanting to lob heavy things at the television.)

    Scott Eric Kaufman

    March 26, 2006 at 1:40 pm

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