The power of dreams and the power of nightmares.
There are patterns in politics which are hardy perennials. They’ve been there for as long as politics has been around, which is to say forever. Politicians need you to vote for them and the way they do this is to sell you something. The thing they sell you of course is a promise but to sell it, they must already have your attention or get your attention. Unless they’ve got that, it’ll be a no sale.
The particular promise made varies with the times and the circumstances but the way it’s sold always utilises one of two techniques; the power of dreams or the power of nightmares. They’re both, in their own way, aimed at assuaging our fears. Some of those fears are frighteningly real, some are just illusory.
When times are bad, as they are now, they’ll use the power of dreams because people are already scared and boy are they looking for someone to fix things. When people are desperate, afraid for their jobs and worried about making ends meet, they’re ready to be sold the dream. Vote for me and I will get you back to work. I will cure the economy. Vote for me and I will bring back the good old days. Vote for me and I’ll make our country great again. I’m the one who can really turn this thing around. I’m Mr. Feelgood; vote for me and I’ll set you free.
For some reason, this sort of sales job on the electorate always comes with great slogans. The latest one of course was “We can do it”. What exactly “we” were going to do or how “we” were going to do it or precisely what “it” was, was somehow never quite enunciated throughout the whole of the presidential election but the slogan was more than enough to catapult him into the White House. The dream had yet again been successfully sold. Everyone was well stoked up to await the coming of the New Jerusalem.
The downside of selling the dream is that since times really are bad, you really do have to do something effective once you’ve ridden the crest of euphoria into office. It’s time to deliver and given the level of expectation you’ve created, excuses are simply not an option. If the right man is in office though, it can be done. FDR sold America the dream and inherited an America in the teeth of the worst recession in its entire history. Through a combination of real action and a ruthlessness that’s not often acknowledged, he got America back on its feet. It took years but he kept his voters on side with things like his fireside chats and while things didn’t get better immediately, they stopped getting worse. He succeeded in the end, which was why he was held in such high esteem and outright affection by the ordinary people of America. He was an exception to Powell’s rule; his political career didn’t end in ruins.
On pretty much every front, Obama has not delivered. His fall from grace has been as meteoric as his rise to fame. Within a year of taking office, he was friendless across America and across the whole political spectrum too. Weak and vacillating leadership in times of real emergency is no good to anyone. Basically, he’s been found out. In the absence of any other Democrat candidate willing to step forward, he’s going to run for the presidency again but everyone, including himself, knows that barring a miracle, he’ll just be taking a bullet for the party. While the coming presidential election will get some attention from the party’s political strategists, it’s trying to find a way to win the one after that which is really occupying their minds.
When times are good, the problem politicians have is that nobody is interested in them or in politics either. People’s lives are running along smoothly; they’ve got secure jobs and can even afford a few amenities and luxuries too. The politicians have to get their attention so they can sell them the promise. This is where the power of nightmares comes in. They have to snap people out of their indifference by finding something to scare them with.
Global Warming fitted the bill perfectly. As the scary scenarios started coming out, the politicians took note of the Alarmists, who then obligingly produced even scarier ones. A classic feedback loop developed. The Alarmists got lots more money for research which produced increasingly scary results. People got more and more scared about something that had never bothered them before and the politicians, all claiming to save us from this new nightmare, picked up more and more votes.
The amount of first-rate scientists producing the IPCC reports declined but the amount of propagandists increased. As the standard of the science went down the toilet, the raw naked advocacy went through the roof. This all came to a frenzied peak somewhere about the time of the Copenhagen climate conference. We actually reached a point where we had the spectacle of a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom openly declaring that we had “fifty days to save the planet” and not being laughed off the podium.
The recession put paid to the need to sell phoney nightmares. The voter has real concerns now and they centre about life’s basics; jobs and money. They’re hurting so they’re looking to the politicians again and paying attention. The politicians have adjusted their selling strategy in response. They’ve gone back to selling dreams. Add in the decline in the credibility of science due to Climategate et al, and you can see why the politicians have already jumped off the bandwagon.
The real climate powerbrokers were always the politicians and the scientists were always just their means to power. The politicians won’t be venturing into the political danger zone to save them either. They were always disposable. After all, a political career is so much more valuable than an academic one.
So there you have it, the power of dreams and the power of nightmares. Perhaps it’s time for the sleeper to awake.
Related articles :