Tuesday, August 30, 2016

the question now horribly

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows..."
-- Bob Dylan

One evening at work, a couple of us were watching for a moment out the window, as gusts of wind caused some tall trees to lean, bend, and dance -- it looked like they were going in different directions, and I asked my horizon-gazing companion, "Is it possible for the wind to blow in different directions at once?  Look! -- it seems like the trees are leaning in different directions at once!"

He started laughing and looked at me like I was crazy.

Well -- even asking Google, I'm not really getting an answer to that question (have I "stumped" the Internet?) ...

I thought of this concept -- of wind going in different directions simultaneously -- when I read the following passage from the Journals of American historian Arthur Schlesinger:

----------------------- [excerpt] ----------------

November 5.

Two days to election -- and the question now horribly appears to be not whether Nixon or McGovern will win but whether Nixon will carry fifty states.

Evidently McGovern misread the national mood, though I still think he was right to discern a widespread desire for change.  But a sensed need for change can produce anxiety as well as hope; it can move the country in two different directions, sometimes at once, and apparently it has. -------------------- [end excerpt] ----------

"Two different directions, sometimes at once" ...  Like those swaying trees...

------------------------ [excerpt, Nov. 5, 1972] ------------------ McGovern's personal failure has been his inability to bring the campaign into focus and more particularly to reassure voters about his strength and competence in making change orderly; he thus failed to do what JFK succeeded in doing in 1960....

Behind everything else has been the concealed but all-pervading issue of the election -- race.  When this issue has come to the surface, it is under an alias -- welfare, crime, busing, schools, quotas. 

People are ashamed to acknowledge racist feelings to pollsters.  But I would imagine that the one thing which, more than any other, has pulled traditional Democrats to Nixon (the so-called "ethnics" -- terrible word -- every human being is equally ethnic) is the belief that he can be relied upon to keep the blacks down. ... --------------------------------


November 8.

...George [McGovern] called about 7:30 this evening.  He sounded tired but entirely composed and easy; there were traces of bitterness only when he spoke about Nixon. 

He said, "Nixon is really a diabolical son-of-a-bitch.  He knows all the ways to divide the country -- and to profit from division. 

Remember how he made a bee-line from Miami Beach to Michigan after the Republican convention, all to dramatize his point about busing. 

He has been using code words to hit the racial nerve all through the campaign -- 'welfare,' 'crime,' 'quotas,' and so on...------------------------- [end excerpt]

What they're calling "code words" or "under an alias" back then, is what political commentators today call the "dog whistle."


I like to think that we voters are too smart to be fooled by "dog whistle" or "code word" tactics -- that we are too savvy to have our chains yanked by any politician trying to manipulate our emotions or insecurities.  This is 2016, not 1972.



{excerpts from Journals.  1952 - 2000.  Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.  Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger.  The Penguin Press, New York, 2007.}


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