High School Never Really Ended

Robin Hanson likes to say that politics isn’t about policy. This seems to be hyperbole, but there is something to it. That post links to an interesting article called My Team Vs. Your Team. Key quote:

…what has happened in recent years is that partisans have come to identify with their parties in much the manner that sports fans identify with their teams. The strong views they feel on many issues do not drive their party affiliation; it is their party affiliation that drives their strong views.

A few years ago I found myself losing interest in politics as it was generally conducted. The debates didn’t seem like genuine debates and the stances people took didn’t seem secure or grounded. I decided that most politics we see is indeed based on little other than “my team vs. your team” – even on an issue as seemingly substantive as the Iraq invasion/reconstruction – and this was why politics seemed so boring to me. Kabuki debates that are really about something else.

“My team vs. your team” goes nicely with my belief that one’s allegiance to the (D) or the (R) party has a lot to do with how one wishes to see themselves – i.e., whether they wish to be cool. The (D) Party is the “cool” team, the team for “cool” people and their mascots. One thing you are doing when you pick your “team” is choosing your identity. The (R) Party is certainly not for people whose sense of identity is tied up with a wish to be seen as “cool”.

But there is no denying that Barack Obama is “cool”. Look at those socialist-art posters with one-word slogans: oh my my are they cool. How about that “yes we can” Youtube video? Damn, that was cool. Look how he swaggers and carries himself, but not in an overly-testosterone-filled way. Sure is cool. He has cool friends; cool Hollywood people like him, such as Sarah Silverman and John Cusack. He talks cool. I could go on and on. Make no mistake about it: the dude is fricking cool.

And that, folks, is the reason he is likely to be our next President. Because he’s cool. To correct Philip K. Dick: it wasn’t the Roman Empire that never ended.

It was high school.

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