The Killer App in Politics
by CA Pol Junkie
"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill
I am in agreement with Churchill. There are some really annoying things about democracy. First on that list of annoyances is when people don't agree with me. After all, I should get everything I want since I happen to be right about everything. What is also annoying is that alot of people choose their president for different reasons than I do. Then add a feckless media to your democratic mix. What you get as a result are... politicians.
"Anyone who agrees with me on all the issues could never get elected president." - CA Pol Junkie (unless someone beat me to it)
I am realistic (and by extension cynical) about politicians. To satisfy the multitude of criteria put forth by voters, politicians need to please everyone without offending anyone. To do this, there is a trick which politicians know: the killer app.
A "killer application" is a piece of software which is so valuable that a consumer will buy the computer just to use it. It follows in politics: there are issues so important people will vote for that politician to get their way on that one issue. It doesn't necessarily have to be something big, expensive, or high-profile, just speak strongly to certain voters. There are some obvious ones: pro-choice, pro-life, pro-Iraq war, anti-Iraq war. The last of those is a killer app Barack Obama had which Senator Clinton did not, and it was singularly responsible for Obama winning the Democratic nomination.
The primaries are easy: even if you aren't excited about one candidate's killer app, you're probably not going to object to it either. Few Clinton supporters have a problem with Obama's initial objection to the war; few Obama supporters would be seriously bothered by Clinton's universal health care mandate. The general election is different, as the killer apps aren't necessarily targeted toward the Democratic Party base.
Here are some examples of some past killer apps:
Tax cuts A favorite of Republicans for a generation, this killer app blindly applied is certain to attract the short-sighted, self-centered, and ill-informed.
Welfare reform This was Bill Clinton's classic, appealing to "Reagan Democrats".
Family and Medical Leave Act This Clinton killer app was a favorite of Democrats, but also women across the political spectrum.
Gun control This one actually backfired on Democrats in the early 1990's. Around 70% of people favored gun control, but as we found out in 1994, the issue is only a killer app for the other 30%.
No Child Left Behind This one of Bush's was targeted at unaffiliated women.
Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Both Bush and Gore tried this one on seniors in 2000.
This brings us to today's reoccurring annoyances for Democrats:
Faith-based Initiatives This is a very small program as done by Bush, and still small under the $500 million budget proposed by Obama. Throwing a bone to evangelical Christians for $800, Alex... On principle, this is upsetting to those of us who want strict separation between church and state, but the government does far more upsetting things (oil company subsidies anyone?) that represent more than 0.02% of the budget.
We'll Stop at Nothing to Protect Podunk Mall from Terrorists! This killer app both fed on and caused paranoia, working well for Bush in 2004. Obama voted for the final FISA bill to deny McCain the same killer app this year. It's bad form to look the other way when the president violates the Constitution, but does anyone think telecom executives or Bush would ever be held accountable regardless?
During the primaries, we heard alot of stuff we like to hear. During the general, we're going to hear a few things from Barack Obama that annoy us. Obama knows why the base will vote for him anyway:
We need an energy policy which weans us off of oil dependence and seriously reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
We need for everyone to be able to get quality affordable health insurance.
We need the Supreme Court to stand up for the rights of 150 million women.
Trees, meet forest. Let's remember why we're in this.