Larison points to a telling remark by Steve Sailer:
Deep down, political contests are about picking symbolic champions. ~Steve Sailer
Then he goes on to give a clever portrayal of how easily sentiment is manipulated:
What I find so troubling about symbolic champions among the major party nominees is that the desire to identify with them simply overrides critical thought. Voters stop asking whether or not a certain candidate actually represents their interests and settle instead for someone whom they regard as coming from them. This is usually defined by the expression, “He shares my values.”
Identification is the key to good rhetoric and bad politics. Then the master can give the command and the pliant servant obeys: “Vote as you are told, because this is the most important election in history!!”
“Values”-sharing is not something that can be quantified, so it is difficult to fall short. So long as these politicians continue to recite the right lines and occasionally take highly symbolic public stands to prove themselves worthy, no substantive changes in law or policy are ever expected and failure to bring them about becomes more or less irrelevant.
But at least the citizen has the right to complain about it, since he voted! The voter performed, so he is allowed to bark.
This is one reason why social conservatives, who seem to be more inclined to vote on the basis of shared “values” than other conservatives, are such a large constituency that gets so little in exchange for their support. . . . Despite the complete unreliability of “values”-sharing politicians on this score, social conservatives routinely line up behind them every cycle with the stubbornness of compulsive gamblers.
This is a common complaint from Larison and other political commentators who aren’t totally co-opted by the Democrats or Republicans. Idealists are easily manipulated by pragmatists because an idealist is so comfortable with being ineffective and ignored, that he waits patiently every time a doggie treat is gently placed on his nose, quietly anticipating the opportunity to perform on demand.
It is doubly silly to take the signals or cues as the definitive evidence that a politician will represent your interests in the absence of knowing anything about his (or, in this case, her) record. However, if there is one thing that this election has reminded us, it is that democracy is very, very silly.
Israel is far from a model of good government, wise policymaking and exemplary leaders. But here, at least, voters and the politicians they make it their business to know inside and out, relate to politics not as if it were a spectacular bowl game or a reality show, but for what politics really is, in America and Israel both: a matter of life and death.
If you are stupid enough to believe that your choice of how to vote in a single presidential election has a massive existential significance, because your single vote out of 122 million is “a matter of life and death,” then you deserve every bit of frustration with the US government. Your superstitious belief in the magical power of Vote Voodoo has no actual effect other than to make you more obsessed next time with making your choice line up with what 60 million other people choose, so that you can convince yourself that “your vote really matters.”