Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Overton window

 The clock at the top of this post is a widget from the Bipartisan policy center, a group that is closely watching the debt reduction debates. When the clock hits zero, the economy of America will implode, true believers will be raptured up to Jesus and Obama will reveal his true identity as Satan. Before you Tim Lahaye readers and Glen Beck followers get too excited, I would also like to point out that August 2nd is also the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Sept. 27, 1696 – Aug. 1, 1787), a moral theologian and proponent of Æquiprobabilism which is a moral stance of the Catholic church. One of his propositions is that it is not lawful to follow the less safe opinion when the safe opinion is certainly more probable. Republicans should reflect on this.

  Overton window? From Wikipedia:
The Overton window, in political theory, describes a "window" in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on a particular issue. It is named after its originator, Joseph P. Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered to be politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too “extreme” or outside the mainstream to gain or keep public office. Overton arranged the spectrum on a vertical axis of “more free” and “less free” in regards to government intervention. When the window moves or expands, ideas can accordingly become more or less politically acceptable. The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:
         Unthinkable > Radical > Acceptable > Sensible > Popular  > Policy
The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. Opponents of current policies, or similar ones currently within the window, likewise seek to convince people that these should be considered unacceptable.
Other formulations of the process created after Overton's death add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.

  The last sentence about the concept of moving the window is what has happened in the last couple of months with respect to an implied apocalyptic scenario following a failure of negotiations and the Tea party’s contribution to crazy land polity which makes the previously unacceptable position of massive cuts to the social safety network seem sane in comparison. The greatest loss in all of this is the concept of the loyal opposition in parliamentary tradition which was absorbed into republican ideals. Republicans do not accept the right of the Democrats to govern or the legitimacy of a Democratic President. The one thing that causes them to bounce off the walls is the appropriation by Obama of the unitary presidency concept as espoused by Dick Chaney.  It’s alright for Republicans to say that all powers not specifically defined by the constitution devolve to the president except when the president happens to be a Democrat. This is one more step in the evolution of a mindset that accepts the legitimacy of a true one party state.  

1 comment:

  1. What's strange to me is that the American people are so distant and inhibited in their daily lives and so over-the-top and dramatic in their public and political life. The politics here is an endless drama accompanied with mass hysteria. In daily life, though, people are calm, quiet, polite and non-aggressive.

    OK, I think I'll publish this comment as a post, too. :-)