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Dec

2006

Reason and Emotion in the Anti-Bushite Movement, Or, Hey Democrat-hating Lefties, Get Real
Wednesday, 20 December 2006 02:28

by Andrew Bard Schmookler

Since the midterm elections, my primary focus has shifted from denouncing the Bush regime to exploring how to employ the newly won Democratic power.

This is not a shift in purpose, which is still to defeat the Bushites and to repair the damage that they have done to this nation, to the international system, and to the planet. But the change in circumstances means that our strategy needs a shift in emphasis. After the first stage devoted to waking people up enough to become an electorate that would begin transferring power out of Bushite hands, it now seems to time figure out how to best use that transferred power .

Many people have responded favorably to my strategic shift. But there are people who liked it better when I was denouncing the Bushites than when I portray the Democrats as a potentially effective instrument of our purposes.

Indeed, the very idea of valuing the Democrats and their newly won power makes them angry. And they express this by denouncing the Democrats for their various corruptions and weaknesses.



It usually goes something like, "Don't look to the Democrats to save us-look at how clueless and cowardly they are, at how complicit they are in one evil or another. They are not moving boldly enough to get American soldiers out of Iraq, now! They are not militant enough in their preparations to expose the crimes of the Bushites. They're too slow to take up the arms of the war against the Bushites-like impeachment. Democrats voted for the Patriot Act and the use of force in Iraq, and they carry water for corporate interests rather than those of the working American families, whose interests they should be representing."

That's what I often hear these days from some on the left who think me a naïve dupe, as if my seeing the Democrats as an essential tool for good means I don't recognize their failures and mistakes.

To that position, I say: Get real!

No good will be achieved unless our efforts are in alignment with reality. Look what happened to the Bushites in Iraq when they based an invasion on cherished ideas of how the world works that were out of touch with reality. Some on the left –also refusing to acknowledge how the world really works– would commend to us a strategy as unlikely to succeed as the Bushites' approach, founded on illusions and distortions, in Iraq.

My point is not that their accusations against the Democrats are false. It's that there is a problem with how some on the left think and feel about the Democrats' defects.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE A HAMMER, USE YOUR SHOE

First, though it may be regrettable that the achievement of good –in this case, the defeat of the Bushite forces– depends upon a flawed political party, it is nonetheless an inescapable reality. There isn't even a half-way realistic scenario by which the Bushite forces can be stripped of their powers that does not rely upon the Democrats.

The government is the ultimate power in our society-the power that's backed by force. The Bushites can not be defeated without vesting some of that power into the hands of someone else. Indeed, wasn't getting the electorate to turn against the Bushites the ultimate purpose of all our efforts? I can only wonder who Democrat-haters think might wield effective power against the Bushites.

If they think we're going to win this one in the streets, then I say again, "Get real!"

Or do they seriously entertain dreams of some third party –presumably morally far superior to the Democrats-- actually gaining power? Please recall that no new party strong enough to gain power has arisen in America for a century and a half. And even that process took the better part of a decade? Can anyone seriously believe that this is about to happen again, now, or –even if America were as ripe for a new party as in the early 1850s– that we can afford to wait a decade while Bushite forces continue to rule?

The answer to all those questions seems clearly to be no. And that leaves us with only the Democrats –whatever their defects-as a possible instrument to wield genuine legal power, backed law and its enforcement, to confront Bushites. We have to build with the tools we've got.

FLAWED WORLD


So what about the argument that the flaws of the Democrats are so profound as to disqualify them as a possible instrument of the good?

Of course, it would be wonderful if those politicians, and the party they comprise, were everything that the people's representatives should be! But where in this world do you see any other political party in which courage and wisdom and righteousness are to be found in significantly greater abundance? Look at the political parties of even the most decent countries, like the democracies of Europe. Is there one of them that does not have its own pronounced follies and corruptions, on something like the same scale?

Furthermore I myself have experienced or observed up close a handful of institutions in recent years, and there isn't a one of them that I've not found disturbingly flawed. Academic institutions, progressive radio stations, the world of publishing– all falling far short not only of the ideal, but of what they declare themselves to be. Are the Democrats in Congress any worse than what we can readily find in almost any institution– hospitals, corporations, religious institutions? What about a Church that's protected the abusers of children? What about all the back-dating of options for corporate CEOs, already paid more than 400 times the wages of their average employee?

Is your experience of the world so different?

The world is screwed up. The people in it are screwed up. Why get all worked up into anger, and scornfully reject as a possible instrument of the good a political party that merely reflects the reality of this fallen world? Do you think that some third party, if it attained the status of a party with actual power, would long escape this flawed condition?

As for why our institutions, and we people, are as flawed as we are, many possible explanations can be given. (I've spent most of my adult life articulating such explanations in my books; see especially The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.)

Some of the most important of these explanations have to do with the workings of power. And it is that perspective that I'd like to address one of those complaints about the Democrats that is most commonly, and most bitterly, expressed: that they are too corporatist, too much the servants of the big moneyed interests at the expense of the common people.

Again, the critique is valid. But why waste energy in outrage at the symptoms, rather than addressing the underlying forces that make those symptoms inevitable? Given the state of things in America, how could it be otherwise?

In America, over the past half century, labor has grown much weaker, politically. And the corporations have become increasingly mighty. That's bad news, and should be changed. But Politics is about power. And it is not realistic to expect those who strive for the power of public office not to reflect the realities of where power comes from. Unless certain things are changed –campaign financing for example-it is simply not realistic to expect either one of our two main parties not to be excessively beholden to the excessively powerful special interests.

It is misguided to blame water for flowing downhill rather than to address the contours of the land that determine the flow.

I'm sure the Democrats will disappoint us in many ways, large and small. But I'm also sure they will do something of value to check the Bushite power, something that couldn't happen while the Bushites controlled everything, and something that will be the larger the more wisely and effectively the anti-Bushite movement handles its side of the relationship.

In this fallen world, the difference between something and nothing is pretty much everything it's possible to achieve. How often in history has it been otherwise?

NOT ALL SHADES OF GREY ARE BLACK


Yes, the Democrats are flawed. Yet flawed is not the same as evil.

The political parties of the world's democracies –including the Democrats in the United States– are not Nazis. They are corrupt in the normal ways– far short of being in thrall to evil. This is just more or less how the world is.

But under the Bushites, the Republican party has crossed some significant lines. The party of Tom Delay and Karl Rove went beyond the normal kind of corruption. Everything they touched became broken and dark. Evil forces that had been present in America all along now became the ruling element in the society. This ruling clique broke new ground in dragging the moral level of the use of power in America toward the abyss.

It was this repeated sense of "never before" that led to my feeling it urgent to put aside all else and focus on trying to wrest power from the dark spirit that animates this Bushite regime and their enablers.

Many sneer at the idea of "the lesser of two evils." But when the difference is between normal corruption and outright evil, such sneering represents a dangerous failure to acknowledge an essential reality.

I believe I have discerned a basic difference of spirit between those interested in working with the Democrats, whatever their defects, and those who reject the whole idea of the Democrats as a possible instrument of the good. The first group is coming from a place of hope, while the second from a place of anger.

Anger may have a legitimate place in one's response to the Democrats' flaws. Outrage can be an important and useful political force. But to indulge that anger to the point that it gets in the way of rational thought and constructive action is itself a flaw.

We may wish that the world were a different kind of place. (I certainly do.) But there are some realities that we may hate but must ultimately also accept if we are to have any hope of being effective at addressing those important problems that are within our capacity to change.

 

Andrew Bard Schmookler's website www.nonesoblind.org is devoted to understanding the roots of America's present moral crisis and the means by which the urgent challenge of this dangerous moment can be met. Dr. Schmookler is also the author of such books as The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution (SUNY Press) and Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide (M.I.T. Press). He also conducts regular talk-radio conversations in both red and blue states.

 

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Jimmy Montague said:

0
You're right. They're not Nazis.
Our Democrats just get paid to do what the Nazis tell them. I think we used to call people like them Quislings. Again: they're not Nazis. They're merely deluded fascists who think of themselves as our saviors. Does that sound like anybody you know?
 
December 20, 2006 | url
Votes: +0

Winter Patriot said:

Winter Patriot
Don't Piss Me Off
What a piece of trash! Straw men everywhere, ad-hominems against unidentified "others" all over the place. All kinds of unsubstantiated wishes disguised as knowledge. Such a waste of bandwidth. Such a waste of pixels!

Here's a power-shift strategy for you, Schnookums: Why don't you just pick up your straw men and your "Sit Down And Shut Up" banners, and go calm down some of the radical yeast-worshippers at Ladies Home Journal?
 
December 20, 2006 | url
Votes: +0

Andrew Bard Schmookler said:

0
Reason and Emotion Revisited
Emotion may lead us to fury and contempt at the Democrats.

Reason still requires us to ask: Is there any reasonably plausible scenario by which these Bushite forces can be defeated that does not require that a central role be played by those Democrats.

I have not seen any affirmative answer to that question. If there is one, let's see it. And if there isn't one, isn't it some kind of unconstructive indulgence to focus on expressing that fury and that scorn, instead of focusing on the best way to use that necessary tool? Either an indulgence or a giving in to despair-- despair of there being any scenario whatever by which these Bushites can be defeated?
 
December 20, 2006 | url
Votes: +0

Andrew Bard Schmookler said:

0
A message to winter
Dear Winter,

You and I have had a bit of contact on earlier threads, but I don't yet feel I have much sense of you as a person. I'd like, if I may, to discuss with you not the substance of what I said and what you think is wrong with it but rather the WAY you've expressed your objections. I hope that's OK with you.

Your way of talking to me there --the calling me "Schnookums" and your closing with the idea of my going off to talk to some people at Ladies Home Journal-- reminds me of the kind of speech that, in high school, generally preceded either two guys coming to blows or some guy walking off without defending his honor. It's the kind of insulting speech, in other words, with which people in earlier eras initiated the process that would end either in a duel or in dishonor.

As you doubtless know, it is not a pleasant kind of speech to be on the receiving end on. Indeed, that's the intention, is it not?

Anyway, not knowing you, I'm wondering: is this a way you speak to people whom you encounter in your daily life, the people you see face to face? If you disagree with someone about something important among the people with whom you have any kind of relationship, do you express your disagreement in these terms?

If you do, then that would tell me something about you, and I'd just leave it there.

If you don't, then I wonder what it is that leads to your speaking in this way different way to me here, in this forum.

In regarding the manner and feeling tone of your speech to me here, I am also led to wonder about how you perceive me that would justify, in your mind, speaking to me in that fashion. For example, I wonder: do you think that I am not only saying things that are wrong, but that I KNOW these ideas to be wrong, i.e. that I'm being deceitful? If you think me sincere, do you think that anyone who believes what I'm saying here must be evil? Or something else that calls for insulting and scornful kinds of speech?

I have a couple of other thoughts about what this might be about --having to do with the subject matter, and/or the nature of the forum-- but I'll leave those aside for now and await your response.

Obviously, I think it's important HOW people talk with each other as well as what people say, and I'd like to see if we're able to make any progress in that respect, or at least to gain some illumination.

ANDY
 
December 20, 2006 | url
Votes: +0

Winter Patriot said:

Winter Patriot
...
I wonder what it is that leads to your speaking in this way different way to me here, in this forum.

Here's the nutshell, Andrew. We have only had contact on one other thread. There you asked me some questions. I answered them and asked some of my own, which you ignored.

I made a few other comments on that thread, asking questions that you could have answered had you wished, or otherwise trying to prod you for an answer to the questions I had posed, but instead of acknowledging them, you acted as if my posts were invisible.

When I ask my kids to do something and they ignore me I usually ask them again. If they continue to ignore me I will raise my voice or get in their face or do whatever else it takes to get their attention. That's what happened here.

Now that I have your attention I will happily dispense with the childishness and the name-calling and so on, and if you want to talk about what you have written, I am game for a discussion.

But if it turns into another session of "You're Not There; I Don't See You" then I might be tempted to mangle your name or make a snide comment about something you consider irrelevant. Oh well. At least I didn't pinch your earlobe. That's what I do when I run out of patience with my kids.

And BTW this is not about "ego" and I do not "respond poorly to being neglected" or anything of that sort. This is about trying to establish a set of ground rules.

In other words, how are discussions to be conducted here?

I like 'em civil, so if you're into that we're making progress already. And I like 'em balanced too. In other words, if you ask me a question, I will answer it to the best of my ability. But in return I expect that if I ask you a question, you will at least make an effort to respond. And if you're into that too then we're really cookin'.

But otherwise not.
 
December 21, 2006 | url
Votes: +0

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