Incorrect, but certain

Recently I posted elsewhere on a disturbing phenomenon* in present-day political thought – that of the 180-degree political flip. Chris Hitchens, David Horowitz, Ed Koch…I suppose you could put David Brock in the going-the-other-way category, though in that case he had some pretty compelling personal reasons behind it; the others, who wrote the ad hominem hit pieces that went after Brock, just woke up one day and decided they were bastards. The referenced article concerns David Mamet, the no-bullshit playwright, who recently chronicled in the Village Voice a similar though perhaps not as dramatic conversion while listening to NPR. Read that through with me: the writer of Glengarry Glen Ross suddenly realized that people were complex and had more than one side after listening to the news on the radio. Pretty absurd when you consider it, but such are the nature of these “conversions”; Hitchens’s came after encountering a bunch of rifle-toting Afghani rebels carrying a picture of George W. Bush, the guy who got rid of the Taliban for them.

Right after that, I ended up reading a bit on LJ’s greenparty community asking members whether they were part of the party or just had an outside interest…the results there were depressing and broke along the same lines. While several there were with the Party, many were Democrats or “independents” who had become “disillusioned”. Reading closer gave the reasons why, which fell into a predictable pattern: they got sick of the Democrats, joined the Greens out of spite, expected everyone to agree on everything, got turned off by the first socialist demagogue they encountered, thought that Obama rilly sounded kewl, don’tcha know, or something similar, and quickly flipped back, usually just as dissatisfied as when they left, going on nothing but hope…which, fortunately, was the only thing offered by the current Democratic front-runner.

(I feel justified in poking at Obama in part thanks to the article which preceded that one in the community – a fairly fact-free anti-Nader polemic from the archetypal “former Nader voter”, now an Obama fanboy. And no, I’m not being dismissive; read his blog for the past twenty or so entries, with the fawning praise and ooh-that-nasty-bad-Hillary entries and that’s simply the only description one can give. He doesn’t want an Obama presidency – he wants the Obama Tiger Beat poster for his room.)

It’s all over the place, including within my own party and certainly without: people encounter a single fact that doesn’t jibe with their worldview, and a pent-up, unacknowledged cognitive dissonance bursts like a balloon. It’s silly and unrealistic, and it seems to be the way of U.S. politics in the 21st Century.

Part of the problem is that, on all sides, uncertainty is viewed as a flaw rather than the basis for flexibility. This is not the “uncertainty” of Samantha Power, who, more tellingly than her “monster” comment that got her canned from the Obama campaign, revealed Obama’s position on the war as completely fluid, exposing it for the primary campaign pander that it is. (Both comments appeared to be truthful, in fact.) Actions in the future may need to be changed based on the realities of what develops. Some opinions may similarly be changed…but beliefs may not be. They are the bedrock of one’s basis for thought and action. Thus far, I have yet to see any beliefs on the part of the Democratic Party…and so many of its followers, even the “alienated” ones, are obviously cut from the same mold. A single fact which can’t be spun to the adherent’s satisfaction is enough to send the whole valueless “belief” structure down like a house of cards.

Beyond that, people – and by that I mean the MSM – push the idea of a “straight ticket” way of thinking. Sure, some vote that way, but not many beyond the intellectually lazy think that way. And yet, the whole idea of splitting one’s ticket is supposed to be weird – and Ghod knows, nobody ever wants to do something that’s weird. (Heck, that might even lead to things being different. And you don’t want that, right? These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now go watch American Idol the way you’re supposed to.) During a recent interview with Jesse Johnson, radio host Jim Bohannon was absolutely astonished that anyone would go from the Republican Party to the Green Party…the automatic assumption was that anyone in the Republicans buys into the entire platform and anyone in the Greens does likewise (despite the fact that he himself agrees mainly with the Republicans but is in the Democratic Party).

Interestingly, it’s possible that the Republican Party is more responsible for this than the Democrats, given the ascendency of the neocon/proto-fascist wing (Jonah Goldberg, call your office).

Need to leave now…possibly more later.

*Phenomenon – doo doo, dadoodoo! Phenomenon, doo doo doo doo! Sorry, couldn’t resist…

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8 Responses

  1. Ironically, even though I’ve always kinda fought against the whole “big tent” label Democrats (and Republicans) are given, this is a pretty good argument for it.

  2. It happens even north of the border, a good friend of mine who is a HUGE PC fan (not Conservative, Progressive Conservative, he doesn’t like the merger) and rabid right-winger (despite these qualities, he’s still my friend 😉 ) said that he was a Liberal for the first few years of his political life. Pierre Trudeau was a Conservative as a youth. (Note: this is a hazily recalled comment and might possibly be completely and utterly untrue, but too tired to check now). And my political idol, socialist Bill Blaikie, was a member of the PCs as a youth. Even myself, I was very rabidly socialist in my early political life and, while I’m still decidedly left of centre, there are several right-of-centre ideas I’m finding myself agreeing with more and more since I became a parent (don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not). And I *very* rarely vote for party anyways, if the person I feel can best represent me happens to be a right-winger, they get my vote.

    It’s all part of life. People do not hold fast to their ideas throughout live without examining, questioning and, if needed, changing them as time goes on; unless they are willfully ignorant and refuse to hear anything other than what they “know”. (Many religious types fall into this category). As the quote goes, “it is a poor man who cannot examine himself.” (And if that isn’t a quote, or resembling one, it damn well should be.)

  3. @Mary: Not particularly, because the two major parties aren’t real political parties…they aren’t groups of voters or activists or people with similar viewpoints who are out to promote them politically – otherwise, the U.S. would only have two points of view, period, the way that Jim Bohannon believes. They’re more broad semi-corporate hybrid organizations to concentrate money and power, such that ambitious individuals can use them to gain office. Being in such a “big tent” simply means you will not be actively opposed, as you’ve already bought into the status quo enough to be there.

    For the Green Party and other small, ideologically-based parties, it’s part of the process by which the best ideas come to be accepted into the platform – as part of a synthesis which may not be championed by any one member.

  4. But that isn’t true, and it’s as myopic to argue that point as it is to argue any of the things in your entire “incorrect, but certain” argument. Democrats have an ideology — they are liberal. Now, I’ll grant you two things: 1. Outliers certainly exist; and 2. Caution exists and has often kept the Party from appropriate follow-through of principles.

    But, the Democratic Party stands for social/economic justice (generally pro-union, pro-progressive taxation, pro-social programs, pro-increasing minimum wage…) They are generally pro-environment; generally pro-civil rights; generally internationalist on foreign policy, etc…

    An argument can be made that they haven’t done enough to act on these principles, and at least in recent history, I would certainly agree. But when you use your standard line about the Dems not really being a political party, but a confederation of issues (the realization you came to at the ABC meeting), or the equation of the Democratic Party to a corporation, it really sounds to me like you are trying to paper over your own dissonance. Be a Green because you support the Green Party, their values, and their issues. But come on, at least try to apply some of that “complex thinking” that Mamet lacked to your view of the Democrats.

  5. Um, fine, but who’s really got the dissonance here?

    Are you attempting to say that Bohannon is essentially right – that there are two points of view for a country of 300 million people, and everyone lines up on them in lock-step fashion? Even if you allow the wiggle room by saying that “outliers” exist, that’s consigning a whole host of views to Americans which they don’t have – which is definitely one of the reasons that 48% or so don’t vote.

    The two-party system is an accident of mathematics, the product of a rigid and outmoded 18th Century form of voting. It doesn’t reflect reality and most of the people in it aren’t even attempting to do so. The members of the party are not “The Party”, and everyone knows this – that’s true to a certain extent anywhere, but not as pronounced as what you have here.

    If you want to pretend the “liberal” of the Democrats has been consistent over the past 100 years, or 50, or even 20, that’s fine, I won’t burst that bubble…let’s take the Republicans. There are at least four “major” parties within the GOP trying to get out – the Big Business/Corp CEO Party, the “Christian” Conservatives, the Liberty Republicans, and the Neocons/Protofascists. All were on display during the recent Republican primaries, and none exist comfortably within the GOP structure.

    It’s this lack of nuance, this rigid grillwork, which is forced on the American people which causes the 180 spins to happen. I don’t believe in that, therefore presto! I’m someone else.

    In real life – in countries with sane political systems – parties change, merge, appear, disappear, because the people have changing opinions, and they can and do drive their parties. The two-party system is too big and leaves no room to move – you’re vaguely left, you go this way; vaguely right, the other way.

  6. As a technical point, I used “outliers” not in reference to Americans who don’t share the political views of one of the two parties, but in reference to Democrats in power who are not at least generally liberal.

    No, I would obviously not suggest that two parties comfortably fit the position of every (or even most) Americans. Problem is, I think it would take 300 million parties to accurately reflect the worldviews and positions of every Americans. As we have agreed, everyone is quirky — everyone strays from their Party’s platform on one issue or another. I know for a fact that you can’t endorse everything the Green Party says and does, but you accept it because you agree with the principles overall.

    My point is that to some extent, all parties have to be big tents, and the only point of debate is whether to have 2, or 3, or 10, or 20 political umbrellas for everyone to fit under. But the Green Party is no more a “party” than the Democrats. It might be more narrowly focused, but it isn’t fundamentally different.

    By the way, hope you like my latest posting… I’m kinda dreading the comments I’ll get…

  7. Well, agreed, except that two is obviously too few, and the paradigm that’s being pushed by these smaller parties is indeed closer to the reality of the situation. It’s not two vs. 300 million – there’s a happy medium in there somewhere, and the Greens, et. al., are much closer to it than the Republicrats. (Couldn’t resist.)

  8. Be careful, or I’ll start making reference to the Greenitarians.

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