Posts tagged ‘division’

January 10, 2011

You can’t spell politics m-a-s-s-a-c-r-e

by nkwilczy

            We have to decide if this is the beginning or if this is the end.

            There is no rosy way to paint the facts. Perhaps he was deranged, perhaps he belonged to the political faction of your opponent, but at the end of the day none of that changed the fact that the political environment in America has gotten very unfriendly.

            That seems like an understatement, now that we’ve gotten to the point of lunatics firing into political rallies, shooting little girls, federal judges, congresspeople. Which is why now is the time to ask the question, is this the beginning or is this the end? And that won’t be decided by rogue gunmen, they are not the people who safeguard our future. We are.

            So what I would like to say, very briefly, is that there are firebrands who exist and possess trivial amounts of taste who’s sole purpose is to do things like, say, place all the blame for the events in Arizona at Sarah Palin’s feet. She is without a doubt a part of the culture of vicious rhetoric that got us here, these people will put all the blame at Rupert Murdoch’s feet, and you know what, maybe some of it belongs there.

            But then, if we make those statements, when we try to use this as an occasion to make our political culture MORE incendiary and as an excuse to lob blame and hate at the “other side,” this is only the beginning. This is not new territory, Marat and Robespierre were also pretty sure that democracy would work better if everyone who disagreed with them was dead.

            It won’t. A diversity of perspectives leads to a diversity of ideologies, which strengthens the entire system with a diversity of problem solving techniques, how are we going to get anything done with blood in the streets?

            So, I don’t care whose fault it is or where we can scientifically assign the blame. It is all of our fault equally, and no one is as guilty as those who would use this occasion to slander their political rivals. If this means that there is no rebuttal from you when someone slanders your own side then let it go let it be. If the opposition wants to stone you and persecute you then let them, offer them nothing but peace.

            Retaliation, verbal, physical, economic, psychological is not the answer. America deserves more than for us to bicker like this. I say, let this be the end.

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September 17, 2010

Political Independence

by nkwilczy

I want to start this post off with a short bit about our newest member of the Supreme Court. The only “dirt” that could be found on her during the confirmation process was a paper she had written on how internal divisions gutted the socialist movement in New York. It’s funny how much Supreme Court Justices spend most of their previous careers acting like they belong to a sleeper cell. Still, I think an obvious lesson can be taken from the premise of the text.

For my purposes I will divide the mass of politically aware Americans into three categories. I understand these three categories to represent oversimplifications, and I feel like I should warn people of that before I start talking about any of them. A lot of people use words like “conservative” or “liberal” as though they are all encompassing worldviews and total political ideologies, as though if you are pro-choice then you have signed a contract swearing to uphold the interests of trial lawyers or if you support gun rights then you must also support supply side economics. These broad generalizations and parodies of political ideologies work to form the basis for a sort of mild paranoia about the “other party” that reinforces loyalty and group cohesion among the two parties.

So that in the end, regardless of where you started out as a single issue voter, let’s say you are an environmental activist, in the end you will work with the teachers unions or the trial lawyers because it’s better than the “GODDAMN REPUBLICANS” or on the other hand if you work towards a smaller government then you can also end up supporting pro-life or various religious causes because again it’s better than the “GODDAMN DEMOCRATS.”

These are all people who started out as single issue voters. Many of them still are. The way that Americans have entered into political awareness for generations has been as single issue voters and it is a clear, logical system and a cornerstone of our democracy. You get into one issue, you maybe have some success with local government petitions or elections, you get that notion that you have made a productive addition to our democracy in some way and then you’re hooked. And then you start working on other issues.

I am explaining here that the connections that bring the two dominant political parties together are illusory. The perceptions reinforce the reality until the connections seem much more concrete than they actually are. We ally with the other “democrats” or “republicans” because we are told by other people that they are on our side, not because there is an actual ideological connection. If you compare it to parliamentary systems then the two political parties in America resemble coalitions more than actual political parties. Some of the most successful politicians in American history have made their reputation on that fact, “Big Tent” anyone?

I said at first that I would divide politically conscious Americans into three camps and so far I have only provided two. Democrats and Republicans. But there is a third option and I will explain it in a word: Unaffiliated.

I have personally been an Unaffiliated voter in this sense since I registered. I registered Libertarian and they lost their party status in NC a month after I registered and though they regained it I never bothered to re affiliate. In any event for our purposes here Unaffiliated voters include people who associate with every and any third party as opposed to the two dominant parties.

But Brah, you might say, then you are lumping in the Green Party with the Constitutionalists and the Libertarians with the Socialists. There are no ideological connections here, and in fact some of these groups disagree with each other on critical issues. If you say this then you clearly understand my point. In American political alliances these things do not matter.

There is a saying about managing the Democrat’s electorate, that it is like “herding cats.” You can see how this is caused by exactly the sort of factors that I’m talking about though, the lack of ideological connection between the factions. I don’t mean to understate the political diversity of the GOP, they are neither all corporate lackeys or ignorant rednecks, there is a wide variety of political tradition to their coalition. I won’t deny that the coordination and discipline of the party officials is uncanny, and when you see them mobilize every single seat they have in the Senate to block job bills or unemployment benefits for their own constituents. But I would argue that this sort of tight personnel organization does not in fact reflect any stronger of an ideological bond.

Those of us who prefer not to affiliate ourselves with either party wear our independence with pride. We are not tied to your issues. We care about what we care about and when issues that are important to us come up, and we vote erratically (in every sense that the combination of words can be understood). We make up our own minds to the extent that we are able, and this independence is a real virtue, the saving grace of the American democracy is the freethinking electorate.

But we can make our virtues into idols. And when we allow our political independence to get in our way and undermine our political goals. Because we let it divide us so that we don’t even bother going afield to find new perspectives to solve problems in other ideologies, we ignore compromises we never even know are there.

If bringing together Democrats is like herding cats then what I propose is a substantially more daunting proposition. Politically conscious Unaffiliated Americans are like snapping turtles. Many of them are involved in proselytizing people at any opportunity. They want to bring in new voters to the system, hoping for protest votes from people who would usually protest the system by abstaining, or if you openly disagree with them on fundamental issues (as independent minded people are wont to do) then they will even go so far as to argue with you. What I propose is that snapping turtles should put their differences aside and try to find common ground.

Why? What do they have to gain? What do we have to gain?

There is a need in this country for a serious national dialogue. There is a need for new ideas and new approaches to the problems that face 21st Century America. Internet Piracy has created a world where we will have to re-evaluate in a serious way the existing copyright system and it’s enforcement. The demand driven consumer capitalist post-industrial economy is showing serious signs that it may not in fact be a self-perpetuating model, and there is an obvious need to deal with the massive trade deficit that ensues. There is a need to reform much of our corporate model, where there is high regard for executives who add little actual value to the products and have frequently over the past decade offered little in the way of leadership. There is global warming. There are on top of this all sorts of real and obvious problems with a petrified two party political system that has failed to address even the most basic of these issues. We are talking about a political system that only in the last year managed to pass the sort of basic healthcare reform that Richard Nixon proposed our nation could use.

I don’t want to tell you that these things will mean the end of the American Era. I don’t mean to say that it is the end of the world. We can’t have that sort of freaked out mentality about these problems if we want to solve them. These problems are not bigger than life, they are life sized.

But it will require serious discussion of these problems. We will have to break down the barriers that keep us from talking to the people who disagree with us if we want to have those conversations. We can all agree on one thing, the two party system is not solving America’s problems. Start finding places to agree.

But then again we are snapping turtles…

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