News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Craven, Angst-Filled Democrats?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Craven, Angst-Filled Democrats?

[Corss-posted at Unclaimed Territory]

It seems "we" as a society keep bumping up against this glass ceiling every time we write about the subject of the Democrats' refusal to challenge the Bush admin's policies. The collusion of the Democrats with the Repubs on foreign policy and the related issue of domestic surveillance reflects a common interest of both parties in maintaining something that continually eludes our grasp. ...

I agree with statements that put this collusion down to temerity and fear, serving tactical political concerns such as not appearing soft on terorism, weak on defense, and s on. But do these assertions really explain anything? Aren't these tactics part of a much larger strategic vision that reflects a common set of assumptions that the Dems share with the Repubs?

I'm willing to characterize politicians and technocrats like Hayden in as moralistic terms as anyone else. Who doesn't think that politicans are egotistical, self-serving, and craven hacks? That is, everyone else's politician, not the ones who "work" for us and our local interests. So we are continually faced with the emotional state that something's wrong but we don't know why or how.

This last point merely echoes the old saw about "all politics is local." It works at a micro level where the over-arching principles and currents that determine the decisions of these politicians never get aired. But are there such principles? What are they?

Of course, we could say that the Dems act from no larger set of principles. If true, this just gives us one more reason to despise them. They simply let the Repubs set the agenda and then devise their own talking points by countering each Republican agenda point--to varying degrees to the left, so to speak. But they never question the very assumptions that determine the Repub agenda; were they to do so, they could undermine the very world-view that gives birth to the Repub agenda. But they never do question that world-view.

This Democratic operating procedure makes their own political agenda quite predictable, since all we need to do is to look to the Repubs and then triangulate the possible responses (or non-reponses) that the Dems can make to that agenda. Whether this situation implies a general moral failure on the Dems' part is almost beside the point. We can express moral outrage at their lack of spine, but all that does is create frustration and an anxious political itch.

It's perhaps a cliche to say that the Dems and Repubs are just two sides of the same coin. For the moment, it seems, the Repubs have the upper hand because they are more assertive and they lead while the Dems follow.

For the last 40 years or so, the Repubs have changed the public sphere from one of political dialog into one of cultural warfare. Values, life-styles, moral issues have become the political lingo. By attacking a perceived loose, anti-authoritarian, anarchistic, and narcisssistic 60s counter-culture ethos, the Repubs tap into three things: 1) guilt over excesses that individual 60s ex-patriates feel now that they have children to raise, 2) resentment and envy of the lower socio-economic classes over the lavish life-style lived by those very expatriates, and 3) a general economic angst that both lower class and middle-class feel in the winner-take-all workplace.

These three observations do not seem to have a common factor. Economic concerns do characterize 2 and 3. The first point, I'd argue, simply adds a psychological dimension to the economic factors in 2 and 3. Using this guilt, the Right can shame ex-60s expatriates into silence, since the 60s-70s are just a fad and you can be painted in the old hippie stereotype. And we all know what that means, don't we?

What's the solution? The Dems must undertake to question the very economic assumptions that inform the shared world-view of the Dems and Repubs. Until they do so, they will simply become mroe and more irrelvant and continue to morph into a sad, pale reflection of their alter-ego Republican "opponents."

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