Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Glenn Greenwald, always worthwhile, directs us via link to Digby, blogging on the Hullabaloo site. (http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/lurch-by-digby-commenting-on-obamas.html)
Digby is assessing Obama’s current tack to the right and what might be up with all that.
But in the process she has illuminated some remarkable material.

The Obama/Democratic strategy appears to be to rely on personality and not on issues. This is wise. Let’s face it: nobody is ever going to be able to look good trying to explain the coherence between the myriad revolutions, each with its own political, legislative, and cultural consequences, that the Party loosed upon American society like the fire-bomb-laden balloons that the Japanese – famously – had loosed upon the West Coast early in the war. But where the Japanese managed only a couple of the things, the Dems sent out clouds of them.

And now, 40 years later, it would probably be wiser to hope that enough citizens can’t remember or weren’t around for the times before the Time of Flowers Blooming; and it’s certainly shrewd to avoid creating any option or possibility for public discussion. The Facts-on-the-Ground playbook would advise focusing on something else. Anything but kicking the tires or checking under the hood. Once that gets started, folks might not like what they see, might start wanting to hold other folks responsible; the whole thing could become a frakfest, as democratic politics can become when The People have been bamboozled, and the Democrats can’t afford that.

And so they’re focusing on Personality. Ain’t he grand? Ain’t he dreamy? As boys could become enamored of the Fuhrer in his long, gleaming Mercedes parade-limo, so girls go for the eyes: they look into those eyes and … well, we’ve all seen vampire movies. “He looked at me … “ … this is no way to run a railroad. You cannot run a democratic politics like this. Romeo and Juliet were free to get it on because no prince in his right mind would allow youth to pass the time running the affairs of the city. So give ‘the kids’ a chance to run the city so they keep out of trouble? No. Fair Verona would have buried a hell of a lot more folks if ‘the kids’ had been in charge.

And with enamorment (which may not be a word, but you get the idea) goes ‘loyalty’. Not allegiance, which requires that the individual consider carefully, decide to commit, and then sustain that commitment through good times and bad. No. ‘Loyalty’ here, in our modern American reality, is the loyalty of the marketplace: the individual is defined simply by what he or she chooses to have in his or her (thank you, Democratic Party) paw. It’s brand loyalty. Not new: we’re Ford people, they’re GM people, those dopes over there are Chrysler people … it’s been going on a long time. In merchandising. But this is an election, for frak’s sake. And a Presidential election. ‘Loyal’ folks don’t ask questions; don’t try to kick tires or look under hoods; don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – and that’s what the Nanny State as well as the Security State want our ‘leader’ to be: a magic horse, sort of a unicorn, a mystical, marvelous creature in whose presence we should only feel gratitude and obey and vote the right way and then shut up and shovel the mystical plop as it falls to the ground. Kinda medieval, in a greasy, buttery way – like Newt Gingrich under klieg lights.

This ‘loyalty’ is not a commitment; it’s a ‘feeling’. Which is a view of the world proper to the profound though natural limitations of childhood and adolescence. But is not so encouraging when exhibited by persons who chronologically qualify for description as adults. ‘Sensitivity’ has become a matter of ‘feeling’ and of not-thinking; that’s what’s gone wrong and has now had 40 years to dig in. That’s what Political Correctness, that Leninist stratagem, was designed to aid and abet: not-thinking. Out of fear of being isolated from the group, of getting your name in the papers, getting your name put in a registry, of losing your job, being investigated, going to the camps or worse.

When the government throws its weight behind it, it works very well , but not in a democracy. Either it goes or the democracy goes. And is that a history We want to repeat?

Thus too, the Democratic strategy is not to talk about issues but rather to tell stories. Sorta like all those daytime TV shows that started up a few decades back. Not the soaps of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the I’ll-be-fulfilled-if-I-tell-you-my-story shows. You know the type. It would be impolite to note the coincidence in time, that the feminist ascendancy and these kind of shows sort of – well – coincided. Impolite, but hey, this is the fate of a Presidential election in the Republic we’re talking about here.

And funny too is the fact that telling-stories is also the stock in trade of the Fundamentalist approach to religion. You’re not supposed to think or question … just tell your story. And honor the powers that be, for they are of God. Ja. Yah. There’s a great way to conduct a democratic politics.

And in that way the Democratic strategists hope to reclaim ‘family values’ – not to reclaim democratic politics, but to reclaim ‘family values’. As Petain’s Vichy defined ‘family values’: a way for the French to keep themselves busy while the thousand-year Reich ran their lives and ran their country like an ant-farm. Full of busy, loyal ants. Ja!

But values are not ‘feelings’. Yes, they are felt, they must be felt – that lets you know that they have become a structural part of your identity as a human being. But while they spark feelings, they are not themselves feelings. They are the ideals which you accept as worth structuring life around. They are the trellis that the vital but wild vine can embrace in order not to waste itself in aimless spreading over the ground, but to rise up toward the light.

And they want folks “to place their faith in Obama”. No. We the People may repose our trust and confidence in him to discharge the office of President, but that’s not “faith”, because he’s only a man; and no man (or woman) and no man (or woman) in high office can ever be completely trusted. If human beings could be so totally trusted, then there would be no need for a democracy at all, as the Founders sagely saw. No. We will repose our trust and confidence … if We decide to and only after We have kicked the tires and looked under the hood. Until then, no deal.

“This is a conservative country” the typical Democratic strategists think. Well, when ‘conservative’ is stretched in its definition to include folks who aren’t certain that the Democrats know what they’re doing, who’d like to ask and kick tire and talk about things, who’d like to move carefully – since this ship of democracy is, after all, a fragile kind of vessel on a wide, darkling sea of failings and sins and tyranny and crime… when you stretch the definition of ‘conservative’ to include all of those folks (and there’s been a lot of stretching definitions to keep up the numbers up these past few decades) then maybe there are a lot of ‘conservatives’. Of course, that’s why the Identities needed a revolution in the first place; they had no time to persuade and they really didn’t think much of folks who just didn’t ‘get it’ anyway.

Revolutionaries don’t persuade; they act, and the populace follows them. Karl Rove didn’t think that up himself. He may not have even gotten it from studying Lenin. He could have simply observed with his native shrewdness the goings-on around him here these past 40 years.
Revolutionaries make history, they don’t follow it. Alas, whether they repeat history … that’s something most revolutionaries seem constitutionally (you should pardon the expression) unable to do.

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