Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Choosing Battles ... and Battlegrounds

Here's a thought on the Democrats' selling out. Are we perhaps mistaken to bemoan the hypocrisy and weakness of these individual politicians? Should we really be tearing our hair out in frustration that these leaders aren't standing up for what's right, the way we hoped they would? Maybe this is the wrong reaction.

We saw them propose massive tax cuts for the rich, only slightly smaller than what Bush proposed. We saw them authorize Bush to go to war. Now we've seen them effectively confirm Alito. But these individual leaders should not be the objects of our anger or frustration. They are just pulse-takers. Their job is to reflect what their constituents want, or be fired. To say, "Those damn Democratic politicians; they're selling out ...," is, perhaps, missing the point.

As observers, we should accept that there is a massive, demographic shift at work, and reversing it will take time. It will take strategic thinking and strategic effort, in areas that are not the focus of the daily news.

There is no need to greet each latest news headline with dismay. We already know the system is rotten. Neither the latest headlines nor our senators' individual characters matter. Feeling bad about the latest day's news is like being disappointed every morning, in December, to find that cold weather is forecast.

To start, we have to shift our focus away from the noisiest, most immediate

[Continued in first comment...]

7 Thoughts:

Blogger Bspot said...

political bickering, and instead contemplate the fact that the majority of this country's population actually wants what we are getting. It may be true that many people don't vote; and that many who do vote nevertheless find their votes not fairly counted, due to election "irregularities." But the truth is that if a substantial majority of Americans were against the direction we're going, their will would be reflected in our senators' actions.

We know some of the causes of the electorate's equanimity in the face of policies we feel are terrible. Our news coverage is so low quality and biased that people are led to focus on personalities instead of issues, on the unappealing bickering of politicians rather than the substance of their positions, on simplistic solutions and conclusions, rather than wise ones. And we know corporate influence on the media and on Congress is behind much of the problem.

These fundamental problems were no different before the Alito confirmation than after; they were no different before the authorization for war or the obscene tax cuts than after.

The battlegrounds where things can be turned around are behind the daily news, where the forces shaping our political landscape can be altered, slowly, over time: in campaign finance reform; in the demolition of the lobbying system as we know it; and in the liberal thinktanks and universities, which have lost the kind of political imagination and courage they once had, the kind that can generate compelling, cogent ideology for the left to rally around. A new ideology for the American left has to accept the legitimacy of differing social values held in different parts of the country. Safeguarding some values in some regions may require offering respect, not antagonism, for the rights of majorities in other regions to hold to alternative values.

In any case, in the arena of ideology - which can feed into thinktanks and universities, and ultimately into more effective rhetoric and positioning by a new generation of political leaders - maybe there will be an important role to be played by political blogging.

The costs involved in blogging are so drastically reduced, compared with other media that reach mass audiences like television or newspapers, that there is more chance for new entrants into the market. And the new entrants are less dependent on big business funding to operate their enterprises.

A broad audience can't be cultivated by a blog without very high-quality journalism and analysis, along with shrewd presentation and marketing. As with any medium that aspired to reach millions, it's a job for professionals. It has to be, if it's to be done in a way that can actually have impact nationwide. Still, "volunteer" blogging, as we're doing, can serve as a breeding ground, an inspiration to leftists, and to young, would-be journalist-bloggers to make a career of it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 3:05:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Given that poll data shows that over 60% of the electorate is basically unhappy with the direction of the country, the state of the economy, and Bush's presidency, I see it this way: The "silent majorities" are a substantial reservoir of potential discontent that must constantly be tamped down and cynicized by traditional media outlets. The business-government-big media triangle of authority finds that it must expend ever increasing energy to maintain its mindshare and "extremize" relatively workable solutions that would restore a sane fiscal policy, rebuild the country's schools and infrastructure, provide healthcare for all, etc. In this context, blogs, as their mindshare increases, serve to render more shrill this iron triangle as they compete for attention, eyeballs and dollars. They "force the issue" by magnifying important untrumpeted stories and investigative reports that were editorially buried for reasons of "balance" or coporate pressure. In other words, any story can be potentially frontpaged and wind up on the teevee if the blogs keep at it for a few weeks, months, or years.

The most frightening aspect of this situation is that the potential for demagoguery is higher as the repressed discontent grows. And demagogues can emerge from either Right or Left - Democrats' prayers for a "strong leader" that can energize the party and galvanize moderates is dangerous. Although it seems difficult to see how such a character could push us too far, the real instability of our present system is the fundamental weakness of the body politic in this country - the lack of attention to facts, the ease with which people are manipulated by "frames", the chattering classes that monopolize attention by their status as "experts", in general the basic vulnerability of citizens' decision-making apparatuses to being led around by their limbic systems.

Essentially I see our democracy as entering the classic "red giant" stage if we're not careful. Obliviousness to this concern is most evidenced by the Bush administration's misapprehension of history and ludicrous, baseless faith that Democracies are somehow a utopian end-stage of political development and inherently more stable than any other form of government.

Stable democracies are the exception, not the rule, and require a vast amount of resources, educational devleopment, organization, and shared values to maintain and keep from going supernova.

The promise of blogs is that they can reinvigorate the body politic and inject real participation back into the equation. They can act as a counterweight to the enormous psychological power of the moving image, the 1-minute segment, and the soundbite. The potential counterweight of blogs, rightly or wrongly, is seen as a major threat to news orgs and corporations, from both a business and mindshare perspective. As the "internets" gain popularity, look for ever more hyperbolic attempts at demonizing the medium, "regulation" of traffic and ISPs via the obscenity canard, government requests for database extracts, etc. I only hope that the large content providers have gotten their own lobbyists in the mix somewhere so they can effectively battle for their own interests within the current system.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 8:28:00 AM  
Blogger Palmer said...

majority? plurality? referendum?

where was the filibuster?

was harriet meirs (sic) a red herring? or was she a sexy maddie albright?

dunno.

yer posts make my brain hurt. good stuff but verbose.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bspot said...

Palmer, your comment is so admirably terse that I'm not sure what you've said.

What are you trying to say about majorities versus pluralities?

What do you want a referendum about?

What makes the Meirs nomination a red herring and what purpose did that serve?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

But it's true. These comments are verbose. The rest of you are taking up so much text space, there's barely any room left for my comments.

Churchill or some other famous dude, maybe George Bernard Shaw, once said:
"I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have the time."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 6:54:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Palmer's right - what, did I forget I took a pass on grad school or something? OK. . here's the quick reconstruction of my original, bloated comment:
____________________________________

People no likey Bush and what's goin on but don't vote, why? Cuz the man keeps them down by making them feel good and forget what they see every day. Blogs can find the bits of truth in the shit, make copies and people will read.

Still, is problem because people can be fooled easily with teevee and ADD. A evil genius can more easily get their dirty work done. So will Democracy survive or will a strongman take over? No know. Hope the right power people are fighting for us.

___________________________________

Seriously, Democrats have to be able to know why Bush makes some people feel good. Then grasp and employ the philosophy he uses to persuade, not just ape the man's implementation of it. But careful what you wish for, persuasion is powerful stuff.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 8:21:00 AM  
Blogger Palmer said...

who you calling an ape, rossi?

Thursday, February 09, 2006 10:43:00 AM  

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