"Shove It" - Santogold
Not to manifest a bad attitude, but I've got to admit the refrain of this one kind of jumped out at me today:
We think you're a joke
Shove your hope where it don't shine
Those of you who read here regularly know that I tend to be a skeptic about political theory and grand ideological pronouncements -- as I've said over and over again, politics tends to be contingent, time specific, pragmatic, and very much caught up in day-to-day battles for a share of the pie that tend to render big theories wanting. But politics as usual is not politics as it always is -- there are moments in history where things really do change and the way politics is done becomes truly different. In such moments we need a different language and a different mode of analysis to apply to politics. This piece, by Swarthmore professor Timothy Burke, argues that we seem to be at such a moment.
Burke goes beyond the line that Krugman and others have been pushing, i.e. the rightwing is crazy and the media is inadequate, and takes this to its logical conclusion -- that sewing chaos is precisely what the people on the right want and the media, stuck in its conventional sports style analysis of who is winning and losing, can't begin to say what it is that we are dealing with here. Burke says it better than I can:
In a nutshell, what’s going on is something that hasn’t happened in American politics for 50 years: an ideologically coherent social movement with clear political aspirations has taken shape out of murkier antecedents and disparate tributaries and at least for the moment, it has a very tight hold on the political officials that it has elected. The movement is not interested in the spoils system, its representatives can’t be quickly seduced into playing the usual games. And the movement’s primary objective is to demolish existing governmental and civic institutions. They’ve grown tired of waiting for government to be small enough to drown in a bathtub, so they’re setting out with battleaxes and dynamite instead.
Social movements that aren’t just setting out to secure legal protection and resources for their constituency, but are instead driven to pursue profound sociopolitical transformations are unfamiliar enough. What makes this moment even more difficult to grasp in terms of the conventional wisdom of pundits is that this isn’t a movement that speaks a language of inclusion, hope, reform, innovation or progress. It speaks instead about restoration of power to those who once held it, the tearing down of existing structures, about undoing what’s been done. This movement is at war with its social and institutional enemies: it has nothing to offer them except to inflict upon them the marginalization that the members of the movement imagine they themselves have suffered.
Maybe it's just a fancier way of expressing the great John Cole dinner date analogy, but I found it quite persuasive. And frightening. As Burke persuasively puts it:
Everybody who is still talking in those terms about deals and compromises really doesn’t get what’s happening. Even if there’s a compromise or agreement by Tuesday, it’s not going to have any long-term meaning. There is a sufficiently large political bloc inside the political system and a sufficiently coherent social movement outside of it who are unafraid of economic chaos, welcome the federal government’s inability to meet its obligations, and hope that the President is stuck with a major national crisis that he can’t fix because that’s what they want
The American system of government is not well designed to cope with this kind of fanaticism. Let's hope that both the media and the electorate wake up to what they have allowed to happen.