Friday, February 28, 2014

The Problem with Movements

The problem with an army is: what do you do with it after the end of the war?

Or, on the view that politics is civil war by other means, what do you do with a movement after it has achieved its goal?

The temptation for every political leader is to keep the troops -- or the rank-and-file in the movement -- mobilized and find a new war for them to fight.

So liberals kept the civil-rights movement going, and turned it into a permanent arm of the Democratic Party, nosing out racism everywhere and anathematizing the racists that it found.

Same with feminism.  It wasn't enough to get women the vote, to require equal pay for equal work.  It became necessary to winkle out sexism wherever it could be found and anathematize it.  And women had to be taught -- in 2012! -- that Republicans were running a "war on women," whatever that means.

Now we are getting the same thing with gay rights.  Gays, mobilized and flushed with their success are running up the score -- on mom-and-pop florists.  Here's Erick Erickson:
In one real world case, a florist had a long-time relationship with a gay couple. She had sold them flowers on multiple occasions. She knew they were gay. She gladly served them. When they asked her to provide flowers for their gay wedding, she declined because of her faith. She assumed they were friends. They sued her business for discrimination.
Yeah.  Silly fools.  They should have realized that the personal is the political, that liberal politics is all about division and us and them.  They should have remembered Lenin and his crack about the need to break eggs when you make an omelette.  Even when the egg is your long-time florist.

The trouble with politics is that it is always about dividing people and demanding that people announce for you or against you.  Most people just want to get along and complain about other people behind their back.  But not movement people.  They are doing God's work, or history's work, or justice's work.  And so a little road-kill is just the political equivalent of the Pentagon's "collateral damage."

But why have liberals been so intransigent during the last decade?  I will tell you.  They believe Judis and Teixeira in their Emerging Democratic Majority of minorities, women, young people and educated people.  They think they are in the political driver's seat with a Democratic majority for decades to come.

Let's give liberals the benefit of the doubt.  Things certainly looked good back in the mid 2000s during the rule of the evil Bush.  But now minorities are wondering what happened to Hope and Change, women are angry about not keeping their doctor, young people are wondering about jobs, and the educated have stopped worrying about their social liberalism and are thinking more about the need for economic conservatism.

In "Exorcising Latin America's Demons," Samuel Gregg urges the Venezuelas and the Argentinas to lose their populist and divisive politics, the clientismo, the cronyism, the "right leader," the extremist rhetoric that "pits groups against each other: poor against rich, mestizos against whites, rural dwellers against urban residents, employees against employers."

Like we don't have those problems here in the USA with "fairness," the "war against women," government shutdowns, climate "denialism," evil Koch Brothers, and all.

If there is a saving grace for the US that makes it different from Latin America it is that Americans are mostly middle class "people of the responsible self" whereas many folks in Latin America are closer to their pre-industrial roots and experience life more as "people of the oppressed or victimized self."

Thus an Obama can sell the American people on keeping their doctors and health plans and saving $2,500 a year and get them to believe it.  He can talk about transparency and his "faith tradition" and get a pass.  But when it turns out that people can't keep their doctors and plans, and kids can't get jobs, and the administration and the Democrats in Congress openly use the IRS as a catspaw against their political opponents, then the political winds can change.

The people of the responsible self don't like being lied to, because trust is a key factor in their lives in the capitalist economy.  The people of the responsible self don't like the Chicago-style cronyism and corruption.  They don't like their kids living in the basement.

Nobody is expecting the people of the oppressed self to change their minds on Obama, but that's not the point.  The question is whether the vast middle class in the US has "had enough."

Another thing about the folks in the broad middle class.  They really don't like "movements."

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