Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Learning From This Election...

There is much to be learned from this election (no matter our perspective):

1) Democracy relies on active engagement and participation

2) Voting is not enough--its just the bare minimum of democratic participation

3) For liberals/progressives this shouldn't be a time of mourning and for conservatives this shouldn't be atime of celebration--we have to step up and say to our country, our localities, our neighbors, our fellow citizens... what can we do to make this a better place, a better nation a better world. Our nation is facing a serious democractic crisis--and it won't be solved by quit acceptance or celebratory high-fives--no matter our perspectives/worldviews we should be concerned about our democractic process and the deep divisions within this country.

4) Think movement--elections are not the end of our political involvement. A groundswell of people voicing their concerns and active democratic engagement with the system is what will make systematic changes.

Time to revisist the civil rights movement, the workers movements, the suffragettes, stonewall, 1968, even the conservative revolution (as a progressive I think we have a lot to learn from them--not to imitate, but at least to understand their appeal and methods), etc... elections never truly brought about these changes, people raising their voices, not afraid to speak their minds and organizing to address social injustices... this is what wins hearts and brings about true change!

This appeal to fear and panic will only last so long--what will fill the vacuum that will appear?

4) Can we ever again doubt that our electoral system is not seriously flawed? Ask yourself why neither the republicans or the democrats want to change our voting system (and the multi-million dollar campaigns)? Once again think "systematic" change!

5) Count every vote! Why would this be unamerican or unreasonable? Count every vote! Isn't this what we would demand of Afghanistan or Iraq in their elections? Count every vote! Even if it takes two weeks. Count every vote. We can spend the time discussing the problems with the system. Count every vote!

6) What do you think? We must hear from everyone!


Anonymous said...

Great focal points. The question you pose in #4 is, as always, the telling question and unpredictable as ever.

I'm still lost in trying to logically interpret the results. The numbers say something about this country and how the undercurrent that was considered far right even to conservatives just a decade ago is now approaching the center (in the thoughts of over half of the people that think it is important to vote in this country.)

Particularly, this time around, I can't stop shaking my head in disbelief that so many Americans voted to support the incumbent after what has happened in the last few years. I feel there is something intrinsicly wrong in the way I've been thinking about this whole thing. Am I missing something in the analysis? Is it really as simple as it's being reported in the press?

I'm the first to say we need to apply your #3 immediately, but as I say this, the results of this election (including the Senate races) have me reconsidering what so many people have been telling me all along: Democrats will continue to divide themselves on every major issue and Republicans will continue to rally around these - and that this is due to the inherent nature of the two parties in these times and will continue to shape the course of our country and it's role in the world.

I feel the fool to have believed that sanity would override the basic thinking of at least a percentate of the part of voting America that absolutely loves the incumbent, but the numbers show absolutely no signs of this.

Apparently, while I wasn't looking, "sanity" has been redefined by MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people - incredible. I'll get over it eventually (probably sometime in 2008.)

Thanks for the great post.

Cal and his human who is under threat of chronic neck pain as he refuses to stop shaking his head.

Unknown said...

Somehow the post was listed as anon. by tech. mistake. I am, as always, Cal the Wonderdog.

P.S. Say "cheers" to Yoshi for me

Matt said...

Good post.

The conservatives didn't grab power overnight. It was a process that took close to 30 years and involved a lot of work and organization.

I've been in a seething rage most of the day, but I know the time for action begins now.

A couple ideas. We need to learn to engage people who vote Republican. A lot of their concerns are the same as those of progressives, but for some reason, they've been sold on the Republican plan.

I think one of the problems is that progressives talk a lot with other progressives, but not nearly enough with the people on the other side.

Secondly, we need to find a way to deal with the corporate media that is so instrumental in shaping public opinion. I don't know how to do this, but I know it must be done.

Michael Hawkins said...

Great post, Thivai. A nice breath of rationality amidst some very base, destructive emotions roiling up inside of me.

All sorts of things are zinging around in my noodle: that I had suspended a belief that elections in this country are rigged, and feel wholly validated in this belief after this fiasco; that Kerry conceded before all the votes are counted, and especially before all his "legal operatives" could determine the true breadth of disenfranchisement across the country; and that, when all is said and done, I am determined to stayed centered within myself as time goes on, to continue an inner engagement that will better prepare me for whatever is to come, whether as an activist, an artist or just another bubba scrambling to get by.

We need to remember that total power corrupts totally. These hooligans are consolidating themselves atop the power pyramid in this country. When they begin to implode within their own putrid matrix of corruption, it will be a much cleaner demise than if "we" were directly involved. I agree with Thivai that democracy means much, much more than voting. It means that we continue to organize, to support one another, to envision a better world, and to find happiness in our individual circles of kindred friends, families and loved ones. We'll come out looking a lot better than the wingers will.

lokigr said...

I think one other thing that the Democratic Party needs to do is reconcile its moral views with the majority of the country. So many people in the middle to lower middle classes voted directly against their own economic well being due to what they called moral issues. 11 of 11 states passed amendments banning gay marriages. The entire southern half of the country voted for Bush, and numerous seats in the legislature also switched to the GOP. I'm not just cataloguing losses, but trying to show exactly why the Democratic Party cannot take an aggressive stance on progressing social equality.
It is a very sad but true fact that as long as the GOP can continue to claim a large part of the nation due to their ‘moral’ supremacy, they will be able to continue advancing the interests of big business, continue alienating our European allies, continue warmongering, excuse me ‘nation building’, vastly weakening environmental protections, create a culture of intolerance and ignorance, and basically make this world a poorer place.
I wish that the Democratic Party, or an entirely new party, could create a platform that wasn’t utterly devoted to plutocracy and big business, as I very clearly see the new GOP, but that also can pull in more of the conservative vote. This wouldn’t be a step back for equality, freedom, multiculturalism, and progressivism, because an extremely liberal but ineffectual party, like the democrats, has no power to cause social change. I hate the fact that all of these states are so bigoted that they felt the need to ban gay marriage, and so insulated that they always feel moral authority to have the US do whatever it sees fit internationally, but the Democratic Party is immolating itself on the pyres of these issues.
Obama stated another very important issue for the Democratic Party this morning in an interview with CNN. When asked why he was able to get the rural vote, unlike most democrats, he explained that American’s are not an ideological people. Practical, believable answers are needed. I would say simple answers, and a complete lack of elevated rhetoric is needed. The American people would rather smoke them out of their holes, than discuss why we have moral authority and the cultural ramifications of trying to force a democracy on other peoples through occupation. The Democratic Party indeed seems to be able to run but not win, I mean hide. The GOP has made a fine art of somehow appealing to both big business and the common, less educated man. If the Democrats want any real political power and the ability to move this country forward and away from fascism, they need to reevaluate their strategies and platforms in a way to win back the south, the rural, the scared, and the less educated, even if it means backing away from certain important social issues.

oso said...

Matt's absolutely right. We need to start engaging Republicans and stop preaching to our own choir.

"There's too many stupid people in this country" isn't going to change anything. Liberals need a more intellegent plan. It's time for outreach. It's time for social revolution.

The Continental Op said...

Outreach, yes. But not by giving in on "social" issues for the sake of appealing to the current majority. Rather, by engaging in a serious and sustained counter-hegemonic project aimed at creating a new majority. A daunting task? Absolutely. But that is exactly how the right wing achieved the power they now enjoy and abuse.

Richard Rorty is wrong: for progressives to accomplish anything substantial and sustainable, we need movements, not just campaigns.

lokigr said...

I'm sorry, the election results have made me rather down right now, and perhaps a little over eager to concede important and hard fought social rights. The need to create a "sustained counter-hegemonic project aimed at creating a new majority" should indeed be our primary task. However, look at how long the republicans were out of power while they were engaged in that process. I very honestly fear what will happen if the current adminstration and its adherents remain in power. As Thivai stated the climate of fear can only last so long. Liberals need to have a focused agenda that can engage more than the northeast by then.
lso I'm curious, what would you say would be some of the more effective way to start this movement to engage more of the country and win back the minds of America? This is just an honest question for people I believe have considerably more political knowledge than me.

Deleted said...

I think anyone who hopes to get change would be wise to consider the anti-progressive illiberal agenda of the elite Democrats. They are no longer interested in the programs of social welfare populists and have had less and less use for them ever since it became the "truth" that liberals made us lose the Vietnam war. They, like their Republican colleagues, are interested in a "pro-business" platform. Instutional inertia makes them next to useless for anyone interested in a modern welfare state.

That is why I am convinced they won't respond until, as an organized political party, they face loss of office and loss of any hope for post-electoral sinecures. Even the most liberal of them, Dennis Kucinich, is a team player. As long as Democrats can get away with voting for Patriot Acts and further empowering the already massively powerful executive branch, they are going to keep running to the right. It ensures those sinecures and gives them corporate patronage power.

By playing a game the Republicans play better, the K Street and corporate patronage game, they have lost a huge chunk of their base. Even the least savvy observer can detect the stink of hypocrisy coming from them. The unions hitched their wagons to losers, even after NAFTA passed, and the union leaders are now nearly as irresponsible and shortsighted as corporate CEOs. The natural candidates for the unions were Kucinich and the much maligned Nader.

I hope that progressives and liberals will consider much more radical politics. Liberalism at the elite level has never had any use for left wing people anyway, people interested in fundamental reform, and has only grudgingly yielded to massive civil pressure like the civil rights movement. Any politician who faces loss of office and loss of subsequent economic status is going to become resposnive.

The lack of uproar amongst the elite Democrats over election violations convinces me they fully back the Republican agenda and intend to crush anti-authoritarians and anti-capitalists, the common foe of both. The smirking Republicans intend to crush the Democrats when they're done with civil libertarians and advocates of modern social welfare state. The Democratic elite are too smug and too prosperous to notice the chimp has become a gorilla. I say they're a write off.

The Greens and Socialists are much more likely to support radical reform as it is genuinely part of their platform. Both of them would welcome an influx of actively engaged citizens.

Michael said...

Thanks everyone for your responses.

One extra thought is developing for me... the essential problem as I see it is the corporate media and continuing consolidation. It isn't that our message is too complicated or intellectual or harsh--its that no one hears what we have to say. Oh, yeah, we do get our voice out there, but it drowns in the onslaught of conservative/neo-liberal soundbites.

I teach introductory first year university writing courses. My classes are very political and from the first day I let it all hang out. I tell my students that we should all recognize our biases (in order to be better writers and understand our positions--also so that we can recognize the bias of other authors). I outline my own perspective and background--clearly, honestly, and encourage them to do the same. I reassure them that being a radical doesn't mean that I am dangerous and even etymologically describe the orgins of the words. I tell them that my opposition doesn't mean that I want to destroy my country, instead it is rooted in my love for this absurd place and a desire for it to live up to its democratic beliefs.

We talk and they talk--I listen and encourage them to listen to other views--I respect and engage with their opinions--even those that make my toes curl--encouraging the participants to learn how to critique ideas on their framework--keeping my own critiques along those lines (which is a powerful critique).

What I'm saying? These students come in stating that their parents warned them about crazy radical professors like me... Their earlier education never prepared them for the ideas I present them with--methods of questioning truth, history, authority/expert-opinions, and memory/representation... Their media backgrounds never encouraged true media literacy...

In the course I don't sugar-coat what i have to say. I don't change the language of what I say to disguise my purpose (although I consider how I frame it and seek parallels to their daily lives). I call bullshit when I see it and encourage them to do the same when they see it. These are very conservative students in the middle of the bible belt at a big-state university.

They are often initially resistant to the message, but they learn it. Some of the biggest smiles I've had were when I ran into students a year or two later and they complain about my politics and then look me in the eye and say "I've never been able to watch the news in the same way again" or "every time I hear that I say 'But what about...'" Now I don't achieve miracles, I know that my students are on the fast track--but we aren't seeking miracles, we just need to inform people about some truths as we see it and get them to give us a fair opportunity to be heard. To get them to start thinking "but what about..."

The problem is how do we reach people to get them to hear our message.