December 23, 2009

Politics for Losers



At what point, I wonder, does political demoralization and outrage lead to a more engaged and informed activism? Despite the ire these days from netroot progressives I still wonder whether such proverbial line exists at all. Will the anger and frustration simply dissipate amidst eventual calls for party unity? Will we – despite all our raucous griping at the moment – come around to our electoral senses, and accept the measly, and ultimately failed, “reforms” afforded by the feckless, craven, and compromised?   

I have an uncomfortable feeling that the bourgeois freedom escape from political engagement which remains so much at the heart of everyday American life as a whole, as well as in the genealogy of its ideological underpinnings in classical liberal political theory, will only lead – at least for grumbling liberals – to more political disappointment. As a general truism, insofar the longing for “happiness” is looked for in realms other than politics, and in the realm of the “private” sphere of consuming goodies and treats, people will remain hopelessly estranged from – and at times be even hostile to – efforts to politicize everyday worldly experience. And given the shape of political and economic institutions these days the long-term consequences of this escape from political life will continue to be fatal.           

Right now, from the perspective of liberals and progressives, it seems that the sole motor of political change happens to be the one embodied in the dynamics of a dysfunctional machine which somehow still manages to set the terms and agenda for Change and Reform. What the vast majority of people in the country actually experience as failure, obstruction, and even crisis, still cannot seem to disrupt – much less mend – the perpetual sputtering of this broken machine. Of course, some still manage to reap enormous profit from the “system,” and have a vested interest in keeping it kaput. Further, their ability to appropriate the politics of Change and Reform translates into their effective control over the definition of acceptable risks, costs, consequences, injuries, and damages…the systematization of loss.      

Thus consider a politics for losers....

So much of today is indeed defined by loss – loss of life, loss of money, savings, and livelihood, loss of employment, loss of place, and loss of hope. While finding meaning in these personal and political losses has become almost a way of life perhaps we can become more politicized from our losses rather than continually digress in excuses to comfort our grief, disappointment, and ressentiment. Actually, the experience of loss is not simply a negation or vacuous state of anomie but a veiled surface or crudely healed scar incurred from some removal, or trauma, that will forever remain – like it or not. Like Achilles’ shield taken into battle which has etched into it the social world he cannot take part in but which he continually fights for – loss can be something we take into battle and move us to action provided we accept our losses as losses instead of covering them over with convoluted and dishonest rationalizations which only comfort out weakness.

In short, it is only by facing up to the political realities of issue-after-issue betrayal by Obama and the Democrats, i.e., our losses, that we can begin thinking about how best to gain our bearings, and go about flexing our political muscle. Of course, all this also implies rediscovering a political breaking point as well getting back our courage – our passion to live even. It means celebrating our power and creativity as engaged beings rather than as those who compromise with the feckless and craven. What this ultimately comes down to is whether we will continue to cling to broken institutions which continue to shut us out and tell us to compromise while technocrats wonk away to push an inch or two OR whether we start mobilizing en masse for ourselves. Populism! It’s the only way real pressure for real change is possible!

Otherwise, fuck the Dems! If they lose in the 2010 midterm elections they will have only themselves to blame! As a party, they have it quite clear change-we-can-believe-in will NOT happen without ordinary people forcing more of a fight. Yet regardless of what happens in the midterms progressives will still have plenty of crises and opportunities to rally around! And, besides, even if Democrats do not lose seats in 2010 will anything Change anyway??

You see, what we need at this point is a new Realism which does not so much temper our activism but instead spurs it! We must let go of our infantile wishes for the well-intentioned soul of Barack Obama. He will not save us, he will not deliver. Believing he will or even intends to without being forced to deliver only encourages passivity. As I stated less than a week ago, what moderates simply do not grasp is the depth and nature of the problems facing the world. Indeed we are at those rare moments in history when the radical has become pragmatic, and when compromise, concessions, and the whole bi-partisan structure courts disaster. The question is not what can be done but what must be done.

2010 is a good time as any to start.

1 comment:

ideologue reggie said...

i think democrats from the House may be peeling away, one from upstate NY said so this morning. Hamsher is even having to team up with the Grover the devil to call for rahm emanuel's dismissal.

i think the damage done by obama to the "progressive" cause, in the electoral arena and even outside of it, will be irreparable.