[OPE-L] US election result

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Nov 13 2006 - 16:54:29 EST

As far as I know though the mainstream DP is liberal, and not
neo-conservative. George Lakoff sketches the distinction in an interesting
way in his book on "Moral Politics". In aggregate, the number of liberals
grew in the USA during the 1990s on my reading, although gerrymandering
electorates may disguise that.

The general drift of DP policy appears to be a pragmatic, populist realism.
If you have to reconcile the irreconcilable, i.e if there are serious
societal contradictions and conflicting interests, the result is usually
populist themes, an appeal to attitudes over interests (since effectively
you are asking people to do some things which are not in their own
interest). It's just that the populist themes of the Bush administration are
wearing a bit thin, and the Mid-East policy has been a disaster, not just
for the world, but for the US government itself - everywhere its opponents
have been strengthened, rather than weakened. That's unsustainable,
politically. The terrorist bogey might stir a few anxious souls, but that is
not really where the world's big problems are, certainly not the problems of

One of the most progressive things I think the DP could achieve in foreign
policy, would be a radical revamp of the policy in relation to
Israel/Palestine. What's been happening there is totally abominable from any
human point of view.  John Bolton must go, that's all I can say from here in
Europe. A McCain/Clinton play-off for the presidency? That would be
interesting. But I am not so sure yet whether that will really happen.

I suspect a lot of what the DP does is not so much cowardly, but calculated,
i.e. designed not to alienate its social base. They're feeling their way
through the new political landscape. It's much more a politics of alliances,
as it is difficult to take a principled stand on anything, and keep
everybody on board as it were, and there isn't a sufficiently broad
consensus. Not much point in having the "courage to be unpopular" in
politics, if you think you have no prospect of becoming popular lateron. I
think, in reality, a lot of the Democrats initially supported the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, because they believed that the US could win them,
somehow, maybe with a different leadership. Now it becomes clearer that you
can't win that sort of war, that it's unwinnable, because you're asking the
masses to act contrary to what they really believe in, and what their real
interests are. You don't need to be a Marxist to understand that this isn't
really going to work. Military solutions are not a substitute for political
solutions that get people on board.

I don't have any particularly profound analysis of the leadership crisis in
the US polity, but I think there is one. On the supply side, it is difficult
to find people who have both the broad popular appeal, and also can really
do what the function requires, what needs to be done. On the demand side,
there's just a lot of cynicism about politics and what it can achieve for
people in a positive sense. There is also something of an intergenerational
change occurring - the policy framework that shaped senior politicians in
the 1970s and 1980s no longer exists, and it does not make much sense of the
world anymore. The old solutions don't work anymore. By the time you appoint
a senior spy as secretary of defence, what are you really saying?

When I think of the US polity, I often think of a large chamber with a lot
of policy cupboards in it. You have plan A, plan B, plan C and so on, all
stacked away. Depending on what the political situation is, you pull out one
of those cupboards. A critical event might happen, it might enable you to
focus a particular issue in a certain way, and you might suddenly be able to
push through a policy that was contrived years ago. It seems to be a novelty
at the time it's raised, but really it wasn't, it was there all along,
except that people didn't notice it. So then if you cannot advance here, you
might advance there, different facets are accentuated depending on the
political moods of the day. But you can always open up another cupboard,
there's all these things waiting for an opportunity to happen.

What a political scientist (in contrast to a conspiratorialist) then does,
is that he tries to get behind the ongoing political talk and analyse what
the overall motivating forces are behind the plans, sort of like one or two
steps removed from the daily political talk, or, if you like, studying the
structure of the chest that holds the cupboards in place. But like I say, I
am not an expert on US politics, at best if you are doing well as an
outsider you may occasionally see some things better than the people who are
inside the situation. It's a bit analogous to what a famous Marxist said
once - "often the best way to understand something is to start off by not
understanding anything about it' - a "naive" view, uncluttered by all sorts
of related issues and implications, can sometimes get to the heart of the
matter faster and better (another variety of this idea is that "the truth
comes out of the mouth of babes").


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