I was invited recently to a gathering that I could not attend, in San Francisco, where “New Politics” would be discussed, "re evaluating strategies and tactics" for what’s come to be called the new progressive movement.
Of course, this terminology is telling. Consider the way that “progressive” has been used to avoid a certain hot button “L word”... even as some historians are starting to discuss the historical origins of “liberal,” rediscovering tap root that lead to Adam Smith, of all people.
Here at this site, I have weighed in, calling for resurrection of the word “modernism,” complete with its implicit rejection of left-right dogma in favor of a can-do spirit, so very much in tune with FDR and Martin Luther King, as well as Dwight Eisenhower, embodying a spirit of scientific adventure and confident problem-solving - traits that are completely opposite to narrowminded dogmatism - and that we seem to be fast-forgetting in this benighted and fearful 21st Century.
I pick “modernism” exactly because of the low esteem that the word is given by kneejerk cynics of every extreme. But that quirky linguistic choice doesn’t mean that I’m alone in generally yearning for a restoration of courageous (and possibly militantly-moderate) pragmatism. A return to passionately eager problem-solving and a dedication to human self-improvement.
Others are calling for us all to remember The Enlightenment - an umbrella term that encompasses everything from science and democracy to free markets and individual empowerment. All key elements of The Revolution. The only revolution in history that was ever worth more than a bucket of spit.
Alas, it’s going to be a hard struggle to keep all those good things alive, what with the Iranian president calling the American president his “brother” in a worldwide campaign to replace all of those newfangled “liberal” gimmicks with older standbys, like authority, hierarchy, order, tradition and fanatical religiosity. Especially when mass media empower demagogues to co-opt words like “freedom” and turn them into little more than patriotic/tribal grunts.
But let’s focus for a moment upon what the “new politics” folks are asking for. Certainly, we should be generally sympathetic with their goals. But do any of the Enlightenment’s friends have a clue how to fight this battle, well enough to win? In a year when GOP popularity has plummeted - deservedly, because of an unprecedented run of utter incompetence, dogmatic drivel and outright thievery - shouldn’t the coming Congressional elections be set for a no-brainer sweep? A reflexive shrug by the American citizenry, throwing the bums out?
Of course not! As I point out elsewhere things are very different today, than they were in 1994, the last time the People expressed their sovereign will and changed the balance of power in Congress.
Since then, there has been a quiet putsch by the professional political caste -- an event completely at right angles to normal politics -- in which both parties have colluded in common cause, arranging for the REAL enemy - (capricious voters) - to be denied any meaningful choice in their legislative representation. Almost nowhere in America can any citizen hope for his or her House member to face real challenge, even if they are caught breaking the law. Even if their party’s image has plunged to the level of a cheap pimp in a two dollar hotel.
Few recall the basic assumption of our Constitutional founders. That the US House of Representatives was supposed to be the legislative body that would be responsive to public mood, infused with fresh blood every two years. Not a sinecure for professional pols. At one level, the Gerrymander Raid is a crime against democracy in general, independent of party affiliation. The political caste that has performed this market rigging - in collusive defiance of every anti-trust law - absolutely counts on voters - whether Republicans or Democrats - being too busy screaming at each other to ever notice.
Imagine if Pepsi and Coke had arranged to divide up the cola market into tidy little local geographic monopolies, where each could charge whatever they liked for colored sugar water... while claiming that their nearly 50:50 overall split means “healthy competition”! Hell, they could even do this while hating each others’ guts, the same way that democrats and republicans now do. The same way that English and French feudal lords despised each other... and yet acted in mutual support against the common foe. Uppity commoners.
What we are witnessing in U.S. politics today amounts to exactly the same thing. A collusive imperative that has always been attempted by elites for their own class benefit, though hampered by tools of Enlightenment citizenship. (Want to ponder something both pathetic and enraging? Most of the men and women who have done this to us are sincere! The reflex is overwhelming, inherited in the same genes that make us nature’s ultimate rationalizers.)
That’s at the deeper level; the layer running far deeper than simple partisanship. Hence, alas, I have no hope of being heard. So far, only a few venues, like Playboy Magazine, have taken the issue on, directly. As for the Supreme Court - consisting of nine palladin-tribunes who were supposed to defend us against this kind of Constitution-eviscerating travesty - they have shown their true colors. Dominated by petty partisans who murmur polysyllabic rationalizations in order to sleep while utterly betraying their oaths, their honor and their sacred duty to the one Great Experiment to have a chance since Pericles.
All right, let us rise out of that depressing level, lest I be tempted to slit my wrists.
At another level, all of this gerrymandering is partisan, after all.
Because the GOP has been so much better at it, gerrymandering is devastating to any chance that the Democrats may have, of leading the same kind of “revolution” that Newt Gingrich did, in 1994. A cleverly-managed turnover of power that Democrats would be wise to study, with some sincere respect, instead of reflex revulsion.
Because of gerrymandering-induced radicalism, democrats appear to be inherently incapable of recognizing what they must do, in order to win in gerrymandered districts. Enough GOP-assigned districts to make the change decisive as it needs to be.
They must recognize that a district that’s been tweaked to overwhelmingly represent conservative voters ought to have a conservative representative! I mean, isn't that atleast fair? Trying to hector those voters to become Santa Monica liberals will not work!
But helping them to pick BETTER conservative representatives... possible only-mildly conservative Democratic ones, who are decent and moderate and can be negotiated-with... could turn this thing into a rout. You don't have to ask a conservative district to abandon everything they believe overnight. Just give them a chance to eject neocon monsters and replace them with DECENT PEOPLE! Even if those are conservative decent people. They may just surprise us all.
But there’s no chance of that - or any other sensible suggestion - happening soon. Most Democrats have accepted the beckoning lure of Karl Rove’s “culture war.” Even knowing that it is his chosen battlefield and that they are doing his bidding will not entice them to change tactics. They will go tilting at windmills, abandoning the tools and weapons that lie scattered about, ready to be used, and sharp enough to slay real dragons. The ones who are burning a great nation, searing away its hope and turning it into something little, petty, whiney and sad.
(Ah, but what about a side bet? Let's suppose that the POPULAR VOTE comes out overwhelmingly in the democrats' favor... but the House of Representatives remains -- because of gerrymandering -- in GOP control. Certainly this will provoke sighs of deep relief among those who would otherwise face a flood of revealing subpoenas, if a branch of our government were somehow to suddenly resume functioning again. But might their sense of victory be short-lived?
(No other result could more devastatingly point out for all to see just what gerrymandering has done. Nothing could better show how far - in their betrayal - the political caste has gone. Possibly provoking us all, as citizens to finally act. To take our government back.)
Addendum. Shall I revise the look/feel of this blog? Frankly, I like looking different. Still, how much better to run it off an address at http://www.davidbrin.com If that were easy to do. I’d need something turn key.....