Rag On Change – S. Russell

Roger Baker asks on the Ragblog whether it’s possible to take class struggle out of politics. Others want to know what this crap is Obama’s talking about reaching across the aisle?

A more pertinent question in the US is whether it’s possible to put class struggle into politics? I think the answer is going to be not when you pay four hundred bucks to get your hair cut. Edwards’ barber aside, the US crossed that bridge in the Great Depression and opted for a mixed economy like all the rest of the democratic world has.

We have less socialism than Europe and more capitalism than China and while redistribution of wealth will always be an issue (because everything governments do redistributes wealth) this hardly qualifies as class struggle in the sense Marx fantasized.

We have some pretty serious disagreements but have in the past seemed to air them in an agreeable manner before the Bush II imperial presidency. There is such irony in the polarization we are experiencing far beyond the Reagan revolution, which certainly redistributed wealth but still mostly functioned within what Karl Rove disdainfully called “reality-based politics.” His disdain was based on his conviction that power creates its own reality.

We must presume that if Rove had been in charge during the Reagan administration, catsup would now be a vegetable in the eyes of the school lunch program because the evidence we used to beat back that nonsense would have been inadmissible.

Rove could not be entirely incorrect when the administration has been able to discover several grown men with college degrees who profess to be unable to tell whether waterboarding is torture.

What Bush II has given us that could never have happened even under Bush I is a government where facts don’t matter. Where employees of the National Park Service tell tourists that the Grand Canyon is evidence of Noah’s flood and where there is no moral distinction between a glob of human cells and a human being.

We can negotiate differences only when we agree on the nature of reality and we feel a shared obligation to explain our values to each other. The conventional wisdom was that Bush II, having lost the popular vote, would have to govern from the center rather than the extreme right. Rove created his own reality with Tom “the Hammer” Delay punishing anyone out of line in the House and the lobbyists on K Street understanding out front that pay to play would be the name of the game.

Those few Americans with a memory for politics will point out that Rovian reality bending started before Bush II with the famous blowjob impeachment that made us the laughingstock of the civilized world.

Can anyone govern from the middle after Bush II? Can fundamental change happen through negotiation?

Actually, Bush II has given hyperpartisanship the bad name it so richly deserves. As for negotiated change, can it happen any other way?

Black people vote in South Africa. All of Eastern Europe is independent, even the Baltics. Democracy has broken out in Chile and much of the rest of Latin America. Over half of the successful IPOs on US markets in the last year were for Chinese businesses. (Why is this good? Because stock markets are the only way “the people” can raise capital by direct democracy, without having to ask the government for it.) Non-CP members are allowed to stand for elections on the local level in China. India after Gandhi and the disaster of partition has managed to remain the world’s largest democracy.

None of this stuff is important enough for you? Then you are to politics as L. Ron Hubbard is to religion.

We are about to re-enter a time where evidence matters and persuading others to our positions is more important than being able to bludgeon anybody who dissents. When electoral cynicism is the subject, I remember Vine Deloria, Jr.’s bon mot that Indians tend to elect crooks and white people tend to elect morons. Not this election. Coming off eight years of reality defined by power, there is little room to be more crooked or more moronic than the status quo. When a candidate calls for “change,” most voters of all ethnicities understand we are so far down that any change is up.

Steve Russell

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