Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It Is Much Too Soon To Give Up

I'm grading papers today, and so I'll upgrade this edited and expanded exchange from the Moot for today's posting.
Jay here. I sincerely doubt that, at this point, there is any value in pointing out the government's outrages. The public is well aware that the government is corrupt. That's why Trump won. I'd have much preferred Bernie. One of the hardest problems in politics is maintaining legitimacy, by which I mean the perception that the government is more or less just even though it inevitably offends every person's personal ethics in many regards. When legitimacy is finally exhausted, we get eras like France in the 1790s and the USSR in the 1990s. I understand your concern that the government may become (more, unacceptably) unjust, but at this moment in history I'm more worried that it will prove too weak to enforce any concept of justice at all. 
Not yet inaugurated and already giving up? I hope not!

Never forget that millions more voted for Clinton than Trump (and even more millions voted for Clinton over her vapid and mediocre primary opponent). This should give pause to those who would offer up simple declaratives to the effect that "Trump won." Republicans certainly never conceded Obama won, despite electoral and popular vote victories dwarfing the palpably unqualified incompetent deceptive corrupt bigoted Trump's unexpected prevalence.

You "sincerely doubt that... there is any value in pointing out the government's outrages." Let me make one thing very clear: There is every reason to expose and decry crimes, corruptions, and abuses of Republican government. This is not only because it is true and it is always right to tell truths, but because it provides an occasion to draw a contrast between the two parties which is the only way we can move forward. Note well that I did not say "crimes, corruptions, and abuses of the government," as you said in your comment (and no wonder, the normalization of an association of corruption with "government-in-general" is one of the key discursive accomplishments of postwar Republicanism), what I specificied was: "Republican government." Republicans obstruct and dismantle and mis-administer government and then rail against government. To decry "the government" risks collaboration in Republican anti-governmentality to the ruin of all. Pointing this out is certainly as valuable now as it ever has been.

You say: "The public is well aware that the government is corrupt. That's why Trump won." Listen to what you are saying! Trump "won" because a Republican cabal in the FBI threatened and then managed illegally to interfere with an election based on their belief in Clinton corruptions described in a discredited mis-informational right-wing hate-tome and because the mainstream media ignored endless obvious Trump conflicts of interest and disqualifying association to focus instead on a Clinton e-mail story that never amounted to anything of substance. Trump "won" because Republican run states disenfranchised enough voters in general that comparatively affluent older white voters fearful and resentful of diversity in their homogeneous rural/exurban bubbles could make more of a difference than recent history prepared the campaign professionals to respond to -- which is indeed their fault, sure, but far from some earth-shattering revelation justifying rejection of the twice-winning still-growing Obama coalition.

In saying all this I am not denying Clinton had historically high negatives going in that Party muckety-mucks should have worried about more (a Biden/Warren ticket looks in retrospect like a winner to me) and that the campaign should have invested more resources in her firewall states and should have focused on energizing base voters rather than peeling off moderates given the base demoralization of the primary (woulda shoulda coulda blah blah blah), but corruption and outrages are the topic at hand and false equivalence on this score is absolutely intolerable.

The people who voted for Trump may say they hoped he would end their pain or drain the swamp -- but Trump IS the swamp, and he has devoted his life to causing others pain for his personal gain while Clinton outlined thousands of pages of proposals to actually help those people and got smeared as corrupt and untrustworthy. Does that sound like being "well aware" to you, truly? There is indeed a value in pointing out deceptions and outrages in the face of such ignorance and mis-information and fear -- because they are true! And there is value in demanding people take fucking sides, because the sides are real even if none of the parties are ideal.

The United States of America is still a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing society in an unfathomably rich continent in the context of a tradition of immigration, a rights culture, a host of professions, and checks and balances that walked wounded out of the Bush administration and its illegal wars and financial catastrophe. Of course, America hasn't yet recovered from Reagan, let alone W. Bush. Trump is going to cause untold mayhem and death. Our norms are in tatters, our institutions are shuddering on the brink, greedy incumbents eager to make a buck are ready to tear down regulations that stand in the way of another economic meltdown, riots in the streets, feudalism ascendent. And greenhouse storms and resource descent forever threaten to end history and the rule of law. The dangers are real but the resources at the disposal of progress are also real. Tell the truth, defend facts, celebrate diversity, decry wrong, assign blame to the reactionaries, accept responsibility to act when you can, do your part to move the world forward.

Democrats should work to make the Republican President a one-term catastrophe, make the Republicans pay for what they have become that they could let him win their primary, resist every day in every way, register millions and millions more voters than they can overcome with their games, tear power from their hands in the mid-terms, wrest control of re-districting and then in power give DC and PR statehood, make voter registration automatic and voting effortless, allow our elections to reflect our real country and our politics to reflect our real shared problems.

You know, if a person of color living under racist profiling and militarized policing and systematic injustice (housing, job, education discrimination among endlessly many other things) were to give up on America or on the very idea of a democratic state that would make a certain sense to me. But it is people of color, and especially women of color, who (in general) fight the hardest to make America work and vote more reliably Democratically than any other constituency and protest most patriotically in the streets. Listen and learn the lessons of their resolve, their principle, their pragmatism. Make them your own.

Obviously I'm as worried as you are right about now, hell, I'm sick with worry, but there are resources for hope if people of courage and conviction take them up and stop with the whiny white guy routine and purity cabaret nonsense and Beautiful Loser chicken little demoralization arias. I'm a white guy myself and I know nothing about you so I trust you will not take that comment personally, but recognize the glaring realities it references in this ruinous moment. If one spots a deception, crime, corruption on the part of a politician one must say so -- or collaborate in it. No more false equivalence, no more refusing to choose sides because the sides are not ideal, no more "I'm not surprised," no more "nothing will change," no more "they always get away with it." If one thinks -- as I do -- that good government is possible and desirable, that public goods require public investments, that freedom depends on the maintenance of a scene of consent secured by social supports and equitable laws -- then say so, make the case, pose the alternative, fill the vacuum, resist the cynics, build the world, fight back!


Anonymous said...

There is no popular vote for President. The Constitution specifies the rules of the election and Trump won according to the rules for picking the winner. If the Constitution specified that the President was elected by popular vote, then both candidates would have campaigned differently, and who knows what the popular vote outcome would have been. It is not at all clear that Trump wouldn't have won that contest as well. The number of votes each candidate received in this election is not useful information in this light. All we can say for sure is that there is no victory in getting more aggregate votes and losing the electoral college. That this is what HRC accomplished is evidence that her campaign was executed poorly. Getting more votes and losing the election is simply a campaign failure and it should be called such, often and loudly, so the people who run such campaigns get the message. That is, unless you want to keep losing elections.

Dale Carrico said...

It is hard to believe that you honestly think I don't know about the electoral college so it isn't exactly clear to me why you belabor this point, "Anonymous." My point in emphasizing the popular vote, disenfranchisement, media failure, law enforcement misconduct and the like is to deny Trumpism the mandate he will falsely claim to dismantle the Obama legacy supported by electoral and popular majorities greater by far than Trump has momentarily prevailed with. I should have thought this was quite obvious.

I would deny Trumpism this mandate not because I naively think saying these things will change Republican conduct, when nothing does but their absolute defeat, but because such delegitimization sets the stage for necessary resistance to Trump crimes and outrages to come while at once reminding Democrats that not only facts and decency but also actually mobilizable winning coalitions are on the side of their vision.

I think you seem very quick to declare Democrats losers when they have won the Presidency twice and took back the Congress from comparable defeat in 2006 and controlled all branches of government in 2008 with which power they did enormous amounts of good. In retrospect it is obvious that the Clinton campaign overestimated its firewall in certain Republican controlled states in which disenfranchisement of Democratic base voters coupled with demoralizing mis-information enabled white fear and grievance unexpectedly to flip a few states by the skin of their teeth.

Dale Carrico said...

If this state of affairs needs to be stated "often and loudly" as you suggest, I do hope the lies and disenfranchisement and misconduct are part of what you think it is useful to repeat, not just the part where you say the losing loser lost over and over again. I must say I am eager to hear your suggestions about how Democrats should start winning (more) elections as I agree they need to do. When you say the Democratic Party needs to "get the message" just what exactly do you mean by that?

In the original post in this exchange my interlocutor "Jay" proposed it was useless to point out Trump outrages because it feeds a narrative of government corruption that activates Trump voters. I don't know if you agree with that point, "Anonymous." I doubly disagree with this point: First, because I think it is crucial not to participate in the Republican ant-government narrative but to draw a distinction between the ruinous corrupt incompetent governance of Republicans who hate government from the efforts of Democrats who believe in accountable regulation, social support, equitable law, public investment, and good government for the good of all. Second, I refuse to pretend that people who actually care about corruption would support the unprecedentedly corrupt Donald Trump, and to the extent that "corruption" is functioning instead as a placeholder for other attitudes, such as that "Big Government" supports citizens insulated white people distrust, then I think that ugly evil truth needs to be confronted on its actual terms and defeated.

My own recommendations (already publicly and even repeatedly stated) are that the Democratic Party must no longer field or foreground superannuated, stiff, wonky candidates, leaders, and public surrogates. We need younger voices from the range of our coalition's diversity to be encouraged and centered and given authority. We need to resume a fifty-state strategy to educate and organize for the future. We need fighting Democrats who know we need to defend the vulnerable and recognize the vulnerability of us all, champion the strength and joy of our diversity, support the public investments out of which real freedom is made, and build a sustainable society before we destroy our world. We also need to insist that to have a place in the party one must be a member of it, to have a voice in the party one must participate in its ongoing conversation and maintain relationships within it, and to make change one must organize not only agitate. We need to resume the public stance of the Party that serves and supports the majority of people who have to work for a living, while at once grasping that the precarity we fight is stratified by racisms, sexisms, heterosexisms, cissexisms, ablisms, ageisms in ways that prior class analysis did not adequately address and to which no relevant progressive movement can return.

I welcome your specific observations and suggestions.