17 December 2010

Against Logo Politics

There has been a lot of hoop-la recently about the emergence of this "movement." You can find news reports here and here and here. Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I have a pretty dim view of the enterprise. Beyond the exclusively top-down, logo-centric character of the putative "movement," there are two distinct substantive issues that seem objectionable about the group: (1) their presumption that the basic problem in American politics comes down to lack of civility (what they call "the tone of politics") and (2) their presumption that something called bi-partisanship is a smart way to approach democratic politics. I think the No Label folks are dead wrong on both issues.

As a good place to start I suggest this commentary by E.J. Dionne. That said, I am much less patient with the No Label types than he seems to be. Our problem, documented not by partisan accusation but by actual research (since we all want, in Dionne's terms, to be fact based), is a rapid, relentless move rightward among Republicans. That shift is grounded in and subsequently helps sustain dramatic increases in political-economic inequality. Incivility and the hectoring tone of politics is a symptom of that underlying reality. So simply making nice is not going to get us anyplace useful. What it will get us is Obama-esque capitulation to reactionary demands. In other words, the location the No Label crowd hope to occupy - what they call " the vital civil center" - is not the center; it consists in a set of right-leaning or flat out conservative positions that look "moderate" only in comparison to the reactionary views of conservative Republicans. If we neglect that, our politics will generate disastrous consequences. And talking nicely to one another as we head over the precipice does nothing to change that.

Politics is about competition and disagreement. One need not be a cynic to suspect that "consensus" is typically a way of papering over the way one or another group is getting the shaft. I have inveighed against bi-partisanship repeatedly here and won't do so again. It generates bad policy and undermines democracy more generally. The No Label folks simply don't get that. They think we need a new logo. I think we need democratic politics.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I am quite pleased to have found it. Congratulations for your work.

When I saw the image on this post, one think came immediately to my mind: this is Peter Sloterjick's prediction fulfilled.

In his 1989 book «Eurotaoismus. Zur Kritik der politischen Kinetik» (Eurotaoism - for a critique of politic kinetics - that is still not translated in English) he speaks that political though is trying to get away from the old forms of ideology: right and left. But it did not created new ones: all that seems to matter is just to go forward.

This made him conclude that in the contemporary world «movement» has taken the place of «thought». More important than to think it would be to keep on going further, and preferentially, faster.

19 January, 2011 08:09  

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