politics is to want something

fredag, desember 23, 2005

happy holidays, dammit.

I was recently giving a talk at a conference in Sweden- the topic was 'prospects for progressives in the United States', a subject of great interest here at hoverbike. A key theme of the talk, as well as the discussion which followed, was the rise of fundamentalist political activism, and the debate over the role of "values" in American politics.

One audience member, a young warehouse worker and union activist said that he saw on Fox news (yes, it airs in Sweden) that liberals in America were trying to get rid of Christmas. I explained that this was a myth used by the far right to further denigrate the left. He seemed to understand.

What was scary about that exchange is that the effectiveness of the right is such that a Swedish trade unionist wearing a Chavez medallion and a Che t-shirt somehow bought the line that the American Left hates Christmas.

Chalk the "war on Christmas" boondoggle as one of the great achievements of right-wing rhetorical and ideological hegemony in contemporary America. Somehow, the commercialization of Christmas, which is driven by corporations and consumerism, is the fault of the left. It is our preference for secular public institutions and science-based science teaching which has led to the bonanza of consumption every Christmas season. Never mind that the majority of those folks out there bashing skulls to buy this year's Cabbage Patch doll are self-professed Christians.

Worse than that, attempts by state, cultural and commercial institutions to aknowlege that the Winter months include non-Christian holidays have been recast as an attack on Christianity. As a Christian, I like to hear people wish me happy Christmas. But it doesn't shake my faith in Jesus Christ to hear a holiday greeting which takes into account the millions of Americans who don't worship as I do. Is it too much to ask for Fundamentalists to share America?

Yesterday, a Southern California mall reversed a decision to take down a giant Menorah. They had originally felt that the Chanukah symbol was "overtly religious", while their 25 foot Christmas tree, angels and bells were not. A threatened boycott by local Jewish organizations changed their minds. Remember, Jewish symbols are religious. Christian symbols are regular.

Anyway, happy holidays.

tirsdag, desember 20, 2005

quitting smoking...

..hard to write...want to die...

torsdag, desember 01, 2005

2008: gender, the white house and the democrats

It is far too early to be speculating on the next struggle for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and yet the pull is strong. Hillary Clinton’s public call for increased American troop presence in Iraq is another sign of the obvious: that she is working to position herself as the standard bearer for the battered “New Democrat” tendency in the party. Meanwhile, right wing pundits kvetch about the presumably awful new Gina Davis show “Commander in Chief”, in which a centrist, independent woman finds herself in the oval office by virtue of a presidential death. In their minds, it is a direct attempt by Hollywood communists to “soften” the country up for the idea of a female president.

I’m not a big one for predictions in political writing. It is a bad habit borrowed from the worst, most hackish sports journalism. Nonetheless, I offer this prediction: the next Democratic primary will be bitterly divisive. We will see a battle between a hawkish, fiscally conservative woman, in Clinton, and an economically populist Southerner, most likely the increasingly compelling John Edwards. Thus, the most viable female Democratic candidate in history will stake her victory on the further destruction of the party’s principles, as well as its long-term prospects. Such a conflict may well cleave the party along already glaring class, race and gender fault lines.

Clinton’s gambit is understandable. Women and people of color on the left are always pressured to move to the center in order to reassure white and male voters that they aren’t, after all, revolutionaries. Barack Obama has undergone similar pressures, though he seems to be handling it reasonably well. On the other side of the aisle, it has become conventional wisdom that one can rocket to the top of the heap in the Republican party by providing a little ethnic, racial or gender cover. I think that a measurable percentage of black and latino republicans are actually employed by the Bush administration. Some in the Republican Party are discussing running Condoleeza Rice for the big job. On the one hand, it would be a great day for America when our choices for President would be two women, one of them African American. On the other, it speaks to the long-term constriction of our political spectrum that both would be arguably right of Richard Nixon.

Adding some irony is the fact that Clinton has publicly called for a weakening of the Democratic stand on abortion, arguing that the party should actively seek out anti-choice candidates. Edwards, on the other hand, has made no such noises, and is betting that a decisive move to the left on economic issues is the way to gain back Democratic support in the South and the interior. These two candidates, defying their presumptive gender roles, may end up personifying two opposing strategic responses to the Red State/Blue State impasse. Again, this may have everything to do with Clinton’s “need” to reassure male voters that if elected, she would not, in fact, be a feminist. Regardless, Clinton’s willingness to move to the right shows that the hard-core DLCers inside the beltway have still learned nothing from the past 10 years of pummeling from a strident, overconfident and ultraconservative Republican Party.

Again, it’s early. There is still time for both candidates to continue to reinvent themselves. Things may degenerate so badly in Iraq that both of their positions (Clinton’s support, Edwards’ mushiness) will be a liability. The field itself is likely to expand as well. What is certain, however, is that the question of the party’s soul will be at stake in the next contest. If the Democratic Party cannot move beyond short-term thinking and begin the long hard work of moving the center of political gravity to the left, it will continue to be a minority party for many years. In the meantime, we may continue to lose crucial civil rights, key ideological debates even entire communities and ecosystems. It will be tempting to postpone that fateful decision in order to (finally!) elect a woman to the highest office in the world. There are arguments for such a move, but it is one we should not make lightly.