I’ve long ceased commenting on current affairs for lack of any discernible meaning, and instead turned my attention to the theoretical, with an eye to a brighter tomorrow. Well, the 2012 elections may well prove to be an exception, a portent of something new, something different. No, not because the Democrats have won, but because the Republicans have lost!
Indeed, Romney’s defeat, coupled with the continuation of the status quo in both houses, promises to be the best of all possible outcomes. Again, not because the policies emanating from the White House are expected to be more enlightened or better for the country with Mr. Obama in charge than with Mr. Romney. Nor do I base my hopes on the White House prerogative of filling in Supreme Court appointments. I’ve long shed the illusion that liberalism, unaltered, can work. On what, then, do I base my cautious optimism?
Surprisingly, it comes from the least expected of quarters: a thoughtful conservative response, re-evaluation, and narrative. Therein lies the possibility, I say, of a meaningful dialogue in terms of conflicting ideas, not just another compromise by way of half-baked policies designed to accommodate the conflict. Had Mr. Romney won and the shoe been on the other foot, I’m near certain there would be no room for further thought and reflection, and this article would never materialized. I must confess, in passing, I have yet to meet a thoughtful liberal, let alone encountered a “thoughtful liberal response,” but that’s my bias.
Two examples will suffice. Witness, for instance, the timely appearance of David Frum, a conservative with impeccable credentials, on a recent Mike Huckabee show. Lest you didn’t know, Mr. Frum has just published an eBook, Why Romney Lost: And What the GOP Can Do About It, so it’s understandable that he’d be a much sought-after persona these days in all the media. What made his presence, however, on the Mike Huckabee show especially significant was the congenial tone of the conversation. One of the subjects was abortion and the ways in which the two seemingly irreconcilable positions, pro-life and pro-choice, could possibly be reconciled. Rather than treating us to the usual fare of arguments and counterarguments, whereby the two views are deemed mutually exclusive, the focus was on closing the gap by coming up with a more generous support system for expectant mothers (regardless of their immigration status), on neonatal and prenatal care, etc. All told, it was rather refreshing for a conservative radio show. The podcast of the relevant segment follows.
Interestingly, some of it has already trickled down to our little community as well, for within hours of the eBook’s publication, we are treated to the following comment, #8900, by one of the BC “regulars:”
The pro-life movement needs to look at what actually decreases abortion, rather than seeking to ban it (if their true aim is to save babies, which is rather doubtful). Banning does nothing to decrease abortion. Access to birth control and a strong social safety net for poor and single mothers does.
Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s a fairly levelheaded statement, considering the commenter is a no-nonsense liberal who is known for shooting from the hip. One could almost detect here touches of Mr. Huckabee’s genuine concern for the lives of both the expectant mother and the unborn child if it weren’t for the parenthetical disclaimer: “if their [i.e., the pro-life movement’s] true aim is to save babies, which is rather doubtful.”
Now, why would a commenter who goes by the name of “zingzing,” an odd moniker if there ever was one, visit sites such as “Unnecessary Pap Smears” and weigh in on a discussion concerning women’s reproductive organs, a dubious medical practice, and its possible connection to the rising incidence of cervical cancer? This question needn’t concern us here. Lest you wonder, no, he is not an OB/GYN the last time I checked; besides, I’ve always taken her to be a member of the opposite sex but hey, this is internet, so one never really knows! Be that as it may, it’s almost axiomatic that no thoughtful resolution of the abortion question is going to issue from glib pronouncements of gloating liberals like our zingzing here but only from heartrending deliberations of humbled conservatives such as Mike Huckabee and friends.
For our second example, let’s turn our attention to the subject of demographics, another hotly debated topic of late; this time, however, with an idea of providing a plausible explanation of the 2012 election results. Just as in the first instance, there is no shortage of divergent opinions here, which, too, is reflected in our microcosm. Without further ado, then, let me cite one such comment, #11, from “The New America” thread. Unlike the first-cited comment, however, this one, in spite of having been characterized by another self-styled liberal, “Igor” by name, as “the usual lamentation of racists” (see comment #12), has all the makings of sound thinking . . . yes, you’ve guessed it, because it’s from the mouth of a thoughtful conservative:
Demographers have proclaimed for some time now that the country was moving toward a population in which no one ethnic group will be the majority; many have mentioned 2035 as the date this process would culminate.
I think we saw the process gather velocity with this election, which boiled down to the people of color forming a coalition under the Democratic banner (although with a fairly good-sized contingent of whites joining them), while the Republicans, almost 100% lily white, formed the opposition. I take away from the result of this election that white folks have finally lost their position (as a group – individuals will prevail for a few more years) of power, authority and privilege in the USA. I believe that never again will whites dominate the rest of American society to the degree they have until now. Yes, there will be seeming returns to the old structure; white presidents will still get elected (but less and less frequently and they will face Congresses of increasing non-white membership), but the overall trend will be fewer and fewer whites in positions of power in the coming years.
Since most of the non-whites are and will be Latino (they already outnumber the African Americans for example), if you don’t already speak Spanish, learn it. From this event on, this process will only accelerate; as the news circulates in Latin America, ever larger groups of immigrants will begin to arrive, swelling the ranks of the Latinos to a point where much of the country will mirror Miami and South Florida, where almost every position of power and authority, from politics, to business to law enforcement is already held by a Latino/a these days.
Again, I refer the reader to the relevant segment of the Mike Huckabee show (see the link above), in which the discussants speak of the Republican party of yore, circa 1950, as the party that championed the values of “the great American middle class”; of its heartland, its composition, its greatest strength, as consisting of the rank and file, “the people who were holding hammers and saws in their hands and working with their hand tools” and, in so doing, “shared in the general growth of the nation”; of the opportunities which used to abound but which abound no longer.
Never mind that “a lot of people are still mentally living in that country [my emphasis] . . . their children are not,” says Frum: the jobs and opportunities just aren’t there for them anymore like they once were for their parents and grandparents. (Thus, in addition to the immigration/demographic factor, we have a generation gap to ponder about in order to help us account for the gradual shift in both the composition and voting patterns of the American public, come 2012.) Also never mind that the grand ole’ party of yore has become hijacked since by the “corporate-boardroom” types. At least the conversation is on! And it’s not a conversation between liberals because the liberals have just won and are still smarting from their victory: having just been given the stamp of approval, they have no reason to question their self-assured ways. Nor is it a conversation between liberals and conservatives, unless by “conversation” you mean the kind of gridlock we’ve all been exposed to by our do-nothing Congress for four years now and counting on virtually every aspect of policy, foreign or domestic. No, it’s a conversation between thoughtful conservatives, rare as they may be, for only they, not the liberals, have the right kind of motivation to recover from their loss, to search their hearts and souls, to reflect and to evaluate. And who knows, each of us may end up the wiser for the fact.
If “pro-life” and “pro-choice” form a set of seemingly irreconcilable positions on the abortion question, what fundamental issue splits the American public along the liberal-conservative divide? Again, taking the lead from David Frum, one could say it’s the belief in the new and the old America, but we can do better than that. Indeed, once we consider the steady demographic shift due to both the influx from immigration and differential birthrates between whites and non-whites, and its presumed impact on Mr. Obama’s re-election victory, a more precise formulation suggests itself, a formulation which brings the desired contrast into sharper focus: in the final analysis, it’s the belief in the utter dependency (on the largesse of the liberal government) on the one hand, and the belief in complete self-sufficiency on the other.
And so, here we are. While the Republican hierarchy perpetuates the myth of the American Dream among its rank and file, a myth that, in light of all the available evidence, should long since be discarded, the Democratic establishment is no less guilty for implying that if we are at a disadvantage in any way, we can’t do without the government’s help. Needless to say, these two positions, as stated, are not only mutually exclusive: though both contain a kernel of truth, they’re also utterly cynical and ideological to the core.
In the first instance, along with the self-sufficiency myth, there comes an indictment of all those who, for one reason or another, fail to measure up, all those who, by virtue of their genetic predisposition, lack of will, perseverance, character, what else have you, somehow don’t make it and fall through the cracks. And this serves the ideological intent just fine, for it instills in the rank and file a false sense of moral superiority, a prerequisite for keeping it in check. Thus, the party’s leadership is kept intact and beyond reproach for telling the rank and file what it wants to hear; and so does the myth. (Which kinda explains Romney’s ill-fated remark about “the 47 percenters,” how easy it is to write ‘em all off.) And in the second:
Well, the liberal narrative is somewhat more subtle though no less perverse, methinks. Although the Democratic leadership doesn’t explicitly deny the self-sufficiency myth (witness, for example, the great bulk of government-funded programs, all designed to get you back on your own two feet and running), the end result still is: it does promote a culture of dependency, government-based dependency. In either case, it’s all about power and keeping the respective hierarchies intact.
But whereas in the abortion case we did see an attempt at reconciliation along with a semblance of a solution, how are we to reconcile such extreme, if not mutually exclusive, viewpoints in this instance? Is there a common ground between these two narratives? Of course there is!
The idea of willful co-operation, the essential aspect of any human (read: collective) endeavor, is what we’re looking for. It does away with the false dichotomy by absorbing the two seemingly contradictory terms into one fold: anyone who’d argue to the contrary is either a demagogue or a charlatan. In any event, “self-reliance” and “(inter)dependency” aren’t any stand-alone, absolute concepts; in fact, when so construed, they verge on being pathological, and so is the resultant behavior. Au contraire, they’re correlative, which is to say, each deriving its meaning from its juxtaposition with the other, each a defining element of what ultimately adds up to the nexus of human relations. Don’t expect, however, neither the Democratic nor the Republican leadership, not even the thoughtful conservatives, to come up with any kind of resolution in this instance. It’s beyond the pale.
Why so? Because the dispute over the self-sufficiency versus the dependency question isn’t political at bottom, although it’s made out to look as though it were political. It’s a dispute, plain and simple, about economics, personal economics, about who can keep what, about who is entitled to what, and at what cost. Politics is just a veneer, a convenient gloss we put on things in order to obscure, under the banner of freedom, what’s really at stake.
Indeed, if we go by politics alone, we can’t help but conclude that all is fair and square: one man, one vote. What could be fairer than that? But economics tells a different story; and it’s economics, stupid, that our political system is designed to keep under the radar to the extent it can. And yet,
It is precisely in the economic arena, and this is the height of irony, where the notion of willful co-operation makes more sense than anywhere else and assumes its fullest expression. In particular, only through a thoroughgoing reorganization of our productive activities along, dare I say, Marxian, communist lines would our cooperative, communal spirit (or impulse) attain its greatest potential: a proposition (need I argue?) that is clearly antithetical to the economic system in place. Which is why a liberal democracy, any liberal democracy, for all its niceties such as equal protection under the law or the one-man/one-vote rule, for all its guarantees of our rights and whatever else you may think of, is, at bottom, nothing but ideology, a political arm of the capitalist system which is regarded by all and all alike as sacrosanct. On this, let me assure you, our conservatives and our liberals are in perfect agreement!
Perhaps there is a thoughtful conservative here and there who would be willing to challenge these assumptions and buck the trend, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. That would be un-American; and if there’s anything a conservative is about, it’s about America. In any event, I don’t exactly fancy myself another Diogenes, looking for an honest man.
And so I say, let the festivities continue!