Friday, August 12, 2011

On Waxing Exceeding Wroth At Unexpected Revisionism

The last few days, I've been noticing a rather astonishing level of self-delusion and Happy Talk over the results of the Wisconsin Recall Campaign -- which failed to achieve its objective of flipping control of the State Senate.

The two Dems who will replace the recalled Republicans in the Senate won their seats, and I will take nothing away from them, but their election victories do not translate into an overall Win! (YAY!) for the Recall Campaign itself. Asserting some sort of overall Victory, however, has become standard issue on the so-called Left, and especially among the hackiest of Democratic operatives and their minions. In their highly propagandized world -- we are talking politics, after all, and propaganda for your side and against the other is a fundamental aspect of the game -- it was a "win" in Wisconsin because two Republicans were recalled (three were needed to flip control of the State Senate) and that means that "momentum" has built, and Scott Walker better watch out now because Russ Feingold is hot on his heels and will have his ass on a plate, just you wait and see, nyah, nyah, losers!!!

Eh, no. Not exactly. No, because the Power in Wisconsin remains right where it has been since last year's election -- which was a rout for Democrats in Wisconsin, primarily because Democrats and Independents stayed at home rather than vote for such disappointing Democrats who were standing for election. The Republicans in the State House still have a lock on government Power, which they have been using with extraordinary effectiveness to accomplish their objectives, despite a great deal of public resistance, demonstrations, protests, court orders, recall elections, and what have you.

The recalls haven't changed that Power dynamic at all, nor have they interfered more than marginally in the implementation of the programs and policies the Republicans in charge in Wisconsin want to implement. There is still nothing to stand in their way.

So it has been through much of the Midwest where one Republican power and governing coalition after another has been ramrodding anti-public interest measures through legislatures and implementing them in the face of growing public outrage and anger.

The Rs clearly don't care what the People think or what the People want. And because they are becoming more and more effective in managing and manipulating the electoral process and democracy itself, the Rs aren't fearing the wrath of the People either. "Let them do what they will, they won't win the Power. [evil chuckle a la Mr. Burns]"

And so the self-delusion among "progressive" advocates and Democratic Party apparatchiks over the state of affairs following the Wisconsin recalls is disturbing to say the least. Living in a fantasy of Victory [Eventually! YAY!] is not going to achieve Victory, but then, more and more, I'm coming to believe that's not the intent of the hacks and apparats and advocates in any case. Playing the game, engaging in the Process is what matters most to many of them.

Digby put up a post that sort of encapsulates this spirit:

Small d inspiration

by digby

These are very tough times and I am starting to see a lot of depression and fatalism and anger from people everywhere. I don't think I've ever seen the left so despondent -- and nights like last night in Wisconsin, although heartening in some respects, often make us feel worse because it takes so much energy just to move an inch. But I have to remind myself that it's about more than just achieving the goal --- it's the process itself that makes you strong.

Here's a note I got from reader Don P, who sent me the Stagecoach quote last week:

I know we are in dark times and the nature of the quote was not bright, however seeing that happen was very satisfying and put a bounce in my step. Saturday, when the item appeared in Krugman's column my union voted to approve a contract with Santa Clara County.

I was one of the negotiators and though contract contains cuts to the workers, I feel proud of what the negotiators accomplished. We negotiated from April 29th until 6:30 AM on August 3rd. It was grueling but we kept the worst pain from the lowest paid employees and tried to make the cuts as temporary as we could. We also avoided impasse and a strike.

I felt so incredibly proud that day of both achievements (contributing to your BLOG and successfully settling).

I also wish more people understood how democratic, ethical and downright American union work can be. We worked so hard to get all the voices heard, to discuss all the angles and represent the stated interests of the workers. The negotiation team practically tore itself apart but the sum of all this messy, difficult process was a contract that was as fair as possible under the circumstance. It felt like democracy in action and it gives me hope even in this dark time.

I want to galvanize people and get them involved civically with the kind of passion that the Tea Party has but oriented towards working on constructive solutions to the problems we face.

As long as people like Don are out there doing what they can for average working people, I figure I can't succumb to the malaise that threatens to drag me under. I imagine there was some disappointment in Wisconsin last night that they didn't take back the Senate. But they won two races --- a very difficult task --- and I doubt even one of the people who worked so hard to make that happen would give up having had the experience. As Don says, it's difficult and exhausting, but the real fulfillment is in the doing of it. (And, by the way, practice makes perfect.)

While this is far less delusional than some of the post-game analyses (OMG), still she's in a reverie of Political Process that just boggles the mind if you think about it.

Periodically, I've noted that Americans of the lefter persuasion cannot rely on a broken electoral system to produce the kind of results -- and Saviours -- so many want and believe are necessary. The system can't do it. The system is set up and run by interests that are opposed to the People and the Public Interest, and they have a nearly complete lock on political power in this country, operating through both major political parties. The public has very little input into or impact on that Process, nor do they have much of a say in choosing candidates or approving/disapproving policies. The political process and the Government are as divorced from the People and their needs and interests as they have ever been. The political game being played is as rigged as some sports contests are. We, the People, are spectators at best. This system cannot and will not produce positive results for the masses through electoral means alone if it produces them at all -- which is highly unlikely.

Yet here's Digby and her correspondent in effect asserting that engaging in the Process itself is a sufficient substitute for a "win." We don't need the Power, we just need to engage.

Years ago, I might have offered that same sort of pablum to those who were disappointed in the results of the System or were being crushed by it because I was part of the System and part of my job was to persuade people that participation in and engaging with the System was reward enough.

Well, really! It is! You gain so much when you participate!

I benefited for many years from both my advocacy efforts and what you might call my "ambassadorship" efforts. So I knew how advocacy and participation worked to accomplish certain objectives. But what I found was that those efforts reinforced a rotting status quo, they did not lead to what I believed was necessary and productive change on behalf of the vast majority of the People. What it did was lead to a proliferation of advocates and participants, all competing to be heard by a less and less responsive Government, which was literally barricading itself behind a security cordon, while a handful of interests at the top sucked up more and more and more resources for themselves, accumulated more and more power, and devised ever more cruel means and methods of rule.

If that was the view from the inside, I can only imagine what it looked like from the outside. Jebus, it's a wonder The Revolution hasn't come long before now.

But back to Digby. Her noting of the high levels of despondency and despair "on the left" at the Wisconsin results is interesting -- in part because there is no sign of any such depression, despondency and despair among "leftist" activists that I'm aware of. There is a good deal of anger and bitterness among some activists in that it appears that the good will of the "left" has been used once again for a failing political process endeavor, but that's by no means the same as despondency and depression. Far from it.

But calling that anger and bitterness by another name -- "depression and despair" -- is part and parcel of the revisionist propagandist ball game. Renaming and mischaracterizing the actual feelings and beliefs of the multitudes is part of the process of channeling high emotion as well as taking advantage of people at their low points. Another aspect of this renaming and revisionism is that it provides a means to reinforce pre-conceptions on behalf of desired outcomes that are often not revealed. Political players do it all the time.

The notion that "it's the process itself that makes you strong," is at best a half truth; at worst it is a deliberate deception move to quell rising revolt. Your aim is to substitute playing the game for actual revolt and confrontation. Play just one more round. "It gets better! Honest!" And you might just win next round! Come on! Play the game, don't sulk and don't throw a childish tantrum!

Oh man. I've heard it so many times, and I've said it myself. There was a time I think I even believed it, but I don't any more. Nope. No more.

And then she brings in the union negotiators' email -- and damn, I just lost it. Cripes, what horseshit. Paraphrase: "I have been so honored and rewarded, even though we had to concede this, that, and the other thing to reach agreement, that I was able to sit at the table and be heard! Oh! Oh! It was thrilling beyond measure to be part of the process of union negotiations that resulted in reducing wages and taking away benefits for our members! It was not a loss! Participation itself was a Win! I am so deeply moved!"


Yes, Digby concludes: "As Don says, it's difficult and exhausting, but the real fulfillment is in the doing of it. (And, by the way, practice makes perfect.)"

To me, that kind of pollyannaism in the face of what is a more and more dreadful reality for more and more people is a big part of the problem. NO, the "real fulfillment" is not in the process; the real fulfillment is making positive changes in an oppressive system that is destroying people's lives. This cannot be made any clearer.

The Process is part of the problem.

Then I went ballistic when several of her commenters claimed that "progressives" hadn't organized to press their agenda in the Democratic Party, and it will take many years of activism -- just like King and Gandhi -- for "progressives" to make any progress, nostrum, nostrum, lies upon lies. The Democratic Party as an institution is like an unmovable object, must be forced, yadda yadda, and all that takes time....

Of course what's missing from this picture is that real progressive insurgents revived the Democratic Party from the dead back in the day, and they actually did take it over, and they actually did press for positive progressive policies and programs, and actually did manage to get hundreds and hundreds of Democrats elected all over the country, and they actually were responsible for the Democratic congressional victory and statehouse victories in 2006, and they actually were the core activist of the Democratic sweep of 2008. And what they got as their reward for this series of stunning Democratic victories was a kick in the nuts and being thrown out the door.

According to the revisionists, however, it never happened. Progressives never took over the Democratic Party, never pressed their agenda, never worked for and gained hundreds of electoral victories for Democrats... and they were never purged, because they were never there.

It's as if the entire period from 2003 to 2008 has been completely disappeared.

It's a neat trick.

And it calls for both anger and revenge.


  1. Its funny, because while I tend to think of Americans as bright sided, generally, there is one exception.

    One group of miserable malcontents who can take any victory no matter how total, and no matter how crushing to the other side and spin it as a defeat and a sell out. One group who are in a state of constant, miserable agitation. I speak of course of the Right wing, who seem to have harnessed the power of negative thinking. Their motto is always, "Not good enough, not fast enough, not pure enough."

    I come from a Republican background, a hard right Republican background. So, for example, you'd think that the Tea Party midterms would have been a cause for celebration at my old parents' house. I asked my brother (Left-wing, middle-aged, college-educated, works for a newspaper... of course he had to move back in with them) whether they were feeling upbeat about the victory and he said, "Are you kidding? This is a Republican household."

    Now, I might think I just knew a bunch of gloomy Right wingers, but my readings on the subject, books like Searching for Whiteopia, in which wealthy members of segregated, whites only communities when hearing about something think, "the best thing is to be an illegal immigrant, white males need not apply." or similar notions that are expressed in What's the Matter with Kansas? These are our society's winners, politically anyway. Sometimes, they are even our society's winners materially, though Kansas has examples of paupers living Spartan existences doing their best to push the government further to the Right than the country club Republicans would like.

    They are unsatisfied, troubled, unhappy people. They can't even take joy and satisfaction in their victories. I imagine if I opened a bar called "The Happy Republican" most people would get the joke.

    I'm not endorsing gloom and dissatisfaction here. I believe optimism, when earned and based on non-Potemkin truth, is a fine thing. However, maybe people ought to start thinking about the power in gloom and dissatisfaction and not immediately try to stomp out gloomy, angry and depressed voices among them. It's not always bad to point out the icebergs before you hit them, after all.

    Of course, I probably just feel that way because I am a gloomy, angry and depressed person whenever I pay attention to politics.

  2. There's a difference between anger -- white-hot fury -- and depression, at least I think so.;-) What happened in Wisconsin, and the incessant Happy Talkin' Spin over it has given rise to...white hot fury, not despondence, as far as I can see.

    Of course fury can only take you so far, but if it's far enough to see what is going wrong and what must be done about it, then it's a good thing.

    I don't doubt that Progressives in Wisconsin will keep at it, that they are not giving up, and they will win one day, as Progressives have won in Wisconsin in the past. And more and more, I am seeing honest -- even brutal -- after-action assessments of what went wrong and what to do about it. Much of the Happy Talkin' is simply being dismissed as fluff, even a distraction.


    Well, politics is dismal, there's no doubt of that. The good thing is that so many people refuse to be beaten down by it.

    And they are carrying the battle beyond Wisconsin.

    All to the good. The problem comes when the focus is so exclusively on electoral politics that the vast array of other means to accomplish political objectives is forgotten....

  3. Yes, I think I don't mean depression. I mean grief. Grief is empowering, and grief is dangerous. I see grief as kind of a sad anger.

    Despair isn't the same, despair is more a paralyzing sadness.

    Oh, you might like this analysis of the Wisconsin election, I read it on the World Socialist Website, linked from The Exiled.

  4. Ha! I just love our Trotskyite Friends!

    By the way, their analysis of events is almost always spot on and brilliantly written. I recommend WSWS highly.