The real problem in the body politic

(Trigger warning: equivalence alert!)

No, I don’t think the Democratic and Republican platforms are equivalent. Ideologically, I’m with the Dems maybe 50% of the time and the Repubs maybe 10%. No equivalence there. But the partisan tone has become equivalent on both sides. If a Dem or Repub leader says anything at all, the other side must consider it a priori wrong (and indeed evil) or risk being kicked out of the club. Perhaps social media is the worst for trapping people into such silos, but with many friends posting political comments daily, I can’t remember the last time any of them on either side deviated from the preset party line when an oppostion leader spoke.

So yes, I favor the Dem platform (or at least find it less bad), but there are three beasts in the cage, and the Republicans are not the most destructive of the three. There are the two major parties, and then there is the “us vs. them” paradigm of politics and social relations, shared equally by denizens of both parties. With my old hippie vision of moving toward a more ideal union, where people still disagree but with the understanding that we are all on spaceship Earth together, it is the paradigm itself that is the most destructive beast of the three. As long as we are locked into the zero-sum, “us vs. them” paradigm, we can move laterally to fix this or that local issue, but there can be no forward movement. We can get short-term ideological gains from our party – e.g., as I favor the Dem platform, I can hope the Dems seize the reins from Trump for at least the short-term benefits I think they would bring. But I cannot hope that Dems any more than Repubs will fix the long-term, and possible fatal, disease in the body politic. Neither party has the slightest motivation to correct the “us vs. them” model that is killing us.

Our only long-term hope is for someone to emerge outside the current political spectrum, an MLK-type voice. Politics per se is dead, killed by the two parties and the army of idiot activists on both sides. I don’t mean the government won’t continue its administrative function, but I mean something more along the lines of Nietzsche’s “God is dead” proclamation. Nietzsche knew that religious structures were not about to disappear, but he also could see that God was no longer a credible anchor of human belief structures. In the same way, for those who would step back from the everyday administration of government and re-envision a better society, politics is no longer a credible tool.  Best to throw it away.

The good news is that underneath the veneer of us vs. them activism, I find that many people are quietly hungry for a unifying voice. I thought Obama was potentially such voice, but his failure to unify the country was pre-ordained by the fact that he emerged within one of the two major parties. Half the country will never listen to any unifying voice that emerges from the opposition party. Thus, my statement that the voice must come from outside the current political structure is a kind of logical tautology. Logic permits no other way. Of course, such a voice, on such terms, may never come, and we may disintegrate slowly or quickly, depending on which of the two parties is in power. But those people I meet hungering for some voice to restore a sense of shared humanness, those people still give me hope. We just need to take all this activist energy invested in one side or the other of the us vs. them paradigm and turn it against the paradigm itself. I would especially ask my friends on the left who consider themselves radical: How radical can you be if you are still hauling around the old albatross of the “left vs right” paradigm? If you want to be radical, break the paradigm.

Can we really get a critical mass of people to shed the dead snakeskin of politics as we know it and start over with a blank slate, a social vision stripped of politics with nowhere to turn but to heart and imagination? Probably not, but it’s worth a try.

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BookCoverImage     year-bfly-cover          mgg cov clipped 2019-11-23



36 thoughts on “The real problem in the body politic

  1. Insofar as this premise applies to the US, you have identified one of the key symptoms, but not the disease. The problem actually resides in the fact that “too big to fail” is in fact “too big to succeed”. All of the institutions have been corrupted. The conversation needs to move from reconciliation to discussing the terms of a divorce. I laud you for your optimism, I just don’t share it. Party platforms are simply designed to buy the consent of their constituencies. In practice there is no difference between the two major parties. They both comprise the drooling class. It is not just the parties that have to go…it is Washington itself that has to go

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The arts of compromise and civility died a long time ago. We now live in the land of worldview and politics!

    I try not to favor a platform! It’s people not inanimate objects that I try to see!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well put, Halbarbera. If we could just go out into the street today, forget everything we learned about politics, especially those of us who went to college, forget about how we’ve been trained into this or that posture of political belligerence, and start relating to each other with just our hearts and imagination, regardless of racial, gender, and other divides, it would be a different world. To paraphrase hippie icon, Timothy Leary, we need to “drop out” of politics, “turn on” the heart and imagination, and “tune in” to each other.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m hoping with you, Rosaliene, but not optimistic. So far it looks like a missed opportunity. Rather than unifying us, it seems to have sharpened the divisions — at least in the superstructure of media circus and public politics. Of course, if it was unifying people, we wouldn’t know it from politicians or media, who thrive on partisan outrage and click-bait divisiveness. Maybe I am optimistic after all 🙂 There’s hope in the people, even as that hope is suppressed the superstructure of media and politics. Maybe we will break through one day soon. Thanks for talking me through this 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s like a sports game now. One against the other. I’m for neither…I want a party named “common sense”…that’s not happening.
    One party could come up with a cure for cancer and the other would oppose because they would lose. There is no working with each other…that would show weakness.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sad but true, badfinger. Instead of thinking of two parties as two strategies for moving the whole ship (us) forward, they prefer the idiotic football metaphor, where every move forward by the other team must be stopped and reversed. What’s the point of working together or having rational discussions if every yard they gain is de facto a loss for our side? Politicians know that much of the US public can only grasp historical conditions in terms of football metaphors (good team/bad team), and they know very well how to exploit that weakness. We need to break the model and start ignoring the politicians who deploy it if we want a functioning system. And a few of us want to do that. But many (most?) can better relate to the football version, where we can cheer our side and curse, fight, destroy the other team at every turn, just because they are the other team.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve never seen the country this divided. The parties did it and you are right…most people are buying into this mess.
        I have liberal and conservative friends and they think I’m odd because I don’t take sides. The media also…divides things.
        I know this is boring but all I want is someone reading a fact based paper…with no opinions…no slants.
        I almost believe we are too far gone for it to turn around. I hate being pessimistic and I hope I’m wrong.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m with you, badfinger. If I can try lift the pall of pessimism just a bit, there are LOTS of people who feel the way you do. Compared to the football brigade, they have no voice in the media or in the 2-party political apparatus (not angry enough to be clickbait, not meanly partisan enough to be of use to either party). But they are there. And, from time to time via blogging, Facebook posts, and the like, they seem to be there in sizeable numbers — hard to say because, as we’ve noted, they have no media voice, but there is hope.

          Liked by 2 people

          • We are just in the middle..
            I’ve been meaning to correct my contact page but my name is Max…I need to put that on my page.
            It’s good to know some other people agree with me. Most people I know are on one side or the other.
            Thank you for the post.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. I always tried to understand the view of those with differing opinions. I always wanted them to change my mind or at least prompt me to see their logic. Why is this type of discourse now forbidden in society? What has changed in “us”, in our psyche, that we can no longer handle the thought of someone having a different opinion? The body politic is simply catering to the wants of it’s constituents and and delivering the drama/conflict that we seem to feed on. We brought the world Jerry Springer and Honey BooBoo. Now we’ve directed our Washington DC production to give us what will keep us tuning in next week. Are we as a population getting that much stupider? Are we just ashamed of our inability to think for ourselves so we avoid any dialogue in which we cannot simply preach the problem and solution like a papal bull that we kinda heard on the six o’clock news?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the input Hayseed. Yeah, as far as public discourse of the 21st century goes, I think the golden rule at all points along the left-right spectrum is the same: “Everyone who disagrees with me is Hitler.” I think the watershed for how it got this bad is the 1990s rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio (where if someone disagrees with you poltically, you must respond by hating them in all respects), while on the left “identity politics” was emerging via institutional academic structures. It has become a perfect storm for “hate thy neighbor.” But, as I’ve said in other comments, I still see signs that there are a lot of people out there — with no voice in the media or political camps to be sure, but there — who don’t buy into the “hate thy neighbor” shitcake they’re being served by entrenched establishments on both left and right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re going back to the media as the cause of the body politic problem. What I was trying to say, more succintly, is the media and the political parties are simply filling a need in the market. We are the disease of which they are simply the symptoms. Economicly speaking, if we didn’t demand this high drama product, then the supply would surely start to diminish. You’re still trying to line up an evil team to oppose in your proverbial football game. You’re falling prey to the same thought process as those you’re blaming. My question is how do we quash our own demand for drama? That is how we rise above the abundant supply.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Good points about the underlying problem, Hayseed. If we could solve that underlying problem — through a kind of shift in human sensibility or in our definitions of fulfillment – I think you’re right that the other problems would wither. I’m pulling with you there. Meanwhile, I’m still keeping an eye on forces that play a divisive role or a “blocking” role relative to our shared goal (and that in my estimation includes today’s media, which sustains itself on amplified outrage and clickbait, and thus perpetuates the cycle — sort of like the dealer who gives you stronger and stronger drugs — the underlying problem is your addiction but said dealer is one more obstacle to recovery). To admit that such forces exist, to me, is not the same as getting trapped in the football game. But you got me thinking on it 🙂


  5. I really like your argument: the third one in the room: yes, you clinched it.
    And the other comments, too – how cheering, even the pessimistic ones.
    It’s good to see people thinking, and not knee-jerk reacting..

    I don’t know how thing’s pan-out.
    A news poll in UK came out with the result that a substantial number of respondents (now, who would respond to that type of thing? Worth a thought.) did Not want things to go back as they were before. It was a pretty bad way to live, let’s admit it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Michael. Good to see you again. You seem slightly more optimistic than I am (I wobble on that). I’m mixed on the poll question. The way it was before could use an upgrade no doubt, but if by “not go back” you mean let’s forever wear face masks and avoid human contact, I’ll go with the way it was before. If you mean get clear of quarantine restrictions and reboot the order of things — well, I could imagine social arrangements better than the one I was living in three months ago, and I could imagine worse. Overall, I was pretty happy although as you know I had my own visions for making things better. Anyway, I’m not so sanguine as you UK optimists who answered the poll ( 🙂 ) that changes will be for the better. They may just be vastly reduced human contact and vastly increased government monitoring of citizen behaviors. Man, you sure brought out the pessimist in me 🙂 I’ll try to be more upbeat next time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You seem to be thinking ‘afterwards’ is a future seriously long-term affected by all this. And the way CV-19 hits people’s internal organs as well, you may well be right. I think the poll was playing on the trashy assumption of it all being over and life ‘as normal’ i.e. before.
    You are probably on the right track. Who was it said pessimism is more in tune with how things really are, than optimism. But we need both. Always both.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I was thinking “long-term different future” was subject of the poll. Maybe respondents saw the question a bit differently than I did. (You Brits have a funny language over there, ya know 🙂 ). Anyway, yes, let’s be hopeful for positive change and mindful of forces that are out there holding us back.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Here’s why I disagree with you: the Democrats have passed numerous bills wanted by the majority of Americans—on health care, gun safety, environmental concerns, etc—only to see them sit on Mitch McConnell’s desk. The Democrats swallowed hard and accepted aspects of the coronavirus relief packages that they really disliked to get aid to individuals and small businesses—adding oversight to ensure the money was spent where it should—only to have trump say he’s the oversight and the small business dollars go to his cronies. The Republicans would never have legislated at all if they hadn’t been forced to—that’s why Obama turned to executive orders. The Democrats want vote-by-mail and other voter protections—plus shoring up the Post Office—while the trump-run Republican Party keeps putting the small d democratic issues off with phony claims of voter fraud. On and on; McConnell calling back the Senate, risking Senators’ health, to vote for unqualified right wing judges who threaten to reshape our society for generations.
    You talk about positions, but these are health, safety, life and death issues—not to mention our democratic processes. So no; we can’t expect a transcendent figure to guide us. But we can be more involved in voting for people who are far more in synch with the needs and views of most Americans than the crowd pulling the strings in the White House and Senate now.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “…then there is the “us vs. them” paradigm of politics and social relations, shared equally by denizens of both parties…” Yes! Yesterday SierraClub on IG posted one of the most divisive memes I’ve ever seen. And as I read through the comments, I realized that everyone there loves and follows the Sierra Club and cares about the environment but it’s like we live in two completely different worlds. We need to stay united. Factions nearly tore us apart before we became united. “United We Stand” is on our currency for good reason. We need a different way, better leaders. There are 300 Million Americans and this two-party system seems to give us the most easily bought. Forgive me if I offend anyone, but I saw the machine at work when I was the secretary of the Young Dems in my state. We went to the NH Primary for Clinton in 1992. My guy was Harkin, a brilliant lawmaker. It shocked me to see that he had no chance against the Clinton machine. They brought buses in from AK and ladies with diamonds dripping from their fingers were handing out videos of Clinton while my guys could hardly cover the cost of flyers. All Harkins people were volunteers who got there on our own and in a blizzard no less. Harkin gave his speech in a church basement while Clinton’s rally was in a huge venue. There are alternatives to the 2-party system that seems to work elsewhere. This has to change and I agree we need another inspiring voice – and for me that was Bernie. His healthcare plan is brilliant but it’s being lied about and people dismiss it before understanding it. But in the meantime, we all have voices. Thanks for your thought-provoking post and for the chance for me to use mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good points and good stories from the inside. I agree Bernie had that vision and that voice but could not break through the fossilized two-party superstructure. I think he peaked just a little before the country was desperate enough to throw in the two-party towel. If he had peaked a few years into the future, we might have been ready.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a wonderful post! Honestly the oppositions takes their job literally-oppose anything even if it were for the general good and it surprises me that most of us follow blindly, no questions asked, none at all. Here in India with perhaps the largest population now, the largest democracy for certain, we have a multi party system and coalitions are the norm. It shocks me that parties which have ideological differences join forces to emerge the largest party after any elections! And the only time the opposition happily accepts the decisions of the ruling party is when the members of the parliament are presented with a bill to increase their wages! I wonder if there will be a change but we can continue imagining and hoping 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Parikhit. I guess it’s true everywhere. Reason and evidence paint a gloomy picture, with few signs that we are inclined to break our chains, but imagination pays no heed and keeps imagining possible futures. Where there’s heart and imagination, there’s hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Agreed. I really do think WE are who we’re waiting for. We are the outsiders that will have to unify and be ONE voice. I think if we can see that we are more alike than different, this may be possible.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Kathy. I realize when I post stuff like this, that there are a LOT of us feeling this way from all over the political spectrum.Those who are invested in the “us vs them” paradigm (which includes Dems, Repubs, and other) had better beware, because those of us who are fed up might not have a voice in the media or halls of government, but we are finding ways to join hands across the old ideological and demographic lines that they love to divide us with.

      Liked by 2 people

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