Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Brink
These would be fascinating times except for the fact we have to live in them. Hour by hour, day by day, we're now seeing the full rank flower of 30-50 years of economic and political trends: the absolutist strain, able to perceive only total victory or utter defeat, in majoritarian-democratic politics; the ability of a solid faction, fermented in a closed informational loop, to throw into utter chaos a system consciously designed to force compromise and consensus by its many choke points; what happens when the Left altogether loses the courage of its ostensible convictions.

It's grimly satisfying to see the Republican establishment now shitting itself over its inability to corral the monster it created. The problem, again, is that we all will suffer the consequences--in higher interest rates, a double-dip recession, loss of national prestige--it won't be forgotten that we did this entirely to ourselves; smart economic and strategic competitors will bend themselves to thinking about how to get us to do this again (and indeed, other than 9/11 itself, what wounds have we suffered as a country over the last decade that weren't self-inflicted?)--and the greater likelihood that the same attention-deprived electorate that empowered this right-wing suicide cult will blame the well-intentioned but feckless Obama for the downturn, and replace him with a fellow-traveler of the people who brought this on us.

I don't know what the answer is; I doubt anybody does. Our economy and our politics each seem to reinforce the worst tendencies of the other; probably the same could be said of either with the culture that informs and encompasses both. The traditionally recommended remedy--more democracy--seems too susceptible to money and manipulation to pull us out of it; other means are both repellent and impractical.

What's kind of mind-blowing is that we're at the precipice of something profound and transformative, maybe more than anything in our lifetimes, and the protagonists--almost everyone on the right, and surely more than a few on the left--are still scrabbling for tactical advantage and trying to ensure that the other side eats the blame. I suppose they can't do otherwise, but that too says a lot about the bad road we're on.

Yet we can't just put this on the politicians. That they seem to reflect the country so well--in its smallness, selfishness, and myopia--is maybe the most discouraging element.


The Navigator said...

As someone on the left, who wants to be responsible and not crater the economy for ideological reasons, yet doesn't want to cave in to far-right demands, it's genuinely hard to know quite what to do. The left never gets its way in large part because it never credibly threatens to walk away - as Glenn Greenwald is constantly noting, left-wing politicians always comes around to support whatever centrist Dem presidents support, and consequently the left is taken for granted. So here's a case in which it might really be that they need the left to get the goddamn thing passed, so this should be the rare moment when the left can hold out for concessions, right? Except that would be irresponsible. Even though the far right is doing just that, being irresponsible and unyielding, and they've already won even if they lose the final vote - this is going to be a right-wing compromise.

David said...

Pelosi seems to think that in retrospect she had more leverage than she realized at the time, and promises that they'll be more stout in future.

The thing is, if they'd tried to renegotiate the deal at that point, I have no faith they wouldn't have screwed it up, pushing the Republicans away and leading to the bulk of the blame falling on Democrats.

They're just not good at any part of this.