Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Of Heartache and tears . . .

Last nights election came down to some stupid state that I have never been to, and have absolutely no intention of going to. I think it is called Ohio, but I can’t be sure. Anyways, perhaps the single most significant election of my lifetime was concluded while I slept. I am a great sleeper. On the morning of 9/11 my neighbor came to wake me and tell me the towers were on fire. I told him, please no games, can’t you see I am trying to sleep. So yes, once again, I have slept through one of the single most important moments of American History. But I feel better now having told you that.

Of course, I know well that to talk about Ohio in such a way betrays a rather Philistine understanding of the electoral system. What does the Kerry defeat reveal, really? Over an above, it means that things are drastically worse than we had previously thought. The failure of the left and progressive ranks is not in the inability to articulate a vision for America, whether it be reformist or altogether revolutionary. There is no shortage of programs. The problem seems to lie in the inability to translate the language of those programs to the broader population. How can the left go from having internalized its beliefs and living out the ideals and ideas that sustain it, while also making a convincing case to the all the people who currently support the regime. Bush’s victory was, I dare say, decisive. The fact remains that the left is left squabbling and complaining, and indeed put besides itself. We cannot imagine how such a thing could happen. Yet it happened, and this time without the clear legal and constitutional conflicts of 2000. So perhaps the problem is that the left has been a bit too sure of itself, too comfortable in its truth, warmly bundled up in baby blankets of uncritical belief.

And here, I admit to playing the same game. Is there really such a thing as the “left” in America? Well, surely there is, but is it something that can be described as uniform and monolithic? Indeed, the answer is emphatically no. Thus far, the hegemony of the idea of difference has allowed the left to content itself with being defined as a set of movements whose ultimate aims may at some point intersect, like a series of Venn diagrams of target audiences. But those movements are themselves fueled by their singularity as specific critiques. More often than not, if there is some sense of cohesion, it takes the form of critiques of globalization and capital. The left has at least this as a unifying theme, that so many of the particular social justice issues can be reduced to a discussion of the intersection of power and capital. Of course, one easily wedges into this line, and disrupts the problem of capital-critique by examining the participation of the rebels within the framework of the very same system. It is old, and perhaps not particularly interesting to accuse such movements as hypocritical, nut this is a central argument that is easily cast by those who find left-oriented ideas to be beyond the pale.
My goal at this point is not to simply describe what comes next. I don’t know what comes next. What I do know is that, the republic is resilient, and Bush being reelected may force those of us on the left to rethink the way we have been conducting ourselves. WE need to ask what it is not that is not being communicated, and we need to stop playing the blame game. Critique of power is infinitely valuable. But it also has to be constantly renewing. We cannot allow ourselves to flog the dead horse and fall into the kind of solipsism repetition that allows our political enemies to accuse of naivete and infantilism.

So lets start discussing the future, because I can guarantee you Karl Rove is thinking about it as we speak.

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