Friday, August 2, 2019

Politics is not about A Rational Disccusion of the Issues

This  morning I am reading a ton of tut-tutters tutting about the Democratic debates. They are upset that all the candidates were tilting against dragons and monsters instead of proposing sensible and rational solutions to our national problems.

One expert even noted how candidate Trump in 2016, despite horrendous mistakes and ignorance about policy, still dominated the debate stage with his insults and personal attacks on the other candidates.

Because politics is not about issues. It is about confronting the enemy.

No kidding! Trump dominated the stage by setting up monsters like illegal immigration and corporations outsourcing jobs, and promising to fight for America.

Rule One: Politics always involves an enemy. Doesn't matter who or what it is. It can be the Jews. It can be Big Pharma. It can be Big Oil. It can be the Commies. It can be radical Islam. It can be racism. It can be homophobia. The whole point is that there must be something, some enemy, some existential peril, for which only force is the answer, and we must band together to slay the monster!

But here is the problem. Suppose you are a peaceable sort of chap that doesn't see an enemy behind that rock? Well, then, you ain't gonna win the election.

The special innovation of the left is to have changed the identity of the enemy. In the old days of dynastic rulers the enemy was either some pretender to the throne or the prince next door. Then in the age of the absolute monarchs we had nation against nation with the subtext of religion. You see that in the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 and also the Dutch invasion of Britain in 1688 to turn it into a Protestant bulwark against Catholic France.

But the French Revolution changed all that. It inaugurated a politics based on a secular religion, where the enemy was not the neighboring king or an ambitious aristocrat but the class of aristocrats and the class or priests.

Then Marx had the idea of the middle class and the new industrial lords of business as the enemy of the working class and humanity.

Then the Frankfurt School had the idea of not just the workers as helpless victims of the middle class but women and minorities too. They had suffered at the hands of the racist sexist middle class patriarchy since the dawn of time.

And so we get to today's politics which is all about finding some monster that is devastating the lives of some utterly helpless and innocent victims.

The most recent innovation is the idea of the end of the world caused by man's despoiling of the environment. Actually, this is not a new idea but an ancient idea. The Fall. The expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Actually, we are talking about the creation of human agency. Back before the Fall, you see, mankind did not have agency, was just an animal. But when you get agency you get responsibility. If things go wrong it is not just the gods dumping on humans, but humans making a wrong or evil decision, violating God's Law or, in more recent times, social justice.

(Isn't it interesting that the left is advancing the idea of human agency and responsibility in one area, climate change, while the entire rest of its politics is about non-agency, the helpless victimhood of minorities, women, and LGBT?)

So, in the left's worldview there are the responsibles: corporations, white supremacists, patriarchs, Christians, Republicans. They are to be held to the highest standards.

Then there are the victims: minorities, women, LGBT, illegal aliens, Democrats, Muslims. No standards apply, because, being helpless victims they do not have agency and cannot be held responsible for their behavior.

When you think about it, this is a beautiful system. It provides an eternal conflict for lefties to fight, and they are always on the side of the angels.

But my line is that the rise of the market economy and the transformation of wealth from land to "intangible capital" means that we need a lot less politics. Because there just aren't that many things that need to be resolved by force.

You can see the problem as faced by Republicans in the post-Reagan era. The gentlemanly Republicans kept getting snookered by the Dems because the Bushes and the Romneys believed in a kinder, gentler politics, a compassionat conservatism at the same time that Democrats were winding themselves up into a fury over racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Enter Trump with the streetfighter instinct to conjure up some enemies to slay. And now all the experts are tut-tutting about an unprecedented era of partisan division, and they are shocked, shocked, at Trump's crudities.

It's a problem. If we agree that politics and strong government is no longer a requirement in the industrial era how do you get the lefties to abandon their politics of outrage and demonisation?

To put it another way, how do we do the political equivalent of turning warriors into sports heroes? Notice how organized sports arose in the 19th century, just exactly at the time, I would argue, that wars became stupid.

Because here's the point. When we talk about a rational discussion of the issues what we are really saying is that here is something that can be resolved by the ordinary processes of the market economy and the give and take of day-to-day life. In other words, it need not involve politics.

I think that the secular movement we call conservatism is basically organized around the de-lethalizing of politics. That's what all the folderol of constitutions and separation of powers and due process is about. It is trying to lower the temperature so that nobody feels that they have to turn to armed force in order to get their injustice addressed.

But the left has operated under the faith that all the bourgeois constitutions and ownership and due process are a sham that is pretending that white supremacy and patriarchy and exploitation and oppression doen't exist.

Well, maybe they are a problem, but how bad can it be when per-capita income has increased by 30 times in the last 200 years?

But how do you resolve the argument, between the ordinary middle class that is not that interested in power and a secular-evangelical left that is organized for #Resistance and believes in the saving grace of political power?

Tell that to the activists.

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