Tag: pragmatism

Forget Elections — Framing Should Be the Focus

(updated for coherencea and now available at DKOS)

Framing is not everything but it contains all the problems we speak of. I see several aspects of this problem:

  1. History: the left and center-left in America have not created a historical narrative that makes sense to most Americans as an alternative to both the MSM corporate narrative that is radically ahistorical, i.e., they pick and choose historical facts to present a pro-corporate narrative simply because it is there. I include the MSNBC and Comedy Central pundits in this–the accept at face values unproven and clearly false historical facts as being accepted truths. Don’t ask me to list them right now–I’m not trying to prove anything here just to spur discussion and thought.
  2. Class struggle: any framing of issues has to be done within the context of class-struggle which is very real in this country. The Democratic Party is very afraid of this because they are worried about cultural backlash–yes, there will be a severe cultural backlash from people who are obsessed with American Exceptionalism (the new buzzword on the right) but it’s time that progressives and liberals desacralize that concept–the data doesn’t lie, we are a deeply class-divided society with an entrenched oligarchy with relatively static social movement. What movement there is comes form immigrants who start out relatively poor and within a generation or half a generation return to whatever social class they populated in their native country, e.g., a doctor comes to the U.S and drives a cab until he/she can get their credentials here.
  3. Pragmatism: the left/progressive movement should emphasize pragmatism as a deep American value and use it to frame issues as much as the class-struggle frame. The right in America has descended into a moment where it traffics strictly in fantasies. I’ve heard various discourses on the right in this country and they bear no relationship to reality. These notions can be dismissed easily. For example, their views on health-care are easily repudiated–why didn’t the left do its job? The “debate” that occurred had no basis in fact because the left, did not insist on using facts, studies and the scientific method but were suckered into the MSM narrative that the rest of the world does not exist and “nobody” really knows how to “fix” health care. There is no and was no ambiguity! The only way you fix health-care is through making it a public utility like the rest of the world does. The right-wing and centrist counter-arguments are basically the equivalent of saying the world is flat–disproving that contention is incredibly easy. There is no reasonable argument on their side! Now, as a counter-example there is a reasonable argument for Empire, there is a reasonable argument for authoritarian rule and social Darwinism thought the right doesn’t even bother to make those arguments except in private. People need to be forced to choose between reality and fantasy–the HCR debate was a debate that was entirely conducted in fanstasyland and for this the left bears a lot of responsibility.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

A sense of identity has been lost, of common cause and belonging.  What we, as liberals, are being asked to accept, is what is called pragmatism irrespective of any other value.

There is a tendency, adopted from Republicans, of disliking what they call “pessimism”, of what liberals might call acknowledging the problems confronting us and not only vowing, but actually doing, better.  Optimism grounded in an idea that any disease, any fault, any depredation can be summarily cured.  Cured by a religious faith, hope and belief, that despite what we were before, we can be better than we are.  Bt that hope, that betterness, has to be grounded not only in a vow or a desire, but a practice of different approaches, of different values, of not accepting what always has been, but what could be.

What value optimism, without these things, this vow, this indomitable conviction to start today?  What use, exceptionalism without substance and change grounded in “not today”?

To Republicans, pragmatism is all.  To neoliberal, faux-Keynsian economists, pragmatism is also a holy value, but this is often reframed as incrementalism.  It has gotten a bad name, this incrementalism.  Justifiably so.  What is incrementalism, the idea that things might get better in a world we can scarcely imagine, next to our deaths and the gradual death of the whole world?

Republicans are, we have been told, the devil.

But if Republicans are the devil, the people who use progressive rhetoric and turn tail and enact polices the Republicans might adore, are the deep blue sea.

Get With the Lineage: Establishing a Coherent Narrative

I never really “chose” to be on the left side of the political spectrum. I just ended up there because the traditional left was more logical than right and center if you come at life from the point-of-view implied in the founding documents of the American Republic (alas, now past). In America the left is really fulfilling the role of conserving the ideas and ideals of the American Revolution. Generally we believe in the rule of law rather than the law of privilege. But most importantly we believe in using principles established during the enlightenment that reason and science should be appealed to in setting public policy. Religion does not work as a foundation for public policy because people differ in religious principles. We, in the West, did not invent reason but we were the first to realize that appeal to reason was the only way to wars like the Thirty-Years War which devasted much of parts of Europe (mainly Germany) much as Afghanistan is devasted now.  

Gov. Sanford And Ideological Glare-Blindness

There are times for ideological fights, this the Dog believes with his entire heart. The issue is when to pick these fights. There is an argument that it is the best time when things are in crisis. The thinking on this, such as it is, is that when things are bad you need to be most correct in your actions. Of course this is what we are seeing from the Republican Party in general right now, and from anti-stimulus Governors in particular. It is also a complete fallacy. In times of crisis you need to have already decided the plan of action and act on it. If you are wise you will have planed and thought and argued prior to the crisis, but that is a rare trait in the America of the early 21st Century.  

The New School and Republic Windows and Doors…what can we learn?

This commentary original to All Over the Board:

Are the victories achieved by Republic Windows and Doors and the New School worthy of monumental status in the coming years, or are they blips on the radar screen of the republic, soon to be forgotten much as yesterday’s mosquito bite?  In the long term, the positioning of these direct actions will depend upon us.  Can, no…will we take what is able to be learned by the actions and build upon them?

Pragmatism does not mean paralysis

(Cross posted from Daily Kos, published last Wednesday.  I made just a few modifications for this site and no doubt missed others.)

It has been a while since last I posted.  ek — the wily ek — convinced me to come here and post this.  I thought that it might be provocative despite being meant with affection, but he thought it would be worth your collective time.

It’s a good time to note, by the way, why I haven’t been here much.  It’s the same reason I’m not on Open Left, Boo Trib, and countless other progressive blogs: I have simply found that for whatever reason I operate best when I limit myself to one blog; it lets me keep up with the conversations I start.  If I switch around, I write diaries and comments that I won’t follow up on for hours, days, weeks, months….  It feels to me as if I’m being rude.  So, given my limitation, which I’m glad that others do not share, I contribute only on El Permsimmon Grande, although I’m always (well, almost always) happy to see my Docudharmatic friends there.

Best holiday wishes to you all and I hope that you are happy and hopeful — even if hesitant in ways — over the political transition now underway.  I’ll try to come around more and prove myself a liar in the preceding paragraph.  If I don’t, feel free to hound me; apparently it works.  (And also feel free to port anything I write to here.)

Two years ago on DKos, in the wake of the 2006 election, came a rumbling on the right column of the front page that led to a series of withering assaults on Markos and some of the contributing editors.  Two years ago tomorrow, in fact, saw publication of a great example that will give those who were not yet here a sense of the arguments then taking place on the site: “Calling Bullshit on America,” by OPOL.  He and I “shared words” in the comments section of that diary and many others; it’s funnier now that we are friends.  His diaries — while still pungent and potent — have ratcheted down a little and I have come to better appreciate his talents.

The fight back then was between Pragmatists and Purists.  I was one of the loudest Pragmatists commenting on the site.  I’m still a pragmatist.  And here, today, we hear shouting once again from the right side of the page towards many CEs and others who dare criticize Obama’s choices — and again I find myself disagreeing with my fellow diarists.

I disagree because I don’t think that their position is pragmatic at all.

Our Long National Nightmare is Over…and now…

Tuesday night we were all fixated to the polls. We all cried (or at least I know I did – it was John Lewis that broke my dam on that front). I even cried yesterday, and I wasn’t the only one. Here in Blue Connecticut there were many tear stained faces, many relieved looks, even a pervasive, genuine happiness.

I bought the paper with Obama’s picture on it and the caption, “Mr. President” at the grocery store. The young woman ringing me up said, “I’m really glad he won yesterday.”

Obama’s remade the electoral map. Now it is time for us to remake our ideological maps – or specifically, I would advocate, completely rip those maps into shreds and start over.

Bad Pragmatism in Theory (pt.4): Gramsci vs. the Republicans

There are two models of the acquisition of political power discussed here:

1) the Republican model, in which an “aestheticized” politics is promoted (in this case, it’s the “aesthetics” of the War on Terror and of insecurity in general) in order to capture power for an elite (the Bush administration and its neoconservative cronies, and its financial backers in the oil and defense industries)

2) the model proposed by the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci, in which a coalition comes to power in order to support the claims of working people.

Here I will try to suggest that the former is “bad pragmatism” and the latter is real pragmatism, and suggest that the Democratic Party stop imitating 1) and find a way to subscribe wholeheartedly to 2).

(crossposted at Big Orange)

I burned through all my outrage in ’06, sorry

. . . all I got left is cynicism, snark and recycled outrage.

See, it was easy back in ’06 – when things were soooo bad. I mean, outrage was running, what – buck-and-a-quarter, maybe six bits a gallon back then, right? I was livin’ large, drivin’ the Escalade of outrage – we all were. And it was easy back then to figure out who our collective outrage should be aimed at:

Those filthy, nasty Republicans

– who, after all, were actually running things, so blaming everything on them was totally legitimate.

And I was committed to taking Congress away from those cretinous bastards so we could put a stop to the occupation of Iraq, and to warrantless wiretapping of Americans, and to the whole idea of the President as king. You know, like we did 230 years ago, right?  

Bad Pragmatism pt. 2: Benjamin Ginsberg’s The American Lie

Book Review: Ginsberg, Benjamin.  The American Lie: Government by the People and Other Political Fables.  Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2007.

This, part two in a series, will analyze Benjamin Ginsberg’s book The American Lie as a “cynical realist” take on the American political process, suggesting that even though it’s marginally useful to be “cynical,” we still must be against “bad pragmatism” and in favor of politics for the greater good even when confronted with the corrupt system we have today.

Next: either a history of bad pragmatism, or a diary on the latest bad pragmatist outrage.  There WILL be a Bad Pragmatism pt. 3.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

Bad pragmatism in political decisionmaking

This diary was prompted by the debate that circulated here around Senator Obama’s vote on telecomm immunity in the FISA bill, especially in Keith Olbermann’s diary of 6/26, and thereafter.  Olbermann’s rationalization was that Obama’s vote was a pragmatic move to attain power for the greater good.  The debate about Obama’s vote culminated in a defense of “purity trolls” (as such) in a diary listed here: “I’m calling out purity trolls by name,” incl. the Founding Fathers.  Since this “pragmatic” justification is endemic in politics today, I think it behooves us to examine it, and to specify and explain a “bad pragmatism” that comes of the uncritical acceptance of social “reality”.  I will also specify an antidote to “bad pragmatism,” in the concept of utopian dreaming.

(crossposted from Big Orange)