Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the Midterm Election and your Facebook Rhetoric

Previously, other commentators and this blogger have noted how the roots of the Tea Party are based in a lineage that comes directly from the 20th century's suspicion of communism: particularly, the suspicion of elite managerialism that accompanied the John Birch movement and the Red Scare. Critiques of various communist nations centered around their committment to large government programs that reduced people to numbers in order so that they could be aggregated and liquidated through collectivization. "The Great Leap Forward" or "The Five Year Plan" or any other such sloganeering today strikes us as ironic and grim, in light of how public political discourse memorializes the violence of the great political turns to communism.

Little surprise, then, that the distrust of big government (which has always been a powerful American meme) blew up starting with the bailouts and health care debate ("too big to fail" and "death panels"). This discourse plays easily in the contemporary American landscape because while temporally we are increasingly distanced from the threat of "actually existing" communism (the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed, Cuba seems a failure, China is Red but also seems to be increasingly liberalized by market forces), spatially we find ourselves still inhabiting a political space defined by its opposition to communism. This history cannot be easily disavowed.

Discourses suspicious of managerialism, then, are more than mere rhetorics; they are constitutive of American political space in the sense that that always conjure an authentic people who knows better than the government by virtue of not being the government. Hence the circulation of the images and stories of the Founders; they are the ultimate embodiment of a people who never trusted that the government "knew best".

For whatever reason (despite a long history of our government doings lots of good things for people) the presumption politically seems to be against governmental action. This presumption seems to operate ideologically as opposed to contingently; the people are greater than the government is a widely accepted American enthymeme (our status as a democratic republic notwithstanding).

So on the day after a midterm election that has shattered Democratic dreams and elected a host of new Republicans office, a healthy reminder: the more your opinions and Facebook posts and complaints assert in advance that people could not possibly support the Tea Party, or about how Barack Obama is so obviously a great president, the more you contribute to the production of the distance between your own political (probably Democratic) position and that of the Republicans, because you're assuming in advance that you're right rather than figuring out the perhaps even honest or sincere political opinions of others. Don't allow your belief in the superiority of your own political opinions to substitute for making a rigorous judgment about political arguments. Because that substitution that comes off as somehow elite or superior; the result is that it activates that very same sort of "elite/people" divide that drove divisions during the Cold War. So just be careful, is all I'm saying.

1 comment:

  1. but calling the tea-partiers idiots (and thereby distinguishing yourself as more intelligent/sophisticated) is so much FUN!