Wednesday, November 08, 2006
So the polls have closed. The votes are in medias tally. And the projections say the Democrats swept the House and won a couple of key Senate spots.
I am happy that the party that has ruled Congress for over ten years and the Executive branch for the last six has been dealt a vote of no confidence by the American people.
At the same time, the reason for the change is fairly obvious. Corruption, security, Iraq, and the economy. Those were the exit poll reasons CNN tells us people voted as they did. These usually function as predetermined sets of issues that can be read, answered, and then reported to us quickly.
Corruption and Iraq are synonymous. Corruption and the Bush administration, the way that it tries to gain consent for policies via militaristic domestic propaganda. The staged press conferences with soldiers, with fake reporters. The Valerie Plame leak. The fake news scandals. The criminalization of taxes as a bread and circus tactic, while running up debt and promoting huge new sensationalist bread and circus projects, such as the border fence, which given the billions of dollars they would cost are simply symbolic politics. They are branding efforts. All the spin about the roaring economy, which has four million temp workers everyday, inflation-adjusted wages dropping, gaps between the richest and the poorest widening, etc. There are so many examples, but who has all day? One more.
Security. People are starting to question whether starting a war, now increasingly a civil one in Iraq, was not just poor military planning and unethical public persuasion. Over 3,000 American deaths and 30,000-600,000 Iraqi civilian deaths later, some are hearing that the liberation of Iraq justification (after being forced to give up WMD) for the war is a tragedy at best. Further, they're understanding that far from making the U.S. safer in the precarious world of global terror, it has made the U.S. and the world in general, the Middle East in particular, less safe. It has incurred the wrath of international public opinion, allies and non-.
In theses conditions, it did not take well-argued positions to win the election. The incumbent Republicans are infected by the virus that spreads to them from the White House. And here is where I partially agree with some of the Republican pundits.
The Democrats have not had strong policy visions in this race. Some of them try to cowtow to particular voting blocs on issues like gay marriage or taxes and thus try to prove they're not "anything goes" liberals, but are really good conservative Democrats. But the point is for many years now, after Reagan, Democrats have been imitating Republicans. They have some key differences, but they try to stress their similarities as great deal, similarities that arguably didn't used to exist in such volume. Opposing a war in Iraq is one thing, but it's quite another to have a different policy vision that gets serious about all the political economic changes that are necessary for dealing with global warming, pollution and over-consumption, healthcare, unequal education, lack of corporate accountability, ongoing race tensions, and a fractured polity where many citizens no longer have anything to say to others partly thanks to political branding in place of respect for public argument.
Do the election results represent a departure from politics as branding? I think not. It's not that the style of campaigning and waging politics changed all that much. It's just that the context for it did.
But to deal with these larger, immediate public and global public problems requires policy visions and arguments, not just branding--and not just corruption and tragic loss of life.
(evidence for most claims in this editorial can be found in the links to this one)