Circus Maximus MMXVI: Just a little bit longer

8 09 2016

I may wax and wane in my enthusiasm for voting for Hillary Clinton, but I am firm that I’ll vote for her.

And whatever waning there is, doesn’t mean I think I’m voting for “the lesser evil”.

Greater and lesser evils in politics: such horseshit.

Bernard Crick argued that politics requires pluralism, which in turn creates the conditions in which politics may flourish: that there are differences requires some mechanism for negotiating amongst those differences, and politics (as opposed to technocracy or totalitarianism) provides an open, inclusive, and non-violent way for a citizenry to deal with itself.

Politics is more than this, of course, but that notion of conciliation and compromise are key: if factions are only ever maximalist, only ever all-or-nothing, only ever my-way-or-else, then politics will be ground out of existence.

Which is where my evilism-is-horseshit stance comes from: someone is decried as a lesser evil because she isn’t perfect, is compromised, is too willing to compromise, adheres too closely or not closely enough to the party line, will disappoint, will likely fail.

All politicians fail. Good politicians fail well, bad politicians fail badly, but if politics is about advancing an agenda against competing agendas, then the old cliché sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you means that even the greatest advances will contain losses.

It also means that to advance your position, you’re likely to have to settle, to give something to get something. To compromise.

Yeah, sometimes you can hold the line, and those hard-liners do have a place (tho’ not in leadership) in politics, but if your political adversaries are present in enough numbers to get in your way (which is almost always the case, if not at any one moment then certainly over a relatively short period of time), you’re going to have to pay attention to them. You’re going to have to deal.

As with failing, you can be a good (moves you closer to your goals)  or bad (moves you further from your goals) dealer, but if you don’t deal at all you’re not much of a politician, much less a political leader.

To deal is to be political, not to be evil, so any assessment of a politician should not be Does she deal or not but Is she a good dealer or bad dealer?

Again, none of this means candidates, even ones one is waxingly enthusiastic about, are above criticism—criticize away! But criticize them on their politics, not on the fact of their imperfections.

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*It’s not that evil doesn’t exist at all in politics—if you’re a genocidal dictator you pretty much fit the definition of an evil leader—but that in ordinary or functioning politics, the evil quotient is going to be pretty low. (I could go full Crick and state that genocidal dictators are anti-politics by definition, and thus fob off evil on the upside-down, but that’s a little too convenient.)





Burning down the house

3 10 2013

h/t scarce, Crooks & Liars

Eric Giroux, sneakhype.com

memebase.cheezburger.com

I hate hate hate the term “meme”, but when searching for these images, well, I just had to compromise with myself to suck it up to get the job done.





Git ‘er done

21 02 2013

A person without interests has no business in politics. Further: A person who is all principle and no interests is a menace to politics*.

Those were a pair of off-the-cuff remarks I made to Jtte in response to some statement she made about the movie Lincoln and the allegedly nefarious means used to pass the 13th Amendment. For chrissakes, I said, are people really shocked that deals are made in order to accomplish anything?

(Well, Thomas Frank is, apparently, but as much as I enjoy his Doris Kearns Goodwin-bashing, I think he needs to dry his eyes and unclutch his pearls.)

What was that line about how the British Labour Party managed to get the National Health Service through Parliament? Ah, here it is: NHS champion Aneurin Bevan overcame doctors’ opposition to his plan when he “stuffed their mouths with gold”.

Goddamned right. If that’s what he needed to do in order to bring health care to every citizen of Britain, then stuff away.

I am not in any way opposed to principle in politics: It is at the core of why anyone should bother with it, and without it politics degenerates into a corrupt flea market.

But politics without interest isn’t politics, either, as much as it pains this Arendtian to say that: It is instead a high-minded—and inert—debate club. It is not enough to proclaim one’s principles and ideals; one must also get something done.

And when there is opposition in principle, you get something done by appealing to interest. No, the true believers won’t be “bought off”, but those for whom something is a moderately- rather than strenuously-held principle, one can bargain one’s interest in order to shape the policy more in line with one’s principles.

As a political scientist, as well as a leftist whose views are not adequately represented by the Democratic Party (and, I have to add, as a still-too-gleeful observer of current Republican and conservative agita), I’ve thought a lot about compromise and lesser evils, holding fast and moving over. When I was younger I was much more militant—which only meant I agonized over my pragmatism.I might vote for the Dems, but I felt bad for doing so.

No more. Now my attitude is take what you can get, then take some more.

I still agonize, to be sure, because there are some matters which are either/or, and by voting for this senator and that president, I’ll end up electing someone who will end up on the either when I am holding to the or.

But most things aren’t all-or-nothing, and always refusing anything less-than-all is apt to leave you with nothing.

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*By this I mean electoral politics and elected politicians. Those who lead social movements might lean more on principle than do politicians, but even social leaders have to take stock in order not to become either fanatics and/or useless.