We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under

20 08 2019

I want to move off a bit from naming, and on to claiming.

Claiming is a related concept to naming, but one which emphasizes belonging: I claim this as mine. (This is the positive part of Carl Schmitt’s dictum that “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motive can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” Friends belong; enemies, who are of course negative, must be excluded.)

I’ve stated in the past that a politics reduced to the friends/enemies distinction is a bad one, but in a well-rounded and healthy politics, the notion of us-vs-them isn’t terrible. If you define your side solely by who you oppose, well, that ain’t productive, but also by it? That’s fine.

Anyway, the words aren’t coming tonight, but I did want to get to Elizabeth’s Bruenig’s piece in the Washington Post on white evangelical support for Trump. The short version is that those evangelicals who like Trump like him because he recognizes them, claims them. Many don’t go so far as to return that claim back—they don’t necessarily see him as a Christian—but they are ardently glad that he sees them as his.

And, most importantly, they are glad they stand together against Them (ie, folks like me). He doesn’t have to make things better; he just has to keep my kind from making things worse.

Scholar Lydia Bean notes that “Basically, it’s like a fortress mentality, where it’s like — the best we can do is lock up the gates and just pour boiling oil over the gates at the libs.”

So it’s that Schmittian amalgamation of GO US! with FUCK YOU!; they feel positively toward Trump because he’s willing to fuck over leftists/libs/SJWs/etc on their behalf. They don’t even have to believe that he believes in their deeper or long-term agenda, just that he congratulates them for being on the right side.

Trump, Bob Collins said, “has done something no other politician has done: He’s circumvented the press. The press has a problem now. … I wish he would not do the personal attacks, but he needs to get the message out, even if it’s a blunt, brute-force message.” For them, the message was a welcome one. “We’re deplorables,” the Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” Barber added. “Even though Donald Trump is different than me, the Donald Trump White House tries to move toward evangelicals like me.”

And whatever their qualms, two mentioned that they prefer Trump to a more godly man:

At first, there were murmurs about the possibility of Vice President Pence. But then Maria Ivy warned that Pence is soft compared with Trump, too decent and mannerly to take on the job. Bob Collins agreed: “The president is having to deal with a den of vipers,” he said. “I’m not sure Pence could do that.” “It’s spiritual warfare,” Dale Ivy added, emphasizing that Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.

There’s a lot more there, but I want to focus on this exchange between a father and son:

“Basically,” Joe argued, “Trump is everyone, without the filters. I’m sure at some time you’ve thought some horrible things, but you had a filter there to keep you from saying it.”

“But is that a defense?” Daniel asked.

“No, that’s just —”

“A fact to you?”

“Just an explanation of why. I mean, he is a raw personality with all filters removed. . . . I think he pretty much exemplifies this sin that we all carry with us. He just doesn’t know how to repress it.”

Daniel nodded, and pressed: “But it would seem like a natural question would be, you just sounded like you just described some pretty good reasons not to support the man.”

I don’t want to attribute this sentiment to every Trump supporter, but I’ve heard variations of this over the years: Trump is who we all really are, deep down.

Which is a pretty grim view of us. I don’t hold what I think is an elevated opinion of our species, but, jesus, this holds that we are all, at root, terrible.

It also means, as not a few others have noticed before, that they like him because he’s terrible: he liberates them.

~~~

Once again, I don’t know what to do with this. It points to a sense among Trump’s supporters that they’re being pushed out of . . . the culture, the country, the mainstream—some place in society they value, and he’s saying No, no, you’re at the center, here with me.





You see, got my brother down cause it’s nothing to me

16 07 2019

I have nothing to say about the racist bag of maggots currently befouling the White House—nothing beyond curses and sputtering, that is.

He’s a terrible man and a terrible president with terrible policies enabling the worst of us. And that he has a good shot at re-upping his tenure is really more than I can handle right now.

I don’t follow any pro-Trumpers on Twitter—Twitter is my junk food, and I prefer my snacks in salty left-wing, artistic, academic, or animal form—but I do run across them online, and, honestly, . . . huh.

The outright racists who love him, okay, that makes sense. While I only understand racism on an intellectual level—I don’t get on the gut-level why anyone would want to be supremacist—I can identify it as an interest that the maggoty misogynist meets. And the cynics, like Mitch McConnell, who’ll excuse anything to get what they want (tax cuts, 19th-century judges): again, the interests intersect.

But the people who consider themselves principled, moral, who support him? Are they just lying to themselves about their morality? Are they in denial about the awfulness of The Donald?

There’s a fair amount of anger I hear from them, and fear about coming breakdown/SJW totalitarian takeover, and it’s not hard to read that anger-fear as its own justification. It’s also a handy way to deflect responsibility from one’s own actions: Look what you made me do!

That doesn’t seem enough, though, to explain how we could look at the same Tweets or hear the same speech or at fucking children in cages and reach such radically different conclusions about them. It’s ideological, yeah, but that’s hardly a sufficient explanation.

This might be where political psychology comes in, which is extremely not my bag. I don’t have anything against it in general, but it’s always seemed to me that the ‘political’ piece loses out to the ‘psychological’; since I want to understand political phenomenon as political, I’ve been leery of anything (incl economics or orthodox Marxism) which reduces the political to mere epiphenomenon.

Still, since I take politics as necessarily a scavenger field, dragging in economics and culture and religion and passion and psychology, etc, perhaps I simply need to get to diggin’ in other areas of this messy yard. I might never get it, but at least I’d have a better sense of the disconnect itself.





Into the breach! 2020

27 06 2019

ETA: It’s unto the breach! UNTO! Goddammit.

Yeah, I’ve pretty much landed on that for the theme. Works.

Anyway, I’ve said I’m not going to say much about the primaries and. . .  I’m not. I like Warren for her plans and Harris for her knife skills; I think Julián Castro would make a fine veep, and while I’m sorry she’s not doing better, I appreciate Gillibrand pounding away on women’s issues.

Regardless, and as ever, I’ll vote for the nominee.

Anyway, the real reason I’m bringing up the primaries is because the last two nights I followed the debates on twitter and oh, is that an exercise in meta-analysis: what one person adores another abhors.

Same as it ever was, I’d guess, but it’s a lesson I keep forgetting.

I mean, this isn’t about Dems vs GOPpers, or even lefties vs liberals vs moderates—the ideological disputes I get—but about tone and style and emphasis, about one person saying about a slip-up, Eh, it happens and another OMFG! Doomed!

Again, t’ain’t nothin’ new about that, but I can’t help but notice it every time.

Anyway, this is why I’m confining myself at this point to meta- than actual analysis: I get as caught up in this tonal shit as anyone, and thus don’t trust that I’m in any position to say Ooo, this’ll play well or Sadly, no.

That’ll be less of an issue during the general election campaign, because at that point it’s less about impressing those willing to give you a look-see and more about straight beating the shit out of the other guy.

But in the meantime? Meta.





Take the long way home

6 06 2019

I mentioned awhile back that I was working on a project called “Modernity’s Ideologies”, in which I trace the historical emergence of political ideologies in Europe from ’round about 1517-1945. I waaaay condensed that into a chart much like this one:

(Sorry for the bleed-through: I print almost everything on used paper.)

I haven’t given up on that, exactly, but the bugger certainly became bigger and bigger and bigger and I thought, Man, I gotta getta hold of this. So, I’m still reading and thinking and thinking and reading, but I’ve cooled my jets considerably.

That project was/is meant as scholarship, but also as a teaching tool, and I used some of those ideas in my class on the Weimar Republic to try to help the students make sense of the riot of political movements in 1920s Germany.

(I don’t know that it actually helped.)

Anyway, in teaching that, on women’s politics, and a course on American government and politics, I’ve also had the occasion to ask What is politics, anyway?

In those cases, I used a version of this chart:

This refers to what I call the “fields of action” of politics, and I first developed it when teaching that women in politics course in order to capture the multifarious ways women participated in political life.

I’ve since adapted this to my AmPol course, and as you can see by the written notes, the adaptation is ongoing.

In fact, this adaptation is part of a new project called “A Partial Politics”, a part of which I plan to use for teaching in the fall. I’ll discuss the fields of action (mentioning that in other nations military, religious, and economic institutions may also form overtly political fields) along with various definitions of politics (Aristotle, Easton, Lasswell, Crick, Arendt, Schmitt, etc.). I lecture on all of this and write it on the board, but I think it would be useful for the students to have a version written out for them and that they can refer back to.

The fields of action thing actually works well for how I teach the AmPol course, which includes a central role for the early civil rights movement (1960-65, more or less): I note the different institutions within government, the splits in the parties, and note how the NAACP fits more as an interest group, SNCC & CORE as activists groups, and the SCLC somewhere in the overlap.

One thing I’ll definitely change in the chart is the implication that “underground” politics flow only out of activist groups: certainly the overlapping roles of the Klan, the White Citizens’ Councils, and sundry other violent white supremacist groups with state and local governments give lie to that. And, of course, the various corruptions involving modern-day interest groups, while not exactly underground in the same way, suggest further modification of the above-ground/underground distinction.

I may also include some discussion of the different types of roles one sees across all fields (although some may be more prominent in one area than another); I currently have:

policy
process
prophet
politicking (persuading, pressing flesh, etc) [eh, too indistinct; maybe ‘persuader’?]
pundit
foot soldier
connector?
trickster (dirty, ie, ratfucker; anarchic, eg Yippie, Pirate Party, Ukrainian comic)
hustler (grifter; spotlight hogs, etc)

Political actors may inhabit multiple roles, or may be primarily defined by one. Nancy Pelosi, I’d argue, is a master of process, but she’s not who to turn to in developing policy or to lead the masses to the promised land, i.e., a prophet.

And this isn’t just about elected officials; you can find people to fill these roles across all fields. John Lewis in his SNCC days, for example, was a foot soldier and a connector, putting himself on the line repeatedly as well as being willing to work with King and the SCLC when others in SNCC were unwilling.

Anyway, this is all preliminary: I’ve got the summer to get at least this part pulled together.

You’ll notice that I didn’t say anything about ideologies and AmPol. That’s due mostly to my focusing on strategies and tactics, but also to the fact that the chart above needs to be radically altered to account for American ideologies (another piece of that overgrown Ideologies project). Given that the US, as a nation (ie, since the 1780s), has always been modern, discussing ideologies as a reaction to modernity doesn’t work. There’s also the matter of how to deal with the slaveocracy, which to my-mostly-ignorant mind, attempts to graft Enlightenment sensibilities on top of a pseudo-feudal structure.

I won’t teach from a mostly-ignorant position, so this doesn’t get discussed much at all. Given that I barely get through the material as-is, this isn’t a problem.

But if I am to fill out that “A Partial Politics”, then I will also have to fill out that ideologies section, in some way or another.

I know, I keep doing wide outruns and getting lost; this time, I’ll try to keep it closer, and plink away at it bit by bit.





And all the men would come around and lay their money down

6 05 2019

For better and for worse, the 2020 presidential campaign is upon us. This means I have to come up with a theme for campaign-related posts.

I’m a little leery of doing this, given that my jokey “Circus Maximus” theme turned out to be horrifyingly on the nose. Also, this next campaign is going to be a shitstorm (“Shitstorm 2020”?), and, man, coming up with something that doesn’t make me wail or want to defenestrate my computer is going to take some work.

I have no real ideas at this point. Final Countdown? Apocalyptic, sure, but without that soupçon of wit to lighten it all up. Maybe something from REM’s “End of the World”. . . ? Nah. And, actually, just typing that, I realize that I don’t want anything apocalyptic. Yeah, things suck, but compared to climate change, the stakes of this election are. . . less.

How’s that for perspective? “We’re killing our planet and its creatures, so the fuckery of the Republicans is comparatively minor.”

So I’ll need something serious, mostly-but-not-completely earnest. Mordant. I’ll think of something.

~~~

As for the primary, I’m not planning to say much about it beyond the fact that I don’t fucking want to hear one second more of the Bernie/Hillary rehash. Enough. Both candidates lost. Next!

~~~

I have little faith that the (mainstream) media will do a decent job of covering the elections, and if people are treating the polls as anything other than a nerd-game at this point, well, I don’t know what to say to that.

~~~

I stated back in 2016 that the election broke me, and, yep, still broken. I will make no predictions, and will remain leery (which I failed to do the last time around) of those who do. I’ll pay attention to the polls once 2020 rolls around and listen to smart people say smart things, and, yeah, I’ll consider the odds, but I ain’t laying any bets down.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll cover the elections. That my old knowledge has shattered doesn’t mean every piece was wrong, but I don’t know how, or how far I’ll go, to put them together.

On y va.

 





IMPEACH

22 04 2019

No, the Senate won’t convict—remember, impeachment is only the first part of the process to remove a president—but that a conviction is unlikely does not mean no investigation or vote should take place.

I’ve often snarked on tactics and consequentialism and overall Machiavellianism, but even at my bitchiest, I’ve never gone full nihilist. Politics matters, and elemental to that politics is some understanding of principle.

Political principle isn’t a pure thing, but at its root are two lines: This must be done and This must not be done. Where you draw those lines, how much space is between them, what you think is justified inside of those lines, are all at play in politics, but if you don’t have any lines at all, then what you’re talking about isn’t politics, but something else entirely.

I understand the concerns that House Dems have about backlash and every other downside to impeachment proceedings, but, goddammit, if protecting our (shabby) democracy and trying to expose and inoculate against (further) corruption of our elections isn’t worth the risk, then what the hell is even the point of being in politics?

Oh, and yeah, this goes for Republicans too, but good fucking luck finding any at the federal level who haven’t gone full nullification.

So this falls to House Democrats. Some may be afraid, some may not see the point, but let there be enough to say: This must be done.





And don’t give up the dream

20 04 2019

My mum’s a McCue, from a line which apparently traces back to 19th century Cork. So I’m of Irish descent. There might be some from my dad’s side as well—he’s a true American mosaic—but the McCue is a solid line.

That said, having grown up in southeastern Wisconsin, the culture was more German (which, yep, my ancestors also were) than anything else. Bit of Dutch, bit of Swedish, some Polish, heading toward Milwaukee, but I grew up in the land of bratwurst, sommer sausages, stumpf fiddles, and polkas.

Still, McCue, which was enough at some point in grad school to set me off on an “I’M IRISH” kick.

It was a shallow kick—I still haven’t read any good histories on Éire—but even a few inches will lead one into jigs, reels, Irish punk, and, as they happened to be recording when I was kicking—Black 47.

I do try to keep in mind the Pogues’s line “we celebrate the land that made us refugees” to keep any romanticism in check, but even a nationalist-skeptic like me gets choked up at a good, rousing, Rising song.

As a teen I took great pride in my cynicism; now, even though that seems a cop-out, a way to justify resignation, it’s tough to avoid.

So, yeah, I know there’s a fair amount of bullshit about the revolution and a dangerously blinkered revival of the (New) IRA, but however contrived my Irish identity, and whatever my unease with nationalism, I am not ungrateful that I can still be moved by a song celebrating liberation.