Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Finakpo' Denver - What I Learned from the DNC #2

What I Learned from the DNC #2
Ideology
(this is the first in a series of concluding thoughts on my time as the blogger from Guam at the 2008 DNC)

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The spirit of the two main American political parties right now are very distinct. Both claim to represent the future of the United States, be the proper, capable, just heirs to this august responsibility. You achieve this feat, this Master Signification by accomplishing the proto-ideological gesture, the naming of who is responsible for the problems of the world.

Life is inconsistent, unfair, violent, confusing and ideology is the glue that holds it together in a meaningful way by assigning the blame for its problems to certain figures, groups, events. People or groups attain power not by the solving of problems or the resolving of conflicts, but by being the ones who name those responsible.

For the Democrats their task is easy and obvious. Everything is Bush’s fault. It is the fault of those who have been in power for the past six to eight years.

For the Republicans, their blame has been less obvious, less focused and much more difficult to gain ideological traction. They have at different points blamed Barack Obama, the Democrats, “Washington as usual” and the media. Their tactics are often feeble and laughable, and have only gained some national consistency through their base and racism and ignorance amongst some independent voters. (Not the conflicting arguments about the lack of power, experience of Barack Obama, and therefore he cannot lead, but somehow we can also blame him for huge massive problems like the financial crisis, and energy crisis, which the McCain campaign has tried to do)

So in this way, both are the same, but past this point is where they are different. First, the big tent, grassroots, social welfare platforms or ideology of the Democrats actually do attempt to provide relief to the many ills that Americans feel. The blaming of the Republicans for all of America’s problems is thus followed up with, yes often generic plans and appeals, to elevate the majority of Americans.

Republicans, at least not at this point seem to move much beyond the blame. In recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that they don’t have anything to offer the American people, save for attacks on Barack Obama and more empty accusations towards “Washington.”

And the problem is that this sort of strategy can work. Obama and Democrats regularly appeal to the “better angels of human/American nature.” It is a collective call, that the little we all give can potentially mean everything to someone less fortunate. And those who believe this may gain some individual pride or personal gratification, but the impact stretches far beyond the “altruistic” ego boost.

For Republicans, they are aimed sharply at individuals through their policy, but while rhetorically alone invoking collective identities. As such they feed into the most basic desires for self-protection and selfishness. They appeal not to a collective American, but simply a collection of individuals.

For those obsessed with themselves, plans to fix their problems are secondary, what is craved is that tiny piece which will complete their identities, will provide them security in their world view, and that is who is to blame for their problems. The knowledge of knowing who is wrong and who is bad, who they must hate and be against is more than enough.

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