Over at State Street, Lynn makes the following observation familiar to many of us on the “left”:
An interesting discussion at I Cite has focused issues with the upcoming election for me.
The upcoming election is a conundrum for me. I am one of the people who would like to see the Democratic Party move leftward rather than remain Bush Cult Lite. I do not see that happening. I do not predict any change should the Democrats win Congress this time around.
Note: I am always tempted to substitute conservative for Bush Cult, but accuracy dictates otherwise. Old style conservatives are beginning to recognize that the Bush Cult has replaced their ideology with crony capitalism and crony Christianity. If you are not in the Bush Cult, then you are a leftist of some sort. Welcome to the club William F. Buckley.
Democratic politicians belong to an opportunist party. Whatever the current political climate dictates as prudent political message becomes the prevailing ideological message for them. All too often, they succumb to communicating Bush Cult Lite messages. Those messages have helped lead us to the Iraq debacle and other fine messes.
There are no alternative third party candidates for whom I can vote. Does compromising one’s vote completely compromise one’s ideals? I just do not know.
I’ve been obsessing over this a good deal lately and right now I just don’t think there’s any other option, but to hold our nose and vote Democrat. However, I do think the left needs to do more work with material infrastructure in years to come. In recent years democratic political theorists have come to see the issue as one of messaging or how messages are conveyed. Hence we get theorists such as Lakoff and others telling us that we need to frame our messages correctly to change the political temperament.
While there’s something to this, I’ve increasingly come to feel that the issue is far more material than all of this. I confess, I admire the Christian right. This is not because I admire what they believe– I think it’s lunacy –but because I admire how they’ve managed to transform the country in the last 30 years, taking beliefs that were once seen as laughable and marginal and transforming them into mainstream beliefs. This is what I mean by “materiality”. It wasn’t that the Christian right produced a highly marketable message (though they became increasingly savvy with packaging over time), but because they waged a prolonged and concerted struggle to take over the channels of communication. They began with the churches. It didn’t matter if everyone in evangelical congregations agreed with them. If they could convince five people out of a hundred, these five people would also convince friends and family members and they would eventually be able to build their own congregations. As they drew in money from these newly formed congregations, they were able to build bigger and more impressive churches, that would draw people in by offering non-political services such as classes on how to invest money, child care, yoga classes, dances, and so on, providing a sanctuary from the alienation of contemporary life under capital. Gradually they were able to raise enough money to organize mass mailings to targeted democraphics and to start walking campaigns going from door to door. Again, they weren’t always successful, but if they could persuade five people out of a hundred they would also gain additional followers from family and friends who were also persuaded. Eventually they were able to amass enough money to start their own radio stations and make substantial contributions to politicians. This in turn placed leverage on newspapers and news-stations to report these points of view. Next thing you know, 30 years later, views that were once laughable are now acceptable and mainstream.
I think this sort of organized movement and slow conquest of the channels of communication is what is lacking on the left. Again and again I hear stories about people who volunteer with the DNC to make calls and cavas neighborhoods, only to never be called. Moreover, the left offers nothing comparable to the social services of the churches, giving people a sanctuary from the alienations of contemporary life under capital. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, it doesn’t matter much whether or not it makes a sound. If a political group has a platform and it is never communicated beyond the confines of the inside members of that political group, then it might as well not exist. The blogosphere has already gone a long way towards overcoming this problem with blogs such as Americablog, Dailykos, MyDD, and so on. They’ve been able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for political candidates, thus forcing politicians to take their interests seriously. Moreover, they’ve been able to organize massive letter writing campaigns to news organizations, forcing these organizations to report on stories that would not otherwise be reported, thereby disseminating this political platform further throughout the population. Even if these campaigns have not always been victories, the very act of getting certain stories and issues reported is itself a victory as it forces the opposition to take these stories and issues into account and respond to them.
However, these democratic blogs are largely “right-wing” political platforms, not because they endorse an ultra-conservative ideology such as one might find over at Freerepublic, but because genuine emancipatory politics revolving around issues such as labor and the environment are almost entirely absent from these blogs. That is, democrats in the United States are themselves conservatives… They just happen to be more palatable and less dangerous conservatives than those among the Republicans. If political change is to take place in this country, there needs to be some organized activity getting the message out to the public. This requires contending with the channels of communication and not simply attending to the frames within which messages are conveyed. If the Christian Right can take a fringe interpretation of Christianity and make it a mainstream point of view in the space of 30 years, there’s no reason that the same cannot be done with a properly organized– and dare I say missionary –progressive political platform.