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<nettime> Reflections on America after the election [2x]
nettime's post-election analyst on Thu, 11 Nov 2004 17:08:15 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Reflections on America after the election [2x]



Table of Contents:

    rural vs. cosmpolitan vs. bush vs. kerry vs. ontology vs. epistemology
      Daniel Perlin <Daniel {AT} undividedproductions.org>

    The tyranny of the two party system in the US
      Ronda Hauben <ronda {AT} umcc.ais.org>



------------------------------

Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 18:04:13 -0500
From: Daniel Perlin <Daniel {AT} undividedproductions.org>
Subject: rural vs. cosmpolitan vs. bush vs. kerry vs. ontology vs. epistemology

Rural vs. Cosmopolitan vs.Ontology vs. Epistemology vs. Bush vs. Kerry 
daniel perlin

So now is the supposed period of re-examination for the left leaning or 
politically driven in general. Many left thinkers and conservatives alike 
are shocked by the divide that seems to have taken over the US. Strangely, 
the left in particular has taken a stance that this national split is due 
to the power of 'christianity' or 'moral values', results they derive in 
part from typical polling techniques and focused independent studies. 
Notably, there is a socio-geographic division at place, evidenced by the 
'blue' vs.'red' dots on maps. Kerry, 'blue', was supported in urban 
spaces, whereas Bush , 'red', seemed to flourish in the rural and suburban 
areas. The battle, it seems to me, is one of rural vs. cosmopolitan. Why? 
What is this gap between regimes of thought? What lack does a Bush 
fulfill? What desire does a Kerry sustain? Disillusionment provides a rare 
opportunity to dig at the very foundations of belief, so why not take this 
opportunity to (re)state the obvious, perhaps if in a slightly different 
way.

The search for being, for being to presence itself. For the essence of the 
thing. For the perfect word. For absolute poetry. For strength of the 
being, not the being-in-the-world that we all live. Yeah, all that 
ontological mumbo jumbo we were subject to in our overpriced educations. 
But one of the founding elements, often overlooked by so many urban 
scholars, is that heidegger, ontology's 20th century champion, was adamant 
about getting back to nature. From Southern Germany, he found technology, 
urbanity, democracy, 'modern living' and commodities suspect at best, and 
revered the process of unfolding of Being through a deep examination of 
experience and angst. Ok, cool, but who cares. I would say that 52%, if 
not more, care, in the US.

There is a gap, a lack, a space for desire for fulfillment. Religion, as 
we all know, helps fill this gap. But this gap exists before organized 
religion takes hold, I think. Can the language of logic, of Truth, of the 
'real' answers, the cosmopolitan education and the language of equality 
really help fill this gap? Are people looking for Truth? Maybe, but how do 
you tell them you know it?

Epistemology, logic, the tradition of knowledge through conscious thought, 
what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) 
knowledge? Are these the standards by which one might address this lack? 
Clearly, there is a woodenness to this approach, a stiffness, and 
anassumption: one wants to know.  Perhaps that is a starting point to 
address the lack of fill, the hollowness attributed to the Kerry 
cosmopolitanism.

Not to get too academic about it, really. I mean, after all, they both 
try: we will kill, we will hunt down, we will crush, terror is all around 
etc. But how do you engage a concentrated fear (angst) based campaign with 
logic? How can you defeat obtuse color schemes and the madness of Cheney's 
atomic doom with an appeal for jobs, for the real. People, it would seem, 
don't really want 'real' in the back country. Or is this precisely what we 
are missing: not what but how.

We bomb ourselves, out of hatred for our own cosmopolitan bureaucracies 
and invasive truth-selling: Oklahoma, Montana, Michigan militias, Waco, 
California, Uni-, etc.. In fact, we terrorize ourselves because we feel 
terrorized by the imposition of these truth values, democracies of taxes, 
unsolicited protections. During the Clinton era, were were al-quaida. 
terrorists. The desire to lash out at the unknown, the threat of change, 
the threat of the un-natural, the dark forest, fear. When 911 struck, we 
were hit again, anthrax. Why? Fear begets fear. Rove, Cheney, Bush, 
Guiliani, Ridge, the machines in operation since the 'failures to contain' 
the events of '68, felt the chance to step into this gap. Iron fist. No 
fear without response. Camera cuts to families crying, to David Letterman 
crying, to Dan Rather, to CNN crying, ratings ho! And so it goes, as we 
all know.

But it is not enough to get cynical (or conspiratorial). What is this gap? 
How does bush fill it? By appealing not to logic, but the 'hearts' of the 
'american' public. A ranch. Boots. Golf. A cup of coffee in a styrofoam 
cup. 1950's texas. Kerry's Carhart Jacket seems pretty 70's, industrial, 
material. Working. Do people want to be reminded that they work or don't? 
Do they want to talk facts? do they want the head on TV to show a vietnam 
vet telling shrapnel stories? This all sounds a little to real. Or would 
they rather hear the operative words that drive their Being: 'Fear' and 
'hope'. 'war' against the dark forest, the unseen is all around, anytime 
is right now. Carl Rove has a vision.

This divide, of course, isn't across the board. Plenty of rural places 
voted for blue, plenty of cities voted red. But in critical spaces, when 
politics do matter, it seems that the 'self evident' facts of the 
atrocities committed by the current administration no not, in fact, speak 
for themselves. Somehow, someway, we need to bridge the perceived gap of 
the city-slicker as 'knower,' the countryman as 'feeler.' We all, of 
course, do both.  But the 'facts' need to be shown as having effect. Not 
numbers, not Truth, but effect, affect. Don't blame FOX, look at what they 
do. They work hard to create fear. Al quaida sure beats the hell out of 
Jobs statistics for fear, for ratings, for emotion, for the lack we all 
feel. They take facts, give them affect. If you want to appeal to Being, 
show how Being is appealing to you. That is the 'morality,' I think, that 
appeals to so many. Even the skeptics want to want to believe.

There is no conclusion here. A strategy of openness will keep the left 
from shutting itself off from the rural. A tactic of listening will allow 
the rural to speak its desires. Of course they are christian desires, but 
that's because christianity appeals to this lack. During elections, 
Government, if it wishes to return to its origins, to its originary being, 
needs to realign itself with its beginnings, as the Church. Not 
permanently, of course, but as a tactic. The best Messiah won.





------------------------------

Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 19:31:26 -0500 (EST)
From: Ronda Hauben <ronda {AT} umcc.ais.org>
Subject: The tyranny of the two party system in the US


The following article appears in Telepolis
http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/co/18763/1.html

- -----------------

           The Tyranny of the Two Party System in the US:
                What Lessons are there to Learn
             from the Outcome of the 2004 US Election?
                           by Ronda Hauben



The post election commentary in the US is divided between questioning
the accuracy of the count of votes, or wondering whether the Democratic
Party had to pay more attention to discussing "moral" values as part of
its election activity. Outside the US, there is discussion about whether
there is some social flaw in the American character that has led them to
4 more years of a George Bush Presidency. While these considerations may
provide a way to review what happened in the recent US election, they
fail to raise questions that take a broader view. For example, such
questions could include:

     1. What is the nature of the two party system in the US?

     2. How much leverage does this system give to the American people to
      determine who will be their political officials?

     3. Is there some systemic problem responsible for the unbridled abuse of
      power both at home and abroad by the American government?

     4. What is the nature of the so called American "democracy"? Are there
      any means for those Americans opposed to the continued occupation of
      Iraq to affect the actions of their government?

     5. If the elections don't provide a means to have the desired effect,
       what will it require to create the conditions where the people have
       some say over the actions of their government?


Traditionally, it is not that one can affect change in a situation unless
one also tries to understand the nature of the problem. In the 2004 election,
many people committed themselves to trying to replace George Bush. The call
was to vote for "anyone but Bush".

Early on the Democratic Party narrowed its sights to John Kerry as the
candidate. From there on, the "anyone but Bush" meant a vote for Kerry,
arguing that he could realistically defeat Bush. The Democratic Party
challenged the effort of Ralph Nader to provide an alternative, removing
him from the ballot in whatever states possible. The Green Party decided
not to campaign vigorously anywhere that the campaign might pose a threat
to the election of Kerry.(1) Several activists who had backed Nader in the
2000 election urged voters to vote for Kerry rather than Nader this time.
Despite these efforts, Bush now has a second term in the White House.

One of the problems with the 2004 election strategy of those hoping to
defeat Bush, is that there was a mistaken understanding of what it means
to be "realistic" in the kind of "two-party" system in the US. In
a country like Germany, for example, a vote for a smaller party, like the
Greens, made it possible for the Social Democratic Party to form the
government after the 2002 election. In the US, however, such a vote, as
with the Nader vote in 2000, could not be combined with the Gore vote, to
give the Democratic Party the White House.

What this means, one is told, is that in the US, the votes for a candidate
who is not from one of the two major political parties, are wasted votes.
Thus, in the 2004 election, there was a determination to encourage a vote for
the Democratic Party candidate, regardless of his position on important issues,
such as the war in Iraq.

The Democratic Party in the US has a long history of deciding that it will
pursue the vote of those who might otherwise vote Republican. With no external
left opposition, the Democratic Party accepts the issues as the Republican
Party presents them, but proposes it can implement the Republican agenda
better than the Republicans will. Though this is not necessarily true on
every issue, on the fundamental issues of foreign policy, and of domestic
policy issues to support that foreign policy, the two parties form one party,
with two wings. Essentially, in the US, on these important issues, both the
Democratic and Republican Parties will implement the same foreign policy.
(For example, Clinton carried out the sanctions against Iraq and enforced
the No Fly Zones. Bush then argued that his policy of invading Iraq was just
a continuation of the Democratic Party policy. And Democrats in the Senate
voted with their Republican colleagues to give Bush the authority to invade
Iraq.)

In the recent US election, the bipartisan foreign policy was to continue
the war in Iraq. The Republicans promoted this policy, as did the Democrats,
though the parties differed on how the troops might be better supported.
Thus the spectrum of discussion on the war in Iraq was limited to the
narrow framing that accepted the war as continuing. The only discussion
during the election campaign between the Democrats and Republicans was how
best to carry out this foreign policy.

Once the election issues were narrowed to "choosing" between the Democratic
and Republican candidates, both of whom were committed to continuing the
US war and occupation of Iraq, there was no means to explore the problem, no
broad ranging discussion to determine other options. The spectrum narrowed to
how to carry out the policy, instead of considering whether it was an
appropriate public policy. There was no chance for the public in the US to
consider the issues and to actively debate them, no chance for the ideas of
those outside the US to impact the discussion in the US.

The Republican Party has spent many years and much money to develop a press
that will support its agenda, and to spread the rationale and virtues of it
far and wide. In an article in the September 2004 issue of Harpers Magazine
("Tentacles of Rage", Harpers Magazine, vol.309, no.1852, September 2004
1sep04) Lewis Lapham, editor of Harpers describes the 30 year process of the
creation and consolidation of a media to promote the conservative agenda.

The Democrats also have a set of newspapers and other forms of media that
function to present their version of the conservative agenda. For example,
they have their think tanks like the Progressive Policy Institute, to spread
their variation of the neo-con foreign policy objectives(2)

The 2000 Presidential election was determined by the Supreme Court, a process
not provided for in the US constitution. Despite the closeness of the election,
Bush claimed he had a mandate to make radical changes in US laws, such as
with the US tax laws. Considering this background, it should be no surprise
that replacing such a presidency would not be as simple as getting out the
vote for the candidate of the other major political party. Traditionally, a
movement of people who find a way to analyze and then respond to the problems
is needed to change a difficult political situation. Early on the Howard Dean
campaign encouraged such a movement. The Democratic Party, however, saw this
as a problem, and soon their conservative media and party apparatus were
mobilized to defeat the Dean candidacy.

Thus the problem with the recent US election is not merely that the vote was
not counted accurately. The problem is that the broad ranging discussion and
debate on the crucial issues of US foreign policy and its impact on
domestic policy, never happened. The August 2004 demonstration in New York
City, preceeding the Republican Convention put 500,000 people in the streets
with their signs, showing what they felt was important for the election
campaigns.(3) A sign of life in the primary elections were the 600,000 people
who rallied behind Howard Dean. There is good evidence that an anti war
position is held by a majority of US voters. But mobilization of those with
the sentiment expressed in the Dean primary campaign and in the August 29,
2004 anti war demonstration was discouraged by those who argued that the
only "realistic" alternative to Bush is Kerry.

The significance of advocating that those who opposed the Iraq war and
occupation, were to be quiet, and to work for the Democratic candidates,
was to encourage both the Democratic and Republican parties to veer further
to the right. Without a media or movement of people advocating a progressive
foreign and domestic policy, the lines of discussion were narrowed, and there
was no means of seeking a mandate for change.  In the 1960s, the Students
for a Democratic Society (SDS) organization in the US recognized the need
for broad public participation and discussion in order to effect change in
the US political process. (4) These students realized that only active
participation and discussion among the people could create the momentum and
alternative agenda that was needed to change the reactionary activities of
the 2 major parties.The success of the US anti war movement in the 1960s and
1970s can in part be attributed to the democratic process SDS promoted in
its early stages. Similarly, in recent times, as with the recent presidential
race in South Korea, a democratic movement which encourages active
participation in both setting the goal and figuring out the tactics, has made
it possible to make a change in the political parties in South Korea.(5)
The 2004 US election is over. Hopefully along with it, will go the belief
that it is adequate to tell people they should rely on affecting the vote
as a means of making a change in an entrenched conservative political system.
- ----------

Notes
1) "Green Out," by Jeffrey St. Clair, in see Counterpunch,
http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair11062004.html

2) Progressive Policy Institute, Overview Description
http://rightweb.irc-online.org/org/ppi.php

3) "End the Occupation of Iraq and Manhattan"
http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/co/18247/1.html
"Beendet die Besatzung des Irak und Manhattans"
http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/co/18248/1.ihtml

4) Participatory Democracy From the 1960s and SDS into the Future On-line By
Michael Hauben
http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/CS/netdemocracy-60s.txt

5) Will the Internet and Netizens Impact the 2004 US Presidential Election?
Ronda Hauben   27.01.2004
http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/te/16613/1.html






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