d.garcia on Sat, 20 Sep 2014 18:29:38 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> renewal of democratic politics

After the carnival like excitement around the Scottish referendum the
clich? that is echoing around mainstream media discourse is that that
politics in the UK can now never be the same again. That new levels
of voter and popular participation in a political process has surpassed
anything we have seen in recent history.

Some of this is true and the achievement must be attributed almost
entirely to the Yes campaign. It was a genuinely grassroots popular
movement that refused to be cowed by the exclusively financialist
neo-liberal arguments of the No campaign whose approach was one of quite
astonishing lack of vision, energy and imagination.  The final result
cannot detract (indeed should be separated) from the new levels of
participation that emerged. 

But we are left with the question of whether anything can be done to
keep this participatory spirit alive? Can we go beyond the Yes/No
binary. And say thank you Scotland for reminding us what politics should
be. Now please help us in build something new together. Lets not kid
ourselves. Our Scottish brethren will only accept that proposition if it
comes from the grass roots rather than the political establishment.
Sadly the only truly energised grass roots political movement south of
the boarder is UKIP- this is not the generous civic nationalism but mean
spirited little Englanderism.

Now the colorful inclusive platform of a referendum has been wheeled
away and the political class begins its wrangling, will the popular
energy also evaporate? I fear that it will - In part because of a factor
that we are yet to find a way to manage and that is the fact that in
general -we campaign in inspiring poetry but we govern in boring prose- 

Are political publics in the end only evanescent entities conjured into
existence by particular issues that generate strong desires or fears,
only to dissolve as quickly as they arise? What happened to the grass
roots movements that brought Obama to power..  so visible in the
campaign so absent in the processes of governance ?

Without wishing to fetishise technology, in both the Scottish referendum
and Obama's election, social media played an important role in
mobilising new levels of participation.  Are there lessons to be learned
from frequently denigrated clicktivist platforms such as MoveOn and
Avaz? They have not yet succeeded except in isolated instances but there
attempts to generate new publics through building committment slowly
through incrementalising small levels of participation into something
larger shouldn't be entirely dismissed. 

The concessions forced upon Westminster (when it finally woke up) mean
that in the coming months and years this dis-united kingdom will be
struggling to re-imagine its version of the nation state. Lets hope
that's Scotland's example of a "civic nationalism" (any Scottish
resident had a vote) based on common goods will percolate into the
debates to come. It certainly wont happen of its own accord or through
the usual party political mechanisms.  It will only happen if those who
share the aspirations of Scotland's YESers can ignite a similar level of
imagination and aspiration South of the boarder. Its not easy to see how
but as the arguments begin making common cause with Scotland's
progressive Yes campaigners might be a place to start.

Any ideas....       


d a v i d  g a r c i a

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