The Dartmouth Observer
Friday, November 14, 2008
Sometimes I hate the American media and the bloviating pundits. The only thing worse than the week before the election, in terms of stupidity, is the week after the election.
So I pen this note to clear a few things up about what just happened. Let me warn you: I am going to be blunt.
(1) The problems of the Bush era were not problems of execution, but of fundamental philosophy.
It has become commonplace to say that George W. Bush was not a conservative, and that Bush's failures as president was due to his incompetence. This is the wrong view. Ever since Ronald Reagan swept into DC, conservatives had been talking about government, high taxes, and runaway liberalism as the key problems of the country. Until 2002, for a variety of factors, Republicans had never had the opportunity to put all of their talk into practice.
From 2002-2006, during an era of united government, the philosophies that Republicans had talked about for 25 years were finally enacted. Look where it has taken the country. Debt-fueled growth has shattered the economy. Needless wars have emptied our coffers. A senseless tax cut has dried up revenue. Carelessness of governance has bred cynicism. Unilateralism has destroyed our credibility. Regressive fiscal policies has concentrated wealth into small segments of the population. Movement conservatives have polarized our courts and shredded our constitution. Poor judgement in economic affairs have increased the unemployment rate, decreased benefits, and allowed for a stagnation in real wages. Deficit-spending is drowning the United States in debt.
Having rejected the Clintonian course of leading by the power of examples, this Republican Administration has tired us out through the examples of its power-- overtaxing our reserves and weakening the nation and the international economy.
Had Bush's policies been successful, then America would not have rejected Republicans overwhelming in the Congressional elections of 2006, and across the board in 2008. In short, it's Republican policies that caused the landslide, stupid, not the Republican president.
(2) The Nixonian strategy of winning presidential elections through backlash among working class whites and married white women is over.
According to Ruy Texeira :
"[Obama's] WWC (White Working Class) deficit was very similar to Gore's (18 vs. 17 points). It's also interesting to compare Dukakis' performance in 1988 among WWC and white college graduates to this year's performance. In 1988, the Democratic deficit among these two groups was identical: 20 points. This year's WWC deficit is only a slight improvement (down 2 points) but the white college graduate deficit was just 4 points, a 16 point Democratic swing since 1988.
Republican racism, homophobia, and xenophobia has driven minorities (blacks, Latinos, Asians, GLTBQ) to vote at least 2.5 to 1 for Democratic candidates. Ergo, as the non-white share of the electorate goes up, the larger the percentage of the white vote Republicans need to win national elections.
(3) The Electorate is More Progressive Than in It Was in 1992.
There is a lot of talk that the country "remains" a center-right country. (What this really means is that even when Democrats win they should implement Republican policies.) Democrats must reject the defeatism that an unhealthy obsession with overreaching brings. The electorate is clearly and indisputably more progressive now. Why? Pretty simple, there are less white people in the electorate. In 1992, 88% of the electorate was white. In 2008, 74% of the electorate is white. People like to dance around the basic fact that non-whites are generally more progressive than whites on most issues.
This is an important lesson that agents seeking institutional reform have to adopt. Diversity-initiatives, when placed under control of the powers that be, transform into policies of mere tokenism. Middle-class yes-minorities are given seats of the table to ward of criticisms of injustice; the trade off is that they can not seek institutional equity, and certainly never aggressively. Alas, too many make the grave sin of confusing access with power. Where possible, every principled person should reject tokenism as a governing philosophy.
However, part of the reason that many push for diversification is not due to some fabled theory of shared minority essence, but rather because opening the floodgates to true competition shatters existing networks of privileged and hierarchy. The harsh truth of the matter is that the everyday practices of even so-called liberal members of the majority never truly undermine the informal social networks and discourses of intimidation, distance, apathy, fear, and disdain that limit what minorities can achieve and where they can go. A more diverse faculty, judiciary, congress, classroom forces into the public sphere the agency of people who don't fit the mold of middle class majority membership and its bounded politics of capitalist accommodation and complacency.
So, dear President-Elect Obama: do not be timid, do not appoint moderates, and do not be shy. Implement those programs that will work, under the mantle of progressivism, and let us watch conservatism crumple before us. Throw open the doors to the diversity of all, and let us break the halls of privileged, and the gilded elite who guard them.