Ideology isn't (necessarily) a bad word.

Regarding Andrew's sentiment on Barak Obama; I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately those of us who kind of dig a strong Democracy will have to wait on that one. The reality seems to be that the established (or is it entrenched?) members of the Democratic Party have selected a man for the presidential election (with our help of course) who cannot help but define himself negatively (i.e., he tells us he is sooo not Bush). Perhaps my armchair, pajama-style survey of presidential politics is too narrow. [I filter my news through a medley of links from what appears on the right, you tell me.] Maybe, my impression is too simply based on the sheer number of sentiments I've heard from those who find reason enough to support Mr. Kerry. I hear variants of "Bush is so overwhelmingly poor that I have little choice [but to vote against him]." Nonetheless, I can't shake the impression that Kerry has yet to craft a coherent, believable message grounded in a positive ideology.

Mr. Obama has (I think wisely) already begun crafting an active, positive position in this arena, by defining the war on terror. Sure it’s only a start, but a worthy and straightforward one on a complex, divisive issue. If Democrats are to compete with Republicans in the political marketplace of ideas it will be by creating a position, however flawed, that represents a vision for the future.

If I were to guess, I'd say it will come from reflection (after losing this Presidency) and be preceded by something like this...

"What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced
in a very useful way, and Bush's many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced.

"My friend's eyes widened, maybe in astonishment, maybe in pity. He said, "And so, the United Nations and international law mean nothing to you, not a thing? You think it's all right for America to go do whatever it wants, and ignore the rest of the world?"

I answered, "The United Nations and international law are fine by me, and more than fine. I am their supporter. Or, rather, would like to support them. It would be better to fight an antifascist war with more than a begrudging UN approval. It would be better to fight with the approving sanction of international law-better in a million ways. Better politically, therefore militarily. Better for the precedents that would be set. Better for the purpose of expressing the liberal principles at stake.

If I had my druthers, that is how we would have gone about fighting the war. But my druthers don't count for much. We have had to choose between supporting the war, or opposing it-supporting the war in the name of antifascism, or opposing it in the name of some kind of concept of international law. Antifascism without international law; or international law without
antifascism. A miserable choice-but one does have to choose, unfortunately."

My friend said, "I'm for the UN and international law, and I think you've become a traitor to the left. A neocon!"

I said, "I'm for overthrowing tyrants, and since when did overthrowing fascism become treason to the left?"

"But isn't George Bush himself a fascist, more or less? I mean-admit it!"

My own eyes widened. "You haven't the foggiest idea what fascism is," I said. "I always figured that a keen awareness of extreme oppression was the deepest trait of a left-wing heart. Mass graves, three hundred thousand missing Iraqis, a population crushed by thirty-five years of Baathist boots stomping on their faces-that is what fascism means! And you think that a few corrupt insider contracts with Bush's cronies at Halliburton and a bit of retrograde Bible-thumping and Bush's ridiculous tax cuts and his bonanzas for the super-rich are indistinguishable from that?-indistinguishable from fascism? From a politics of slaughter? Leftism is supposed to be a reality principle. Leftism is supposed to embody an ability to take in the big picture. The traitor to the left is you, my friend . . ."

But this already happened. This was from "A Friendly Drink in a Time of War," and was written by Paul Berman. Paul Berman is an angry liberal. Read the rest of it here.

In pieces from him and those like him, you'll likely see a serious critique of the "left" from the "left" but also a positive vision. Similarly, it may likely be too late to have much effect on this election, and while that in and of itself is (in the long run) perhaps a good thing, it seems time to start vetting these kinds of ideas, however flawed, and start getting their party's ideas up to snuff.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I completely agree that the left doesn't know what the hell it believes when it comes to international policy and war, and I completely agree that the America-hating rhetoric of the far left is ridiculously a-historical and narrow. One thing that the far left needs to accept (especially the Earlham variety), is that being a liberal does not mean being a pacifist, and that, viewed historically, the U.S. is a pretty fuckin good country. Women may not have perfect equality with men, for example, but it's a shit-load better here than it is in Saudi Arabia or Sudan or something.