Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

December 7, 2004

by V

Key strategic reading: Digby on fundamentalism

Digby riffs on this excellent article by The Rev. Dr. Davidson Loehr:

Hullabaloo: Evolutionary Theology
[from the article:] But for the liberal impulse to lead, liberals must remain in contact with the center of our territorial instinct and our need for a structure of responsibilities. Fundamentalist uprisings are a sign that the liberals have failed to provide an adequate and balanced vision, that they have not found a vision that attracts enough people to become stable.

Just as it's no coincidence that all fundamentalisms have similar agendas, it's also no coincidence that the most successful liberal advances tend to wrap their expanded definitions in what sound like conservative categories.

[Digby:] He's basically saying that in order to pave the way for change, liberals have to first be aware of the sacred symbols and rhetoric of traditionalism and then attempt to harness those symbols to advance our cause. I think there is some truth in that.

The Bible is one, of course, but so are the "sacred" texts of our nation, those that outline the rules and beliefs of our territory and tribe. Those symbols and totems are powerful mojo for the other side if we don't lay claim to them. They mean more than just surface martial nationalistic nonsense -- indeed, if this thesis is true, they may be more powerful than Christian fundamentalism. At the very least, liberals should embrace the symbols like the flag and the constitution and all the apple pie traditions with the knowledge that if we don't, a more pernicious force will.
This has always been a bugaboo for me -- I'm all too aware of the dangers of simple-minded allegiance to a generic symbol like a flag and how easy it is to transfer that positive association to whomever is waving it, and so it's been natural to stand apart and avoid overt nationalism (or, before 2003, even outwardly visible patriotism).

But by choosing not to energetically embrace it, I've left 'pride' and other primal urges to the opponents, and pride is something most people like to feel. Ergo, my side loses.
If this retreat to fundamentalism is really a default to primitive biology, then we can frame this as America vs the fundamentalists. And lucky for us, it's easy to do and will confuse the shit out of the right. We have a built in boogie man fundamentalist named Osama on whom we can pin all this ANTI-AMERICAN fundamentalist dogma while subtly drawing the obvious parallels between him and the homegrown variety.

We start by having the womens' groups decrying the Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST view of womens rights. These FUNDAMENTALISTS want to roll back the clock and make women answer to men. In AMERICA we don't believe in that.

Then we have the Human Rights Campaign loudly criticizing the Islamic FUNDAMENTALISTS for it's treatment of gays. In AMERICA we believe that all people have inalienable rights.

The ACLU puts out a statement about the lack of civil liberties in Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST theocracies. In AMERICA we believe in the Bill of Rights, not the word of unelected mullahs.

You got a problem with that Jerry? Pat? Karl????

...I am concluding more and more that we are dealing with a pre-modern political situation in a post modern world. It's not about issues, it's about tribal identity. We have to start thinking in terms of how to communicate our ideals and our vision in symbolic terms. Go for the gut, not the head.
I think this is exactly right.

ISSUES ARE DEAD as a winning strategy until further notice.

Being correct when you say that the Bush Administration's policies are ruinously short-sighted, plus a quarter, will just get you a gumball.

Coherent issue positions are nice, and they do become important when you have any power at all, but do not be fooled into believing that getting one's positions on issues just right will make a damned bit of difference in an election. That's not what wins it; you may as well lie down and watch the Elephant gallop past you.

Paul Glastris nicely summarized the pointlessness of issue-based discussions under a Bush-colored sky on Monday at Washington Monthly:
C-SPAN the other day broadcast a conference by the New America Foundation on tax reform. It was an informative, timely program, full of wise ideas about how to alter the tax code in just and economically efficient ways. But what struck me about the conference, at least the portion of it I saw, was a certain suspension of disbelief. I was watching, and the analysts were speaking, as if this discussion were still part of "the process" in Washington...
I look forward to reading more on Loehr's and Digby's ideas, and to donating to any candidate who seems to really get them.
Posted by V at December 7, 2004 01:13 AM

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