Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Archive for November 2012

Has Libertarianism become the refuge of illiberal violent authoritarian xenophobes?

My day job precludes me from writing too long a diary on this, but happy to comment, and let the subject in question speak for himself.

The editor of Libertarian Republican has resigned in the wake of the thorough trashing of the GOP on Tuesday. And what he says by way of goodbye is downright interesting.

Today starts a new course for my life. I’ve soured on electoral politics given what happened last night. I believe now the best course of action is outright revolt. What do I mean by that?

Well, to each his own. Some may choose to push secession in their state legislatures. Others may choose to leave the U.S. for good (Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, Hong Kong, Israel). Still others may want to personally separate themselves from the United States here in North America while still living under communist rule’ the Glenn Beck, grab your guns, food storage, build bunkers, survivalist route. I heartily endorse all these efforts.

The Next Four Years: Agon or Agony?

The way I see it, we are poised before the alternatives of agon and agony.  Whatever the etymological connection between the terms, they can be construed in direct opposition.  Agon is the ancient Greek term for an athletic or artistic competition, such as their Olympic games and theatrical festivals, events which lay at the center of their political and religious culture.  Sacred competitions staged in honor of their gods.  To participate in an agon therefore had culturally productive value, whether one lost or not.  Both winners and losers served to elicit future blessings upon their communities.  Defeat in an agon was far from a tumble into the agony of defeat.  

Yet agon, especially more recently, also relates to the contentious production of ideas and policies.  Aesthetically, Harold Bloom (I know, I know, for those who know who he is) employs it to describe the struggle of a writer with his antecedents, the productive capacity of the anxious conflict with one’s influences.  But it can also be used to describe a productive political dialectic between opposing ideologies and their communities.  The agon, however, which is supposed to bring social benefit, as with the ancients, and spur creativity in art and letters, requires a basic respect for that against which one contends.  It unites competition and cooperation.

One of the most beautiful and compelling metaphors for discursive agon emerged from the contentious environment of England in the 1640s.  As England was riven with intense religious strife and a civil war that would give the term “revolution” a political connotation for the first time and include the trial and execution of King Charles I, John Milton published a pamphlet entitled Areopagitica: For the Liberty of Unlicensed PRINTING as part of a running debate in parliament over the freedom of the press.  Print capitalism in England, centered  around St. Paul’s Churchyard, was emerging from its infancy.  Calvinist Presbyterians, who dominated Parliament at the time, sought to control print by demanding that printers submit materials to censors for licensing prior to publication.  Though Milton largely supported their anti-Catholicism and proto-republicanism, he was horrified and opposed them with one of the most beautifully constructed political arguments of his, or of any day.  In the midst of the pamphlet, he addresses anxieties regarding heterogeneity and antagonism in the public sphere with a biblical image:

What some lament of, we rather should rejoyce at, should rather praise this pious forwardnes among men, to reassume the ill deputed care of their Religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and som grain of charity might win all these diligences to joyn, and unite into one generall and brotherly search after Truth….  Yet these are the men cry’d out against for schismaticks and sectaries; as if, while the Temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort of irrationall men who could not consider there must be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber, ere the house of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world; neither can every peece of the building be of one form; nay rather the perfection consists in this, that out of many moderat varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly disproportionall arises the goodly and the gracefull symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure. Let us therefore be more considerat builders, more wise in spirituall architecture, when great reformation is expected.

What we have seen in recent years is an absence of the requisite “little generous prudence” and lack of even “a little forbearance of one another” that precludes the “grain of charity” that would allow us to recognize our fellow participants in the edifying agon of civic debate.  And it is clear who bears the majority of the blame.  The violent rhetoric of the contemporary right, both in the media and among its voters and thus too often in our elected houses, “a sort of irrationall men” that ignores the necessity of competition.  These people demonize their fellow builders and would see the stonemasons turn their tools on the wood cutters so they become weapons and believe that the House may be built by annihilating their colleagues.  Instead of agon, we have agony.

The problem, I believe, is short term.  Either the GOP moderates in a fashion that will enable resumption of a more productive agon or it responds to those voices within it who see every defeat as demonstrating the necessity of more purity, more extremism, more commitment to eradicating those who cut from a different direction.  In the latter case, they will see more electoral marginalization.  In the long term, it should sort itself out.  The conservative movement will not commit suicide, but ultimately vindicate figures like David Frum.  Nor do I want to see us go forward without conservative thinkers, ideas, and challenges.  After all, I think the agon both necessary and sacred.  But the short term matters here.  Enduring agony for the next few cycles will produce lasting damage, not ultimately benign delay.  We have pressing challenges and must be able to address them.

The question that confounds me is what we might do from our side.  President Obama was conciliatory to a fault in the opening of his first term.  And no matter what he offered them up front, the leaders on the right responded by disingenuously painting him as an extreme and uncompromising ideologue.  

Are our hands tied?  Is there any way to reach out in a grass roots manner?  Every survey suggests that the American people want more bi-partisan compromise.  This doesn’t, however, match voting patterns.  The best we get from the right is a string of false equivalences.  They argue that someone like Rachel Maddow is just as extreme and destructive as Rush Limbaugh, that Lawrence O’Donnell is a left wing Sean Hannity, that Debbie Wasserman-Shultz is as extreme and uncompromising as Michele Bachmann.  Al Sharpton = Allen West?  Really?

Is there anything we can do to prune the ‘y’ from our civic agony and return to a dynamic and productive agon?  How can we help to recast our partisan disavowals as “moderat varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes” and become “more considerat builders, more wise in spirituall” and in our cas in civic “architecture” so that we may indeed expect “great reformation.”

Take those tired memes and shove ’em


Elated, exhausted and still wired up and fired up from last night’s electoral and popular vote victory for our POTUS, the first thoughts I had this morning were about the unending meme steam those of us in communities of color had to endure through-out the entire election season.  

Yeah. I am sittin’ here gloatin’.

All the TM lame-stream concern trolls masquerading as pundits have now proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they suffer from anal-rectalitis.

Let’s see.

Remember all the “black people were gonna abandon the President” themes?


Yea, those Latinos sure don’t show up to the polls.  


Don’t forget the ignored Asian-Americans and Native Americans.

More very loud guffaws from my mouth.

As a Sistah, want to thank all those Republican legi-rapers for motivating women of all colors to say NO WAY to Willard.

Too tired to do a sophisticated analysis of the numbers right now. I’m sure there will be plenty time in the days to come, and the yapping class has already started their inane babble this morning, so I have turned off the teevee, and sit here chortling with glee.

Thank you and muchisimas gracias to every single person who got out and voted against a solid wall of Tea-Republican efforts at voter repression and chicanery.  

Yo Romney…I know you are a religious dude.

Well, so are many of us and there is an old saying in the black community:

“God don’t like ugly”.

That’s right.

She doesn’t.

(cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Open Thread: Watching…Waiting


Here we are, Moose…four years later.

I’m excited and nervous.

Hopeful and semi-confident.

I am also thrilled to be here, again, with you silly Moose.

When do you think we will know?

Open Thread: A House Divided

Since Obama’s victory in 2008 our politics seems more polarised and contentious than any time in recent memory.  The 2010 midterm elections amplified the divisions and created the context for a bitterly fought presidential election on perilously narrow margins:

Americans aren’t just evenly divided in the 2012 election; they’re practically fleeing the political middle.

Towards the end of the Wisconsin recall election this year, we saw something striking happen: Not only were there very few undecided voters in the weeks before Election Day, but the vast majority of people were strongly for or strongly against Gov. Scott Walker (R), with very few people lukewarm on either side.

The same thing is happening in the presidential race.

Aaron Blake – The Incredibly Polarized American Electorate Washington Post 30 Oct 12

Click through on Mark Newman’s excellent county map of 2008 above to see that Obama was right, we aren’t a nation of red states and blue states.  However we are divided throughout the nation into increasingly inflexible and adamant local bastions with little apparent common ground and discrete sources of inspiration and information.  What little dialogue we have has largely devolved to polemics and issue-baiting as if two divergent, incompatible cultures are emerging; yet we share legislatures and infrastructure almost everywhere.

Vote No on California Proposition 32: Union-busting

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

What Does Proposition 32 Do?

It kills unions.

More below.