GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

November 26, 2008

Everyone’s Happy!

Filed under: GA — adam @ 11:44 am

Barack Obama seems to be composing the most generic, centrist establishmentarian cabinet possible.  Most conservatives seem to be pleasantly surprised and most leftists seem to be suprisingly pleased.  Each side is even crowing at the other’s expense:  the right is claiming that the left, hoping for a changey, anti-Bush administration, has been had; while the left is claiming that Obama is the rational, inspiring unifier they knew him to be all along, depsite the right’s smears.  Indeed, one could imagine the Obama team carrying out policies identical to those a third Bush or McCain adminstration would have; and one could imagine leftists cheering this on as the coming of a new political millenium. 

If Obama’s transcendent political persona is predicated upon a messianic negation of the scapegoated Bush, then it might actually be that policy and political realities have become irrelevant:  if it is an article of faith that everything Bush did was awful and everything Obama does a transcendence of that awfulness, maybe it really doesn’t matter what either of them do at this point.  But, then, what would that mean?  The more cynical reading would detect a reduction to sheer partisan, party politics:  the Democrats didn’t care what was done, they just wanted to be the ones doing it already.  They saw an opening in Bush’s various vulnerabilities, mobilized their resources and allies in the media, and just hammered away. 

A less cynical account would insist there must be some “content” to the scapegoating:  pure scapegoating, with an arbitrarily chosen target, can only be a theoretical abstraction.  And what else can that content be but Operation Iraqi Freedom?  I remember the few conversations I had with Bush-haters over the years 2004-7, and they would always take a strange turn:  I would argue that they were supporting a catastrophic rout for the US and potential genocide for the Iraqi people, and the answer would always be:  no, no, of course we don’t want to simply leave Iraq immediately, heedless of consequences.  Of course, a withdrawal would be carried out cautiously and deliberately, paying close attention to military realities and the advice of military leaders; of course we could be ready to reverse course if necessary if certain bad actors came in and tried to fill the vaccuum we left behind, etc.  If one pursued the discussion a bit further, it would turn out that the differences concerned little more than details of implementation, and even those couldn’t be clarified since they regarded an unknown future.  It seemed to come down to nothing more than a mere verbal commitment to the claim that the invasion of Iraq was the worst, most criminal, most fraudulent, etc., foreign policy disaster ever.

Or:  the cautiousness and deliberateness was the merely verbal commitment, a line the Left was devising in order to reduce the differences to:  they screwed up and we’ll get it right (and the proof of that is how intensely aware we are of how they screwed up).  Over time, what was screwed up and what it would mean to get it right becomes rather vague, and the question comes down to representation:  on one side, a battered, tainted, tiresome administration, on the other side a fresh face.  This would seem to fit the less cynical account, if we were to assume that the centrism was the facade, the adamant rejection of the disputed policy the genuine commitment.  Maybe not, though–if the invasion itself was the real violation, there would be no contradiction between a genuine horror at that act and a willingness to treat its consequences with moderation, since that after the fact management of consequences could be seen as a necessary act of “healing.”

There is another possibility, more disturbing, and, indeed, soon to become quite testable.  The Iraq War was a kind of irremediable crime, a violation of something sacred, even an unbearable rupture in the texture of reality, which would explain why all the responses I have been describing look more like attempts to achieve some kind of reconciliation between the person holding them and himself and his surroundings than real thinking about what would be the best thing to do, what would be a range of possible consequences, and so on.  The verbal commitment was the real one, in other words, because we are working here on the level of oaths and imprecations rather than debate and critical inquiry.  In that case, as long as what happens now can be handled by the proper manipulation of verbal formulas, traditional diplomatic manuevering and occasional, “proportionate” military responses, then everything will be fine.  But nothing new is possible–this is the real lesson of Obama’s utterly familiar team, and the strong sense that his adminstration will be taking us back to the future.

The breach in reality which must be healed must be given the name “neo-conservative.”  Let’s give a kind of textbook international relations definition of the three contending foreign policy views today:  the realists take as the fundamental, indeed only player in international politics to be the state; the transnational progressives take the privileged players to be international institutions and agencies “deputized” by international law; while the neo-conservatives have introduced the radically new concept of addressing individuals, as dissidents and civil disobedients, and in their civic associations under tyrannical regimes, as actors within the international system.  It is this most authentic inheritance of both the West’s Christian heritage and the emergent legal regime forged at Nuremberg, that has so frightened the other two tendencies into a hard and fast alliance, committed to the proposition that the reality we knew before 9/11/01 is the reality we shall swear to always and only recognize. 

The neo-conservatives’ startling proposition–so startling, that I can’t really think of anyone “mainstream” who has even described it with the most basic intellectual sympathy needed to present it accurately–is the only new idea to enter international politics for a long time.  We are going to find out now if it will be found necessary, or will endure.  Don’t confuse the neo-conservative proposition with the general “support” for “democracy,” in unfree countries, or even the use of sanctions to pressure other countries on “human rights”  (although we see, and are likely to continue to see, very little of either in the near future).  Only when American force is used (or is so credibly promised so as to have the effects its use was intended to have) in defense of the victims of those who would present themselves as our victims do we see the proposition at work.  Only when we demand that those claiming recognition of their collective identities in what must be seen as a gradual re-feudalization of the globe (amenable to realist and transnational progressive alike) respect, unconditionally, the basic individual rights to speech, association, worship and property we consider sacred–only when we issue and hold to such demands upon pain of withholding and actively interfering with the desired recognition, will we see this proposition at work.   And, far from a wild, crusading interventionist spirit, this proposition will be most authentically applied in situations where it addresses some issue or crisis that the realist and transnational progressive would recognize as well–it will gradually carve space out within that covered by the other tendencies, focusing on those places where the solutions offered are incommensurable.

November 24, 2008

Victimary Modernity and Covenantal Modernity

Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:19 pm

We could see modernity as a kind of swerve (a “clinamen,” in Harold Bloom’s taxonomy of influence, for all you former English grad students) away from Christianity:  the model of Jesus on the Cross, who has willingly taken upon himself the hatreds directed toward the scapegoat and thereby exposed the fundamental fraudulence of scapegoating, making its rejection the signal imperative of universal humanity–this model is made transferable to all individuals singled out by persecutory powers, first of all and most scandalously, those freethinkers scapegoated by the Church.  This victimary model precedes all the other attributes taken to be definitive of modernity, whether they be the marketplace, science and/or technology, mass or democratic politics, and so one.  All of these attributes presuppose the resentment directed toward any attempt to single out for persecution any individual for their speech and thought, that is, for the very things that make them exemplarily human.  This victimary modernity is caught up in a never-ending double bind of both denouncing the Church for its “hypocrisy” while borrowing, for the purposes of the denunciation, the basic anthropological model preserved by Christianity.

There is another modernity, though, and it emerged in response to the question, what kind of social interaction is possible once the hierarchical “big man” model of social relations is discredited by the holiness of the individual?  The answer to this question is the freely entered into agreement, which goes by the name of “contract” when applied to relations between individuals and “covenant” when, strictly speaking, applied to relations between people and God but more prosaically, agreements between people that place some sustainable and self-generated mode of community, some permanent “public thing,” in between them.  Victimary and covenantal modernity are warring twins, even though I fear that the Esau of the two was the first to be born, and even though we can hope that Jacob can utimately appease Esau wiithout compromising his gift to the world. 

The victimary has certain permanent advantages over the covenantal:  for one thing, the victimary can stage events almost at will, as any equality can, upon close examination, be seen to conceal some unbearable inequality (as in the rage of gay activists in being relegated to the second class citizenship of “civil unions” as opposed to marriage), and no satisfactory answer can ever be given to such complaints.  For another thing, the victimary can always tap into immediate resentments and desires–it always tells us that we deserve what we want.  The covenantal has only one, big advantage:  it is the only alternative, once the victimary has painted all of us into a corner, held all of us hostage without any determinate ransom. 

The war between victimary and covenantal modernities is wage mostly in the margins, in the skirmishes over everyday norms and habits–it enters into  the broader, public arena after the groundwork has been laid in less visible scenes.  Here, again, the victimary has significant advantages:  the covenantal requires near unanimity on all kinds of issues, often without any proof (or, if there is proof, it comes too late) that a little transgression or variation here not only won’t lead to devastation, but will even liven things up a bit–why does everyone in the neighborhood have to maintain decent appearances, why do we always have to be minimally polite, why does private desire always have to be cognizant of social consequences?  The truth is that a couple of houses in disrepair in a good neighborhood does ruin it for everyone, a couple of heedlessly rude or inconsiderate people does make a place of work a site of extreme discomfort, even a kind of terror, and even minimal increases in out of wedlock births do undermine social morality and morale.  But the victimary romantic, who sees the “hypocrisy” and “uptightness” behind these demands on the part of all those very flawed people shuttered behind their pleasant facades engaging in who knows what kinds of unseemly behavior themselves, will never be convinced.

Even more, contracts and covenants don’t happen through simultaneous agreement–someone proposes, and the other accepts, someone produces and waits for another to consume.  This basic, risky gesture, predicated upon hope and trust, depending upon creativity and initiative, is perhaps most hated by the victimary–quite a bit of the victimary regime currently insurgent aims at little less than demonizing such gestures as either naive or some kind of insidious power play that somehow places us all at risk and upsets the latest arrived at delicate balance of resentments.  But even more than that is the arena of imperatives, all around us, the hierarchies and mini-states of emergency, where someone has to take command and others have to obey if things are to come together as needed.  Even contractualists and covenantors don’t like to look too carefully at all that, and tend to be more concerned that the claims of the imperative will spread than that imperatives might lose their credibility when they are most needed.  Even in America the military, the model for imperative orders, exists as a kind of isolated sub-culture, honored and despised in equal measure, but most of all alien–I am not the only observer to suggest that John McCain’s appeal to the honor and sacrifice rooted in that culture did him more harm than good.  Restoring or perhaps creating friendships between imperative orders and civil orders grounded in contractual and convenantal relationships may be second in importance today only to recovering the Jewish and Christian roots of republican covenanting.

So, these days, the victimary is ascendant, the winner in its latest asymmetrical battle with the covenantal.  We might not get another chance; history provides no guarantees.  The only answer is freedom–to act as free men and women, enaging in free speech, free inquiry, free creation, free association, because covenants can only be generated amongst the free.  Maybe the most basic thing to do now is distinguish these modes of freedom from their victimary doppelgangers:  speech, inquiry, creation and association mired in “resistance” to the “hypocrisy” of “domination.”  I won’t surprise any reader of this post by concluding that the unsurpassable instrument at our disposal for pointing out this distinction is the originary hypothesis of Eric Gans.

November 14, 2008

Conservative Rule as Exceptionally Normal and Normally Exceptional

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:03 pm

Maybe discussions about how the Republicans can climb back into power as soon as possible are the worng ones to be having.  Maybe some kind of more or less left-wing rule, antipathetic towards initative and success, sympathetic to those with even mildly plausible victimary claims, aversive to the use of force or risk taking in politics and economics, is the normal state in advanced market societies.  Of course, government and public opinion can never be too antipathetic, sympathetic and aversive to these respective features of civilized life–it is enough that we know, when scapegoats are to be chosen, where the pool of possible victims is to be found and what the offenses for which they are to be punished are.    One of the more interesting statistics I saw following the election was that the proportion of Democrats and Republicans in Congress is pretty much the same now as it was upon Clinton’s election in 1992; even more, if we factor in the further left-wing tilt of this Congress, it looks a lot like pre-Reagan proportions.  It’s almost as if things “snapped” back into place, after being “stretched” into some anomalous form for the last quarter century.

We could use the originary scene as a model for this situation (as, indeed, for all things):  the putting forth of the originary gesture constitutes the scene, but if we were to segment the scene into all of its constituent elements–the beginnings of attention paid to the appetitive object; the acceleration of mimetic energy directed toward that object; the approaching crisis and the preliminary apprehension of imminent destruction; the gesture itself; the spread of and obedience to the gesture throughout the group; and, finally, the devouring of the object in unison–how much time would be taken up by the critical juncture of the gesture itself?  In a sense, it’s silly to try and quantify it, but maybe 1%? 

A genuinely responsible political party wants to be the party that supplies the gesture when needed.  Now, this doesn’t mean that conservatives should be content to rule 1% of the time–a party that rules as much of the scene as possible would be better positioned to emit the gesture when required.  It does mean, though, that however we position ourselves throughout the rest of the scene, our attention is always directed to what would count as the next gesture, in the next crisis.  Norms are established in exceptional circumstances, when they present some renunciation to the consideration of the community that the most powerful forces in that community can see as the only way out of some crisis; and they become normal as the memory of that circumstance becomes ritualized and largely absent from daily life.  Those who preserve and clarify the “materials” of such norms are likely to either be unpopular or to be vulnerable to the charge of supporting what is merely normal, i.e., the majority against some more victimized or romantically charged margin.

It is interesting that while the left offers a wide range of “benefits,” an all inclusive sparagmos–we will make sure you never experience poverty, never go without health care, get all the education you need, always have a job or are able to live without one, free sex, etc.–conservatives have really only offered one over the past few decades:  tax cuts.  It’s not surprising that, all recriminations aside, the bottom fell out of the conservative movement when we got to the point where there are really no more taxes to cut–well, we could cut capital gains taxes, I suppose, but there are few if any at this point with a strongly felt need to have their taxes cut, at least at the level of national politics. 

What this may mean is that the conservative path back to power will be the same one pursued by Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1980, Guiliani in 1993 and Gingrich in 1994 (to take just some major landmarks):  restoring the norms that have been trampled on by leftist experimentation and dogmatism–law and order, national security and a privileging of the “middle” or “center” (those who work, save, pay their bills, etc.) over those who flout the normal conventions that make such stability possible.  If the Democrats now raise taxes significantly, tax cutting can again become a “benefit” offfered by Republicans; but it might be more productive to consider that what we will mostly have to offer are deferral and renunciations.  The only “benefit” that comes along with that is an honoring of those who have made such deferrals and renunciations in their own lives, a feeling that the mores of the country reflect their own personal code. 

After all, even though we know that the free market is the surest way of creating prosperity and more goods for all, in the first instance the free market is experienced by just about everyone (with the exception of the risk-taking entrepeneur) as renunciation:  one needs to find a job on one’s own, pay for one’s own health care and education, compete against the rest of the world, accept that there are no  guarantees that the stock market won’t dip or worse right when I am ready to cash in my IRA, etc.  Arguing, in practice, for the free market is first of all telling people what they can’t have for free, or supplied by the government.  Even arguing against someone else’s protectionism on the grounds that it hurts you is far more indirect than the fear of having the protections you depend upon lifted.  And even the benefits brought by the remarkable innovations made possible by the free market are ultimately highly abstract:  everyone thinks in terms of holding on to what they have and making incremental additions to same:  no one was clamoring for the benefits of the internet or cell phones in 1985, and no one is now clamoring for some invention 20 years down the road that will transform our lives.

Conservatives, then, should work to reform the Republican party as the party of deferral, renunciation and normalcy and prepare itself for the exceptional situations in which an argument for these qualities can be heard.  I think it is a fantasy to think that returning to the Reaganite values (some of them honored more in the breach even then)  of small government, reduced spending, modesty and reticence in things associated with family and sex, increased national defense, etc. will activate some majority already out there and waiting for these principles to be presented in their pristine form by uncorrupted representatives.  It’s impossible to compete with the promises of Democrats, whether it be for universal health coverage or that a nicer President will make the rest of the world very happy with us.  These promises tap into fantasies that can only meet their match in a more powerful reality, a reality that the majority of Americans now feel safe enough to banish from their everyday considerations.  The whole era of Bush scapegoating was an attempt to impose a cartoonish representation on a reality that was becoming a little too real:  as opposed to a risky world, with dangerous enemies, increasing but unsteady prosperity and cultural conflicts that aren’t going away any time soon–a reality that requires decisions made by imperfect people with limited knowledge–the Left created a fantasy world in which everything Bush touched was falling to pieces (immiseration increasing, skyrocking hatred throughout the “world,” the Constitution in “tatters,” etc.) while simultaneously living in a real world where they went to work, grew their IRAs, spoke their minds and generally went about their business unmolested.  Now the fantasy world has grafted itself onto the real one as the anti-Bush promises to make everything right. 

Those who protect us from harm also remind us of the existence of such harm and we want no such reminders when the harm appears distant; those who enforce the norms that make civilized life possible remind us of all our thwarted desires, and once civilization appears secured why shouldn’t our desires find an open field of fulfillment–the exceptionally normal then become bad fathers and convenient scapegoats.  But as generative anthropologists and originary thinkers we know that the center cannot go undefended long without being cannabilized; as marginalists in politics we can likewise know that the hardest and least rewarded task is to immunize the imperative orders that provide the last line of defense for the center by making it clear when we will disobey them in specific cases.  We should have faith in reality, that majorities will come to reocgnize the wisdom in deferral (and then will go again) and we should take honor in standing where reality is sure to present itself and standing with anyone who happens to find him or herself there when it does.

November 11, 2008

Barack Obama, the Greatest President Ever!

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:32 pm

I thought I’d give this post-election commentary game another spin.  Two things occurred to me:  first, that Barack Obama, for a while at least, will be able to do pretty much whatever he wants (and if what he does is well received, that “while” will become quite a while) and we have no idea what he wants to do (that’s all one thing); second, do we really have comprehensive knowledge of the laws of scapegoating?  Maybe sometimes scapegoating really works–it must have, after all, to become such a longstanding human practice.  Maybe sometimes the mimetic tensions are genuinely “discharged,” leading to a period of significantly reduced tensions.  This wouldn’t make scapegoating any more just or reasonable–the fact that it works sometimes does not mean we could know in advance when it will work, or what the collateral damage will be.  But it would be a fact that we would have to acknowledge as theorists seeking the truth. 

Obama, then, in this new discharged environment, in which he has made a wide range of inconsistent, likely insincere, but never too insistently put forward promises, is pretty much free to ignore his most fervent supporters–until someone undermines his transcendence, what we might call his victimary halo, he is fairly invulnerable.  And those who paved the way for his transcendence through their relentless scapegoating of Bush are not well positioned to trip him up–they have already gotten their hands dirty, both as unscrupulous partisan hitmen and as slavish supporters.  Obama will have to wager his transcendence on something, and the odds are he will do so on a leftist “surge” in both doemstic and foreign policy–a new New Deal at home, and transnational pacificsm abroad.  But what if he is independent enough from any particular commitments or interest group to actually observe the effects of his first steps in the direction of advancing such policies?  How will this proud man, whose resentments are not that easy to read, respond to a rebuff from Ahmadinejad, Chavez–or, for that matter, Gordon Brown or Nicolas Sarkozy?  How will he deal with leftist activists who try to drag him down to their level by trying to cash in on his promises, interfering with his basking in the historical moment?  Obama’s sleazy crack at his first post-election press conference about Nancy Reagan’s “seances” reminded anyone who was paying attention of what was already clear–that Obama’s entire political idiom is a hybrid of the leftist activist group and faculty lounge.  It is not unreasonable to imagine that he might realize fairly quickly how exhausted and inadequate that idiom is to his purposes.

In a sense, some of the immediate decisions confronting Obama are very favorable towards any attempt to distance himself from the Left, should he wish to do so.  Reversing his position on Iraq, for example, should be relatively cost-free:  casualties are way down and stability and security immeasurably improved and likely to stay that way contingent only upon a continuance of present policies.  The financial crisis gives him cover to reverse himself on tax increases for the “rich.”  Taking a more skeptical stance on the constantly expanding bailout of what is coming to look like the entire American economy would allow him to pivot against both the Bush Adminstration’s haste to help rich Wall Street investors and the Democratic Congress’s lust to nationalize and distribute pork.  Everyone knows he has inherited the crisis, so the public will be patient, and the inevitable return to economic growth will redound to his credit.  The media is already preparing the narrative of Obama the rescuer, “like” Lincoln and FDR.

In the end, of course, Obama will have to prove himself by making difficult and unpopular positions–only when he does this will these favorable conditions become favorable conditions.  He will have to block some domestic policy proposal with overwhelming Democratic support; and, more important, he will have to initiate and see through to the end some application of American military power for some unequivocal end, against some enemy.  The latter imperative is, of course, both more difficult and more important.  But if Obama, offended by (say) an Iranian insult, shocked by some display of European cynicism in that same instance, and angered by his erstwhile domestic allies’ willingness to tie his hands in the midst of a decision he is coming to realize is more complex than he had realized–if, in such a situation, his sense of his own “destiny” overrides the Leftist commonplaces upon which he has been suckled, and as a consequence he finds himself a new set of allies willing, in the name of national security, to forget previous affiliations and advise and support him unconditionally in some action that will irrevocably narrow his future options and redefine his political identity; well, we might then have the makings of a remarkable Presidency.

November 8, 2008

Subtle and Irreversible

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:40 am

Wouldn’t the criterion for actions taken by a new Adminstration, bolstered by a solid Congressional majority, which wants to effect fundamental transformation of the American order without tarnishing the transcendence which has been its real program, be that such changes be as subtle and irreversible as possible?  Perhaps (to refer back to my previous posts) large scale scapegoating operations can be suspended, and used for more targeted ends when needed–first of all, you would want to sustain the good feelings (treating opponents more with pity than anger) and make the most minimal changes with the most maximal effects. 

Now that the adminstrative, regulatory and welfare state has become large enough, and judicial understandings of the Constitution malleable enough, it is possible to make substantial changes simply through staffing decisions.  If the “Fairness Doctrine” is resurrected, a couple of appointments to the FCC determine what counts as “fair”; a couple of years of judicial appointments and “gay marriage” will be the law of the land; add to such appointments new “hate speech” laws and anyone who criticizes “gay marriage” (or puts quotation marks around it?) will be criminalized; appointments to the Federal Exchange Commission and of Federal Attorneys can ensure that, probably without even changing the law (as Eliot Spitzer showed, there is already plenty on the books with which to bully and bamkrupt less compliant corporations), corporations on board with the new regime will get along splendidly and those who aren’t–not.  The same goes for the Food and Drug Adminstration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department and so on–a government that scruples not to blow with the “righteous wind” at its back can make very thoroughgoing “change” without anyone really noticing until it is much too late–and, then, when resistance is mounted, you scapegoat that resistance as opposed to the implementation of the law, opposed to solid legal precedent, in favor of dirty air and water, in favor of unsafe working conditions, etc., etc.  This is how a smart and determined transnational progressive regime would proceed and Obama, much more so than the Pelosi-Reid clown Congress, seems to be smart and determined–and well-liked as well.

I haven’t spoken about the Palin phenomenon, but would like to now, because it is linked to a broader point:  the absolute need, if we are to extricate ourselves from what seems to me to be a death spiral (the success of the 9/11 attacks), to demolish the Washington “establishment”:  there is almost nothing actually existing in Washington, with the exception of Constitutionally mandated institutions, that I wouldn’t include in this imperative.  The CIA should be abolished and replaced by human intelligence gathering groups directly accountable to the President; the State Department should be eviscerated; we should bring back the “spoils system,” so that a new Adminstration can be genuinely responsible for the actions it undertakes–I would like to set the major political parties on the road to extinction, first of all by removing any legal forms which elevate them above any other private association; the same for the big media.  And that’s just for starters.  All this is in the realm of fantasy (and, perhaps, liberating thought experiments) at this point, of course–I raise the issue here not because I necessarily think Sarah Palin would do any of these things, but because there is no doubt that official Washington and its media praetorian guard saw her as a deadly threat to business as usual.  The frame-up of Palin revolved around her unfamiliarity with Washingtonese and media-speak–I would agree that she probably doesn’t know much about some foreign policy issues, but neither did Clinton or Bush before being elected, neither does Obama, and Biden knows a lot more that isn’t true than is.  They have no more brains than she does:  the difference, to paraphrase the Wizard of Oz’s speech to the strawman at the end of the movie, is that they have been “certified” by the establishment and she hasn’t.  The most remarkable and prescient events of the campaign might turn out to be those disastrous interviews:  what a careful and sympathetic viewer saw in Palin’s encounters with the “mainstream” media was someone torn between her lack of familiarity with the terms of a very hostile environment, her loyalty to her running mate which led, in turn, to her exaggerated deference to the standardized “official” discourse with which the campaign advisors tried to inculcate her, and her own, rather precise but largely unwelcome convictions and political instincts.  Torn to the point of incoherence:  when, in that cring-producing moment, Katie Couric asked her which newspapers and magazines she reads, and Palin answered “all of them,” as a writing instructor I saw the terror of the student desperate not to be “wrong” and rummaging through her store of commonplaces for a serviceable answer that won’t draw upon itself the dreaded red ink (“what is this essay about?”–“He is making a point about universal human nature”…)–I imagine that, running through her mind at that moment was something like “Oh my God, they didn’t tell me which newspapers and magazines I read!”

It was very good for us to see it and, I hope, in the long run, for Palin to have experienced it–because it is only those who are untutored in Washington’s ways, but skeptical enough to burst the bubbles of conventional wisdom (and there Palin certainly has some work to do) who can save us at this point.  Margins of the political system must be sought where “unregulated” associations and agendas can be formed–there’s no need to ignore the pseudo-center, but no serious political activity at this point can allow itself to be dependent upon it either.  My own favorite is a movement organized around constitutional amendments:  let’s sit down a formulate the language knocking the media, the judiciary, the universities, and the political parties off of the pedestal they have erected for themselves; let’s see if we can revise the terms of accountability of elected officials for the programs they establish by forcing Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, to set the rules according to which laws will be implemented–I am confident that language in all of these cases, and many more, can be found that would gain the support of the 2/3-3/4 of Americans needed to pass new amendments, and such a campaign would be an unprecedented experience in trans-partisan political self-education.   We could then hold politicians accountable to their stand on the amendments.  Let’s see if we can be subtle and irreversible ourselves:  all ideas conforming to our constitutional order should be welcomed into the discussion.

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