Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tonight's vocabulary lesson: antipartisanship

Here's a new term to add to the lexicon:
Antipartisanship (n)

1. A chronic aversion to professional politicians and their handlers, based on the belief that they are all cynical and unprincipled. 2. An unwillingness to identify with either major political party based on said beliefs.

Mimus Pauly at skippy's place adds a third definition that seems reasonably sensible:
a cynicism borne of the betrayal of trust by either or both major political parties, resulting in the belief that all politicians and political operatives are unprincipled.
Both of these bloggers are tapping into something that I think I've tried to express before. For example, from almost two years ago, in an essay titled American Solidarity - A Beginning:
For more years than I would want to count at this point in my life I have been questioning the direction and purpose of the Democrat party. I've made no secret of my general uneasiness within what has become of the Dems whose leadership has generally underwhelmed me over the last quarter century. Truth is I really don't fit in with a party that seems to favor its corporate cronies over its purported commitment to basic progressive and populist values and policies. The GOP was never and will never be an alternative for me. The unholy alliance of theocons and neocons is one with which I simply would never wish to associate. Genocidal wars, draconian laws that decimate the letter and spirit of The Bill of Rights, looting the nation's treasury and generally pissing away the nation's future for the sake of feathering a few cronies' nests under the aegis of God and Country are the halmarks of the GOP. The best I've been able to say about the Dems is that they are "less bad."

The question that I can never leave far behind is this: "is less bad good enough?" When lives and quality of life are at stake, the answer is no. As of late I have given the words of the late Malcom X a fresh read, and I have a couple observations. One is that in many respects, when we're talking about civil rights and human rights in America things really haven't changed much since Malcom's day. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the dire poverty that has consigned so many of our fellow Americans to a lifetime of marginal existence (what the Marxists would call the lumpenproletariat) and neglect by the very government that is supposed to serve them, will haunt me for as long as I can still draw a breath. Those images should haunt all of us. The specter of racism and classism continues to plague our political and social landscape, just as it has all of my life. The second observation: politicians from one party or another haved talked a good game when it comes to promoting progressive ideas and policies - but with few exceptions they don't walk the talk. That was a problem that Malcom confronted with the issues that were salient to him, and is a problem that we on the left continue to confront. The Dems have assumed for so long that they have the leftists, the women, the ethnic minorities in their back pockets because presumably we have "nowhere else to go." The result is, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, a not-so-benign neglect of our issues and values from the powers that be. And as long as we keep registering Democrat and periodically show up to vote when expected, nothing changes, except maybe for the worse. We have a party where its members say the right things more often than not, but then by and large approve laws like The Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill that will end up burying working families who've encountered exhorbitant medical expenses; they've been silent when the White House nominated an architect of the current pro-torture policy to the office of AG; when it comes to the illegal war being fought against the Iraqis, many of the Dems want to send more troops and kill of even more people; they've been largely silent on the issue of voting irregularities both in Ohio and Florida; and we know that privacy rights are also no longer sacred in Dem circles.

What to do? In Malcom's last year on this planet he offered up some simple advice that I think we can all use: be organized, and don't affiliate with either the Dems or the GOP. That's the general idea behind American Solidarity: organize physically, financially, intellectually. Many of us come from varying backgrounds and have varying pet causes, but let's face it - those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck, those of us who value liberty, who value equality, who value justice, who value privacy have a hell of a lot in common. Technological advances in the last decade or so make it easier for us to coordinate and to exchange ideas and information than ever before. It's way past time to start using those tools to our advantage. Blogs are one of our tools, playing the same role that zines played in the 1980s and pamphlets such as Paine's played during the Revolution some 230 years ago. Blogging is only part of that picture. Cernig fills in some of the details elsewhere. Clearly, unions, thinktanks, civil liberties organizations are going to be salient as well.

Being unaffiliated with the major political parties is also crucial for an American Solidarity movement. The GOP can be written off as a lost cause. The Dems, I'm also skeptical of, but will note this much: if they think we're registered as Dems, they can assume that we'll continue to accept the status quo. Malcom was onto something back in 1964 and 1965 when he advocated refusing to back any candidate until it was clear that they were willing to walk their talk. If they turn out to be kosher, then by all means support them, but only to the extent that they are representing us. If they stop representing us, we should be willing to walk away from them. If they know that their constituents mean business, they'll be more careful to represent us in whatever legislative body they hold office. There's strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are independent.
My position today is essentially unchanged. Like the first blogger I quoted (RJ Eskow), I'm the last person to call for a "bipartisan" anything (also why like Eskow I got turned off of Unity '08 really quickly). If anything, I'm fed up with the players in both of the "official" US political parties and would just as soon be rid of them both. Unlike certain other alleged "progressive" bloggers, I won't write off third party candidates or third parties themselves. If anything, I'd like to encourage more third party activity - even in places that are quite unfriendly to third parties like Oklahoma.

Certainly it's been heartening to read polls in which more folks are identifying themselves as independents rather than affiliating with the Dems or GOP. I'll merely echo what I know has been said so many times in so many other contexts that folks identify as "independent" for a lot of reasons, and hold many diverse (indeed often divergent) political positions. To lump us all together as "moderates" or "centrists" would be idiotically mistaken at best.

That said, I'm sure that there are at least a few common threads among a good number of us, and those common threads could and should be exploited by independents in order to exact some form of meaningful change in the social and political order - ending the damned imperial aspirations of our current partisan elites would be as good a good place as any to start. Or how about smashing the current dysfunctional health "care" system and replacing it with something that would actually keep us (regardless of income) healthy. As un-PC is it is to say, they sure do a damned good job in Cuba; why not here? You get the picture. A lot of independents were willing to cast their lot with the Dems in 2006 under the impression that said Dems were actually going to end the war. One can also find a sizeable proportion of independent voters who are way unsatisfied with a medical system that benefits CEOs of HMOs and pharmaceutical corporations rather than the patients themselves.

As independents we have nothing to lose by casting off the shackles of the Democrat and GOP parties and instead thinking and acting independently of them. Hell, we have plenty to gain, including the potential to give to our kids and grandkids a more sustainable and healthier future.

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