Published on http://www.counterpunch.org/
We live in a “worlding” (according to Heidegger how we experience a world as familiar) of our own accomplishments, defeats, intentions and assumptions, assumptions less liable now to be themselves defeated in our “Everyone has his/her own opinion” clime. It is more difficult now to both expose the assumptions others make and dismantle them.
The seat of any universally accepted judgment, you might say, has gone out of our cultural wiring.
Nevertheless, our seriously divided party politics does give us in cartoon form the assumptions of “tax and spend” Liberals and “privatize for profit” Neoliberals . Since the 2016 election, a defiant faction, blind sighting both parties and supporting Donald Trump, is, along with the President himself, vexing both Democrats and Republicans.
I call them the Party-less as they are more anxious to see whatever is now politically organized disappear, angered by Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party of big banks and Wall Street but more so by Obama’s apologies for American power and what is viewed as Liberal giveaways to the undeserving.
In a mock Power Point display, here are some of the assumptions of this Party-less group as well as their interests and disinterests:
Diversity and Multi-culturalism
Background assumptions of Liberals regarding diversity and multi-culturalism translate for the unrepresented Party-less as a concern for those who are not U.S/American born. It also translates to an unconcern for the fact that the U.S./American born are in decline on all scales of measurement.
The Neoliberal axiom of globalized capitalism as an inevitable extension of capitalism leading to the improvement of the quality of life for the American born is not an axiom shared by those who translate globalism simply as “foreign.” “Foreign” is a signifier that the Party-less equate with socialist EU and Scandinavia or terrorist Muslims or Third World immigrants and refugees.
Trump cleverly tied Obama to both “foreign” and “socialist.” Obama was un-American and not American, personifying a difference and otherness that is repulsive and threatening. For some strange reason, Bernie Sanders identified himself as a Democratic Socialist , understood only negatively by the Party-less, although it became clear that what he was advocating was a New Deal sort of Liberalism.
Homeland Security and Civil Rights
Homeland Security exists to hold the foreign from the doorstep of the Party-less, the agency itself looming in this Party-less American mass psyche as a defense against a foreign usurpation of ownership rights to true Americana.
Liberals hold as a basic truth a respect for all difference, all that is “foreign” and that is demonstrated by adhering to a political correctness in speech. This translates within the Party-less reality frame as a gag Liberals place on those who do not want to extend respect to those they feel are lazy, gaming the system, and taking their jobs. But most deeply, they do not wish to extend any recognition or respect to those who display a difference that is both offensive and threatening to ways of seeing already in place.
A sense of the past is inevitably a fabrication of the present and the Party-less retain for themselves a chronology of events, of heroes and villains, of facts, consequences and obstacles which are not revisionist in an academic historian’s sense but personally heartfelt, therefore held to be true and real in the highest court of judgment.
The Liberal extension of equality under the law to every marginal group they can discover — and such discovery is vital because Liberals have for the tenure of two Democratic presidents pitched their tent here and not elsewhere — darkens the notion of equal rights in the eyes of the Party-less.
The signifier “equality” then has controversial import within the Party-less world of assumptions while the word “choice” has a positive magnetic value, especially in the notion of “free to choose” but especially not in the notion of the use of “pro-choice” on the issue of abortion.
The more choices presented and chosen at the touch of a finger, the deeper the sense of truly existential freedom is felt. Extraordinary sleight of hand but fully operative nonetheless in this world of what is so “obviously true” to the Party-less.
Danton avowed that if he had to make a choice between equality and liberty, he would choose equality, perhaps because a society that respects equality does not endanger the liberty of any of its citizen. Such is not the disposition of the Party-less who confuse an existential sense of freedom with the notion of liberty conferred by law. Connecting personal freedom to personal choice privileges any expansion of choice, an expansion that consumer capitalism is set up to oblige. This false assumption favors a boundless, unrestrained capitalism and not any regulatory legislation, yet another situation that disables any expected anger over Trump supporting an unjust economic order he promised to topple.
Our economic notion of competition is not based on any equality at any point in our lives but rather on difference, a difference that pits us all in a war of all against all, winners and losers the outcome. In short, our economic system is not disposed toward any kind of communitarian ethics in which differences give way to any sort of equality.
With a signifier –“equality” — left up for grabs, we argue whether our economic system should maintain only an equality of opportunity or pursue equality of outcome. We then argue whether our economic system is designed to erode any equality of opportunity, whether it tilts the playing field at the kickoff, and whether any disadvantaging sparks the urge to compete and win. The thinking in this last holds that the more immiserated one is, the greater the incentive to start a business or invent an App.
What all this boils down to in regard to the background assumptions of the unrepresented Party-less is precisely this: Liberal and Leftist appeals to “equality” do not draw upon any common understanding nor do they lie to rest questions as to whether everyone deserves to be treated equally. In other words, your equal status in my estimate depends upon whether you have worked for it and earned it in terms that I hold as true. Immigrants, refugees, minorities, and “foreigners,” all those outside the mainstream culture, thus are not to be handed equality but must earn it. Here, the Party-less dig deeply into the Neoliberal notebook, a reason why Trump’s advocacy of the wealthy, despite his campaign promises to the Have Nots, is not an angering issue to the Party-Less.
Here then, the Neoliberal call to compete and prove your superiority to others registers as a truer axiom than the Liberal’s assumption that we are all ready to welcome any and all as equals. That welcoming assumption is one that calls upon the better angels of our nature while the call to fear and hate those who are different, a call Trump makes, finds a home in the background of assumptions the unrepresented live within.
Black Lives Matter
What Liberals run into then is a jarring response to what they assume to be egalitarian and humanitarian actions. In a Party-less view, Black lives matter only if they are perceived to be living within the frame of assumptions that the unrepresented hold to be true. Being poor, black, unemployed, poorly educated carries no weight here because they are seen as conditions that whites face, although they are not given special regard by Liberals. The impact of any historical event, slavery and the extermination of the Native population included, cannot be universalized but rather varies within a frame of guiding assumptions regarding what is “obviously true.”
A most recent example of this is the furor over commemorative Confederacy statues. What is “obviously true” regarding the origins and outcome of the Civil War/War Between the States is not so obvious as to prevent the Party-less from disdaining and distancing themselves from what is not obvious to them.
And so, the treatment of and special attention paid by Liberals to minorities and marginalized does not warm the hearts of the unrepresented Party-less. It is angering because it is an imposition violating their own guiding axioms of truth.
Nationalized Health Care
As long as Democrats seek to extend Medicare to all Americans, thus transforming private health care to socialized health care, the Party-less remain on the fence because while all health care, including pharmaceuticals, gouge worker and middle class incomes, there is no preference here for socialized rather than privatized health care. Tying the Affordable Care Act to the resident dislike of Obama in the view of the Party-less has put health care reform in a shadow zone.
Privatizing Public Education
In that same shadow zone of undecided is also privatizing public education, increasing taxes on the wealthy, mitigating global warming by abandoning fossil fuels, increasing background checks of gun purchases as well as outlawing assault weapons and encouraging all citizens to carry guns as the surest way to end mass shootings.
Such assumptions support the many disinterests of the Party-less.
Here are some:
Consequences of global warming
Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential election
The potentially dangerous capriciousness and paranoia of President Trump
Actions taken by President Trump which oppose his campaign promises
The wealth gap, regardless of how obscene it gets
The disproportionate lobbying power of the wealthy compared to wage earners
Gentrification as the praxis of plutocracy
Privatizing and profiteering of public education, prisons and warfare
Prisons outnumbering schools
African-Americans, 13% of the overall population, 35% incarcerated
The pressing need for alternative energy sources
The Constitutional status of corporations as persons
Money equated with speech
Citizens United’s placing no restrictions on independent political campaign spending
Repeal of the estate tax
Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit’s survival
U.S. Child poverty rate higher than Mexico and 33 other industrialized nations
Only 6% of workers unionized in the private sector
Survival of the Bureau of Consumer Protection
Survival of a progressive income tax
Survival of the alternative minimum tax
The interest rate on student loans
Cash advance scams
Sexual harassment charges
Separation of church and state
Unequal pay for the same work done by men and women
Other people’s misfortunes
The number of issues, most of vital importance, that the background assumptions of the Party-less are disinterested in leads us to think that they are Party-less because one alone does not make a party. Self-interest extending no further than the reach of one’s hand, a reach guided by the reach of one’s mind does not socialize, pace our ubiquitous “social” media.
Disinterest most certainly emerges from a failure to acutely interpret surrounding conditions, many of which impact the quality of life of those who are blind to them. And such failures to range beyond the personal to the social has roots, most especially in the debilitating effects of our economic system as well as that system’s devaluing of the education of citizens able to think critically.
We now know that while Trump was intuitively grasping the background assumptions of the unrepresented and discovering ways to appeal to them, Liberals were focused on LGBTQ rights, making a cause of the rights of cake bakers, school bathroom use, and nation-wide acceptance of gay marriage. There are no axioms in the reality frames of Party-less that would in any way find these causes magnetically appealing.
What is needed to bring the Party-less’s background of assumptions regarding what they believe is obviously true toward a questioning of our economic system is a questioning of Trump’s long con being played on them.
But that is simply the first step. The next step is to locate what conditions brought this mogul con artist to the presidency and which conditions while president he has sought to enhance and which destroy.
What follows then is a search for a recuperative agenda, a search for what will dissolve the forces of plutocracy and augment those of an egalitarian democracy. Much here depends on education that is as inspiring and awesome as we hold Google and Amazon to be, that is not solely directed toward STEM education but to the skills of reading, interpreting, and understanding in a world too complex to be reached solely within the disciplinary methods of mathematics, science, engineering and technology. STEM responses on Twitter would not silence Trump’s tweets or bring Kellyanne Conway to an acceptance of fact.
The haters will remain of course but as they have not the numbers to win elections in the U.S. but can only do so when they are joined, as they were in the 2016 Presidential election, by the Party-less, all energies should be focused on describing, understanding and leading this faction to their own questioning of that they hold to be “obviously true.”
We see little of this effort being made now but rather a dismissal of the Party-less as Trump stooges, as irretrievably brain washed.
Neoliberals are in the difficult position of owning what their policies have created and at the same time disowning any connection. Democrats need to distance themselves from Neoliberal economic efforts, which means they need to attack the background assumptions of capitalism itself. Otherwise, they remain in a relationship with the Republicans rather like England’s relationship with the U.S., that is, meekly submissive but pretending to be bold, different and independent.
It remains to be seen whether a Warren/Brown/Sanders fringe in the Democratic Party will reorient the Democrats toward a legislative drive to abridge the wealth gap, modulate and temper globalized capitalism within a frame that stretches beyond profit, and rescue education from the fantasy that privatizing public education confirms and not undermines the egalitarian social fabric of democracy. It’s more likely that a very bullish stock market will tame the spirit of capitalist reform among dividend recipients of both parties.
I put more faith in millennials to make such changes, who now face a global warming future that the climate deniers will not live to experience. That future enwraps them in outrageous student loan debt at the very beginnings of their careers. The future they face will be tied more tightly into a plutocratic order, with a wealth divide inherited by the next generation and so creating the same conditions that Danton and Robespierre rose up against. More millennials prefer a socialist order than the present democratic order so obviously and disastrously harnessed to the inhumane forces of what we now see as capitalism.
What is as clear as the tight spot we are putting the next generation into is the fact that this Party-less faction that I have seen some need in describing will not be a strong antagonist to millennials in their majority, their background of assumptions buried out of sight before a wave of pressing realities, all I’m afraid, of life and death proportions for this anthropocene moment of ours.