Yesterday, someone on Facebook linked me to the following Rachel Maddow diatribe, saying "It's amazing."
In an unrelated, but conceptually linked, comment to me, the great Sonic Charmer has this to say:
I do not believe the political left, by and large, acts in good faith, no. I await evidence to the contrary. But on this issue, I can only echo Matt’s comment below: ‘mandate’ talk is used by electoral winners to shove their agenda down the throats of the losers. It is a form of intellectual bullying, or at least hoodwinkery: ‘you should go along with me because I have a mandate’. What is the objective definition of ‘mandate’? Insert self serving sophistry here.
Can there be any doubt whatsoever that in an exactly symmetric electoral situation with the tables turned, the person saying this would never ‘go along’, as the ‘mandate’ logic implies? That is the definition of bad faith. In saying this, I have not ‘eliminated good faith’ but merely recognized its absence. It is a scam. People who fall for scams are called suckers.To be honest, I have not encountered the kind of bellyaching or animosity against Rs or Ds that has been reported in the news and by my fellow social networkers. So, for one reason or another, I have been mostly spared of all this nonsense.
...That is, I have been spared of it to such an extent as is even possible. The complete and utter lack of good-faith in America is so all-encompassing and palpable that it infects every interaction we have these days. Frightening? Sad? Weird?
Torch It. Nuke It. Winner Takes Everything.
In the political sphere, I think a person has finally reached a point where they have absolutely no good faith in the opposition when they espouse one of two doctrines: despotism or anarchy.
Despotism is the only strategy available to a person who believes she knows so much better than other people that she no longer thinks they can be trusted to make decisions for themselves. Rather than leaving the people with a degree of liberty to exercise their own choices and live their lives as they see fit, she instead deigns to protect them from themselves, and from each other, and sculpt a society in her own image. True, we all have our own ideas about how things would work best, but only a would-be dictator believes her knowledge is so complete that it simply doesn't matter what objections are raised by others. In the mind of a dictator, all objections are beside the point because they are based on faults, flawed reasoning, ignorance, and superstition. Only the dictator and her cohorts can reasonably attest to the right and the true.
Anarchy, on the other hand, is the strategy one adopts when one decides there is no longer any point in discussing anything with anyone. The anarchist believes in allowing people their own lifestyles and their own choices, but that all political decision-making is hopelessly poisoned by power-hungry monsters. Essentially, it is the belief that if the discussion doesn't go in the preferred direction of the anarchist, then she will have no conversation at all. It is a total withdrawal from political discourse. True, we all have ideas that will never be accepted by the public majority, but only an anarchist believes so completely in her ideas that she will no longer accept any discussion to the contrary.
To put this another way, anarchists and dictators hold much the same belief about their fellow men, but while the dictator responds by assuming total control, the anarchist surrenders completely and recedes into a mental safe zone.
Between the dictators and the anarchists fall the large majority of the rest of us. We're neither ready to surrender nor to assume total control. But the slow disintegration of good-faith in public discourse is gradually inching us all to one side or the other. Some of us want "our team" to win and quickly implement the party platform in its entirety. The rest of us are withdrawing from politics and proclaiming that there is no hope, therefore also no point to it all.
It should surprise no one that political systems are becoming more despotic. The only ones who still retain an active, participatory interest in politics are the ones tending toward dictatorship. Those tending toward anarchy are simply throwing up their hands and walking away.
Well, you can't reason with those who won't reason. The dictators don't believe anything you say has any thought behind it; the anarchists don't want to talk about it at all. That's all well and good, but where do we go from here? Do we bide our time until the dictators take over and kill us all? Do we watch from the sidelines as our society slowly disintegrates around us?
I don't have the answer today. I'd appreciate some comments. Share your ideas with me, and each other. I see this as the primary political challenge we face today.