October 08, 2012

not perfect . . . just much better than the alternative . . .

Joel Bleifuss over at In These Times argues that this year’s Obama Biden ticket may not be perfect, but, like life, it is much better than the alternative. I think it is a point of view that I feel much sympathy toward while realizing the strengthes of some of the opposing arguments.
In his 2003 book, The Postmodern Prince: Critical Theory, Left Strategy, And The Making Of A New Political Subject, John Sanbonmatsu applied the lessons of Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci to the post-1968 world. He wrote that the American Left has done itself a disservice by pursuing a politics of self-expression over strategic thinking.
In electoral politics, this current has manifested itself as a tendency to view the ballot as a personal statement. Any number of tiny parties on the Left will be running presidential candidates in 2012; to vote for these parties is to “vote one’s conscience.” But what if your ballot is not your voice? What if, in fact, your ballot is really just a small quantum of power, to be deployed strategically in concert with other like-minded persons? In the words of Carl Davidson, a former SDS leader who is a fan of Sanbonmatsu, “In the long run you need both self-expression and strategy. You need the inspiration that can be provided by self-expression, but you need a smart strategy that enables you to win.” [...] Of course, it could be worse. The Chicago-based anarchist group Revolutionaries for Romney is organizing under the (satiric?) slogan: “It needs to get worse before it gets better.” In 1933, anarchists in Spain believed the same thing. They urged people to boycott the congressional elections, arguing that the Right’s “victory will favor our plans.” It didn’t quite work out that way.


  1. "... Chicago-based anarchist group Revolutionaries for Romney is organizing under the (satiric?) slogan: 'It needs to get worse before it gets better.' ..." Yee haw!

    I hadn't heard of this outfit before, though I've seen Morris Berman express the same sentiment repeatedly on his blog (whether in earnest or not I'll let you be the judge).

    I, as you may have discerned by now, am even more extreme - and quite serious. After decades of watching things get worse, all I've seen is that they just keep getting worse. Well-intentioned, good-hearted people struggle desperately to put out fires, but the fires only keep growing, both in size and in number, until those still trying to fight them are the only things burning out (pun intended). The conflagration is coming anyway, willy-nilly; the only "strategic" thing to do is to muster your resources, lay your foundations, and keep your powder dry.

    I don't care at all for bumper-stickers, but here's one for you: "There's no way around it, the only way out is through."

    All I've got time for this morning. More later.

    1. Here's a link to their page: http://revs4romney.org/. I honestly don't see much in ideas . . . perhaps not as much "organizing" as the post suggests (I know, I know, anarchists don't really organize. I think it was Joe Hill who said something like, Don't mourn, organize!

    2. Wow, man, that's really far out revolutionary - posting a lame-ass video on the Web, hiding behind those romantic masks and showing off your "Che Guevara Reader" - where do I sign up?

      These folks aren't anarchists. They're just posing until something hipper comes along, and giving real anarchists a bad name.

  2. I'm not a participant in the dog & pony show called the American electoral process. It's purpose is to give people the illusion of having some voice in what's gonna go down. I do agree that things must get worse; that nearly everyone's life will need to become so miserable and difficult that even the escape of television no longer works, and they are forced to face reality before anything can change.

    I agree with Hardhead that too many well-intentioned, good-hearted people are fighting fires they'll never get under control, let alone put out. Trying to fix the system doesn't work when the problem is systemic.

    I checked out the revs4romney site, and the video posted there looked like a poor Saturday Night Live attempt at satire. Could not take that seriously at all.

    1. Jim, I expect you're right about the revs4romney site . . . on the "dog & pony show" view - I'm listening and learning from Hardhead and expect I'll posit some counter thoughts by and by. I appreciate the company.