Monday, January 06, 2014
The Politics of Giving Up
Since the ascendancy of Stephen Harper I have been utterly demoralized by the lacklustre effort shown by the opposition parties. Dion came out with the "Green Shift." Ignatieff was a study in the art of doing nothing. Trudeau? Can't see that he's much better. Layton and Mulcair have focused most of their effort on defeating the Liberals, not Harper. The public, meanwhile, has become disaffected, disengaged.
In the latest Harper's, Thomas Frank tackled a remarkably similar malaise in the Democratic ranks that may have actually saved the Republicans from self-immolation.
What is the pattern that connects these various obsessions of the progressive hivemind — the generational cycle, demographic advantage, racist robots, and gerrymandering?
The answer: each of them is an excuse for doing nothing. Why bother getting out there and building majorities capable of sweeping the G.O.P. out for good? There’s no need, insist Democrats of the optimistic kind, who believe that the impersonal hand of history will soon deliver the world to their doorstep, tied with a bow. (Ralph Nader, who has been observing the progressive collapse for decades, is irked by the demographic argument, which he described to me as “the verbal equivalent of anesthesia for the Democratic party.”) Nor is there much point in persuading Republican voters, because those guys are basically the Klan. Whichever way you choose to see it, it doesn’t make much difference. Pop another can of Duff. Don’t bother getting out of your chair.
The underlying philosophy is one of pure fatalism, of politics as a mechanical process. Everyone’s mind is already made up, insofar as they have minds. Vast forces propel angry white men this way and people under thirty that way. You and I can watch and deplore; we can blog and fund-raise, but we can’t do much more than that. Futility is a way of life for us.
Tell me that today's Liberals and New Democrats haven't slid into this same indifference. They're not championing measures to correct our democratic deficit, to restore a free press for Canada, to tackle inequality in all its guises, to respond to our environmental catastrophe. It's the politics of giving up, the catatonic wait for "the impersonal hand of history" to "deliver the world to their doorstep, tied with a bow."