Thursday, February 02, 2006
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Tristero recently wrote a post at Hullabaloo (Digby's place) which goes into this whole tantilizing "center/mainstream" debate - and what exactly it is - and where and what perhaps the "mainstream" might actually consist of. I thought Tristero's post was good. I was also surprised by some of the negative reactions he got to it. In any case, read the post for yourself.
For my part, as I see it, what Tristero is saying is that the Left is (overall) basically representative of mainstream American interests in general. Representative of mainstream "values" and long held traditional foundational principles and institutions based on equality and fairness and inclusion and the general welfare of a dynamic civil society in America. What? You got a problem with that?
And that those principles and institutions are for all practical and historic purposes the mainstay of mainstream American political culture as well. Be it Left "centrist," "radical," "moderate," even "conservative," or whatever you want to lable it. That in most cases we on the "Left" are all more or less in the same big boat in this regard. In other words: despite what the Right and the cable television junk-journalism four flushers like to characterize as the "looney left" or the the "radical left" or the "angry left" or the "far left" or whatever snooty sneer they decide to level on any given evening; despite any number of various attempts at marginalization through sloganeering they decide to employ; despite all of that... the Left as a whole in this country has always been at the forefront of issues and ideas and principles (and values) which ultimately, for the better, become an overwhelmingly accepted and necessary ingredient of centrist/mainstream American life.
Therefore, for the most part - and I think this is at the heart of Tristero's larger point - It is this big-tent Left that has been (be it by degrees and characterized as radical, centrist, or moderate or whatever - Dem Liberal Progressive Green*) operating in all spheres from government to business to education... to a great extent, responsible for paving the way... advocating for and initiating and constructing... institutions and foundational principals which support and enhance and reinforce the better nature of civil society and good government and mainstream American values in general.
* For purpose of clarification: the chart/graphic designations "Dem, Liberal, Progressive, Green" generally refer to the voters who identify as such and not to any specific elected official or member(s) of congress. In other words: a lot of people who identify with the Left, who consider themselves liberal and progressive, more often than not also identify themselves as a Democrat or a Green or even non-affiliated with any political party. These groups are not necessarily ideologically exclusive of each other. Similarly there are differences between different groups and party affiliations and sub goups within those designations, however, for the purposes of this post all are included as representative of the "Left" in general.
4 Note also: The use of the word "principals" here and in the chart is meant to be read with the structural definition of the word in mind. Principal: As in a rafter or truss which supports a roof.
Foundational Institutions and Principals - including for example: Social Security. Public schools and institutions of higher education. The designation and maintenance of public parks and seashores. Environmental protections; clean air and clean water protection. Public safety; fire, police, snowplows. Fair wage and labor standards. Child labor laws. Equal access to job opportunities and housing and institutions of public education. The right to fair and equal representation in courts of law. Civil rights and liberties protections. Equal voting rights and the right of any citizen to embrace participatory democracy. Public hospitals. Public transportation systems; highways, county roads, bridges and airports and train stations and subway conduits. The internet! Just to give a few examples.
Values? You want "values"? Support for "family values"? See child labor laws, support for strong public schools, anti-discrimination laws, fair housing laws, etc..etc.... on and on.
These are essentially some elements which would be represented as "Foundational ... Principals" in the chart above if there were room to list them therein. These are also the foundational building blocks of what is, and has been in this country for a very long time, the base of support which so much of what we call mainstream American values rest upon. These foundational principals (principles) and issues (institutions) provide support for any multitude of "values". "Values" common to Left, Right and points between. Although, that very foundational structure is what some on the Right (media, think tanks, pulpits, political party operatives, corporate boadrooms) are attempting to undermine, or deny, or discredit, or dismantle. In too many cases for no other reason than the attainment of some narrow political or financial or ideological gain. But more on that later.
All of these foundational institutions and principles listed above are well accepted as traditional mainstream standards. Bedrock elements of our cultural, political, and civil society, and in so many instances defended and advocated - and in most cases brought to be - by what the Right wing in this country today likes to refer to as the "looney left" or the "radical far left."
Unfortunately, too often these days, too many in the Democratic Party itself are willing to repeat this monotonous Right wing cant in order to help position themeselves closer to some fetishized "center" ring which the Righ has drawn for them. But thats another story. The point here being this: that what is "mainstream" and/or "traditional" about all these "foundational issues and principals" is that for a very long time they have provided a kind of groundwork, or footing, or support structure upon which millions of Americans (from one side of the spectrum to the other) can build or rest their "values".
"Values" shared by families, individuals and communities and built upon the foundation of good public schools; labor initiatives emphasizing stable employment opportunities; repect for diversity in religious worship; safe neighborhoods; access to parks and lakes and seashores and cultural events and opportunities (arts, music, sporting events); and any number of other factors and benefits which are valued for their contributions to the quality of life in any community. Values and their support structures which don't simply stop being relevant or necessary any longer simply because a narrow interest of bellowing deciples from the Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable or the Heritage Foundation decide to shuffle off to the Right wing fringes of the American pie chart and declare civil liberties protections or clean air standards or the public school system obsolete or unprofitable or simply inconvienient. Or declared part of some outdated "radical leftist" agenda because some Right wing TV jackass or some greed splattered WSJ op-ed screed announces that a program such as Social Security should be transformed into something amounting to a boiler room big pitch operation.
Privatization scams and corporate tax evasion schemes and the outsourcing of millions of American jobs to some remote workhouse in China or India are not "values". Neither are they supportive of or benefitial to the vast majority of mainstream Americans.
Looting Social Security on behalf of the same people who looted the Savings and Loan industry and the same people who have been looting employee pensions down through the years is not a valued "family friendly" or "mainstream" objective. Not that I'm aware. Although I'm sure Neil Bush might disagree. "Family values" being what they are in that family.
Flat tax? Is that a "mainstream" idea or issue? Not that I know. What kind of "values" does a flat tax scheme serve? Whose "values" are we talking about now? You like the "flat tax"?... move to Russia. They have a flat tax in Russia. And take your "values" with you.
[rewind] Civil rights for example: Let's look back at what was once widely regarded as an acceptable and necessary staple of the Right wing's "values" agenda; once upon a time in America. Are we to believe, still, that racially segregated schools and public bathrooms and parks and beaches and lunch counters and movie theaters are somehow a necessary and acceptable mainstay of some kind of "traditional" mainstream "family values" package? Not in most parts of the country. Not anymore; that's for sure. I don't think I need to explain to anyone which side of the political and culture-war battlefield the supporters of such formerly defined "traditional values" imbecilities as racially segregated schools and Jim Crow laws have traditionally fallen upon.
Let's face it, you won't find too many "looney lefties" marching in a Ku Klux Klan parade. Or trying to convince the neighbors that the gay couple next door is destroying America and western civilization and are ultimately bound, by god, for some firey Biblical hell in a handbasket simply because they are sharing the same rollaway bed. And all regardless of how much those same gay couples love and care for their own families and or children; or tend to the welfare of their own cities, towns, neighborhoods; or contribute to the arts and sciences and education and commerce and defense of the nation.
That kind of vicious white-cap night riding (too often on behalf of Christendom and "traditional family values" no less) is and always has been a pet project of the Right. Oh, how soon the Right and their enablers in the media forget the legacy (slime trail) the Right in this country has left behind it down through the decades. American history is obviously for loonies.
[fast forward] The excitable charge from the Religious Right that somehow granting matrimonial rights to gay couples will usher in the collapse of the "institution of marriage" makes about as much sense as claiming that the desegregation of lunch counters would usher in the collapse of the food service industry. Granted, the Grand Wizard might not like it, but, too bad for his sorry stupid fat ass. The Grand Wingnut can take his grand lunch break elsewhere. Pastor Hudsucker Hookworm or the Exalted Klong Monger (or whatever they call themselves) or some other messenger of so called traditional right wing gawd fearin' values (Ralph Reed lookin' for some under the table work?) can fry him up a ham steak or defrost him a stuffed pepper back at the Klubhouse if he can't eat lunch with the rest of the folks.
4 Is this a "looney left" winger "traditional family values" initiative -- Via BlogAmy: 'United Nations: U.S. Aligned With Iran in Anti-Gay Vote':
Rice Must Explain Repressive UN Ban on LGBT Rights Groups
(Washington, D.C., January 25, 2006) - In a reversal of policy, the United States on Monday backed an Iranian initiative to deny United Nations consultative status to organizations working to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a coalition of 40 organizations, led by the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called for an explanation of the vote which aligned the United States with governments that have long repressed the rights of sexual minorities[...]
Value that. Moving along...
Privatization scams, flat tax scams, junk bond trading chicanery, robber baron accounting swindles, fabulous and nonsensical appeals to magical Invisible Hand dog-eat-dog economic theories, draconian budget cuts designed to simply starve and destroy the very government programs and job opportunities and institutions millions of mainstream Americans rely upon from day to day and year to year, cynical and ignorant attempts to divide families and friends and churches on issues such a gay marriage or the role of women in the home and/or workplace, crude and stupid appeals to mean-drunk patriotism... all of these and other cause celebres are brought to you in the guise of so called "family values" conservatism posing as the defender of "mainstream" traditions and so called "centrist" everyman "common sense" values. All being marketed to America via your cable tv news channel and right wing radio station and local business friendly conservative movement fishwrapper. Marketed by the very same people and their easily fingered payola media puppets who would have you believe that somehow the angry "looney left" is out to unload some fiendish unheard of plot upon a helpless old timey privatization scam loving fag bashing Christian Daddy Nation. The next thing you know the looney-left will advocate for public libraries and anti-lynching laws and the right to join a labor union! The right to be safe in your homes and persons without the federal government being allowed to listen to and read and confiscate your personal communications without warrant! What will we tell the children! Run for your lives!
I don't think you'll find too many "mainstream" Americans today who would look you in the eye and tell you that their local public middle school is some kind of far leftwing looney experiment in Bolshevik indoctrination. Not with a straight face. But that won't stop those who will tell you that that is precisely the case (what else is David Horowitz going to do for a quick buck?), and many of them will also strut around like so many bantam roosters waving a little plastic flag in one hand and a copy of King James in the other and panting that Michael Moore is the greatest threat to American values since Hirohito or the Great Bobbed Hairdo outbreak of the early 20th century. For the most part they are a deceitful and sordid (granted noisy and well pampered) flock. Pecksniff gandy dancers laying track to some future fetishized notion of America as some dominionist indoctrination compound or some neo-conservative version of the Legree plantation. Their only objective is to generate confusion, sow doubt, provoke animosity and steal the homeland's democratic foundation right out from under you if they can. Despite their cleverly marketed new noisemakers and self serving patriotic knick-knacks and assorted religionisms, and so forth, each and every one of them can be found squirming in the very same slime trail their discredited Right-wing ancestors blazed before them.
Unfortunately, what the Right wing ideologues and the Neo-Conservative elites and the Franco Way wannabes on the Religious Right - and any number of like-minded servitors stalking such bon-fires - are attempting to do is destroy the very foundation which most American values rest upon. To undercut and dismantle those very foundational institutions and principals which have stood solidly for years and years in this country. And to replace that old traditional bedrock foundation of institutions and principals with something amounting to a cheap folding card table in a fortuneteller's parlor room. Rest your values on that.