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What you propose is exactly how long-term effectiveness is achieved.  The small number of liberals in the Cold War 1950's planting the seeds that would bear fruit in 1970 or so, when even Richard Nixon was an environmentalist and went to China.  How much did he believe in these things versus to what degree did he do it to try and capture the political breeze to sail his craft?  I don't know - but he, like all politicians know which way the wind is blowing.  

By the late 1970's, this long-term political arc - powered by and organized around a specific worldview or set of myths, as you point out - was running out of steam, and was supplanted by Republican conservatives that had spent their time in the desert and now were in a position to capture the public imagination with their new set of myths, that tapped into needs the general public felt were not being addressed by the prevailing worldview.

From 1980 to the present has been the Republican era - even while Clinton was in office, the Republican congress and the conservative-leaning media tied his hands, and he needed to tap into the prevailing winds to get anything done, like "ending welfare as we know it."  

The conservative forces that have been the prevailing worldview for a generation are fading now, and the current unmet needs of society are things that the present set of myths cannot or will not address, and this will lead to the formation of a new political liberal coalition that will again take power shortly.  Exactly when depends on how quickly things go to hell in a handbasket.  Carter was seen as the incompetent last president of the democratic, liberal period [as much as we all love him!], and Bush will be seen as the same for this cycle.  Which is why I have said that the far right will view him as their Carter - someone "too moral, too Godly" [gag me!] to achieve success in the cesspools of DC.  And the folks closer to the middle will view him as Nixon - someone whose personal weaknesses led to the collapse of all he hoped to achieve, a tragic figure a la Greek drama.

But this social transformation, while partly powered by long-term internal intergenerational dynamics of the American people, can be impeded or encouraged by the instiutions you discuss.  We need think tanks, we need media outlets, we need their synergistic effects, but - and this is the key point you've raised - we need the consistent worldview that will tie it all together and light a fire in people's hearts to do the things needed to bring about change.

I've asked here and at Big Orange for that discussion, and more often than not been greeted with a resounding silence, for this is a very long-term perspective we're talking, and most folks only can see as far as getting rid of BushCo and the Republican congress.  to which I ask - "All right, then what happens?"  Getting rid of these folks is only the first step in what is going to be a generational task.

The ideas that will form a part of the next worldview will come from the problems that are not being addressed by those in power today:  

    * How to deal with global warming?
    * How to deal with immigration?
    * How to deal with the growing gulf between rich and poor?
    * How to provide health care that's better than third-world levels for the uninsured?
    * How to deal with the federal deficit?
    * How to achieve energy independence?
    * How to have social infrastructure in place so another post-Katrina debacle cannot happen again?
    * How to protect privacy from both the government and private data miners?

The worldview will have to start from first principles about why the government exists and what it should be empowered to do.  Then the actions needed will flow naturally.

But it isn't just the work of think tanks.  Unmet needs will percolate from the bottom up and demand attention.  In 1955, most folks could have predicted that the Civil Rights struggle was on the horizon, but few would have predicted the environmental movement or the women's rights movement; those kind of rose up and surprised people, but were incorporated into the new worldview and the coalition that took power to effect change.  

Today, the left seems a bit surprised by the immigration uprising of 2006.  But if we are going to form the most effective, powerful coalition possible, our new worldview will also address the needs of these folks - or we will be working at cross-purposes and our attempts to put the next big political cycle in place will be self-hobbled.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? - Thoreau

by Dem in Knoxville (green_planet_2000 (at) yahoo (dot) com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:20:00 PM EST
(The above was originally at Booman Tribune, so when I said "I've posted here" it actually meant there.  Sorry for any confusion...)

Another point - driving home from work I was thinking about this, and had an idea about the following point:

"You have to attack their symbolic universe using their symbolic terms and, at the same time, create your own alternative symbolic universe. Both. So we need so called "infiltrators" too. There MUST BE TWO myths proposals completely different (you have to know that the target audience is different)  coming from the roots. One with our own universe, one with them. About their universe.. it is very easy .. you have to turn the tables around."

I think we're beginning to see this with the efforts of the religious left in the US speaking out about issues like climate change and poverty, and telling their Christian bretheren in Christian language that if you're for a "culture of life" that includes life after birth as well.  This message will play better with American Catholics than evangelicals - Catholic bishops spoke from 1980 to 2000 in just such terms, as reflected by Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago saying that Catholic pro-life policies of all types needed to be a "seamless garment."  Of course, since then many of the Catholic bishops have swung right as well, but the concept is still sound, and is an example of a useful wedge that can be applied to the right.  If American Catholics would look at their own theology more closely they would see they actually have few points in common with the fundamentalist extremists.  Unfortunately, while John Kerry was aware of this, he never brought that message home, perhaps because as a New Englander he had that region's reluctance to wear his religion on his sleeve.  (A tradition that actually has roots going back to the cultural aftermath in New England to the Salem witch trials in the 1600's, and still was clearly present in Hawthorne's writing almost 200 years later - but then, Hawthorne was from Salem itself and had ancestors involved in that unpleasantness...)

What we've been viewing politically as a short-term "wedge issue" may in some cases be useful long-term in eroding solidarity on the right.  The right is a master of this - look at how, in response to the new-found political voice of the Latino population in the US, they are currently using job insecurity as a wedge between Hispanics, blacks, and poor whites, who might otherwise find solidarity against big business.  The American left awaits a leader who can point this out for all to see.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? - Thoreau

by Dem in Knoxville (green_planet_2000 (at) yahoo (dot) com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:42:48 PM EST
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Thanks for posting this here, Dem! (What's all this about sa-fisty-kated Yurpeens? That's some pretty darn sa-fisty-kated commentary you're layin' on us there!)

From my other comments, you'll perhaps have seen we agree about the necessity for working on a new fundamental narrative. I don't think we'll get far without it. Concentrating on how to win an election is great, but what if (say) a Dem candidate were to win in '08 and just take a Swift-Boat-style beating for four years so the GOP come back stronger in 2012? The trouble is you can't do much against a majority consensus in the country, and the current mythology, as you point out, even has a good number of people left of centre unable to escape from its thrall.

I hope we'll go further with this here at ET. Don't go away...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 06:01:36 AM EST
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