Regime Change?

I normally try not to post on stories that are being superbly covered elsewhere, but I can’t get over this latest revelation that Obama’s GOTV mega-drive is part of an overall remaking of the entire Democratic Party and somewhat nascent Progressive infrastructure in his own branded image.  As I wrote over at The Hillary 1000 (where I quote dday at length – READ IT), the organizing and mobilization scholar in me is totally impressed.  But the conflict theorist and skeptic of authority in me is totally horrified.

Clinton loyalists are rightly infuriated by the smug anticipated reaping of the spoils by bloggers such as Chris Bowers, who are thrilled at their implied and exclusive relevance in the new Obama Party.  Democratic loyalists smartly see past the impressive organizing and fundraising for what turns out to be been-there-done-that-centrism, merely with a new generation of elites at the helm (and frankly, not the ones I’d like to see leading this country forward).  Turkana at The Left Coaster: “Obama’s purple America schtick is more similar to Bill Clinton’s 1992 schtick than is Hillary Clinton’s current schtick.”

One of the things I’ve liked least about Obama’s presidential campaign is its treatment of politics as something dirty, shameful, to be avoided and overcome.  Keep in mind a few definitions of politics:

  • the art or science of government; the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy; the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government;
  • competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government);
  • the total complex of relations between people living in society; relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view

I know, I know, Obama’s campaigning against “partisanship.”  But forgive me if I prefer my partisan views, and not those of others, who, for instance, would like to eliminate the social safety net, demolish public housing without sufficient affordable replacement, or limit my right to fight back against discriminatory policiesPartisanship is part of politics; struggle, protest, negotiation, and compromise is inherent to politics, and politics is the act (or science) of fighting oppression, domination, and injustice, not to mention unfair distribution practices.

Coverage of Obama’s plan to remake the party indicate a replacement of ideology-driven politics with technocracy, that is, the “management of society by technical experts,” and the existing progressive infrastructure subordinated to good-government, reform types.  These are the words that make my hair stand on end.  Trust me (I’m an expert!) when I tell you that data, measurement and analysis are nothing without an ideological or moral context in which to interpret such technocratic knowledge.   Ever wonder why the Ivory Tower is considered so remote?  Because we’re taught to develop knowledge “objectively,” without bias.  And guess what?  We’re considered irrelevant, out of touch, and most often unwelcome outsiders in the communities or groups we scrutinize for our scholarly purposes (Take the case of social policy, where the evaluations of mostly white men of the social problems of mostly women and children and communities of color has its own tremendously negative ramifications.)  Given the unevenness of the playing field of potential experts for an Obama Administration – especially if Obama’s mostly white, male campaign staff is any indication – we shouldn’t expect this new younger leadership of technocrats to look much more like the citizenry than our supposedly ossified political power structure already does.

Technocracy over ideology, an elimination of partisanship, unity instead of difference – this is not a world I would recognize, or welcome. A revolution in the name of Obama as it is described is not a revolution: it is a new face on an old system.  An enormous, volunteer-driven GOTV drive is worthy of effusive accolades.  But to undertake one at the willful and calculated expense of existing progressive institutions (really, it’s all in the links), well, this is a proposed power structure that worries me deeply.  More than ever, I realize how starved for a leader Bush has left this country.  May we not succumb to the next one quite so easily.

Originally posted at NYC Weboy


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