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Serious question

If the opportunity cost of engaging with Versailles is almost always too great -- and I think that it is, because the rot is all too evident* -- is there any reason (for me; or you) to blog about national politics and/or the legacy parties at all?

The access bloggers and the commentariat are perfectly capable of advocating powerfully for their legacy party of choice, for money, so why should I help them out for free? What value do I add by reinforcing the discourse of Versailles? For myself or for others? What value do any of us add? Surely there are more interesting things to blog about, where I can make a real difference?

Consider, again: Health care reform should have been a relatively tractable problem; the policies to follow are obvious, as soon as you look at the evidence. Yet Versailles didn't deliver on it. In particular, the Dems -- who a lot of us have been seriously invested in since, oh, 2000 -- didn't deliver on health care reform, after we gave them everything they claimed they needed to deliver change: The House, the Presidency, and 60 votes in the Senate.**

How much less, then, will the Versailles be able to deliver on less tractable issues like financial reform, lancing the boil of the empire, or climate change? Versailles will not be able to. In fact, Versailles gives not the slightest sign of even wanting to try.

So why invest time, or, if you have it, money with them? They're not investing in us. I've already turned off the teebee. I'm thinking I need to turn off Versailles as well; it's a closed system, it's stifling me, and I need to open the window and feel the breeze!

Readers, thoughts? (I'm not really asking this question for others; just for me.)

NOTE * As a friend of mine says, "It's not even good kabuki!"

NOTE ** Now they're telling us that they not only need 60 votes, but public pressure to change their own internal procedures. It's always something. An ever-receding possibility of somethings: If only we sign another online petition, buy another commemorative plate, "stand with" this or that "Hollywood for ugly People"-type celebrity today... Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.

UPDATE On consideration, I should say that I don't want anybody to think that all the work we did on single payer, for example, was futile. Quite the contrary. It was not futile for us. At a minimum, we set the record straight and developed powerful analytical tools. More, we opened, or at least made visible, cracks in the Dem base (as well as the shoddiness of access blogging). At a maximum, we're at the start of a some sort of movement (though I'm not smart enough to figure out what kind). But we should consider going around Versailles, instead of besieging it or attempting to storm it. Let it rot, and fall off the vine.

UPDATE I might have killed off these:

http://www.correntewire.com/did_obama_ca...

http://www.correntewire.com/does_baucus_...

http://www.correntewire.com/obama_starts...

http://www.correntewire.com/obamas_owner...

http://www.correntewire.com/triumphalism...

http://www.correntewire.com/anybody_got_...

http://www.correntewire.com/dems_promise...

http://www.correntewire.com/weird_post_i...

What I'm really saying, thought, is that Versailles and its media organs have way too much of my mindshare. Even when I'm doing Kremlinology.

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Montag's picture
Submitted by Montag on

to the extent that i still blog on this topic anymore, it is to say, "look! it's all a lie. don't believe it!"

and i post this quote often, all over the place, "Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask anything of them." the quote is credited to Alexander Solzhenitsyn in this article: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/23259

words to live by.

hells kitchen's picture
Submitted by hells kitchen on

Are you saying you will give up politics and blog about gardening? reviewing books, games? Say it ain't so.

It seems to me that for most of the time in our nation's history, the idea that a third party won't get off the ground is correct. And yet there are times in our history that there have been vast political movements. Once it involved a new party. Once it involved people moving from one party to another.

It's possible that with there being very little difference between D's and R's that a new party could emerge and succeed. Actually, I give that better odds than us all changing our registration to R and taking over the party and restoring balance. The latter idea just makes me giggle.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Look what the dixiecrats did? The GOP was once the Party of Lincoln and look what happened. The Dems (From the days of Jefferson til the 20th century) were once the party of slavery and massive overt minority oppression.

Abandoning the "legacy parties" means more than just giving up on the Parties. It means abandoning their current manifestations as means to promote any real agenda. A future manifestation of one or both of the party names may be useful. I've been rather fond of the idea of running a liberal Republican to challenge a "progressive" Democrat who hasn't done anything liberal. It would probably be easier to get a liberal republican through a primary in a liberal district than seriously challenge an incumbent Dem in a primary. That would be a sign to Dems that the Name just isn't gonna cut it anymore. It would also be a sign to the GOP that we're tired of their nonsense. This is part of a Party Invariance strategy. Something discussed way back when. Namely, political parties should be the means to an end rather than ends in and of themselves.

hells kitchen's picture
Submitted by hells kitchen on

it is born of my apocalyptic mood.

To me, both parties are hopelessly bought and paid for. I don't know which is worse - a party bought and paid for pushing legislation/policies that they know are bad, or a party where some, in addition to being bought and paid for, actually believe in what they're doing.

And this latter party is the one we're going to take over?

The Democrats who opposed Obama in the primary and then in the election are far from unified. Some, who seemed to be centrists then have moved to the right. Were they always right wingers? Or has their frustration at their lack of power to do anything forced them to support any opinion so long as it is against Obama? How are those of us who are truly liberal going to deal with this group?

And what about the disappointed followers of Obama? They don't seem to want to have anything to do with people who could say "I told you so."

How do you arrive at a coalition that is strong enough to accomplish something and that will hold after the election.

(I live in a town that was once a one party town (Republican). With no one challenging them, the party became arrogant and had a few individual cases of corruption. A new party was born; in the voting booth it sits in the Democratic Party column. But it can't call itself the Democratic Party because many of the members came from the Republican Party and have said that they would quit if it officially aligned itself with the state Democratic Party. You want to know the truth? New party same as the old party.)

As I said, I'm in an apocalyptic mood.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Helpful, right?

I mean, keeping an eye on Versailles is important, but if you feel that blogging about it only feeds the system, by all means quit feeding the system. Your wit and snark will be sorely missed, but there are other bloggers here on this very site that can do a Versailles Watch.

If you feel your efforts would be better spent elsewhere, I advise you to follow your bliss.

The only objection I myself would have, is that, regardless of whether we can change Versailles, the actions taken by Versailles affect our lives, so they bear watching. But, like I said, anyone could do that, you don't have to.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Jim Ferlo is the Penn State Senator who is sponsoring single payer, so clearly the legacy parties still have relevance.

I plan to take my direction from the larger single payer movement. If Health Care Now issues an action alert, I am posting it.

otherwise no, Versailles is a fail.

But I would point out the Russian dissidents continued to write about the Politburo right up to August 1991. Even if it is crumbling, it has relevance.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Not all Dems are as bad as their collective whole. That's important to remember. But how can we enable the "good ones" to have more of a voice? I'm not talking about the Conyerses who, to me, pissed away all their credibility. I'm talking about folks like Jackie Speier who, if the world were fair, would be the next governor of CA. She's good on the issues overall and never accepted publicly the sham of the Dem '08 primary. (which is, IMO, a pretty strict litmus test for trustworthiness.)

TreeHugger's picture
Submitted by TreeHugger on

(in the Northern Hemisphere) when nature provides the short cold days and long winter nights essential for slowing down life's rhythm. A time to reflect, rethink, refocus (if necessary) one's energies.

I noticed that my emails and exhortations to friends were reaching a rather manic level toward the end of the year. The feedback behavioral loop known affectionately as my 'gut' told me I was emotionally off kilter.

So, I refrained from reading and forwarding "essential" posts. Instead, I cooked up a storm, entertained friends, forwarded cute videos of dogs decorating Christmas trees, ushered for a baroque performance of the Messiah, and volunteered with Audubon. In short, I enjoyed the holidays.

Time will tell if this is a natural rhythmic change or something else for each of us.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

It used to drive me crazy when proggers used to quote Andrew Sullivan approvingly when he would "make sense" on that rare occasion, giving him a sense of credibility that he did not deserve. I feel the same way about folks who now do the same to Bowers or Hamsher or Dean or any number of proggers who should have lost their credibility. The former "leaders" of the "crashing of the gates" should no longer be leaders, whether they were deliberately in on the scam or just fooled. These folks should not be fed.

One thing that most people seem to overlook (or deliberately downplay?) is how important and integral the mere fact of complaining is. Many people share our concerns and frustrations, but Versailles likes to cow people into silence/submission because silence causes isolation and once enough people realize they are not alone Versailles is in trouble. Blogging about the shortcomings of the legacy parties, IMO, is a useful and needed task. So long as it is not done in a way that reinforces the structure of Versailles.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

I'm not sure what you mean exactly by not blogging abou Versailles. I agree with DCBlogger that we still need to keep an eye on Versailles, if for no other reason than even with revolutionary regime changes (which we'd like to see) are very often still deeply affected by what has come before. Also agree with gqm that discussing and analyzing the shortcomings of Versailles is extremely useful as a vaccine against feeling isolation, despair and helplessness. Oh, and insanity. Actually, that aspect of blogging is sometimes underestimated, I think.

Certainly oppositional-meme generation remains important.

Corrente is already one of the least Versaille-obsessed political blogs, I think. Eg, while elsewhere "A-listers" were tizzying and bunching up their undergarments over Lieberman's "betrayal", Corrente was promoting single-payer, deconstructing the health insurance giveaway kabuki, and parsing out the traps of access-blogging, with a bunch of financial FAIL analysis mixed in.

Do you mean not following the Versailles process and discourse in detail? (For instance, what about madamab's reporting on Weiner's local constituents' meeting?) Not encouraging communications with particular politicians to push them the right direction? Are there some examples of recent posts you'd skip in a post-Versailles-blogging world? I'm reaching for examples because I'm not clear on how to effectively advocate for a regime change without at least some analysis of what's wrong with the current one, which involves at least some attention to current kabuki?

Submitted by lambert on

And I'm not sure I have answers all that carefully thought out. A metaphor that I just used in mail might help. Right now, if I want to go from Zone 5b to Montreal, I have to head south to the local hub, Boston, and then north again to Montreal. So, a trip that would talk 4 hours as the crow flies takes about 14 hours instead. Similarly, anything, to be Serious, needs to travel from point A through Versailles to point B. There's no way to go direct. (Heh. Sounds just like those rentier robber barons again, except this time they have put their chains across the communications channels.)

Take Detroit. What's happening in Detroit is hugely important -- it's like Katrina but on the scale of civilization (both for destruction and, I would bet, creation). Who do we talk to in Versailles about that? John Conyers? I doubt it. (And then Detroit<->Point B, instead of Detroit->Versailles->Point B).

Take any issue in the global supply chain, say food. Do we learn more by studying what Versailles is saying, or by learning what the growers are doing in our own locality? ( (And then grower<->Point B, instead of grower->Versailles->Point B).

I think that Versailles is a spectacle, but and yet we can't look away from it, as if it were a horrible car crash or a trauma always relived. We need to shake our sight free.

Does this make any sense?

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

a different engagement.

As I said above, Corrente is already among the least Versailles-obsessed political blogs, at least in the sense of getting caught up in the kabuki. And it's great at counter-meme generation. I would hate to lose that part of it. Someone has to be the child pointing out that the emperor's naked.

DCB mentioned the Politburo watchers. The USSR periodically used to have huge military parades (I'm sure everyone over a certain age can conjure up an image of what I'm talking about) to show off their national and military strength, pride, etc etc. But dissidents and political analysts (I don't mean the chatterers on the teebee, I mean intelligence analysts etc) would spend much time checking out who got to sit near whom on the main parade stand. That is, they did not get caught up in the spectacle; they knew it meant nearly nothing compared to which political flavor was ascendant at a particular time. That is, they watched the real show because of the affect it would have on global security and human rights and a host of other important things.

It seems to me that that is message to get out, just what you said: Look away from the spectable, from the car crash, from the train wreck. Pay attention to what's really going on. But we still need the analysis, and the pointers toward what really needs attention.

Letsgetitdone has a great post on his blog where I think he boils our job (if I may presume to assume we're all wanting the same thing). I've started to think of it as the "Make the Case, Make the Connection" post. It's referring to health care and teapartiers but applies to pretty much everything:

I don’t really think that the reason why we’re losing the messaging war is because, the opposition is using irrational appeals, the Democrats and progressives are using rational appeals, and since people are fundamentally irrational, they’re winning. Instead, I think the reason is that messaging from the progressive side is not very rational, and people remain somewhat puzzled by it, because it doesn’t clearly connect the legislative solution being advocated to the problems being addressed.... To get the better of these kinds of appeals, those trying to pass health insurance reform need to present legislative proposals that very clearly are likely to solve the insurance problems we have now, so that there is really a very tight and obvious connection between problems and proposed solutions. The clearer and simpler the connection, the more trust and the less irrationality there will be, and I dare say the fewer problems we will have with tea baggers.

....

In saying this, I’m quite aware of the fact that the Administration talks about the need for changes in the system, and has talked about greater competition and public options. But what it does not do is to systematically describe the gap between the way the system operates and the way we need it to operate in order to close the outcome gaps (deaths, bankruptcies, needless economic hardships, needless family breakups, insecurity about insurance coverage, denials of coverage, etc.)

In this area, the Administration has talked all around the problem, but it really hasn’t talked much about the role of profit-seeking, the stock market, incentives in the health insurance organizations, executive compensation in that industry, and general operations in causing the unhappy outcomes of the insurance system that people experience every day. Why not? Probably because the Administration hasn’t wanted to demonize the insurance companies and blame them for the crisis in health insurance. This desire is admirable from the standpoint of keeping open the path of negotiation with the insurance companies. However, it is counter-productive in helping people to understand what the real problem is with the insurance system. Going further, however, if people are to understand and trust progressives who are offering solutions to the problem of how the insurance companies operate, those people need to have an unvarnished account of how the insurance companies cause the insurance outcome problems that people have. The goal of keeping open relations with the insurance companies has to be less important than explaining the problem to people. Simply because, if this is not the case, then they will never accept solutions targeted at the problem that they do not understand.

....

In short, the most appropriate way to respond to the irrational appeals of those whipping up the tea baggers is not with satire, but with open communication to people; with communication that makes an honest and clear case for particular legislation, and that makes clear the connection between an underlying problem and a preferred solution. Such communication should not be diluted with reasoning about political feasibility, and what is likely to pass, since this only confuses people and makes them wonder whether public calculations about feasibility are just excuses by politicians for attempting to pass what important interests favor, rather than what is best for people, and this, in turn, gives rise to mistrust and cynicism.

(emphasis added). lets is talking about tea partiers here, but I think this post applies to just about everything; health care, the wars, the financial system fail, the war on people who need good government, etc etc.

I think the shortening of the path from grower ==> Point B is to make the growers' stories part of the making the case, making the connection analysis. I think that's our job. Unfortunately, I don't think you can shorten the path without referencing Versailles because it's their parade that everyone is staring at. Or at least, to have maximum impact, you have to have the analysis of the problem (which is rooted in Versailles), the solution, and the connection between the problem and the solution.

If you're thinking that we need more stories (and propagation thereof) about the local growers, and a lot less hand-wringing over Lieberman's 'betrayals' or Palin's daughter's panties, then that I agree with. I think we could all do with a lot less hero-worship of both politicians and access-bloggers, a lot less process-watching, a lot fewer loyalty-tests (Jane at FDL), a lot less name-calling, and a lot less Versailles kabuki all around. Anyone who does want any of those things can go to a dozen other blogs which have them in abundance. But it's got to be possible to engage with Versailles only to the extent needed to make the case and the connection.

Ok, this didn't come out nearly as clearly as it sounded in my head. But maybe the Zone 5b analogy isn't quite the right one. Maybe Versailles is a giant mountain in between 5b and Montreal, and we have to 'engage' with it only as far as we need to to get over it or through it.

Although, in the category of Versailles-watching, what's up with this? via dakinikat at TC.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Valhalla, Your link text is a better title for my post than my own original title. Thanks for it, and also your deep commentary on it, with which I certainly agree.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i thnk you're probably correct:

I wonder if it isn’t another brick in the right-wing populism edifice. McCain must know this will never get traction with (the Wall St overlords of) either Obama or the Senate. It puts the Democrats in the position of having to oppose a commonsensical, forward-looking safeguard against the detestable and detested big banks without much risk that it would go anywhere.

didn't the democrats also [for the most part] pooh-pooh the idea of replacing the public option with expanding medicare?

Submitted by gmanedit on

went to FDL to read the comments.

First, the comments: Most of the FDL commenters came off as snotty, eager to promote themselves above the stupid voters. Elliott at 12:53 pm had sensible suggestions.

What lets, ever diplomatic, doesn't come out and say is that the proposals can't be explained clearly and defended because they are indefensible. Their purpose is to sustain an industry that, as Weiner says, contributes nothing to health care. Premiums will be so high that many policyholders will not be able to afford the costs of actual care. The best feature—adding to the Medicaid rolls—comes with patients' impoverishment by state clawbacks. Medicare money is being diverted. Oh, don't get me started.

If someone can't explain something clearly, they don't understand it or they have a hidden agenda. As Elliott said, "The insurance industry can wither on the vine. As it should."

Ah, there's the rub.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

my blog was about a single-payer event hosted by PNHP, that A Little Night Music and I attended. Anthony Weiner was there to support PNHP. It was not a meeting of his constituents, and as such, I don't feel that it supported Versailles.

Hope I'm not splitting too many hairs here.

:-)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

sorry madamab, it was my own lazy memory that was the problem. Not hair-splitting at all!

Submitted by Anne on

disgruntled, frightened, angry, disillusioned people who are getting ready to go from simmer to full-on boil and it could be what's needed to finally get a viable third party movement going, to create the "somewhere else" to go that won't be the corner we have all been rhetorically herded into.

I like to think that what happens here and in a few other places is less about complaining and whining and bitching, and more about honing an argument, defining and identifying aspects of issues that are not being talked about by the Village or Versailles, refusing to be distracted by the bright, shiny objects, refusing to be treated as too dumb to understand what's going on - it strengthens my resolve, makes me better able to debate and discuss out here in the larger world, allows me to educate others and open some eyes and ears that haven't been shut as much as they have been blinded and deafened by the garbage they see and hear in the mainstream.

Hey, I sometimes wish I could be one of those people who hasn't got a clue what's going on - I wonder sometimes if I would be happier in my ignorance than I am in my knowledge. I try it now and then, when I am worn down by events, but it never sticks for long - it's just not how I am put together.

So, yes - keep making noise, go around and over anything and any entity that functions as a giant speedbump, call out those who are dishonest and disingenuous, reveal their ulterior motives, connect the dots that make ugly pictures.

Make noise, get out the wasabi!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

he can't help himself:

Had he known in advance that the Republicans would intimidate all of their members into not only opposing any health care reform, but in supporting unprecedented levels of obstruction, he may have taken a different path.

how could anyone live through the impeachment and Bush vs Gore and think that the Republicans would ever work in good faith?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

They are so predictable it's painful. The Repubs, doubly and triply so.

Every once in a while something truly stunning occurs, like the Stupak-Nelson additions to the Health Whatever bill. I try to cover it then.

But I just can't get worked up about anything they do any more. Yes, Obama's an imperialist, paranoid, Dear Leader type who hates women, LGBT and anyone who actually needs the government for anything. And? Some of us have been saying this for almost two years.

If/when change comes, it will be from efforts outside the two Parties. So, I try to focus my efforts on real grassroots activism and consciousness-raising, when I can.

Oh, and snark. Lots of snark.

YMMV.

cwaltz's picture
Submitted by cwaltz on

I'm uncertain what you mean by Versailles..... if you mean should you continue to blog about the corporatecrat parties then I think yes. Someone needs to be cataloguing the reasons that we need to do something different. If by Versailles you mean the bazillions of bloggers with opinions that don't seem to amount to a hill of beans I wouldn't blog about them as much as keep an eye out on what they are doing. Heck a once a week of note entry would be enough for me. Then again, alot of them seem to still be in navel gazing mode. I actually come here on the off chance there might be a chance to make a difference beyond commentary on something like health care.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I see Obama, I have mentioned earlier, as "headwaiter for the plutocracy". (Was it Lapham who used the headwaiter line I believe in describing the late Tim Russert and his relationship to politicians?). Anyway, I am shamelessly stealing it and will be repeating it.

Obama is headwaiter for the plutocracy.

Sadly sums it up. Would love him to quit the position, will pray he does in the long three years coming up, but that is where he stands now. The sadder thing still is so many still in denial stage that Obama is not the profound sell-out that he is, or not getting even that Congress is made up of the sell-outs they profoundly are.

"Versailles" says it well. The remoteness of the legacy parties from us drowning serfs. Palace intrigues, the celebrity press is enchanted with. Gamesmanship never statesmanship.

I am going to start working for Tasini for US Senate in NYC soon. I hope he renews my faith in a pol candidate with integrity.

Re the "teebee" ... it is stunning how little truth and reality manages to make it at all ... through that medium. The amoral prioritizing on the television is awesome. A woman saw Mary the Mother of God formed on a pancake was the "tease" on one local NYC station a short while ago. Oy vey. And that is one of the non-dangerous stories. It is the misinformation and pro-corporate slantings, sanitization of what war really is that are truly mind-ripping/f*cking.

And the people like Charlie Rose with faux-credibility, who invite on plutocrats to assure us things are not all that bad, or the ones who got it so wrong re economy and military .. and yet, back they come. War on Charlie Rose is reviewed as coolly as a game of chess, never about human lives being sacrificed for corporate greed or human hubris. Yet all very civilized sounding ... all very seemingly sincere.

I think we need to keep a watch, but more and more I feel like one of Bradbury's "book people" in Fahrenheit 451. I think it is important for the "book people" to have a home base to watch the insane, numbed-out, appalling antics of the non-book people. To keep calling them out. But this is an evolutionary movement. When will "critical mass" of frustration and exasperation be reached for this particular century? Especially as one part of public reaches critical mass of horror over the primitive jingoism and tribalism and greed, the other part of the population has its free-floating anger manipulated by the plutocratic agents to absorb attention and dumbfound all those with a capacity for reason and morality.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

“Barack Obama is a brand. And the brand designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.”….”… President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising.”"

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

I’m not sure how many people will agree with me, but from what I have read of American history, we are at about the same point as the country was in the early-1850s. The 1850 Compromise was basically the last great “achievement” of the legacy parties of that time; thereafter, it was all downhill, with actual para-military violence breaking out in Missouri and Kansas within five years, and open Civil War five years after that. Health care "reform," is going to be our generation's 1850 Compromise. I suspect that we should throw in "reform" of the financial system along with HCR.

I fully agree with Stirling Newberry, when he wrote, here, back in August,

Necessity will mean that the shower of lies from the right will create a physical political conflict. The old formula is to replace bullets with ballots; the right wing, to have a populist base, must preach the reverse: to replace ballots with bullets. Because of who they are, that time must and will come.

It is very much worth going back and reading that piece again. And again. And again, whenever you begin to feel hope faltering in the face of seemingly immovable legacy stupidity. What Neweberry writes there is an extremely useful road map to the future.

Necessity will be our leadership, but only if when that moment arrives we are ready. We must be ready first by decrying compromise in the present, we must be ready by having ideas that are crystal and clear, and fit within a few words in their outlines. We must be ready by learning that most important lesson: When we have a mandate, we must use it.

The reason necessity is so crucial, is that humanity, and the societies we create, are quite resistant to change. How many banksters have had their country club memberships revoked because of their role in the financial crash? How much have the membership rolls of the Council on Foreign Relations, or the various University Clubs changed? Oh, there have been a few interesting and rather enjoyable repercussions, such as leading American bankers not being invited to Davos, but Versailles remains Versailles and The Village remains the Village. And so it was throughout the 1850s, even as the southern Fireeaters poured more and more oil on the sputtering flames of secessionism and war.

In what I consider to be the best history of the Civil War, written just before the U.S. went to war in 1941, military correspondent of the New York Post Fletcher Pratt has a chapter entitled “The Indecisiveness of Decisions,” which places before the reader Pratt’s insights regarding the differences between the North and the South. Pratt placed that chapter after the events of 1863 are described, including “When the Wave Broke” at Gettysburg, and “The Absolute Masterpiece” of Grant leaping loose of his supply lines to march 19 days through Mississippi, fight and win five major battles, and arrive at the back door of Vicksburg.

Americans are a race of "joiners"; they should exult over the fact, it is their greatest title to fame. It enables them to form an association for the improvement of musical taste without inquiring into the social status of the members, and one for sending a rocket to the moon without examining their private morals. In Europe such bodies would be impossible unless the members were gemutlich, sympathique all around the compass; every association is necessarily a general association, throwing the members together at all points.

Americans are a race of joiners; it has enabled them to form those strange caravans that subdued a continent, and those research bodies which are the glory of science. The husking-bee, the house-building-bee, are the characteristic American institutions. Once their purpose is accomplished, they disband and no more is heard of them.

This implies an extraordinary flexibility of mind and a high degree of tolerance. The fault, the fatal fault of the Confederacy was that its system possessed neither. Tolerance was reserved for the small circle of the elect. It was intolerant of any but received opinion; it was inflexible, Chinese, dead, static. It was not without splendid virtues; ability (when found in the right places) made its way more swiftly to the top through the loose Southern organization than through the tighter organization of Northern society. But such ability, unless it were genius itself, arrived at the top not quite capable of performing its tasks. The Northern system furnished talent with such an elaborate apparatus of training and support that it became the equal of genius. It is not without significance that the Southern commanders at the beginning of the war -- Lee, Longstreet, Johnston, Bragg, Forrest -- were still the Southern commanders at the end of the war, mostly older men, while the Union, with an air of prestidigitation, was producing such young tigers as Sheridan, Custer, Wilson, Upton and Kilpatrick. The South, like most aristocracies, was deficient in education, both of the corporate body and of the individual member.

It should worry us greatly that we can recognize much of America today in what Pratt writes about the “inflexible, Chinese, dead, static” culture of the Southern elites, and not just the leadership of the Republican Party and the wrong-wing. But -- and I’m starting to get to the point -- “inflexible, Chinese, dead, static” would also pretty much describe American elites, both North and South, throughout the 1840s and especially 1850s. The abolitionists, for all their vehemence and organization -- and let us not forget their being morally and historically correct -- won precious few electoral victories until the Democratic and Whig Parties began to shatter after Kansas-Nebraska. Indeed, what is remarkable is that almost all who were leaders in their communities remained so through the first shots in Sumter and the rushed raising of regiments, and emerged as officers. Then began the terrible and ferocious process of finding new leadership, in which rivers of blood were literally required to sweep away the incompetent, the venal, and the mere opportunist. The South, with its aristocratic character, never was able to lift its head above the torrent of gore and catch its breath. The North, as Pratt wrote, emerged with a whole new generation of leaders. Custer was made Brigadier General when he was 23. Douglas MacArthur’s father was made a full colonel at 19. For at least two decades after the Civil War, this new generation of leaders made the United States the most vibrant and rapidly industrializing nation on the planet.

Much worse lies ahead of us, and the wave of misery and suffering that will come will drive our fellow citizens to both discard those who are now leaders, and elevate to leadership those who are willing and able to answer the call of history. For without vision, the nation persiheth.

The internet, because of the times we are in, is becoming a revolutionary force. At least twice the past two years, I have written that I view my blogging as an act of insurrection. It is here that the leaders of the future are gathering, testing their ideas, refining them, strengthening them, readying them for when the nation itself is ready to accept them. Just think a mere 24 months ago – how many people were there that were even discussing what the Federal Reserve does? How many people were there that were discussing the dangers of credit default swaps? Think back just eleven months, and how completely the tide of opinion has shifted against Obama. Yes, the weight of current events may have helped force these discussions into the MSM, but I am absolutely certain that were it not for the fury and rancor of the blogs, none of it would ever have been allowed to see the light of day.

As Newberry concluded:

The drum beat of history is loud at moments, and almost an imperceptible hush at others. But it is steady, and unceasing, and so must be our marching to it. It is the Valley Forge of the next progressive wave, but in these cold days a new nation is being born, one which will act where the last one averred, one that will do what is now left undone, and one which will hold substance, not style, as its measure of success.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Here's hoping it won't come to what you envision. But we are testing our ideas by blogging, and "here we stand, we can do no other."

Submitted by lambert on

... one might think of what we -- and by we I definitely don't mean the access blogs, that is, the blogs who base their business models on access -- have been doing 2008-2009 as indoor seeding. Perhaps now its time to propagate, on the ground. Hipparchia does this. And see this discussion.

Thanks for an awe-inspiring comment, Tony. I don't know how you ended up here, but I'm certainly glad you did! From the season, and some other reasons, I'm a bit discouraged, and to have Stirling's work called out, which is so a propos even though I had forgotten it, is just great because it means that at least some of the writing was not misdirected or in vain.

I add this YouTube because this comment makes me think of trumpets!

NOTE Your (DeToquevillesque) statement on the American genius for assocation reminds me forcibly of small pieces loosely joined....

UPDATE Moved to respond to the right comment.