David Graeber on political polarization


In the current government shutdown and bond default crisis, the extreme left-wing position, the one that House Speaker John Boehner says would amount to “unconditional surrender,” would be to allow the government to function normally and pay its bills under the “sequester” budget.  This is the austerity budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, which at the time a surrender to the priorities of the Republican right wing.

Candidate Barack Obama, writing in The Audacity of Hope, criticized liberal Democrats for failing to give Ronald Reagan credit for his good ideas.  I should have paid more attention.  What the Tea Party Republicans do is to give President Obama cover for protecting Wall Street and the military-intelligence complex.

I intend to post a review of David Graeber’s The Democracy Project sometime soon, but in the meantime, here is a good quote on what the word “conservative” has come to mean.

DGCNowadays in the United States at least, “conservative” has mainly come to be used for “right-wing radical,” while its long-standing literal meaning was “someone whose main political imperative is to conserve existing institutions, to protect the status quo.”

This is precisely what Obama has turned out to be.  Almost all his greatest political efforts have been aimed at preserving some institutional structure under threat: the banking system, the auto industry, even the health insurance industry.

Not to mention the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and their contractors.

In America today, “right” and “left” are ordinarily used to refer to Republicans and Democrats, two parties that basically represent different factions within the 1 percent—or perhaps, if one were to be extremely generous, the top 2 or 3 percent of the U.S. population [in income].

Wall Street, which owns both, seems equally divided between the two.  Republicans, otherwise, represent the bulk of the remaining CEOs, particularly in the military and extractive industries (energy, mining, timber), and just about all the middle-rank businessmen; Democrats represent the upper echelons of what author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich once called “the professional-managerial class,” as well as pretty much everybody in academia and the entertainment industry.

Certainly this is where each party’s money is coming from—and, increasingly, raising and spending money is all these parties really do.

My Obamaphile friends rightly point out the delusions of the Tea Party Republicans, but they themselves are committed to the illusion that President Obama is a progressive who is on the side of the common people.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “David Graeber on political polarization”

  1. Atticus Says:

    Phil, I wish you and I could have coffee and talk about politics and philosophy on Sundays or something. It seems like everyone I know has entrenched themselves in the political ideologies of one of the mainstream political parties and their associated talking points.

    Do true representatives of the people exist anymore or has everyone in political power been bought and paid for?


  2. philebersole Says:

    One of the great things about the Internet is that it has brought me into contact with kindred spirits in other places whom I never would get a chance to meet in person. Yeah, I, too, would like to have coffee on a regular basis with you and maybe “B Psycho” and Robert Neilsen and some of the other bloggers I follow.

    Another great thing about the Internet is that it makes it possible to see a much wider range of information and opinion than I would get if I simply relied on my local newspaper and broadcasters. At their best, they were limited in what they can do. In an earlier era, I read books and magazines of varying viewpoints, but there is so much that is available on the Internet that is free.

    I may give myself more credit than I am entitled to. Many of the ideas I now criticize are ideas I myself once had, and I spent many decades of my life overlooking what now seems obvious. I think members of your generation have better perspective on things than mine did.

    When I get discouraged about how things are going, I console myself with the thought that there were earlier periods of American history—the 1880s and 1890s, for example—when the system seemed just as irredeemably corrupt as it does now, and yet things were turned around.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: