Political motion and ideological uncertainty

by Johnathan Brown

One has to wonder, after the landslide Democratic super-victory in 2008, why so little has been accomplished. The usual suspects tend to be a weak Democratic Party or an obstructive Republican one, but neither constitutes a useful, pragmatic conclusion. How is it, that an America so blue just one year ago, could witness a Massachusetts senate victory for Republican Scott Brown? The answer is us: an unhealthy American demos. It’s not that Scott Brown is fundamentally flawed, or that his Republican brand is. No, it’s that we, as voters and broader political actors have become far too fickle, and far too passionate. Democratically speaking, it is a deadly combination, making temporary scripture of ideology. We have allowed politics to become a game, to be fun and personal, instead of constructing our polis with the best collective potential. Politicians, for their part, must exemplify the honorable, and showcase mutual respect and compromise. They must trust that maturity and goodwill would be rewarded. And we, the American people, must not be so willing to toss our leaders to the lions for few and slight infractions of our idiosyncratic and shifting ethics. Short term chuckle and cantankerous despair are no substitute for consistent and patient progress. Without anointing him “The One,” or sounding too “rah, rah,” these are indeed the ideals which President Obama has the promise to embody and the ability to communicate, and these should compose the main goals of his Presidency. This is no partisan conclusion, but a pragmatic one. An inspiring 83 percent of Americans approved of the policies in President Obama’s State of the Union address, according to a CBS News poll. If our President can maintain a centrist politic long enough to attract one or two Republican allies, the model of Washington would be rewritten. Cynicism here may yield a routine and haughty chortle, but it has no place in public politics. Republicans now must expect their leaders to compromise, and rebuke them if they do not. Democrats, for their part, must do the same both today and in the future, when they will eventually lose power. We as individual and collective political actors must reward those who understand the art of settling on mutual loss; and we must become ourselves willing to lose. That, or we must more easily perceive victory. Though our politics seem frozen, we are today a society in deep flux. “Global” is becoming the new “national,” computers are replacing television and internet the broadcast. Even cars are becoming outmoded. It is not unlikely then, with these massive shifts in our life media, that our brains are adapting. As Scott Brown’s unexpected victory shows, our political conclusions are rapidly revised. But there does still exist a least common denominator in all of our politics: the desire for progress. We must begin to wield this ideological mobility toward progress, rather than allowing it to slow us down. In this great information age, the ability to see two, three or infinite sides to an issue can work toward this progress. Perhaps it is this political uncertainty that is our greatest asset of all – for political flexibility brings actual flexibility, and in turn, action and progress.