Saturday, February 16, 2008

The BHO/HRC Dilemma

THis Post began as a comment on the WWL blog) which expresses what I find a distressingly common and, I fear, misguided sentiment: "Obama (is)...the candidate that can best strengthen as well as consolidate institutions that empower the progressive cause of economic and social justice."

That just strikes me as wishful thinking. And doomed to disappointment. Indeed, if either BHO or HRC IS 'elected'--a matter by no means fore-ordained--they might in fact be the persons LEAST able to prosecute a progressive agenda, for no fewer than two reasons.

The first of these is that it seems to me that I have heard nothing in either's campaign rhetoric that persuades me that they're any better than Not-Actively-Inimical to the causes of economic and social justice. He has already indicated he's willing to compromise on the organized, professional pilferage "privatization" of Social Security, for example. His health-insurance plan is regressive. She is a corpoRat shill and hack. I for one find it difficult to see how that's going to "empower the progressive cause of economic and social justice." He seems to possess no such agenda and no particular sympathy for such a 'cause,' and she proclaims no recognizable desire to actually institute such an agenda, their social AND international policy proposals--e.g., privatize SS, bring SOME troops home--along with their core advisors, all being snugly within the bosom of the Corporatively acceptable, and all tending to lodge responsibility for the disasters of the past 7 years directly upon the victims of those practices...

But the second issue is more subtle, and relates to identity, or more accurately, to socially constructed and maintained perceptions about color/gender identity and political solidarity. It's the source of the dilemma both HRC and BHO face with regard to fault-line issues of gender and race: Default popular/public opinion on the position of so-called "women's issues" AND so-called "color" issues is that they are ALREADY defined as "Liberal" issues, and that the affirmative position in the 'debates' over social and economic justice is staked out by the "left." From the Right's POV, those shouldn't be social problems; they wouldn't even be on the agenda if it "weren't for whiny, aggrieved 'liberals.'"

Hence their specific racial/gender identities and locations in the relevant discourse--and unique political tenor/timbre on various matters impinging on these over-arching narratives--is presumed a priori to be 'liberal,' their actual platforms notwithstanding...

This means that, should either of them really achieve the WhiteHouse, either one would be impeded from acting--or even seeming to act--in the particular interests of their (either) racial (or) gendered constituencies because they would automatically be identified as a brand of irresponsible, or undeserved special pleading.

This paradox--well, it is a double bind, rally--comes out of WEB DuBois' idea of "double consciousness," a condition experienced by ALL socially marginalized/minority persons in a racialized, genderized hierarchical social arrangement. This is the awareness that one's "self" is determined not only, or even not primarily, by one's own awareness of self as by the pre-existing prejudices of others more powerful and whose prejudices determine the relevant social order. As DuBois himself wrote about it:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.
The mere fact that both HRC and BHO are BOTH candidates for the presidency, AND the first members of their respective 'identity' groups to have advanced to even this point in the national political narratives forces the continuing accounts of their success/failure inside an ambit of description to which the candidacy of McStain, for example, is exempt: he's the 87th white guy. By the miracle of 21st Century propagqanda, he's assumed to represent the WHOLE COUNTRY! Both BHO and HRC are compelled, by the very nature of the 'difference' that propels them, to STAND FOR the membership in the marginalized groups of which they are undeniably icons, FIRST, and to thereafter to prove their loyalty to the WHOLE COUNTRY.

The fact that they are both constructed of and within double consciousness will be (necessarily) turned against them if they shown to act in any way that reflects the fact that they do NOT regard themselves as un-effected by the complaints of the poor and the oppressed as any (White/male) hegemons would, and they are then and therefore shown (by the Glenn Becks of the world) as buckling to the 'special interests' whose iconic representamen they must necessarily be. So, by virtue of their membership in a disadvantaged/controlled population, they will be LESS able to act in the interests of the people whom they (in this case, coincidentally) resemble.

That make any sense?


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the only thing that matters is either of them is infinitely preferable to John McCain.

Mr. Pelican said...

It makes very good sense. However, whether they are marginalized or not is irrelevant. They are the choices we have, unless you want to run for prez. I'd vote for ya, but as I have suggested this before and been scoffed at, this seems unlikely, we need to choose from the two viable candidates we have. Of course, there is always a third course of action, but successful revolution seems unlikely.

notwatchingtelevision said...

I read a lot of Obama stuff and haven't seen anything about privatizing social security. He wants to raise the income caps for SS payroll taxes to keep Social Security for the next 50 years. He wants to change bankruptcy laws to make it harder for companies to back out of pension obligations and make pension savings accounts in the workplace automatic. Is that what you're talking about? Because I see his pension and savings plan proposals as separate from his plan for keeping Social Security solvent.

I get what you're saying about potential inhibitions of identity politics. But I think it's the whole identity politics thing that Obama wants to move beyond. And frankly, I think there are large numbers of of a younger generations that want to get beyond it in politics because they, themselves, already are.

My kids are in there twenties. They genuinely think all that zones of gender / tones of skin stuff is passe. They see crumbling infrastructure and no jobs. They want to build a green world and they get that it won't happen unless they help make it happen; and it won't happen unless it happens for everybody.

I do think the old world is rapidly fading . . .