Last weekend Carolina FreedomNet took place in Greensboro, NC, and was sponsored by The John Locke Foundation. During one panel, two particular questions asked in rapid succession were especially intriguing.
The first was from the head of the Locke Foundation. "Why are there so many national politics blogs?" he wondered.
The second question, from another member of the audience, was, "why is there such a persistence of the left-right dichotomy in the blogosphere?
The tentative answers of the panel were understandable: bloggers in general prefer national politics because it provides a larger audience and the left-right dichotomy persists because media discourse, particularly the left-leaning tendencies of the mainstream press, reinforces it.
But perhaps there is more at work than the ideological influence of the press . . .
Perhaps instead, the left-right dichotomy persists because of the overwhelming dominance of our two-party system, which itself defines issues and platforms in this fashion. This might explain the lack of more local political blogs as well, because local issues, while partisan, often break along much different lines than national issues, and frequently draw upon traditions that are older or more rooted than those of the national parties.
The answer might be that the left-right dichotomy will continue so long as the two major parties retain their dominance.
How long might that be? It's hard to tell. But perhaps one or both of the parties is not far from either a transformation into something else, or a dissolution into constituent parts.
Ryan Sager's recent book The Elephant In The Room describes the fissures between evangelicals and libertarians within the Republican Party. Another new foreign policy work, Ethical Realism, attempts to create a cross-the-aisle foreign policy consensus.
These thinkers either examine existing fissures or try to mold something new from what is already there. In other words, even they are not immune to the left-right spectrum so commonly in use. There are signs though that other categories are emerging and defining themselves in different ways. Virginia Postrel's 1999 work The Future And Its Enemies created new categories of politics that have retained lasting relevance: dynamists are those who are not afraid of change, and see a world of "constant creation, discovery, and competition," whereas stasists believe in a "regulated, engineered world." Postrel then divided stasists into two subparts, which often reinforce each other: reactionaries, who long for an idealized past, and technocrats, who have met no innovation undeserving of their control.But that's just one example. PajamasMedia even as we speak is conducting a contest with an unusual goal: the naming of a new political category. They explain:
When Pajamas Media was just forming, a fair number of bloggers were uncomfortable with the conventional left-right, liberal-conservative dichotomized pigeonholes of the mainstream media.I submit that if any one issue is likely to sunder either of the two national parties, it is probably the war. Way back in the fall of 2003, Mark Helprin, once a speechwriter for Bob Dole, penned an indictment against both parties' understanding of national security in National Review [not available on the web, but see an overview of Helprin's work at my blog]:
We wondered how others felt, so in the fall of 2005 we looked for research on this area. Not being able to find any, we commissioned in October 2005, a poll with Princeton Research. Question 21 of that poll (hence the X21) asked if the respondents felt that the labels liberals”or conservatives applied to them. Not entirely to our surprise, an awful lot of people said no. A full 43% of those responding felt that the liberal nor conservative labels did not really apply to them, a percentage vastly greater than those who identified with either polarity.But we also found these people aren't actually centrists in the conventional sense of that word. They have passionate feelings from all sides of the spectrum, not just the middle ground.
America has approached the war on terrorism as if from two dreamworlds. The liberal, in which an absurd understanding of cause and effect, the habit of capitulation to foreign influence, a mild and perpetual anti-Americanism, reflex allergies to military spending, and a theological aversion to self-defense all lead to policies that are hard to differentiate from surrender. And the conservative, in which everything must be all right as long as a self-declared conservative is in the White House—no matter how badly the war is run; no matter that a Republican administration in electoral fear leans left and breaks its promise to restore the military; and no matter that because the Secretary of Defense decided that he need not be able to fight two wars at once, an adequate reserve does not exist to deal with, for example, North Korea. And in between these dreamworlds of paralysis and incompetence lies the seam, in French military terminology la soudure, through which al-Qaeda, uninterested in our parochialisms, will make its next attack."Paralysis" and "incompetence" are rather less flattering ways of defining our current dichotomy. But might they leach out into the public discourse? Consider WindsofChange's own Grim, who last week published a sense of mounting frustration:
I have lost all confidence in the Federal institutions governing our country, with the sole exception of the military. The institutions, which have served us well for so long, are breaking or are broken along key fault lines.Far from being ignored, Grim's concerns were turned into a series by Cassandra of Villainous Company, another influential blogger. See Part I and Part II, already available. Back in June, a commenter on my blog offered this anecdote:
I recently went down to buy some hay for the Horses at the local agri dealer which by the way is near the Volunteer fire station and the site of course for local elections. The consensus there is We don't know what is going on! with Bush, democrats, The war.
All say the democrats don't field a person respected or believed enough to be voted for, all say Bush has screwed the pooch on this war.
All state Kerry is a jackass and Gore not trusted.
All state Islam is the enemy and many say Islam is the work of Satan.
The Immigrant problem is a hot button. less immigration is the idea.
One old WW 2 vet who fought with the 506 PIR 101 AA Div said, "This is the damnedest way He ever seen to fight a war." Half the government and the population is rootin' for the other side!
I think We will eventually win this war (by open warfare on a scale not seen before)though not in my lifetime and I am 53 but before we win we are going to get our collective asses kicked and a whole lot of folks are going to die.
Somebody up there in D. C. needs to get their shiite in one bag and get their asses in gear.
otherwise we might as well accept Sharia now and get it over with.
A message to the politicians in charge, "quit politicin' and fight the real enemy."
Is there something to all of this? Comment away!
UPDATE: At the risk of pushing my own work, it occurs to me that those interested in this topic may want to see two of my pieces for TCSDaily, Unfrozen Caveman Voter, and America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare.