Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mike Davis on Recent Politics

At long last, I've rejoined the blog after my delay in signing up for the new blogger (compounded by buying a new house and moving--I know, real estate is in terrible shape right now and possibly getting even worse, but at least I'm in a low-price small town market!) I just came across a very thoughtful and comprehensive article on recent and future political developments in the wake of the '06 U.S. elections that I want to commend to our blog's readers:

Historian and social commentator Mike Davis--known for his deeply researched yet elegently written critical books such as Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World and City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles--wrote a very thoughtful and comprehensive article entitled "The Democrats After November".

I encourage you to read it for yourself as a stimulant to thinking about the current options for the Progressive Left. It covers everything from Iraq to corruption to economic policy. Here are just a few of my own comments on the article:

1. On Pelosi's Iraq bill recently passed: Davis's article was written before the recent passage of the House's Iraq bill, which continues Iraq funding along with some deadlines. But Davis's discussion resonates strongly with heated debates over Pelosi's bill that have been tearing apart much of the anti-war Left over the past few weeks. I find myself torn. On one side, the "realists" claim that the bill is a monumental achievement that finally attaches a timetable to disengage from Iraq and incorporates serious concessions from Progressive opponents of the war. Since the bill is sure to attract Bush's veto, they claim, it will provide brilliant rhetorical cover and will push the debate in a good direction--and, moreover, is far better than the straight-ahead funding bill that apparently would have passed if this bill had failed. On the other side, "idealists" picket outside Pelosi's office and lambast groups like and some Congressional progressives (e.g., David Obey of Wisconsin) for compromising with the immorality and insanity of continuing Bush's war. I have found myself leaning towards the "realists," despite some agreement at heart with the "idealists" about keeping our eyes on the prize for the long-term instead of merely savoring short-term compromises and incremental gains. I think David Sirota made the most convincing case for me to grudgingly side with the "realists." Yet after reading Davis, I have become undecided once again. He makes a convincing case that we absolutely, fundamentally need a robust anti-war movement that can push hard from the outside towards a broader critique linking the Iraq War to the fundamental idiocy, imperialism, and immorality of current U.S. foreign policy. "Indeed," contends Davis, "only mass protest, unfettered from theRealpolitik of Howard Dean and, can shift the balance of power in Congress towards a decisive debate on withdrawal."

2. Political factions within the Democratic Party. Davis's most novel and intriguing analysis is about the various groups in the Democratic coalition. In particular, he traces the emergence of a near 100% "Silicon Valley" money support of Democrats for high-tech industry policy, which is quietly driving a huge proportion of the policy agenda favored by leading Democrats such as Reid and Pelosi. Channeling Thomas Frank, but turning the spotlight of analysis more on Democrats than Republicans ("What's the matter with New Orleans and other centers of urban poverty?"), Davis contrasts this well-educated, Silicon Valley wing of the party with the other 3/5 of the party made up of Blacks, Latinos, working-class whites, etc., who may not stand to benefit from the global high-tech industry policies promoted by Democratic leaders. Very interesting food for thought.

3. He concludes with the issue of populism and anti-immigration, and this was the section that unsettled me most. I have long been a defender of anti-corporate populism but always worried about the Lou Dobbs/Pat Buchanan refraction of that position into nativism and xenophobia. I was mostly glad to see renewed economic populism in the '06 elections by many Democrats who won--Webb, Tester, Brown, etc. But I was also worried about some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric used by some Democrats, especially in border states like Arizona. Will that dark undercurrent overwhelm the trenchant critique of corporate elites? I still think not, but Davis is less sanguine than me. Dissecting Webb's views, in particular, Davis has given me more points to ponder.

Well, I've posted way too long. I am looking forward to whatever reactions anyone has to Davis's article, either the issues I raised or other ones he discusses (or doesn't discuss but should!)

1 comment:

Rob said...

Thanks for the link about Mike Davis - I'll definitely give him a read. And very happy you've returned. You're posts are always a good resource of information and perspective. So, stick around for awhile!