Saturday, October 24, 2009

Post-partisan politics?

As I said already, human things are funny, or, if you prefer, odd.

I think proper to keep on commenting on Obama. Why, you could ask, do you have a personal axe to grind with him? Of course not, but I want to know whether there is a political axe worthy grinding. He is the POTUS, and where else could I find better concrete incentives to think about politics in general?

I must confess that at last November elections, if I were an American citizen, I wouldn't have voted for him.

I thought that McCain was a true man, well proved in life and in politics, who with no doubt would have done the good of the United States.

On the other side, Obama was only proved as a good rhetorician. Mind me, I do not mean this as an insult.

You should know by now, if you have read me before, that for me rhetoric is of the essence of life, and therefore of that special life arena that are democratic politics. Rhetoric had to do with the way we present ourselves, in words and in deeds, either persuading people to have confidence in us, or, if the case be, to fear us.

Take away rhetoric, and there isn't anything left but row force, in bending people to do what we want.

But, I say, we are still waiting for Obama to prove himself, beyond his way with words, also in deeds. And, because I say so, you could take me, especially after what I confessed, as being partisan.

Here it is where things get odd.

Obama promised to go beyond partisan politics. I strived all my life to go beyond partisan political theory.

I read an interesting anti-Obama partisan article, reading his life and political career in the light of Saul Alinsky's Rules for a Radical. Beyond its partisanship, however, the article made a good point: that a unifying rhetoric can be divisive, and intended to be such. To show oneself in speech to be beyond partisanship, can be a way to brand one's adversary as partisan, and divide those otherwise prone to vote for him.

It can be the case, I say, and reserve judgment. Nobody could care less for my judgment, if I hadn't previously given my reasons for it. And these can only come from an observation anybody could share:

However strongly we strive to be non partisan, we inevitably take a stance, that risks making us look partisan.

To the observation, it follows a question: can the stance we take succeed in overcoming partisanship, to be non divisive but unifying? If not completely, which I think impossible, at least to a certain, to a good extent?

One first answer is that we should be rhetorically coherent, so that our deeds show the same that our words proclaim.

To enter into the implications of such an answer would take us on much tougher ground. To a general theory of social and political relations that would make understandable for us Jesus' demand to offer the other cheek. This avoids the destructive reciprocity of blow against blow, but not – as we might think – with a gesture of submission, as it would be that of raising our hand to protect ourselves; rather with a challenge. Offering the other cheek (in whatever metaphorical way) challenges the assumptions and expectations one can have in resorting to violence.

Poor Obama – to end with him who gave the lead to this meditation – shows no sign, in what he says and does, of being aware of such a social and political theory.


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