“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell.
Its deliciously ironic that subtle variations of that quote can be found throughout the web. Even when you’ve reached through the superficial and grabbed the spirit of the truth your hands have nothing tangible to close on. Certainty feels increasingly academic the more closely you pay attention.
Orwell’s idea matches up stunningly with the essence of Gandhi’s Satyagraha. It essentially means “truth power”. But saying the truth is powerful doesn’t immediately reveal its effective usage. Often compared to a double edged sword, it does share this in common: it has a point. To use the truth well one must aim carefully.
NancyP over at Pam’s House Blend insightfully invites us to confront conservatives with their immediate truth, framed perfectly as the question: “Are YOU better off than you were 8 years ago?”. Paraphrasing Altemeyer (an expert on analyzing authoritarianism, emphasis mine):
Cognitive dissonance has to be extreme, and personally very uncomfortable/painful, for authoritarian followers to abandon their Authority of the Hour. Some authoritarian followers will remain loyal to their Authority despite severe personal injury (pastor schtupps follower’s wife or minor daughter or son; leader loses follower’s life savings – see Bakker or Bush 43 for that). Even for the less injured followers, the tendency is to defend the old leader by blaming subordinates (“the Leader is wise but was misled by evil advisors”). If the follower has finally decided that his Leader has damaged him intolerably, he will treat the situation as the breaking of an (often intimate) personal relationship – an individual moral failure of that Leader, having nothing to do with policies or competence of that Leader. Thus, the authoritarian follower can claim, without the least discomfort, that the New Leader is nothing like the (now discredited) Old Leader, even though New Leader voted with the Old Leader, continues the Old Leader’s policies, and uses the same advisors.
This immediately sets the game plan and the stakes. We need to make this election about the immediate impact of the economy, and about the Democratic party’s fiscal prowess. NancyP notes this:
I really think that the Dems are fools for not sticking to the “It’s the economy, stupid” campaign strategy. Eight years ago we had a budget SURPLUS. Now we are looking into a large black pit without a visible bottom.
The problem is that both McCain and Obama are being mushy centrists on the bailout. (The Caucus, NYTimes, emphasis mine):
Senator Barack Obama this afternoon urged Treasury and Federal Reserve officials to include four conditions that he and other Democrats are seeking in the proposed $700 billion federal bailout for financial firms – though he stopped short of saying he would vote against the bailout if his terms were not met.
The pressure is building as the administration attempts to equate congressional delays directly with stock market dips and plunges. Much of congress is taking the Democratic party’s standard operating procedure of the past 8 years to heart: equivocate and compromise till it hurts (Reuters, emphasis mine):
“What they have sent us is not acceptable,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said after a five-hour hearing on the plan. His Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby, also vowed not to “rubberstamp” the proposal.
That’s a very polite way of saying they’ll take a look at it, make very serious and thoughtful comments, and then pass it with minor modifications. For agents of change, both Obama and McCain are surprisingly in step with the establishment when it comes to the bailout. They are providing a united front (NYTimes, emphasis mine):
With pressure mounting on Congress to pass a $700 million bailout of financial firms, Senator John McCain struck a more urgent tone Tuesday on the need to act quickly, but he and Senator Barack Obama insisted on conditions that had to be met in the final plan.
This bill is going to pass. Which brings us back to truth. George Bush’s successor as “Dear Leader” is united with his opponent in supporting the most visible economic bill before the election. Their opposition is purely superficial. This idea of whipped supporters crawling back to their leader is one we might be tempted to cast purely on the conservatives. But if we are honest with ourselves, and ask that very same question, we need to realize how sorely we’ve been hurting for an opposition party these past 8 years.
While the economic hardship more and more Americans face drags us all eagerly towards a cliff, asking directly “are you better off now than you were 8 years ago” is risky. Canny Republicans can point to cringing Democratic officials and suggest they were all in it together, and gosh darn it we need a maverick. Keep in mind that Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to convince not-filthy-rich Republicans they are voting against their economic interests for decades.
Working with someone truly stuck in an authoritarian mindset is possible, but results won’t necessarily come quickly enough for November. (For a start, read Cracks in the Wall parts One, Two, and Three).
If you want to effect the upcoming election (especially if you live in a swing state), your best bet is to reach out to Democrats and Independents and help them make it to the polls registered and ready November 4.
Posted under Economy, Politics
This post was written by Dan on September 24, 2008