From Nov. 15, 2016
Is anyone else having a really hard time focusing right now? Everyone has their reasons. Mine include: what’s the use of being a philosopher and trying to teach the proper use of reason when there’s a white supremacist Nazi on the White House team, and almost half the voters in the country seem to think that’s a good idea? How do we talk about merit and expertise when the first thing the president-in-waiting does is to put three of his kids into influential positions? Is it possible to talk about deliberative democracy anymore, except as a moment in history? People voted, yes, but the majority did not have their voice heard, and of those who did, their candidate started backtracking on “promises” almost the instant the election was over.
The left (or in our case, the moderate right, since both Obama and Clinton in past decades would have fit very well as moderate Republican politicians; such is the baseline shift to the right in this country) was beaten by the extreme right, this time, but using the tools developed by the left. The right are the true custodians of a half-understood version of postmodernism, cast as relativism and power. There is no deliberative sphere, where reason prevails and arguments can be tested. There is only winning. Whatever it takes to achieve that is fine. It is no accident that many Marxists ended up as neo-liberals, and used the tools of revolution developed on the left against anything like an equitable society.
I do wonder, though, in what sense any of this right-wing postmodernism is conservative. I think we have to stop using that word. Corey Robin might be right – it’s reactionary. And, revolutionary. Conservatives conserve things. There’s nothing being conserved right now.
So, it’s hard to see where to go from here. But here’s one thing I know – history doesn’t stop. It feels right now like sliding into an abyss. But I also know that this is a new line of flight, untested territory, and it is up for grabs, despite appearances right now. After Obama’s election in 2008, the Tea Party arose. It’s obvious, in hindsight, but I don’t think it was predicted at the time. Just because I can’t think of where truth, reason, and justice can go from here, doesn’t mean that others won’t. I’ve already seen people galvanized, struggling to find a response, trying to help those millions who will be more vulnerable than ever, and who are already feeling it.
This is not the end, but the middle. And, and, and, and, and.