I don’t know about you, but when I close my eyes and visualize American Politics I see thousands of personified dark desires individually tethered with rope to a giant pendulum the size of a small planet. (Most look like a cross between Despicable Me minions and those little green construction guys from Fraggle Rock… or maybe that’s Congressman Connolly.) It’s constantly swinging. Ticking away at a 14-year tock. But the little guys are tied to it by different lengths of rope, so they swoop at quick and funky rates. They swing in a syncopated, triplet sort of way like the pendulum-on-pendulum wobble of a toddler toddling on a ferry Boat in a good-sized swell. There are thousands of them. Some go “WEEEE!” Some go “whoa…“
… What? … How do you visualize American Politics?
Sometimes the pendulum runs into things and causes a good mess, but generally it just swings back and forth without much happening other than a good show, a fortyear passing, and the obligatory update of technology we use to voice our displeasure.
The Politics Pendulum
Picture all the interest groups and angry uncles from current and times past. They all have the same core desire – just different objects of contempt – so we can pile past and present onto the pendulum without causing a rift. Now imagine them holding rallies on the Politics Pendulum. Some are clinging tightly to the center where it’s less scary. Some are tied to it and straggling behind, but then get jerked when it Changes direction. All of them are seeking a new spot that might improve their position to make life a little less queasy.
It’s very chaotic around the pendulum, but the movement of the whole system swings at regular intervals. The pendulum and its parasites swing to the left for awhile… then eventually gravity pulls it back in the opposite direction again…
(…The pendulum violently jerks the movement of those poor stragglers who are tied to it by a long line: the extremists. Some are so far out there that we can’t even see them anymore. A long while after the pendulum changes, somewhere in the dark we hear a distant “ooomph” followed by an elongated groan. It’s like counting the seconds between lightning and thunder to gauge the distance of the storm.
Sometimes, though, we don’t hear the extremist direction-shift “ooomph” until YEARS after the pendulum has already changed its sway. These are the people who are out there in the darkness. That’s the World Net Daily length of rope. Out where they advertise how spiders brought into the U.S. by Obama-funded Islamic extremists are turning America into a third world country. Theirs is a very long rope; very, very far away from the pendulum. But they are out there – strapped to it just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, ignoring the darkness doesn’t make it go away… sooner or later we have to confront it…)
The Politics Pendulum is like some sort of twisted traveling circus ride that involves bungee cords, a clown car, and a policy position… three clown cars if you’re in Iowa. Every couple decades the pendulum helps fall a wall, shift a border, or pass a gas bill – but mostly we just swing back and forth, make lots of noise, and offer goofy faces to the camera. Then we Do It Again. It’s fun to watch for awhile, but we’re happy when it leaves town and the manure smell starts to dissipate.
Why does the Politics Pendulum matter?
Besides my enjoying the visual of Tea Party protestors ranting while swinging through the air on a earth-sized grandfather clock looking like Time Bandits trapped in a cage running from a British God – the Pendulum is important because arcs have an apex. And because of Hegel.
Change – realization and acceptance of a concept – is achieved not by advocates, but by their opposites. It’s a beautiful contradiction, really. We all require the opposite of an idea in order to really know the original. We need to be shown Hell in order to accept the idea of Heaven. Without insane there is no sane. And most importantly for American politics, without Conflict there is no History.
In politics and policy, progressive change cannot happen unless it is fully realized by the masses as a result of conservative backlash. We need to see what’s in the darkness to understand why we really want the light, otherwise we always second guess our decision. Moreover, the more the opposition rages against an issue, the more they bring it into the mainstream for the majority of Americans to consider. The very act of fighting against change accelerates it into existence.
We The People must learn that, while fire is fun to look at and paint onto protest signs – if it is allowed to make policy fire burns. The idea and the sales pitch of fire-fervor are great fun, but when it is released to do what it’s selling… it burns down the building. Every time. Unfortunately, however, it looks like America needs to get burned a few more times before we learn the long-term lesson of not shoving our hands into the fireplace of über-conservative ideas. On most social issues Americans have to get burned many times before everyone on the pendulum finally gets the message. We’re all stuck on this thing together, after all.
Democrats can’t pass progressive policy on their own – democrats need the Tea Party.
In 1961 when GOP facade Ronald Reagan released a 10-minute record claiming that socialized medicine will destroy freedom it didn’t hurt the progressive cause. It helped it. Four years later, Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law. Try taking Medicare away from a Tea Party beneficiary who deifies Reagan and see how well that goes (and you should play them the record for kicks). Obamacare is just another swing of the pendulum. Different faces. Different technology. Same desires and demons. Same siloed sense of history. Tick tock.
The Tea Party appearance on the crazy stage of national politics is a blessing to the progressive cause just as Reagan, the Hollywood Celebrity, was the perfect man to usher in Medicare and Medicaid by play-acting the nemesis. Later, as only democrats seem to remember, President Reagan expanded those programs as well as increased payroll taxes to keep Social Security alive. (…wait… listen carefully… somewhere in the darkness we’re hearing: “FACTS? Arg! Lengthen the rope! Death panels! More rope! Freedom killer! GIANT MUSLIM SPIDERS! AHHHH!!”)
History happens when Conflict scares Society into picking Change for the kickball team.
The modern Republican Party is like a playground posse in primary school. The GOP gang’s territory is the swing set. Democrats, the merry-go-round (and most of the kickball field). Mrs. Jacobson doesn’t allow the Paul family out of the sandbox.
When Tea Party tries to swing too hard and too high, the other kids in the GOP get scared as he gets close to the apex and then drops straight down, violently jerking back into orbit. Some feel the stomach bile and empathetically rub their behinds. Eventually, the others leave and trickle to the merry-go-round whispering things like, “I tell you, Ronnie, that kid is just too crazy to hang out with anymore…” (A couple of them hang out in the sandbox, but not for long: Castles Made of Sand don’t bring in much rental income.)
In time, even the too crazy kid – who is now alone on the swing set – will take it too far. He will scare himself half to death, and go back to his mother asking for a hug, a pillow, and a juice box. Slurping loudly between gulping breaths he’ll think to himself, “Why the heck did I ever think I could swing that high and not fracture my butt bone? I miss my friends. Where’s my slinky?”
… and the playground will once again be at peace.
It will be another great irony of history that the people fighting against change are those who make it happen. They fight so hard. They’re so blinded by fear and anger – political rage – that they can’t see the force pushing society over the edge is NOT what they’re fighting against. What’s pushing society over the edge is the very act of their fighting, and the vile, uncompromising tenor they bring to the battlefield. The pendulum changes direction when the opposition to an Idea has gone too far – too much conflict – and then History finally explodes into Being when Society says, “Nope, no more. We’re done putting up with this crap. Time, go get Change.”
In this particular swing of the Politics Pendulum, however, I’m not sure which progressive idea will be the one that becomes a new accepted norm. Since the Tea Party and social conservatives are fighting against every single one of them it’s hard to predict. We’ve had glimpses of liberal hope, but they’re brief and still met with immediate conservative-style, “change is the devil” backlash. What I do know, however, is that once again, the great contradiction of Realization will prove itself true…
…Eventually… I think in 2014 we hit the bottom of a downswing, which leaves about 7 years from that point before another, more stable change of direction of the entire system… basically that puts us at the Presidential Inauguration January, 2021. Prognosticating aside – in time – the areas where democrats and liberals have failed to pass policy on their own, the Tea Party’s battle against it will be the key to progressive legislative success.
( …. ooomph….. groan…. )
… yup… they’re still out there.