(This is the beginning of Chapter 2 of my “book-in-progress” which invites readers to make new friends in the shifting political landscape. Links to the introduction and Chapter 1 can be found at the bottom, and the Facebook page can be found here.)
For progressives to forge a new political reality in the coming years and decades, we will need to break free of the false dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative that has dominated American politics since at least the FDR era. This does not mean that we will operate in the non-partisan, category-free fantasy world that Obama seems fixated on. But it does mean that the lines of partisanship will be shifting, and that those who adjust and embrace the new categories will succeed in the new political reality.
With that shift in mind, here are three new dichotomies that are emerging:
(1) Corporatist vs. Populist
The idea that large corporations and their lobbyists have hijacked the American political system is far from new, and neither is the awareness that both Republicans and Democrats have been bought by corporate donations. Nonetheless, too many progressives are still breaking down the problem of corporatism along party lines, believing that the Republicans are the real problem and that the “true Democrats” can still work a solution.
The past two years have cured many progressives of this notion, and we have begun to see the issue as no longer Democrats vs. Republicans, but as those who work for big business (which is almost everyone currently in Washington) vs. those who fight for the people.
(2) Globalist vs. Localist
This dichotomy distinguishes those who see value in greater connectivity and greater inter-dependency between the various regions of the world from those who appreciate local diversity and independence.
From the abusive globalist economics of the IMF and transnational corporations; to the increasingly globalist politics emerging from organizations such as the UN and the EU; to the monoculture that is slowly spreading like a virus through mass media and cultural imperialism – in all of these ways, the world is becoming a new Tower of Babel.
But many people are fighting back against globalism and the rise of corporate dominance – as is evidenced in our country by the local food movement and the renewal of the isolationist and secessionist spirit. “Small is beautiful” is an emerging slogan of this resistance that warms my heart.
(3) Materialist vs. Spiritualist
I won’t say much about these categories yet, but they are very different than “secular vs. religious.” They have nothing to do with the institutions of organized religion, and everything to do with the way we live our daily lives. Are we pursuing greater financial wealth and material gain for ourselves, or are we living self-sacrificial lives that seek to improve the welfare of others?
If we can begin to break down our culture into these and other new categories, instead of just saying that it’s liberal vs. conservative to the death, we will be many steps down the road of building a new and more progressive way of doing politics.
Previously on UnCommon Ground:
Introduction, part 1
Introduction, part 2
Chapter 1, part 1
Chapter 1, part 2
Chapter 1 (Questions from Readers)
Chapter 1, Part 3