"Hippies"

"Hippies" by Todd Huffman on flickr

I found this place years ago because I was looking for a good explanation of bad politics.  Everything I was watching and reading seemed empty and contrived.  But here, with you people, I discovered answers that passed the smell test and made sense.

And now, once again, you come through.  But in a new and exciting way.  This time you’ve helped me figure out something for myself.

Up to now, I’d never understood Punch-The-Hippie.  A savvy post by Eli, and an article he linked to by Matt Stoller of Naked Capitalism not only made it all clear to me, but offered a bit of optimism.

Who would argue that dissing and dismissing so many supporters, contributors and volunteers on the left isn’t short-sighted at best? Why do such a thing and risk losing all that help? I had told myself a story as to why the Obama administration would take this approach.

I had read it as an assurance from Obama to his Wall Street big-money constituency.  It was Obama saying “Hey, no matter what you might hear from those crazy leftists, you can count on me as your man.”  This was never particularly satisfying to me.

Not that Obama wouldn’t want to make such assurances, I’m sure he does.  But there’s no reason to make them publicly.  Quiet messages to the MOTUs, telling them “Here’s the parts of my speeches you can confidently ignore” would have sufficed.  Corporatists understand theater and spin.  They pay PR firms enough for it.

What gave me my Aha! moment was the opening paragraph from Stoller’s article:

If you have only one rule in politics, I suggest the following – get your head of out your television set, and start paying attention to government. The narrow intense focus of TV can constrain us so powerfully that we are blinded by technicolor.

Stoller outlines a number of narratives that the Obama administration has a stake in maintaining.  To paraphrase (badly – read the article) the narratives have a common theme of “Look, I’m trying to do the right thing here, but I’m stopped by the mean Republicans”  This message is indispensable in keeping Democratic support for Obama.  He can’t come clean on his real intentions.

The trouble with hippies – with smart, committed progressives – is that they know enough to identify dozens of policy decisions that the mean old Republican obstruction should NOT have stopped.  Warrantless wiretapping, prosecution of SEC violations, support for whistleblowers.  You know more of them than I can name, I’m sure.

What progressives know, and what we have to teach, has the potential to torpedo that narrative.  And as much as entrenched political forces fear very real, very powerful political actions that progressives like the FDL community have accomplished, they fear a counter-narrative even more.  Come November, any November, they still need votes – nothing else will do.  And people vote based on the stories they’ve taken to heart.

At the risk of coming off as a hopeless Pollyanna, I say this is good news.

I believe we are being presented with a moment here.  Television news loves the narratives that they are being spoon-fed.  They make their job easier.  Certainly, the status quo loves them.  Making this a simplistic horse-race between D’s and R’s, between conservatives and liberals – between anyone and anyone else really – leaves the corporatists out of it and free to work both sides.

But many, the young especially, are turning away from traditional media.  Beyond that, say that both parties serve the same masters and maybe you’ll get a half-hearted argument, but most likely not.  The mainstream narratives distract, but they don’t convince.  So far that’s been enough, so far they’ve been winning, but it’s tenuous and weak.

I think people are ready for a new story, a better, truer story. Here, from the blogosphere, if we’re smart about the telling, we have the chance to break people free from the media straightjacket.  But only if we’re smart about storytelling.

That’s why they’re punching us.  To dismiss and marginalize and daze and confuse us.  To interrupt the story.  Call me naive, but we don’t have to let that happen, not with the power of the net, a stout heart and a clear head.

And a good story that just so happens to be the truth.