This post from a year ago may seem like wishful thinking. After all, isn’t everything political these days? No, actually, it isn’t. We’re in a tribal war, and politics – the art and science of human interaction, especially for accomplishing social goals – is completely broken.
Our times are often described as “after”. The term “post-modern” came into vogue decades ago as art and architecture slid back into a desire for structure and meaning. “Post-racial” turned into a handy way for white people to never talk about what was right in front of their eyes. “Post-truth” became a useful word in 2016 as the effervescence of “truthiness” fizzled.
Welcome to “post-reality,” the final frontier of after.
This goes beyond Russian hacking, firing James Comey, or even sharing intelligence. What matters right now is that every single thing in the world is a matter of opinion, which is to say that everything is fodder to inflame facebook. There is no objective reality of any substance in what passes for news.
The only great mystery left is why this doesn’t scare the bejaysus out of “conservatives”. That, alone, is proof enough that political philosophy is dead.
It goes without saying that the left has not been relevant to political thought in the US for a very long time. The Democratic Party, running away from the word “liberal” since about 1988, has ossified into the most conservative possible organization. It stands not for progress but for preservation – protecting your (health care, reproductive rights, environment, pension, voting rights, et cetera). The populist and otherwise apolitical concept of hope for a better tomorrow became little more than a slogan and a very cool poster before turning into a sick parody of itself.
What we see now is a complete collapse of the right in a more spectacular way. Neo-conservatives pushing for a “new world order” were comical enough as the nation’s lone supporters of some kind of change, but things couldn’t possibly stop there. The future had to blur into the past, an impossible exercise that required suspension of disbelief on an epic scale. “Make America Great Again” always relied on some kind of ginned-up DeLorean which cannot exist outside of special effects and now is collapsing into something like a cocaine-fueled binge as the car company itself did.
None of this makes any sense or is particularly useful.
I cannot think of a political ideology, or even a thread of one, which seems relevant to “politics” as we know it today. The primary situation at hand is all about the relative sanity and/or competence of the president. More critically, I am convinced that the solutions to nearly every problem we have will require deep consensus-building compromise and a big whopping pile of data-driven common sense. That, and an old-fashioned sense of decency and respect.
There is not an “ism” in American politics today which explains anything useful.
One of my pet theories for the last 20 years has been the collapse of “left” and “right” as useful terms. I have been chided by many people, especially my friend Mitch, for this philosophy which I have been saying is true even as it is denied by nearly everyone else. I believe that what we are seeing is nothing less than the final fruition of this collapse, decades in the making.
So I will now claim I was right all along. I was completely off in the timing, the methods, and the ultimate cost of the process but I had the vague idea right. This is very much like my economic predictions, which always lack any reasonable method for capitalizing on them. No, I do not expect to ever be rich. But I can philosophize.
For this reason, I offer the term “post-political”. I hope it will be useful to describe all of you who are waiting for that which comes after as your facebook feed fills with pictures of kittens or, on a really bad day, baby otters.
All of us who are biding our time as post-political operatives must realize that we cannot exist forever in the after. There has to be a now in order for there to, once again, be a genuine future. Hope has to be more than a poster, it has to be the foundation for Plan and Consensus and Action. So we will start with the now and define that as warmly and respectfully and intelligently and empathetically as we can.
After all, there is no after – there is only today. There is no government – there are only people. There is no grand theory which explains everything and will automatically create utopia – there is only basic decency.
If that doesn’t sound like a political movement to you, well, you’re just not post-political yet. Give it time. There is, after all, still time. Time is what separates before and after and, in doing so, defines the magical moment when we can all truly make a difference – right now.