From the October 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine.
As we prepare yet another round of offerings to the demigods of America’s political religion, we would do well to remind ourselves of what our electoral votives truly signify. Ideally, our ballots purport to be expressions of political will, which we hope and pray will be translated into legislative and executive action by our pretended representatives. Through hard and painful struggles, against daunting odds, our forebears and elders fought so long for voting rights—for unpropertied men, for women, for blacks—that we may perhaps be forgiven the error of thinking that casting a ballot is the perfection of civic virtue, the ultimate and sovereign duty of the citizen ruler. Alas, the agony of citizenship is never ending; voting is the beginning of civic virtue, not its end, and as suffrage has expanded so has its value been steadily debased. The locus of real power is elsewhere. Wealth and property qualifications, poll taxes, and the like are very far from being historical curiosities; they have simply mutated. Campaign contributions and other forms of political spending have assumed that old exclusionary function, and only those who can afford to pay are able truly to manifest their political will. Voters still “matter,” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence—money—which molds the body politic by realizing itself in the ductile mass of common voters. (more…)
After our Agenda event Alter mentioned that he was writing this piece for the Times, and asked me whether I had a problem with that. I told him I’d consider it a continuation of our debate.
Of course this time I don’t have a chance to ask him whether he’s on Obama’s payroll.
Here’s what Jonathan Alter had to say about the public option in Newsweek on May 14, 2009:
So reform without a public option isn’t terribly meaningful. And the costs of modest reform are high, not just in dollars but in lost opportunity. It will be quite a while before the country has the appetite to confront this issue again. This time, the perfect or near perfect (there is no perfect, not even single payer) should, at least temporarily, be the enemy of the good, because the merely good isn’t good enough.
I wonder why he changed his mind.
Last Sunday the McLaughlin Group debated The Mendacity of Hope, with particular attention to Naomi Klein’s blurb. The video is now on YouTube. Fast forward to 19:10.
Somewhat less intelligent, from my point of view, is Jonathan Alter’s review essay in the New York Times Book Review, to be published this Sunday.
Lots of radio this week. On Wednesday, I’ll be on the Michelangelo Signorile Show, Sirius XM radio, at 3:30pm. Later that evening I’ll be on WCBX Santa Barbara at 6:30pm PT. Then, on Thursday, I’ll join Joy Cardin on her Wisconsin Public Radio show at 8am CT.
Here’s the programming note from WCBX:
|An Evening With…
Wednesday, October 20
With host Guy Rathbun
The Obama Dream: Many progressives who worked for the election of President Barack Obama are now asking themselves if it’s time to wake up. Although Obama campaigned on a platform of reform, it’s been the usual West Wing propaganda for those who were hoping for change. In his new book, The Mendacity of Hope, journalist Roger Hodge makes a provocative case for disappointment.
From the Columbia Journalism Review: “[Hodge’s] view of American history resembles something out of Tolkien: the embattled, outnumbered Madisonians against the autocratic orcs, who fight under the banner of that Federalist witch-king, Alexander Hamilton.”
Texas Monthly Reads: Paul Burka hates the book, though I suspect he didn’t read it very carefully; James Henson agrees with Burka that my scornful treatment of Obama is deplorable but sympathizes with my larger critique of the American system.
Paul Rosenberg offers a close reading of my interview with Scott Horton over at Open Left.