As I watched Mitt Romney’s most recent stump speeches, noting his emphasis on bipartisanship, my heart sank, for the current polarization is not about matters that are easily conciliated through finding “common ground” or “compromise.” Romney’s is the voice and admonition of the moderate man, avatar of the neutered state (see http://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/).
Rather, the nation is polarized around capitalism itself, whether or not our market society can offer upward mobility and a better quality of life for all persons willing to work. Let us not forget that “capitalism” is a relatively recent development in the world, and, in the propaganda of entrenched aristocratic elites, “capitalism” was always a term of derision with nasty antisemitic undertones: the God-killing “money power” and the machines the money power (the industrial bourgeoisie) had invented to extend its global reach were the cause of all disasters from mass death in the 20th century wars (themselves alleged to be masked conflicts over imperialist booty), the degradation of the environment, and a popular culture that encouraged decadence through hyper-sexualization, unleashed aggression, materialism, and the susceptibility to “totalitarian”* demagoguery.
No current political party is willing to confront the dominant misguided narrative. Yet this hoity-toity “agrarian” assault on modernity will hover over all argumentation in the coming period, reducing the debates to statism vs. anti-statism, echoing the objections of the Antifederalists and the South during and after the Civil War: States Rights forever!
It is my own position that we are in a period where realignment is possible if we give up the sykewar talk of compromise where no compromise is possible. The moderate men (like FDR) were not “moderates” at all, but were amoralists who sought to preserve their wealth through the manipulation of the masses. They were countered by Rightists who sought to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again through a religious revival and an interpretation of the Constitution that made it divinely inspired. Much of the country agrees with that interpretation, and the Tenth Amendment makes it possible for persons who hold to the pro-life position, for instance, to live in states that legislate their versions of rectitude and holiness.
But the genie is out of the bottle. Most women will never go back to the period of domination wherein they may not control the timing of their reproduction—the most important economic decision of their lives. It is the view of many that the election of 2012 was lost by the Republicans because of the women’s vote, and not because of freeloading minorities and the poor, as some conservative commentators aver.
Free markets (derisively referred to as either laissez-faire capitalism/the Gilded Age) are what make a better life possible for the majority; to me that is a highly moral position. We either defend market society, or decline and die. The guiding principles of our economy are on the line, and not for the first time.
*Many use the word “totalitarianism” to equate Communism and Nazism/Fascism. It is true that historically existing Communism and Fascism have used terror to control resistance from below, but their historical trajectories are entirely different. The first type is an extension of the Enlightenment (though a bastard child), the second is a counter-revolution to the Enlightenment and its anti-racist spawn, and resorts to the cult of the Leader, while the former resorts to bureaucratic centralism in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat.