FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Binary Politics

by RALPH NADER

You have noticed, to be sure, how our nation’s politics gravitates to the binary position year after year. Webster’s dictionary defines “binary” as “something made of two things or parts.” So, parties, politicians and voters are overwhelmingly either characterized as conservative-right wing or liberal-left wing.

I’ve never thought the binary approach was very useful; it is too abstract, too far from the facts on the ground, too stereotypical of variations within each category, and too constricting of independent thought that is empirically nourished.

What helps keep binary descriptions going, however, are desires for convenient narratives. So here is one to ponder.

Different aspects of our culture attract either mostly conservatives or liberals or, at least, are identified with one or the other political philosophies or self-characterizations.

Liberals are more identified with popular music-the more risqué or hip-hop, the more the label is applied. So too with movies on abuses of power by corporations and government. The China Syndrome, Norma Rae, Grapes of Wrath of years ago. Too many to recount today out of Hollywood.

When it comes to humor, the leaning is liberal whether on the monologues of late-night entertainment hosts, the John Stewart, and Stephen Colbert Shows, Saturday Night Live or the Al Franken Show. It’s harder to poke fun at established power from a right-wing standpoint.

Documentaries are hands down in the embrace of the liberal-progressive producers. Recent titles include “The Corporation”, “An Inconvenient Truth”, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, “This Land is Your Land”, “The Take” and, of course, “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

The larger, more reported political websites seem to lean toward liberal-progressive, the rumor-mill, Matt Drudge Report withstanding. Daily Kos and The Huffington Post are on the ascendancy.

On the other side of the binary, the conservative-corporate worldview dominates radio talk shows and cable talk shows. Just list the hosts ­ Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly (though less so), and all the way down the ratings ladder.

The most politically motivated and get-out-the-vote people in the neighborhoods, when the chips are down, have been from the conservative communities. Ask the Democrats who had to rely on imported activists (Ohio in 2004) while their Republican opponents relied on people living in the Buckeye State.

Politically-active church pews are filled more with conservatives than with liberals. These are the people who have partially taken over the Republican Party and who supply the motivated cadres before election day.

Symbols of patriotism ­ often shorn of substantive followup ­ belong to conservatives. The flag, singing anthems, parading on the 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day belong to the people who describe themselves more on the right side of the binary, who would more often describe themselves as conservatives. So too is the case with membership in the American Legion and the VFW. So too as well with membership in the Main Street service clubs ­ Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions International.

It is fair to say that since 1980, conservative candidates have been winning overall more than have liberal candidates. From the presidency to the Congress to the state legislatures to the governorships, this trend has been much reported.

Moreover, the liberals who do win, like Clinton, Lieberman, Bayh and assorted governors are often more corporatists than liberals on major subjects such as foreign policy, military budgets, the Federal Reserve, corporate welfare, real regulation, tax policy and consumer protection.

It could be that more often than is normally recognized, the self-described conservative voters spend more time personally interacting with one another in situations where “social” can easily move to “political.”

More often than the liberal voters, they participate in activities associated with clubs, and churches where person to person conversations abound.

The above areas of liberal domination involve more passive, spectator, celluloid or “cool” internet occasions. And after a while a chronically humorous way of looking at politics becomes a distraction, even though it may be a style that avoids commercial media censorship.

Of course, money in politics comes more easily to corporatist candidates, as does the media. For example, extreme right-wingers get on talk shows, receive media attention or have their own profitable shows like Pat Robertson does. Who are the extreme left-wingers, who receive any press, other than an occasional newspaper picture showing them being dragged away from a protest at the IMF, World Bank or toxic dump site?

The lesson? Politics, even in an age of electronic supremacy, is still strongly moved by the person-to-person, conversational, affinity, communal groupings in our society. Big TV ads cost money and the corporatists can buy them over and over again. But the word of mouth from friend to friend, relative to relative, neighbor to neighbor and worker to worker is not something anyone wants to sell short.

 

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail