Feb 032009

Tweet4Labour provides a fascinating link today as Obama the politician becomes Obama the sociologist:

These assumptions are rarely stated explicitly, but they are implicit in much of the progressive concern about Obama’s political strategy – the widely expressed fear that he is essentially “leaving achievable progressive victories on the table” because of his commitment to pragmatism and bipartisanship. Having won 53% of the vote and with 59 Democratic senators, it is often argued that he is clearly in a position to seek more progressive, radical or dramatic changes than those which he is actually seeking. To many liberal and progressive commentators, it seems almost self-evident that Obama could demand and get “more” of a progressive agenda enacted if he behaved in a more aggressively hyper-partisan fashion as George Bush did after the 2004 election. Thomas Frank clearly expressed this liberal-progressive view — and frustration — by saying that “Obama should act as if he won.”

But there is good evidence (which we shall see below) that Obama’s political strategy is actually based on an essentially sociological rather than political science perspective. It rests specifically on one key sociological insight — that the political strategy required to enact significant progressive social reforms is substantially more complex and difficult than is the strategy required to simply resist social change.

When significant social reforms threaten to directly affect major social institutions, enacting such reforms requires two things beyond simply wining an electoral victory:

1. The opposition of the key social institution or institutions affected –which in most cases include either the armed forces, big business or the church – must be neutralized or at least very significantly muted.

2. A certain baseline level of sociological support (or at least relative neutrality) must be obtained among a series of pivotal social groups. Sociologically and demographically speaking these groups – religious voters, military voters or business voters — are often predominantly working class, red state voters.

As a result, the coalition necessary to achieve major social reforms will require more than a knife-edge 50.1% majority. Translated into national levels of public support or approval, a commanding majority of as much as 60% may actually be necessary.

Meanwhile, in the Weekly Standard, the right begins to see the opportunities that “Triangulation II” might bring:

The singular advantage of being in the opposition is that the majority has to make the first move, and unlike chess, going first conveys no advantage the majority doesn’t already enjoy. What was striking last week about the House’s consideration of the stimulus package was the glimpse it offered of a potentially valuable political strategy for Republicans. Call it “Triangulation II”–the GOP effort to gain advantage by dividing Democrats in Congress from President Obama.

Can’t see it happening, mind.

Still, in a time of fine dreams, the right also has a right to dream, I suppose.

Feb 032009

Definitely unclassifiable. As we reach the 900th post on 21stCenturyFix.org, it’s become a two-horse race.

The other day, Brian kindly added my blog to Facebook’s blog network application. It would appear however that a couple of people out there have mistaken my writing for Dave’s. I have to say I am mightily honoured, though do wonder the expletives Dave must’ve emitted when he stumbled across the fact. He’s asked me to remove him as candidate for the honour but I have absolutely no idea how to do this.

If you would like to help us out in resolving this dilemma, all you have to do is vote for me as author of this blog here. You can even register yourself as a reader of the blog, if you are so inclined.

I believe we need ten votes in favour of one author or the other. So let’s see what happens, shall we?

Nail-biting virtual stuff.

Feb 032009

An interesting piece from Laurie Penny, writing in Liberal Conspiracy:

I have met Stella Creasy, Labour’s PPC for Walthamstow, and I respect her as a politician and as a feminist, the context of our second meeting having been the Abortion Rights parliamentary rallies over the summer. Were I a Walthamstovian, I’d vote for her; were I sitting next to her on a train, I’d feel she was someone with whom I could have a pleasant conversation. I was about to voice one or all of these thoughts, when the Labour party veteran next to me, a man in his fifties, said, in that oh-so knowing way -

‘Well, yes, but she’s a bit glamorous to be a credible PPC, isn’t she?’

Aside from her many, many political and personal qualifications, Stella Creasy happens to be young, thin, blonde, and intensely pretty. Click here to see just how pretty. In fact, she looks a bit like one of those leggy popular girls who used to tease me at school, which is why I took extra special care to pay attention to what she had to say before passing judgement. And that alone is enough for her to be dismissed out of hand by the very people who she ought to count as the home guard, purely on the basis of her appearance.

There was once a Spanish Minister of Culture called Carmen Alborch who was criticised for smiling too much.

Even Felipe González occasionally received a brickbat; not only because he was judged handsome but also – more interestingly – because he was accused of speaking too well.

One of the comments to Penny’s article goes as follows:

[…] try right liberalism instead. We have nothing against attractive women in positions of power, nor unattractive ones! And we try our best not to talk over anyone, regardless of their gender or youth.

And thus I wonder. Do some parts of the left have a problem with certain kinds of beauty? Whether this be physical or intellectual, suspicion on our part seems to strike down any instincts we may have to allow ourselves to submit to its power.

Are we then – on the left – in some way afraid of beauty? Or is it the unhealthy submission to a possible power exerted, possibly unfairly, that is really at the root of our resistance?