(This was originally posted 06 June 2012 on Facebook, before this blog was ready, but it’s still relevant now. Edited.)
It’s sad to see Scott Walker win another victory in Wisconsin. His meat-cleaver approach has hurt, not helped, his state. I’m not happy — but then, it was not a surprise.
Already, the losing side cries: it was the ads, the money. No: listen carefully to what the Wisconsin majority who voted for Walker are saying. For them, it was rather clearly *not* a matter of advertising or spending. It was that he did what he promised to do, what he was elected to do, what in the last election he had convinced his state’s public was needed to fix their situation. They turned out to tell us that. And they dislike the entire idea of recalls – let officials serve out a full term, like they were elected to do.
The main problem I have with those who opposed Walker is their approach to electoral politics. In this race, they used the methods of ideological power politics, such as projection of force, name-calling, blame, and drawing harsh lines of good and evil. It reminds me of the wrongheaded approach many Christians use for evangelism: stuffing tracts, howling bloody hell on people, playing off of people’s psychological guilt, doing all telling and no listening, speaking in ‘us vs. them’ terms, blaming a person’s life decisions on the supernatural influence of some insidious conspiracy by Satan’s servants. Where’s the love there? The same method is too often true of the ‘progressive’ political movement. And unlike the Right, they ought to know better.
If any headway is going to be made to get saner political outcomes, there will have to be conversion — a change of the hearts and minds of regular folks. (By which I mean, those who are not in the public eye, who aren’t trying to attain personal power or position on the backs of these divisive issues.) To do that, we’ll have to start taking to heart something like the more ’emergent’ or ‘progressive Christian’ approach to evangelism, or like the more relational approaches to education, or like the less-ideological processes of community-building, and apply it to our politics. That means listening, and walking through matters with them, with some urgency but no demand of a timetable nor of a particular pre-determined conclusion. (That’s the part the US Left has the worst time with: it assumes that if you think it out, you’ll join them, and if you don’t join them, you didn’t think it out.) It means trying to understand people in frameworks other than that of power politics, seeing them as people instead of as members of interest groups. It means not demonizing or automatically labeling people ‘haters’ or boycotting or shunning them just for disagreeing on a matter. Most especially, it demands that you not treat other people as if they’re stupid. It means being persistent, truthful, open, and factual, always leading them (and ourselves) to think it through thoroughly. We’ve all got something to learn, and we all have a stake in each other. That can only be addressed effectively together. But that can’t be done when we’re busy building walls and throwing stones. And it takes time. Lots of it. More time than we have for the 2012 election. This is a long-haul struggle.
This would change the ground on which the politicians and the squawkers stand, which will, in turn, change the politicians and their actions.
The political extremes always fail to treat people like people. That’s why there’s so little conversion that leads to change that benefits the least instead of the wealthiest. Power politics will usually help the powerful. Used on everyone else, even for the best of causes, it will create the anger that leads to the Silent Majorities which will repeatedly stymie real progress.