Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Vortex

No, not that one. I know better than to get sucked into the A/thouse Vor/ex.

But the other one. You know what I'm talking about.

The CNN/CSPAN/MSNBC/NPR/NYT/WaPo/TPM vortex of political coverage. It is a particular kind of hell.

I loved following politics....once upon a time. I was a political science major. I loved reading about it, watching it on TV, doing my civic duty, phone banking, campaigning, agitating, etc.

But since The Election Debacle of 2000, and the Debacle, Part II of 2004, I just can't take it anymore. Oh, my heart. If anything, those elections made me more apathetic and pragmatic in my voting strategies. I'm almost a straight party-line voter--whoever's the DNC candidate, I'll vote for that person, even if I'm not very excited about the New Hampshire outcome. Blah blah, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, blah blah. I'm one of those people that didn't really mourn Eugene McCarthy, and I won't be mourning Ralph Nader, either. I I am a bad person, yes. Far too pragmatic and utilitarian, and I've lost most of my idealism.

Everyone can pinpoint certain defining historical or civic moments. For those of a certain age, it's D-Day or V-E day or the like. The Fall of Saigon. For others, the Bicentennial.

Here's my list of things that made a certain impression on me, good or bad or just different:

1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
2. The Breakup of the Soviet Union
3. The Gulf War
4. The Rodney King Riots
5. The Clinton Impeachment
6. The Election of 2000
7. 9/11
8. The Invasion of Iraq
9. The Election of 2004
10. Hurricane Katrina

Of these, the only ones I never really got or never will get over are #6 & #7. They were that traumatic, changing not only my life but also my entire country.

And they're the events that you would think would propel me to further action, but they sort of deadened me to anything else, and I am resigned to this being the state of the world.

It's sad.

But there's sort of hope. Everytime I think I give up on caring about things, even though I largely stop reading about politics for about 3 years, I can't resist, during election years, the years where things might change, getting involved again. I am not sure I will ever be as idealistic or active as I was a decade ago. Hell, it sucks that the first election in which you are able to vote, the entire political process is hijacked. But I am caring again. I care enough to be bothered that my favored candidate did not win, and then I am happy to realize that I do have a favored candidate, that I have not sold out completely and am totally apathetic and mechanistic about my political participation.

It is good to know that I care, and even as I wonder about how healthy it is for me to secretly follow the horse-race aspect of the election (the least substantive aspect, but the aspect most likely to upset me and the easiest to accidentally obsess over).

I try not to talk about politics to too many people. It's too emotional an issue for me. I am still trying to get over Election 2000, after all, and it's hard talking to anyone who is not a party-line pragmatist or who does not understand my political pessimism and how demoralized I really am. But so far, I am having surprisingly good conversations with янтарный and The Dude, who are understanding and interesting and not judgmental. Hmm, perhaps political participation is possible again, even in the electronic age, even with the dissolution of communities and general decline in civic participation.

Man, I really wish I hadn't left all of my political participation and theories of democracy books at my parents'. Like this one.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk about politics with anyone other than янтарный or The Dude, but at least you know that I'll be following it all. But no, I don't want to talk about this with you over coffee, and I am not reading your blog as you parrot all of these numbers and polls from other MSM sources. Sorry, but some forms of engagement and participation appeal to me more than others. This blog seems shockingly apolitical, but that's only because converstations about politics, unless done in a way that interests me and seems relevant to my political participation, really bores me. That said, people who think that talking about politics is pointless and stupid really bother me too. I may be a closeted political junkie, but at least I have the habit. It's a good one to have. Elections tend to concretize and reify abstract principles of political and legal theory, distilling them for the masses. This sounds incredibly elitist, but it's true. And I think that's a very good thing, to make the political process relevant to the polity, who must believe that their participation is meaningful.

Even I, with my almost narrow-minded focus on organizational and legal processes as mechanisms for change (endogeneity of law, etc.), realize that the organization that supercedes all of these other organizations is the government and its various adminstrative agencies. So yeah, politics matter. My partipation doesn't do much, but hell, it's something to do.


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