Saturday, December 23, 2023

#357 / The Cultivation Of Political Despair

That's Jamelle Bouie, above, who writes for The New York Times

In his column on December 17th, Bouie said that "Defeating Trump Is Just a Start." Here - in a quote from his column - is the essence of what Bouie wants us to consider: 

The easy and obvious way to understand the various Republican power grabs underway in states across the country is to look at them as attempts to secure as much unaccountable political power as possible and to curtail the expression of identities and beliefs Republicans find objectionable. That’s how we get the “Don’t Say Gay” laws and attacks on gender-affirming care and aggressive efforts to gerrymander entire state legislatures.

But there is another angle you can take on the Republicans’ use of state power to limit political representation for their opponents or limit the bodily autonomy of women or impose traditional and hierarchical gender relations on those who would prefer to live free of them. You could say the point is the cultivation of political despair.

Now, it is too much to say that this is premeditated [I am not sure, actually, that I agree with Bouie on that particular statement] although you do not have to look hard to find Republican officeholders expressing the belief that political participation should be made more onerous.

At the same time, it is hard not to miss the degree to which attempts to nullify popular referendums or redistrict opponents into irrelevance can also work to inculcate a sense of hopelessness in those who might otherwise seek political change. Yes, it is true that many people will push back when faced with a sustained challenge to their right to participate in political life or exercise other fundamental rights. But many people will resign themselves to the new status quo, persuading themselves that nothing has fundamentally changed or concluding that it is not worth the time or effort involved to pick up the fight (emphasis added).

I think Bouie is not only "on target" in what he says, I think that the point he is making is profoundly important. We all need to understand that democratic self-government cannot continue to exist where "political despair" prevails. Another New York Times' columnist, Michelle Goldberg, has warned against giving in to political despair for just that reason. 

Someone checking back through my past blog postings will note that I am sometimes almost "pollyanish" in my exhortations to "keep on the sunny side," or to "accentuate the positive." 

I learned the lesson from my father, who not only introduced me to that Johnny Mercer song, but simply insisted (until I finally "got it") that anything is possible.

Anything is possible, but not if we are too demoralized to try. 

Next year, there's an election coming up. That's important, but there is something more important, still. 

We must decide - one by one, and then "collectively" - that we will not only survive (again, both individually and collectively), but that we will prevail. If you're not "feeling it," let me refer you to a blog posting in which I gave a personal "pep talk" to a friend - to good effect. My friend is a lifelong campaigner, and she is not giving up. 

We can't let ourselves give up - even if the worst happens - and I am thinking, specifically, about our elections next year. 

The worst might happen, of course, and we are seeing a lot of despairing predictions that it's going to. 

Let's not give in to "political despair." 

Despair is such a subtle trap, ceding power to those whom we consider to be "powerful," when we, united, are the powerful ones. Fascism doesn't have to arrive clad in military boots. It can sneak in on "little cat feet." 

And that's how it's going to get us, too, if we succumb to political despair. 

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