Gimme An F
RESHMA SAUJANI: Then can I walk beside you
OK, she didn’t say that, Joni Mitchell did, but she might as well have. In fact, it would be an improvement over what she did say.
For empty, content-free vapidity, one would have to go a long way to beat Reshma Saujani’s recent puff piece about “No Labels.”
In fact, for empty, content-free vapidity, the only thing I can think of that does beat it is “No Labels” itself.
As I’ve noted before, the emptiness of the entire "No Labels" Bloomie’sDay fest was perhaps best exemplified by the self contradictory nature of what seemed to be the two main points of consensus:
1) We need to abandon partisanship to make the tough decisions to deal with the deficit which is the number one problem which confronts us.
2) Hooray for the tax cut.
Otherwise, the only issue consensus was that bi-partisanship was peachy. But, bi-partisanship in its best manifestations, like passage of the Civil Rights Acts, was not about the means, it was about the ends.
For “No Labels,” bi-partisanship is THE END.
This is, in large measure, misguided.
In most of its manifestations, most of the time, bi-partisan cooperation is a fee-splitting arrangement, with more in common with the operations of the NYC Board of Election than those of The Kean Commission.
The current apportionment of New York’s State Legislative districts is a splendid example of what bi-partisanship looks like most of the time. It is when each party agrees to turn a blind eye to the most egregious actions of the other that the worst evils are generally allowed to take place.
Our justice system, whatever its flaws, is fair, to the extent that it is, because adversarial processes bring out the truth better than handshakes.
As I’ve also noted before, it’s not as if the sort of half-baked establishment ideas fronted by “No Labels” are going unexpressed in our political system. There may be room for a “centrist” party articulating unfocussed populist outrage, but it won’t attract many millionaires, and it won’t be headed by a man who repealed term limits supported by the public in two separate referendums.
Such a party, would be Perot-vian, protectionist and border obsessed, all the sort of ideas that neither party ever actually implements when it gets its hands on public policy (thank G-d) because the elites have little interest in them.
As I also noted, another sign of the uselessness of the whole “No Labels” enterprise was the near total absence of Republicans (excepting ones, like Mike Castle and Charlie Crist, who are suffering from various stages of persona non gratatude).
It reminds me of the time Jersey set up a Special Commission about the state of the Hudson, and one of its members, the late Ray Garramone, showed up at the first meeting and asked “How you gonna clean half a River?”
As has been proven time and again, Republicans don’t care about healing our wounds, or are too cowed by their base to admit that they do, essentially rendering the whole “No Labels” thing into a self inflicted effort to divide the opposition to the "American Phalange;" the better to ensure that they achieve total victory.
Which, given the fact that the composition, including Saujani herself, was largely Wall Street types, might have something to do with this.
It may even be the point (though probably not).As has been noted by minds greater than mine, labels exist so the consumer has some idea what ’s in the package.
Would you buy a can without a label on it? What would you pay for it?
Anyway, I’ve said most of this before, and would not have bothered again, but for the title of Saujani’s magnum opus:
“The Woodstock of Politics”
I probably should not be amazed about the ignorance about Woodstock from someone born after it occurred, especially when so many who lived through the time or even the event itself do not seem to understand that Woodstock was about how four extremely greedy young men acting with nearly depraved indifference created a self-inflicted and largely foreseeable man-made disaster in which many consumers were cheated out of their money, and others put into harm’s way, so that the promoters could live out the rest of their lives suckling upon the creamy residuals.
Woodstock was a barely averted tragedy, and a myth. The textbook article about is Ellen Willis’ 1969 “New Yorker” piece (subscribers only) reprinted in her book, “Beginning to See the Light.”
Here is the last paragraph:
“What cultural revolutionaries do not seem to grasp is that, far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be — and has been — criminal, fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary. It can simply be a more pleasurable way of surviving within the system, which is what the pop sensibility has always been about. Certainly that was what Woodstock was about: ignore the bad, groove on the good, hang loose, and let things happen. The truth is that there can't be a revolutionary culture until there is a revolution. In the meantime, we should insist that the capitalists who produce rock concerts offer reasonable service at reasonable prices.”
What Ms. Saujani and others infatuated by “No Labels” do not seem to grasp is that, far from being a Quaker meeting based upon consensus, Democracy itself is about the creating a safe forum for fighting out our society’s conflicts. It is about conflict at its very core, and has always been ugly.
In fact, even bi-partisanship has been ugly; the Civil Rights Acts did not pass without their share of sleazy side deals. Bi-partisanship does not imply a specific political content; it can be — and has been — a means to both greatness and depravity, and sometimes even both at once. It can simply be a more effective way of getting business done, but sometimes it can’t.
Certainly if what Woodstock was about was “ignore the bad, groove on the good, hang loose, and let things happen,” then the bi-partisanship that Ms Saujani envisions has much in common with it. But mostly what this sort of bi-partisanship has in common with Woodstock is that they are both mostly a fantasy (and that selling that fantasy in both cases coincides with the self interest of the myth-makers).
In reality, Woodstock and Democracy both involve getting soaked in a lot of mud. The truth is that there can't be change in how we resolve our political conflicts without more conflict. In the meantime, we should insist that the politicians who guide our Democracy produce real ideas instead of LSD like “No Labels.”
As such, I’ll let my kiss-off to “No Labels” be delivered by Pete and Roger:
“We forsake you,
Gonna [offensive anachronistic lyric deleted] you
Let's forget you better still”
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