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"Reason becomes unreason, abundance torment"
Goethe, Faust, Part I, Scene 4

It is only reasonable to look for a new approach when the old one was failing.  And looking for new approaches the Clinton campaign did. It is only welcome when a politician shows an abundance of principle and resolve. And Hillary showed a wealth of toughness and spine, indeed.

Which they took then to the Faustian level, only to end up as a hotbed of unreason and as the torment of the Democratic primary season.

They were taken over and eaten up by the same "the ends justify the means"-mentality that has brought to you the Paul Weyrichs, Ralph Reids, Rush Limbaughs, Bill O'Reillys, Tom DeLays, Karl Roves, George W. Bushs und - ultimately - Dick Cheneys.

Which is why praising her efforts and making a legend of her candidacy in the end is a disservice to your nation. It lends credibility to, and makes a role-model of, a tactic that has so badly undermined political and public life. This is why I dare ask those of you, who still admire the toughness and defiance of her and her campaign, for some self-reflections below the fold...   (and forgiveness for my harsh introductory words right on the spot)

What I'm getting at is my perception, that an overly results driven mentality has taken hold of our society that has largely thrown out due process, logical reasoning and playing by the rules in favor of getting things done at almost any price.

Now, there have always been people who lived by the motto of "the end justify the means". Modern democracies, however, balanced this by the rule of law, logical reasoning and due process. But somehow this mentality has crept back to a socially acceptable status again. Some of this may be due to the penetration of business-related codes of behavior into our private lives (the likes of "getting things done" etc.).

To a greater extent, I think, this is due to decades of work by the conservative movement in America and their unabashedly results-driven ideology of "ideas that have consequences". They made an art out of not thinking along the lines of due process and logical argument, but rather thinking backwards from the desired outcome, and considering and taking every conceivable (not necessarily legal or legitimate) step to achieve that goal. Devising and perfecting the language of political framing. Devising, fostering and using wedge issues. Trying to control the thinking and the debate (and, ultimately, the media). And not being afraid of being mocked by their opponents, as long as they got to their results. This is the Faustian shift in mentality from determination to zeal.

  • This is the mentality that makes proponents of Intelligent Design throw out the facts time and again in favor of trying to push their ideology into the classrooms (even at the risk of ruining Americas' competitiveness in the future).

  • This is the mentality that proclaims tax cuts (for the wealthy as it turns out)  an unmovable necessity even in the face of rising inequality and poverty.

  • And this is ultimately the mentality that get you into wars with unclear (or at least unstated) objectives but ever-changing reasons.

This is the mentality that ultimately and frighteningly worked.

So why would it be a problem to show the same sort or determination - only for a better outcome and a nobler vision? Haven't we constantly scorned and ridiculed the current administration for stubbornly staying the course in the face of opposing facts - but deep in our souls envied their "achievements"?. Haven't we therefore equally scorned and ridiculed Democratic leadership for a lack of spine and toughness on the issues?

Isn't that what Hillary Clinton's campaign delivered on? Same level of determination, only towards a better end? Isn't the argument I'm presenting here merely an attempt to assign guilt by association?

Here's the catch: The tactic works well as long as only a few are using it.  When a majority of people start behaving like this (or some mount at least an equally persistent resistance), the tactic just implodes. The benefits vanish while the downsides are unleashed.

The benefits vanish because it becomes increasingly unlikely that you can push through your agenda, because it becomes increasingly likely that you will meet an opponent who will use the exact same tactics (or, at least, can see through it). Either way, you'll simply meet more and better resistance, but now you're prisoner of your own devices: Since compromise is a no-go because the outcome is set in stone you can only try different arguments to the exact same end. After you've met the resistance, what might have been a reasonable argument will be replaced by a a different one. The different argument will be followed by a bad one, the bad by a worse one, the worse by a bizarre one, and the bizarre one eventually by a lie. (...stations like the "irrelevant states", the "unpledged pledged delegates" and finally the "popular vote minus the caucuses" come to mind).

So the downsides are plenty:

The tactic spoils political culture because it effectively rules out negotiation and compromise , leads to poor solutions because it favors pushing a given idea over discussing and improving it,  and results in delayed action at best or lost opportunities in the worst case, depending on which party "won" the brawl.

Everyone loses.

Which is why I don't think it's appropriate to praise Hillary Clinton's campaign for setting the wrong example of resorting to a mentality that works to everyone's disadvantage. Because there was a better alternative available to strive for a similar positive vision. Only without all the baggage of a "can do"-attitude that all too easily can snap into a "will do anything"- or "the end justify the means"-mindset. Which, sadly, was on full display this spring.

This is the reason why I would ask all of you, who are on the verge of idolizing the Clinton campaign to (quietly) reflect on whether, in the end, we're better off that the old ways didn't work this time. No confessions needed.

Thank you for listening.


PS: Yes, I'm aware that the official translation of the Goethe citation is "Reason becomes unreason, kindness torment". But I took the liberty to change "kindness" to "abundance" not only because it fits my narrative, but - at least in my mind - captures the original meaning better.

Originally posted to RandomGuyFromGermany on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 09:27 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for Vernunft and Wohlstand? (11+ / 0-)

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

    by RandomGuyFromGermany on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 09:30:36 AM PDT

  •  well written... (3+ / 0-)

    ...and agreed.

    "It is often pleasant to stone a martyr, no matter how much we admire him"...John Barth

    by Giles Goat Boy on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 09:41:12 AM PDT

  •  After the defeat in 2004 (4+ / 0-)

    I saw commenters who seemed to be calling for a candidate who would be just like Bush only Democratic, a campaign strategist who would be just like Rove only a Democrat (not here so much, I think but at other liberal forums).  It worried me at the time.  That and the Kerry hate caused me to drop out for a few years.

    I think the Clinton campaign must have taken up that idea and Clinton's supporters must have been drawn from the contingent that felt that way.

    It is important right now for the sake of party unity to find ways to praise Senator Clinton.  She has good Democratic social policy values and she articulates them well.  When I was listening to her during CNN's "Compassion Forum" I cam the closest to liking her. The tactics she chose need to be repudiated, however. They were wrong in and of themselves and they caused her to lose. I personally don't think it is possible to get good results from bad means.

    Praising Clinton for the "toughness" of her campaign is a misguided effort, I think, to find a way for her and her supporters to save face.  It's a little slovenly and shallow, IMO.  Better to find something for which she really deserves praise.

    Loudest the river, fewest the fish.

    by houyhnhnm on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 10:04:26 AM PDT

    •  agreed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm, RandomGuyFromGermany

      The loudest refrain during the period of the primary when alliances were being gelled was "Obama isn't tough enough. We don't need Kumbaya. We need to go nuclear."

      I believe many of her supporters wanted, perhaps understandably, to see her dish out some of the same suffering that she endured for many years from the VRWC. Many said that we should fight the Republicans on their level. I think that was a major difference in thinking that determined whether one would support Obama or Clinton.

      "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness." Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 4-3-68

      by whitewidow on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 10:12:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're right. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jules Beaujolais

      And that's why I attempted that diary. Because by simply praising the toughness,  we wouldn't do justice to what's happened.

      And that's why I was asking Clinton supporters for some reflection. Probably they'd have an idea for praising her accomplishments without the pitfall of praising her approach.

      Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

      by RandomGuyFromGermany on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 10:21:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is the small matter (0+ / 0-)
      of unresolved emotions though.  As long as we are trying to get the Hillaristas on board by issuing a sort of warm blanket pardon to soothe their feelings because we are afraid to appeal to their rationality, they may very well be appeased for the moment, but imo they stay dangerously vulnerable to flare ups of Obama hatred at the drop of a hat.
  •  clicked because I thought it wasn't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a candidate diary, but I'm glad I did. Nicely written.

    You make some good points. Something I would note, is that I believe the Rovian tactics are a big part of why Clinton lost the primary. I, for one, always liked her. I voted for Bill twice and have been defending them both for many years. I didn't like the people she surrounded herself with and did not agree with the DLC-type strategy. But as she became more Rovian, I was extremely turned off. My first rule of being a Democrat is "Never Use Republican Talking Points."  

    I guess that's a long-winded way of saying that I think that her tactics did not work, she did not succeed in achieving "the end" in large part because of "the means" that were employed. So I hope that a lesson has been given to others who would emulate Republicans. Hopefully Americans are seeing through the personal attack distractions, finally. We shall see in the GE.

    "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness." Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 4-3-68

    by whitewidow on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 10:07:05 AM PDT

  •  Logged in to thank you+advice (2+ / 0-)

    Broke house rule of no commenting during family time to thank your for this ell thought and written diary.  The general argument is worthy of a front page story.

    A few words of advice, if I may.
    Goethe is not a household name in the US. My Germanphilic and [on SO's side] speaking house being a rare exception.

    Goethe+German will appear very scary and give no idea that this a HC forgive/forget essay.Although it is clear from summary, I at least make my choices based on titles alone.

    I found it, if I may say so, a bit long. Zu spate [spelling"

    Retitling it is allowed and wld show that the the diary complements the frpagers's analysis of a similar subject.

    In any case, admired the reasoning and the conclusions

    •  Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Well, at some point I made the decision to go with the title; and I actually don't know of a much more catchier one.

      And yes - as I said someplace else - this one was remarkably hard to wrap into words. And though it will not make the rec list, at least my points are out, obviously some people like it and might spread the message.

      Which is the point of a discussion board.

      Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

      by RandomGuyFromGermany on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 10:29:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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