Taking The "Post-Ideological" At Face Value

I'm not an evangelist. I'm not really so much out to convince people that I'm correct, just to expand their theory arsenal to include the possibility of analysis like mine.

It's clear to me that we've gotten fairly used to certain ways of thinking, and it's also clear to me that we have a long way to go to achieve the credibility and acumen necessary to be in a position to help run the country successfully. I think that some movement liberals, to their vast credit, recognize that they're hearing something that's different, that's maybe a newer method of viewing the relationships between power, ideology, politics and policy.

One of the things that the re-introduction of identity and ideology (dutifully excised by the savvy congregation) into the discussion brings is the necessity for liberals to differentiate ourselves, to define ourselves, really, and to therefore know ourselves --our strengths and weaknesses.

It's interesting to me to hear others relate to me essentially the common theme of the Village: that Obama is post-ideological, and all about savvy political wins, and practical, expert-following technocracy. A movement liberal spins this as we naturally would: "soulless," unprincipled, left-disappointing, anti-populist. The interesting part is that, when you take the pejorative tone away from that description, it's exactly what the Obama Administration sells itself as. They want us (and everyone) to think of them as being beyond ideology, the practical deal-cutters, the winners, the grown-ups who put idealism aside to get things done, who look at politics (and the electorate) objectively as anthropologists, not as activists. They like the idea that they're the smart technocrats. They aspire to those "pejoratives."

So how can this be? How can liberals basically buy the image of these guys that they're so desperate to sell? How can we take them at face value as they (proudly) describe themselves, but with disappointment, since they won't use the power with which we invest them to accomplish our agenda? It seems as if the Administration has won a great victory --even their critics on the left have come to accept their version of reality about who they are, right down to the post-ideological nonsense they love to tout.

It might be because many liberals have essentially only allowed ourselves to ascribe to the New Democrats our own set of movement values about what is good or bad, which necessarily includes bad=sell out, bad=unprincipled, bad=in bed with industry, and bad=lie to the public. The thing is, these are only "bad" to us. We call it "unprincipled," and they call it "post-ideological," and go sell it to the Beltway press corps some more. Hell, in a couple of years from now, they'll be putting it in 2016 commercials.

But what if they were actually forced to define who they are?

You'd get more episodes like this (link to the Times):

Q. Is there one word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?

A. No, I'm not going to engage in that.

Q. Mr. President, we need to turn it to foreign policy...

There's something really striking about the militancy with which the New Democrats snarl at questions about their ideology. There's something very, very interesting about this phenomenon. When liberals take their "non-engagement" with the "ideological debates of the past" at face value, we let them off of the hook, in a way. We let them get away with selling a vision truly known only to them, and whoever is close enough to them in the rest of the political-media class. We let them get away with selling the image they want to sell.

Most importantly, we deprive ourselves of an avenue of analysis that could just possibly lead to the answers we ostensibly seek when we throw our hands up in the air and exclaim, like, say, we all did over their "Drill Baby Drill-lite" policy,

"Why? They're smart people, they must know that it's futile to try for Republican votes, why o why are they doing this? What could they possibly even gain? Why would they preemptively concede almost the entire cause? It won't help them politically, the right will still hate them, they're making themselves seem weak and unprincipled, it's bad policy, and for what? Why, why, why?"

It seems pretty apparent that the last answer they want us to think of is "Oh, they must be doing this out of some weird adherence to principle."

I think it's a good thing that finally, movement liberals might start to go where NDN Democrats and their policy wonks don't want us to go, and explore what might be behind the ideological curtain with these people. It doesn't explain everything, but I'm not trying to create a unified theory of everything. I'm just trying to give us another sensible option in terms of explaining what they're doing and predicting what they're going to do...and maybe stopping it.