The answer I come up with is this: they have been winning out simply because they are ruthless, like those autocrats in the Mideast. They are hard, ungiving, unresponsive. Monolithic in their thinking, they act out of an unquestioning sense of rectitude. Their minds are closed. Think Reagan. We, on the other hand, are by nature open, ready to listen, prepared to concede the possibility of error. Pluralistic. Self-questioning. Think Carter.
(George Lakoff says all this more eloquently and persuasively, perhaps, though differently than I do; he "frames" their strategy as paternalism.)
Am I flattering "us"? Maybe. Am I tarring "them" all with the same brush? Quite possibly. But it's a genuine puzzlement for me, and the source of infinite frustration. There are hard-liners on the left, too, I know--those who insist that we should never compromise on principles. But one of those principles is the democratic one, that each of us has a right to an opinion, a right to voice it, and a right to vote. We are opposed to tyranny, whatever form it takes---including, then, presumably, our own. We argue endlessly amongst ourselves. We do not coalesce into the kind of solid--and hence powerful--block that gives the other side their strength.
Take Obama. I know there are many who disagree with me on this, but I believe we do ourselves a disservice in castigating his every departure from the hard lines we believe he should be taking. We feel free to attack him publicly when he takes the time to listen. We accuse him of weakness and complicity when he makes a concession or a compromise. We fault his "leadership," but are unwilling to follow. We provide no firm ground for him to stand on. Contrast this with the other side, with "them." How many Republicans were ready to stand up and criticize George W. Bush in public, no matter how egregious the errors of his judgment, no matter matter how glaring and costly the mistakes? Consider his ill-considered tax cuts, his rash wars that remained, contrary to all conservative fiscal wisdom, unpaid for. He was subject to criticism, often severe, from our side, yes. But from his own? Scarcely a murmur.
Some will consider this a retreat from what I was saying yesterday, but I say, No. My own Buddhist principles urge me to opt for the "Middle Way"--the way that Obama urges with remarkable consistency and patience, and to his cost. I look around me in the political world and see mostly those who reject this as the way of weakness and inefficacy. I wonder how differently things would look if "we" were to rally unanimously to the President's support? If all the "we's" were to step forward, stand up, suspend our differences, and form that solid block for him to stand on. But that is contrary to our nature. We, on our side, are born to question, argue, quibble, doubt. All of which is great--except when it comes to effective political action, where bullying and certitude win.
Which leaves me with another Buddhist speculation: At what point does karma catch up with those who have grabbed on to the reins of global power and their misguided policies? At what point will the delusion they have fostered in our country meet up with the consequences that will inevitably result?
Tomorrow... good news! I have found something rosier to talk about!