Names unnamed, sources unsourced, a CMU professor told me the other day that the best way to identify the party affiliation of political blogs is to find out who the blogger talks about all the time. Republicans spend their time, not bolstering their own candidates, but denegrating the Democrats. Ditto the Democrats. This is perhaps true on average, but you will undoubtedly find counterexamples the instant you start looking. So what about blogs that are leftist that criticize Democrats and Republicans? I suppose there are the right-wing counterparts, but I avoid those since I suspect they are mostly crackpot cults, white-power activists, and warmongers. Or Ron Paul supporters.
Which leads me to my next point. Ron Paul supporters got really motivated this primary season. It was at first inspiring, followed by slightly disturbing. The last time I saw that kind of fanaticism in white suburban males was when Star Wars Episode 1 came out. And like after Episode 1, their hopes were left like fish to die washed up on the rocks of failure beneath an unyielding sun. The so-called revolution did not come. Nor could it.
Next comes the Obamagasm. He talks a pretty talk, but like all mainstream candidates he has sacrificed a number of his ideals. While a little guy in Chicago, Obama met with the Arab community to discuss the issue of Palestinian liberation. Now he has cozied up to America’s client-state, Israel in an effort to improve his electability. I’m trying to rid myself of the feeling that “a candidate has to stick to one position for his entire career or else he has lost his integrity.” It’s just not human to do that and would represent a serious character flaw if the guy in the next cubicle did it. So why must politicians? Pre-Iraq War I was a Republican, but as I grew older and learned new things, that stance has shifted wildly. Shouldn’t I forgive such wishy-washyness in candidates? One might say it is important for a candidate to know himself, which I clearly did not, but new data comes along and sometimes you just have to change.
Every election of importance since 9/11 brings me to an eventual state of despair. Think of the lines of power in a political system. George R. R. Martin, my favorite fantasy author, has a great illustration in one of his books (which I will now present from memory, so consider this a semi-direct quotation with noise). The Master of Whisperers comes to the newly minted Hand of the King (the guy who does the day-to-day running of the kingdom) and presents him this riddle (paraphrased): “A rich man, a priest, a king, and a soldier are all in a room. The rich man says, kill them and I will give you half of all my wealth. The priest says, kill them in the name of the gods. The king says, kill them in the name of your king. Who does he kill?” The Hand in the story ponders the question, which has no answer (or rather, too many). It depends on the soldier. Who has the power? The man with the sword is nobody.
In a democratic society, are we the man with the sword? What is our allegiance? Are we greedy and side with the rich man, or pious and side with the priest? Are we loyal subjects and obey the king? Who taught us that each of these figures (and feel free to add your own) has power over us? Are these teachers the ones with the real power? Or are they just the front for the people with the real power? Where do the lines lead or is it just a jumbled graph that leads nowhere and everywhere? Maybe the power is an emergent behavior of the system — Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Either way, can we ever hope to change it?