02 December 2009

Anti-war Opinion Resists Categorization

After the President's speech last night I did a bit of channel surfing across the news networks. The most interesting thing I found was Rep. Dennis Kucinich's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. Two things were noteworthy about this interview: Kucinich's apparent endorsement of the Cato Institute's position on Afghanistan (hinting at an antiwar coalition of progressives and libertarians) and the congressman's resistance to the host's attempt to force the Afghan issue into a liberal-vs-conservative paradigm. O'Reilly wanted to know why two liberals (Kucinich and the President) should disagree on Afghan strategy, but Kucinich was quite insistent that the war issue had nothing to do with conventional categories of liberals and conservatives. I'll put up a transcript or a video clip of the interview later when I have a little more functionality, but I wanted to emphasize the significance of this moment right away.

The American Bipolarchy as presently constituted thrives on the perception that, between them, liberals and conservatives (represented rightfully by the Democratic and Republican parties) have the answers to all political questions, and that all political questions can be reduced to liberal and conservative options. Any acknowledgement that this is not so is a wake-up call for the American people and a crack in the bipolar consensus that renders the Bipolarchy impervious to challenge. Ever since 2001, the War on Terror has met opposition across the present ideological continuum, from the "anti-imperialist left" to "paleoconservatives." Because opposition is concentrated outside the complacent "center," it is often dismissed as fringe opinion when it isn't smearingly attributed to anti-Semitism. But what if the appearance of antiwar opposition at both "fringes" actually proves that the "center" is less central and less representative of American opinion than many like to assume? Arguably, the antiwar phenomenon (however modest it looks at this point) is the one force in American politics that exposes the totalizing tendencies of both Democratic liberals and Republican conservatives as fraudulent. As a force more likely to unite dissenters from divergent ideological backgrounds than to divide them on self-defeating ideological lines, antiwar opposition should be a formidable organizing element for third parties in 2010. As always, of course, that will depend on people's priorities, and the war is bound to weigh less on voters in more local races. But the peculiar antiwar coalition, which still may not be aware of its own existence after eight years, should inspire more people trained to believe that theirs and other ideologies are irreconcilable to start asking what else they all may agree on, and what else they all can oppose.


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that's why Obama claims that he will have the military out within 3 years - just in time for the 2012 election, I'll bet.

Samuel Wilson said...

The political calculation is all too obvious there. If you're going to wage a war, I'd hope that you'd put really winning it before whether you win another election, but I suspect that Obama is waging it in the first place in order to win another election.