October 10, 2007
-- by Dave Johnson
Politics is a nonlinear dynamic system, not a traditional closed system. Nonlinearity means that change doesn't happen in a steady fashion, but comes in violent clumps. Much of our political leadership doesn't think this way. Steny Hoyer thinks that Democrats will be in control of the House, and then that Republicans will be in control of the House, that there is a balanced oscillation. Choice, labor rights, environment - these are the 'issues' upon which one must take the correct 'positions' according to polling data. And yet, the assumptions here is that the electorate doesn't change its mind very quickly, that new problems won't arise, that pollsters tell the truth, and that priorities or intensity of feelings don't change. We'll push back and forth over certain bills, and compromise will be the result. The political system's contours are considered static, and linear.
[. . .] Conservatives see politics as a nonlinear dynamic system, not as a two party system. They take advantage of crisis moments, as Naomi Klein points out in the Shock Doctrine, or even foment them, to create positive feedback loops for conservative ideas. Media consolidation under such institutions as GE and the gutting of antitrust create a dishonest media system that allows the country to go to war. War allows companies like GE to make money from selling weapons. Tax breaks for churches that become an arm of the GOP, creating corruption in government as a way to attack the concept of government, etc. These are all positive feedback loops for conservatives.
Also, read the second comment, from Texas Dem.,
One visual is arm-wrestling. Dems think that our government is a nice two-party contest within rules and boundaries and common understandings (that used to really exist). The Democrats engage in a nice arm wrestling match to see who wins various fights of prescribed consequence; meanwhile the Republicans offer one hand for the arm wrestling match, act like they accept its rules and are playing normally, and once the match is at a critical moment, they'll reach out with the other hand and slap the Democrats on the head. Obviously that's completely unacceptable and unsporting if you believe in the value of an armwrestling match, but the GOP doesn't. They don't believe in the value of the existing system at all, they strictly believe in victory, which means, ... , money and power. Nothing more or less.
...So Democrats are trying to play within a system that they believe in strongly and that they want to conserve; meanwhile the Republicans are actively trying to tear the Dems and the system down. It's a very difficult dynamic. Being the preserver and facing down the destroyer is not easy, because you are constrained in many ways your opponent is not.
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