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Of Jacobins and Sans Culottes

sans culotteI have to thank DisenfranchisedVoter for pointing me to Anglachel’s Journal and the jaw-dropping post from today. He/she says it much better than I ever could and she throws in a lot of political science, about which I know virtually nothing. But I *did* read a book about the French Revolution a couple of years ago and have seen a lot of similarities of the netroots to the Jacobins, or I might have said, the Sans Culottes.

And here’s the money quote:

What the right understands is that politics is power and the relationships that generate conditions in which power can be seized, deployed, and increased. They know that the best way to disempower the left (which Paul Krugman covers in great detail in The Conscience of a Liberal) is to disrupt the formation of the political relationships on the left which create points of contact between potential rivals and facilitate discovery of and agreement upon common issues. They do this through politics of fear and division in mass politics, and through smearing and trashing individuals who exhibit leadership in inside-the-beltway politics. One of their sure-fire tactics is to tarnish the reputations of such leaders with the Jacobins. Every politician on the left who has attempted anything of consequence has something in their record to earn the opprobrium of the moralists, left and right, and their “failures” are amplified into crimes against the nation. The netroots attacks the same Democrats that the right attacks, and in nearly identical language and levels of hysteria. The most pure case of this was the hatchet job they did on Al Gore in 2000, effective to the point that even today after all the Bush/Cheney ghouls have done, people on the left sneer at Gore as a hypocrite, a phony, an “establishment” candidate, a “corporatist” and quite a variety of unpleasant names.

The key here is that the netroots, more than any other part of the so-called left, is exquisitely susceptible to the Jacobin impulse, tearing down people and institutions in the name of ending corruption and hypocrisy. And, in this way, it amplifies the efforts of the right to dissolve the structures that place limits upon desires. As there is no end to the ways in which ordinary human beings can screw up or fail to do their best, there is no end to the hunt for the guilty, the punishment of the innocent and the promotion of the non-participants. It also results in candidate promotion that is simply unrealistic coupled with an unwillingness to accept that most of the rest of the political world just wants its goodies and really doesn’t care about Saint So-and-So who will lead us to the Promised Land. The stance of absolutes is inherently a minority position.

I started The Confluence because I got into the posting habit and needed a place to go but also because I thought it was important that we who were thrust from the tribe start to find each other again. The Sans Culottes have taken over the netroots but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to sit here and watch it butcher our coalition and do nothing. We need to create a place to go and reassemble, a place of confluence. I may get upset with Obama but that’s because I see him further fracturing our delicate coalition in his attempts to win and I think we need to call him on it before we give him a chance to be our nominee. He is breaking up the liberal left and pulling us to the right, a recipe for disaster as we engage in vicious squabbling stirred up by his zealous Sans Culottes.

Anyway, just go read it. Some of it is over my head but the premises of the argument are very well done.

13 Responses

  1. Molte, molte, molte grazie.

  2. I’m glad that you found Anglachel’s Journal as interesting as I have in the last several months. I found her site by chance from a poster on hillaryis44.org and became a regular visitor to the site shortly after the Iowa caucus. I hope she finds the time to post more of her thoughts. I trust her predictions more than any of the A-list political bloggers.

  3. Dis: It’s amazing how much you learn once you’ve gotten the DailyKos monkey off your back. There is so much quality stuff out there. She’s getting added to the blogroll.

  4. as I said the other day, what are we? French wannabees?

  5. I’m Anglachel’s Journal to my favorites as well. That was a fabulous essay. She managed to say in a well thought out and academic fashion much of what I had come to realize on my own (about the problem of ideologues and purists on the left) but have not been able to articulate. From studying history I have become aware of the problem of revolutionaries and how they so often become that which they set out to destroy.

  6. dont forget how they typically chomp each other for not being true enough to the revolution and leave the door wide open for a Bonaparte.

  7. Judith: Good point. And who will play the part ot Marat?

  8. ooooh – quite a few up for the role if ya ask me. Will you be Charlotte Cordey (sp>)

  9. Judith: sharp objects give me the willies. Besides, I think I’d have to take a number.

  10. Riverdaughter, that answer is sublime.

  11. I’ve read so many comments on so many blogs recently that I don’t remember where I read this… but someone who was an activist in the ’60s pointed out that as time went on the various radical groups got more and more hardline in their politics… started to become more intolerant of dissenting opinions within the group, especially about values, tactics and strategies, and began ousting folks who wouldn’t follow their groupthink.

  12. it’s that deja vous thingie all over again, Yogi.

  13. dragoneyes: sounds about right. I have never much liked peer pressure and groupthink. It irritates me.
    So, here I am. 😉

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