Saturday, October 11, 2008

Politics is NOT war by other means

I have been struck repeatedly of late by the fact that the right-wing in the US is incapable of telling the difference between war and politics. Their attempts to drum up a controversy around Obama's connections with Bill Ayers demonstrate this. The failure of those attempts demonstrates that the populace at large is not so intent on conflating the two.

According to the right, the failure of Obama to denounce Ayers is proof that Obama is at least unprincipled, if not a terrorist-sympathizing crypto-Maoist. The same goes for Obama's willingness to hold talks with Iran. The implicit premise is that one ought to denounce and refuse to interact with anyone with whom one has fundamental disagreements. But if politics is to be something separate from warfare--and absolute warfare, even--then there must be space to talk to and work with one's "enemies." And to criticize one's friends and loved ones--and this indicates that the persistent right-wing claim that Obama "threw his grandma under the bus" in his speech about race is just the flip side of their conflation of war and politics.

It's nothing novel to say that the right-wing is obsessed with purity and bothered by complexity, so I guess I'm saying nothing novel. Still, it's interesting to see them come completely unhinged over Obama's most prominent trait: his political skill. Politics has become a dirty word on the right, a developmen that doesn't bode well for their immediate future success in electoral contests in the US.