On Friday, I intended to use some posts from the past to illuminate the political events of the week, but found myself writing about more private problems, about the human condition and my own incapacity in understanding it. Today, I return to more familiar terrain, thinking about the changing American political landscape.
Viewing the Republican presidential debate in Iowa on Thursday, I was reminded why the 2012 election is so important. What the Republicans propose on the economy, on American identity and principles is strikingly different from President Obama’s promise and performance. Day to day, it has seemed that Obama is losing his focus. But I am convinced that he is accomplishing a lot and that the alternative is stark. In April, I presented my guide for judging his Presidency. I think it still applies.
Trying to figure out the stakes in an election requires understanding the issues, and judgment of Obama’s leadership and the Republican alternatives, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it requires an understanding of imagination. Governor Paul LePage of Maine gave clear expression of the right-wing imagination when he ordered the removal of murals celebrating labor at the Maine department of labor – not fair and balanced. These murals are not even particularly provocative. Images of the banned murals were presented in a post by Vince Carducci.
Cultural works that don’t depict a specific worldview offend the Tea Party imagination. And work that can’t be supported through the market, following Tea Party wisdom, is without real value. The cultural and market fundamentalism present a major civilizational challenge.
While this challenge must be met rationally, politics isn’t and shouldn’t be only about reason. Feelings, along with imagination, also are of telling import, as James Jasper explored in a post last Spring.
I feel strongly about the Tea Party, as the Tea Partiers feel strongly about their commitments. I know this is important. How . . .