Distinctions without Differences & Protective Imitation
Cross-posted at the Brave New Films Blog.
Primaries are about differentiation. Differences in the candidates' records; differences in the candidates' policy positions; differences in the candidates' ideologies. Well, at least they should be. Sadly, the more and more (or less and less) I watch/listen to political dialogue and commentary about these Presidential primaries and this upcoming Presidential election, I'm hearing a vague message of "change" that is doing little to concretely differentiate the candidates or further this country's dilapidated political discourse.
Real differences are likely not being drawn between candidates on the Democratic side because there may be few real differences between the remaining candidates (I can't see much). The question is: why? There are some distinctions in their voting records, but the differences are minute. Do they?
Ralph Nader doesn't think so, and he offers an interesting take on why. He calls the messages from Obama (and in my opinion Clinton by extension) about "change" and "one people" and "one nation" as ideas that live on a (my emphasis added):
…high plain of generality and abstraction…that doesn't do much for the productivity of the political dialogue. He does not get specific enough. Therefore, I think his main problem is he's censoring himself, and that is not sufficiently rationalized by saying that's just a tactic to win the primaries and get elected. After awhile, day after day, week after week, when you self-censor yourself, you become a different person, and it's a reflection on character.
He also goes on to call Obama's positions "protective imitations" of Clinton's positions, which I too believe are distinct in some instances, but not different.
My real problem is that the candidates that represented real differences have dropped out or suspended their campaigns. I want change and inspiration and all that good stuff. I just want it to be a result of the changes that will be made in poor people's lives, in Black people's lives, etc. I don't want to down-shift into "I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is" mode so easily. I want to push the candidates to take forceful, meaningful stances on issues, not unmarkedly "different" positions at levels above average citizens' day-to-day lives and struggles. Those candidates of difference I referred to earlier did that. Who's going to do that now?
The people. The voters. The activists. That's who. The question is, will the candidates listen and do something real? We'll know soon enough.