The United States and
The End of a Playful Era
Courtesy for CWN By Aníbal Romero ( Columnist for El Nacional Newspaper, Venezuela)
In 1998 I published a short political essay titled “the sense of play and liberal democracy” which can be found by interested parties in my webpage. I will quote two introductory paragraphs looking to place you in the right context for the purpose of this article: There exists fundamental relationships between a sense of “play”, or the other side of the seriousness of life and the actual practice of liberal Democracy. Put in different words, Liberal Democracy will live on and endure as long as it sustains itself on a view of politics as a commitment to the acceptance of rules and the adequate conceptualization of politics as one – and not necessarily the most important one- of all the levels of human existence.
This view of politics as a commitment is opposed to the one of politics as an affirmation of identity in terms of “the other”. Politics as a commitment implies, among other things, the acceptance of the other as a similar (it may be an opponent or a circumstantial and occasional adversary but not an enemy), the compliance to common rules of conduct as well as the understanding that there are more important things than politics that should not make us take it excessively serious. The politics of identity, on the other hand, views the other as a real or potential enemy. It does not admit general rules of mutual acceptance and sees politics as a tool to discover and affirm their own identity or that of a group in terms of control, manipulation, dominance or vanquish of the other.
Liberal Democracy is one kind of political order designed to resolve internal conflicts in a framework of peaceful stability and compliance to a set of rules. It is about a flexible order that fosters the dynamic of conflict within certain limits. Nevertheless, once that dynamic reaches the second plane of existential definition, in which one or several of political players lose their sense of play and assume politics as a ground base to assert their own identity before the other- viewed as an enemy-, liberal Democracy runs the risk of erosion and eventual suppression, asphyxiated by external conflicts that destroy the “game” by disrupting the rules. The politics in a liberal Democracy, hence, demand the active presence of a playful attitude as a dimension of an individual and collective life. We should add to this playful element in politics, a sense of festive as a complement to an understanding of politics that it not be stagnant in the search for an identity but rather accepts the notion and whenever possible, enjoy the common existence based on liberty for all individuals under the law (and rules) and settles about the differences through pacific means and play (non-existential) of conflicts.
The sense of festive is part of the game of life in both its dimensions, individual and collective: It is part of play and it intensifies and exalts a civilized understanding of politics capable of moderating the implications and authoritarian propensities of politics of identity.
What I wish to estate is that American Democracy has been losing the sense of playfulness at a rapid rate and hence, getting tangled in an ever-growing existential confrontation that is reaching its peak with unpredictable and surely negative consequences. I wish to identify three key points:
The acute process of the existential tendency vis-à-vis the playful one, started in a very clear way back in the 60’s of last century with the Vietnam war which acted as a catalyst to the phenomenon. I don’t mean to assert that before that time, American politics was a kind of pacifist utopia or a paradise. However, the Vietnam experience produced a big rift between citizens and the institutions, an irreverent attitude towards symbols and values that had prevailed during decades, a sort of over the top cynicism and an obvious movement of the Democratic Party towards the politics of identity and genre with a deep dividing feeling of society. The two main Parties, Democrats and Republicans share to a certain degree the blame in this process but I have no doubt that Democrats carry the biggest burden of the responsibility for what happened.
It has been the Democratic party the one to bring in the politics of identity with a twitch of undeniable racial content. You may ask. What would the political-cultural left that controls the traditional Media say if 90% of whites voted for the Republicans? Would they not talk of racism? And Even though 90% of African-Americans vote Democrat, nobody seems surprise? Why? The paroxysm of these tendencies is being felt in the times of Donald Trump.
What we are seeing is not at all new, but it does make a very important qualitative change in the course of the destruction of the sense of playfulness in American politics and the change of this political confrontation is an existential question foreign to any purpose of reconciliation, consensus and compromise. The political struggle is centered in the destruction of the adversary, in this case of Donald Trump who is perceived by the Democratic Party and its allies as an enemy that must be eliminated because his legitimacy of origin has never been accepted.
The Republican opposition fought Obama with intensity, but it is not known that it existed as it does now, as a patent effort coordinated by the intelligence agencies, the bureaucracy burrowed in the many Departments of the so called “Deep State” and the main and traditional Media in cahoots with the Democratic Party to curtail any possibility that the new President further his agenda and to radically question any facts presented about his decisions and conduct without any discrimination in an open and also buried conspiracy aimed without regrets to remove him from the White House no matter how or when and as soon as possible.
All of this is called “Resistance” as if the United States were France between 1940 and 1944 and the Nazis had moved to Washington. The traditional Media who are losing ground, credibility and influence for many years, have chosen to line up, definitely and decidedly with the Democrat party. This unequivocally changes their role in American society. Media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the four Los Angeles Times and the Television Networks CNN, ABC and CBS among others no longer exist to inform but to participate in the political arena as instruments of one of the sides in the fray. For those who still believe that rift between the “left “and the “right” has lost its meaning in our times, I recommend you take a close look at the current American policy and you will easily confirm that such difference has more legitimacy than ever.
In this context, the traditional Media has chosen to unmask themselves by playing a total biased role. Let us remember that such bias was in plain view during this past election. The defeat of Mrs. Clinton not only took the Media by surprise in the United States as well as Europe and Latin America but also it stripped away their clothes before public opinion. The humiliation experienced by the defeat of their forecasts has been mixed with unlimited indignation and untethered rage manifested in the obsession of the Media to end Trump’s presidency by use of any tools regardless of the chance that it might violate the law.
Neither the Democratic party nor the Media, bureaucrats and intelligence agencies at their service have accepted nor will ever accept Trump’s victory and the rejection to his legitimacy has become an irrevocable principle of the Democratic conduct. Since Last November, the Democrats have brushed, questioned or underestimated the rules of the political system. Among them, the electoral system portraying Trump as an unfavorable character by his own existence. All of this is set in a framework of sworn enemies that already ended the playfulness in American politics.
In a nutshell, for the American and international political-cultural left, Trump’s victory has not been assumed as a political defeat but rather as an event that twists around what Obama (a Hegelian of new make) called “ the right course of history”. Like a scatological trauma that offends divine orders. Therefore, there is no possible arrangement with a reality that is viewed as a crack in the cosmic order, an unacceptable insult that demands an existential answer void of any distinction and denied of any conciliatory possibility.
It is worth mentioning, that Democrats are right to fear Trump since his is shaking the floor under them. In this sense, if they carefully read articles for example, by Mario Vargas Llosa against Trump, it is easy to confirm that this type of intellectual- top western thinker- says the problem with Trump is precisely not that he is a populist. In truth, all the current political Democrats are populists in more or less measure (including Mrs. Merkel and her “refugees”).
The real problem is that Trump is a right-wing populist and that is unforgiven. It is of course, very complicated to give a prognosis about the possible ending of this process of radical confrontation. Trump has proved that it is a mistake to underestimate him. In order to achieve a better understanding of what is happening, it is advisable to go past the overwhelming offensive by the traditional Media and try to be informed by other venues about the perception of that deep America (the deplorable) that delivered Trump to the presidency. An America that the elites of the left spread around the seaboards of the country, look down upon and based on what I have found, does not approve what is obvious being done to the Democratic party and its allies. But sure enough, the same as in 2015 and 2016, an effort must be made to discover the truth.
Anibal Romero, is a Philosopher, political scientist and PhD in Strategic Studies (King’s College, London). Current Lecturer at the Simón Bolívar University, Venezuela. www.anibalromero.net