Fact Finding Missions: On Job Creation & Political Discourse
Let’s share facts. President Bush’s job creation policies were so horrid that Obama’s too-small stimulus created more jobs in one year than Bush’s policies created in eight. That’s a fact. When your right wing friends and family members say stupid things about this, give them the facts. Popular media is not educating people, opting instead for reporting on what politicians say about policy and editorializing. It makes for entertaining media, but nothing much of substance results.
I looked around the web for a post about job creation stats with actual links to the data (for crying out loud Balloon Juice and Think Progress didn’t, what’s up with that?) and found this post, from January, with almost all the pertinent links. We need to know the facts and how to repeat the facts and how to send people to the data supporting the facts.
It’s not enough to disagree with people who are merely repeating propaganda. I’m a teacher. I believe the best way to get the average conservative ditto-head thinking is to share information with him, is to teach him, which is to say, is to insist he recognize the facts. Most of the time I do this one of two things happens. First, and more often, my conservative colleague or friend angrily quits the discussion. This is a good thing: a silent, albeit frustrated, admission they understand what I have shared whether or not they want to admit it, think about it and cope with it. I say, let them stew. This sort of repression experiences a quick return. Never agree to disagree. Second, and more often than I would like to give my conservative friends credit for, a reasonable debate about ideas that can move our disagreement towards consensus does occur.
I was listening to Sam Seder debate John Nolte the other day on The Majority Report. (You should all support this show.) Despite Nolte’s recalcitrance to fairly consider Sam’s ideas, I think Nolte was trying to save face, he listened and actually gave some ground. As expected, it sounded as if Sam received many messages from his liberal listeners advising him to ignore the right wingers, that talking to them is a waste of time. I vehemently disagree.
First, it’s entertaining stuff. More importantly, though, Sam publicly modeled his principles through discourse with somebody he disagreed with while at the same time distributing useful and accurate information to his listeners, some of whom are conservatives. I think the model is useful, necessary, good, and part of what is vital about a free press and the freedom to associate. Conservative methodology is to shrink association and the means to distribute information in order to better control it and limit critical thinking about it. We should not model that.
Through the conflicts we encounter with others whom we disagree with in our public discourse communities, we can arrive at a better consensus. Social difference is not a bad thing; it drives democracy.
Back to the debate about policies meant to stimulate job creation. It’s a basic debate. It’s an important one that addresses several basic principles about our social contract and the market economy. We should insist on discussing it with our conservative friends. Their disagreement and/or support of GOP leadership on this point is based on bad information about basic facts that, should we find more consensus about, would lead to better policies.
Both liberals and conservatives in the mainstream discourse community typically possess little to no education about the primary principles of the market. I taught Business Ethics to college students at a city college. None—yes, really, none—of my students in the three years I taught that course had any educational background about these principles. (Yes, people read Business Biographies and trade press publications about economics, but that’s not education about the principles of our market. Being able to quote Warren Buffet is not the same as being educated about business.) Yet, once we began our reading, they were more than capable of having mature discussions about the reality of corporate and political strategies that effect us and the market. I simply had to insist, work hard to enough to discover a way to make the difficult reading worthwhile.
I have found, over and over, when I help to create space for people I disagree with to disagree yet converse, I experience successful and meaningful discourse. On the other hand, if I construct a space for discourse that addresses only the surface of issues vis a vis what we call talking points and the meaningless binaries such discourse relies on, I am never satisfied. In addition, no learning occurs.
It’s worth it to step into the uncomfortable conflict of a debate with our friends, colleagues and family members. Politicians always let me down, but my friends and neighbors energize me and my thinking about the world. We need to insist that we radicalize not only our everyday political discourse, but our basic pedagogies—the way we think about educating each other about basic principles of everyday life.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not stumping for President Obama. I voted for him, sure, but I don’t think it was too difficult to understand, from the very beginnings of his campaign, that he was not going to be a radical reformer who’d usher in sweeping reforms that many of his romantic supporters believed he would be. His message was passionately delivered, but his actual policies were nothing to be savored. (His educational policy team makes me want to vomit. His economic policy team was not so much nothing new as it was the same old thing.)
I’m not a left winger who purchases the liberal idealism of the non-Republican, US political leadership. I’m an actual leftist activist. We need to accept that everyday we should be out in the streets educating and changing the discourse and shaping public space in our local communities. I’m not a pessimist, nor a realist: just bummed out the left can’t seem to figure out how to organize a politically effective movement that is solid enough to shape Democrats’ policies, campaigns, voting habits, et al. We couldn’t even get the President to go stand with the teachers in Wisconsin. Something he actually said he would do. He could only muster up enough care to speak to the idealism about just treatment for public employees. Basically, he gave a scolding and ignored the protest. The fact is, it didn’t hurt him not to go; so, he didn’t go. It should hurt him not to go. But that’s up to us.
I’m not looking for the left-wing alternative to the Tea Party. That’s a corporate movement, fully sponsored by mainstream conservative leaders to corral the far right, give it a voice, manage it—to succesfully bargain with it. The left wing doesn’t need that, should shun it at all costs.
Look, we need to insist that the media and our leaders address issues effectively and properly. President Obama isn’t going to do this for us, or have his Administration do it for us. The media, apparently, is not going to this for us.
Got to go teach.