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12.11.02

Goodbye To All That

The "vital center" strategy has landed the [Democratic] party in the mushy middle, pitifully trolling around for illusive suburbanites, astonished that its subtle rhetorical dance wasn't enchanting busy voters. The middle should never be a destination for a political party. The middle is a byproduct of the tug-of-war of ideas. Politics has been trending conservative because the right has been tugging harder than the left. Political territory has to be created through argument and combat. It's not static space. Civil rights activists understood this when they started out in the 1940s. The founders of the modern environmental movement did, too, in the late 1960s, just as America's founders did almost 300 years ago.

- via Electrolite


This is an important point, which unfortunately isn't fully elaborated in the article. It points out the flaw in trying to apply (often quantitative) systems thinking to social and ecological problems: there are no independent variables. You can't assume one factor will stay static and then look at how other factors adjust to it. Democratic strategists were wrong because they assumed that the political opinions of the electorate were a given, and they could then adapt their message accordingly. But radical movements are often wrong as well, because they assume that the electorate will shift to accomodate their views.

The world would be a boring place if we could line up everything in a nice chain of causality, where each level adapts itself to the conditions dictated by the previous. Instead, we have everything constantly adjusting to everything else, only to find that everything else has re-adjusted to it.

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