Showing posts from August, 2011

Progressives don't see Obama clearly because of our racial blind spots.

The predominately white progressive intelligentsia don't see Obama clearly because of our racial blind spot.  We don't see the role of race in how he seems to understand himself and how other perceive him.

First of all, we think that he understands himself as one of us.  A progressive activist, heir to the radical and New Left movements most of us were raised in.  He is not; I think that he understands himself (and certainly his real base understands him) as the first African American President.  We're thinking Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  We should be thinking about Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago.  Washington was elected and immediately faced a solid wall of opposition from most white aldermen in the city.  Washington understood his role as breaking down that wall of opposition and assembling a governing majority, which he finally did after his re-election.  Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter.  By the way, one of Washington's …

Negative Mimetic Desire and Negotiating

All these high-stakes negotiating crises in Washington DC seem to be polarizing rather than unifying -- both for the people in the negotiations and for us, the observers of the spectacle.

I think that it is because they are exercises in Negative Mimetic Desire.

Mimetic Desire is a term I got from Rene Girard and refers to the pattern of wanting what other people want.  To go further, in most situations most of us do not know what we want until we observe other people wanting it.  We imitate other people's desires.

Negative mimetic desire is wanting what some particular other people reject, because they reject it.

In the very complicated world of public policy and federal government financing, most of us do not have a clue about the merits of one proposal over another.  We depend on signals from opinion leaders we trust that this proposal is good and that one is bad.  We end up wanting as non-negotiable what the others have said they cannot accept.

During the health care debate…