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Thu Mar 3, 2016, 10:34 AM

When it's Grievance Politics vs Success Politics, won't "success" always win?

Sanders preaches a politic of grievance. We, the 99%, have a grievance against the 1%. And we are going to seize the reins of power and take back from them what they have taken from us. And we are going to make them like it.

Clinton preaches a sort of center-left politics of success. We are going to tear down all the barriers that stand in your way (that's the left part) so that you can live up to your dreams, make the most of your talents -- i.e succeed. (that's the center part).

Now you can do either grievance based politics or success based politics from either the left or the right. Grievances are not confined to one side or the other. And everybody loves to succeed. Success, as such, has no real enemies -- though success won unfairly, at the expense of others is another matter.

Trump, for example, preaches both a politics of grievance and a politics of success. He's going to make the country great again, by kicking out and kicking the asses of our enemies, domestic and foreign. They have ripped our country off, beaten it down. blah, blah, blah. Though Trump illustrates that a politics of grievance and a politics of success are not mutually exclusive, his own particular grievances are based on hatred and prejudice and ignorance, and his formula for success is a sham.

Hillary too illustrates that you can combine grievance with success -- and in a much more appealing package than Trump does. Talking about "breaking down all the barriers," as Clinton now likes to do, gives you a place to hang a list of grievances, while also articulating a formula for success. Some of the barriers have been unfairly placed in our way by other people and on the behalf of some at the expense of others. She can talk of "ending systemic racism, mass incarceration, etc..." -- unfair barriers all -- not merely out of a sense of grievance - but as instrumental to greater human flourishing and success. Breaking down the barriers enables those unfairly held back by them to flourish and succeed. And we are not just going to bring greater fairness, "We are going to build ladders of opportunity."

I don't really want to overstate the differences between a politics of grievance and a politics of success too much. A politics of grievance and a politics of success might actually opt for the same or at least overlapping concrete policy prescriptions. But they would probably frame them differently.

Grievance based politics frames the policies that it seeks to justify in terms of demands for fairness and equality, more or less as ends in themselves. But again, that's not because grievance based politics is intrinsically anti-success. Grievance based politics just tends not to take success as it's immediate goal. Grievance based politics wants first to restore or institute anew fairness and then ensure that it is maintained. But a grievance based politics can embrace success too, as long as the success of some isn't achieved at the unfair expense of others.

Similarly, success based politics isn't necessarily opposed to fairness.

Of course, you CAN have a success-based politics that dismisses fairness as an important goal. That's what success based politics tends to do when its played from the right, rather than from the left. Right wing, success based politicians tend to dismiss calls for fairness as something only losers care about. My point is just that that's not a feature of success based politics as such.

When I say that Sanders practices a politics of grievance and Clinton a politics of success, I don't mean to say that Sanders is unconcerned with success and Clinton unconcerned with fairness.

Staying on the progressive side, and not concerning myself with the right wing versions, I do think, that a politics of grievance will lose out to a politics of success almost every time. A politics of success can co-opt and reframe in a more uplifting, less divisive way the legitimate points made by the politics of grievance. A politics of success has the potential to appeal simultaneously to the struggling, the striving, and the successful, as Clinton likes to call them, without dividing them from each other.

We will remove the (unfair) barriers that stand in the way of the struggling so that they too can strive and achieve success. We don't hate the successful, we don't begrudge or envy their success. We demand only that they pursue success within a system that is fair and gives opportunity to all. Indeed, we celebrate and enlist the successful, at least to the extent that they play by the rules, and join us in building ladders of opportunities for the struggling, so that they too can strive and succeed. This is something that we all can do together. This is not a zero sum game. It is a win-win-win game.

The politics of grievance has a much harder time wrapping us all up together in a common mission. In the hands of the inept or outright demagogues it can devolve into something extremely divisive -- calls to narrow, identity based, classed based, grievances, pure us vs them stuff.

Don't get me wrong. It needn't do that. If a politician is broad-minded enough and skilled enough at threading the needle, without sounding wishy-washy or devoid of conviction, he or she might be able to weave back and forth between a narrative of success and a narrative of grievance.

Bill Clinton was sort of a master at that sort of thing. He talked about a new covenant, rewarding those who "work hard and play by the rules," but were getting screwed. He wasn't excessively focused on fairness as such, as an end in itself, but more on calling all to a common national mission -- that's what the new covenant and the third way, was all about, at least in theory. What it became in practice, well, that's another matter.

Hillary is trying to learn to do more of that. That's what the combination of "breaking down barriers" and her talk of the "struggling, striving, and successful" are aimed at enabling her to do -- address grievances, without denigrating success. Indeed, it enables her to celebrate fairly won success.

Bernie needs to find a way to get more success based talk into his narrative. The dominant themes are fairness and grievance. He does have his optimistic tropes. But not enough of them. The grievances stand out above all.

To my mind fronting grievances, at least in national elections, is mostly a formula for failure. Not saying a politics of grievance never wins. It wins often on a smaller scale. But when you're talking to all the people and trying to build broad-based coalitions, grievance only goes so far.

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Reply When it's Grievance Politics vs Success Politics, won't "success" always win? (Original post)
kennetha Mar 2016 OP
JaneyVee Mar 2016 #1
kennetha Mar 2016 #2
Bluenorthwest Mar 2016 #3
Matariki Mar 2016 #4
whatchamacallit Mar 2016 #5
Ron Green Mar 2016 #6
Eric J in MN Mar 2016 #7
kennetha Mar 2016 #9
99th_Monkey Mar 2016 #8
NurseJackie Mar 2016 #10

Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 10:40 AM

1. This is a gem and one of the best things Ive read on DU in almost a year.

 

It also highlights a big reason why Hillary has so much support; I think Democrats tend to choose optimism over cynicism.

Thanks.

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Response to JaneyVee (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 10:55 AM

2. thanks

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 10:57 AM

3. Last time I listened to Hillary it was all complaints about those gay people wanting to marry and

 

she voiced endless grievance over it, claimed her God agreed with her and guided her to oppose the civil rights of millions of Americans, she was very upset that such inferior beings dared seek equality with the glorious Christian Straights of America. It was her speech to Rick Warren's church in which he lavished praise on Rick who called LGBT couples pedophiles and criminals, 'like incest' he said, and she just loved him.
That's when I signed off, when I hear any candidate holding up human beings for degradation and unequal treatment, I just stop listening to them. She spent about 10 years too long on the 'Sermons Against Equality' circuit.

I understand that that sort of divisive denigration of others is very appealing to many voters but I just don't care for it, aimed at me or at anyone else.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:00 AM

4. "Why do you want to punish success?"

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:01 AM

5. "Success politics"

About as meaningful as "A tradition of winning" or any other empty slogan.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:21 AM

6. I would instead characterize it as Lying Politics vs

Last edited Thu Mar 3, 2016, 01:04 PM - Edit history (1)

Truthful Politics. The fact is that the system IS bought and working for only the elites. Trump lies about why it doesn't work for everyone. Clinton lies THAT it's working.

Whatever candidate says "oligarchy" is acknowledging a grievance, but is on Step One of success.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:25 AM

7. Which would make it easier for the typical middle-class family to succeed?

- free college tuition and healthcare-as-a-right (Bernie Sanders)

- a vague promise to "break down barriers" (Hillary Clinton)

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Response to Eric J in MN (Reply #7)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:26 AM

9. That's why I said

Bernie has his optimistic tropes. Cause he does.

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:26 AM

8. American voters love "successful" liars, job killers, and Wall St. cheerleaders. not. nt

 

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Response to kennetha (Original post)

Thu Mar 3, 2016, 11:31 AM

10. Wow! Nicely done! Excellent.

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