Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Radical Transparency

Here is what might be an interesting discussion on the WikiLeaks dumping of John Podesta's emails.  (I don't know, I'm proctoring an essay and can't listen to it.)

I will admit that I find Glenn Greenwald an insufferable douchecanoe who lives in the sort of Magical Unicorn Land of Brightly Colored Pixies that typifies a certain type of Libertarian Narcissist.
But I wanted to talk about the very idea of "radical transparency."  Klein, apparently, feels that there should be limits to this transparency, because - SURPRISE! - it might be applied to her.  It turns out that taking pot shots at the powerful isn't so much fun when you yourself become a public figure.

I would argue even further that the very idea of radical transparency is corrosive of democratic government.

By all means, government ACTIONS should be transparent.  Bills should not be forced through a vote in the middle of the night without sufficient public review.  The deliberation that go into writing a law absolutely should be secret.  The horse-trading and log-rolling that typified legislating prior to the Tea Party and the radical transparency movement is what made the whole freaking mess work.  American democracy didn't work because it was "super awesome with terrific sauce" but because it consisted - from the very drafting of the Constitution - in a series of backroom deals and compromises.

The radical transparency movement seeks to destroy that climate of private deal making.  This is the ultimate expression of purity politics.  We expect elected officials to agree with us all the time, and if they deviate from the One True Faith, we shall excommunicate and crucify them.  This is more true on the Tea Party right, but certainly represents a powerful force on Left.

Hillary Clinton is - in many ways - the perfect person for this moment.  She is very adept at backroom dealing and compromise. She's a doer.  And she's also completely out of fucks to give about how people view her.  She probably resents being called Killary or Shillary by her putative allies, but in the end, she's tougher than most people give her credit for.

I would love to see us return to a few more smoke filled rooms, a few more efforts at compromise legislation that don't get torpedoed by someone leaking the deliberations to the rapist in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Ultimately, I want politics to work again.  It doesn't have to be pure, and I don't have to agree with it.  I don't expect my politics to be like a Netflix cue where I hand select exactly the show I want to watch, while my son watches something else in the next room.  I expect it to be like family movie night where we argue and search for compromise and eventually wind up watching something we can all agree on.  The Netflix option is easier.  By far.

But family movie night is so much healthier and robust.  We've lost that capacity in our politics, and I would argue that while our a la carte approach to life in the Internet Age is partly to blame, the creed of radical transparency simply makes it worse.

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