Monday, 29 August 2011

Transformational and Transactional Politics

If you want to make any significant long-lasting change in any human thing, any community or practice, that is a political act. Whether you want to institute universal healthcare in the USA, minimise match-fixing and spot-fixing in cricket, or replace clowning with dancing in your local milonga, as soon as you really attempt to do something about it, you are fundamentally attempting to do the same sort of thing - on the continent-sized, medium, and microscopic scales respectively. There are many ways of going about it, even on the tiniest scale.

Here, via Naked Capitalism, is an article by Eric T. Schneiderman from 2008. In 2010, Schneiderman was elected attorney-general of New York. Recently, he's been using his powers to investigate bank fraud (which is what he's supposed to do, but for reasons you need some background for, this is widely considered surprising).

Eric Schneiderman: Transforming the Liberal Checklist: Transactional politics is pretty straightforward. What's the best deal I can get on a gun-control or immigration-reform bill during this year's legislative session? What do I have to do to elect a good progressive ally in November? Transactional politics requires us to be pragmatic about current realities and the state of public opinion. It's all about getting the best result possible given the circumstances here and now.
Transformational politics is the work we do today to ensure that the deal we can get on gun control or immigration reform in a year--or five years, or twenty years--will be better than the deal we can get today. Transformational politics requires us to challenge the way people think about issues, opening their minds to better possibilities. It requires us to root out the assumptions about politics or economics or human nature that prevent us from embracing policies that will make our lives better. Transformational politics has been a critical element of American political life since Lincoln was advocating his "oft expressed belief that a leader should endeavor to transform, yet heed, public opinion."
I invite you to read both this and the article by Matt Stoller praising Schneiderman that directed me to it. To follow Stoller's completely you'd need a little bit of background about mortgage fraud, but you can get the general idea without it.
Power Politics: What Eric Schneiderman reveals about Obama: A lot of people have asked why New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is going after the banks as aggressively as he is. It’s almost unbelievable that one lone elected official, who happens to have powerful legal tools at his disposal, is doing something that no one with any serious degree of power has done. So what is the secret? What kind of machinations is he undertaking that no one else has been able to do?
I’ve known Schneiderman for a few years, back when he was a state Senator working to reform the Rockefeller drug laws. And my answer to this question is pretty simple. He wants to. That’s it. Eric Schneiderman is investigating the banks because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. So he’s doing it.
...  In all the absurdly stupid punditry, the simple application of free will to our elected officials goes missing. Yeah, Obama got money from Wall Street. But Obama is choosing to pursue a policy of foreclosures and bank bailouts not because of any grand corporate scheme. He just wants to. He thinks it’s the right thing to do, and he’s doing it. If you don’t think it’s the right thing to do, then you shouldn’t be disappointed in him any more than you might have been disappointed in Bush.
I think there are valuable insights in both of those, that we can all use in our tiny lives.


cassiel said...

This article is a very good example why I love it, reading your blog. Your thougts are individual and I enjoy the "great escape" while reading. :-) Connecting different approaches allows the escape from a narrowed point of view.



msHedgehog said...

@Cassiel, I was thinking of you when I wrote this actually, glad it worked out!

cassiel said...


ghost said...

From the Milonga 8 review "The loos are roomy, clean and well-lit and have rather spiritual notices about living in peace with the world and switching off the lights"

Didn't seem fair to the venue to put this in that post and it works well here.

The one thing I'd like to change about London tango, more than the cabeceo, the music, floorcraft and musicality would the inclusion of the above notices in the mens toilets saying something along the lines of Wash Your Hands! None of this 'please' nonsense. Some good old fashioned fire and brimstone threats for good measure.

I mean seriously, these are grown ups. Yet about 50% don't even acknowledge the sink's existence. And then they go and dance. :S

And what they don't seem to realise is that they're dancing with women who've been handled by men who also haven't used the sink!

I assume women are better behaved in this regard.

El escritor said...

This article by the always excellent Paul Krugman also sheds light on US mortgage practices:

Thanks for your blog, always informative!

msHedgehog said...

@Ghost: sounds like another postcard. Picture of open-side hands - and message. To be blu-tacked in appropriate places.

ghost said...

@MsH - good idea!

About a year ago a good female friend recommeded getting a small bottle of anti-bacterial spray for my dance bag and using it at the beginning and end of the night as a "shield" against this behaviour.