On Principled Politics

The US presidential election season is upon us, or rather, has been upon us for at least a while since it became clear that Republicans will have Romney as their candidate. Apparently, it’s on. Republicans convene next week to present their ideas and people to the world and so on. With all the unlimited resources the campaign season is characterized by the ever more evident indistinguishability between the candidates: often I find myself unable to tell who is behind a particular political ad until the name of the opponent is clearly identified. It has been like this for a long time, but I don’t think it was this bad in the previous cycles. The irony of this particular crisis of indistinguishability is that we are told that for once we have two clear choices. And yet these two “clear” choices are presented to the public in very similar conceptual forms: we love America, we want it to succeed, here is the best way. I suppose this is the clear result of running not on your principles but on the results of various polls – old people love Medicare, put yourself forward as a defender of it, unemployed want jobs, put yourself forward as the fixer of the economy, students are burdened with debt, put yourself forward as the defender of youth and future opportunities.

There has to be a lesson here: be vague to the point of such ridiculous emptiness that your audiences suspect that you are vague on principle, that you are no concerned with what appeals to them but already know what is good for them. “Trust me, I will save you from your woes, but if you ask me how, you express distrust in my ability to satisfy your needs and that is offensive. Only by relying me fully and completely can you be a voter deserving of my candidacy.”


An interesting analysis of the situation in Egypt:

The first time the presidential guards and the military police showed up at Morsi’s house as part of his security team, his supporters reacted immediately by showering them with stones. It was a natural reaction coming from those young poor members who are part of this revolution at the end of the day and have no love for the army nor the police. Yesterday Morsi entered Tahrir with the presidential guards and the police, via Mohamed Mahmoud Street–the same street that saw bloody battles with the police and the army on several occasions. The RS and others withdrew from the square in protest. But how many other members from the MBs must have also been angry by the army’s presence? How do the young MBs, who’ve been chanting “Death to Tantawi” recently feel about Tantawi remaining the minister of defense, assisted by the notorious General Hassan el-Reweini of the army’s Central Command, who oversaw the Tahrir massacres?

As soon as Morsi’s speech ended in Tahrir, the square echoed strongly with anti-SCAF chants, including one directed at Tantawi, asking him to give the military salute to his president Morsi. In reality, and that’s what will those in the square will discover in the coming days, Morsi has no power whatsoever vis a vis Tantawi and SCAF. And every compromise he will make will cost him and his group disillusioned supporters and splits.

The entire piece is here.

After Mubarak… (updated with links)

A compelling article by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham in Foreign Affairs, “The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak”

With the end of the Mubarak era looming on the horizon, speculation has turned to whether the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate the new Egyptian political landscape. As the largest, most popular, and most effective opposition group in Egypt, it will undoubtedly seek a role in creating a new government, but the consequences of this are uncertain. Those who emphasize the risk of “Islamic tyranny” aptly note that the Muslim Brotherhood originated as an anti-system group dedicated to the establishment of sharia rule; committed acts of violence against its opponents in the pre-1952 era; and continues to use anti-Western, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. But portraying the Brotherhood as eager and able to seize power and impose its version of sharia on an unwilling citizenry is a caricature that exaggerates certain features of the Brotherhood while ignoring others, and underestimates the extent to which the group has changed over time.

Read the rest here. Or, here’s Wickham’s last paragraph: Continue reading