The failure of political imagination: political suicide, because I dunno...
So, let's see, Donald Trump is threatening to withhold funding for schools if they don't reopen in September. Why? Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti explore:
That's right, folks. Trump's move, opposed by a majority of Republicans even, is part of Betsy DeVos' campaign to privatize the public schools. It's political suicide. But do they care? No. It's ideology.
Which reveals how the failure of political imagination works. In the midst of the compound crisis, we may be able to avoid political suicide, we may be able to avoid suicide as a nation, as a species, as part of a complex ecosystem, through the exercise of some sort of creativity that is within us, including (and I emphasize this here) our political creativity. Will we do this? Part of the answer depends upon the strength which ideologies hold upon our brains. To the extent that we are guided in our actions by some unimaginative adherence to ideological standards, the answer will be "no."
Krystal Ball thinks, as per the video, that these people succeed because they persist, even though right now this move is political suicide. That may have been true in the past, but I don't think it will be true this time around. This time around people will look at them and think of the death toll caused by their actions, the people in their lives who will not be around because of the decisions they made. The DeVos Faithful are not coming back.
Part of me wonders if anyone has actually sat Donald Trump down and told him that he's pursuing a path of political suicide. Like anyone in a position to do this would be scared away from sitting Trump down and giving him "the talk" because Trump would fire them after "the talk" when it's plain that there's no future with the guy anyway. And my question goes for all of these people who have hitched their careers to the political success of a Republican who has, through his choices, managed to make Texas into a swing state and, indeed, one in which he is doing poorly. Do they know they are committing political suicide as well? "Well, when you ask us, we'll give you all the standard platitudes about career success and so on. But here and now we're choosing political suicide, because I dunno..."
As a result of the Trump decision, we can imagine a lot of conflicted teachers who will go back to work anyway because (name your excuse). Many of them will go the way of the principals who met to discuss reopening who were infected, at that meeting, with COVID-19. Eventually, though, they will all come around to the idea that there are more imaginative ways of living in the world than teacherly suicide because I dunno... and then, and only then, there will be revolt, at least from those teachers who are still left standing. It will be massive, and nationwide. Already a couple of districts in California have decided to go all-online. Could an awakening to higher meaning be too far behind?
One of the things we can see most prominently in the collective American mishandling of the coronavirus is the damage the virus and its response have done to the capitalist system. For decades, now, the US government "management" of capitalism has been to hand the rich enormous piles of money and to tell everyone else to f*ck off. This approach, applied repetitively and unimaginatively, did not cause wholesale economic failure before 2020 because the compound crisis had not reached the proportions it has now. Even the downturn of 2008-2009 had a recovery, albeit a slow one. But the past is over, and handing the rich enormous piles of money this year, through the CARES Act, has been a disaster.
And unimaginative nostalgia for the past is not going to make things any better. Nonetheless, we can expect large portions of America to continue to pine for those glory days of yesteryear when the economy was robust and they could make a living. At some point, we can hope, the human imagination will kick in, and people will start to ask: "could we perhaps survive with something better than capitalism?" Until such time as we actually ask such a question, we'll be lost.
One of the interesting things about Stanley Milgram's (1974) book Obedience to Authority was that he suggested that there was a twelve-step process that one had to go through in one's head before one could feel comfortable actively disobeying authorities. Hopefully by now we've all gone through some of those steps already.