It seems ridiculous that the most famous utterance in living memory by a speaker of the House is that all politics is local. Those days are over.
But they don’t have to be. All that our legions of disgruntled Americans have to do is reject the animating principle of the parties: that if you’re searching for meaning, the only way you can find it through politics is to struggle for national power.
That fearsome proposition is the key to the parties’ power. It’s why, no matter how much money they raise, how much money they spend, or how much they fail in the process, voters keep coming back. And it’s why both parties work so relentlessly to co-opt the movements at their margins, laying claim to their causes to the precise extent that they don’t threaten their power . . .
All too swiftly, our protests fall in line with the hallmarks of party machines — the symbolism and the slogan-mongering, the clotting around established power centers, the divorce of political action from the places we call home. It’s not just that the targets of today’s national protects so quickly become abstractions, as Conor Friedersdorf observes at The Atlantic. That’s a symptom of the deeper problem. Even anti-establishment politics is being abstracted from real life because people are convinced at some gut level that this is the only way they can compete with the parties for attention and passion.
[Our politics will fail] unless the mastery of our two parties over our political imaginations is broken — and along with it, the obsession with national policy that they cultivate to perpetuate control. If there’s really to be a revolution, the next act in today’s American protests will have to be going home — not just to a job (or a job search), but to the places where we really can govern ourselves again.Some time ago, the people of the United States ceased to believe in the fiction that they are represented by the Republican and Democratic parties. The edifice of the two-party state is built on sand. All we need to do is dig it out and it will come tumbling down.