The pundits don’t have their analysis of the election wrong. Theirs is simply too narrow a perspective to encompass what is going on. We are undergoing a major paradigm shift and it has apparently escaped detection.
The basic shift is from a “power over” dynamic to a “power with” dynamic, or from top down power to side-by-side power. Another quick way of saying it is from vertical power imposition to horizontal power sharing. To some degree the shift has been occurring under the radar.
David Corn, of Mother Jones, was asked why the press did not pick up on Obama’s approach as “power with.” He responded, “When he was campaigning, we thought Obama was really bringing a different approach to Washington. But when his administration started, they seemed to take a more typical approach.” Typical may mean the appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as chief of staff, and the top down Chicago entourage that made up the bulk of his administration. And it is possible that Candidate Obama, himself, did not see his approach as a major shift.
The community organizer-in-chief botched a more definitive applications of the approach, treating the Congress like a bunch of welfare mothers from the south side of Chicago, rather than as the catatonic collaborators they were determined to be.
David Axelrod, when asked at the LBJ Library about the paradigm shift, responded, “What paradigm shift?” To him, it was a new concept, leaving whom in the Obama administration who could establish and shepherd this major new approach through the process?
How many white men perceived a loss of privilege and entitlement with the election of an African-American as president? It had always been “us in charge. That’s the way life is.” Until it no longer is.
White privilege is not discussed every day, and certainly not among many who were blindsided by their loss. So it is possible to go through life without seeing it for what it is – a privilege. It has always been thus.
The entitlement came with birth and white skin and being born male. No discussion necessary. But when a privilege is taken away, it manifests as a loss. And, while the first step in the grieving process is shock or depression, the next step is “anger.” And a lot of angry men, and women, voted in this election.
It is also a matter of record and research, that many men access their emotions through anger. And rather than distinguish and clarify what the real feeling is, it is easier to stay mad. And to blame absolutely everything that isn’t “right” in their world on the attributed single omnipotent cause – Obama himself. With luck, his legacy can be erased, or we can use “white out” on the documents. It will be as if he was never there, and his active opponents would have colluded in a massive act of denial — if Obama had no lasting impact, they can pretend he was never there. They have erased his legacy.
When a major entrenched practice or privilege is dying or on its way out, those who have benefited or gained life from it, will fight fiercely to keep resuscitate it. So, if it helps to think of Godzilla thrashing around and destroying Tokyo. This reptilian brain aspect of security will not be denied or eliminated for the entitled whites who benefited if they can help it; any more than Putin’s image of restoring Russia to it’s Soviet Union prominence is going to die an easy death.
The direction of establishing a paradigm shift is like a roller coaster. Remember your first love, probably in high school. There you were, on top of the world, feeling wonderful, head in the clouds, thinking it would go on forever. Then, you got dumped. You took a big dive. And when you recovered, you may have determined to rise again.
The next time things ended against your wishes, you already had two experiences of staying alive through the changes in your social life. You got your feet under you, and began to find some predictability about your survival and recovery. Love won out.
Using the roller coaster as a model, the Obama win of the presidency was a striking example of a paradigm shift. However, the death knell to white entitlement accompanied by challenges posed by the digital revolution, immigrants adding to the insult by taking jobs, erosion of majority status, and increased stress on the “burden” of being a provider with diminished returns on effort in a slow recovery economy, may have imposed unbearable requirements along with the loss of entitlement. That left many with less – Prometheus pushing a larger boulder up a steeper incline. The environmental stressors alone might have triggered this revolution at the ballot box, let alone the imposition of dark skin at the top.
Maintaining a Hierarchy – Collusion of Parties Required
The NYPD Chief of Police, of 27,000 uniforms and 8,000 civilians, was attempting to bend the straightened arm of his 45 year old female assistant. At first attempt, it seemed impossible, but with repeated attempts, he succeeded. I had taught his assistant the “unbendable arm” technique from my Aikido training earlier in the day. But during a break that followed the exercise, she came over to me and confided, “I could have held my arm straight as long as I wanted. But, when I saw the look on the chief’s face, I just knew that I had to let him bend my arm.”
She colluded to help him maintain his position on the hierarchy. Just as it takes collusion for two people always have one as the dominant and the other as the submissive. The submissive usually knows that the dominant, who had an ego based on sustaining his position of “venerability” also has a soft underbelly of “vulnerability.” The partner just simply does not choose to use what they know, so s/he colludes as well, to keep from exposing the dominant.
When your only claim to dominance is the color of the skin you were born with, while you are also being burdened by a lifelong, gender based requirement to “provide” for a family, the loss of that privilege together with the increased pressure to provide can wreak an agonizing response from those whose self-perception seems like one entrapped by gender. Is it any surprise that they would reject the second nail in their coffin by electing a woman?
Power With approaches will grow in skill and impact. However, the first major attempt may have left some cynical, because it was not done well. That makes the second upsweep in the roller coaster more difficult. Or it will be done more consciously and with more determination by those attempting to share the power and include more in governance.