Are radical politics only for the marginalized?

It’s a familiar pattern in U.S. history – a marginalized group, racial, ethnic, social class, or lifestyle embraces radical notions early on in their campaign for equal rights. As time passes, and said group becomes – at least in some circles – more accepted, the marginalized abandon, usually piecemeal, their previous radical ideologies for something more palatable to the mainstream.
The perception thus created is that radical politics are somewhat adolescent – it’s a phase that a person or a group goes through on their way to becoming mature two party voting members of the greater American community.
But why is that?
More on this after I’ve had some time to think about it.


~ by Auntie Ranty on January 19, 2009.

8 Responses to “Are radical politics only for the marginalized?”

  1. I think we kind of refine our radical views as we grow older, but they are often, as radical as ever.

  2. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off right away. Just look at Obama. His election could not have happened if Jesse Jackson didn’t run back in ’84 and ’88. And Jesse’s run wouldn’t have been possible without countless other victories.

    Now this is not to say that there can’t be setbacks. Look how much damage was done in just the past eight years. But, as the old folks say, if we keep our eyes on the prize we’ll get there.

  3. I think it’s because, while we are young, we still think that life Ought be fair. And it’s not.

    Some learn this lesson much later than others.

    • I’m not sure I follow – I wasn’t referring to the exploration of alternative political models by the young, I was speculating about whether it’s necessary for a marginalized group that embraces a vastly differing political ideology to abandon that ideology to achieve acceptance in the mainstream.

  4. Maybe it’s just that whole thesis/antithesis/synthesis thing we learned about in high school (or at least I hope most of us did). Radical politics are, by their very nature, marginalized or else they wouldn’t be radical. They act as the antithesis to the thesis that is the status quo.

    Through conflict and compromise a political synthesis is created incorporating some of radical politics’ goals while maintaining some parts of the status quo. Not everyone is going to be happy with that so a new radical antithesis is formulated to go up against the new status quo.

    As a radical progressive, it is my goal to incorporate as many progressive principles into the status quo as I can even though I may not get everything I ask for in this go around.

    I hope that made sense.

    • Radical politics are, by their very nature, marginalized or else they wouldn’t be radical.

      A given (but I do have to remind myself that this isn’t self-evident to everyone necessarily). I suppose I’m looking at what you’re describing and not seeing the remains of a former ideology (any of them really) being incorporated into a later platform. It seems more to me that any given movement can’t reach social acceptance without changing out some of it’s more radical notions for accepted two party lobby driven political process.

  5. I’ve often sat and pondered this myself. I started studying Politics and especially British Politics, as a Socialist. A few years down the line, hundreds of books later, debates and arguments later, i’m still (if not more) Socialist in my beliefs.

    I think Radical Politics is only defeated by language. Words like “freedom” or “Democracy” or my favourite “realist” distort our perception of Political truth. Assumptions by people who the layman would never feel the need to question, like “greed is human nature” means we just blindly accept it.

    Language has a lot to answer for.

    • Language can defeat about anything I think. It shapes so much of the way we think that it can be confining even as it exists as a defining element in thought and culture.
      To say nothing of the way that words can be co-opted by ideology to mean something radically different from their intended meaning. Buzzwords dumb us down, collectively, by turning much of what would otherwise be rational debate into an endless series of straw man arguments.

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