- I share TRP's desire for a more civil, thoughtful political discourse.
- Not only do we disagree on how to get there, but I am afraid that his approach is dangerous not only for the Democratic party, but for all of us who believe in social justice and other progressive ideas.
- I consider both of our majority parties to be pretty much one and the same. They are both heavily funded by big business and, as such, are not generally beholden to the people of this country. So this is not a Blue/Red, Dem/Rep, Liberal/Conservative issue for me.
- It is, however, about winning. Because only by winning can you change the rules of the game and change the cultural climate. This isn't NCAA Division I College Football where the champion is determined by some sophisticated algorithm. This isn't baseball, where the rules are elegant and can be interpreted many different ways and there is poetry and grace in every pitch, swing, hit and catch. This is old school smash mouth football. You must advance the ball to score points. Quoth Herman Edwards: "We play to win the game."
- TRP and I are very close friends. This response may raise the color in his cheeks, but we'd probably go out and have a beer anyway. (Probably a Mudslide for him and a single-malt for me, but to each his own.)
"Just win, baby."
(Point of order: I hate Al Davis. I love that quote. Kinda sums me up in a nutshell.)
Our mutual friend Joe made the comment that groups of people cannot have "morals". I'll go one step further: politics isn't about morals. Politics has to do with winning and losing to see who gets to make the laws. Now, those laws can have a particular "moral" bent one way or the other. And certainly those who participate in the political process can hold a particular moral point of view. I don't find the "moral" issue particularly helpful when it comes to discussing politics; thus I was tempted to reject TRP's argument en mass. I was going to say that we were talking past each other speaking different languages and that the whole debate is rendered pointless as a result. Besides, I'm not a very good debater; TRP coaches debate. This is the equivalent of me stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson, for goodness sakes!
But the more I thought about his argument, the more I agreed with it. I just vehemently disagree on his approach. As I said in my opening, I think it's dangerous to the causes of social justice that we both care so much about. So this is why I'm responding to TRP. I don't suspect I'll change his mind, but I hope to make him see why I disagree with him.
TRP wants to raise the level of political discourse. But his way to get there is fraught with disappointment and defeat. He wants Charlie Brown to reason with Lucy and ask her to hold the football so he can kick it. And the fact that she takes it away time after time doesn't seem to trouble him. Well, it pisses me off. I'm tired of playing politics like it was the 1970s. It is now 2007: times have changed. They call for different strategies. This "suffering in silence" routine is getting old and getting us nowhere.
I sent this cartoon to TRP last week to preface this response. While I think it's funny, it also happens to be the best summation of the current political climate. Reasoning with the current GOP is like trying to reason with a drug addict: it's impossible. The only thing to do with an addict is to inform her that if she does not clean up her act then there will be consequences. The only thing that the current GOP will respect is their own downfall. They must know that their tactics will not work anymore. I believe the only way to do that is to give back to them in full measure. If we can beat them at their own game then they may think twice about playing it in the future.
I once had a Republican strategist tell me that the only way that the American people will rally around the Democratic party is if they won something. "It took us over 20 years of winning to pull the country our way," he said, "it will take the same kind of effort to pull the country back your way."
As I see it, the only way to raise the discourse is to win. Win back the Congress so we can tone down the rhetoric and restore some sense of balance, comity and cooperation. Because make no mistake, all of that has disappeared from the Capitol building. The GOP is mainly to blame, but Democrats such as Joe Lieberman and others have played the role of enabler. The time for hand-wringing and nuanced debate is over. The Democrats must play to win so we can bring an end to our role in Iraq, so we can expand SCHIP, so we can bring about civil rights to everyone in this country. There are so many reasons to "get up" for this game. It's time we got up, got out and won something!
Q: In Congress, would you rather have a thinking person who sometimes disagree with you? Or a non-thinking me-too party lackey who usually agrees with you?
A (TRP): My answer is found in my priorities: Conscience first, country second, party not even in the top ten.
A (tommyspoon): Depends. Right now I want a Congress who is completely committed to getting us out of Iraq. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that's what Mr. Baird's constituents want as well. I consider nuance and intellectual parsing of the Iraq issue to be a complete waste of time. The only questions worth asking are:
- What is the timetable for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq?
- What kind of help do the Iraqis want from us and how can we best provide that assistance?
- What is our long-term foreign policy in the Middle East? More of the same? Or something different?
I believe that we can only answer questions 2 and 3 after we answer question 1. Questions 2 and 3 require nuance and thought and rumination. Question number 1 requires committed, resolute action. After the Democrats have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, then we can bring nuance and intellectual rigor back to the floors of the House and Senate.
Q: ... why crucify Rep. Baird for what is clearly a thought-out stand? We both disagree with him, but does that make him a bad guy or even a bad Democrat?
A (tommyspoon): I believe that Rep. Baird got played like a piano. Read this statement from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and ask yourself why there is such a disconnect between Baird's positive outlook and Schakowsky's observations. While I don't approve of Baird's constituents calling him names, I share their frustration. I'll give him props for holding the forum and explaining himself, but he's not doing what his constituents want him to do. That's not the kind of representation I want, TRP.
Shouldn't the Congressman represent the views of his constituents as well as his own? I admit that this is a hard line to straddle, but in the case of Iraq both you and I think the answer is pretty clear. So do Rep. Baird's constituents. We get it. I don't think he does. While I don't want a lapdog, I also don't want someone who disregards my wishes. That's not the kind of representation I want in Congress.
If I don't think that my reasoning will change TRP's mind, then why did I take the time to write it all down? Because I believe in the conversation. Despite all that I've said in this post, I believe that all conversations are valuable and necessary to our intellectual health. Conversations don't have to have winners and losers. TRP and I are (hopefully) big enough to know that there is room for all kinds of points of view int his world. TRP always gives me something to think about; I just hope I returned the favor.
One of the points that TRP made in his subsequent post was a comparison of MoveOn.org to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: "...and I'd argue that, unless and until the candidates disavow their tactics, MoveOn represents the Democrats in the same way that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth represented the Republicans..."
This may be nit-picking on both of our parts, but I don't think that this is a fair comparison. I offer into evidence these summations of both MoveOn.org and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
TRP may still disagree with me, but he has challenged me on my assertions before so I thought it only fair to challenge him on one of his.