Addicted to activism

The Discontent Baseline:

I asked this on Twitter yesterday, but I think it’s an important issue. At lunch with a coworker last week talking over the “pay freeze” nonsense and the bargaining over the Bush tax cuts, I was a bit ready to throw the towel in over Barack Obama….

Now in political advocacy terms it doesn’t make sense to say “well, I’ll forgive a misguided pivot to austerity because the Vietnam War was a bigger mistake.” Nor does it make sense to say “I don’t care about claimed assassination powers because the internment of the Japanese was a bigger curtailment of civil liberties.” Nor does it make sense to say, “I won’t complain about cutting a deal with Pharma to get a major expansion of the welfare state because FDR cut a deal with white supremacists to get his.” You need to stand up for what you believe in in politics and complain when elected officials don’t do the right thing.

I listen to Slate‘s political gabfest, and last week Emily Bazelon was bemoaning the lack of effectually of the Democratic majority in 2008-2010. David Plotz pointed out the passage of healthcare reform, and Bazelon brushed it off with “oh yeah.” Basically, it seems like liberals just want an eternal revolution and deny the reality that change is hard. Conservatives aren’t the only “stupid party” (Bazelon is a Yale graduate,* but that doesn’t prevent her from behaving in a petulant manner because the Democrats didn’t dole out all the policy candies she craved).

* No offense to Yale graduates as a whole of course!

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2 Responses to Addicted to activism

  1. John says:

    These guys are going to be waiting a long time before there is simultaneously a president more liberal than Obama, and a congress more liberal than this one. Obamacare is the most important domestic bill since the welfare reform of the 90s. They should be cheering in the streets for him. Well, this just makes him easier to beat in 2012.

  2. Clark says:

    It seems there are two groups in politics independent of ideology. One cares about principle in terms such that what counts is appearing to stand for principle. Actually achieving any incremental improvements is irrelevant. Let’s call these the Kantians. There is then an other group who is committed to principles of their ideology but who judge their success not in terms of “standing for principle” but in terms of actually changing the world around them. Let’s call these the Utilitarians.

    The problem is that a lot of Kantians talk like Utilitarians but really they don’t care about effecting change. After all from a liberal perspective Obama and the Democrats achieved a heck of a lot the last two years. And things that a lot of people didn’t think they could have achieved only a few years earlier. Yet it is never enough because the judgement isn’t on what is done, but principle.

    I should add that there are plenty of conservative and libertarian Kantians of that sort as well. And if the deficit continues to grow it’ll probably be those people who keep real reform from happening. As the saying goes, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

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