}

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The problem with the Left


The Facebook video above from ABC (Australia) uses humour to talk about a lot of what I’ve been saying about the state of the Left for the past couple of years. Most of of what I’ve said has been expressed privately, however, due to the very problems with the Left that this video talks about. If we really want our ideas and ideals to win, then I think it’s high time we had a hard look at what we’re doing to each other, starting with those on the same side, but also including those we need to win over.

I’ve been called a “neo-liberal” by Leftists merely because I didn’t completely agree with one thing they were passionate about at that moment. This is because of their attitude that anyone who doesn’t agree with them 1001% is, by definition, an enemy. I don’t work that way, and I never have.

When I was a grassroots activist in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, I knew that to make any progress on LGBT+ issues, I’d have to get the support of people I didn’t agree all the time—or even much of the time. It was a largely hostile time for LGBT+ people, and we needed allies where we could find them. So, we’d form issue-by-issue alliances with people we might disagree with every other time. These days that’s nearly impossible, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Yesterday, Former President Obama delivered a speech in my native Illinois, and he talked, in part, about why this strategy is so important (it’s at roughly 47:48 minutes in the video linked to):
Let me tell you something, particularly the young people here: Better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House: Better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better! Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people. Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, “well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting. No point.” That makes no sense! You can make it better!

Better is always worth fighting for. That’s how our founders expected this system of self-government to work, that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason, and evidence, and proof, we could sort through our differences, and nobody would get exactly what they wanted, but it would be possible to find a basis for common ground. That common ground exists.
President Obama also talked about how working to make things better does NOT mean surrendering our principles or goals. All this means is that we can make things better right now, while we continue to work to achieve full justice and equality of opportunity. Better IS good.

I’ll tell you who gets this, who acts on this advice, and who has acted on it for decades: The Right. They constantly work to chip away at the rights and freedoms gained over the past 50 years, and they don’t care how long it takes. They took away enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. In Citizens United, they gave corporations unlimited power to buy politicians. And now, hidden behind the White House-caused outrage of the hour, the regime, led by the vice president, is working diligently out of sight to destroy the rights of LGBT+ people, of women, of minorities, and to make far-right Christianity the de facto state religion. When they install their new extremist ideologue on the Supreme Court, the days of legal abortion will be numbered, and nationwide marriage equality will be on a death watch. This is what the Right has been working toward for decades, and they’re poised to get everything the they want while folks on the Left are busy shouting at each other about “micro-aggressions”.

Obviously the Right is every bit as bad, and sometimes far worse, about excluding and demonising people who disagree just a little. However, if we want the Left to win—and I do—we will only do that by first being better people, and treating other people—including those on the Right—humanely. I want the Left to be better than the Right, not the same as.

I totally understand that people on the Left have slotted into the roles they play, and they’re used to them. They feel duty-bound, more often than not, to publicly vent over that day’s Big Outrage, and that leads them to overreact to folks on their own side who don’t completely agree with them. But my question is simple: Would they really rather be “right” on the Internet, or do they want to make things better for us all?

Better is good.

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