Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moving forward

Yesterday, I wrote about moving forward. Today I’ll expand on that a bit more.

Politics is the art of the possible, as Otto Von Bismark famously said. Perfection, demanded by the ideologues at the ends of the spectrum, is seldom achievable, but “good” is usually possible. All too often we passionate progressives will allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good, flushing all chance at incremental progress in order to hold out for unattainable perfection.

I have yet to see a perfect politician. I’m not even sure one exists. But I’ve met and worked with plenty of politicians who were perfect for the task at hand—moving the agenda along. In my activist career, I worked with conservatives and even sometimes Republicans to keep things moving forward because some progress is always better than none at all. We don’t stop with partial victories, but instead we build on that for bigger victories.

Politicians are inherently timid and reluctant even to do what they know is the right thing. We have to make it easy for them by, for example, working to provide a politician with political cover—an excuse to do what you want them to do. That requires hard work.

At the same time, we need to elect more true progressives to office, and that means even harder work: Overcoming some thirty years of rightwing lies and smears about progressives and progressive policies. It means we stop running away from the New Deal and from Democratic ideals and that we take on the rightwing. It’s a battle we can win—if we want to badly enough.

So, what I’m saying is that to move forward, we first need to play the hand we’re dealt, moving the agenda forward as best we can given the tools and politicians we have to work with. Then, we need to re-assert progressive politics and ideology and bring our side back into the public square; we must stop conceding battles to the rightwing without even putting up a fight.

All of this requires a lot of very hard work, not mere rallies, online petitions or blog rants, satisfying as those are to us personally. It means we put aside our own egos, always keeping our eyes firmly on the prize. And it means we never rest, but always keep moving forward.

The question is, are progressive Democrats up to the challenge?

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