Wednesday, August 03, 2011


David Atkins writes this over at Digby's place (emphasis added):

Certainly, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the President, like President Clinton before him, actively wants to bring about policies that span from neoliberal to downright conservative. There is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that the modern GOP is a uniquely destructive force in the history of modern American politics, forcing Presidents Obama and Clinton both to make a series of Hobson's choices. While the latter theory increasingly strains credibility in the face of mounting evidence for the former, both theories are probably correct to at least a certain degree.

But ultimately this argument that consumes so much energy and passion within progressive circles both online and offline is irrelevant. Because in the end it matters little if conservative policies are brought about under Democratic administrations through weakness or ill intent. The end result is the same, as are the difficult decisions faced by progressives: attempt to change the Democratic Party both from within and without, or attempt to destroy it and subvert the two-party system.

What irks me is that last sentence, because it suggests that nothing can possibly happen in American politics except via elections, and so there's no point in doing anything politically except focus on pols. That's a fundamental mistake lefties are making right now.

I've said this before -- repeatedly, I think -- but I'll say it again: the most successful progressive movement of the last 60 years was the civil rights movement, and it didn't focus obsessively on elections. Get JFK elected and we'll be free! Primary JFK because he's not moving fast enough! That's not what the civil rights movement did. The civil rights movement focused on issues -- voting rights, desegregation of schools and lunch counters and buses and bus terminals, and on and on. Any interest in elections was in the service of the movement's goals; it wasn't the other way around, the way it always seems to be with lefties today. And there were great successes.

And the most successful progressive movement of the past thirty years is the gay rights movement -- which, again, focused primarily on issues (AIDS awareness and funding, equal access to military service, marriage equality) and only secondarily on electing or primarying pols.

We need to raise the issues. We need to make what we do about issues. We need to make the political political establishment sit up and take notice.

(Atkins link via They Gave Us a Republic...)

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