A blogger named Freddie has started a discussion with a post that denounces a number of bloggers I respect (TBogg, DougJ, and others) for saying something with which I wholeheartedly agree: that it's vitally important to vote for Obama this year and that it's naive to expect Obama, or any politician, to be the absolutely embodiment of your own views in every particular. Freddie is having none of it; he feels persecuted and repressed, particularly by fellow bloggers and blog commenters, because many people tell him they don't want to hear his agonized complaints about drone attacks.
Here's Freddie's lament:
I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don't know how to act or what to do. I want it so bad I can't sit still or sleep at night. I want it with everything I have that's capable of want. And I know that this is the kind of talk that invites pure contempt from those like Tbogg, who have only the idiom of sarcasm and derision and cannot imagine straightforward moral sentiment. But that's the truth. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. And the innocent people we kill the most, these days, are Muslim.... Obama is directly responsible for the expansion of hostilities against Muslims targets which result in the death of people who have taken no violent action against the United States. Voting for him cannot, does not, and will not challenge that reality.You know what I'd tell you to do, Freddie, if you asked me? You know what I'd tell Glenn Greenwald to do? I'd tell the two of you, and all the people who think like you, that if you oppose drone strikes or other aspects of our foreign policy, then for crissake protest the policies you oppose -- protest them as policies, not as litmus tests for how we should vote in a presidential election. These are ongoing problems, so get off the Internet, get organized, get out in the street, and protest on an ongoing basis.
... there is no internal pressure for Democrats to reform, precisely because of people like Tbogg and the crew at LGM. Defenders of Obama lay down lines you can't cross in every direction.... What would Tbogg tell me to do, if he actually stopped building a monument to his own sarcasm and cleverness, if he stepped outside of his meticulously curated temple of snark and flippancy, and if he actually considered the question of what to do if you want America to stop killing children? He'd say to grow up. He has no other arrow in his quiver.
Number one, get out of your room. And number two, don't treat this issue the way every other drone-obsessed lefty treats it: as a problem whose only solution is a withheld vote in a quadrennial election.
Look back to the civil rights era. In the early 1960s, the people who fought for voting rights didn't focus their efforts on spreading the message "Vote Democrat" or "Don't vote Democrat." It wasn't about candidates or parties. It was purely about the goals of the movement. The people in the civil rights movement weren't obsessed with electing particular candidates or denying election to particular candidates. The point was to move the thinking of the country, including its politicians, in a more progressive direction. The protests were acts of politics that took place between elections, and largely without reference to elections. That's what you have to do when neither party will do the right thing. (On this issue as on so many others, I hope Freddie understands that a President Romney will absolutely not do the right thing.)
And I shouldn't need to point out that the people who fought to end Jim Crow in the South faced a level of repression that was a hell of a lot worse than just being mocked in blog comments sections.
By contrast, the anti-war movement very pointedly targeted the Democratic Party in Chicago in 1968. How'd that work out for innocent Indochinese civilians over the next few years?
Many of us have no doubt that Obama is vastly better on balance, taking all issues into account -- the Supreme Court, the social safety net, tax policy, even bellicosity -- than Mitt Romney. And yet a lot of supposed Obamabots would absolutely march for an end to the drone policy, or for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, or for changes to Obama detention policies. Elections are choices between the lesser of two evils, but politics is more than elections. You can fight for the policies you want anytime you want.
Occupy Wall Street squandered its promise by failing to articulate goals, and by getting fixated on the right to protest rather than on the changes the protests were organized to demand, but Occupy did show us a year ago that a progressive movement can potentially draw the attention of the mainstream public and change the political discussion in America. I don't know why there hasn't been an anti-war movement in America in the last few years -- especially given the fact that the public very much wants us to get the hell out of Afghanistan.
So make some noise about the war and the drones and the detentions -- but don't make utter rejection of Obama a precondition of rejection of the policies. And don't fixate on elections. At this moment there are no electable politicians who'll change what you want changed. That fact is what you have to work on.
Maybe it's unlikely that you'll stop the killing of innocent civilians by protesting. But you damn well won't stop the killing of innocent civilians by helping to elect Mitt Romney.