Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Perfect Is the Enemy of Humanity

In the course of smacking down Freddie deBoer's1 latest nihilist manifesto, Scott Lemieux provides some historical perspective that should be tattooed backwards on the forehead of every progressive who is ever tempted to vote third-party in a presidential election because the Democratic candidate isn't pure enough, so they have to read it every time they look in the mirror:
Three presidents can be plausibly said to have greater records of progressive accomplishment than Barack Obama: LBJ, FDR, and Lincoln. Were these men, as deBoer suggests they must be, consistent left-wing ideologues, men who were committed to consistent left principles who did not concern themselves with practical politics and never had to be “pushed” from the left? Er, no. Good God, no. They were practical men. They were not ideologically consistent. They had progressive records in large part because of the organized pressures from the left placed on them. Lyndon Johnson had a voting record in the Senate that makes Hillary Clinton look like a Wobbly. Did civil rights and labor groups follow deBoer’s advice, refuse to work with him and support him, and seek to throw the election to Goldwater in the hopes that a REAL ally could eventually control the White House? No, they did not, because they understand politics as deBoer does not. And the result was arguably the most progressive domestic policy presidency ever. The Emancipation Proclamation was a compromise motivated in large measure by political expediency. So what? Who wants political leaders who disdain politics, who aren’t responsive to their constituents....

Voting for Johnson, as we’ve discussed, was a classic “lesser evil” vote in the sense that he means it. So was FDR, given the many compromises the New Deal had to make with the white supremacist faction of the party. So was Lincoln, an incrementalist on an issue of the utmost moral urgency. Major progressive reforms are almost always the result of lesser-evil voting and coalition-building, and are virtually never the result of dramatic flounces out of the coalition, as the same-sex marriage movement shows.
Okay, so maybe it would have to be tattooed in a very small font. I'm a big-picture guy; don't bother me with the details.


1Is Freddie deBoer the most odious purity troll in all of human history, or only the most odious since the French Revolution? You decide.

9 comments:

Unknown said...

Thanks for linking to the deBoer piece. If someone asks me how I can vote for Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton, it pretty much covers it.

I suppose history will tell whether your political judgments were sounder than his. But one thing we can be certain of now: his rhetorical manners are a lot nicer than yours.

Tom Hilton said...

History (as it really is, not as an idiot like deBoer imagines it to be) already tells us that he has no fucking clue what he's talking about. But if you share his belief that voting is purely a masturbatory act of self-expression rather than a means to influence practical reality, by all means vote for Dr. Jill Stein.

Betty Cracker said...

I'll take "French Revolution" for $500, Tom. :)

Improbable Joe said...

Voting for Jill Stein is a sign of... something. Nothing positive for sure. Might as well vote for Larry the Cable Guy or whoever is randomly in front of you at the bank next time you need a cashier's check. It is definitely not a sign of political savvy or good citizenship. It is also part of why the Dems move to the center where the people who actually vote are, instead of the far left where there are a bunch of purity-obsessed windbags who don't vote.

Victor said...

Freddie Da Bore, is an ass.
And always has been, and he always will be.

He's the idiotic self-proclaimed Commissioner of "The Liberal Purity Police."

Get a fucking real job, Freddie, and stop masturbating on paper, and calling them columns!

Tom Hilton said...

Betty: True, there were some serious purity trolls in the French Revolution. ;-)

flipyrwhig said...

How did Freddie De Boer end up with a media platform? He's horrible on every level. He's done nothing. Knows nothing. Says nothing interesting. Holds predictable opinions about which he preens and struts.

Glenn Greenwald is an ass who's almost always wrong -- but even before he was a blogger and gadfly he was involved in free speech causes. So it's not surprising he was read and listened to.

But who the hell is Freddie De Boer? Why do I know who he is? It's a mystery for the ages.

Tom Hilton said...

I wonder the same thing. I remember when he was just some asshole who popped up in comment sections.

Ken_L said...

De Boer is an annoyingly self-righteous prig. I imagine his faculty colleagues are frantic to find excuses to avoid meetings where he will have the opportunity to lecture everyone at length about the moral dimensions of the decisions they have to make about excluding a student who's failed for the 4th time, and the like.

But he's not a Democrat and doesn't pretend to be one. He's not even a Sanders supporter. I see nothing objectionable about him defending his far-left position, any more than it's objectionable for libertarians to explain why they're going to vote for their candidate who has no chance of winning.

The only mysterious aspect of the whole affair is why anybody cares about the opinions of a somewhat immature junior academic who's apparently spent his entire life locked inside academia.