Sunday, November 18, 2007

Liberal Consensus

As recently as a year ago if I discussed politics with other liberals, Democrats, progressives, left-wingers, pinkos, or the like, I would most likely find little to disagree with. Sure we'd quibble over the actual meanings of the labels we use for ourselves or that others call us; I'm progressive, not a liberal because of the negative connotation, etc. But we'd all agree that Bush is evil, Cheney is Satan incarnate, Iraq is an unmitigated disaster, the US Constitution deserves better protection, surveillance of Americans without warrants is illegal, suppression of the black vote is a tactic of the true evil empire: the Bushies, and so on.

Now that the light at the end of this administration's dark tunnel is in full view though, I find myself arguing with those with whom I am most politically aligned. I for instance believe impeachment is the honor-bound duty of the Congress of the United States. And since Nancy Pelosi had the gal to "take it off the table" without the American people's consent, I think she should be one of those impeached. Cheney and Bush are traitors and should be tried as such. Nancy is obstructing justice and so should be tried in a like manner.

But that's my point of view and while I know it's held by many, there are also many, who would consider themselves well left of center, who would adamantly disagree. My brother visiting for the holidays is one such. Here I was secretly happy we had ended up with only the liberal element of my family over for the festivities, when I found myself in a very heated debate over that precise issue. And other issues grew out of it as well. War funding for instance: I believe Congress should simply cut it off. Period. My brother thinks that would be abandoning the troops. He calls me naive. I have heard his point of view (Congress itself keeps spouting it in defense of their inaction) and it's enticing. Any time you can say "here's the problem with that solution," you’re looking to get a free pass. But I think you need to offer up a solution before shooting down another.

Liberals are often accused of just complaining about the problems and not doing anything about them. In other words, we are accused of being negative. But within our own ranks, if some of us posit solutions - and I won't deny that those I suggest are drastic - we're often accused of being too, well, drastic. But those who say that generally don't have any suggestions themselves. They just argue why the proposed solution will not work. And truly I'm not trying to argue that all the kinks have been worked out of my solutions. But debate and consensus has its hallmark of greatness in its ability to achieve synthesis. You can't achieve that goal by dismissing extreme solutions out of hand. Extreme solutions are usually proffered only after it has become clear that a) the danger inherent in following the status quo is itself extreme, and b) that something has to be done and that current approaches are tantamount to doing absolutely nothing.

We lefties have trouble achieving consensus. A large part of that is inherent to our cerebral wiring. We are generally critical thinkers who understand not only the value, but also the necessity, of free thought. It's very difficult to broker single-visioned compromise under those circumstances.

The problem with that is that the Right enforces unity of vision very well. Admittedly that becomes less obvious during the primary season. And Republican candidates must spend copious energy distancing themselves from this administration while also doing the opposite (to appease both the centrists and the hard right – or as I like to call them: the righty-uptighties). But all you need to do is to listen to the right-wing punditry (something I try to avoid) to hear that day’s talking points faithfully regurgitated. These guys know how to present a united front.

So while it’s long been the hallmark of the enlightened left to be in discord due to our superior critical thinking abilities, I call complete bullshit on the notion that we cannot be united. The difference is that we need not to unite ourselves under the banner of a strong man, but rather to unite ourselves via the mechanism of debate and consensus. It’s a great tool that can be used very effectively by clear-thinking people and it’s time we do so. If impeachment is too drastic (it’s not, but I’m allowing for debate), then let’s discuss what will work. Let’s come up with a plan. You don’t need to strong-arm the solution; you just need to come to the table believing that consensus is mandatory.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for your taking the time to express your views on the impeachment issues. Did you know a Congressional candidate has announced their support for effort to remove Pelosi as Speaker, clearing the way for impeachment?

Thanks you for your blog and your efforts in the impeachment area. Best wishes: You are right, We can be United.

Beth said...

I would have been on your side of the table on this one. I am so angry at the democrats right now. We need to vote them all out. Think back to the news casts during Vietnam, Watergate, Clinton - there is more to whats going on that meets the eye when the media isn't out there doing any reporting and sounding the drum beat for impeachment. I think we will get hearings IF people call their representatives and put pressure on them to do so. A poll last week said over half of the country is for that - so why are the dems acting like the minority party? I get mad just thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your brother is waking up and seeing the light. Maybe you should listen to him!

Good day.