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Fantastic essay by Digby on Pragmatists versus Purists

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ProfessorPlum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 01:05 PM
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Fantastic essay by Digby on Pragmatists versus Purists


"Nowadays, I'm told it's not that the Democrats are just corrupt but that they are corrupt pussies who never fought back until we gave them some spine. This is simply untrue. For a decade Democrats battled back a Republican juggernaut of unprecedented force (and a GOP landslide in 1994) while simultaneously fighting an extremely hostile media and a left wing faction that couldn't deal with the fact that the Democrats, after 12 years of right wing ascendency, found a way to get elected and stop the inevitable slide to a permanent Republican majority. On that, (and not for the last time) they actually joined with the right wing in their loathing of the strategy that won elections in a conservative era and kept the Republicans from total political dominance. (This is not to say that the same strategy would work today. But, the argument of purism vs pragmatism hasn't changed for the last thirty years, no matter what new strategy was proposed.)


The reason the Republicans have been as successful as they are, despite their policies being unpopular, is that they use their power to the nth degree, whether the public mandates it or not. They are confident in their ability to spin their partisan use of democratic institutions with bromides about values and morality and freedom and democracy. Underneath their rhetoric is a pure lust for power, but they have been very good at obscuring that by claiming victimhood and portraying themselves as the party of strong individuals speaking truth to(liberal) power.


The fact that in one short three and a half year period this government has managed to spend the country into oblivion to the benefit of the very rich and has completely shot a half century of international leadership all to hell should, by all rights, translate into a landslide election for our side. And, yet it remains neck and neck. We have a Democratic base as fired up as any in my memory and yet we are still fighting among ourselves about the relative purity of our candidates and how if only they'd "fight" we'd win --- as if we haven't had some recent lessons in how certain satisfying fiery rhetoric is spun in the media to our extreme detriment. We can go down "fighting" like that or we can win by "fighting" using superior tactics and strategy.


If Kerry wins, I'm sure that Barbara Ehrenreich and others will be upset that he is not sufficiently liberal. On the other hand, the right wing will be apoplectic that he is preparing to sell the country to the terrorists. The media will be slavering for anything juicy the David Bossies of the Mighty Wurlitzer will feed them. That is the nature of our politics today. That is the reality in which President John Kerry is going to be operating. And it would be nice if most Democrats didn't put their sleep masks back on and pretend that John Kerry can be a super-hero who magically defeats terrorists and Republicans with one hand tied behind his back, while providing health care and prosperity for all --- and then claim that he and the Democrats are pussies because they can't perfectly accomplish all that in the face of a powerful and ruthless opposition."

For every purist out there, Digby lays out the situation that Kerry is going to be operating within, should he win. It sounds like an impossible job, almost. Please be patient. READ THIS ESSAY and pass it to your purist friends.
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Old and In the Way Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 01:22 PM
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1. Thanks for posting!
A big 'amen' for Digby, too!
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Lefty Pragmatist Donating Member (430 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 02:31 PM
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2. Thanks for the link.
It's something a lot of us, especially older Dems, have been talking about for a while. The GOP took a 3 point EV majority and a popular vote *minority* and shoved through their platform as if they had won by 200 EV and 10% of the popular vote. They didn't "share power" or any silliness like that. The day they got into office they had their blueprints for raiding the treasury and turning back enviro and civil right legislation, and they've been busy beavers ever since.

Compare that to Clinton's first two years, when he had a mandate and majorities in both houses, yet because his people were unprepared to govern, they blew a great chance to roll back some of Reagan's mess.

This time around, if K/E wins, he's probably going to face an obstructionist Senate and definitely going to face a right wing House. His people have to be ready on day one to go over the heads of the media and speak directly to the whole country, saying "we have important things we must do as a nation -- don't let the partisans ef you out of your vote. Give us a chance and we'll make things work better." That's all anyone but the real crazies on the two fringes wants -- a government that works better.
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ProfessorPlum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 02:36 PM
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3. The media is the real problem, though, isn't it?
If Kerry wins, we'll want to see the Fairness Doctrine re-introduced through the FCC. Otherwise, they'll be fighting their own people again.

There are some other great essays by Digby on the right wing, which as you say is not interested in making things work better. They want to rule unopposed. Fortunately for us, they are the GOPs problem this year, not ours.
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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 07:39 PM
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4. What a bunch of abstract malarkey
Edited on Mon Jul-19-04 07:41 PM by depakote_kid
This guy is getting sucked into the kind of labeling game that the Republicans LOVE to play. Liberal, centrist, left wing, right wing- and this one's the kicker "purism" vs. "pragmatism."

Rather than actually deal with concrete issues for what they are, Digby wants to convince us that liberal ideas aren't politically pragmatic. Hmm. What issues do you suppose he's talking about?

Rational environmental regulations that that conserve resources and stop corporations from externalizing (socializing) their costs onto the public? Look at any poll results and you'll find broad public support there;

Universal healthcare- or at least substantial reform of the system?

Ending corporate welfare?

Fair trade policies?

Support for public education?

Media conglomeration?

Consumer protection laws?

And on and on. Go down the list of so called "liberal" issues and you'll see that if someone (and that someone was certainly wasn't Bill Clinton) actually showed some backbone, stood up and used the bully pulpit to articulate the issues- you'd find the majority of the public behind you- even in red states.

These are all VERY pragmatic and rational policies. The trouble is that invariably they will gore the ox of some trade association, wealthy donor or extremist group. They will then label them "liberal," and launch some dishonest misinformation campaign. And since no one wants to risk being labeled (thanks in no small part to attitudes advanced by guys like Digby and members of the DLC) we all end up getting sold out over and over- on winning issues.
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ProfessorPlum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-20-04 09:50 AM
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5. agreed, they are winning issues
but you yourself just outlined why and how they get nuked. We have to win first, then change the mechanisms you just described (reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine? breakup of media monopolies?) Then we can start to have more honest dialogs and get some real progress. As it is now, we are getting hung on our own excellent policies. And it isn't just a matter of "fight". How many people who have advanced these excellent policies have been turned into laughingstocks?

Digby is by no means to be associated with the DLC. But he realizes we have to win first. There is no other first step.
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