Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Illustrate with examples for full credit

Andrew Sullivan thinks that Russell Shaw is facing some hard truths with a post about the drawbacks of demanding an immediate absolute conversion as opposed to incrementalism and a bit of politeness for good measure. Shaw:

But the louder you shout, and the larger the brickbats you wield toward everyone who is not exactly with your program 100.00%, well, that has never worked in terms of changing politics to make things right.

Why? It is because for buckets of reasons too complex to posit in one article, true believers in progressive causes have - for good or evil- never have been able to carve a major percentage beachhead in our political culture.

The best trajectory for change is to convince those who may not agree with you on everything, but agree with you on some things to side with you on those things you both agree on. That's how alliances are made, and sometimes, how minds are changed.

That's all fine and good but not very useful unless we're talking specifics. What are you going to put your foot down about and what are you going to let slide for now? How does your relative privilege inform this decision? Are you willing to concede gay marriage for a Democratic takeover of congress because it will do the cause more good in the long run, or because you're not gay and it's not going to hurt you directly?

For example, I was among those who thought that Hugo Schwyzer's incremental approach to converting the wary proto-profeminist was really the best way to go. Telling "Pete" (who later turned up in Hugo's comments to discuss with Hugo's critics what exactly was going through his head then and how he feels now) that he was treating women as sub-human isn't exactly a falsehood, but on the other hand I don't know how well he would have received that kind of criticism. So, Shaw, I think I'm with you on that one.

On the other hand, there's Markos Moulitsas' (aka Kos) analysis of the disastrous alliance between NARAL Pro-Choice America and Lincoln Chafee, the "pro-choice" Republican. My understanding of the conflict is that Kos says that NARAL and their supporters were unwise to support Chafee since his nominal pro-choice position didn't play out well when it came to abortion-related issues that weren't directly about abortion - the nomination of Sam Alito, to name one. Crashing the Gates, Kos' and fellow blogger Jerome Armstrong's book about what's wrong with the Democratic party and how to fix it, has a lot of negative things to say about NARAL and other so-called single-issue groups in situations like these, where not every issue that Democrats traditionally care about is going to get the attention it deserves. The ensuing criticism of Kos and others who insisted that NARAL cared too much about the choice issue seemed rather absurd to me. Of course NARAL cares about the issue of choice - that's its main cause. And, given a historic support of reproductive rights by Democrats, it would make sense that Democrats would get behind NARAL and vice versa. Let's not forget that Chafee's Democratic opponent was also pro-choice, though. NARAL was taking a gamble by promoting bipartisan support of choice in its support of Chafee, and it lost. NARAL should have known better, but most definitely should not have ignored the choice issue here. If NARAL isn't going to be using the issue of choice as a test for candidates it supports, it might as well disband. And if Democrats aren't going to take a candidate's position on choice into strong consideration, that ought to be made clear in the Democrats' platform. There are those who might advocate Democrats downplaying or abandoning choice so that they can make gains in the here and now, but I daresay that this is not an issue-dodge that I'd like to see Democrats make. It might make the Democratic Party seem more inviting to pro-lifers, but that's not the kind of compromise I am willing to make.

Considering all this, I have to wonder what spurred Shaw's little rant. Its generic terms end up making it pretty meaningless, so I suspect that he had some issue or conflict in mind when he wrote it. I just wonder why he didn't name it so that a real conversation could be had.

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