Sunday, February 18, 2018

Which side are you on? Some forgiveness, some amnesia ...

“If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition.” --Bernice Johnson Reagan
Under the Trump regime/Republican regime, spaces for people to fight democratically for a better day are threatened. I have spelled out elements of this all too often here, including through voter suppression, increasing disdain for the rule of law, and brutish warmongering. We are being corrupted in our best impulses, taught and forced to be ungenerous, selfish, and unkind. This assault on the nation's moral potentialities is so immediate, it outweighs for me, for now, the many historic imperfections and even crimes of the US state. I'm doing politics just for room to keep hope alive; we'll go for what we need and want when there is a little more room. The immediate need to fight changes the terrain.

When under attack, people fighting back look for allies, even unlikely ones. Preserving the space to fight another day demands the widest possible variety of allies and other irritants to the powerful. We don't know what is going to help, so we need to be open to many strands of resistance.

So, in this moment of deadly threat, I've been doing my best to listen to and read the thoughts of people who I ordinarily avoid or ignore. Think especially of #NeverTrumpers like the pretentious Canadian neoconservative David Frum, recovering bully boy Max Boot, former Breibart spokesman Kurt Bardella, legal eagle Benjamin Wittes and foreign policy hawk Kori Schake. Ana Marie Cox's podcast, With Friends Like These specializes in talking with dissident Republican political hacks, a curious breed. These voices range through the center-right, to fans of U.S. empire, to even previously hard right, but they agree that Trump must go if normal political decency if to return.

The most prolific of these rightwing voices has been Jennifer Rubin who writes the Washington Post's Right Turn blog. She churns out a volume of anti-Trump/anti-GOPer argumentation and indignation unrivaled in the mainstream media. She's a brutally effective writer. So I was interested to hear her discuss with center-left political scientist Yasha Mounk what the parameters of a momentary left-right alliance might be. She's got a lot to say (my transcription from audio) and I found it both challenging and unsettling:
The first thing we have to do is stop the historical archeology ... If the first reaction of people on the left is, "we would not have had George W Bush if it had not been for Jennifer Rubin"... well the conversation ends. We are where we are. ...We are both in trouble, the boat is leaking, it has a big hole and if you are going to pick a fight with me, we are going to sink together. It's a recognition that however we got here, we have a mutual problem.

The second is the willingness and ability to prioritize ... the highest issue right now is the survival of a rule based republic. Unless we baby-proof, we Trump-proof, the democracy, nobody is going get any of that stuff [that are our policy preferences.] ... We're not going to get back to that stuff unless we can pitch in, so I think some forgiveness, some amnesia ...I think [we need] a sense that we are not going to hassle each other about the second order issues ...

The third is an ability to recognize that a lot of the preconceptions about the other side were wrong ... in fact the left has played by the constitutional rules to a much greater extent than the right has, at least of late. ... I now see the people on that side [she means the center-left] are aligned with me on some of these very fundamental issues: the independence of the courts, the free press, the value of an apolitical civil service, the value of truth, that there really are people on the other side who believe that.

Once you do that, a lot of the other difficulties melt away. ... it is an understanding of what we share; it is a mutual understanding that we really are in a crisis situation, a crisis of western democracy.
In Rubin's view, she is coming a long way toward those of us on the progressive end of things -- and it is fair to say she has (for an archeological peak at how awfully she once used her talent, try this -- and then let it go if you can.)

I'm enough of an historian to know that the Nazis won elections in 1930s Germany without ever becoming a majority; their opponents -- left, center-left, and center-right -- couldn't coalesce to stop them and were swept away. I don't want to replicate that grizzly error because of a political purity fetish. But on the other hand, don't I have some red lines beyond which I can't make common cause? What are those lines? After hard thinking, I've come up with two:
  • We both have to be able to say that white supremacy, white entitlement, Eurocentric racism has been a defining reality throughout the history of this country. We needn't agree on exactly how that works, and what we must do about it, but we have to allow the premise and live from there.
  • We have to be able to say that an unregulated free market is a prescription for individual and planetary death. Again, we don't have to agree on exactly what curbs are needed, but we both have to acknowledge some are.
These two items leave out vital elements of my politics: in particular, I think women are full human beings and wars are pretty much always wrong. But at least right now, those aren't my first order bottom lines. Maybe they should be.

Do you know what your red lines are for cooperation with allies? I found this a question worth pondering.

1 comment:

Rain Trueax said...

Being a moderate, no side pleases me all the way-- especially when it's the extremes of each. I can compromise on issues that matter to me, sometimes even when I don't see that the compromise made sense-- but when I can get part of what I want. The irony of this post is the lawless statement where both sides think it's okay to break the law for good purposes.

Not long ago, for my own blog on issues, I wrote what, in my life, has led me to see things as I do in a political sense. I did some major thinking to write it but then ended up leaving it up only a couple of days before I put it back in draft. I felt it had been a little too revealing but also did it really matter why i see things as I do? The issue is more what do I think should be done. One reader, who had missed the days it had been up, asked me to put it back up. I am still not sure I want to.

White males have had the best of it in this country but in China or India or places not out of European extraction, that would not be true of the color but would be of the sex. I have read that there was a time women controlled more. I know in Mongolia, before Genghis Khan, women could be tribal leaders and then they lost it (I know that because I was researching for a book based on dreams and astrology of a life I might've led-- or not *s*). Mostly though men, with their brute force and testosterone have ruled over everybody. In our country there is a big push to get women in leadership but it should never be only because they are women but because they are better-- and that shows me to be 74 yo lol

Most recently, I wrote about the school shooting and what I'd like to see done. I got zero in comments. I think if I don't write something partisan for somebody in my readership to argue about, I get zero comments on most things. People want to argue and often with anger seems best for them. Reasonable discussions are rare where people can agree to disagree...

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