Saturday, December 20, 2008

For Posterity

I spent a whole lot of time typing this comment out for this post on I am TRex, but since I am having trouble posting there, I will post it here:
Why do we always have to be the bad guys?

I think it all comes down to your approach to social change, whether you are a pragmatic incrementalist or an uncompromising idealist. Pragmatists try to get done whatever is possible, working with the conditions on the ground, and probably compromising their ideals in the process. Idealists state their ideals, loudly and repeatedly, hoping that others will sometimes come to their side, although often not worrying about who they alienate from the other side, or their own, in the process.

Now, I am left-wing. I would like to see single-payer health care (with abortions covered), unionization of all workers, fair trade, gay marriage, equal pay, ACLU-style free speech, decreased income inequality to the point we practically have income equality, the nationalization of various industries that are not reliant on innovation (it works for mail carrying!), the legalization of all drugs, you name it. And once that's all done, I plan look around and ask "What's next?"

But that won't all actually happen in my lifetime. If I voted my conscience I wouldn't vote. So I am an incrementalist by necessity. I vote for people who seem to have a chance of moving things in my direction, and I will support policies that will, over time, move the country in my direction, like getting a healthcare system that isn't single-payer. I don't think this compromises my ideals, or is dishonest, as long as I am upfront about what my ideals really are. And it isn't a betrayal either, since I view these compromises as steps on the road to getting what I really would like to see.

In this framework, I think the Warren choice, though disagreeable, definitely, is not too objectionable. Now, if Warren was the only preacher speaking, that would not be that case, since it would be as if to say that this is best representation of religious thought in America that can be presented. But, and this is important, Joseph Lowery, an old-school civil rights badass who supports gay marriage and rails against homophobia, is giving the benediction. So Warren isn't the be-all end-all of religious representation, but one of two nodes on a spectrum of religious thought being represented, a spectrum that includes gay marriage. Not preferable, yes, but not as bad. And considering there is hardly any difference between Warrens views on gay and reproductive rights are no different than the Catholic Church's, I don't think you can equate him to David Duke, those views aren't exactly fringe psycho views, but pretty widespread(The Church is much better than him on war and evolution, of course).

Now, you could argue that just because those views are widespread doesn't mean they should be accepted. That's where the pragmatic angle comes in. While it's true that difference in Warren and Dobson is one of tone, as he said, it's important to note what that tone is. Warren wants to spend time talking about fighting global warming and poverty and AIDS relief in Africa, things Dobson has shown no predilection for bringing up. I think it would be great to get some evangelical support for those issues. It provides cover from political risk, maybe force Republicans to go along with those efforts, and would make whatever action that would take place happen sooner and with more force.

Also, I think if Liberals found common ground upon which to work with Evangelicals, it would lessen their hostility, and make it easier for them to accept some of our other ideas when they see we aren't really Satan. I don't want to beat the other side, I want them to join us! Turn all their kids into democratic socialists and make them meet gay people that are just like them—that they might actually be. Mutual hatred doesn't really do our side any good. (No, I am not worried about movement in the other direction. Our ideas are right, theirs are wrong. They just need to be convinced, while we will not unlearn truths once we have learned them.)

Now, if you are an uncompromising idealist, none of that means anything. They are the bad guy, and they must be fought and kept from advancing their agenda. Opposition to them must be stated at every stage, and their advancement in public life discouraged. There's probably even some utility to this approach, since it forces people to make a choice on the issue, and gets the message out there in a very direct way, adding veritability through its passion. Maybe it forces other people to declare what their beliefs in this actually are. But if that's the approach you choose, then yeah, you have to be the bad guy. But I don't think you have to be.