Let's set the stage. Friday evening, I was following some commenting on a totally unrelated topic at Eschaton (the comment boards at Eschaton are more like a chat room than a studious reflection on the topic at hand) . The trolls were out in force, and a couple of them were championing the meme that the Democratic Party must become more Christian and conservative like the GOP if it expected to have any relevance in the future. Along comes the following comment:
I'd also highly recommend the George Lakoff book "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think"
It's excellent. I can now tolerate being around Republicans because while I don't agree with them, I know where they're coming from.
Abigail | Email | Homepage | 11.26.04 - 9:16 pm | #
To which I responded...
Is that like being able to tolerate an abusive husband because you "know where he's coming from"?
Richard Cranium | Email | Homepage | 11.26.04 - 9:20 pm | #
Don't misunderstand me - Abigail was not one of the trolls - she was attempting to respond reasonably to the trolls, and offer some advice to the liberal contingent in groking the neoconservative mindset. Saturday morning, I open up my email, and lo and behold, Abby had taken the time to write me privately:
Answer: no. Comparing Republicans - all of them - to abusive husbands is absurd and idiotic. I'm sure you must know some decent smart Republicans. I know quite a few. And I must say that having read Lakoff's book (which I cannot recommend enough) my eyes have been opened. The book makes a lot of sense and I hope you pick it up and read it. Liberals are in the right. So let's start using the right tactics in order to have civilized debates and not screaming matches that accomplish nothing.
I'm the first to admit that I've yet to read Lakoff's book. Quite frankly, having been involved in politics for many years, I think I have at least a rudimentary understanding of the differences between the GOP and the Democrats - there is very, very little operational difference between the two. While there's some socially oriented philosophical departure between Democrat and Republican platforms, from an operational perspective, neither party will do much to upset the big money Washington apple cart. Which makes what's happening nationally even stranger.
In this post-election lull between voting and coronation, something odd is happening that I can't recall having experienced before. Liberals (personified, not simply the liberal "agenda") continue to be vilified by the right wing as if the election were still a month away. I don't mean, "hey, we won, let's find some common ground to work on because if we don't we'll squash you like a fucking bug" vilification, but a mean spirited, schoolyard bully rub-your-nose-in-it vilification.
Case in point: George Will's column today. To save you the dread of clicking through to Mr. Will, let me sum up by saying that he takes off on 'liberal academia'. His basic premise is that higher education is entrenched in pushing a liberal, secular view of the world. Well, duh, George. The entire point of a balanced university-level curriculum is to teach critical thinking skills as well as impart rote book knowledge. Critical thinking skills = questioning the status quo. Questioning the status quo = liberalism. Liberalism = anti-Americanism. Q.E.D., Will and his ilk don't cotton to the general concept of "university", which harkens back to the time of the Roman-Greco culture. You have to wonder what someone like Aristotle would think about George Will.
So, Abby, why would I want to find common ground with such pap? Short answer: I don't. Yet in the progressive blogosphere, there seems to be a significant movement in the direction of driving the Democratic party to an accommodation with the 51%'ers. And that's ludicrous on the face of it. This is where my "spousal abuse" response sprung from. There are simply too many on the liberal side of the ledger who want to become more like the abusers, because they think it will make the abusers like us more.
Rook can probably back me up on this:
When a woman (or man) capitulates to their spouse's abuse, it's always on the premise that he (or she) won't do it again. Without making you go watch Oprah or Montel, we all know how that works out. Politically speaking, the GOP has become the abusive spouse. And liberals continue to play the role of the abused spouse.
But don't take my word for it. Here's a link to an article at Deride and Conquer, written by a domestic abuse advocate, which focuses on the parallels. A snippet:
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 56 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don’t know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: stop responding to the abuser...
The only quarrel I have with Mel Gilles' posting is her use of the word, "progressive". Change that to "liberal", Mel. "Progressive" connotes action. "Progressive" can be used as a verb. "Liberal" connotes philosophy, and has been soundly pounded into a word that we'll never again (in my lifetime) be able to disassociate with the notion of namby pamby-ism.
So, with this post, I'm officially divorcing the terms liberal and progressive in my vocabulary. They both still have a place. But being a liberal means to me that I'll accept abuse. I won't anymore. I've become progressive.
Postscript: I said I was rushed before - as of 8PM, I've gone back and polished up my thoughts a bit more, made a few corrections, and hopefully clarified my feelings.