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Wed

03

Jan

2007

Can’t You See? Crucial Differences Too Many on the Left Seem to Miss
Wednesday, 03 January 2007 22:59

by Andrew Bard Schmookler

It is often said, as a way of proving that the Democrats are no different from the Republicans: “The Democrats voted for war, they funded war, they voted for the Patriot Act… They are not different; they are the same. Hoping they will be different is unrealistic and foolish.” That’s a direct quote from a comment on one of my recent essays in which I argued that the Democrats’ newly one power in Congress is an absolutely essential weapon of ours in the battle against the Bushite evil. But one hears variations on that argument all the time.



And I just have to scratch my head and ask: When the Democrats do these things –and I acknowledge that they’ve done often done such things since 2002– can’t you see that they are not doing them for the same reasons as the Bushites?

Can’t you see that the field of forces in which these people are operating compels them to go directions that they’d prefer not to go? I mean it “compels” them, assuming we grant their priorities, which is to survive politically.



I prefer “Profiles in Courage” to the pursuit of that priority– believe me I do. Having grown up in the 1950s with the image of noble men doing noble things– protecting the weak by putting their lives on the line, never cowtowing to any evil power, never putting self-advancement ahead of doing the right and true and noble and heroic thing, protecting the weak, even at the risk of one’s life—I’ve always thought that’s how a man is supposed to act. (For the two and a half years since I perceived how dark is the threat from the Bushites to everything I hold sacred, I myself have been exerting myself all-out, full-time, for no pay, to help defeat this Bushite evil by speaking moral truth to amoral power.)

MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT HEROES

But it turns out that most people aren’t heroes. They may enjoy identifying with those heroes of the Western movies, but they are not all that invested in acting like them when the chips are down. For every Marshall Kane (the Gary Cooper character in High Noon), there’s a whole churchful of townsmen who don’t want to get involved, and don’t want to get shot at, and don’t want to get onto the wrong side of Miller and his gang when they take the town over again (over Kane’s dead body, which they are likely to do), and maybe even don’t entirely mind the idea that their town will become a den of iniquity, so long as business is good.

Haven’t you seen the same thing in every organization you’ve ever worked in? Have you noticed how people will keep their heads down and keep their mouths shut when it matters? A few may say something supportive to the one who speaks out—but only privately, where there’s no danger. Their heart may be in the right place, but it’s not the heart of a lion. They don’t want to risk their own security.

Why should we expect that our elected representatives will be any different? A few heroes maybe. But why should we expect otherwise than that most politicians will be like the people one generally sees in the world—like the townsmen, not Marshall Kane. Like the farmers, not Shane?

So in the fall of 2002, these Democrats –who mostly are not heroes– faced a field of forces from the Bushites that they read, not unreasonably, as confronting them with the choice between voting as the Bushites demanded or committing possible political suicide.

It was very clear to me then how the Bushites were able to manipulate the media and the public so that the Democrats were able to plausibly believe that if they failed to support this very popular “war president,” they would cut their own throats in the elections to come.

It was not foolish for the Democrats to believe that if they acted “wimpy” in contrast with the supposed strength and courage and resolve of our “war President” (and that’s how most of the American people then saw him), that if they acted unpatriotic at a time when everybody is showing the flag and a lot of people’s vehicles are sporting a bumper-sticker that says “The Power of Pride” over Old Glory while the Bushites were being our supposed great protectors and defenders of “freedom” and the glories of the American chest-thumping way of life, that the Bushites would crucify them in elections as far as the eye could see.

SAME ACTION, WHOLLY DIFFERENT MEANING

Could you not see that when someone like John Kerry voted for the authorization of the use of force IT HAD A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MEANING than when the likes of Bush and Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld and Tom Delay worked to drive the country into this war?

For those Bushites, it was all about POWER– about the assertion of pure might to humiliate their enemies, to command the field, to impose their will upon everyone, to march toward domination of everything.

For Kerry, and most of the Democrats who voted for the Patriotic and Strong thing, for the Defending America from Those Who Would Destroy Us– for Kerry and most of the others it was not about power but about SURVIVAL.

There’s absolutely no way that a Kerry administration had it been in power in 2001-2204, would have taken us to war in Iraq. Indeed, I would wager heavily that no other administration in our lifetime would have taken us into that war, and certainly not into that war THAT WAY.

They voted to authorize the use of force because they were afraid not to. And there was good reason for that fear.

Look what the Bushites did to Max Cleland– a Vietnam vet who left three of his limbs in Vietnam but who got defeated by the Rovian-Bushite propagandists by putting a poison pill into a piece of legislation creating Homeland Security so that they could get people like Cleland to vote against that version, and then pillory him in the campaign as being “Osama bin Laden’s man.”

Did you not notice how ill-equipped the Democrats were to cope with Rovian tactics? (Don’t forget the Swiftboat campaign, and Kerry’s inability to counter it.)

The electorate was afraid: remember how strong fear has been in the hearts of millions of Americans, a fear that came with 9/11 and that the Bushites have done everything they could to fan into flames. And it looked like they’d punish anyone who was hesitant to “protect” them.

So the Democrats, too, knew fear. They knew they were up against an opponent who was riding a huge wave of popularity, that had the mainstream media happily acting like a propaganda arm of the administration rather than as a guardian of the people against a lying bunch of thugs stealing the country, and that had already shown itself capable of manipulating the public into suppporting it and rejecting the “libral, elitist, wimpy, immoral” Democrats.

And they did what the townsmen did in HIGH NOON. They caved to the power that would otherwise have killed them off, politically. Except for a few heroes like Feingold, and a scattering of others.

What the Democrats did was not heroic, but it is a VERY, VERY DIFFERENT THING from what the Bushites did. The Bushites deliberately created the world that served their purposes: they went after a piece of Middle East real estate that would extend their hegemony, and they cast Bush as the “war-time president.”

The Democrats just accepted that this was the world they were compelled to come to terms with.

Couldn’t you see that?

Couldn’t you see –as the president started beating the drums of war in early summer of 2002 (and then detoured for a short time to the United Nations to bully the rest of the world) and then insisted on Congress voting a blank-check war authorization before the elections (when there was no need for it but for the political blackmail it made possible)—how the Bushites were driving the Democrats, like a herd of cattle, on a course they didn’t want?

Couldn’t you see the Dems –not ALL the Dems, but most of them– trying to find a way out? Couldn’t you see them try to delay the vote, so they would not be so vulnerable to being published immediately if the public was angry or disgusted by their not supporting the president, not protecting the country, not standing up for America?

Couldn’t you see them trying to arrange so that the resolution would require the President to come back to Congress before actually using force, so the issue would not really be resolved until after the election?

But it came down to voting yes for what Bush wanted or voting no and putting one’s head in the political guillotine.

The dance was complex but it was right out there in public. This was a very powerful regime just then. The Democrats had no clue how to combat that power, so they knuckled under to it.

I’m not sure how well even politically adept politicians might have combated the Bushites at that point. But the Democrats were clearly not far from masterful in meeting the challenge posed to them by the Rovian propagandists. And the recent elections change that picture only in a very limited way. The Bushites have been weakened NOT by the Democrats TELLING people the terrible truth about this regime, but by Iraq SHOWING people a bit of that truth (about its incompetence if not its evil).

IT WAS NOT JUST THE POLITICIANS

But the fault for this is not just with the Democrats.

It is also with the media, which have been appalling during the dismantling and degrading of our constitutional democracy.

And it is also with the American people who, despite all the propaganda, had access to more than enough information to be able to see what was what. But they were either too lazy to look, or too gullible to believe their “lying eyes” rather than the voice of the Propagandist, or too glad (out of the darkness in their own souls) to follow these evil leaders– leaders who, in a phrase that I like to use, “under the sheep’s clothing of a false righteousness, have let loose the wolf of their unbridled lust for self-aggrandizement.”

The Bushites have exploited some real flaws in the American people.

And ultimately, if we want politicians who will do the right thing, we need to create an electorate that will vote for the good and not for the evil.

In 2002, we did not have that. I’m not sure we have it now, either. But we have a chance to try to create it.

THE CHALLENGE OF OUR MOMENT

That means doing what we can to encourage, compel, enable the Democrats to educate them.

But we must not weaken them. They are all we have.

We cannot look to the mainstream corporate media much (though there is Olbermann, and the voice of truth is speaking through more and more voices, and it is getting louder). They might follow as the wind shifts, but they do not work to shift the wind.

Nor is our movement –with all its brave and wonderful voices–going to achieve all that much in moving the consciousness of the American people.

In this divided country, we on forums such as these are mostly preaching to the choir– which is important in many ways, but it does not move the mass of public opinion very directly.

The lever we have that COULD do the job is the Democrats with their control of Congress. That’s where the next stage of the battle against the Bushites needs to be faught.

And so it is folly for us to weaken the only possible champion we have. Everybody dumps on the Democrats– the Republicans, the Media, and even the Democrats base on the left.

That is a weakness in our movement– that we weaken the only warrior around that COULD fight the BUshites successfully.

If we put our energy into talking about how terrible they are, we help the Bushites. If we put our energy into helping get the Democrats to move in the right direction, we can defeat these Bushites.

They need us to stiffen their spines. They need us to give them good ideas on strategies to defeat the Bushites. They need us to hammer the media about covering things in a spirit of greater truth and justice. They need us to call them to their better selves, more like Marshall Kane and less like the townsmen.

But they do not need for us to join in the general abuse and contempt for the Democrats.

Their weakness has been our weakness. And their weakness will continue to be our weakness.

But the corollary is also true. Their strength can be our strength. That’s why the election is something we owe it to ourselves to celebrate.

That is why we need to work with the Democrats to create strategies for victory.

That is why we need to relate to the Democrats in whatever ways will lead to their doing more of the right thing and less of the wrong thing.

But if we withdraw our support just because these non-heroes don’t do as much of the right thing as we wish they would and think they should, we surrender some of our newly won power back to the Bushites.
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Comments (7)add comment

blue said:

0
March on Wasington
Schmookler is right. The Democrats need an injection of courage. Otherwise, their cowardice will bring us a fascist state.
So lets help them along by Marching on Washington, January 27th.

http://www.unitedforpeace.org/

Bring patriotic red, white, and blue scarves and hats. Lets have a little color in our demonstration smilies/smiley.gif

If there are enough of us, the Democrats might acquire just enough courage to face up to that bad old Bush and his corporate media hacks.

Bring a friend

Blue
 
January 04, 2007
Votes: +0

Jimmy Montague said:

0
You're right, Schmookler,
when you say ". . . when someone like John Kerry voted for the authorization of the use of force IT HAD A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MEANING than when the likes of Bush and Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld and Tom Delay worked to drive the country into this war?"

I see that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Tom Delay at least had the courage to lead. That they deceived us is beyond question. That they're moral zeroes is beyond question. Say any bad thing you want to say about them: whatever that may be, it's true. But they had the courage to use their power and position to achieve what they thought were great things. On the other hand, Kerry voted for the war because he didn't have the guts to vote against it. He lacked the courage to use his power and position to speak out against what he knew was wrong.

What events asked of the Kerrys in Congress is no more than events ask of any professional who is hired to give advice. When the client chooses to ignore that professional advice and do what the professional has advised against doing, the ethical professional resigns his position and goes off looking for another contract. A defense attorney, for example, whose client rejects his advice, removes himself from the case. If he doesn't do so, his reputation is ruined and he is called a hack.

What you're saying is that Churchill, instead of going into the wilderness, should have crawled into bed with Hitler's appeasers. Can't you see that? Too bad: I surely can.

You say "The Bushites have exploited some real flaws in the American people." That makes you a conservative, ideologically. Conservatives, you know, believe that people are basically evil, weak, self-serving, and need omnipotent rulers to keep them in check. Liberals, on the other hand, think people are basically good, generous, and capable of great courage when led by decent men toward a worthy end.

The fact is, old boy: You're in the wrong place. You're an apologist for corruption, cowardice and incompetence. You may not actually BE a shill for the neo-conservative moneymen, but your rhetoric says that you are. You're going to have to rethink your position if you hope to find happiness here.

 
January 06, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

Andrew Bard Schmookler said:

Andrew Bard Schmookler
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January 06, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

Winter Patriot said:

January 06, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

Winter Patriot said:

Winter Patriot
...
Schmookler's comment on this thread says it all.

I never saw a credible author who refused to discuss his position.

Only the other kind.
 
January 06, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

ABS said:

0
My long, missing comment
I did post a lengthy reply to Mr. Montague, within a couple of hours of his posting, but I discover this morning that --though I saw it on the thread immediately after posting it-- it has somehow disappeared.

Fortunately, I had saved it also as a Word file, so I'm able to post it again now:

*****

The idea that there are "real flaws in the American people" does not equate to the idea that "people are basically evil, weak, self-serving..." That's a non-sequitur.

I said nothing about HUMAN NATURE. But people, under the formative influences of an injurious culture, can be weakened and corrupted. Surely, an American electorate two-thirds of whom believed GWBush to be a man of integrity as they went to the polls in 2004 has some sort of defect in their perceptions, would you not agree?

Yes, it might well be said that Tom Delay is more courageous than John Kerry. BUt at least in my moral calculus, courage is not so huge a virtue that a brave and evil person is to be counted higher than a decent person lacking courage.

As for how you might construe anything I said to mean that "Churchill, instead of going into the wilderness, should have crawled into bed with Hitler's appeasers," I cannot imagine.

My position is that heroes are good, and the rarity of them is regrettable.

Churchill paid a huge price for his stand, and was relegated to the political wilderness in what seemed for a long time to be the ruination of his career. It's hardly typical that ultimately history handed him his "finest hour" when the bankruptcy of the Chamberlain approach was made manifest. But even had he been ruined, I'd have thought him right to speak the truth.

In my life, I've never failed to stand up for what I think right because there would be a price to pay. And I've paid a steep price for that, in just about every currency other than bodily harm that there is. About my choice, I have no regrets. That's what I believe in.

But I also have learned over the decades that most people will not make that choice. Equating that with being "an apologist for corruption" is another lapse in logic.

Denying that things are as they are is not a virtue. And identifying the shortcomings of the world is not to defend them.
 
January 08, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Compulsion is not courage
Delay is not more courageous than Kerry. The individual who is obsessive-compulsive is more "dynamic" than one who is thoughtful, not more courageous. Greed, especially on the scale of the Republican leadership, is a compulsion, and it takes no courage to act that out. On the contrary, it takes courage to ignore a compulsion. Kerry is calculating and bumbling, but do what he did in Viet Nam, and then call him cowardly. He calculated a strategy, and carried it out. The strategy was faulty, especially conceding so fast, but should we condemn our ally for taking the approach he thought would win?

Why do angry liberals, like Montague, choose only the faults of Democrats to discuss? I think it's because they are compulsive in their self-righteous indignation and need the sense of superiority it gives them. They want politicians who will resign in protest. That's genuinely funny! They will have no power and deserve none, because they can't tolerate anyone who’s willing to get their hands dirty.

Who exactly do the Dem-haters think they can put into office if not Repubs and Dems, and how will they achieve that? Go ahead... tell me how your way will win.

All revolutionaries have become compromised when they get into power, and must eventually yield to the next. That doesn't mean that each revolution is worthless. Oh no, human evolution absolutely requires we have hope for the next one. It is the hopeful who’ve always made a difference, not the cynics who chuckle at them dismissively.
 
January 14, 2007
Votes: +0

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