On Principles v. Issues: Why the Right May Stay in Power in Spite of It All
Since I waded into the blogoswamp about four years ago, I've "stopped blogging" three times (vowing each time not to return); bailed out of ddjangoWIrE, started P!, left P! to my original partners/editors, then reclaimed it in a stealthy coup that would have made Machiavelli blush (and which got me dropped from the blogrolls and blocked from the comments sections of at least two blogs ('though they're still on the blogroll here)). In addition, and I've said this before, I've had 1,627 episodes of "this ain't doing any good/why bother?" Ooooops, make that 1,628.
Those of you who read me regularly (what the fuck is wrong with you, anyway?) certainly recognize my recurring main theme - in spite of the transparency of the lies of the Right, in spite of the hits they take on now a near-daily basis (a majority of them self-inflicted), in spite of what surely will become a stampede of defections by politicians and bureaucrats desparate to find post-Doubleduh solid ground ("Honest, folks! I really did think they were telling the truth"), the Right has a pretty good chance of retaining power for a good long time.
For those who don't come here that often, let me include in "the Right" 99% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats in and about the current political structure. That said, the question comes . . . "Why can't the true Left turn this around?"
Most of you aren't gonna like this . . . I'm about to ruffle some feathers big time: the Right is Principles-based; the Left is Issues-based.
I'm not saying that the Right's principles are correct - for the most part their principles are empoverished, mean-spirited, immature, fear-based, destructive, and easily manipulated and exploited by the likes of the Rovians. But they are principles nonetheless . . . strongly articulated, tightly held and defended, broadly shared, not easily shaken by attacks from the truth.
The most salient point, however, is that these principles are born of and nurtured by community; and the integration of that community with its principles is nearly total. Again, put aside the fact that an immoral, cynical political faction with a whole passel of money has wooed and won that community. Put aside the fact that, in grim reality, that political faction stands no more for the values, principles, and well-being of that community than does, say, the Colombian Crack Cartel. For better or worse, it is a match made truly "in heaven". Yeah, there are some cracks in the clouds and some bending of the gates, but the likes of McCain and others have their spackle and welding torches out and the fix is on already.
So what of the Left? I will not beat the dead horse of "the circular firing squad", except to note it. The Left's tendency to beat the crap out of itself (note Dean's current feud with Pelosi) is only symptomatic, as I believe was my experience with P! a year ago. Trying to promote principles and community, we fell victim to issues and narcissistic individualism. We couldn't drain the swamp but we started picking up the alligators as weapons.
For example, by consensus we made rules of conduct for ourselves, then promptly broke them. In our hearts, I think we were kindred spirits with common ground. But it struck me early on that "my issue is the most important one and if you guys don't see that, screw yuh." We indeed had common ground, but immediately reinforced each our own piece of it. Make no mistake, selfish individualism is corrosive - except when the same grander goal, encompassing issues born of and subservient to it, is shared by a cohesive community.
Here's what I face as a Lefty with a couple of these issues. First, abortion. I feel really uncomfortable with abortion. First, I believe that some unseemly high percentage of abortions follow decisions to be totally irresponsible sexually. The convenience of abortions makes responsible sexual behavior inconvenient. (By the way, my readership by radical feminists is nil anyway, so fuck it. I'm tired of being afraid of what y'all think about me these days.) Second, although the Left is quick to attack the Right for its insistence on getting unborn fetuses born, then finding myriad ways to end their lives or make them miserable when they are, the Left's anti-war and anti-death penalty fervor is dimmed by its narrow support of the right to abortion without working tirelessly to promote sexual responsibility and alternatives to abortion. I ain't a woman and I prolly don't have clue, so I'll defend to my death a woman's right to autonomy. But y'all better clean up yer act on this one - 'cuz Scalito ain't the worst yer gonna get on this one.
Second, gay marriage. Let's get real. (And I'm bisexual, folks) Timing is everything. I know it's an equity issue, and an economic issue, and a moral issue, and a prejudice issue. But why now? As a bisexual, by the way, I will tell you that there is more mindless narcissism in the gay community these days than in any other segment of our society. I myself have fallen victim to it in my own behavior to the extent that it has hurt my very life. I've had to grow up a bit. Maybe you should, too.
Third, here's another one we're gonna get kicked in the croakers on - good ole Freedom of Speech. The Right rightly thinks that the Left espouses the right to say or do pretty much anything it wants to regardless of who's listening and/or watching. We accuse the Right of unabashed arrogance, but is there not a sufeit of arrogance in this stance? The Right's kept media does lately give us a run for our money in the arena of verbal excrement, but to my mind the Left has embraced the doctrine of "Total Rights, No Responsibility" to a point of little return. The espousal of the right to be inartistically vulgar and profane with no thought of the consequences doesn't even approach disingenuous.
All of this saddens me greatly. Like many of you, I see the Right as deadly ignorant. But I see the Left as morbidly immature and ineffective. As you regulars (all two of you - er, or maybe one of you after this post) know, several months ago I rejected the label "progressive". I am a radical. These, unfortunately, have become radical ideas.
You've got a lot of staying power if you're still here. Here's the bit . . . in order to gain power, the Left must needs find a common ground, a unified field, if you will, to which our issues are subservient and integraL. We must discover a community in which the greater good (of not only the Left but of All) guides our pushing of our issues (not the other way around). We must examine our principles and identify the warts on their skins. It is the warts that uglify the shining light of the principles I know we stand for.
The rights of free speech, sexual autonomy, choice, and peace are currently all but lost to us on the Left because we have abdicated responsibility to a disastrous degree. One result of this is that "progressives" in name only, like Rodham-Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, and Obama have become our nearest best hope. That, goodly fellows, is nothing less than fookin tragic, doncha know.
Do we have community? Do we have unshakeable principles that guide our issue battles? Can we take it from here?
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Posted by total at 3/06/2006