The Pros From Dover

You know, I’m as big a fan of blog triumphalism as anyone, and as much a believer as the next guy that blogging has unleashed this vast array of heretofore unknown talent which will save the world or something like it.

And then I read something like this analysis (here’s a Word download, for you non-Atlantic subscribers – and you ought to subscribe, you know!) of the current state of the Democratic Party by Marc Cooper in the Atlantic and realize there’s a reason why he writes about politics as his day job and I do it as a hobby.

America, now more than ever, needs a vibrant, viable, progressive alternative. The challenge to liberals, then, isn’t to reify their differences with a mythical red America and its strict daddies but, rather, to find common ground. Perhaps they ought to start by taking their own sermons about diversity a good deal more seriously. Diversity should be much, much more than a code word for racial affirmative action. It also entails, as Potter and Heath argue, “[making] peace with mass society” and learning to live with what the philosopher John Rawls called “the fact of pluralism.” Modern America is large and, yes, diverse enough that it’s absolute folly to think some sort of progressive or nurturant world view can—or should—become majoritarian. Who would want that sort of conformity in any case? “We need to learn to live with disagreement—not just superficial disagreement, but deep disagreement, about the things that matter most to us,” Heath and Potter conclude.

The trick of effective politics—as opposed to thinly disguised self-affirming psychotherapy and aesthetically gratifying rebel poses—is precisely to unite people with different views, values, and families around programs, candidates, and campaigns on which they can reach some consensus, however minimal. Before liberals and progressives dash out with their new vocabulary to try to convince others of the righteousness of their values, they might consider spending some time listening to others instead.

I’d started a review of Lakoff’s thin little self-affirmation, and put it aside as the only responses I could muster were so negative that they were embarrassing.

Cooper has thicker skin:

Much more than an offering of serious political strategy, Don’t Think of an Elephant! is a feel-good self-help book for a stratum of despairing liberals who just can’t believe how their commonsense message has been misunderstood by the eternally deceived masses. Liberal values are American values, they say, but somehow Americans just keep getting tricked—by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, AM talk radio, conservative think tanks—into thinking and voting against their own interests.

Go read the whole thing.

They Pull You Back In…

I’m a weak human being; I had walked away from ill-informed academic Juan Cole, assuming that there was nothing he could say that would make me think any less of his views.

In fact, this doesn’t really make me think less of him, but it does highlight the difference in our views of the world.

Update: Al-Jazeerah is reporting that the Lebanese Opposition is now calling for the big demonstrations at Martyrs’ Square to continue until all Syrian troops leave Lebanese soil.

You wonder what would happen if the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza tried the same thing re: Ariel Sharon’s military occupation that they face. They’d be crushed by the jackboot (with convenient allegations that they were a front for terrorism).

This is just risible.
No democratic government – no liberal government – since World War II has been able to withstand peaceful demonstrations for community or national rights. The will to oppress just isn’t deep enough.

It wasn’t the North Vietnamese military that ended the war; it was the monks who killed themselves protesting the regime(s) in South Vietnam that we were supporting and inspired the demonstrations here in the US and in Europe.

It wasn’t the violence of the Sepoy Revolt that freed India, but the Salt March. And in fact, had there been a reprise of the Sepoy Revolt and the slaughter of English colonial bureaucrats and their families, India’s freedom would doubtless have been delayed.

I do not for a moment believe that a democratic Israel could have maintained the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the face of a determined, pacifistic Palestinian movement.

Among other things, the level of moral and political maturity necessary for the Palestinians to create and sustain such a movement suggests that there is some political readiness to actually govern in some way that does not involve a lot of murders in the dead of night.

Cole is so convinced of the evil of the Israeli government and people that he can’t imagine that; to him, they stand as peers to the B’aath dictators who shelled Hama and executed the civilian population – Cole cites 10,000 dead, but virtually all the accounts I have found suggest that the number was between 20,000 and 40,000.

And there’s the gap. Let’s do a thought experiment…

Imagine if you would a Middle East in which, say, Syria enjoyed the military advantage currently enjoyed by Israel. Give them air superiority, a high-tech army, and heck, you can even toss in nuclear weapons. Ask yourself what the Middle East would look like?

If you think it would look anything like it does today, you might want to go stand next to Professor Cole. I’ll be on the other side of the room.