Sense and Sensibility at “Screw ‘Em” Kos’ Place

Things have been fairly frantic in my nonblog life, which accounts for a big part of the rationale for lack of presence in my blog life.

The other part of the rationale has been a general sense of blog malaise, as I don’t see the Katrina response, the 83rd Airborne accusations, the ongoing struggle toward a civil society in Iraq, and the accusations of corruption by Abramoff triggering serious discussions about the state of U.S. infrastructure and disaster preparedness, how to treat captured guerilla soldiers and terrorists, the Islamist challenge and the specific challenges of how to deal with Iraq, or what to do about a deeply corrupt political culture in this country.

What I see instead is schoolchildren chanting “DID SO!” and “DID NOT!” And it comes down to how you feel about GWB, as some kind of icon for good or ill, rather than trying to figure out what we all have to do to move our problems toward solution.

I’m getting email traffic among a group of my fellow Democratic bloggers who are crowing about the Plame grand jury’s request that Rove retestify, with gleeful exhortations that celebrations will immediately follow the White House perp walks.

None of this has really put me in a mood to blog a lot.And when I look back over my recent blogging output, it makes me feel like I’m getting pulled toward one of the two shouting camps – neither one of which hold much interest for me.

But then, like poet Mark Doty’s train rider, trudging up the ramp from Grand Central to be reanimated by the city’s “angled attack on heaven,” I glanced up and saw some things that gave me pause and hope.

Over on “Screw ‘Em” Kos’ site, Barak Obama wrote a long, passionate post about what he thinks – and I think – is wrong with the Democrats’ conduct recently. I’m doubting that most of the readers here have read it, although you may have heard about it. You ought to. Two excerpts that caught my eye:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists – a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog – we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don’t think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don’t think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don’t think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

Now I don’t completely buy all of his specific claims, but I do buy the key point he makes. The driving strategy of the Democratic Left – that the masses will rise up when they see the purity and value of their intentions, and that rather than listening to the people they hope to lead, the liberal core just has to talk to them.

The first step in this is canning the “Screw Them” rhetoric, which is one reason I’m so happy to see this on “Screw ‘Em” Kos’ site (yes, those words will be tied together for the foreseeable future in whatever I write). It followed an earlier thread there, I’m told (haven’t found it, but would love to get a link in the comments for myself and others) on the issue of civility and humility in politics.

In addition the question isn’t means – more money and effort into existing programs or plans – but ends. How do we best accomplish the goals that we, as liberals, claim to stand for?

…to the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, “true” progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive “checklist,” then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems. We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted.

…I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don’t work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

And suddenly I’m motivated to start blogging again. (Have to see what I can do about the whole overwhelming real life part…)

And no, I’m not signing onto the common wisdom that Iraq is a debacle and was a crime. More on that later.