Ex-Kos Facto: Partisanship over Principles is a Threat on Any Side
I used to visit TalkLeft a fair amount to read their legal analyses and find out information about threats to civil liberty. But when the blog became hijacked by partisan worship of Hillary Clinton, I stopped reading, because it ceased to be independently informative.
I used to visit Daily Kos a fair amount to catch up on news that the papers wouldn’t touch, and I even wrote there occasionally. Year after year, I read the posts of diarists who called Republican members of Congress wankers for refusing to stand up to George W. Bush. Year after year, I read diarists at Daily Kos chastise Bush supporters for blindly following him, for trusting him, for sacrificing their former principles and independent thought in exchange for obedience. I read diarists criticize groupthink. I read diarists calling for civil disobedience and dissent. This spring, I read diarists who pointed out Barack Obama’s speeches about the Constitution and habeas corpus and the rule of law and explained why this made Barack Obama a better candidate. I read diarists who celebrated Barack Obama for his promise to filibuster the FISA Amendments Act.
Then Barack Obama secured his party’s nomination. Shortly thereafter, Obama announced that he would break his promise and support the 4th-Amendment-gutting FISA Amendments Act after all.
Over the week that followed, the most highly ranked and promoted diaries on Daily Kos celebrated a new set of values. Breaking with one’s party in defense of higher principles? Not such a good idea any more. Protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States? Just one issue among many. The FISA Amendments Act? Just a show piece of legislation of little consequence. Those upset at the loss of civil liberty? Purity trolls. Those speaking of lessened trust in Barack Obama? Concern trolls. Voicing concern about the policy direction of one’s leaders? Inadvisable. Trusting Barack Obama? Essential. Barack Obama breaking his promise? Useful flexibility. Party unity? Indispensible.
The chaos that has erupted over the FISA bill is threatening to go too far. The comments that I have read on the subject, threatening primary challengers for everyone voting for it, withholding support for Democrats based on this one singular issue, are out of line. Some have threatened to withhold their support for Barack Obama because he did not inject himself into this particular vote. This is insanely stupid. Let us not forget a major reason why we won back control of Congress: the conservatives decided to overreach. The Club for Growth decided it would apply litmus tests to Republicans and fund primary challengers because they weren’t “pure” enough, in their eyes. Do not forget the story of Icarus – he tried to fly too high, too close to the sun, and his wings melted. The moral of the story is, DO NOT OVERREACH.
Something that is frequently used as a rallying cry around here is “More and Better Democrats.” I would ask you, fellow Kossacks, to look again at that oft-used phrase. MORE comes BEFORE Better. I would ask each of you to never forget that. EVER. What we want, more importantly than Better Democrats, is MORE Democrats. And sometimes, that requires compromise on some issues.
OK? Perhaps not, but part of being in a party is taking the bad with the good.
But forget the relevancy of your personal views of FISA and Obama’s position on it.
One thing is certain to me: our reaction (throughout liberal communities) to Obama’s decision has shown weakness on our side. Weakness in the extent of our support for our Democratic nominee. While the conservative base has come to fully back John McCain (observable in polling of his support among republicans), with a single “wrong” vote we have come to express discontent with our candidate. We shouldn’t allow FISA to become an anti-Obama talking point on the cable news or other media; it is only hurting our cause.
This whole affair has made it apparent that our liberal community’s ability to blindly follow a single person is weaker than the conservative base’s. Most of us wouldn’t see this as a bad thing. But, I don’t believe we will be able to beat McCain if we don’t act at least a little less like liberals and a little more like sheep (as unfortunate as that is).
Baa? Fall in line? Do it for the team?
This is why I have never been a part of any political party. Most of the moral mistakes in American history, and perhaps in world history, have come from the tendency of people to set their principles neatly to one side, fall in line, baa like sheep and do it — whatever it is — for the team.
Sorry, kossacks, but I’m not a sheep, I’m not a soldier, and I’m not on a team. I’m a person, I’ve got a brain, and I intend to use it. When Daily Kos stops checking the brains of its diarists at the door, perhaps I’ll start reading again. Not before then.