Are Liberals Nihilistically Tolerant?
~ by Elia Isquire
[T]olerant Democrats are not only capitulating to negotiations over how much to starve our economy of public capital but in some cases are bragging about how much they’re giving in. During his remarks about the budget deal a week ago, Obama twice trumpeted achieving the biggest annual spending cuts in history. How can a basketball fanatic like Obama think that throwing the ball in the other team’s hoop will somehow win the game? Yet, this is the essence of what Obama, the community organizer, came to Washington to do: not to push an agenda but to change the culture of the capital to be more inclusive, open-minded, civil and democratic. Unfortunately, there are no points for playing nice. It’s as though Democrats think we’re at a polite tea party, while Republicans are fighting an ideological war.The GOP’s budget plan for 2012would essentially dismantle Medicaid and Medicare, end social supports for poor families and give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. Realistically, Obama seems to understand that, at least in the short term, liberals have lost control of the conversation and have to play by the rules that the extreme right has made up. That means Democrats have to do something regarding the deficit and spending.
I’m extremely sympathetic to Kohn’s contention — and I think that it’s vital that she and those like her make it in high-profile spaces like the Post— but on a factual rather than political level, I think she actually undercuts the above when, earlier in the piece, she writes:
In the weeks leading up to the budget showdown, the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to “stand by their principles,” even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down. Among those who identified as tea party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles. With supporters like that, who needs Rand Paul?
This was a bit of info that Jonathan Chait was flagging in the days before the budget brouhaha, and I think it explains much of why Democratic politicians can seem to lack all conviction.
Because for all the dusty, creaking narratives of the left being dominated by radical hippies and Abbie Hoffman wannabes looking to heighten-the-contradictions, the fact is that in the modern era, the Republican party is far, far more ideological and, yes, radical than the Democrats. Democrats nowadays — and especially in the Obama era — are basically mild-mannered, technocratic pragmatists who just want to tweak our systems wherever necessary so as to improve the efficiency of what they fundamentally believe to be a sound model. Republicans tend to be the ones throwing around transformative rhetoric — just because it’s reactionary doesn’t make it conservative.
And if you’ll allow me to digress, I’d like to point out one last bit from the article that I thought was amusing. Kohn writes:
For all the mockery of hyper-tolerant political correctness, identity politics is anything but tolerant. It demands that society be more accepting and inclusive of those who are marginalized because of their race, gender or sexual orientation. But it does not go so far as to tolerate intolerance. Those who fight racism and sexism in society do so out of deep moral convictions. They would never say, “Oh, we can co-exist with Fred Phelps and the KKK and find a way to compromise.” Creating a society that fully embraces gay people and people of color means creating a society that is intolerant of homophobia and racism.
Which immediately reminded me of the following anecdote which I stumbled across years ago. It’s not 100%, but there’s nevertheless an ironic, if meaningless, correlation:
“Barack thinks he can win over anyone,” [Obama Senate campaign manager] Jim Cauley observed. “He thinks he can go into a roomful of skinheads and come out with all their votes.”
Back then, Obama wasn’t really shooting for compromise so much as utter capitulation — but you gotta start somewhere, right?