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As my inaugural post, I want to talk about some fundamental political principles.
As citizens and voters, it is not our job to craft compromises. It is not our job to push for compromise. It is not our job to worry about "political appearances". These are the jobs that we pay our representatives to do.
As citizens and voters, we have one very simple job: To demand exactly what each of us actually wants. Full stop. If compromise is necessary, if the maintenance of political appearances is necessary, it is up to the representatives to work it out and sell it to us after it's been crafted.
This principle is negotiation 101. You never ever sit down at the bargaining table with a compromise in hand; you sit down asking for everything, and then you compromise.
This is probably the biggest mistake that lefty pundits such as David Sirota make. We're sophisticated, intelligent people, by and large, and the temptation to play inside baseball is very strong. Movement advocates must resist this temptation at all costs.
It is not our job to make sure that Democrats get elected. It's our job to make sure the progressive movement is strong enough that Democrats must embrace our values if they want to be elected. The conservative movement has taught us that it is better to lose on principle than win by compromising our values.
Which brings us to another fundamental political principle: If you're going to lose, lose big. If you'll forgive the sports metaphor, when you're behind, you don't play a "prevent" defense. You take risks. A loss by one point is just as much of a loss as a loss by a hundred points. Even though some of my representatives (notably senator Boxer) have decent anti-war credentials, I will never forgive them for their passivity in the early years of the Bush administration: Where were the filibusters?
For almost six years, we acted like wingnut delusional conservatism was a permanent feature of the political landscape. How much better off would we be now, how many more seats would progressive or moderate Democrats have won in 2006, if we had fought and lost, fought and lost, as many times as necessary in the early years of the Bush administration? Progressives, liberals and even moderates were already in the minority: we had already lost. Instead of taking risks and playing to the movement, the Democratic party embraced wingnut delusional conservatism, thus lending objective credence to the charge that there really is no difference between Democrats and Republicans: Both are tools of the conservative movement.
The progressive movement is still behind. We are still a minority within the Democratic party itself, and the party does not yet represent our values.
Now is not the time for the progressive movement to compromise. Now is not the time to play inside baseball. We do not yet have the political representation to end the war in Iraq at all; supporting the Democratic party in pretending to do so is not helpful. Now is the time for taking risks, standing up for principle and, if necessary, losing on principle. Now is the time for making a stink, for intransigence, for grandstanding, for theater.
The American people love a good show, so let's give them a good show, a good show with a principled progressive script.
Update: Historian Howard Zinn concurs (h/t to Kmareka.com)