Over the Aisle: This You Must Defend

Marie Myung-Ok Lee finds herself conflicted about attending a controversial author’s reading and wonders: what does “speaking up” actually mean?

Source: Politics and Prose

Lee writes a fascinating article that is worth the long read for two reasons.

Most obviously, she is a progressive who is uncomfortable with the Antifa’s Red Guard style tactics. I take that as a positive: the more either side the US declines to align with its most extreme fringes, the more I nurture the hope that we will avoid civil war.

But what I find most telling is the grounds on which she criticizes the Antifa rabble shouting down a speaker: her problem is that the speaker is actually more sympathetic to their point than they realize, and if they listen they would understand. You see, the author they were shouting down was NOT someone like Richard Spencer. Because he was different than Spencer, because his position was closer to those of Antifa, he deserves to be able to speak.

It apparently does not occur to Ms. Lee that there is a greater crime being committed than the failure to recognize the importance of nuance in a political position. What Lee fails to do is to say – or even suggest – that the problem with the Antifa tactics is that they are not expressing their own right of free speech as much as they are denying someone else theirs. Lee – a writer who thrives on the rights granted by the Constitution – is unwilling to defend that right. By implication, indeed, free speech is not a right but a privilege to be granted only to those who agree with you.

I pick on Ms. Lee, and perhaps unfairly. She is not the issue. The problem is that on the progressive left it is okay to listen politely to someone you agree with, but that someone you disagree with does not even merit the privilege of a public forum. The problem is that it has become okay on the American left to suggest that those whose ideas I find repugnant have no right to self-expression; or, indeed, that there are ideas which must not be aired, even in a free society; and to do so without having to worry about being questioned by your fellows.

In so doing, the left runs the risk of sacrificing its opportunity to take political leadership of this country at a time when, even in the eyes of this conservative, the nation needs a liberal opposition capable of credible leadership.

The Democrats will probably take home a great victory in November, a “blue tide” that will give the Executive Branch the opposition it deserves. If it is to get the opposition that the nation needs, the left must make clear that it offers an inclusive vision of the future, one in which there is even a place for people whose ideas they find repugnant. Nothing will undermine that more quickly than questions about whether the left is prepared to uphold and defend the Constitution.

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Same as the Old High

If Marx posited that religion is the opiate of the people, then we have reached a new, more clarifying moment in the history of the West: Opiates are now the religion of the people.

Andrew Sullivan

This is a plague ripping America apart from within, far greater public health crisis than AIDS ever was.

And the Presidential solution is to give it to his wife to manage.

Once again, the band plays on.

Tobin on Fair and Equal Outrage

What we need here is not so much more civility—though that would be nice—but some consistency when it comes to outrage. If you think gays shouldn’t be subjected to negative or prejudicial remarks on TV, then try to be just as interested when people of faith or conservatives are given the same treatment. The same advice applies to conservatives. Selective outrage that is only generated when someone whose political opinions you disagree with crosses the line is what is really turning our public square into a verbal junkyard.

“Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, and Hypocrisy”
Jonathan Tobin

Commentary
December 19, 2013

via Tobin on Fair and Equal Outrage.

Shades of Red

I read a lot of liberal/progressive publications. I think every Republican should. I also think liberals and progressives should read more writings from the right, as well. Not only is it good to know what the other side is thinking, reading the opposition tests intellectual honesty and hones one’s own thinking. And, as I have said here before, no side has a monopoly on the truth.

In this reading one of my ongoing irritants is that these magazines – The New Republic most prominently among them – still fail to make distinctions among Republicans. They don’t see the reactionary right, most often associated with the Tea Party; they don’t see the libertarian wing. They miss the continued presence of the silenced-but-real neoconservatives, frequently mis-named “mainstream Republicans.”

And, finally, they ignore totally the Silent Majority, those of us who understand that measured progress is a good thing, but that Change for its own sake is foolishness; and that we need a government that acts morally rather than one that tries to legislate morality.

Maybe from the far side of the spectrum, everything right of center looks the same shade as red. But I know that there are flavors of liberals, ranging from blue-dog Democrats to hardcore radical progressives. I learned a long time ago that profiling the opposition and lumping them all together ignores the hidden fault lines in American politics, and sacrifices opportunities to build common cause with a wide spectrum of people. In short, it’s just dumb and demagogic.

Defining 21st Century Republicanism

Republicanism is not the defense of the status quo, or of the past. Today is not perfect, and any true telling of history belies the rose-toned filters of nostalgia. Not all social and political evolution touted as “progress” is good, and much should be resisted in favor of more measured change. But to resist change entirely is as misguided as the insistence that we live in a perfect world, and no betterment is possible. That is not Republicanism or conservatism: that is delusion with the taint of egocentrism.

Republicanism is not the belief that all progress to date, drawn from an arbitrary line in the past, is somehow misguided. It is the nature of all institutions – and government most of all – to foment efforts that are utter folly, or that are of temporary utility only. The former must be uprooted without mercy; the latter must be carefully but firmly closed. But there are those that are of lasting an important benefit and, when flawed, should only be replaced when the flaws may be removed, benefit may be increased, or the efficiency improved.  To root out necessary and valuable efforts merely because they fail an ideological test is the mark of an extremist. To do so merely because they were brought about by those less conservative is the mark of a reactionary.

Republicanism should be, instead, the effort to achieve the betterment of ourselves, our nation, and our world through the thoughtful, compassionate and more perfect application of time-proven principles. It is the hot steel of progress formed by the hammer of time-honored ideals against the anvil of our proven institutions, and tempered by the cool water of wisdom.

In governing a complex nation of 330 million souls, the head must lead the heart, not the other way around. Our righteous instincts, our desire to do the right thing by the ideals we hold sacred, those beliefs that Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” must advise all we do, but they must be subordinated to the knowledge that all actions have unintended consequences, and that no action, however worthy it might seem, is tolerable if it undermines the core principles on which our republic is based.

To be a Republican, then, is not to hew to a line that stands against progress: it is, instead, to be the rudder that guides the advance of the nation down a course that ensures its constant and timely improvement while guarding against the tempests of change and the shoals of stagnation.

Our Response to the Shutdown: Fire Congress

English: Breakdown of political party represen...
English: Breakdown of political party representation in the United States House of Representatives during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A degree of political maneuvering is to be expected in a democracy. Indeed, it is an essential tool in the legislative process, forcing compromise and often providing the means to forestall legislation that might otherwise be railroaded through Congress.

But when politics is allowed to stand in the way of lawful governance, politicians surrender the last vestige of pretense that the are serving the people. And at that time, it is incumbent upon the people to act.

Congress has failed. As a result, it is time for Americans to stiffen their resolve and send a message that will be remembered for generations. In refusing to return any incumbent member of Congress in the 2014 election, we will make it clear that no representative of the people, regardless of party affiliation, will be permitted to place partisan concerns above the need to sustain a functioning nation and of our national assets.

Politics is not a substitute for governance, and governance Job #1 for the Congress. When you don’t do your job, you’re fired.

Fire Congress in 2014, and send our national legislature back into the business of government, rather than the business of politics.