Monday, January 21, 2008

Practical tactics - Updated

By Libby

A while back I wrote a couple of posts suggesting that bi-partisanship shouldn't necessarily be a dirty word and that democracy benefits from finding common ground with our political opponents. They were met with some amount of indignation in the comment sections. It seems we've become so angry with conservatism and those who have so successfully promoted its disastrous policies that most of us can't imagine working together when we find common cause.

It's not that I don't understand the anger, or the distrust, particularly after the last seven years. Bi-partisan has become a code word for capitulation, a weasel term used by lizards like Lieberman to cover up their traitorous betrayals in advancing their personal power. However, just because the word has been twisted beyond recognition doesn't mean we should reject the original concept.

Via Avedon, I see Hilzoy made a similar point recently in a post about Hillary and was also criticized for it. She explains the point more eloquently than I do.
I would have thought it obvious that, other things equal, it's better to work with people from the other party than not. Your bills are likely to attract broader support. You can build actual working relationships that might come in handy later. And so on, and so forth. The question always has to be: what price do you pay for this? Do you have to compromise your principles? If so, then the price is obviously too high. Do you have to be imaginative and open-minded enough to recognize in a Senator from the other party with whom you disagree about almost everything, someone who agrees with you on some particular issue, and with whom you can therefore work on that issue? That, I would have thought, is a price well worth paying.
I wouldn't even couch it as a cost so much as it is a pragmatic choice. It's useful to remember that Nixon's impeachment hearings began by bi-partisan agreement and the two parties disagreed just as bitterly then as they do now on most issues. Indeed, if one thinks of it in terms of simple warfare in the times when battles were fought eye to eye and hand to hand, it wasn't uncommon for two opposing groups to unite against a common enemy and then resume their own battles when the greater foe was defeated.

Yes, there's a wide rift between conservatives and progressives, or however you want to define the sides, but it seems to me we only hurt ourselves if we reject outright the notion that we could, and should, work together in those rare instances when we have common ground to defend. In the end, the real battle is between all of us and the professional politicians in both parties that have corrupted the system. If we insist on always fighting each other, those pols win and we all lose.

Update: To clarify my position, in response to comments, I'm not suggesting we hold out olive branches and embrace the conservatives into our cause as our new blood brothers, nor that we should we trust the IOKIYAR crowd. What I'm saying is its not impossible for opponents to form temporary alliances when they face a stronger common enemy that can defeat them separately, but whom they could defeat if they combine forces. I certainly don't think it's productive to discount the idea entirely, because we're angry and we want to teach the other side a lesson.

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