Wed 21 Mar 2012
I spent a holiday party, last December, yelling myself hoarse when someone said they weren’t going to vote because there was “effectively no difference between Obama and Romney”. That kind of thick-headed refusal to recognize the realities of government is a failure of intellect and a loss for the good guys in the struggle between those who seek results and those who require ideological purity. Everybody wants a pony made of ice cream, folks, but nobody gets one and it’s better to ask what we can get instead than to spend all day trying to trip over our lower lips about it, y’know?
Anyway, I recently had a MOO-based conversation with an old friend about Obama and realized that it wouldn’t make a bad blog post, either, so here it is, de-identified with their permission:
====================================================== Snorklewhacker [to Michael]: I have to say, I wonder whether a certain number of Obama's positions will undergo a quiet 180-degree shift if he wins re-election. Once he no longer has to care about the DINO/RINO vote in the middle, he can stop supporting/opposing things he's never seemed particularly jazzed about his position on. Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Well, I've been saying for a long time that obviously no one believes that Obama is "uncertain" about gay marriage. I mean, c'mon. That said, the politically active African-American bloc is also highly evangelistic and churches drove a lot of the civil rights actions of the 20th century and still do - and a lot of those people are extremely conservative on specific points including gay marriage. So, when people complain that he hasn't been sufficiently pro-gay (which is not what I think you're saying; I'm thinking of conversations I've had with other people who were somehow convinced that Obama was a secret homophobe) I point them towards DADT and a few other things and explain that I think he's essentially performing a pantomime. He wants African- American support for queer rights and he can't afford the political cost of offending that segment of his base by just weighing in and saying, 'Guys, fuck it already, don't be haters,' so he has to act out this performance of someone "evolving" on the issue so that he makes it OK for black leaders and voters to do the same thing and, in some ways, kind of /forces/ them to. Michael says, "All of which is very clever and also perfectly in line with the tactics of the average community organizer: meet people where they are, if you will, and then lead them where you want them to go." Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Ultimately I don't believe that his positions will change wildly in his second term because he also has to work not to undermine the chances of the Dem nominee in 2016. I do think that he hopes that there will be as much change in the next five years as there has been in the last five. Five years ago there were, what, zero states with gay marriage? DADT was still in effect, there was nothing even remotely like a hope of significant healthcare reform, etc., etc. Lots of leftists like to say he's a failure because we hate everything, all the time, but we hate nothing so much as the terrifying prospect of success, but the fact is that there has been significantly more movement to the left in policy and the cultural conversation under three years of Obama than there were in the previous eight or, arguably, the eight before /that/. Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: It can be hard to realize that - for me, anyway, reason #872 why I never watch the news anymore - because of how effectively the Tea Party and the War On Women people dominate the news cycle, but part of why they get so much attention is because they are so outlandishly outdated in their stated positions. Attempts to restrict access to birth control draw coverage and protests because they're so crazy. I don't deny that they harm people when they pass, obviously, but they pass through the fanaticism of the last hardliners of a fading remnant. They're the sort of things fanatics would never do if they didn't feel threatened. They're the bomb jackets of the marginalized right wing. Snorklewhacker [to Michael]: This is true! Someone noted that all the Dems saying they're going to vote Republican in 2012 just to spite Obama because they're so 'disappointed' with him is like saying, "Well, my glass is half-empty, so I'm going to trade it for this other glass FULL OF BROKEN GLASS AND CYANIDE." Michael [to Snorklewhacker]: Exactly. Those people are blowing smoke. They didn't get a pony made of ice cream carrying a unicorn on its back. They are people who lack the cynicism^H^H^Hwisdom of experience. We're a society geared towards slow but reliable movement to the left and we've been doing that for a couple of centuries now. They need to chill. ======================================================
Of course, five years ago there was one state that had gay marriage, so I was wrong on that. There was also a war on in Iraq and a President who openly wanted to privatize Social Security. Things have changed for the better and continue to do so – and will continue to do so. Change takes time in our society. No one gets what they want in a day. Our task as liberals and progressives is to build the society we want, brick by brick, not to show up and find it waiting for us. The sooner those who are “disappointed” realize that, the sooner we can get this shit done. Anyone who wants results without being willing to contribute ongoing effort for the rest of their lives is being unrealistic and childish. Period.
An old friend of mine from college who is now a rabid Tea Partier was “discussing” Amendment One with me a couple of months ago and I said, truth told, I am opposed to Amendment One not because I think its defeat will make it easier for me to get married in the state of North Carolina but because I think its defeat will make life better for the next generation of queer citizens. People have to take the long view if they want to work for leftist causes without burning themselves out. They have to favor slow and steady over immediate gratification. If it helps, perhaps they should consider that the people in our politics who want things done right now and want it out of anger more than anything else are usually the right wing. Do they really want to rush down the road to be more like them?