So I posted something yesterday in which explaining why I actually like the drone program. Yes, there should be oversight, restrictions and rules for their use, but as a concept, it sure beats invasion of a country or region, or dropping bombs from the air, in order to get rid of a threat.
I was immediately bombarded by self-righteous liberals who wanted me to turn in my "liberal" membership card for even daring to mention drones in a positive light. I especially took it on the chin because I said, "I am at heart a pacifist." Apparently, being a pacifist means you stand by and watch as thousands of others are killed, because to commit violence against the killer would violate someone's concept of "pacifism."
Funny thing, though. While I was taken to task for admitting I like drones, no one suggested an alternative. And when confronted with the question of what they would do to stop a credible threat capable of killing thousands of people, they tended to ignore the question and reassert their position that all violence is wrong, period.
This black-and-white mentality is killing the progressive movement.
We expect this simple-minded style of though from the right wing. One reason the right wing is so incredibly irritating, and why their policy decisions are generally so bad is because their rank-and-file followers think about everything in black-and-white terms They are largely incapable of thinking in shades of gray.
Consider their positions on issues. Taxes are always too high, so tax cuts are always good, while tax increases on anyone are wrong, regardless of ability to pay. Abortion is wrong, so abortion should be illegal, and we should throw everyone in jail who either has or performs one. Sex is dirty and wrong, so anything that makes sex safer or more enjoyable, such as contraception, is also wrong, at least for women. Homosexuality is “unnatural,” so allowing gays to be “just like us” is akin to condoning the unnatural. Everything is either good or bad, there is no rhyme or reason to anything they claim to believe, politically. They can’t tolerate dissent, and they need constant affirmation, which is why Fox News is the top-rated cable “news” outlet, and why talk radio is dominated by media whores who make a whole lot of money reassuring right wingers with a black-and-white mentality that they’re not alone.
Such is the case with political extremists, both left and right. Black-and-white thinking liberals have come to be called “emo,” while those who make money catering to the "emo progressives" are usually called the “professional left.” These people also cannot tolerate dissent, and they need constant affirmation. If you spend any time on Twitter, you know what I mean. If Rachel Maddow says it, it's absolutely right, although if Maddow says something they disagree with, they'll never listen to her again.
Unfortunately, the professional left tend to be so loud, and so in-your-face, they often come to represent “the left,” or “liberals” or “progressives. But black-and-white thinking is politically ruinous for the left, because it’s inherently negative. The vast majority of voters are rational, and realize that nothing in the world is either all bad or all good. Because the Republican Party is a minority party, they can use the negative energy produced by their black-and-white thinking base to drive down turnout, which gives them a better chance to win. Unfortunately, liberal black-and-white thinking also drives down turnout, which helps Republicans win, and moves the progressive movement backward.
Below are a few of the more common black-and-white issues pushed by the left, and how we can refute this crap.
- Drones are all bad, and they're being used to kill American citizens.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), better known as "drones," are vehicles that are operated by remote control. They're used to patrol areas where terrorists are believed to be hiding. When the soldier operating the drone gets a visual of the suspect, they fire on him. Sometimes, there is collateral damage, and that is unfortunate. But in the past, we would send in planes with bombs, and the collateral damage from that was far more severe.
As things go right now, our alternatives are to use drones, send troops in to either capture or kill the target, send in planes and drop bombs, or let the bad guys go altogether, so they can kill thousands of people. It's just not as simple as "drones or no drones." Sometimes, in order to attain peace, you have to commit violence against those who plan to commit violence. If someone invades your home and intends to kill your family, you're going to do whatever you have to do to stop it. It's the same when you run a country.
Also, we are not "killing American citizens" with drones. They usually refer to one man, who was only technically an American citizen, was targeted with a drone strike. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about Awlaki, except to say that the guy was apparently working with al Qaeda and he did call for jihad against the United States. None of us has exact details, because we don’t have the intelligence reports President Obama receives). Yemen was aware of our operations to weed out al Qaeda within the country, because they assisted on a previous raid intended to take out Awlaki.
Also, Awlaki's status as an American citizen is pretty much a technicality. Awlaki was born here, but he and his family moved back to Yemen when he was very young, and he attended college in Colorado on a Yemeni scholarship and a foreign student visa, by lying and telling authorities he was born there. So, he’s a Yemeni in spirit, who just happened to be born in the United States. Put simply, it's a distinction without a difference.
The implication that Obama is “targeting civilians”is also just plain nonsense. According to statistics most often cited by the professional left, the number of civilians killed is far lower than the number of militants killed.
I understand that black-and-white thinkers have a problem with violence of any type, but the fact is we live in a violent, unsettled world. In order to be true pacifists. then we have to understand that creating true peace sometimes requires violence against those wish to disrupt the peace. Ideally, it would be nice to round them all up and throw them in jail, but that’s not always possible. If you can save tens of thousands or even millions of lives by taking a few hundred, or even a few thousand lives, what kind of “pacifist” are you if you don’t take that chance?
If you can’t imagine shooting Hitler and his henchmen in 1936 if you had a chance, in order to save millions of lives, then you’re not really a pacifist. If you don't believe me, then listen to Mahatma Gandhi, who was about as nonviolent as it gets:
"I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence... I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor."
"My nonviolence does admit of people, who cannot or will not be nonviolent, holding and making effective use of arms. Let me repeat for the thousandth time that nonviolence is of the strongest, not of the weak."
"I want both the Hindus and Mussalmans to cultivate the cool courage to die without killing. But if one has not that courage, I want him to cultivate the art of killing and being killed rather than, in a cowardly manner, flee from danger. For the latter, in spite of his flight, does commit mental himsa. He flees because he has not the courage to be killed in the act of killing."
"My method of nonviolence can never lead to loss of strength, but it alone will make it possible, if the nation wills it, to offer disciplined and concerted violence in time of danger."
"My creed of nonviolence is an extremely active force. It has no room for cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day non-violent, but there is none for a coward. I have, therefore, said more than once....that, if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our places of worship by the force of suffering, i.e., nonviolence, we must, if we are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting." (Source)
- Blue Dog Democrats suck.
Blue Dogs are not my favorite people on Earth. But until we educate people and push progressive politics to the point that we have more than 218 hardcore progressive districts, we need Blue Dogs. We need a majority of Democrats in Congress, and at this point in our history, the only way to get that is to run conservative-leaning Democrats in conservative districts. If we demanded that only hardcore progressives run for office as a Democrat, we’d be lucky to get 80 seats in the House and perhaps 15 in the Senate. In fact, right now, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has 78 members. Not only is that not a majority, it's not even a majority of the Democratic minority. We're not getting anything done with that.
The reason so many bills failed in the 110th Congress was because 40-41 Republican Senators worked as a solid bloc to filibuster pretty much everything Democrats liked. Republicans blocked all those bills, not Blue Dog Democrats.
This is important, because swing voters don’t hear you railing about "Blue Dog" Democrats, they only hear “Democrats.” When emo progressives and the professional left trash Blue Dogs, they are essentially trashing “the Democrats.” If both sides are saying “Democrats suck,” and they already know right wing Republicans suck, why would they vote, let alone vote for a Democrat? It is this carelessness and black-and-white thinking that led to the replacement of Russ Feingold with te despicable teabagger Ron Johnson in Wisconsin
- Corporations are bad. Huge corporations are worse.
This gross generalization does a lot of damage to progressive politics, because it’s too simplistic. There are more than 27.5 million businesses in this country, and most are incorporated. Incorporation is a rational way to organize a business, because it protects the owners from liability, makes it easier to transfer ownership when it becomes necessary, and provides tax benefits.
Most private sector workers toil for a corporation or similar entity. When a black-and-white progressive” rails about the “evils” of corporations, they're actually insulting a large number of potential voters. They also do a lot of damage, politically, since most swing voters work for corporations that they don't see as all that bad.
There's a major difference between corporations like ExxonMobil, BP or DuPont and those like Ben & Jerry’s, Credo Mobile or AFLAC. There’s a huge difference between Costco's and Walmart's business practices, and how they treat their employees. Most of those nice little restaurants and shops you like to frequent to support the local community are probably incorporated.
As with everything, there are good corporations and there are bad corporations. And because of market forces, the pressure on corporations to cut corners to maximize profits makes it absolutely necessary to regulate them. But nothing about corporations is either inherently bad or good, and our generalizations about them hurt the progressive cause.
- President Obama is a “corporatist” because he isn’t putting the people who ran banks during the mortgage meltdown in prison and he’s not breaking up the banks.
The black-and-white crowd uses the lack of "bankster" prosecutions as proof that President Obama is a “corporatist,” whatever the hell that means. As usual, this fails as a black-and-white issue. In fact, there are so many people who deserve blame for the collapse of the economy, it’s difficult to look at one set, and put it all on them.
The actions that led to the Great Recession came from Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which passed in 1999. It essentially repealed Glass-Steagall and removed most regulation from the banking system. Basically, most of what bankers did in the lead up to the economic collapse was largely legal. I think everyone would agree, the Department of Justice can’t convict anyone of a non-crime.
There is also the reality that it is extremely time-consuming to prosecute cases involving large sums of money. This past week, the DOJ went after S&P for their rating practices, but it took several years, and teams of auditors to comb millions of pages of records to gather enough evidence to make a case. it's not just a matter of thinking they did something and throwing them in jail. Just like everyone else, banks and other financial institutions are presumed innocent, and can only be convicted with evidence and proof.
There are also black-and-white liberals who're upset because Obama didn't break up large banks. But how does the President of the United States go about breaking up private corporations, just because he thinks they should be broken up. So, what? The president shouldn't have the power to use a drone to take out a threat, but he should break up banks and throw their executives based on a suspicion?
- “Centrists” (and anyone who’s not a hardcore progressive) lack “principle.”
I hate the word “centrist,” especially when used as a pejorative. Progressives should be smart enough to realize that liberal ideas don’t just happen because you want them, or that all the greatest intentions in the world are worthless without a rational political strategy.
Elections are decided by those good folks who occupy that huge swath of ideological territory between the extreme left and the extreme right. These folks don’t lack principle; their principles simply differ from yours. This is how the world works, folks; every single one of us has a different set of experiences, and a different way of looking at the world. No one is 100% left or 100% right. Think about the liberals who would love nothing better than knocking every right wing talker off the air (not very liberal of you, is it?) and the right wingers who demand that government keep their hands off the most successful socialist enterprise in US history, Medicare. Even pacifists would kill an intruder to save their family, and the most hawkish folks worry about their family members serving in war zones, and want them to come home alive.
The real lack of principle comes from people who think in black-and-white terms. Principle requires us to listen to and understand every situation, and do the right thing based on that situation. If you are incapable of doing that, you’re not as principled as you think. It’s not “principled” to stick with your position no matter what. That’s petulance, or obstinance. If a five year old kid wants a candy bar, and won’t stop screaming until he gets it. we don’t call him “principled,” we call him a brat. Likewise, if you are still complaining about health care reform plan because it doesn’t have a “public option,” you’re not “principled.” A “principled” person would have stopped complaining a long time ago, assessed the situation, and realized that we needed more Democrats and fewer Republicans to get a “public option” done. That’s principle in action.
Black-and-white thinking is how right wingers are supposed to act. True progressives understand that there are millions of shades of gray, and that there is no absolute when it comes to "right" or "wrong." We can't be like right wingers, or we lose.