A Picture is Worth 1000 Words
Pick of the Week: Jonathan Chait on Liberal Discontent in New York Magazine
“They complain incessantly that the administration is moving into the conservative camp, but do nothing to keep it from going there,” said the presidential advisor. No, it wasn’t last week. It wasn’t after the 2010 election. It wasn’t even the Obama Administration. It was Rex Tugwell, advisor to FDR in 1935. All this has happened before and it will all happen again.
The moral of the story? Liberals are always dissatisfied with Democratic presidents. Why? I think it’s largely because “Activists measure progress against the standard of perfection, or at least the most perfect possible choice. Historians gauge progress against what came before it.” Liberal activists haven’t read their Voltaire: the perfect is the enemy of the good. President Obama? He’s actually done damn good. And he brought you doughnuts. So there.
Despite what the “Stop bitching, start a revolution” bumper stickers say, Chait notes that “there is a third option that lies between the two—the ceaseless grind of politics.” Ahhh, politics. It’s not pretty or lofty. If you campaign in poetry, you govern in the most guttural prose—fighting in the mud for every inch. Idealism and unrealistic expectations won’t get you very far. Compromise and pragmatism are necessary. And compromise doesn’t mean you get only some of what you want. It means you give up some of what you want and get some of what you don’t want, too.
So you can pick up your toys from the sandbox and refuse to play, camp in parks, boycott elections, change your party registration every other year, whine about how awful and corrupt the system is while doing little to nothing to change it. Or you can recognize that idealism is for campaigns and realism is for governing. This is what politics is. It’s messy and it’s complicated and most people don’t have the stomach for it. It’s easier to share a story on facebook, wave a sign, talk about how nothing will ever change than to do something yourself to change it. Or is it?
But if you do want to actually help….
Ben Goodman suggests we turn Black Friday into Red, White and Blue Friday. Another $64 per person per year spent on American made goods leads to another 200,000 more jobs. Want the economy to improve? Want the unemployment rate to fall? Buy New Balance sneakers instead of Nikes. That’s it. One substitution and you’ve done your part.
Other National News
Rebecca Traister has a nice piece on Elizabeth Warren in the NYTimes. Enjoy the adoration now, Elizabeth. They will turn on you, too:
But many of the people looking to Warren, as they did to Obama before her, are expecting material things — like readable credit-card pitches or safe bridges or jobs or a vote on a bill to create jobs — that are, at the moment, figments as imaginative as dragons and their slayers. And that’s dangerous, because when the person we decided was going to fix it all isn’t able to change much, it’s not just that we get blue but also that we give up. We mistake the errors of our own overblown estimations for broken promises. And instead of learning, reasonably, that one person can’t do everything, we persuade ourselves that no person can do anything.
Traister then reminds me why I like her so much: “The key is not just emotional investment in election-year saviors but also an engagement with policy….politics requires more of them, that they need movements, not just messiahs. But their engagement must deepen, broaden and persist beyond last week’s elections and well beyond next year’s elections if there is any chance for politicians like Warren to succeed.”