Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Principle in Politics

Modern American politics is bizarre. Maybe it isn't just modern politics, maybe this has always been true, and each generation rediscovers it.

The first important lesson of What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank is that there are two sets of conservatives in Kansas. There are old school, big business, Main Street conservatives, and there are the theo-authoritarian loons.

The difference is that the Main Street cons don't disagree with liberals about what the problems facing society are, they disagree about how to achieve the solution to the problems. The theo-authoritarians disagree about what the problems are, what society ought to be.

That latter strain of conservatism is a fairly modern proposition (though I expect it isn't novel). In order to achieve success, its proponents have had to spend the last thirty years explaining to people not only what they want to do, but why anyone would want such absurd things to happen.

It is with this in mind that agree with Mike the Mad Biologist on Why the Democrats Should Filibuster:
The differences between progressives and modern conservatives have moved beyond arguments over taxes and minor adjustments: this battle–and it is a battle–is over two fundamentally different visions of America. The pursuit of justice and principle is not sufficient in themselves; in the most extreme counter-example, too many throughout history have been stood against a wall and faced the twelve cold, gray eyes of destiny to think otherwise. But principle is necessary. Whether one's sacrifice is great or small, one must believe that there is a better future, or, at the very least, a respite from a dreadful present.
He's absolutely right that the modern political debate has moved to a stage where it isn't about the best way to achieve a common vision. If progressives, liberals, moderates, or Main Street Republicans want to advance any meaningful agenda to make this country better, we have to articulate more clearly what we all mean by a better country.

Sam Alito is a fine person, but has not been a great judge, and will probably be an awful Justice. He's too quick to ignore the existence of bias and bigotry in the world. His take on the law is not what most Americans want.

This administration and the Republican congress don't stand for what Americans stand for. Corruption, unchecked executive power, religious authoritarianism, and corporate give-aways don't represent the America I want, nor do I want an America that ignores the readily apparent inequities that exist, an America that accentuates those inequities, or even one that allows them to persist.

It's time to stand on principle. Even attempting a filibuster is worth it if Senate Democrats can figure out how to explain their objections.

The first step is to drop every other word they plan to say. The second is to replace every weaselly word (and I say this as a fan of all mustelids) with something a little clearer.