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Posted by gustav at 08:01AM, Monday, December 06th, 2004

Preaching to the Choir, or, On Ideological Consistency

Liberals have this wacky notion that ideological consistency is important in contemporary American politics. They seem to believe, in the face of all evidence, that being consistent in their messaging is a prerequisite for winning.

Look, it's not. If there's one thing we should have learned from Karl Rove's playbook by now, it's his philosophy of framing issues.

A recent post in response to the Americablog entry about the Supreme Court ruling on medical pot illustrates the problem:

I definitely agree that the Supreme Court got this one wrong, but I believe there may be danger in adopting use of the term "activist judges." It's a product of conservatives bent on undermining the role of the judiciary and when we adopt it, we adopt their frame and contribute to this point of view.

As I see it, that's pretty much completely wrong. We absolutely want to use the term Activist Judges to describe this, just as the Radical Right has coopted "discrimination" in the public sphere, so that they can whine "You're discriminating against me and violating my religious freedoms, when you tell me I can't kill faggots!" Clearly, that's an ironic, Orwellian use of the words "discrimination" and "religious freedom" to mean something almost exactly opposite of their true meaning; but that's not to say it's ineffective.

We want to take over the term "Activist Judges" for our own, so that when people hear it, they think "Bush v. Gore" or "Gonzales v. Raich" -- cases with resounding legal inconsistency based on ideological grounds, where, had the plaintiffs or the issues at hand been different, the rulings would have disparaged the very same kind of tortured logic the Justices contrived to arrive at their decisions. We want the very term to be closely-tied to "Republican hypocrisy" in voters. We want it so that every time someone brings up the Goodrich decision and whines about "judicial activism," they're met by howls of protest about exactly the same thing in Gonzales v. Raich, and how in that one, the holy doctrine of states' rights was thrown away, too. We want to make "Activist Judges" such a lethal issue for Republicans that they give up on it, just as they've made liberal a dirty word over the last 30 years.

Yes, we all understand the dangers of stripping language of meaning. But it's already happened, and we're not going to push the clock back by refusing to engage in doublespeak, while the Right, using it, strips us of our press, our soapboxes, our rights, our children, and finally our lives. Yes, we'll die with clean consciences, having lived morally upright to the end. But, dude, we'll be dead, murdered by the doublespeakers.

What we need to do is not imitate the Neo Con-men on their policies -- which is what faux Democrats like Lieberman seem to like -- but to imitate them in their propaganda distribution, while advancing policies that actually work, and benefit voters. If we can do that, we can be strong, and be ideologically consistent where it matters. We don't even get a chance to advance our policies right now, with our uber-minority status.

The alternative -- where we disparage every Democrat, like Dean, who dares to say something true, that might possibly offend someone -- just fuels the backbiting within the party, which already cost us nationalized health in 1992, and has cost us in every election since then. Meanwhile, the Republicans will continue to call Democrats and liberals traitors, treasonous, child-molesters, and losers, they will continue to slander war heroes and saints, they'll continue to lie about everything, and the media and voters will continue to eat it up. And the jump-on-Dean Democrats will continue to be silent, because they'd rather curry imaginary favor by attacking one of their own, than they would attack our enemies when they shred the Constitution. Remind me again how many elections have put George Bush's opponent in the White House because of his lies and slander. We'll still be too busy tearing up any of our own who dare to show anything but total submission, to stop them rounding us up for the camps. Ignoring reality all the while won't make that go down any smoother.

Those of us who agree on our principles and goals need to attack our common enemies, rather than our allies. We need to differentiate ourselves from them in the media realm. We need to show backbone and come across as tough. Dean does all of this, and establishment Democrats upbraid him for it, doing Karl Rove's work for him. Our enemies may include people who claim to be on our side, but oppose our principles -- for example, the anti-gay John Kerry, who was so inept at telling anyone where he stood that he let George Bush steal the last presidential election, and who now offers Massachusetts Democrats advice on how to loose their own local elections. More often, our enemies will include the Neo Con-Men on the Right.

I don't say this just to castigate faux-Democrats. I say this because Lieberman isn't the only Democrat or "progressive" who's hurting us; the efforts of progressive idols like Tom Tomorrow and Ralph Nader, who concentrate on the much smaller number of missteps of the Left while ignoring the colossal evil of the Right, or claim (ever so wrongly) that Democrats and Republicans are alike these days, are driving our party to its death, as well. Please shut up now. This isn't an issue of left vs. right; it's an issue of attacking our own, which, in these days of institutional fascism, makes it an issue of life or death. Let's join forces defending all of us from the Radical Right, rather than squabbling over policy until the end. Those of us who have been nicer to the Republicans won't be spared when they slaughter us all, I promise you. We'll just have made the slaughter easier for them to accomplish.
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