As I was reading your comment, it dawned on me that these extremists who are striving for a perfect world are often paving the way for a dictatorship, being they will not accept the fact that the majority may not agree with their goals or tactics. Often their perceived needs for society are so urgent, that there is no time for democracy.
Of course, we've seen all this play out around the world before, in the form of totalitarian communist states. A handful of idealists who may be very sincere in their motives, think they know what is best for everyone else, so we'll just set aside democracy temporarily until we get everything up and running in the new order. Of course, "temporary" turns into years and decades, until democracy becomes a very faint and distant memory. Democracy eventually can be restored, but it now has to be rebuilt from the ground up.
It is the arrogance and hubris of these idealistic leaders that often ends up being their downfall. They were and are so very sure that THEY know what is best for everyone else. "Its for their own good." The irony is that they become obsessed with the same kind of power that they fought against when they were younger. An endless recycling of the same power structures because democracy was viewed as imperfect and nonessential.
The problem with democracy is we may have to accept policies and laws that we disagree with. It is the price we pay to have our voices be heard, but there are no guarantees we will get our way.
You know, that is an excellent point about collectives. That sounds like a much more productive way for many of these activists to utilize their energies and implement their ideals. Maybe not as sexy though, would take a long time, and probably wouldn't get them a lot of media attention.
Tom Hayden: Are we using the trial to defend ourselves against very serious charges that could land us in prison for ten years, or to say a pointless "fuck you" to the establishment?
That is a good description. They often put themselves above the rest of us mere mortals, for their purpose and goals are lofty and pure, but actually they come across as blindsighted and perpetually angry.
And you know, I don't necessarily disagree with some of their ideas. Many of them have merit and in a perfect world, perhaps we could do many of the things they propose. It is their tactics and stubbornness that tends to turn people off. People don't really respond well to a "my way or the highway" attitude.
This point was made quite well by Tom Hayden in the movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. Though Abbie Hoffman's rhetoric was brilliant and his ideas laudable, he didn't really believe in the system, so he had no interest in fixing it.
Abbie Hoffman: Winning elections, that's the first thing on your wish list? Equality, justice, education, poverty and progress, they're second?
Tom Hayden: If you don't win elections, it doesn't matter what's second. And it is astonishing to me that someone still has to explain that to you
Hoffman and others like him, served an important purpose, as they publicly pointed out the many problems in our society and amplified them so they could no longer be ignored, but aside from rebellion, they apparently had no real plan. That is when we need the boring pragmatists, who are willing to do the hard part and work within the system. They aren't necessarily less idealistic than the Abbie Hoffmans of the world, but they are also realists.
I remember the extremists from the 1960s, the ones who basically wanted to blow everything up and then figure out what to do afterwards. They often were just in constant "anti" mode and I don't think anything would have pleased them. The one thing that really stands out now in retrospect is they did a lot of protesting, but so many of them didn't even vote. They didn't believe in the system, so saw no need to work with it.
I was naïve in that I didn't really understand how government worked and being young, I didn't have the kind of patience I have now. I lacked appreciation for how much work went into the changes we were celebrating and had no idea how much bargaining and compromise was involved.
So now every primary season, I see a new incarnation of those people from the 1960s and very little has changed. They often make far more noise than they do progress and much like in the 1960s, their tactics turn off a whole lot of people, sometimes pushing them away from liberal causes.
P.S. I'll never forget that "it's still shit" comment.
have an unrealistic belief as to how progressive reform came about in the past. To be honest when I was younger, I did as well. The reason we don't get the kind of progressive change we want isn't because our Democratic leaders are necessarily unwilling, it is because they are unable. Our most transformative leaders have been hardcore pragmatic politicians as well and they faced the same criticisms that we see today. It just looks easier in hindsight I suppose.
as congress allows. We still don't know who will control the senate, so that is a big factor. Meanwhile, his highest priority will be to get the pandemic under control and get the economy up and running, while reestablishing our diplomatic ties around the world. You can be sure that there will be a handful of Never-Biden liberals, who will find fault with everything he does. I believe we've seen this movie before when Obama took office.
Biden will not be able to please everyone and being he has been in government a long time, he is fully aware of that. You win some, you lose some, and you cut your losses wherever you can. Not terribly sexy, but if you live in a democracy, that is how change comes about in the real world.
We need our idealists and activists. They inspire us and show us what is possible. Then we need our pragmatists, who can make those dreams reality. However, the reality doesn't always match the original ideal 100%, hence that worn out, but very true cliché - "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".
And for all your disgruntled liberal friends, I would suggest they put their progressive energies into local, state, and congressional races. That is where almost all change originates - from the bottom up, not the top down.
or any particular issue. I think they just want to be perpetually disruptive just for the sake of being disruptive. Maybe they are addicted to outrage and look for any excuse to be angry. If they keep throwing people under the bus, there won't be anyone left.
Meanwhile, maybe they need to learn how government works. Don't think this is how we got Social Security and Medicare.
who never showed the slightest interest in politics until they got hooked on Fox News and/or right-wing radio. Seeds were planted in minds that had no political predilections, so it was relatively easy. They played to their emotions and moral outrage using a simplistic good vs. evil message, with thinly veiled undertones of racism and bigotry. It was rather brilliant in a perverse, diabolical way.
It took decades, but the end result, Donald Trump, said out loud what they were thinking all along, "I love the poorly educated", and the poorly educated didn't bat an eye. Sounds like the prequel to 1984.
started to cater to people who had previously been apolitical, particularly Christian fundamentalists and the poorly educated. They started selling family values and superficial Christian ideals, while making promises that they never intended to keep. It was all to get more votes, but in the process, they seriously altered the nature of the republican party.
Like Frankenstein, they eventually created a monster they couldn't control anymore, which we saw with the creation of the Tea Party and later The Freedom Caucus. This is the price of a "Win at any cost" strategy.
In another universe, these people would have no interest in politics whatsoever. I've known such people and they didn't care about politics or world events, until politicians started to speak directly to them (The Silent Majority) and later right-wing radio and TV amplified the message. Now social media is doing the same thing.
So I think it IS way too late for the GOP to pull back. This didn't happen overnight and it could really be the end of the republican party. When people say, "This isn't your father's republican party", it is true. My father was a republican and he would be appalled at what his party has become.
It is so typical of the many stories I have read about him. So many people don't realize what kind of person he really is.
The story Im about to share with you about Joe Biden is special -- in fact, Im fairly certain Im the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.
It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan -- a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didnt know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together -- a minyan -- to say the Mourners Kaddish. It usually happens in a persons home -- somewhere intimate.
In this case, the deceased individual -- her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory -- had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the buildings communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.
We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.
I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.
Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.
At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone elses mind: Senator Biden -- what are you doing here?
And he said to me: Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because thats what she could afford. And every six years, when Id run for reelection, shed give another $18. She did it her whole life. Im here to show my respect and gratitude.
Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith -- its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in to life, to life, lchayim! But its also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.
There were no news outlets at our service that day -- no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.
Joe Biden didnt come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because hes a mensch.
And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country -- we need a mensch.
I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.
Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision theyll make this year -- this is the kind of story that matters.
Joe Biden is a mensch. We need a mensch.
Thanks for reading.
become a precedent for future administrations, rather than the bizarre anomaly that it is. If we accept this as the new norm-slinging insults, win at all costs, and never give an inch-we will begin to resemble third world countries, where civility and decorum are cast aside to make room for political blood sport.
All the changes that you hope your candidate will accomplish will become faded dreams, not because they weren't feasible or doable, but because the democratic process requires time and reasonable compromise. We did not wake up one day and have Social Security or Medicare as we know them today. It took planning, negotiation, and great political skill to make them a reality.
We need our thinkers and idealists to inspire us to be better, but we also need our capable pragmatists to bring about a tangible version of those ideas. Lofty rhetoric and great ideas are part of the process, but they will only take us so far. Then the politicians have to do the dirty work and produce a real life manifestation of those dreams. Not everyone is going to like the end product, but it is a step forward, opening the way for many more steps.
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