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Please begin with an informative title:

Yeah, so, boredom sets in during my final night in Manila and I'm here thinking thoughts about stuff and things.

One thing that has always deeply disturbed me about the right wing is summarized by the title of this trifle. Political disagreement doesn't just mean that a wingnut thinks you're wrong; he thinks you're evil. You're a socialist, a Communist, a union thug, part of the homosexual mafia, a Christian oppressing anti-American who wants to use death panels to kill the old and infirm.

I despise that mindset, encouraged tacitly and overtly by the right-wing media (see my sig), as it's poisoned our national dialogue and our hopes for actually getting things done in the political sphere to help make life better for all of us.

But it's also been a point of pride, perhaps even a little bit of smugness, to me that this is not a behavior where "both sides do it." This is a behavior where the vast majority is found on the right.

Well, I'm rethinking that. Because I'm more and more seeing it manifest on the left. And that bothers me because of the implications, and it bugs me because of the loss of the point of pride.

Leap over the Fleur de Kos and I'll blather on a bit more.

Intro

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Now, I know where some of you will immediately go with this, so a few disclaimers:

People will always find other people for whom they have a personal dislike. There are personalities that naturally clash with one another, and people like to mix it up sometimes, on a personal level. AKA pie fight. We're only human, after all, as one Kossack recently reminded me.

Also, there do exist genuine bad actors, genuine people who claim adherence to a philosophy but don't practice it at all. People who really do not belong anywhere near the large group of beliefs generally termed "progressive."

But it seems to me that a great many people are getting tarred with brushes and labels designed to portray them as personal enemies rather than people with whom they're having a disagreement. It seems to be becoming the debate tactic of first resort, way too often.

Terms like "corporatist", "neoliberal" and "Third Way" are being wielded like blunt cudgels, along with everyone's favorite "Troll". And each one of them is being used, with increasing regularity, adding other buzzwords like "loyalist", "incrementalist" and others to the arsenal.

It's not just silly. It's toxic. As Democrats and as progressives, we are never going to agree on everything. Some of us are more focused on racial justice. Others on women's rights. Others still on economic inequality. Others on the corrupting influence of money on our political processes. Others on marriage equality (which is ever closer to becoming reality across all 50 states). Others on trashing the Republicans in the elections, and getting the most progressive-yet-electable candidates we can on the ballot to defeat them. And we will disagree, always, on which of these goals takes precedent over the other. Some of us, in fact, will focus on one or two to the exclusion of the rest.

And you know what? That's okay. Or at least it should be. We need voices standing up to point out the Koch Brothers and their fellow travelers trying to buy our government outright. We also need to focus on the Trayvons and Jordans. We also need to get rid of the Ted Cruzes and Chris Christies. And we cannot, any of us, focus on all these things.

And even beyond that, we will always have people who do not hold progressive views on every issue. We may have allies on issues of economic inequality and marriage equality and ending gun violence who deny white privilege is a thing. We might have allies on racial justice and the Affordable Care Act who think we shouldn't raise taxes on the wealthy. We may have allies on Citizens United and veterans' issues who support the war in Iraq.

But we cannot afford, as Democrats or as progressives, to throw away potential allies for failing to meet a litmus test. A great example -- even the Pope, who heads an organization that is deeply opposed to our goals for women's right and gay rights, and has a deplorable history of protecting child sex abusers, has the potential to become a fantastic ally in fighting poverty and income inequality.

But that all may be a side point, because I think the litmus test is ultimately a red herring. Particularly when application of that litmus test is very selective -- as another Kossack recently pointed out, both Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton were once Republicans, yet few people who hold it against one hold it against the other.

No, I believe these litmus tests and these shorthand cudgels are tools of the intellectually lazy -- rather than think about issues on the merits, simply paint your opponent as an enemy, justified or not, and bypass critical thinking altogether. Which is exactly why the Right does it.

If we are to be a reality-based community, we cannot use these rationalizations to prevent us from examining reality. And this is not to say there aren't neoliberals holding office as Democrats, nor Third Way types running campaigns, nor corporatists participating here on the GOS. But by calling everyone who's to the right of Bernie Sanders a neoliberal, or less liberal than Elizabeth Warren a corporatist (true fact - I've seen both those two called corporatists recently) means that the words themselves lose their meaning and we're doing nothing more than stifling, rather than promoting, an exchange of ideas which will only be helpful in pursuing our ostensible core purpose of electing more and better Democrats (remember that?). This bullshit subverts that purpose, and actively serves the interests of the GOP.

I'm not saying that pie fights will not or even should not happen -- hell, I've no intentions to shelve my arsenal of pastries -- but I am saying that this bullshit should not be the tactic of first resort when someone wants to declare oneself "more progressive than thou," or conversely, "a better Democrat than thou." There will ALWAYS be someone more or less progressive than you, and ALWAYS someone more or less Democratic than you. Accept that. Accept that both those people can be your political allies or even your friends.

Remember the difference between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. When asked "What would change your mind?" Ham said "Nothing" and Nye said "Evidence." We need more Nyes and fewer Hams. (see what I did there?)

Finally, notice that nowhere above did I use the word "bully" -- and this is another term bandied about lately -- because while there probably are at least a few Kossacks who would very much like to be bullies (and we all surely disagree on who they are), there really aren't any, or at least vanishingly few over the years. To really be a bully on the, uh, Internets, you need to know where someone's emotionally vulnerable and attack them there. And nothing, at all, at least that I've seen in recent weeks, qualifies. This isn't a plea to stop the bullying, that's bullshit. This is straight up a "stop with the purity trolling" plea. A "let's not start acting like the fucking right-wingers" plea. Let's have our fights, our knock-down, drag-out, fuck-you-you-fucking-fuck fights, but let's have them honestly.

And remember, if you don't agree with me, you're a neoliberal third-party advocate corporatist useful idiot Snowden-worshipping DINO hater bot sockpuppet troll. Also, your mother dresses you funny.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Rappy's Ramblings on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 10:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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