Skip to main content

Why are Repubs able to pin the "weak" label on Dems? I think the answer is multileveled, but the most basic (and abstract) one is that humans evolved under conditions where the us was always in danger from the them. (see Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel). There is also the human tendency to form hierarchical groups. A good leader historically is someone who can protect us against them, and this point can be seen in almost every hero myth ever constructed.

The next level, I think is one that will upset most people that read this, but I think it's true: The right has a natural advantage here. That is because the right positions itself as realistic, working with what's there, whereas the left is about improving human society, and that means working against human biology sometimes. Sometimes, as in the case of Marxism, this tendency goes so far that it becomes unworkable, and inevitably ends up as a kind of parody of itself. Marxists always ended up with a charismatic leader who inevtably betrays the cause (Lenin to Chavez with Stalin, Mao, Tito, and Castro in between).  However, even in more nuanced forms, we are always working against individual and tribal self-interest to create greater happiness. (The right also has a complementary problem, which is why it fails in the end).

We can see how the right's natural advantage in asserting leadership works in the different reactions to the Iraq war and Kosovo. The right was able to get away with near sedition, but  Dems are still paying for voting against the first Iraq War. In fact, overcompensating for those votes led people like Kerry (and maybe Hillary) to vote for the second Iraq war, something they had to understand was just bad public policy and built on lies anyway.

Votes like that are signs of a serious problem to overcome in the area of toughness, and I think that the Spanish Socialists can help show us the way to navigate it, in particularly presenting themselves as sufficiently tough to lead while pursuing rational strategies to create a more peaceful society.

In Spain, the 'them' is cast as internal, particularly the Basques and Catalan, who are always seen as threatening to secede. The socialists outsmarted both the secesssionist Catalan party (Esquerra Republicana) and the right-ing  Spanish nationalist Partido Popular by first negotiating a new autonomy Statute with Esquerra and then going behind their backs to modify it with a more moderate center right Catalan nationalist Party (Convergencia i Unió), as I described in the last post.

Now, they are negotiating with the left-wing Basque secessionists, who unlike the Catalans and right wing Basque nationalists became terrorists called ETA. ETA started opposing Franco, but it continued after democracy was reestablished because I guess they realized that they wouldn't get their way under the Spanish constitution. Recently, after being weakened legally, politically, and economically, they declared a cease-fire, and the Socialist government agreed to negotiate their disolution.

At this point the right went crazy: "The government is negotiating  with terrorists!!!! They should just be crushed, blah, blah, blah."  The upshot: "the left is weak on terror and not be trusted to preserve Spain." The government simply responded that they were going to negotiate, that the PP (right wing party) tried to negotiate when they were in power without a cease fire, and it was the right thing to do. The right's response was predictable. Increase the volume: "They are surrendering to terrorists!" and there was a huge demonstration in Madrid against the negotiations.

 Today, once again, the Socialists pulled the rug out from under the Partido Popular. They just had a massive police raid in France and Spain, that dismantled the terrorists' financial network. It is now hard to say that the government is surrendering. In fact, the Basque nationalist left is howling, which only helps. Maybe the negotiations will be postponed. Maybe they'll collapse (but I don't think so. They wouldn't be negotiating if they didn't have to). However, the government has sent a clear signal that they are on "our" (i.e., Spain's) side as opposed to supporting impractical ideals of peace and happiness, which can be achieved by negotiating away "our" interests with terrorists or secessionists generally.

The point is that progressives need to provide evidence that we are tough, a bit tribal, and even a bit bloody minded, more than the right does. We do not have to go knee-jerk defensive. Overcompensating leads to votes for the current Iraq war or getting dragged into Indo-china type conflicts that are immoral and impractical. However, it is necessary to take tribal self-interest into the calculus, think long term, and make that thinking clear rhetorically.  Above all, show we are in favor of America in credible ways.

Why not, for instance, hone in on the situation in Afganistan over and over? ("they are losing against the Taliban!"
Why not keep insisting that any withdrawal from Iraq is made necessary by bad previous leadership? ("They messed up so badly, we have to do this to preserve our strength!")
Why not point to the decline in US prestige over and over mentioning that this means greater weakness, not that they don't like us because we 're not nice? "They have undermined our country's prestige!!"

Originally posted to mnewmanqc on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 03:33 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site