I should probably write this as a comment to one of the several well-written meta diaries presently hanging about, but what the hell....
Yes, Rick Warren is arguably abominable. Yes, it's well past time that we LGBTs didn't have to fight, or wait, for full inclusion in society. Yes, I wish Barack Obama had asked the inaugural commission to invite someone else to give the invocation. Yes, yes, yes....
It's a week before Christmas and a month before the inaugural, and there's almost no real political news happening. And like restaurant patrons waiting too long for a meal, we start nitpicking the decor, the chairs, the tableware, and the menu typography. I'm sure most of what ails us here at DKos will go away once we have some real news to chew on.
But not all of it. We also need to learn some new chewing skills.
More below the fold.
The weeks since November 4th have been difficult here on DKos. It seems not a day passes Kossacks finding some new reason to be outraged over some decision Barack Obama has or hasn't made. Some is legitimate criticism. Some is perhaps election withdrawal, and putting too much focus on non-events because during this interregnum there aren't many real events happening. Regardless, there is outrage aplenty. And even with each other.
A lot of it is, I suspect, simply that we've been so outraged, for so long, by so much, that a lot of us don't know how to feel anything else. But we need to learn, or we'll not only render ourselves irrelevant but damage the progressive movement in the process.
The Republican Revolution began as a political and social insurgency. From Franklin Roosevelt's victory in 1932 to the end of Lyndon Johnson's term in 1968, the U.S. had seen only one Republican president ... the former Allied supreme commander who led the defeat of Germany in the west. That victory was hardly an encouraging sign, as the GOP didn't have a reserve of former Allied supreme commanders to put up when Ike left office. Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon, but Johnson routed Goldwater.
Meanwhile the federal courts were ever-increasingly stacked by Democratic appointees. Racial integration had come first to the military and then to public schools. Martin Luther King Jr. and others had peeled back the ugly scab of Jim Crow, so much so that even J. Edgar Hoover had been forced to step in and use the FBI to crush the KKK. Women liberated as Rosie the Riveters chafed under the postwar return to domestic servitude, and their daughters were invading college campuses and graduate schools with the radical notion that they should be able to pursue dreams other than wife and motherhood. Science was displacing religion as holding the keys of knowledge. Three decades of liberalism in politics and the arts had pushed to the fringes ideas of dutifully worshiping the wealthy, and blaming the poor for every ill of society.
In short, 1968 was nearly a mirror image of 2008. The long-established order of things, where white males ruled the country and claimed the bulk of her benefits for themselves while everyone else took the leavings, seemed to be doomed. But Lyndon Johnson was hamstrung by the quagmire in Vietnam, so much so that he declined to run again. And into the vacuum stepped Richard Nixon with the now-infamous Southern Strategy, playing on white male anxieties to peel away the Dixiecrats, turn the South red, and lay the foundation for three decades of conservative dominance.
Of course, conservatives didn't see it that way in 1968. They were political insurgents, railing at the manifest injustice of a world where even women and blacks were allowed to compete for jobs, education, and political power. And rail they did. Outrage was their tool of choice. They even had their own Warren to be outraged about, though theirs was named "Earl" and was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Impeach Earl Warren was their battle cry, painted on barn roofs and handmade posters in rural areas and conservative cities around the country.
Richard Nixon set the table, but his personal flaws prevented him from leading the revolution. That task fell to Ronald Reagan, funded by the wealthy elite but powered by an outraged army of Moral Majoritists. The GOP's honey pot was on Wall Street, but its worker bees droned in hives built around evangelical churches. The churches were for the Republicans what the internet would later become for the Democrats, a place to gather and be righteously outraged at the venality and stupidity of government.
The Republicans' failure lay not only in their politics, but in their reaction to political success. Even after twelve years of Reagan/Bush, the end of the Cold War, and a near complete lock on power, they clung tight to their insurgent outrage. Legitimate questions of whether a Supreme Court nominee had sexually harassed a former co-worker were described as "a high-tech lynching." Court decisions holding that the majority could not force every student to bow his or her head in prayer at high school graduations were "violating freedom of religion." When Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992, the still little known Rush Limbaugh introduced each show as "Day [number] of the Raw Deal" before dragging discourse down to the most divisive denominator. Lest anyone give in to complacency, the conservative Reader's Digest had a monthly feature, "That's Outrageous," inevitably cherry picking and often caricaturing the horrors of liberal government run amok. When it became apparent that Bill Clinton had a fondness for women other than his wife, the Republican Congress set loose Kenneth Starr with a mandate to keep investigating until he found something, anything, to serve as a new pretext for more full-throated outrage.
Then came George W. Bush, and in the wake of 9/11, Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress. In the long years of conservative rule, within which fate and savage political opposition had denied Clinton the opportunity to appoint progressive judges, the federal judiciary was for Democrats what it had once been for Republicans: a forum dominated by the opposition party where our cases faced a difficult fight merely to evade dismissal, let alone achieve victory. "Liberal" had become an epithet to be renounced even by Democrats.
And still conservatism clung to its outrage. A business' decision to say "Happy Holidays" became "The War On Christmas." Objection to even the most absurd or egregious administration lies - and the media objected to little else - was proof of "liberal media bias." Though they were riding a wave that had been rising for thirty years, Republicans clung to their preferred role as victims, pledging to nurse and voice their outrage as the oppressed, so long as even a single dissenting voice remained audible amidst the conservative din.
But "blame it on the Left" quickly became transparent. After years of conservative dominance in every branch of government, conservatives kept talking as if they would not be able to govern until the last liberal was cold in the grave. Outrage-mongers assured true believers - and tried to convince the rest - that manifest failures in Iraq and New Orleans were really successes, if only the liberal media would tell the real story. When it became apparent that their "real story" was pure fantasy, those outrage-mongers shifted to blaming liberals for undermining conservative brilliance by our dissent. Merely speaking in opposition, they said, was enough to undo their efforts.
The American people, often easily distracted but never stupid, saw through the charade. The GOP - "the Party of Big Ideas" - was revealed as a party devoid of any idea beyond being outraged against the Left. And merely being outraged against one's opposition is not a platform for effective governance. It's not enough to say "Put us in charge and we'll make things better." Once put in charge, you have to stop whining about the opposition and get down to the difficult business of governing. Or you find yourself losing both the House and Senate in 2006, followed by the White House in 2008. And that's exactly what Republicans did.
Along the way, though, we Democrats became the political insurgents. Shut out of power, we turned to outrage. We railed against the venality and stupidity of government. When the 2006 midterms proved insufficient to overturn thirty years of conservative dominance - and they were - we split our outrage between the party still in the White House and our own leaders in Congress, as if narrow majorities in the House and Senate were or should have been enough to change the course of government.
We did more than rage, of course. We raised enough money to fund the largest and most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history, and we knocked on doors, made phone calls, staffed campaign offices, and the other grunt work required to turn hope into history. We froze in the Iowa winter and sweated in the Florida summer. We worked as if our very lives and futures depended on it, because we believed they did. And at 11pm on November 4th, 2008, we heard something many of us thought we'd never hear in our lifetimes: the name of a black American preceding the words "has been elected the next President of the United States." We wept. We hugged. We'd won.
But so had California Proposition 8. And Florida Amendment II. And we LGBTs realized that while we as a nation had won the White House and a return to adult leadership in Washington, victory had not been total. Even while riding a rising wave of hope, it seemed, there was still time to kick your local queer. Even if we can finally allow a black man in the White House, we dare not let an LGBT couple - as a married couple - buy the house next door. For all that we'd won with Obama and stronger Democratic majorities in Congress, we felt gut-punched.
And worse, we felt betrayed that other Democrats didn't realize how hollow that made the other victories feel for us. We hurt, and even the most cautious and reasoned objection to our cries of pain sounded like "Oh just get OVER it! Obama won! Haven't you heard?" Yes, we heard. Obama won. Democrats won. But LGBTs lost.
And now another Warren. Our Rick to their Earl.
It's still ten days until Christmas and still a month to the inaugural. There won't be a lot of real political news happening, so we'll focus on what little does happen. And our Warren, virtually the poster child for everything we LGBTs lost while the rest of you were winning, seems like a very big thing indeed. We're outraged. And with good reason.
But I hope that two months from now, when the inaugural is a memory and we're a third of the way through President Obama's first hundred days, we will have found something to replace outrage. I hope we'll have learned from the Republicans' mistakes, and we won't cling to outrage as our only mode of political expression. I hope we'll recognize that governing well requires not outrage but calm, disciplined focus on the tasks at hand. And there are plenty of tasks at hand. Ending the Iraq War. Restoring the our constitutional liberties. Coming together to invest in jobs and pushing for national health care. And fully integrating our military to include men and women who are not only courageous and proud, but also gay and lesbian.
I'll settle for that in Obama's first term. Oh, I'd like more. I'd like full legal and social equality. But just as Harry Truman jump started racial equality by integrating the military, maybe Barack Obama can jump start equality for LGBTs by the same brave act. And if he does - and ends the Iraq War, restores constitutional liberties, leads us to invest in jobs, and finally breaks through the logjam of national health care - I hope that by 2012 we'll have forgotten Rick Warren and we can celebrate the success of the Democratic Party in reshaping America.
If we can't ... if we can never get beyond outrage ... then like the religious right we will doom ourselves to political irrelevance. And we'll bring down the progressive movement with us.