There has been a lot of meta-comment here recently about who said what to whom, who is enabling a Republican victory next year and in 2012, why Obama is a sell-out etc. This has come to a head in the GBCW diary from Colorado is the Shiznit.
That diary, and the comments flowing from it, made me think a lot about why it is that DKos has become such a bearpit, what are the causes of the flame-wars, and what are the bounds of reasonable disagreement.
I think part of the problem comes down to the need to distinguish between disagreements about the goals, and disagreements about the strategy to get there.
I would hope that by and large, there is agreement on DKos about what the goals are. There may be some who would want to go further down a road than others on particular issues, but broadly we are all heading in the same direction. We all want to see a public option in healthcare, and many of us would like to see single payer. We all want the end of DADT. We all want the war in Afghanistan ended as soon as possible. We all want to see America's standing in the world significantly improved.
The primaries are the place where differences about the goals, or the distance towards them that we can reasonably travel, are thrashed out. Eventually, a decision is reached. And we then have a choice between someone who is broadly moving towards our goals, or a Republican whose goals are at best different, and at worst, and far more often, diametrically opposed to ours.
And then the election happens, and our guy wins. So now we are moving from a debate about goals to a debate about governing. This is where issues of strategy, tactics, realpolitik and prioritisation start to bite.
So then what happens in the blogosphere is that people start to disagree with the tactics, the messaging, the prioritisation. Health care is being watered down too much and Obama is not fighting hard enough for it. Too low a priority is being given to LGBT issues. His decision to send more troops to Afghanistan is all wrong.
I have no problem with criticism that says Obama's tactics are not the best ones for achieving our goals. I positively support activism that involves demonstrating to politicians the strength of feeling in the country on some of these core issues, to counter the lobbying power of the big corporations.
But where I part company from the critics, and where I think so much of the violent ill-feeling arises, is when the critics argue that because Obama is not following their chosen tactics, or prioritising their chosen agenda, that he therefore opposes their goals.
So we see critics of the pace of health care reform claiming Obama has sold out to the insurance industry. To believe that, you have to believe one impossible thing and one unlikely one. The impossible thing is that Obama deliberately chose to spend his first year working hard to fail spectacularly in delivering health care reform. The unlikely thing is that Obama is lying every time - and there have been many - he publicly states that he wants to see a public option in the bill.
We see understandably disgruntled supporters of LGBT issues boycotting the President and claiming that he is betraying them because he has not tackled their issues in his first year in office.
And now we see those who want the war in Afghanistan ended quickly concluding that the thoughtful decision Obama has made after weeks of deliberation and much expert advice means that he positively wants to be a war president, and ignores any consideration of the possible consequences of an immediate withdrawal, something that I have little doubt Obama looked at very seriously.
Even worse, the critics of the strategy, tactics and prioritisation too often express their criticism in terms of threats not to support Democrats in the next election, and, in the worst examples, threats to primary Obama in 2012. That is a sure-fire way to get no progress towards any of the goals, and the utter destruction of much that we on the left hold dear, instead of getting steady progress, albeit much slower than most of us would like, in the right direction.
And that is why so many of us get so angry with many of Obama's critics on the left. Their legitimate argument is generally with his tactics. But they falsely assert that Obama is working against their goals when he chooses tactics they consider (and not necessarily with good reason) sub-optimal. They call him a liar, a traitor to the left, and by extension call all of us fools for having supported him.
So for goodness sake, keep making it clear just how important the goals are. Don't shut up when you think the Government is making tactical mistakes. Keep pushing the administration as far down the road on these issues as possible, as fast as can be achieved. Just don't keep making the mistake of confusing differing views on tactics, or on what is politically possible, with differing goals. And for Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake, don't do anything at all that will assist in electing more Republicans.