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I really do believe that the craziness displayed by the radical right in general and those who are involved in the Tea Party in particular - has lowered the level of not just political discourse, but of the expectations we as progressives have of ourselves.

We have let it contribute to our own myopia in some ways. It doesn't have to be this way though.

Please join me below.

Reading the diary on Grady Warren's racist denial of Tea Party racism prompted me to write this, but this is something I've thought for quite a while.

Often we are told that when our adversaries are about to shoot themselves in the foot, it's best we not get in their way. And I think that is true. If they are about to expose themselves as horrific people, let them do so - their words and actions speak for themselves.

The crazy things Tea Party folks say can gain for us some political traction, but only some. I'm afraid that too often we act like that by itself is sufficient for electoral success, and sometimes we seem to even act like we can parlay that into policy and legislative victories.

It's certainly true that last fall the craziness of some candidates such as Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, Ken Buck, Carl Paladino and Art Robinson repelled many voters, but other crazy candidates did win. Their craziness did not work against them. While it's true that many people who came out to vote in droves in 2008 stayed home in 2010, the problem cuts much deeper than that.

I even read it on this site that no matter what we need to vote each election otherwise the Michelle Bachmann's of the world will call all of the shots, and there's much truth to it, but here's where we have a blind spot. It may motivate us progressive political junkies to go to the polls, pound the pavement with GOTV efforts, talk to our neighbors, and what have you. And fear of a Senate full of Christine O'Donnells and Sharon Angles may drive some swing voters to the polls, but can we really expect that type of motivation to reach a critical mass all of the time?

If what we are selling is "vote for candidate X", the first thing to keep in mind is that in sales, many folks buy from people they like. To use an example, how much of a ringing endorsement of itself would it be if Sprint's main pitch was that they were not A T & T Wireless? You would think that to be worth anything Sprint itself has to have something attractive to offer.

So when our political opposition is intractable, makes unreasonable demands again and again, and neglects, if not refuses, to condemn those within their ranks who use eliminationist rhetoric, we may be able to stave off some of their candidates for office and use it to swing an election or two at the national level, but we're kidding ourselves if we think that is sufficient for our long-term political success, much less for the well-being of this country. This is true for at least two reasons.

First, if we want independents to come to our side, we need to do a far more effective job in messaging for our cause. We need to show the public at large that voting for us will lead to things actually getting better. The health care bill that passed about a year ago as a whole is less than the sum of its parts IMO, but there are several good elements in the bill. Why didn't we as Democrats trumpet those things loudly? It's one thing to be honest and admit that the bill that passed still leaves a lot of things unaddressed, and even to admit that it was a boon to insurance companies, but I got the sense that the Democratic Party was walking around in ashes and sack cloth when it came to that bill. That, to me, was self-defeating.

We need to convey clearly what we stand for, not just that we're not like those crazy Tea Party folks. We need to let our fellow Americans know that we really do stand for restoring America's economic vitality with good paying jobs, that we stand for making our energy use greener and more efficient, for a sane foreign policy that doesn't spread our soldiers thin, that we stand for true equality for all Americans, for accessible, affordable health care for all Americans, for a sound educational system, etc. - and that all Americans stand to benefit from us implementing our proposals to make those things a reality

Another reason why the crazy from the right brings us as progressives down is that we are having to expend a great deal of energy combating it, especially since the right is relentless in its current craziness. Ignoring it and pretending it will then go away only makes it worse. Ever since I embraced a progressive outlook I continue to believe that even if we as progressives hold the lion's share of the levers of power, we still need an honest, loyal opposition. Not the type of opposition we have now, but an opposition that will keep us honest and prevent us from turning what we believe into a kind of dogmatism. So while it may be true that we need to just let those who are about to shoot themselves do their thing, the far right's continued extremeness does more harm to America than any good it may do to our own electoral success. Let's try to avoid the short-sighted thinking that can come from that.

And yes, it is true that the media is no help, that CNN and others bend over backwards to avoid the "liberal bias" charge (but get charged with it anyway) when they treat crazy right-wingers like they have something valuable to add to the conversation, but you know what, until that changes, we're going to have to do our work in spite of the major media.

Originally posted to RockyMtnLib on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Daily Kos Atheist Cult and Colorado COmmunity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cuphalffull, sewaneepat, exterris, pot

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:52:46 PM PDT

    •  You seem to be advocating.... (0+ / 0-)

      not taking them so serious that that runs our agenda and then on the other hand you seem to be saying that we cant let their agenda run buck wild without addressing it? Uhhhh, I'm doing my part without calling them crazy because most of the people I know, know they are crazy and once that is established, I talk about being a liberal and what we stand for. IMHO we need to attack as agressively as they do the issues when they spout off garbage and further our cause about what might be better for america. Quite frankly, I have never ran into a birther, so I have not had that opportunity but if I had they would definitely know where I stand. Besides I can be quite convincing and manipulative to my trains of thought.

      "You took a dump on the little guy..? Why? "Cause, I can." Karl Rovian bible.

      by tdslf1 on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:01:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No (0+ / 0-)

        I'm saying we need to address the craziness head on, but not to the point where we neglect articulating effectively what we stand for. I'm afraid the second part is what we are guilty of too often, and I consider that political malpractice.

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 10:13:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Too Many Contradictions... (0+ / 0-)

    For example, why is it that if we DON'T vote for our candidates "The Michelle Bachmann's of the world will call all the shots" whereas if we DO vote for our candidates we are expected to compromise ourselves out of existence, and therefore have virtually no say in "calling the shots."

    I couldn't make a better case for the imbecility of the far right than they are currently making for themselves.  A lie isn't just another take on the truth, it's just a lie.

    "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?" Nick Lowe

    by LHB on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 11:09:47 PM PDT

    •  Please point to where (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sewaneepat, exterris

      I suggested we should "compromise ourselves out of existence".

      I don't see my diary as contradictory. The Cliff's Notes version of it is: call out the right plainly, but don't neglect to state clearly what it is you stand for. Do both.

      liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

      by RockyMtnLib on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 11:25:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the inspiration (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RockyMtnLib

    I have been, for far too long, trying to come up with a methodology for writing letters to the editor in our rural rural Republican majority community.  The Tea Party is very organized here.  Its also where the grand wizard of the KKK not long ago resided.  I don't want to give these folks a stimulus for their predictable response.

    You gave me an idea.  Simply talk about what I like in the progressive changes that are being made (without labeling them that way).  I can combine that with a little bit of my personal story as a lead in.

  •  I'm not sure there's any point in folks on this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat

    site writing so prolifically about our opponents on the American Right. If this was some well-read public forum, then sure, I think there's something to be said for a steady stream of straightforward debunking. But that's not what we are. We're a small community with no great platform.

    Personally, I have almost nothing unique to say about Republicans. They're lying, hypocritical, anti-human capitalists. Lather, rinse, repeat. We pose no threat to them and therefore have no influence over their actions, no matter how many well-sourced diaries we put out.

    Our focus needs to be on ideas that can change our country. That may mean meta discussions about how to work more effectively for that change, but I think that the best we have to offer is our collective ability to create a coherent vision of what this country should be. People here know a lot about a huge range of topics. They have tons of ideas for how they'd rewire our society if they had their way. Instead of talking about how much we hate this politician or love that one, I'm starting to strongly prefer focusing on our own vision of the future.

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