Hes got a point, but I wish that it were that simple. My daily inflow of email shows that a great many liberals are blissfully unaware that there might be a conflict between those two values.
Did I say blissfully? I should have said angrily. Because these people are a lot more enraged at the Democrats for their compromises and capitulations than at the Bushites for their sheer evil.
Reading their angry diatribes makes me angry. I want to shout, Get real! It makes no sense to expect elected office-holders to be people who wont do what it takes to get elected to office.
But here come those emails, furious at the Democrats for examplefor feeding from the same corporate trough as the Republicans.
Admittedly, too many Democrats have grown comfortable with our system of legal bribery. The question is: in the political system we now have, what would a fully altruistic person do to attain office in order to do good? Answer: raise the money necessary for getting elected. And in our present system that requires some feeding out of the corporate trough.
Its a lousy system, and we should not rest until its changed. But in the meanwhile we should not expect those who win at the game to ignore how the game is played.
Of course, our idealist could refuse to do what is necessary to get elected. And then, as a result of such standing on principle, he/she would share in that blessing you and I enjoy: the opportunity to speak our minds saying all the wonderful things that are so stunningly rightand to be powerless while those who made the necessary compromises make the decisions that shape the world.
Another of the unforgivable sins of the Democrats is their craven stance ever since the war resolution of 2002with respect to the war in Iraq. Theyre accused probably rightlyof having known better already when they voted on that resolution than to trust what the administration was saying, even if they werent privy to all the intelligence that the Bushites kept from them. And for this even though its highly doubtful they could have stopped this war-- theyre condemned, by many angry liberals, as morally bankrupt and beneath our contempt.
But in 2002, it seemed extremely probable that a Democrat who voted against that war would have destroyed whatever chance he or she had of becoming presidentin 2004, or perhaps ever. That was the judgment of those most knowledgeable about the dynamics of the American political system. So John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton all voted yes.
Profiles in courage? No. But we did want to get those who lied the nation into war out of the White House, didnt we? And nobody ever gets to be president who doesnt do whats necessary to become president. Opportunism doesnt smell right, but its how you get the opportunity to win.
Of course, its legitimate to question the expert judgment about what was necessary that led to such decisions. But how about a little humility in our second-guessing? If theres one thing the people up there at the top of this heap are likely to know better than the rest of us, its how to get elected.
Sure, they make mistakes just like NFL quarterbacks do, those few men who emerged, out of the tens of millions of boys who took up the game, as the very best. But just as one can find guys in a bar on any given Sunday talking as if theyd have known better than to throw into double coverage, theres something unseemly about the certainty of some liberal critics about how easy it would be for liberal politicians both to be right and to win.
And theres an additional, related problem thats specific to this Bushite era in American politics: the special challenge of campaigning against Karl Rove.
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