Saturday, October 1, 2016

Is a United Left Still Possible?

I want to talk about liberal in-fighting. Internal debate is healthy and helps define platforms that balance an abundance of conflicting priorities. I am not trying to shut down those debates.

But the left has a long history of self-defeating in-fighting, which has found modern fuel and forum in social media. There is a real risk that a failure to form coalitions at the right times and on the right issues can end up undermining all liberal factions involved. As my driving instructor used to say, “Three lefts make a right.”

I do not believe that the sworn enemy of the far-left is the not-quite-far-enough left. I’m immediately skeptical of anyone who takes a hard-line stance that if the mainstream left doesn’t cater to their specific demands, it is better to scuttle the entire platform as a symbolic gesture.

But how can any single liberal platform attempt to represent somewhere about half of the population? At what point does it make sense for a subset with irreconcilable differences to split off? And in what cases should they come together as allies? These aren’t easy questions. I’ll have to come back to them in more detail for a different post.

This election cycle saw a particularly nasty bout of bad blood between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. He was my preferred candidate, so I mean it when I say I sympathize with those carrying grievances over how it played out.

But while the media makes hay of the differences, and I’ll admit some of them aren’t negligible, many of the left-leaning candidates have platforms that overlap on 75%-95% of issues. While it feels well outside my scope, would it be useful to people to see a list of what issues 1st party and 3rd parties agree on, which they disagree on, and by how much? Surely that already exists? Send me the links?

In the meantime, what I’d ask is that everyone remember to take occasional steps back to maintain perspective. If you disagree with an ideologically similar person who is voting 3rd party or 1st party, they still deserve your respect. You probably have a lot in common. Where you disagree is more likely on carefully-reasoned specific policy points and the relative priorities of causes you hold in common, not because your opponent is brain-washed, stupid, naïve, corrupt or a sell-out. Let’s not make the issue of 3rd party voting yet another wedge that fractionalizes the left and makes us weaker.

I will also note that because 3rd party voters are, by definition, a political minority, they can, like other minority demographics, find themselves disproportionately suppressed, repressed, oppressed, silenced, bullied, besieged, etc. If you are using these tactics on 3rd party voters, be aware that you will likely persuade no one. Such tactics will not be tolerated here.

1 comment:

  1. Just for a naïve start: