It's getting late and I'm tired. Drove up from Jersey to The Berkshires to spend Easter weekend with all my progeny on the warmest and most beautiful day of the year so far. More a mid-summer day than an early Spring one (global warming anyone?) but we'll take it.
But I did want to leave a brief post [woops, turned out to be a long one] picking up on a comment thread I took part in on a recent post here about politics. I spent a good portion of my life from childhood on standing up for my ideals and taking punishment for it, sometimes even facing death threats. I lost jobs, friends, careers, money, security, etc. etc. for standing up for my beliefs.
But I also recognized pretty early on that never compromising was first of all impossible in life, no matter how pure I tried to make my actions in terms of my ideals, there was always more that could be done. I was one of those who helped come up with the concept of "politically correct" behavior after many "consciousness raising" sessions in the commune I was a part of and which was part of a larger group of radicals and "revolutionaries" who were trying to change the world back in the 1960s and '70s. We meant it to be a positive term, but it soon became an epithet.
The big realization of what a "no compromise" stance might cause was the win by Nixon in '68 which I am convinced—and I think anyone with not only a historic perspective of the political parties at that time and the candidates but also a practical knowledge of how politics works and what the individual histories of Nixon and Humphrey and their party functionaries and allies was at the time—cost the lives of hundreds of thousands if not more who might otherwise have lived.
I felt a personal responsibility for whatever my part had been in that political shift, as I felt a personal responsibility for the deaths at Jackson and Kent State a few years later. After which I took part in only actions that were life affirming, or I tried to, and I had all along, even at my purist, given solace to those who could not contribute as much in terms of time and energy to "the movement" (for Civil Rights and an end to the Viet Nam war and to equal rights for women and gays etc.) and felt guilty about it.
I understood then as I do now that compromise is not always the enemy of progress but sometimes it's midwife. I believe that's been the case since the Democrats gained a majority in the House in 2006 and then in the senate as well and finally the presidency in '08. In the little over a year since Obama has been president great things have been achieved, even before the Healthcare Bill was signed into law (and yes, it's a compromise bill, but it moves the center of the debate to the left of no healthcare reform at all and opens the door for more and more extensive coverage in the future). Lives have been saved in the past year and less than three months since Obama took the oath of office.
And that matters. In fact, almost every day since taking office Obama has made progress on some front that progressives want to see progress made on. Maybe not as far as they would want him to go or see the situation moved, but steady and certain progress in many of the areas progressives are most concerned about.
And yet they seem so easily discouraged, which is exactly what the right has always relied on, since Reagan at least though I believe since Nixon. All they have to do is convince independent minded folks who lean to the progressive side on most issues that there isn't "a dime's worth of difference" between the major parties and then those people turn cynical and either don't vote or vote for some candidate that hasn't a chance so the vote is basically a non-vote.
The latest statistic proving once again Obama's ability to effect change were yesterday's unemployment figures, I mean employment figures since the economy picked up a hundred and sixty-thousand some odd jobs last month. As when Clinton was in office, almost every statistic that most of us want to see improve has been or is starting to since Obama took office until now.
I've seen a lot of turmoil in politics since I was a kid and first worked for my father in the Essex County New Jersey Democratic machine, some of it a lot worse than the recent tea-party rows. And though Faux News and a lot of the "mainstream media" is manipulated or outright run by rightwingers, it wasn't so different in the 1950s, or even the '60s for that matter, though the ruckus was being caused by the left in that decade and because of the numbers of young people taking part it had an impact that lasted in some areas of life right into the present, though in others began to be deliberately eroded or destroyed under Nixon and more so under Reagan and pretty much pushed over a cliff under Bush Junior.
My point is, despite the rightwing attempt to interpret the news to encourage despair on the part of liberals and progressives, those who identify that way actually have a lot to cheer about, or at least feel very good about and grateful for. Now we just have to get that message out more consistently and continuously and non-contemptuously.
[And for anyone who wants to point out that 48,000 of those 160,000 jobs or so picked up last month were for census workers so they'll disappear soon, you must also then consider that the rest of those jobs were mostly in manufacturing, yes, something most people don't even think exists anymore in this country, but in fact the output from factories in the U.S. has increased more than since 2004! Right on Obama and the Dems.]