On Idealism and Compromise

The comments to my last post and Dr. James’s excellent post on Keith Olbermann’s blistering indictment of the Bush Administration’s assault on democracy and freedom have inspired me to finally get this down. While James and I are coming from different perspectives where faith is concerned (and I suspect we disagree on a few issues), I couldn’t agree with him more about the importance of this election. I encourage you to check out his post and to watch the video link.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about idealism and compromise. I’m an idealist struggling not to succumb to the cynicism that plagues so many of us as we grow older and learn that the world is not easily changed. Unfortunately for idealists, we cannot get everything that we hope for. This is hard to accept, but I have learned that we must be very careful not to use this disappointment as an excuse to abandon the good fight altogether.

Like many American liberals, I believe that the Democratic Party has abandoned its ideals in the name of winning elections. They seem unwilling to come right out and say that they support social services, that they support the rights of the poor, that they support the rich paying their fair share, that they support workers’ rights, that they support environmental protections, that they support women’s rights (including abortion), that they support equal rights for gay people. This unwillingness to take such stands, unpopular as some of them might be, have left the party with nothing real to say.

In 2000 I looked at Al Gore, and because he appeared to have turned his back on the principles I held dear, I didn’t vote for him. I lived in New Hampshire, a state heartbreakingly close to going blue that year, and I voted for Ralph Nader because Gore didn’t live up to my ideals. While the Green vote was not enough to have tipped the state blue (therefore rendering the debacle in Florida unnecessary), the general dissatisfaction with the Democratic party by lefties like me certainly did influence the outcome. I will regret my vote for the rest of my life.

Yes, the Democrats are the wishy-washy party, as Dive so aptly puts it. No matter how wishy-washy they are, however, they are not the Republicans. Make no mistake about who this party is and who it represents. This is not the Party of Lincoln. It isn’t even the party of Eisenhower. Sensing an opportunity to seize the votes of southerners who traditionally voted Democratic but who opposed the civil rights movement, the Republicans made a cold, calculated alliance with racists. Ronald Reagan did not kick of his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murder of civil rights workers, because the weather was nice there that time of year. He sent a clear signal that the Party of Lincoln had undergone a fundamental shift. Don’t like civil rights? Vote Republican.

And, speaking of fundamentals, the Republicans also got into bed with the Christian fundamentalists, inviting the likes of Jerry Fawell and his Moral Majority into the fold (Southern Baptist Convention? Founded to defend slavery). The Gospel according to Fawell is that Jesus hates uppity women, science, and gay people, and that until these forces are eradicated from this nation that God will turn his back on it. He preached that America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation, despite all evidence to the contrary. And Christians, especially southern Christians, heeded the call of Fawell and those who followed him, and flocked to the Republican party in droves. As we saw in 2004, this powerful Values block delivered for the Republicans in a way that I hope woke the rest of the country up.

We can see the fruits of this unholy union. An illegal war of choice that many on the religious right see as a religious crusade. The destruction of the ideals upon which this country was founded. A movement to fight equal rights instead of advancing them. A culture of corruption and hate.

The Democrats, afraid to be who they are, have backed away from some of their ideals. They’ve gotten into bed with business interests in order to get money to be in politics. They are a tremendous disappointment on so many levels. But they did not get into bed with racists and religious fundamentalists. They would not have brought our country to the brink of losing everything we hold dear as a free and democratic people.

Even if the only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats are not the Republicans, that’s good enough for me this time. The Democrats do not live up to my expectations, but I now know that a Gore administration would not have been the same as the Bush regime.

I can’t take back my idealistic vote six years ago. But I can cast a better, wiser compromise vote this time. I’m voting for the Democrats.

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20 responses to “On Idealism and Compromise

  1. indeed…we all can cast a more idealist vote this time around. Glad to stand with you in voting against this administration.

  2. I think this vote in some ways is an idealistic vote. A vote against a threat to our ideals is a vote to uphold them.

  3. A ranty old tosser writes:

    While you’re currently disenfranchised, with no major party truly representing you, voting for wishy-washy over pure, cynical greed, racist and homophobic bigotry, misogynism, fundamentalist extremism, sickening hypocrisy, corruption and war crimes is still a good thing.
    Go for it.

    And James: Thanks for a great post. Though I’m afraid I agree with Anon. From outside, looking in, I can see a frightening amount of similarities with the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany.
    And, while not trying to offend your faith; outside the States, Christian fundamentalism is considered no less evil than Islamic fundamentalism. The millions of Christians who live by the beatitudes, and the millions of Muslims who believe in surrender to God’s will are being betrayed by vocal, violent and increasingly politically influential minorities.

    Over here, things were pretty much the same for a long time, but the environmental lobby and the Green movement have at long last got a foothold, so there’s hope yet.
    Germany now has a very powerful Green Party, and it’s growing in England, too.

    I realise how lucky I am to live in lefty heaven: our local city coucil in Norwich used to be run by the Socialist Workers Party back in the glory days. Now that people are afraid of the word “socialist”, it has recently become the first British city to be run by the Greens, a fact of which we are inordinately proud.

    Good luck on the seventh, both of you.

  4. My incohesive thoughts on the election: I share James’ idea that I am a follower of Christ apart from my nationality (a believer in the Beatitudes, as Dive put it), but I am also a citizen of the United States, a country I love dearly. I also hold the office of the presidency in very high esteem, being able to separate the office from the office holder when necessary.

    That said, I intend to vote, and I intend to vote apart from what the Evangelical Community has been promoting since the days of Reagan. That block is falling apart a little, although there is a still a strong drive to vote based solely on abortion and gay marriage and without regard to all of the monumental issues we are facing around the world.

    I also will probably not vote a strict party ticket because I don’t believe any one person or party is the answer. We’ve got such a mess and such division, a single vote and a single election will only begin to crack the spell.

  5. Robyn, by all means, you need to vote your own conscience. And I certainly understand that this election will not solve our problems (for one thing, W won’t be out of office). To me, my only hope is that a strong enough message is sent this time that other issues can take center stage next time.

    Randy Old Tosser (should I call you “ROT”?), I am insanely jealous of your city.

  6. Thanks, Sassy.
    Sorry for being so ranty.

    On a lighter note, our lovely Green city is actually a beautiful place physically, as well as politically.
    It’s very old and very small (you can walk from the castle into green countryside in half an hour).
    It has the best (official) shopping centre in the UK (including some fabulous shoe shops – girlie heaven). Everything is within easy walking distance, and for arts and music and veggie food, it’s one of the finest places on the planet.

    When I track down some Fluff, I’ll do a Sassy-style travelogue.

  7. Here, here, Dive. I commented on what Anon wrote on James’ blog similarly to you. Unlike all of you, I know James personally (in person, that is, not just internet) and he’s an honest friendly guy, easy to talk to. But I’m still uncomfortable with the religion thing and I don’t know if I can quite get over that. It’s hard.

    That being said, I still want to live somewhere else than the USA at this point. As much as I love my freedoms, I am increasingly uncomfortable with how things are going here. I want to tell the rest of the world, “Hey, I may be American, but I don’t think like the stereotypes you see in the news, or like the president. I’m sorry for that and I feel sort of powerless to make any major changes in our country.”

  8. Oh, yes … That’s “Ranty”, not “Randy” thank you very much …

    Young people today; that’s all they seem to have on their minds …

  9. You know, I meant to write “Ranty” and not “Randy,” but I guess I slipped. Sigh…

    Before Girl, I know exactly what you mean about wanting to leave. I’ve decided to fight this one more time, but if people don’t wake up, I’m not sure if this country is worth the effort anymore. By the way, I know James too (though I pretty much got to know him on the internet). Personally if people are up front about their beliefs and are open to other view points, I’m cool with it. I appreciated his post very much.

  10. dudes and dudettes. thanks for the kind words. Know that there is nothing you said that has offended me. True, i try to live as a follower of Jesus as best I can, and with that do I appreciate all of your being able to differentiate political and corporate Christianity from my personal faith.

    Dive – Yes, i can understand what you are saying about the rise of fascism in the 30’s. My question for anon was more if he really feels that Bush & Co. in their current state are akin to the Nazis. While I believe this is possible for future parties down the road, I don’t think they are quite there.

    Please pray for our country (if you’re down with the whole prayer thing, that is).

  11. Thank you James for your tolerance and understanding.

    Faith is a wonderful thing, on both a personal and a community level.
    It also has a place in politics, though not in government.

    In Kurt Vonnegut’s latest book, he observes with justifiable alarm that the one religious text on display in
    professedly Christian town halls across America is the Ten Commandments.
    When they were written, these were great rules for keeping a primitive society in order, but are pre-Christian and by definition, proscriptive.
    He laments that he cannot find a single municipal building displaying the Beatitudes, Christ’s, and therefore Christianity’s ideals which Robyn and Dr. James exemplify so well.

    Religion in politics can be a great force for good, particularly in opressive regimes such as apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union under Stalin.

    When a proscriptive and fundamentalist form of any religion gains political power, however, the rights and liberties of individuals are denied them and this government itself becomes oppresive.
    Witness the Taliban in Afghanistan, the BJP in India and, most frightening of all because of the power it wields, the religious right wing in the United States.

    Sassy and Before Girl: Your country IS worth the effort, because it is YOUR country. Your voice is worth as much as any other. You still have a vote; use it, and keep on using it at local and national levels.
    Think of Bush and Rove and Cheney. Think of that death counter on James’s site (by the way, James, outside the States, the Iraqi deaths are counted at way above 600,000).
    Think of the gloating jeers of Republicans if they win the mid-terms and do the right thing.

  12. That’s why I’m so much in favor of the separation of church and state. I love Kurt Vonnegut—I once heard him speak in Boston many years ago, and I felt like I was seated at the foot of wisdom (only funnier).

  13. This is truly a cool set of comments and posts, both on Sundry’s and James’ blogs. To all, I reread what I wrote and yeah, I meant to say that I knew James, and to add that I didn’t know if anyone else did personally as well. But I got all ranty. :)

    James, I respect what you had to say and I try to respect your beliefs system. Too easily do I get caught up into incorrectly melding your Christian beliefs with “Christianity” in its more ugly formats. Having never been a part of that group, it’s hard to separate the two, and I’m grateful for the knowledge that helps to separate those two.

    James also wrote, “Yes, i can understand what you are saying about the rise of fascism in the 30’s. My question for anon was more if he really feels that Bush & Co. in their current state are akin to the Nazis. While I believe this is possible for future parties down the road, I don’t think they are quite there.”

    No, I don’t think we are quite there yet, but everything starts out small and seemingly insignificant until it’s already snowballing and hindsight becomes 20/20. I don’t think the Nazis just started setting up ghettos and bookburnings and trashing Jewish businesses. It probably started with small things, rumors, gossip, tiny posters with nasty messages put up anonymously overnight. I think those things are where we are right now with regards to the Religious Right. Let’s all pray it doesn’t snowball.

    Dive wrote: “Think of that death counter on James’s site (by the way, James, outside the States, the Iraqi deaths are counted at way above 600,000).” What does outside the states say about American troops-is the counter right? Odd, I just had the feeling of “there’s a whole set of news out there that isn’t being reported here” kind of thing. Like we should be talking in code to let undercover people on the enemy side how the real world is actually going.

  14. Before Girl, I agree that the Nazi thing might not be too far off track. No two circumstances line up exactly, but I think the fact that we’ve agreed to abandon a fundamental principle of western government (Habeas Corpus) signals that we are right to be alarmed. I am not about to call Bush a Hitler, but I think that a fascist isn’t all that far off. Right wing, collusion with business, cutting off dissent. That’s kinda what fascism is, right?

    These are scary times, but we still have a chance to stop them. Let’s hope it works, and that James’s (justifiable) fears about stolen elections don’t come to pass. By the way, James, did you see Yahoo earlier today? They were talking about problems with voting machines.

  15. dude krista . . . i believe there IS a whole set of news that isn’t being reported. Not sure how it is in Britan or anything, but we here in the states get little news on Darfur, as Americans are more interested in “Who wants to Marry My Dad” and news on Jessica Simpson’s new love interest.

    Would love to hear what Dive suggests as far as good news coverage. And hey, if there’s another counter availble with a more accurate talley, i’d be glad to look into it.

    Sass…heading to yahoo now.

  16. Wow, this post has certainly stirred up some murky waters, Sassy.

    James and Beforegirl: I tend to distrust any news reporting that gets as far as a television.
    I do, however, use the BBC and Channel 4 news sites as starting points to try to trace the source material behind any reports; something the internet has made so much easier.
    For a lefty slant on things, I use the Independent Media Group (but again, try to trace what source meterial I can before forming an opinion).

    The Iraqi death figures were from the Lancet’s survey in Iraq, which has been the most comprehensive to date. The BBC’s initial report is as good a starting point as any; it is on
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6040054.stm

    http://www.channel4.com/news/index.html?hpos=globalnav:NEWS
    is Channel 4 news, and

    http://www.indymedia.org/en/index.shtml
    is the lefty, shouty media people (extremely biased, but a good source for breaking stories).

    The US death toll is agreed as accurate by all … with the proviso that without Bush in power, it would have been zero.

    However, reports have been circulating – currently denied by our government – that a large proportion of our own soldiers injured in the conflict have been flown home secretly, to be treated in British military hospitals and so not appear on the official list of casualties.
    Investigations are ongoing, but if this is found to be true, then I very much doubt the Americans are not massaging their casualty figures this way too.

    Thanks again to all for what has been a very stimulating day.

  17. I heard about the Lancet report on the BBC here (bless the World Service). There was some coverage of it on NPR as well. Indy Media is an excellent source. I like to visit Common Dreams too. Ever since reading Manufacturing Consent by Herman and Chomsky in college, I really can’t trust media too much.

  18. Hey, I feel left out. I got so busy with work today I didn’t get to jump into this conversation. And I don’t have time at the moment. I’ll come back later and see what I missed.

    Although I can say now that I’m not sure I eximplify the beatitudes all that well.

  19. Well, I guess it’s too late to participate since I’d have to write hours of comment boxes to speak my peace. Main points, though: I believe this country is always worth fighting for, and that policies and phases in government come and go. I believe that the ten commandments are still relevant but that the what little we know of the words of Jesus brought/bring grace into the human condition. I believe the old saying, “believe nothing that you read and only half of what you see.” I have always assume that our news is sketchy, just as the news given in any other country–I don’t believe there is a big conspiracy to keep us poor stupid Americans in the dark. The news is often driven by public interest and the market and limited time to present the truth. So spread your sources out, realize that we’re all fallible, and hope in the overall control of a higher power, because if we’re left here to just figure it all out for ourselves, then we’re screwed. Theres, ah, I can move on.

  20. Robyn, you let your JOB interfere with blog comments? Tsk, tsk. :) Seriously, thanks for expressing this stuff. Debate is the healthiest thing about this country.

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