Choosing Our Battles
The upcoming November elections have the potential to be a game changer — not just in Washington, but for all Americans. The decisions we make will have serious consequences for our economy, our environment, our health and more.
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My philosophy of politics is "work together to solve our common problems for the benefit of humanity and the planet." I guess that would make me a "progressive," however, this philosophy is not based on an ideology, but rather upon a "world view."
As soon as one subscribes to a political ideology or a religious dogma, one falls down the dark hole of mindless manipulation. This can manifest as violent hatred, cynicism or even apathy. Many "progressives," disappointed that their hopes for change with the election of Obama are choosing the perverse option of apathy. Since neither he nor his party have been able to accomplish all they had hoped, many may choose not to vote for Democrats just "to show them."
When my sister and I were children, and we would do something that was clearly against our interests because we were not getting our way, our mother would say, "Don't bite off your nose to spite your face!" If those who rallied to elect Obama sit out this November's midterm elections out of spite, the consequences will hurt the future of our nation.
After a vote on environmental legislation with which I did not agree, I had a conversation with our congressional representative, Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ - 1). She is a long-time acquaintance, and I challenged her on her vote. She said that it was a particularly difficult decision for her since she has much support from environmentalists, but that her decision was based upon the negative economic impact for a large segment of her district whom she also represents.
Now, orthodox environmentalists may fault her and "show her" by not voting to re-elect her. However, she is still guided by core values that Democrats hold dear even though we may not always agree on the particulars of policy. She took the "big picture" view, and told me that it did not change her commitment to the necessity of protecting our environment. (She has demonstrated this repeatedly in other votes.)
In choosing our battles it is helpful to evaluate the overall impact on the "big picture." Obama and the Democrats have not achieved much of what we progressives would have liked, and have made decisions we disagree with. Nevertheless, considering the mess that they inherited from eight years of Republican wantonness, and adversaries that live in that black hole of mindless ideology and selfish interests, Democrats are still trying to initiate policies of positive change.
Being an educator, I have found that one cannot progress by being fixed in place and by drawing a line in the sand. Education is a progressive evolution, establishing common ground by dealing with conflicting ideas, habits and interests. It helps to see others' points of view and to use finesse to move them forward. True, in critical times, authority, vehement defense of principles, and drawing boundaries are necessary, but to really change people and make a permanent transformation of values and culture, one needs to bring people along with persistent care, starting with where they are at.
Battle plays to peoples' fears and builds their defenses. We currently see the partisans gathered on all sides of political issues, urged on by inflexible manipulators and selfish interests. The walls are built by unquestioned orthodoxies and inflexible agendas. Political culture based on transforming peoples' understanding and on shifting national priorities requires self-confidence built by gradually increasing the comfort zone of accepted change. If progressives sit this election out because of spite, they lose perhaps decades of progress by allowing the politics of fear and regression to taint our political culture.
© 2010 Richard