Monday, July 23, 2007

Why We Can't All Just Get Along

When, in the course of human events (no, not that Human Events), the members of an activist community decide to lose their minds and throw feces at one another with indiscriminate abandon, a reasonable respect for human dignity and sanity impels us to more thoroughly examine the causes of said monkey-like behavior. It is going to be practically impossible to make peace between the increasingly divided pro-impeachment crowd and the focus-on-other-priorities crowd without a basic understanding of what is even at issue, and what it is we're trying to fix. Markos' recent "Can't We All Just Get Along, or Else?" post is a noble sentiment, but it won't fix much until we dig to the structural root of what the community is trying to accomplish.

The problem with the impeachment debate is that both sides are talking past one another, and usually trying to accomplish either different goals without knowing it, or--worse yet--the wrong goal for the tool in question (be it impeachment or elections).

For the last many years leading up to the 2006 elections, progressives across the blogosphere have been fighting on many fronts: from human rights to civil liberties to defense of the Constitution to privacy rights to anti-war issues and everything in between. Some of us set out to most specifically focus on getting Democrats elected, as is the purpose here at DailyKos. Some of us set out to raise awareness of issues not on the Democrats' radar, even if it came at the temporary expense of Democratic electoral fortunes. Still others of us, like Chris Bowers & Matt Stoller at MyDD and now at Open Left, have set our sights on broader movement-building among progressives.

Almost all of us, however, had a fairly single-minded objective no matter the specific focus: to prove Karl Rove wrong about his math. Most of us remember Karl Rove's famous asserations that while the rest of us were looking at our silly polls showing Americans supporting Democratic positions and distrusting Republican "leadership," he had THE math. Karl Rove's delusional math told him that America is a fundamentally "conservative" country--a beliefshared by many top Democratic consultants in the DLC mold who continue to believe that 2006 was an exception, rather than a proper reflection of American sentiment--where progressive opinions are eschewed and the ultra-conservative base free to dictate policy with impunity. No matter whether we were getting specific Democrats elected, building a broader movement, or pushing the Overton Window even farther left, our fundamental goal was the same: kill Rove's math dead and prove that this is really a majority Progressive country after all, if people will only vote their beliefs rather than their fears.

Fortunately for us, there was a definitive accountability moment for Rove's Math: it was called Election Day. And while not everyone, of course, was completely convinced by the results, we have the opportunity to prove Rove's math wrong again and again every two years: 2008, 2010 and beyond. With each victory for Democrats (whether at the Presidential, Congressional, State or Local levels) and for progressive values (usually but not always one and the same), we can convince more and more of the country that Rove's Math is, will be, and was always wrong--so long as a cadre of progressives with a spine is willing to stand up to the corporatists, NeoCons and other Republican allies. Someday soon, perhaps even the recalcitrant David Broders of the world will be forced to acknowledge that the "reality-based community" is and was always respectable, correct, and on the right side of history and American opinion--disrespecable idiots like Bill Kristol notwithstanding.

But Rove's Math is not, now, the only force we must combat: now that we have our first major electoral victory in years under our belts, we also have to deal with something I like to call ROVE'S LAW (it's really more Cheney's law, but Rove also has a heavy hand in it, as with everything). Rove's Law is just as delusional and destructive to this country, if not more so, as belief and trust in Rove's Math. Rove's Law is not all that different from Nixon's Law: When the President Does It, That Means It's Not Illegal. We can see a clear-cut example of the thinking behind Rove's Law in former White House counsel John Yoo's editorial today in the WSJ asserting that Bush's only role from here on as President is to "protect" the "Constitutional rights of Executive Privilege for future presidents." Rove's Law states that the President is a Monarch elected on four-year cycles, able to do whatever he pleases without oversight or consequence beyond the next election.

Historians understand that demagogues who are allowed to take republican or democratic (note the small r's and d's) governmental systems and subvert them under the sorts of dogmatic executive rules being pushed by proponents of Rove's Law inevitably detach governments from the accountability of their people and lead to de facto dictatorships. Rove's Law must therefore be rejected just as explicitly as his math has been.

Unfortunately, however, unlike Rove's Math, there are no number of elections that will provide a rejection of Rove's Law. We can prove by means of elections that the American people are fundamentally progressive in their beliefs; we cannot prove by means of elections that Rovian theories of presidential power are illegitimate. And this is where the fundamental crux of the misunderstanding between impeachment advocates and impeachment opponents within the Progressive community comes.

All too often, those who promote impeachment do so as a means of getting rid of George Bush and/or Dick Cheney. That is, frankly speaking, deeply misguided and ill-considered. If you want to get rid of George Bush and people like them, there's an answer for that: it's called an ELECTION. Work to win the elections you can influence, or pipe down about it. On Jan. 20, 2009, either a Democrat or another Republican will take office--and no, the world isn't going to end in the meantime because Bush stayed in office.

Yet all too often again, those who oppose impeachment believe that we can reject Rove's Law by putting Democrats in power. That is also, frankly speaking, deeply fallacious and utterly naive. Without an explicit condemnation of and especially accountability moment for Rove's Law, this problem will never be truly resolved. As much as George Bush makes Richard Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson, so will the next Executive to use this authority make Bush look like Nixon--unless something drastic is done to thoroughly reject the premises of Rove's Law.

Perhaps impeachment is not that rejection. Perhaps, as Digby said in the radio conversation with myself and clammyc, a failed impeachment drive would be worse for that accountability than doing nothing at all. But if impeachment is not answer, I have yet to hear anything coherent that would be a more significant or long-lasting approach to solving the problem.

We must be aware, of course, that there is a possible conflict between rejecting Rove's Law and rejecting Rove's Math--but we must also acknowledge that both are critically important and fundamentally separate.

When we take our positions on impeachment, we must be aware of which piece of delusional Rovism we are attempting to reject with what priority, and using what tools. We should acknowledge the progressive legitimacy of those who believe that Rove's Math is still a bigger problem than Rove's Law, and vice versa. We should acknowledge that impeachment is a bad way to get rid of Rove's Math (and Bush and Cheney), and that elections are no way to rid of Rove's Law (and the Unitary Executive theory).

Only then can we all begin to truly get along again.

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Blogger steeplebob said...

good post.

4:55 PM  
Blogger thereisnospoon said...


4:22 PM  
Blogger D.K. said...

Good points about what elections are meant for. The trick is going to be to get candidates that we can elect who stand for something different than what we have been experiencing thus far.

At the moment, there are few candidates like that.

8:55 AM  

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