To the Sullivans (part 2):
I’m going to continue yesterday’s post about “nested open-minded-ness.” Being tolerant and all Enlightenment-y isn’t just important on the broader world stage or in choosing a political wing in America; it’s also important when defining our own political party.
[Addendum: Even more relevant in response to NARAL's rather out-there ad accusing Roberts of defending violent extremeists. But hey, when you're accused of murdering hundreds of babies every day, I can understand some over-reaction.}
Look, if you’re the type of person that believes a side is right because they take a “strong stance” and don’t “nuance their words”, then you probably were going to be behind the Iraq War. The reason Democrats so often sound less certain than their opponents is because certainty-above-reason is not a liberal value.
This doesn’t mean we’d be unable to use it to win elections. It just means it would be wrong.
People often lament that Democrats are bad at the tactics of elections. Especially Democrats. Well, be more like Republicans then. Use NARAL like the NRA, as a cultural identifier that creates polarization for your base, instead of a group that tries to make productive legislation. Nominate a guy who has some very easily telegenic features, and ignore everything bad about him ever. Rally around a plain-spoken idiot and don’t let anyone point out that he’s an idiot, or say that being an idiot makes you a worse President/Congressman/Dog-catcher.
Democrats obsessively nit-pick about their candidates flaws and the flaws of their specific policies. It’s very annoying when it comes to elections. Just like respect for civilian life is really inconvenient for Western nations when waging war. (Or the fact that I have to annotate every paragraph with the fact that these statements are only vague generalities and intolerance does not define everyone in the countries or parties dominated by religious fanatics.)
But you know what? Open-minded-ness is still an asset. Our tolerance is an asset. Go read this at Brad Delong’s:
Since I took Bruce's seat at the Treasury when the Bush administration turned into the Clinton administration, let me recount one 10:30 PM conversation I had at the Treasury in the spring of 1993 with one of the career economists. "Yeah. It was kind of boring around here for the past couple of years. We used to wish that we would be asked by the White House to do more." Pause. "I suppose the lesson is: 'Be careful what you wish for'."
The right-wing approach to economics is simplistic demagoguery and easy fixes. Sure there are technocrats and luddites on both sides, but in general: the Democrats are led by people who want to think through to the best policy for every situation and enjoy doing that, and the Republicans have a set goal and know how they want to accomplish it. Their financial policy is run by Rove, Card, and Cheney. Our financial policy was run by a bunch of geeks staying late every night, obsessively trying to make sure they use the best methods.
Wouldn’t you rather be in the technocratic party? In RPG terms, it’s like a -3 to electability, but a +5 to governance. The worldly success of well thought out moderate Democratic policy is not a coincidence, it’s a liberal value.
When Bush first heard about CIA efforts to deal with Bin Laden, he famously said he didn’t want to “keep swatting at flies”, he wanted to deal with the problems in a big way. That type of macho certainty starts wars and gets you votes. But swatting at flies saves American lives and captures real terrorists.
In world affairs, be open-minded to other religions and identities.
In America, be open-minded to the perspective of the other side.
In party dialogue be open-minded to the flaws of yourself and the benefits others can bring.