Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Monday, August 30, 2004

This complaint is directed at a number of commentators that I really like (one in particular), which gives me the right, I believe, to be unusually vitriolic in my condemnation. It is my first draft of a letter I will be sending to Eric Alterman today via email, and also putting in the mail. So here goes:

Every "liberal" commentator who has drawn this idiotic parallel between the huge protests of the Republican National Convention in New York and the huge protests of the Democratic National Convention in 1968 is bringing shame down upon the good name of all pragmatic liberalism and really making it extraordinarily difficult for left-liberal Democrats like myself to explain to our Green-expat friends why they should give two shits what "mainstream" liberal voices have to say about their activities, choices, and behaviors.

I'm talking to you, Eric Alterman, you bearded poser. Let's get a few things straight:

The 1968 protests were protests by LIBERALS of the platform of the DEMOCRATIC PARTY. At the DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. The protests and the associated violence pointed up, and brought to a head, the deep divisions within the Democratic Party over the shameless, craven and altogether cowardly support that Huberty Humphrey had previously lent to the then-popular Vietnam war. At the time of the Democratic convenation, Humphrey was still contending that escalataing the war in Vietnam was the right decision, and that he planned to continue the bombardment of South Vietnam and escalate the war still further. The antiwar left saw this as a deep betrayal and a serious contradiction of the core principles of their party, and in Chicago, those feelings boiled over into riots.

The equivalent, just. to. be. absolutely. clear, would be if this year, the Democratic Party had nominated a candidate who had, at a critical moment, given his support to a brainless and short-sighted war of choice out of a mistaken belief that opposition to a war that would be all but won by the next presidential election would hurt his chances as a candidate in that election. And then when that candidate refused to admit that his decision had been wrong, hundreds of thousands of protestors had descended upon Boston and been swept up in a police riot.

Some part of that scenario, and we will not, in the interest of unity, go into just which part, did not happen. It did not happen because the antiwar left, as anyone who has worked in any real capacity within that movement knows but virtually everyone else denies as an article of faith, DOES take history, pragmatism, and likely outcomes into account when we make decisions about where to expend our energy, which after all is limited, and must be used only where it can be most effective.

Though there is considerable and unusual agreement within the antiwar left right now that the first priority of all progressive people should be the ouster of the Bush regime, there is significant dissention about just what will be the most effective course of action once John Kerry assumes the Presidency and, hopefully, the Democrats retake the Senate. There are those like myself, considered unacceptably spineless by what I regret to admit is a large majority of the movement, who argue that depite the obvious advantages of the antidemocratic forces that have pushed our world to the brink of widespread war in the nuclear age, we would be foolish not to realize that the progressive activist movement also has significant advantages that we have enjoyed at no other moment in our history.

One of those advantages, and there are many, is that there are legitimate progressive voices at many mainstream media outlets - people like Eric Alterman at MSNBC. Yet Alterman's relationship to the progressive/activist movement seems to be that whenever he's in a bad mood, he takes out his frustrations by deriding the activist progressive movement for its sanctimoniousness and ignorance of history.

To that, I hope I speak for the rest of the activist movement when I say - we remember. Do you?


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