Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Left's Weakness?

In Lisa's recent post, Choosing Liberalism, she mentions the widely held belief that it is our "openness to ideas, the cosmopolitan inclusiveness of the philosophy" that makes us so ineffective. This is a belief that I shared with Lisa and others on the Left for a long time. However, the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized it's simply not true. Let me explain.

This belief pre-supposes that we are all working on a level playing field. We on the Left have our ideas; those on the Right have their ideas; and the group who can successfully and effectively frame those ideas will gain power and influence to put their ideals into action.

Nevermind the fictitous nature of this false dichtomy of Left/Right--you're either a conservative or a liberal. Nevermind that what counts as the political spectrum in the United States is a tiny little sliver of the real political spectrum. Let's just take a look at this idea that it is our "openness to ideas, the cosmopolitan inclusiveness of the philosophy" that renders us so ineffective.

Like I said, for a long time I accepted this view of the Left. But then I started to look at some of the assumptions made by this argument. For instance, it is assumed that we are playing on a level field and that the group with the best ideas will win. But this has never been the case, and it's not very hard to see how false it really is.

Take a look at many of the movements and ideals held dear by the Left: the labor movement, feminism, environmentalism, civil rights, and others. If, for instance, the labor movement was just naturally ineffective, why would companies like Wal-Mart and others have to spend millions of dollars a year to fight it? Why would a company like Wal-Mart spend so much time and energy in fighting something that is naturally ineffective?

Or take a look at the Christian Left. Have you even heard of the Christian Left? We don't see them on television; we don't hear them on the radio; but they exist. They are the Christians who seek to emulate the principals of social justice that Jesus taught. They are the priests and jesuits who were murdered by CIA backed death squads in Central America. They are the Christians who are busy feeding the poor in downtown LA and other places around the world. But they don't have radio stations and they don't get huge grants from large corporations. There's a familiar quote that goes something like this:

When I feed the homeless, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are homeless, they call me a communist.
Take a look at the environmental movement. Is it just ineffective at framing these issues? Or is it that large corporations with vastly deeper pockets spend millions in dis-information campaigns aimed at confusing the issues and spreading false infomration to the public? I'd argue it's the latter.

As strange as it may sound considering our current political climate, we are not ineffective. Our strength is our open-mindedness and our dedication to real democracy. But we have to realize we are not playing on a level playing field. We have a tough fight ahead of us. The odds are stacked against us. But history is on our side. Don't give up the fight. And don't give up on the power of diversity.

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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