Moderates and Political “Pragmatism”
For today’s political moderates and their brand of “political pragmatism”, there is never a right time to move for significant change. So goes the argument put forth by the Defeatocrat wing of the Democrat Party, Bernie Sanders will never be able to accomplish everything he proposes in his campaign speeches; The question must be asked, “Does that mean we’ll be better off with a president who seems to think the status quo is acceptable, or even preferable?” As Robert Reich has stated, “Many liberals have given up before getting started.”
And this has been true since 2009 when Obama took office and immediately refused to even try for single-payer health care. If you want to strike a bargain – or compromise in the jargon of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “white moderate”– you don’t give up your goal before you start negotiations simply because working toward needed change might be inconvenient.
A single passage from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail addresses the problem:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
King’s statement is easily applied to the current goal of Progressives in America by changing just a few words indicated in bold:
…the Progressive’s great stumbling block in his stride toward justice is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s justice; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Progressive to wait for a “more convenient season.”
Significant change is not a product of convenience. Waiting for a “more convenient season” for desired change will certainly never bring that change. Referencing the comfort (convenience?) these moderates feel with the status quo, Reich writes;
“…some establishment Democrats – Washington lobbyists, editorial writers, inside-the-beltway operatives, party leaders and big contributors – have grown comfortable with the way things are. They’d rather not rock the boat they’re safely in. I get it, but here’s the problem. There’s no way to reform the system without rocking the boat. There’s no way to get to where America should be without aiming high. […] It won’t be easy. It has never been easy. As before, it will require the energies and commitments of large numbers of Americans. Which is why you shouldn’t listen to the “we-must-not-try” brigade. They’ve lost faith in the rest of us.”
In an interview on Democracy Now — War on Wall Street or Wall Street’s Wars (the title says it all) –in which Jeffrey Sachs squared off against Representative Gregory Meeks, Jeffrey Sachs paraphrased Clinton;
“…on the domestic side, she basically said, “I will change nothing.” And that, I think, is really sobering for those of us who believe in a progressive agenda. She said, “Don’t dream. We can’t do it. Don’t go with this guy. He can’t make these changes.” And that’s very sad, actually, to just be campaigning on the grounds, “No, we can’t.” I think the fact of the matter is, we could accomplish a great deal. And she’s basically saying that the status quo is just fine.”
In one segment of the interview, Meeks attempted to defend Clinton:
REP. GREGORY MEEKS: “What Clinton did was sat down with our European allies, sitting down with our allies in the Arab states, sitting down with our folks in Central and South America, trying to work with a coalition of folks what is good for all of us. And in that, there is a give and take, and you do share intelligence and try to figure out how you can move forward. That has been the philosophy of the State Department under Hillary Clinton and under President Barack Obama, which is a huge change from what it was previously.”
JEFFREY SACHS retorted: “I’ll tell you who she sat down with. I would encourage viewers to go back to The New York Times a couple of weeks ago when they unveiled what many of us knew, which was the secret deal of Saudi Arabia and the CIA to fund the destabilization of Syria. That’s who Hillary Clinton sat down with, with the CIA and with Saudi Arabia. And the bloodbath that we have underway right now is irresponsible. And it’s the same kind—
REP. GREGORY MEEKS: Sir, go talk to NATO. Go talk to—
JEFFREY SACHS: And it’s the same—and it’s the same kind of irresponsibility of going in to take out Gaddafi and then leaving a civil war and ISIS in Libya. And it’s the same irresponsibility of going in to take out Saddam Hussein. This is a repeated military-industrial complex, CIA-led coup change. And it’s bipartisan, by the way.
Hillary Clinton stated, “Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” she asked. “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk — would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?” Her statement, which distracts from her associations with Wall Street bankers, is a straw man evasion of the point. That straw man logical fallacy should be a red flag for anyone who is informed about recent economic history.
Clinton represents the status quo, the Establishment, and her supporters are the moderates — not all “white” — to whom Martin Luther King, Jr. referred – they are the Defeatocrats, as I refer to them. Reich writes, they will tell you;
“We shouldn’t even try. Democrats think it’s foolish to aim for fundamental change – pie-in-the-sky, impractical, silly, naïve, quixotic. Not in the cards. No way we can. I understand their defeatism. After eight years of Republican intransigence and six years of congressional gridlock, many Democrats are desperate just to hold on to what we have.”
You must understand where you are before you can determine where to go. King, Jr.’s moderates – moderates of any color – must recognize where we truly are as a nation before they can reasonably assess where we must go, what we must do, and who is best qualified to represent us in our struggle to reach that destination. There is never a convenient season for significant change, but we currently have as convenient a season as ever has been. So where are we now and which way should we go; change, or the status quo?