Beware Of Creeping Dear Leader Syndrome
by Chris Bowers, Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 01:16:12 PM EDT
The base isn't interested in Iraq. The base is for Bush. If Bush said tomorrow, we're leaving in two months, there would be no revolt.To which Atrios added:
It's hard for non-lizard brain people to see how they could pivot on a dime like that, but noted Bush basers like Glenn Reynolds spent years arguing against more troops in Iraq then immediately went to arguing the opposite as soon as Dear Leader said it was a good idea.For years, I have argued that conservatism is not an actual political philosophy, and that it should not be understood in terms of "core beliefs." No matter what beliefs are supposedly attached to it at any given moment, conservatism is, and always has been, not about actual beliefs, but about defending powerful, status-quo institutions for their own sake. During the French Revolutionary period, Metternich's defense of noble privilege was the conservative position, as it defended the powerful, status-quo institutions of monarchy and nobility. No conservatives would defend using military force to establish European government based on monarchy and nobility now, but that is only because those institutions are no longer in power. Instead, in a modern American context, conservatism is about defending institutions like reactionary churches, multinational corporations that act against the public interest, the military, wealthy American plutocrats, "traditional marriage," and an ethnically stratified socio-economic structure. It hardly matters whether or not these institutions actually benefit anyone, or even the degree to which the current privileges enjoyed by these institutions are actually threatened. All that matters is defending and strengthening established, institutional privilege against democratization, egalitarianism, and progress.
So, yeah, Grover's probably right. They'd just need to create some fake political event to allow them to declare victory and go home.
But Bush won't do it. And the 30 percenters are happy to stay in Iraq just as they'd be happy to leave. Whatever Dear Leader says is fine with them.
Much more in the extended entry.
Now, as the opposite of conservatism, progressivism isn't exactly a coherent political philosophy either. While conservatism seeks to defend institutionalized, status-quo privileges, progressives seeks to end institutionalized, status-quo privileges (at least as much as possible / reasonable in the short term). It is in this sense that what was progressive fifty years ago, such as ending legalized police entrapment of homosexuals, may now seem quite cautious and by no means "progressive" when the fight for GLBT rights have expanded into areas like equal partnership and adoption rights. Or, three years ago, it may have appeared progressive to support the partial withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at some indeterminate future moment, whereas by now the progressive position has become, at the very least, the complete withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq in one year or less. By nature, what is progressive and conservative at any given moment is always shifting, and not fixed to abstract policy positions.
However, there is one way in which progressivism should be inherently superior to conservatism: it should never result in Dear Leader syndrome. Unfortunately, throughout my entire time in the blogosphere, I have still seen Dear Leader syndrome arise on behalf of a number of Democrats: Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Russ Feingold, and a few others. It amazes me how often many in the blogosphere are ready to defend either anti-progressive or just plain stupid actions their favorite Democrat takes, simply because it was their favorite Democrat taking the action. John Kerry claimed that the 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq was not an endorsement of war in Iraq? Sure, he is absolutely right, the AUMF did not actually authorize the Iraq war! Barack Obama says he will end the Iraq war, but leave American troops in Iraq while the civil war continues to rage? Well, I never thought that was a good idea before, but now that Obama has endorsed it, sure, I'll go along with it!
I admit I am writing this piece because I am frustrated by the amount of pushback I have received online simply for pointing out that Richardson wants to pull all troops out of Iraq, and then criticizing other candidates who do not want to pull all troops out of Iraq. Since when, exactly, did the blogosphere become in favor of leaving American troops in Iraq? Was it when John Edwards and Barack Obama said they would leave a residual American military presence in the country, or before that? Sadly, in many cases, I think it was only after they both indicated their position on this matter, not beforehand. The truth is that is an example of Dear Leader syndrome seeping into the collective mindset of the progressive blogosphere. Because so many people are determined to make John Edwards or Barack Obama the next POTUS, at this point anything either of them say becomes chapter and verse of many of their supporters.
I am not going to stop criticizing Democrats just because I want them to be elected to federal office. I am also not going to stop being a Democrat when I criticize Democrats, as I still follow my eight rules of progressive realpolitik. I strive to follow all rules of the Democratic Party, down to dotting i's and crossing t's. However, we enter dangerous territory when our political activism becomes about worshipping our leaders and defending whatever contradictory positions they take rather than pushing those leaders in a better direction. Two years ago, only one US Senator was in favor of withdrawing from Iraq: Russ Feingold. Now, every single Democratic Senator holds that same position. That shift did not happen because we slavishly defended every word and action of our own Dear Leaders. It happened because we kept pushing them, and even went so far as conducting--and winning--the most heavily watched senatorial primary in American history to prove our point. Had we simply sat back and defended the latest right-wing Iraq policy being espoused by Democratic leaders, then the Senate would be far, far to the right of where it currently stands on Iraq.
If I criticize John Edwards on MyDD, Obama people will love it in the comments. It I criticize Barack Obama, Edwards people will love it in the comments. If I criticize Hillary Clinton, both sides will love it in the comments. But it is extremely frustrating to simultaneously criticize both John Edwards and Barack Obama from a progressive position and then receive basically nothing but pushback in the comments, or to hear annoying, self-defeating, anti-Democratic, third-party activists be my only supporters. We all must avoid Dear Leader syndrome from creeping in, and maintain an aggressive stance where we are pushing our leaders to do the right thing, not defend whatever our leaders happen to be doing at the time. I agree that such criticism should be muted around general elections, but this is April 2007, for crying out loud. This is when we are supposed to be pushing our leaders the hardest. If we don't demand more form our leaders on Iraq now, we will never be able to effectively do so, even under a Democratic trifecta.
If you actually think maintaining a reduced American military presence in Iraq is a good idea, fine. If you still support someone even though you do not see eye to eye on Iraq, fine. However, don't change your position on Iraq such because your favorite Democrat did. We are supposed to be changing them, not the other way around. Do you want to end up like all of those "principled" conservatives who, over the past six years, have done nothing but defend every possible contradiction of conservative "core values" possible? Do you want to end up like Rush Limbaugh when, after Democrats are wiped out in the 2012 or 2014 elections, you feel relieved that you no longer have to carry water for people you disagree with anymore? If not, then tolerate criticism of Democrats, even of your favorite Democrats, when you know it is coming from a source that only seeks to help Democrats and progressivism succeed at the same time. Like to at least think that is what Matt and I are trying to do here, and what we will continue to do with your support indefinitely into the future.
Of course, make sure you keep kicking our asses too, so that we are not criticizing anyone unfairly.