Friday, June 27, 2008
Taking a principled stand is not abandoning practicality
Logan Nakyanzi Pollard makes a defense of Barack Obama's pragmatism at Huffington Post today. It's an argument we've heard before. It's an argument political consultants make frequently: you must be a centrist to win the presidency.
Ask Al Gore about that one. His popularity has soared when he abandoned the centrist route and became an Al Gore not fashioned by focus groups, poll results and the delusional cadre of political consultants who think they know anything about anything.
In the process of praising Obama's political pragmatism, Nakyanzi Pollard denigrates the idealistic thinking of anyone who believes in a progressive agenda. As a producer for Air America, it's a strange group of people to criticize.
In her essay, she sneers at the "whining" of Muslims who feel they are being ignored by the Obama campaign. She says: "this is about winning, not feeling good." And thus, Obama needs to disassociate himself with a group whom the right wing and the media have conflated with terrorism. She concludes: "Obama is simply being pragmatic about how he is being perceived by the larger public, a public that does not wholly embrace Islam."
It's a shame that Obama has to reject people who the right-wing deplores. I guess that means he has to abandon the left in general. The right-wing can't stand liberals. Unfortunately, they're Obama's base. If he abandons us (and that us is getting bigger every day - check the polls to see how many people have faith in Bush, Republicans and conservatives these days), then he may not win either.
Nakyanzi Pollard also jumps high atop the Ralph Nader pile-on. She criticizes Nader's criticism of Obama for "talking white." There's not really much defense of the precise words Nader used to indicate that Obama is abandoning some of his principled stances to seduce the "white working middle class." She says that Nader has "grown strange in his old age." And she compare's him with Don Imus saying there's "the sense that the older generation seems un-moored in a way." I've written before that Nader is an anomaly in that he's a public figure who is willing to speak the truth at the cost of being mocked by people like Nakyanzi Pollard.
Finally she excuses Obama's flip-flop on FISA as another nod toward centrist pragmatism. Like Keith Olbermann she's unwilling to criticize Obama in the hopes that he'll get elected and solve the problem later. She says: "Obama is clawing his way to the top of a political culture that is upside down. He's a pragmatist, not a messiah. He has to win in order to make the changes I want." And that's an old argument too. Isn't that what they said about the Democratic congress? Just wait and see what they do. I'm still waiting.
Nakyanzi Pollard suggests retraining the focus of FISA criticism from Obama to Pelosi and Reid, which, if she would admit to it, has already happened.
The comments section attached to Nakyanzi Pollard's article is an interesting give and take on this issue. And there is an real divide among progressives who feel we must win at any cost, and those, like me, who feel that abandoning your principles for a win-at-any-cost philosophy is a walk down the road to ruin.