Liberals losing the plot

Your take is not the”tolerant” one

In my view, there is some excellent work being done on the near left to resist the collapse of the Republic. Actual centrists (as opposed to self-regarding, fake-balance centrists) have also been doing some admirably patriotic stuff.  Obviously, I will not try to list the accomplishments. There are at least 150 million sane politically-helpful people in the USA.

But a lot of liberals just can’t resist the urge first to prove how clever they are, which can occasionally force them to lose the plot.  Here I will give a couple examples in order hopefully to nudge the wrong-doers into more patriotic behavior.

I have noticed recently some public intellectuals on the left enjoying a spirited debate about who is and who is not a “neoliberal” and whether the term itself connotes a progressive view of politics.  I think they should redirect their focus to what is actually going on in the world and apply their sharp minds to convincing people to act in ways that would improve things.

For example, instead of asking if support for the ACA is “neo-liberal”, they could write some essays patiently explaining why its going away would hurt actual people.  I know those essays seem already to have been written, but there is nothing wrong with repetition – or a successful effort at distillation and clarification.   Besides, the bar set by a semantics debate is easily cleared.  Pretty much any effort would be more helpful.

This second one is going to seem more controversial.  It challenges, rather than flatters, cherished hopes and is not calculated mostly to win your approval.  The generalization that all Republicans are evil is silly and easily falsified.  We all greatly admire the heroes in Portland.  But let’s leave discussions of who is this or that to the right. Righties just love giving themselves stay-out-of-jail-free cards by opining on how the latest bad actor is fundamentally a “good person” whose actions do not reflect his essential character. WTF?

As the sane conservative, David Frum, has mentioned on Twitter, “you are what you do.”  Perhaps he shares my view that Forrest Gump was the second greatest epistemologist in history, behind the pragmatists who are all tied for first.  (Aside: liberals please resist temptation to debate about whether the guy following several tied for first is actually second.)

Who you are is a meaningless abstraction. And in politics what matters most are the effects of your actions.  People who are still down with the Republican tribe and plan to vote Republican in the next mid-term election seem to me to be enabling Trump.  It does not matter if they are good people, although there is apparently a ready market for suggestions that they must be. What matters is the effect of their behavior. Leave the rest to St. Peter.

Maybe the too-clever liberals believe that conservatives remaining loyal to the Republican party are not really enabling Trump or that doing so would be no big deal anyway.  FWIW, I would be happy to be challenged on my take on that.  It might pull me out of my own great depression.

What is weird, though, is seeing liberals who share my take on the practical issue getting distracted by who these folks actually are.  Nor is the too-clever liberal take really the tolerant and nonjudgmental one. It blithely passes judgment on who is and, by implication, who is not a “good person.”  It would be more helpful to focus on the effects of actions and resist the normative impulse until assessing the effects themselves.

Don’t say, Tom and Dick are good, even though they are supporting Trump. Point out that they are enabling Trump, leave aside what that says about them, and focus on whether the effects of their enabling are good or bad.  True, at some point, you do need to go full normative. No avoiding that. But delay that satisfaction just one step, in the interest of America and the world.

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Judge what he does, not who or what “he is”