A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species
By Marvin Roberson
In a recent installment, I described the difference between Ideology and Values, and noted that the Right operates on Ideology, and the Progressives operate on Values, and I claimed that Values will always triumph over Ideology in the long run.
This plays out in how the two movements operate. The Right is generally opposed to things, while the Left generally advances an agenda which is positive, not reactive. This is made a more severe contrast by the fact that the Right (Ideologically) bases their opposition on people, while the Progressives base their support on outcomes.
What do I mean? A friend used to say “We hated what Bush did, but they hated who Obama was”.
In other words, the Left based their opinion of Bush on what he did, and the outcomes. The Right based their opposition to programs proposed by Obama based on the fact that he supported it.
Senator Kennedy worked on “No Child Behind” because he supported the aims of the program, and he did not oppose it simply because Bush was behind it (now, ultimately, it was not a success, but that’s a different matter).
Obama proposed a slight variation on “Romneycare”, which was a Republican-based program, which was widely praised by the Right when it was implemented in Massachusetts. However, the moment it became “Obamacare” (simply by being proposed by Obama), the same folks who had praised it to high heaven now opposed it.
In other words, Kennedy (who epitomized the Left) supported a bill promoted by Bush, because Kennedy supported the aims of the bill. Republicans opposed a bill which they invented, because Obama supported it.
As an aside, speaking of Kennedy - the first time I ever went to DC to lobby on behalf of the Club, I was being shepherded around the Capitol by Anne Woiwode. As we were racing through the basement of the Senate, we rounded a corner and I bumped into Ted Kennedy. I said to Anne “That was Senator Kennedy!”. She smiled a bit sadly, and pointed out “Well, Marvin, you are in the basement of the US Senate, you might expect to see Senators here”.
In that same trip, I learned the lessons of this installment at my first lobbying training. One of the most important things I was told is that “We do not have friends and enemies in Congress. We have allies and opponents, and an ally on one issue may be an opponent on the next”.
What that meant, in practice, was that because we agree with some Congresspeople on some issues, and disagree with those same people on others, we should concentrate on the issues, and not the person. Expressing disagreement on an issue is fine, but demonizing the opponent on one issue might jeopardize their help on the next.
It’s also simply an example of how the Progressives have a consistent vision of what we want, and it’s based on outcomes which reflect our values. Whereas the Right often bases their position on who supports or opposes it (remember the Republicans indicating that they would oppose anything Obama did, regardless of whether or not they has previously supported it?).
This must be exhausting for the Right. First they have to figure out who they hate (that smart Black guy. That experienced, talented woman). Then they have to figure out what those people support. Then they have to oppose it, even if that means changing their own position until they twist in knots.
For some great examples of this, see “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”, by Thomas Mann and Norman Oresnstein. Both authors are with the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a left wing think tank. They document a number of bills which were introduced by Senator McConnell, which he later filibustered after Obama supported them. Let me repeat that: the Senate Majority Leader filibustered his own bills based upon the fact that Obama supported them.
I have a cousin who once told me “If Obama supports it, that’s good enough for me, I oppose it”. When I pointed out that this meant that he was letting Obama determine his position on issues, he just looked at me blankly.
But this is a perfect example - we have long-term values, and we work for outcomes which will promote those values. They have people they hate, and their positions twist in the wind based on what those people support.
Of course our path is the long-term winner.
False equivalency, and how it fits into all this.