Tuesday, May 15, 2007One of the hard things about coalition politics - i.e. the politics of actually holding power - is that you have to work with people with whom you frequently disagree. I don't mean arguing over your favorite color, I mean real, substantive issues you feel passionately about. I got a very close look at this problem last week when I cross-posted my previous post on Iraq as a diary on Daily Kos.
The Kossacks get a lot of grief for being angry bloggers, and the basic criticism of them by Jonathan Chait and others is that they are hewing to a dogma just as vociferously as the Ditto-heads. Chait claimed that anyone who disagreed with them on issues like Iraq were labeled as enemies. I had suspected this for some time, but decided to test it by writing something on Kos that went very much against the conventional wisdom of the "netroots."
It was something I happened to believe - that those Democrats who voted for continuing funding were not being irresponsible cowards. From a political point of view, Bush might just leave the troops there without funds, creating a first class disaster which he would then attempt to blame on the Democrats. Why knows, it might work. I am uneasy about risking the lives of our troops in this way, and have no interest in giving Bush a lifeline. Substantively speaking, I'm not sure I trust Bush to handle an extrication from Iraq in a competent way even if he wanted to. Given how incompetent this administration is, I fear that even if Bush made a good faith effort to extricate us from this mess, he would do so in such a ham-handed fashion that a genocide in Iraq would become inevitable. And once again this would give him a chance to say "I told you so."
I am not saying that I wouldn't have voted for the funding cut-off - I very probably would have. But there is a reasonable case to be made on the other side.
Which brings me to the reactions of Daily Kos. While there were some supportive comments, on the whole I was attacked for being a troll, for furthering Republican talking points, for being a coward, etc. This for what I thought was a pretty mild difference of opinion.
The precondition of working well with another is to assume that the other person is operating in good faith - that they mean well. If you don't then the other becomes a rival and will inevitably join your opponents. While I admire the purity of the Kossacks' passion, I have to question the degree to which they direct it at Democrats. Whether it's Hillary Clinton being too centrist, Barack Obama too religious, Edwards saying that we shouldn't forswear the use of force in diplomacy - all of them have been attacked by some for being insufficiently liberal or committed or whatever.
But I have to say, if we are going to apply such stringent test, such absolute lock-step for our purported allies and leaders, how do we expect to build a party capable of winning a stable majority? Will the last Kossack please turn the lights out?