When put in political terms, the definition of a serious leftist is straight forward, a person who tries to obtain as much political power for the left as possible, in order to change as much as is possible, for the better.
The realities of life allow us to only do this in the present time from those positions we can gain and hold and in collaboration with others who will not always have the same ideas we do.
Leftist politics which do not succeed at the polls are failed leftist politics. Leftist candidates who do not gain office and hold the office are failed leftist candidates.
A serious leftist is one who makes the possibility of putting as much of the left’s agenda as possible into effect, at the earliest possible time, their highest priority. Note the word ‘possible’. What is possible in the present is as important as any of the other terms in this definition. What is possible at any given time, in any given circumstances is as much a political reality as anything else. Since what is possible defines how much the left can really achieve and ignoring the limits of the possible can ruin our chances of doing even the possible, it might be the most important consideration. What is possibly done is more important than what can’t be done to improve life. No matter how good the unachievable ideals sound.
Any serious leftist should read this profoundly depressing article by Josh Harkinson about Cindy Sheehan’s campaign against Nancy Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi is the high water mark of the left in terms of office holders. No one who has held as high a position in the United States has been as liberal as Nancy Pelosi. There has been no one in the history of the country who has held a major position of power whose politics are closer to our positions. She is the Speaker of the House, miraculously, when the left’s influence is at one of its lowest points. She couldn’t have won that position without being realistic about what is possible, the limits within which our agenda must operate.
I will post a longer piece about the issue of Iraq next week. For now, Nancy Pelosi has tried to limit George Bush’s war in Iraq and not been able to do so. I gather that she can count votes in the house and look at the situation in the Senate. She knows what is possible in February, 2008 on that matter.
Pelosi’s stated intention to not file for Bush’s impeachment is one of the given reasons for Sheehan’s candidacy, and that is to be regretted. Impeachment of a sitting president and removing him from office is a myth. It has never been done, not even with full justification provided by the President. There is no reason to make the symbolic effort when it is certain to fail in a Senate where the Republican minority with the aid of Joe Lieberman will block it for the rest of Bush’s term. Trying it would almost certainly help Bush politically, as the Republicans discovered to their chagrin when they impeached Bill Clinton. The symbolic motions would be useless and worse, would help Bush resuscitate his failed presidency.
In the article those arrayed against Nancy Pelosi are detailed. Some of them I’ve liked in the past, though this is a parting of the ways, Code Pink is one of those. Some represent complete political impracticality and have marked out the road to futility, the Greens*. Ralph Nader personifies the politics of ego which are willing to not only destroy the possibilities of the present but who will sacrifice past gains in order to do it. And there are others.
More than Nancy Pelosi’s political career are at stake for us on the left. The Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives took the chance of putting her into the leadership position. Remember the 2006 campaign in which her coming from San Francisco, with its gaudy culture, was wielded as a weapon against Democrats in marginal seats? Those Democrats took a large risk in having her as their leader though she is quite far left of many of them. It must have been because she is realistic and practical.
If what calls itself the left makes itself a tool to weaken or destroy Pelosi or the fragile Democratic majority, we will have given Democrats no choice but to ignore us. Those who are weakening Nancy Pelosi are wrecking the possibility of us on the left having an impact on real life politics. It is 1968 replayed, in which the left played a role in putting Richard Nixon in office. 1968 was the beginning of the end of the left’s success in politics. Another election result effected by what called itself the left was Nader in 2000, the beginning of the Bush II junta. With real life success like that, is the left its own worst enemy?
* I haven’t checked to see if the record of failure of the Green Party are much changed from when I wrote this but their record after nearly a quarter of a century is dismal. I do know that in Portland Maine, one of the Greenest cities in the country, the admittedly good, John Eder lost his state legislative seat. He was the Green who had won the highest office the Greens ever held in the United States.
The Greens are still touting the 4th place finish of their candidate for Governor in that Maine race. When, after almost a quarter of a century of effort, a political party considers a 4th place finish a success, it has lost any hold on reality. The Greens in Portland have also recently lost two of their school board seats due to the puerile stunts played by the Greens who held them. Only they resigned without a fight.