Life in the Real World

Many opposed the Iraq War supplemental bill passed by the House yesterday because it didn’t go far enough, and as I wrote here that is a reasonable opinion with which I respectfully disagree. Today Big Tent Democrat is objecting to some of the arguments in favor of the supplement. I think many of Big Tent’s arguments are valid, but IMO they reveal a huge blind spot; a reality not being faced. And that’s the reality of arithmetic.

Once again, here are the numbers:

Number of Democrats in the House — 233
Number of votes needed to pass a bill — 218
Number of member of the Blue Dog Coalition — 44

As they say — do the math. In my time-space continuum, the House will not pass a bill without some votes from either Blue Dogs or Republicans, or both. Perhaps Big Tent lives in a better place, where thinking pure thoughts will summon the Good Peace Fairy, and a sprinkling of progressive pixie dust will make up for the shortfall of conservative votes. But I don’t believe that’s how it works here.

Among those of us against the war, the difference between those who are pro-supplement and those who are anti-supplement is this: Those who are anti-supplement think that passing a better bill is possible. Those of us who are pro-supplement think it isn’t.

I think Big Tent misreads Markos because Big Tent assumes passing a better bill is possible, but Kos’s opinion assumes that it isn’t. I don’t interpret Kos’s post to mean, as Big Tent says, “the point is the House Dems’ proposal will never become law” or that it would be a good thing to keep the war going until 2009 to help elect Democrats in 2009. I think Kos is arguing in favor of something as opposed to passing nothing.

Yes, one argument for passing the supplement was to help Dems win the messaging battle in 2008. But IMO that doesn’t mean anyone, including Kos, prefers winning a messaging battle in 2008 to getting out of Iraq in 2007. It means that winning a messaging battle is preferable to losing a messaging battle.

Believe me, were there a reasonable hope of passing something like Barbara Lee’s bill, and getting it enacted into law, then that’s what I would have preferred. I believe most of us would prefer that. But that wasn’t the real choice we were and are facing. The real choice is between passing something (which helps us win a messaging battle) and passing nothing (which doesn’t).

Elsewhere — Farhad Manjoo writes in Salon:

MoveOn signed on to Pelosi’s supplemental funding bill, citing a poll of its members showing overwhelming support of the idea.

MoveOn’s longtime allies in the antiwar movement, however, look at the bill — and MoveOn’s support for it — and see something very different. Groups who call for immediate withdrawal argue that MoveOn’s position is a betrayal of their cause, and that Pelosi’s bill merely continues the war while allowing Democrats to say they’ve done something to oppose it. Cindy Sheehan, the “peace mom” who favors immediate withdrawal, describes MoveOn as supporting “the slow-bleed strategy of the Democratic leadership.” Gail Murphy, of the group CodePink, says, “MoveOn has taken a compromised position — in fact I think they were involved behind the scenes in creating a compromised position.” Other peace activists call MoveOn’s e-mail poll of its membership a sham. If MoveOn’s millions of members knew the full details of the bill, they would surely oppose it.

There is room for criticism of Moveon’s email to members about the supplement, but if Moveon’s endorsement helped make the passage of something, as opposed to nothing, possible, then I say good for Moveon. I also say that Sheehan and Murphy are trotting down the same self-marginalizing road the New Left walked in the 1970s. That path leads to the state of Utter Irrelevancy. There they will spend eternity discussing bureaucratic collectivism with the moldering remains of the Popular Front. Meanwhile, the United States, its government and its citizens, will ignore them, except when their names are the answers to questions in some future edition of Trivial Pursuit.

The question is, will sufficient numbers of liberals and progressives not take that road and remain effectively engaged in American politics? I hope so.