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Catching up and thinking about tolerance

I've been catching up on the blogosphere and reading Andrew Sullivan's commentaries on Obama's choice of conservative evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation on Inauguration Day. Sullivan and others appear to have struggled mightily and come to terms with the selection, saying it appeared abominable at first but is perhaps a new and giant symbol of Obama's "post-partisan" politics. 

While I commend their intellectual effort and attempt at compassion, I have to caution liberals and progressives about being too inclusive. Remember, we got to the Bush administration by being inclusive, patient, tolerant, and easygoing. We got to the Dems' takeover of the Congress in 2006 - and their utter failure to do anything good about Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, or holding Bushies accountable - by being accepting, and by believing that "this is a process" in which "things take time."

That viewpoint has been proven false, a failure, a senseless tragedy. Certainly, wrong-thinking people need to be shown the error of their ways. But that presumes they are willing or able to do so. Some are, to be sure - others aren't.

And this is where Take Back Barack begins. We need to be clear about what our expectations are. I very much believe that progressive ideas can withstand the test of public debate. But does every single perspective have to be taking into account in every single debate? Conservatives and centrists have thrown out progressive ideas without a second thought for decades. I am not saying we need to do the same, but we should certainly not waste our time on failed policies or ideas that have proven themselves useless or damaging.

It is, if you'll pardon a one-sentence digressive analogy, ridiculous to be in a position where your mother-in-law and your lawyer are drowning, you can only save one, and you ask: Should I go to a movie, or have lunch? (H/T The Book of Stupid Questions.) It is similarly ridiculous to be in a position where human rights and dignity are being eroded left and right and ask "Should we consider doing more of those things?" We have no time to waste on pro forma consideration of old, tired ideas that have no future.

I say the same to those, like Sullivan, who seem to be accepting Rick Warren now as part of Obama's "post-partisanship." And I caution against believing that the partisans - who definitely still exist, and wield great power in DC - will look kindly and benevolently upon such feel-good tactics. You can't get beyond partisanship unless all sides agree to do so. Maybe Obama is playing a great chess game, and maybe he will prove to be a unifying force like none in history. Sure, I hope so. But I don't delude myself into thinking it's going to happen, and I don't delude myself into thinking it's even likely unless progressives speak up for what we deserve. I still say we lose nothing by continuing to voice our concerns, or by continuing to demand what we want.

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