Dayen, In Support of Dissent

I don’t have the time to blog as much as I’d like to and have, as any regular reader is probably aware, tended to focus on highlighting good commentary and analysis that I am reading and think others would enjoy too. It’s not the most exciting form of blogging, but it’s what I have the capacity to do and after nearly six years of blogging, I know I’m happier when I’m able to take a few minutes out to write something at least five days a week.

With that prologue, I have to highly recommend David Dayen’s article in Democracy Journal, “Advise and Dissent.” The piece pushes back on the somewhat prevalent notion that progressive dissatisfaction – on blogs, in the media – is hurting the ability of Democrats to enact a liberal agenda. Dayen goes through numerous historic examples of how pressure from the left helped FDR, JFK and LBJ achieve better outcomes. He writes, “Division is not only healthy–it helps us avoid especially negative outcomes.”

Much of Dayen’s piece is in response to an article by Michael Tomasky, wherein Tomasky calls for an end to vocal progressive despair. Dayen concludes:

Ultimately, progressive “despair” has more utility than Tomasky allows. It represents more than the smug carping of dilettantes who would rather take down a presidency so they can prove the correctness of their own nihilism. There’s some of that, of course. But progressive critics of the President are working to figure out the choke points in our busted democracy, and either leverage or fix them to achieve goals in which they truly believe. They also mean to present an argument for a grander progressive vision that can endure over time, through the next president and the one after that. They have yet to succeed, but they have no choice but to try.

Vocal dissatisfaction may be uncomfortable for those who want the base to just go along with whatever agenda Washington Democrats put forth. But it’s not about them and their agenda – it’s about broad principles for change, for making our society stronger by caring for the weakest amongst us and using the power of collaboration and of government to make life in America better than it was yesterday. In an ideal world, the policies and tactics pursued by Democrats in Washington would mesh nicely onto the goals of movement progressives. But that’s not the world we live in and as a result, there will inevitably and likely always be dissatisfaction from movement progressives with the things Democrats say and do. But as Dayen points out, the existence of progressive discontent does not mean much for the fate of the work of elected Democrats as compared to 9.5% unemployment and millions without health care. As a result, I really don’t have sympathy for people who complain about what bloggers are saying about elected officials or the policies they put forth. I’d rather see leaders focus on how they make government work for the American people and find ways to fix the things that don’t work in our economy, our society and our government

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