“Let justice be done, though the heavens fall!”
(This is the third in a series of posts relating to the contemporary political scene in the United States. I’d originally intended there only be two posts in this series, but addressing issues at the progressive side of politics needed more comment. I’ve had plenty to say about the authoritarian character of conservatives.)
The above phrase was much favored by the philosopher Immanuel Kant and, it would seem, those people I previously described as “cry baby” progressives. There is a certain thrilling nobility to the sentiment; or, at least, that’s how it might first appear to people driven by ideology and indifferent to consequences. This is made evident by the regular as clockwork whining by such progressives (because they didn’t get everything they wanted, the instant they wanted it, exactly the way they wanted it) about what the cry-babies pejoratively refer to as “lesser-of-two-evils-ism.” I’ve seen some people – I believe the Green party candidate Jill Stein is one, but I didn’t save the URL and wouldn’t dignify it with a link if I had saved it – claim something to the effect that this oogity-boogity “lesser-of-two-evils-ism” is “anti-democratic” (regardless of the fact that it won far more votes than the alternative of Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum. Evidently, for these cry-babies, not getting everything they wanted, the instant they wanted it, exactly the way they wanted it, is “anti-democratic.”) So it would seem that these cry-baby progressives would rather burn the world to a cinder, because obviously that always makes things better. Just look at how Shrub … er, I mean, Bush Jr. … advanced progressive causes with his programs. (And who cares about the upwards of one million – that’s 1,000,000 – Iraqis who died to justify our infantile self-righteousness.) Because, after all … Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum.
But how much “justice” can really be on the agenda when one is prepared to let the world be reduced to rubble on no other account than that it failed to provide perfect justice instantly, right here, right now? Cry-baby progressives often talk about “revolution,” but they seldom if ever talk about hard work. (The overwhelming majority of progressives who do talk about hard work, about incremental change, and about such things as the long bend in the “arc of the universe,” strangely never find themselves welcomed to the cry-babies’ club meetings.) The condemnatory language with which certain progressives use the “lesser-of-two-evils-ism” terminology is intended to hide from you the fact that the alternative is the GREATER-of-two-evils. But these cry-baby progressives do not want to deal with this fact; rather they want to dazzle you with fantastical promises that amount to winning the lottery in a single stroke without even purchasing a ticket. “We must reject the system!” is their rallying cry, raised in voices loud enough to drown out anyone wondering how they plan to replace that system, especially when any effort to make that system better is just too hard to contemplate. Justice never comes without hard work, and hard work only ever makes things a little bit better at a time. But these folks do not want “a little bit” – they want it all, and they want it now.
Among the catastrophic failures of such canting ideologues is the absolute refusal to mark and acknowledge real differences. This can be seen in the recent spate of histrionics on both the political left and right that is driven by Hillary Derangement Syndrome (HDS). HDS is certainly not a recent phenomenon, yet despite having decades to master basic facts, it remains as resolutely committed to its denial of those facts as ever. Thus, Clinton is held up as being unparalleled in her mendacity, yet objective studies showed her to be the most honest of the major candidates running for the presidency. She is accused of being viciously neo-liberal in her beliefs and policies, yet any honest appraisal of the votes and positions she’s taken over the years make it beyond question that she is solidly left of center in her politics.
Is Clinton “perfect”? Of course not! Moreover what, in the context of REAL presidential politics, does “perfect” even mean? A “perfect” president would have to include that person being a politician capable of negotiation and compromise in order to get anything done. And the types of persons who master those arts (along with all the ugly back-room wrangling they entail), is unlikely to be a “perfect” person by many other standards. (Recall the line from the show The West Wing, “The two things you never want to see being made: laws and sausages.”)
Still we are told that, because she isn’t “perfect,” she’s no different from Donald Trump. (Except, of course, when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, global warming, being pro-choice, gay marriage, guns, voting rights, the environment, the Iran nuclear deal, healthcare, foodstamps, … But what sorry equivocator would ever permit trivialities like these to run roughshod over dogmatic ideology?)
Which brings us to Voltaire’s quip above, and the real equivocation that occurs when HDS is permitted to run riot. It is one thing to argue the Clinton is not liberal enough for one’s tastes, quite another to deny her very real, substantial, and sustained liberal bona fides altogether. However, it also seems unlikely that a candidate who did satisfy that desire for being even more to the political left would have a very hard time winning a national election – after all, in order for such a win to occur, the candidate would have to garner a great many votes from the political center. So the ideologues and perfectionists equivocate the merely good with the entirely bad, and denounce it as “lesser-of-two-evils-ism.” Yet the good, even if it is only merely good, is still good; more to the point, it is much better than the entirely bad. It is a real distinction, but a distinction that those who demand perfection brush aside with such determined violence that they actively work against the distinction, and hence, against the good as well. In this way, the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.
The final step in the war on the merely good is the demand that justice be done, though the heavens fall. In our current atmosphere that means that some cry-baby progressives want to actively pull the heavens down while others are content to passively allow them to crumble, rather than deal with the injustice of the political system failing to give them everything they want, exactly the way they want it, the instant they wanted it. For the former group, that means they will vote for Trump rather than make any concessions to their blind and rabid HDS. The second group will demonstrate their ideological purity by not voting at all, or voting for a candidate with no hope of being elected. In either case, they will work to put Trump – a man as patently and overtly fascist as anything we’ve seen in 50 years or more in this country – into the Whitehouse, and congratulate themselves for doing so. One will even encounter a rare individual of these groups who will agree that a Trump presidency would be an unmitigated disaster, but who then go on to say something to the effect, “Maybe then people will be ready for a real change!” (As previously noted, this worked out splendidly with Bush.)
Myself, even though I am quite a bit further to the political left than Hillary Clinton, I will vote for her without the littlest twinge or regret. For those who are ideologically committed to the Greater-of-two-evils-ism path – because justice is never perfectly served – perhaps they could offer some examples of how their method ever actually made things other than worse, much less better, to say nothing of perfect and just?