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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Having a hard time arguing with this

This piece from Now's Enzo de Matteo's been on my mind for several days. Distilled down to a few words, he's urging Toronto's progressive councillors not to make nicey-nicey with the Ford regime, but to dig in and fight and play dirty every step of the way.

As de Matteo puts it:

Time to make like a cornered badger and go for the jugular, or die trying. 
The conservativos you’re fighting are nasty mofos. Repeat after me 1,000 times: “No quarter asked. No quarter given.”

One of the reasons it's been sticking with me is because of what we've been observing to the south of us. The teabagger / Republican strategy, if you can even call it that, is pretty simple: oppose, obstruct, sabotage, filibuster, lie, smear, whatever it takes – and in the process, render the process of government pretty much unworkable. (Leave aside for the moment any consideration of whether or not the Obama Administration is even remotely progressive, or whether it's just continuing down the Bush highway to hell.) This raises doubts, of course, about the wisdom of trying to "reach across the aisle" or "find common ground" or [insert your own cliché ... ] when your opponents act like this:

(h/t Tom Tomorrow)

It's reasonable, at first glance, to wonder whether de Matteo's urging the adoption of a similar strategy by progressive Toronto councillors – and, by extension, other progressives in other contexts.

But I'd argue not. Such a framing is, like many other memes in current political and public discourse, based on a false equivalence – a shallow and intellectually lazy rhetorical trick that disguises a near-total absence of anything resembling analysis or reflection. "Oh well, the left did the same thing when Miller was in power, it's our turn now, so put that in your pipes you left-wing kooks, yargle bargle bleghhh ... "

And the disturbing thing about it is, the disguise is laughably thin. It's not convincing to anyone who takes more than a couple of minutes to make dispassionate comparison and view things in a basic historical context. Again, it's all about critical thinking, one of the most fundamental obligations of civic engagement. This isn't just class warfare, but a battle against a nasty current that's targeting virtually every bit of socially progressive legislation since the New Deal – and perhaps even the notion of community itself.

At times like this, there's no virtue or advantage in any misguided notions of civility. We are up against more than thirty years of lies, bullshit and stupidity, and we're not doing ourselves or our communities any good by not naming them for what they are.

Go for the jugular? Cornered badger? Whatever. To hell with civility. I've written previously about the need to push back, and we can't lose sight of just how far we need to push – or start by asking politely for permission.


  1. I've been saying for a long time now that the right is killing us and we are mired in our progressive, academic, social moral meme's and they may have done some good thirty years ago, but we are now solidly being beaten down and having everything we've worked for taken away. We need to give our heads a shake and start strike back. Fire with fire is the only thing that will work with these nutjobs.

  2. I agree, and this has to be done with harper as well. Emerson siad he was shocked at how hatred for the Liberals drives the CONs. Their goal is to destroy opposition, not work with it.

    I don't like bloody politics either, but you need to look at what you're up against. It's like playing Risk with someone who demands you go by the rules, demands you be civil, but cheats, intimidates and bullies relentlessly.

    With someone like that, the opposition needs to do what they can to get that group or person out of the picture so they can work together without that destructive element.

  3. i'm inclined to agree. For years the so-called centerists in the political and media world have given the right tacit permission to run amok and generally act like a bunch of vandals and trash talk the opposition as if they were pro wrestlers by saying "both sides do it." Maybe its time to fight fire with fire for a change.
    Someone needs to teach Ford that the mayor is not an executive position in the way a company president is. He may have been elected by the people, but so were those leftist pinko council members and they have just as much right to pursue their agenda as he does. And they outnumber him.