As de Matteo puts it:
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:
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.