Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good

I read a great quote (Voltaire's, I think) in the comments of some blog somewhere that said: "It never makes sense to let the perfect be the enemy of the good". I really liked this because it speaks to those who take principled stances that achieve no tangible results (see poputonian's post). I can respect that... but I can also respect those who say things like: "something is better than nothing" (see Digby's post). In fact, I have been in both camps having moved from the former to the latter. Some might see this as moving from the principled to the compromised or from the passionate to the moderate, but I see it as the result of seeing more clearly what my goal really is.

The goal (self-referentially) is about achieving the goal, whatever it is, together. It's not about winning but about making it work... for all of us, because we are all part of it. As I have often put it, it's about direction not location. It's about making the world a better place... for all of us. So, if we are making progress in the right direction, even if it's only slowly, I can accept that. I have been convinced that the compromise solution is the best solution if it's the best one you could actually get -- if it's the best one that we could all agree to.

The best way to build a coalition until it includes all of us is not to fight among ourselves. It's not about imposing your will (or my will) on everyone else. Instead it's discovering what the collective will is, and knowing that it will be a compromise -- partly mine, partly yours, partly the other guys'. You argue and you listen and you reach consensus -- you do the best you can. That's the reality of living as a member of a group.

I remember being involved in a strike years ago when it looked like some members would have to go back to work simply because they didn't have the money to pay their bills. I argued that as soon as one person had to go back, we should all go back. We shouldn't let the strike breaks us up as a group -- we went out together, we should go back together. Together we would live to fight another day.

Much as I hate the idea of legislation that in any way supports this evil enterprise in Iraq, I think that this bit of legislation is the best that this disparate group could accomplish at this time.

Legislative sausage making is always somewhat unnerving to watch, but this one actually went quite well by historic standards. The progressives used all of their clout to get as strong a bill as possible and quite a few of the Blue Dogs made the hard choice to vote with the party. The Democratic party is a coalition not a monolith and the fact that they were able to get a bill with virtually everyone on board is a testament to the party's strength not its weakness.


This is hideous sausage making, but it's the way our system works. [...] The polls before the vote showed that the public was losing faith in the Democrats on Iraq. Had the first vote out of the House been a story of Democratic disarray and defeat (the Fox dominated media's favorite meme), they may never have gotten another chance. The headlines that came out of this vote moves the ball forward and gives the Dems the opportunity to show the general public that they can work together to get this thing done.

Having said all that, let me just emphasize again that a strong left flank is tremendously important to making that happen. Without the grassroots pressure and the "out of Iraq" caucus publicly holding the line on the vote and then offering to free certain members who were willing to vote for the bill at the last moment, it wouldn't have passed --- and the liberals wouldn't have collected the chits they need for the next round (or received a standing ovation from their caucus.) This is what a functioning political coalition that is working together looks like. It isn't pretty, but it's how things get done.


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