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(Opinions, Observations, and Commentary)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

That purity list keeps getting shorter and shorter

2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 2

And we're all the better for it. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) changed his stance on the health care bill today to announce that he will be voting for passage.

Here's a quote from the congressman:

"I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is."

Now, here's a clip:

Funny, but it seems Mr. Kucinich just said almost the exact same thing a lot of supporters of this bill have been saying throughout the year. In other words, we pass it now and work on it later. In other words, a half-a-loaf is better than no loaf at all. In other words, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Yet, the fact that Mr. Kucinich had to even hold a press conference to announce his vote speaks towards a problem within left-of-center politics in my opinion. I am talking about purity tests.

Trust, everything can and probably should be improved upon. Nothing is ever perfect. And change is rarely made whole with one movement.

Kucinich did the adult thing today. Whether out of personal ambition, ego, or sincerity for the advancement of health care equality, Representative Kucinich ignored the hyper-partisanship of the "Kill-the-Bill" crowd and decided to act on behalf of his constituents.

There is no use in believing a leader who claims to love his people so much that he'd settle for nothing less than what he can't have and leave his constituents with nothing in return for their votes. "Principle" is an honored attribute. BUT "principle" is also an easy cover for inaction.

Mr. Kucinich's vote for health care does not make him the villain of the progressive movement any more than his "No" vote made him a champion of the cause. No, Mr. Kucinich is simply dealing with the reality of a broken system and the oft-times unavoidable nature of incrementalism.

Purists should take note and realize that those "Obamabots," "cultists," and "kool-aid drinkers" aren't your enemy. They are working for change just as hard as you. Their passion and dedication is just as strong. The only difference is that they've assumed the responsibility of leadership that demands results. It is a leadership role that is taken - not out of a need for power or close mindedness - but out of the necessity that people's lives are on the line with every decision that gets made . . . with every decision that does not get made.

Mr. Kucinich is in the same boat as the President in this rough see called Washington D.C. The only difference is that President Obama is the captain steering the ship.

Purists can rail against the sausage-making process all they want. And they'll be right a good percentage of the time. But, know that their indignation is emboldened by one inconvenient truth:

Someone else has to take the initial hit.

And that's what President Obama and supporters of health care have been doing for the past year.

Someone has to make the unpopular, if not pragmatic decisions with the future in mind. Someone has to act without the benefit of catchy slogans or bumper-sticker politics.

You see, if this bill fails the President gets all of the blame.

But, check this out . . .

If this bill passes, the President shares the credit.

And that's the secret with some behind the "kill-the-bill" movement on the Left. They know very well that this President could fail and they'll never be the worse for it so long as no one ever looks towards them for answers. The accountability police sound great so long as they're never held to the same level of accountability they bestow upon others. It's easy to be self-righteous when no one expects you to do anything.

That's a problem we have on the Left. It exists on the Right as well. But, the difference is that our values are weakened far worse when we resort to purity standards. Purity tests get in the way of action. Our communities need action. Purity tests impugn the motives of well-meaning advocates of change whose only sin is the realization that . . .

Change takes time.

Yes, change takes time. For as simple as that might sound, I've yet to see one movement that changed the world without a long and deliberate approach.

Left-of-center politics is built on the idea that victories matter. Small victories matter. And why is this? It's because, sometimes, small victories are all we've got.

Let me say that again . . .

Sometimes, small victories are all we've got.

(Some people know exactly what I'm talking about when I say this.)

So yes, that purity list keeps getting smaller and smaller by the day. And it comes to a point where the purists ultimately undermine their own credibility. It's easy to bash the President for making a practical decision. It's easy to ignore procedure as dull and unimportant. It's easy to hold him to a standard we didn't hold other presidents to before. It's easy to dismiss what this President, and, yes, even this Democratic Congress are trying to do for the American people. . .

But, when it comes time for results . . .

Well, truth be told there are really only two camps:

Those who talk . . .

and those who act.

Mr. Kucinich acted today. And I thank him for it.




Video: Perspective Piece