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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004


"Do you want to have agency in your own time?"

posted by Amanda at Tuesday, January 06, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Warning: this post is only somewhat Dean-related. Indulge me...

As a liberal I can say this: there are some liberal/left big wigs who are a pain in the you-know-what. However, there are others who really do get it. Thankfully some of them are eloquent wordsmiths and hence not boring. Case in point: Tony Kushner.

No doubt many people -- heck, even I might have assumed this -- would assume that Kushner (author of many plays, most notabley the critically acclaimed Angels in America, which recently aired on HBO as a miniseries) is one of those purist liberals.

Not so. In a recent interview with Mother Jones magazine, Kushner argues for an irreverant form of pragmatic liberal politics and he does it with style, of course.

I have great admiration for the essayists and writers on the left, but the left decided at some point that government couldn't get it what it wanted. As a result, it's a movement of endless complaint and of a one-sided reading of American history, which misses the important point: Constitutional democracy has created astonishing and apparently irreversible social progress. All we're interested in is talking about when government doesn't work.


I have said this before, and I'll say it again: Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country's future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate. And if Ralph Nader runs -- if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate -- don't give him your vote. Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.


In a certain sense, Bush was right when he called the anti-war demonstrations a "focus group." We went out on the street and told him that we didn't like the war. But that was all we did: We expressed an opinion. There was no one in Congress to listen to us because we were clear about why they couldn't listen. Hillary Clinton was too compromised, or Chuck Schumer -- and God knows they are. But if people don't pressure them to do better, we're lost.


I think what one has to do is to ask oneself, "Do you want to have agency in your own time?" If you really believe that it's your place to leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived, then how do you get the power? In this country, the most powerful country on earth, you get it by voting the right people into power.

So, Tony. How about joining Margaret Cho and getting on board the Dean Train? ;-)


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.