As our tribe keeps getting it wrong: Our recent critiques of Kevin Drum have really begun to pay off! To cite just one example, we strongly recommend his new post about Syrian refugees.
Gack! In the passage shown below, Drum describes the type of behavior within Our Own Tribe which we've spent recent years lamenting. In our view, Drum is perfectly right in what he says here. If anything, he understates the size of the political problem at issue.
Warning! Drum is discussing "the average person," a person our tribe loves to hate:
DRUM (11/17/15): Here's the thing: to the average person, it seems perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of admitting Syrian refugees to the country. We know that ISIS would like to attack the US. We know that ISIS probably has the wherewithal to infiltrate a few of its people into the flood of refugees. And most voters have no idea how easy it is to get past US screening. They probably figure it's pretty easy.We weren't exposed to Drum's Twitter stream, but we agree with those highlighted points. For the record, Drum supports admitting those refugees. He opposes trashing average people who are inclined to a different view.
So it doesn't seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.
Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too. It makes them wonder if Democrats seriously see no problem here. Do they care at all about national security? Are they really that detached from reality?
Almost surely, denying admission to Syrian refugees will seem like common sense to vast numbers of people. Based on Drum's Twitter stream and our tribe's past behavior, many players in our tribe will respond with air strikes, dropping their R-, B- and X-bombs on the heads of these evil-doers.
That would be pitifully dumb on the merits, even worse on the politics. Alas! Watching tape of Saturday's Dem debate, we were struck by how horrible the politics of this issue will almost certainly be:
DICKERSON (11/14/15): Secretary Clinton, let me ask you a question from Twitter which has come in, and this is a question on this issue of refugees. The question is, with the U.S. preparing to absorb Syrian refugees, how do you propose we screen those coming in to keep citizens safe?As a general matter, we're strongly opposed to making predictions, since they always turn out to be wrong. That said, it's hard to believe that the politics of that highlighted statement won't be extremely difficult.
CLINTON: I think that is the number-one requirement. I also said that we should take increased numbers of refugees. The administration originally said 10,000. I said we should go to 65,000, but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes because I do not want us to, in any way, inadvertently allow people who wish us harm to come into our country.
Drum speaks on behalf of the average person, the person our tribe loves to hate. We'll only suggest that the great progressive/liberal achievers have tended to be the people who don't react to The Others that way.
Historically, the great progressive/liberal achievers have tended to be the people who can see themselves in others, even in those who may not support them:
We think of the young Dr. King, pitying the city fathers of Montgomery. "Even their churches and ministers" taught them to see the world through the lens of race, he wrote, sympathetically, in a stunning passage in Stride Toward Freedom.
We think of Mandela, inviting one of his jailers to be his guest at his inauguration.
We think of Lincoln, at the time of victory, refusing, even then, to declare his own beliefs and his own cause right in the eyes of God, as he made the most radical statement in the history of moral statements:
LINCOLN (3/4/65): Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the seat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.Both sides have been profoundly punished, and the punishment may continue. But no one can call this outcome unjust, the victor in this war said.
The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
In the more modern political context, we also think of President Clinton, explaining why Arkansas' Pentecostals are the finest people he's ever known, even though they rarely supported him politically. “Knowing the Pentecostals has enriched and changed my life,” Clinton wrote in his book, My Life. “Whatever your religious views, or lack of them, seeing people live their faith in a spirit of love toward all people, not just your own, is beautiful to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to a Pentecostal service, don’t miss it.”
Whatever your religious views—or lack of them. Clinton was suggesting that liberals reach out to others, see the merit in people unlike us. Historically, people seem to admire, like, revere and remember progressives and liberals of this stripe.
By way of contrast, our own liberal tribe is full of love—the love of tribal loathing. At times like these, we hurry to do the political work of those on the other side.