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Monday, August 30, 2004

You Never Wonk Alone

I guess I'm not really understanding one particular beef some have with the protests in New York. Both Yglesias and Klein are disturbed by the inchoate nature of the march yesterday, what with the different agendas being present and nobody looking quite alike and focused. And, they are right, of course. The different groups protesting have many different issues that motivate them. But, it seems to me that in this case particularly, there is one thing they they all agree upon and it is the reason they are protesting when and where they are protesting. They all agree that George W Bush should not be reelected, which I think is a pretty damned good common cause.

I realize that protests are to some degree an act of self-expression but it's a big mistake to discount that as an important part of the political process. Human beings are not all motivated by wonkish intellectual policy discussion. For a lot of people politics is an emotional and social committment. Walking down the street with 100,000 other people who believe in the same goal (if not the reasons behind it) can provide a powerful and exciting feeling of shared purpose.

We liberals need more of that sort of thing. The right has its anger and its sense of victimization to motivate it on that emotional level. Protests like that in NYC signify for liberals a sense of shared belief and goals with people with whom you might never cross paths. For many of us, that's the motivating passion behind our politics. Inclusion, equality, free speech etc. We need to demonstrate that once in a while in order to sustain our committment to the process. Otherwise it's all dry, cerebral talk talk talk --- which I may love and those of you who read this blog may love --- but simply doesn't animate the human social part of politics for many people.

Are they meaningful as policy statements or effective organizing tools? Probably not. But as a motivating tool for grassroots politics I think they are invaluable. For a lot of people around this country yesterday, seeing the streets lined with people protesting the presidency of George W. Bush on the eve of his convention at the site of 9/11 was an inspiring moment of solidarity. That's a good thing.

Update: For a most thorough and enjoyable first person report on the protest check out Roy Edroso at Alicublog:

The participants provided lively footage. A ring of Philadelphians clad in black and pink led some anti-Bush cheers. One of them wore a shirt that read, "When I say Gender, you say Fuck." That remains my favorite shirt of the day (though the plaintive "I Still Hate George W. Bush" is up there, too). Even a few of the park bums got in on the act; "Bush gotta go, Bush gotta go," repeated a scrawny man shuffling around with a framed Saturday Evening Post cover under his arm.


The crowd was getting bunched up round 25th Street and some of the organizers sprang into action to regulate the flow -- young, mostly female, red bandanas tied on their arms, they linked hands across the avenue and held the pace. Very neatly done. If you want to know why moderates march with fringe groups, it's because the fringe groups know their shit.

Now, that's interesting. For even more fun, read his rundown of the right wing blogospheric apoplexy at the protests. These brave, macho wingnuts sound suspiciously like my grandmother --- "those ruffian protesters are so disheveled and unkempt!" The freepers do not disappoint, either. Read the whole thing.