A brief point, and one that is both exceedingly obvious and routinely ignored.
Today is the day we commemorate Martin Luther King. It also happens to be the day of Obama's second inauguration. (Why we have inaugurations for sitting presidents is beyond me.) During Obama's speech, for which he is receiving the typically polar response, he name checked the Stonewall riots, Selma, and Seneca Falls. What's worth saying, not so much in regards to Obama but to the liberals who zealously defend him, is that Martin Luther King was adamantly opposed to gradualism, and as Ned Resnikoff pointed out, those events of resistance represent the rejection of the political process due to the urgency of profound oppression. Gradualism has become the cudgel with which liberal Democrats beat left-wing critics, and the partisan political process is advanced not merely as the most important route to change but as the only valid route to change. To ask for change in the face of injustice and suffering is to be called naive and sanctimonious; to advocate resistance that transcends voting once every four years is to be called a traitor. Yet the man who we celebrate today, and the events referenced by the very president who is defended in those terms, speak to the profound poverty of conscience that resides in the doctrine of the lesser evil.
King once wrote, "cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right." That was not an idle position. It wasn't a rhetorical flourish. It wasn't some bit of starry idealism mixed in there for the crowds. It was an absolute linchpin of his moral philosophy, an existential attachment, a first principle. It appears in his published and public work again and again, for those who bother to actual read him, rather than to interpret him as some vague symbol of gravitas, robbed of his anger and his particularity. There can be so much disrespect hidden inside reverence. Well, many who insist on the doctrine of the lesser evil in all times and against all conscience no doubt today are celebrating King, just as they celebrate the memory of Stonewall, a wild and uncompromising expression of righteous anger and the rejection of "just a little bit better." How do these proud gradualists defend this tension, of taking as inspiration the people and movements who explicitly and angrily rejected the slow compromise the gradualists prefer? They don't. They never raise the people or the ideas to the level of critical discrimination, instead treating them as empty placeholders, as effigies to vague ideals. The right to never settle the contradictions within your own worldview-- such is the privilege of the status quo.
I'm told that Obama gave a liberal's speech. I now want him to govern like one. To get there, we are required to criticize him, as the most basic principles of democracy insist we do. With no elections left to win, will the pro-Obama liberals participate in that critical engagement, or will they continue to deny the validity of conscience, in defiance of the principles which have been celebrated today?