I only read Kevin Drum when I want to get upset, which is probably something I should speak to a mental health professional about. Yesterday, I read something Drum wrote and, yes, I got upset. That was why I did it. I got upset because it is boring, unimaginative liberals like Drum who regularly call anyone to their left who doesn’t see the Democratic Party as a great ally in the fight for social justice a “cynic,” condemning them for preferring the comfort of purist apathy to the often slow, messy job of making the world better — but adopting the cynic’s pose as soon as anyone starts talking about change.
Writing about the broad NSA spying operation revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Drum wrote that his basic view on surveillance hasn’t changed since Bush was president. “I didn’t like this stuff in 2005 and I don’t like it now.” However, and of course there’s a “however” because this is Mother Jones (we would rebrand, “but that takes a lot of money.“), Drum’s views have in fact changed: he’s not sure what the point of caring is anymore.
“I’ll confess that it’s hard to sustain a feeling of outrage over this,” Drum admitted. “We had a huge fight about all this stuff five years ago and we lost. Now everyone is supposedly shocked, shocked” — editor’s note: a firing squad for the next person who does that double-shocked thing — “that NSA is hoovering up huge amounts of data. Well, of course they are. We lost.“
What Drum does here is what sensible liberals like him do every election cycle, which is tell those of us who hope for a world superior to the status quo to quit dreaming and accept that this is the best we can do, folks. Barack Obama, kill lists and bail outs and record deportations and all, is the best we can do. The two-party system is the best we can do. Oligarchy disguised as representative democracy is the best we can do. Give up. We lost.
I think we can do better. Spurred by the economic collapse and the continuity under Obama, people are having conversations today that they wouldn’t have had a decade ago (albeit they are now being recorded by the government). Yes, absolutely: some days caring about the world and thinking we can make it better feels like a laughable error in judgement. But even if my optimism is irrational, as even I believe it is before coffee, who wants to be an above-it-all loser? I’d rather be the underdog who doesn’t go down without a fight than the guy suggesting defeat is the most reasonable option.