Constructive Advice for The Left

Duncan Black complains:

One thing that’s been true since I’ve been paying attention is that everything The Left does is wrong. By The Left I mean everyone to the left of the basic governing power. Third Parties are bad, sitting out elections are bad, putting pressure on elected reps is bad, protesting is bad, primary campaigns are bad, media criticism might hurt their feefees and is bad, saying mean things about Rush Limbaugh is bad, actually discussing your views honestly is bad, etc. Obviously the failure of The Left to take control and run the country does suggest that it is doing something wrong, but no one ever really offers much constructive advice other than…please STFU.

I sympathize with this, but I also think the post is very typical of what’s wrong with “The Left” in this sense. What’s needed is less whining and more doing. Doing what? Doing politics, of course. That means that every time there’s an election you’re eligible to vote in — be it a primary election or a general election — you look at which are the two candidates most likely to win and you vote for the better one. And you encourage your friends and coworkers to do the same. You should donate money to the PACs of politicians who you like. You should volunteer in person to do election work near where you live. And you should donate money to organizations that you like. When there are issues being debated, you should write to your elected representatives. You should consider running for local office, and you should urge good people you might know to consider running. If you have local elected officials who you like, you should encourage them to run for higher office.

At any rate, this is getting to be a long and boring list so I’ll stop. It’s dull because it’s obvious and it’s dull because participating constructively in politics is dull. As Max Weber said it’s like “the strong and slow boring of hard boards.” One strategy that works well for wealthy interest groups to is to spend money hiring other people to do a lot of the boring legwork. If you’re not a wealthy interest group, this is going to be hard to execute and you’re stuck with just doing a bunch of boring stuff yourself.


The alternative, I guess, is that you could try a civil rights movement redux strategy. But that’s not “protests” it’s open defiance of the legal order, complete with subjecting yourself to massive violence by the state and by formal and informal terrorist organizations.