clap clap blog: we have moved

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
So here's something you may not have known (I sure didn't): the Navy has, in fact, left Vieques. For a few years, people had been protesting the bombing exercises taking place on the Puerto Rican island, and it was beginning to seem a bit like those "Free Mumia" type of campaigns that felt like they were more about protesting than actually getting results. But apparently (with the help of Al Sharpton and a Kennedy) it has been successful. What's weird, though, is that I haven't heard a damn thing about it before this. A Google search reveals that 37 out of the first 40 links are about demanding that the Navy leave, not about the fact that it has actually left. An AlterNet search turns up one article about the extraction which begins with the paragraph: "I don't mean to sound terribly cynical. But I just don't buy it."

Does this strike anyone else as weird? Shouldn't the left be crowing about this? Isn't it a victory? Shouldn't we be using it to raise political capital for other campaigns? I mean--sign in 2000, "NAVY OUT OF VIEQUES!"; headline, 2003, "Navy Out of Vieques." Isn't that an important thing?

Or is it not a victory only because Bush did it? If so, shouldn't we be making sure he doesn't get to take the credit for it?

Well, maybe I just missed the victory celebration. But the left does kind of have a problem with success, doesn't it? We're so focused on equivocation and "well, true, this happened, but this-this-and-this didn't" that we seem to have a hard time acknowleding what we did well, and that makes it much harder to actually accomplish things in the future. Take the Vieques article, for example: the reason the author is dissatisfied with actually getting what he wants is that Bush "only" did it because a referendum in September would have kicked the military out anyway. But why is that a bad thing? That's politics. That's how you get things done. You put people in a situation where they can save face by giving you what you want, and then you get it. I dunno. It's awfully "perfect is the enemy of the good," but it's awful blind Bush-bashing, too. Activists often seem to have the attitude that the authorities will never give them the thing they want, and the only reason they're protesting is because they feel this moral imperative to make their voices heard even though they know it won't make any difference. Maybe I'm misreading them, but it seems like there's not much hope for actually accomplishing anything outside of revolution, and that's always seemed like the worst way to accomplish something, the last-ditch effort when all else has failed. That's not politics. Politics is about compromises, small steps; let's celebrate what we have because it gives us hope for getting what we don't.