Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Courage of Our Convictions

After the 2000 election, many liberals said that the election had been stolen. (My position, as I guess you know by now, is that it wasn't exactly stolen, but the Bushies tried to steal it. Since it's unclear and perhaps indeterminate who really won, it's not clear that they succeeded.)

Conservatives often offered the following challenge: if you really think the election was stolen, shouldn't you be resisting the coup with force? Like most of what the right said during and about the election debacle, this was mostly said for political effect. But there was an important point there. Perhaps to my shame, perhaps not, I actually pondered this question during the disaster that was the (semi-)recount, before conservatives turned the question into a rhetorical trick. That is, I wondered whether we in general--and I in particular--should consider the use of force to oppose the theft of the election. My deliberations became most intense when the Florida legislature threatened to send Bush electors to the meeting of the Electoral College even if Gore won the recount. Since I did believe that the Bush gang was attempting what amounted to a coup, shouldn't I be willing to use force to prevent that?

Well, I'm not exactly proud of these thoughts, but I'm not exactly ashamed of them, either. I never came close to even coming close to getting serious about the use of force, but I did think that the question forced itself on us, even if abstractly. In the end the Bushies had plausible--though only barely plausible--deniability as regards the charge of coup. When SCOTUS backed them up, that was decisive in my mind...even though Bush v. Gore is more-or-less a travesty. At any rate, the question was never called. The use of such force would have to be a last resort, and we never got anything like that far. Nevertheless, the conservatives' rhetorical challenge should provide us with food for thought. Some liberals say that they do believe that Bush did steal the election. If that is so, then why did they not advocate the use of force to prevent the coup?

That situation, perhaps, sheds some light on a current question. Today, the right urges us to "get over it" with regard to the Bush administration's pre-war lies. But if one does really believe that the president lied us into a war, surely it is not reasonable to just "get over it." If conservatives really believe that their earlier rhetorical challenge is defensible, they should be willing to stand by its spirit today. That is they should be willing to say "If you really think he lied to get us into a war, then you should work to have him impeached." Though their motive in 2000 was just to shut us up, they were right in two ways. First, if we really think that someone has stolen an American presidential election, then we should be willing to oppose them with force. Second, reflecting on this in 2000 should have helped us realize that the facts were inconclusive--that is, that it was not clear that the election had, in fact, been stolen. Hence forceful action would have been unwarranted and unjust. That is: reflection on the seriousness of the consequent of the conditional should have helped us see that the evidence for the antecedent was too inconclusive to warrant such profound action. But in that case it was not reasonable to continue to assert that Bush had in fact stolen the election.

Today the relevant conditional is obviously true: If one believes that a president has lied us into a war, then one should work to have him impeached. In the election debacle, reflecting on the relevant conditional helped some of us realize that we didn't really believe that the election had clearly been stolen--that is, to reject the antecedent instead of accepting the consequent. It is unlikely that reflection on the new conditional, however, will lead us to an analogous conclusion. The evidence of dishonesty in the lead-up to Iraq is too strong; simply rejecting the antecedent in this case does not seem like a rational option. That means that, assuming the truth of the conditional, we must accept its consequent. And that means that we must work for Bush's impeachment.

In the face of substantial evidence of such wrong-doing it is unreasonable to suggest that we "get over it," and conservatives can, no doubt, see this in their cool hours. What's needed here--as they would, no doubt, conceed if the president were a Democrat--is a full investigation. If the president is exonerated, then so be it. But, short of this, "getting over it" is simply not an option.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I missed the part where conservatives thought the 2000 election results should be resisted with force. Certainly a minority opinion.

But our disconnect is this: you're speaking of truth, I'm speaking of prudence. Both are components of wisdom, theory and practice.

Implacably proclaiming one's truths as self-evident scares the bejesus out of the unconverted, and that's a fact. Truth is the what, prudence the how and when.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Who said anything about self-evidence?

That's why I want an investigation. By refusing to investigate, it's conservatives who are saying that the truth is evident.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think the Democrats should run on your position, and see what happens in November. Just be upfront about it.

See, I'm easy.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

You're not one of those conservatives who's scared of the truth, are ya Tom? I mean, it'd be good to have all the facts about the use of pre-war intelligence, right?

It's an important question, and a question we could answer...so...why are so many folks on your side of the fence working so frantically to make sure it doesn't get answered?

11:19 PM  
Blogger Orlando C. Harn said...

(My position, as I guess you know by now, is that it wasn't exactly stolen, but the Bushies tried to steal it. Since it's unclear and perhaps indeterminate who really won, it's not clear that they succeeded.)

Since they tried to steal it, and they obviously had the ability to steal it, then didn't they steal it?

10:12 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

They didn't clearly steal it because it isn't clear that it wasn't theirs already. It wasn't clear *whose* it was, and there may actually be no fact of the matter.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It's my opinion, WS, that the president's opponents don't want an "investigation" as much as a bullhorn. I don't think you missed a single one of the charges made about "lies" along the way. Been there done that. Me, I'm sick of Joe Wilson. I think he's been decisively refuted, yet it's an article of faith among his supporters that he's right. I have no interest in providing him with yet another soapbox.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

So, you'd not be opposed to an investigation?

11:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes I would, because a) it would be a partisan circus and
b) it concedes the false narrative that we went to war over actual possession of WMDs. That's not how it went down.

But like these guys, I'm sick of disputing that canard, have done it dozens of times on these very cyberpages, all to zero effect.

Your story is that Bush lied, people died, and no amount of investigating is going to change your mind.

Just can't go there anymore, man. I don't think the country feels like it either.

(Huh. Santorum says they found WMDs. Not like it would make a goddamn bit of difference.)

12:52 AM  

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