Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Some battles ... are worth fighting, regardless of the outcomes"

That's US Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), talking about her attempts to bring #MeToo issues into the Senate process of questioning, and confirming the appointments of, federal officials. I find the sentiment interesting in general, not with regard to the specific venue or cause in question.

For the two decades and change that I've been involved in the Libertarian Party -- and I'm sure it was happening long before that -- a standard anti-radical slogan has been "pick your battles." Which is actually wise advice as far as it goes. But it's generally used not in its wise sense, but in this sense:

"We shouldn't advocate radical solution X because advocating X won't result in us immediately getting X. Let's instead advocate a very moderate sub-set of X, or even something that's not quite Xish at all so that [insert one of two unlikely outcomes here -- 'that a deal will get made,' or 'that the Very Important People Who Run Things will take us seriously']."

Two problem with those claims:

  • 99.9x% of the time, the Libertarian Party and its candidates have no leverage whatsoever to "make deals" that result in policy changes. True, we're not going to immediately get X, but we're also not going to get a credible offer of that very moderate sub-set of X or whatever, because we have nothing to trade that the parties in power want. In point of fact, the only thing we have any control of at all is what we offer the people inclined to vote for us. And offering some weak tea compromise on X is effectively giving away some of those votes, because those voters can already get the weak tea version from one of the parties that actually wins elections by working within those parties.
  • Similarly, those votes are the only thing that the Very Important People Who Run Things take seriously, and then only in races where a Libertarian candidate might affect the outcome of the election ... by advocating something the VIPWRT's candidates aren't offering.
In this, the LP's position is very much like Hirono's.

She doesn't have the votes in the Senate to make her #MeToo values official policy. Unlike the LP, she might be able to use her vote to make small, extremely partial side deals in return for her support on other things, but that probably wouldn't get her very far toward where she wants to go.

What she has -- like the LP -- is an occasional bully pulpit opportunity.

Unlike the faux "pragmatists" in the LP, she is not under the illusion that weakening the message she preaches from that bully pulpit will get her any of those deals, or make the VIPWRT majority in the Senate "take her seriously." Her only hope is to offer the full, un-softened version of what she's after and hope that the people whose votes the VIPWRT candidates want will start demanding it.

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