Monday, May 17, 2010

The atrophy of the liberal imagination, a continuing series

My buddy Mark Engler wrote an interesting piece for the Dissent blog on why the left should oppose the Kagan nomination. Interesting, but not convincing, at least not to me. It's not that I like her, altho I've been more or less convinced by people who know the academic-law world from the inside that her publication record is perfectly adequate. On substantive political issues there's not much to say for her, and that's on Obama, not the "process".

What I don't see, tho, are what are the principled demands being made here. "Liberal justice" is almost an empty signifier; I suspect that beyond the important, but fairly narrow, areas of civil liberties and executive power, most of us on the labor or socialist left will find a wide range of legal issues on which our views and Glenn Greenwald's sharply diverge. Just as importantly, what is the public debate that this is clarifying or polarizing? Will this fight help develop a left opposition in Congress? Does it mobilize people? Could we win? Looks like no on all counts, to me.

Being on the left can't just mean bitching about everything, it's got to mean staking out clear, principled positions, organizing people around them, and having concrete victories to show for it. Opposing Kagan does not seem to meet this test.

Anyway -- the reason for this post, or at least its title -- I was going to say all this in a comment to Mark's Dissent post. But it turns out the Dissent blog has no comments section. Yes, Dissent does not allow comments. Doesn't that say it all?