Hah: this makes the second day where I haven’t had the time to talk about how much how I haven’t the time to talk about how I haven’t had the time. Well, there’s always Monday. Short version: I have to change the format here until the book is done. Simply can’t do the end of the night quasi-pseudo-essay for a while, because it’s driving me nuts. What possessed me to start a fargin’ DAILY SERIAL the very month I had to write a book, I’ve no idea, but there’s no going back on that. But if I don’t revamp the Bleat I am looking at six more weeks of trouble. So: starting Monday, something different, for a while. Put it this way: less stuff, and lots more of it. Stay tuned.

That said, here’s more, and since it’s late and I have another column to write after this, I have no intention of editing it for clarity or grammar. Sorry to post and run, but time’s winged chariot, etc.

Thursday night was a hoot & a half. It was the Hewitt v. Beinart debate. You know the former; the latter, whom you should also know, is the alarmingly young editor of the New Republic. They had a debate on the future of the Democratic Party, hosted by the radio station that carries Hugh’s show as well as the Northern Alliance Radio Network program on Saturdays. My NARN brethern kindly let me sit in on their national broadcast today. We did the show from a table in the corner of the ballroom; the first hour we were serenaded by the crashing of a thousand plates as the staff set up the room; in the second hour we had a few hundred people in the ballroom talking away, paying no attention. In situations like this you have to believe you are doing a show or the whole thing just evaporates in your hands, but Piston Mitch kept firing as usual. (There’s your nick, buddy.) Got a call from VDL, too: small world. You read a guy’s blog, you find his work in a Time magazine you have in your personal archives, you talk to him in California while you’re sitting in a Hilton ballroom, with the rest of the nation listening in as they shave in Hawaii or yawn in Maine. Cool world. (UPDATE: Whoa. And we didn't cut him off! If we did, I yammered to dead air for at least a minute.)

Then the debate. Two different styles - Hewitt was a paint roller, Beinart a pincushion. At the end of the day the cushion may have a million pins, but you can’t help but notice one side of the barn is a different color. Not to demean Beinart’s style: he’s a smart debater, and would rather make a good point than a clever one. He threw a few elbows, and they were well-placed; no cheap shots. The Democrats need a million of these guys. A blow-by-blow blogged account is here.

There was one moment that was telling, in a way Beinart did not seem to recognize. He was concluding with his vision for the Democratic party, how it could attract more people, and he cited the striking down of a ridiculous sodomy law. Well and good; I’m opposed to them as well. But his anecdote about the effect of this decision – which wasn’t really a liberal v. conservative issue anymore but a 20th century v. 18th century issue – concerned some citizens of the Castro district in San Francisco, who celebrated the event by taking down a rainbow flag and hoisting the American flag. I know what he meant by that – the goodfolk of Castro were heartened to see American values extended to their protection as well, and reconnected with the symbol of liberty and justice. I suspect sodomy prosecutions in the Castro area have been a low priority in recent years, but it’s the thought that counts, and in any case it’s a good start towards removing another eleventy billion laws whose selective enforcement gives the state entirely too much power.

But: they had their own flag. Yes yes, many other groups have flags, and in one sense the Castro banner is no different than the Ukes flying a flag at their social club, or an Irish flag draped on the wall of a pub. But there was something about the anecdote that reminded you how much identity politics suffuses the left. Specifically sexual and ethnic identity politics. They were so happy they raised the American flag! It’s almost like hearing “the ruling on immigrant access to schools cheered the Hispanic community, prompting many to take down the Mexican flag and replace it with the Stars and Stripes.” Stirring though it might be, it leaves some cockles unwarmed.

An inexact analogy, I admit. Anyway: The issue isn’t about gays, in case I haven’t been clear – it’s the tendency of groups, any groups, to see things entirely through the prism of their own issues, as opposed to seeing their issues nestled in the kaleidoscopic matrix of American politics. Everyone is guilty of this to some extent, and we can have a lively & robust debate about who does a better job of asserting an American identity that best accommodates or surpasses less important manifestations of self-identity. I mean, I have more in common with a lesbian former Marine with a kid who runs a small business in Fargo than a white single male who runs a Marxist think tank in Boston.

But for better or worse the Democrats are seen as the party of identity politics. Beinart probably sees that as an opportunity rather than a problem, inasmuch as he believes the Democrat can forge a coalition to enact broad programs that benefit all. Nice in theory, but I'm doubtful about how it works down here. The question isn’t whether like-minded sorts should get together to promote a common agenda - it’s whether the organizations that arise from this arrangement actually promote the welfare of their constituents, or exist to claim constant crisis and keep their own sinecures intact. Ten ACT-UPs and a hundred Larry Kramers don’t have the impact of one gay- sympathetic story line on the OC. And here we can wander off into discussing whether the ACT-UPs and angry activists didn’t lay the groundwork for sympathetic mainstream media presentations of homosexuals, etc. And on and on. You get my point: you can have reasonable conversations about these things, and tonight’s conversation was gratifyingly reasonable.

Beinart for DNC chair!

Oh, right. Job’s taken. Well, give him a few years.

Anyway, I’d say “to bed” but I have to write the Strib column. Have a grand weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. As ever.

Perm link: here.

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More