I look back on my original support for the war in Iraq and wonder how I made such a mistake. Part of it, I think, was getting sucked into a general nationalist enthusiasm that strikes me as similar in retrospect to the August madness at the start of WWI. But I also think I was scared away from the non-intervention position by the pathetic arguments and tactics adopted by some of the more prominent folks on the "peace" side of that debate. Ironically in college I experienced the flip side of this problem, often lamenting that the worst thing that could happen in any argument was to have someone incompetent try to jump in on my side.
I recall all of this because I was reading this post from Ken White where he is responding and giving advice to a student who was the subject of an earlier column. I really liked this bit:
We're in the middle of a modest conservative backlash and a resurgence of bigotry, both actual and arrested-adolescent-poseur. I believe a large part of this backlash results from the low quality of advocacy for progressive ideas. Much of that advocacy has become characterized by petulant whining and empty dogmatism. The message conveyed by too many of your generation is not that people should adopt progressive ideas because they are right or just, but that they should adopt them because that is what they are supposed to adopt because that is what right-thinking people adopt. That is irritating and ineffectual. Faced with an idea, I don't expect your generation to confront it. I don't expect you to explain how it's wrong, and win hearts and minds that your ideas are better. Rather, I expect you to assert that you should be protected from being exposed to the idea in the first place. That's disappointing and doesn't bode well for the success of progressive ideas (many of which I admire) in society. In short: if this is how you're going to fight for what you think is right, you're going to lose. Do better.
I find this election particularly depressing -- not just because the candidates are so disappointing (that has happened many times before) -- but because it has highlighted how large the anti-rational voter pool is, with both Sanders and Trump acting as attractors for them.