Monday, December 06, 2004

Formation of Single-Issue Alliances: Blue Dogs and Red Herrings

An article in the NYTimes this morning covers the story of some currently active soldiers suing the federal government over the newly implemented "stop-loss" policy. What's clear is that people from various ideological points of departure are coming together to protest this policy.

The lawyers, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the soldiers are unabashedly anti-war. The soldiers aren't necessarily, and one is explicitly not, anti-war. For one of the soldiers, Mr.Qualls, it's simply an issue of honor and fairness, and the government isn't holding up its end of the deal.

Asked whether antiwar forces were instigating this lawsuit, Mr. Lobel, who like his co-counsel describes himself as openly opposed to the war in Iraq, laughed and said no. The soldiers and their families came on their own, he said.

"They were desperately looking for some way to solve their situations, and it looks like most of the people they found who were trying to counsel or represent people in their situation were antiwar people," Mr. Lobel said. "But to me, the most interesting aspect of this whole thing is that it's not a question of antiwar or pro-war. It's not a question of red states or blue states. This stop-loss question is just about fairness."

Mr. Qualls may have to go back to his post. He is the only plaintiff who has revealed his identity, which obviously could be very dangerous in an already dangerous environment.
"The other thing," Mr. Qualls said, "is you've got thousands of people over there in the same situation as me and somebody's got to do something. Why not have it be me? I can't worry about what people will say."

Mr. Qualls is due back at his radio post on a base north of Baghdad this coming weekend. He said he hoped a judge would issue a temporary restraining order and allow him to stay home. But if he loses, he said, he will get on that plane.

I've been thinking about coalitions and alliances between individuals and groups with fundamentally different ideological points of departure, who 1) come to similar conclusions about policy and 2) create alliances based on these conclusions. Indeed, this is how many social movements gain momentum and win more popularity. One example, the first organized anti-war movement in the United States against the Philippine-American War, was bipartisan. It contained some progressives and some extremely conservative elements who simply agreed imperialism was bad for various reasons.

But today, I'm thinking about the red/blue division. First, I personally think it's bogus, too handy of an explanation for too much. Overall, I don't find it useful, except to note what we already knew: there are geopolitical differences that are also cultural. Most of the more populated blue states were fairly split in their votes. Most of the more populated red state votes were also closely split. In fact, I think focusing on divisions in cultural/moral values is a red herring thwarting potential coalitions and alliances that could bring people together to resist the asinine policies already passed and that are surely still to be proposed.

My point is that the red/blue division obfuscates similarities such as that many people are disgruntled with the current situation. All that it shows us are some of the reasons they may disagree with the much more enlightened blue dogs (I jest). But racists and anti-racists sometimes agree on policy, such as the anti-imperialists, and liberals often support policies and divisions, unwittingly, reinscribing that which they would change. It just doesn't do to rest explanations about ideological divisions on electoral politics, or even cultural values, especially when there are alliances to be made over stop-loss, exit plans, tax plans, deficits, poverty, job creation, wal-mart, public funding for education etc.


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