We are seeing many rich encomia to Ted Kennedy upon his death, and one of the many themes being pursued – the strain began even over the past year, after his illness was known – was his ability to “cross the aisle” and work in a bipartisan manner with strong political opposites. It is true, and striking, because for forty or so years Ted Kennedy was the liberal conservatives loved to hate. To have fulfilled both roles – emblematic ideological target and pragmatic partner – is a remarkable achievement, among many others.

Neither aspect of Kennedy should obscure the other. The mental and spiritual youth of the man was demonstrated by his championing of the aspirant, new wave Obama over the established, calculating Clintons. But no one could have doubted that he would bork a well-deserving Bork again.

The successful politician of ideals – a rare oxymoron thrice-named – lives out a contradictorily pendulous tension in his or her productive working life: choosing when to stand and be reviled, in victory or defeat, by the opposing side, and when not to permit the best to be the enemy of the good. In the latter there is always the danger that true believers will perceive betrayal, a fate that never befell Kennedy, another outstanding achievement.

Collegiality, as they call it in the senate (and, laughably, in the academy, where the stakes are so much higher) can be abused. We’ve seen that recently in Charles Grassley’s genial,orrinted-796058 halting rope-a-dope with Democrats, pretending to be an honest interlocutor in pursuing health care reform. We see it, in a rather unctuously repellant way, in Kennedy’s Republican pal Orrin Hatch, who has been fatefully AWOL on the issue, pretending to enshrine in testimonial the Democrat’s bipartisanship, by offering earnestly that if only Teddy had been able to participate in the debate this year, it would all be going so differently.

Still, I have no doubt that if Kennedy could be back in the corridors next week, he would offer Hatch a towel and work with him again.

Republicans like to claim that modern-day senate comity began to erode with that historic, eponymous borking, conveniently ignoring that New Gingrich, even before his ultimate rise to power, had committed his congressional career from the start to an overthrow of what he considered a lengthy tradition of congenial Republican accommodation to a Democratic majority. In contrast, the great senator knew, as do all great politicians, that most of the time you need to be able to talk– so that when the time is propitious you can work – with those fellow citizens of the republic who are so monstrously mistaken. (Glenn Beck, gun-toters, and dining room tables excepted.)

In the matter, then, of the Whole Foods boycott, on which I wrote earlier, here is the perspective of a practical political worker. A friend sent along the memo, written to a Democratic Club yahoo group. I have deleted certain identifying information.

Subject: If Obama called Conservatives a**holes, he would lose the A**hole Vote, right?

IMO Whole Foods boycott/picketing is a Self-Sabotaging/Net-Loss Activism plan – this Boycott of Whole Foods is counter-productive to any future Dem cause we care to promote on the premises of Whole Foods Markets down the line, forevermore. Please think again about promoting this.

I strongly consider this particular boycott to be an example of the ‘self-destructing Liberals’ that the GOP always snicker at and the Pundit-heads acknowledge. I feel this is an ideologically-driven action that ignores real world practical considerations. This is my opinion, and is offered with all respect to Activist-Extraordinaire [name deleted] and the folks in [name deleted] for Change and many other groups who all carry out commendable boycotts.

We use various premises of Whole Foods ([name deleted], esp.) for many successful progressive political actions such as Food Drives, various Signature Drives, Voter Registration booths –

Are you planning never to use a Whole Foods premises ever, ever again for promoting Progressive causes?

Wouldn’t you consider it hypocritical to boycott and picket, and then return as if nothing has changed to launch a future Progressive food drive, signature drive, or voter registration in the future? That’s IF we are given permission anymore to set up tables, stand at exits, etc.

1) Politics is the art of the practical. Practically speaking, there is no net value to this boycott for at maximum we can count on paring-away a minor portion of the liberal/progressive patrons of Whole Foods, and,

2) While accomplishing such a slim objective, we at the same time screw-up a good relationship that has been extremely beneficial to the Liberal cause, if you analyze how many successfully-launched Dem activities rely on Whole Foods around the Country – not the least of which was the election of a minority President of the United States.

==> I would suggest, rather, to submit disagreement directly to the Wall Street Journal about the GOP Talking Points in the Op-Ed piece, and wherever conservative bloggers hail its content elsewhere on the web.


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