Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves September 10, 2013

Brad DeLong delivers a strongly worded smackdown of Brad DeLong. His apology to Andrew Sullivan is forthright and detailed.

It also gets at the dangerous temptation to be cautiously “sophisticated” when it comes to pursuing our ideals, and so I think it carries a lesson that goes well beyond DeLong’s earlier criticism of Sullivan, and well beyond the politics of marriage equality and anyone’s reading or misreading of that one subject:

Back when Andrew Sullivan first began talking about Gay Marriage, my thoughts were these: “Here is Bad Faith Andrew again. We all know — he knows –that Gay Marriage is at least a century in the future, if then. What lobbying for Gay Marriage does now is to split the Democratic Party and gets it into another of its internecine wars followed by activists sulking like Akhilleus in his tent. What lobbying for Gay Marriage does now is to solidify the right-wing nutjobs who make up so much of the people who do the legwork for the Republican Party — the people who are enraged by and respond to lines like: “They always blame America first, those San Francisco Democrats.”

“Andrew is thus in the business of making life in America worse for LGBT people for the next 50 years, and is willing to have that happen in order to advance other policy goals, all the while posing as someone working for LGBT liberation.


I was completely, totally, 100-percent wrong. Andrew was right in his judgment of the politics. America is, indeed, a better place along this dimension than I had dreamed would be possible. He saw that. And I did not.

DeLong’s apology notes that he hadn’t just misread Sullivan — he had misread the majority of the public. Contra H.L. Mencken, he had actually underestimated the American public’s capacity for goodness and intelligence.

Skepticism is necessary. Cynicism leads us astray. Be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.

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