Politics, #p2, and Being Purposefully Pugnacious

Yesterday I unfollowed a whole host of “#p2″ tweeters. For those unfamiliar to the “#p2″ concept on Twitter, allow me to briefly explain. The “#p2″ hashtag is used by progressive, liberal minded/leaning, lefties to denote a tweet espousing political and social beliefs related to such positions.

As a woman of highly liberal and left leaning politics and social concepts, I was an ardent follower of many members of this Twitter community. These are people who believe in the same style of politics, the same social obligations and policies that I believe in. Following them, conversing with them, debating with them is one of the main reasons I was drawn to Twitter in the first place and the reason I have stayed on Twitter for nearly a year.

But I have noticed that in the last few months the tone, method of communicating one’s point and debate styles have changed. Once open minds now seem closed to opinions other than their own. Tweets between tweeters have been filled with nitpicking, backbiting, brazenly rude and personal attacks. Rather than foster open debates about the Left, Democratic Party, and President Obama, his administration, and policy decisions, “#p2″ has fractured. Now splintered into several camps, each with their own de facto leader and list of persons who the group must be unanimously opposed to, civility, it seems, is gone. Rather than fostering an environment of: “We can all support a common aim whilst being critical of that goal and the means by which we achieve it,”  “#p2″ has become a land of “with us or against us.” When did the national left become the flag bearers of post-9/11 Bush doctrine? When did we buy into the “if you don’t agree with me 100% you’re the enemy”?

I support President Obama. I supported him in 2008, I voted for him, and I have in the time since then, been an ardent fan and believer in the progress and change brought about by his administration. But what is missing from “#p2,” what has become a prickly point of contention is whether or not one can be a supporter of Obama whilst being critical of him. Since the spring this has led to numerous eruptions within Twitter-land. While I understand the sentiment by some Obama supporters that many have turned on him at the first sight of something they disagree with (and certainly the “primary Obama” mess was just stupid), support for Obama can’t be so unwavering that it comes without critical examination.

Is Obama our savior, here to deliver us ponies and rainbows? Hardly. But support of a party, a candidate, an administration has to be critical in order to be effective, otherwise we begin down a Stalinist slippery slope towards zero political dissension. Someone voicing concern or consternation over an Obama decision, or lack of one, isn’t a sign that the party is falling apart and the GOP is going to take over the world. It’s a sign that members of our electorate care enough not to follow blindly, not to fall lockstep behind the loudest or most obnoxious voice. Obama isn’t infallible. His administration isn’t infallible. The Left isn’t infallible. Criticism doesn’t expose infallibility to the sharp knife of a take over. No. Criticism fosters analysis. Criticism asks all participants to constantly strive for better.

I can be critical of Obama without being anti-Obama. I don’t vote based on what someone says on Twitter, so why would I attack someone on Twitter simply because he or she is disliked by members of “#p2″? I thought the Left was better than this. I thought we were better than the cheap-shot taking, chew-up-and-spit-out-anyone-with-a-different-opinion Right. Clearly I was wrong.

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2 Comments

Filed under Culture, Politics, Social Media, Twitter, US

2 responses to “Politics, #p2, and Being Purposefully Pugnacious

  1. As another with a strong set progressive ideals, I agree that one of those is the need to always keep a critical eye out…on those we disagree with and especially on ourselves. It should not just be *possible* to have these kinds of self-reflective and assessing conversations – it should be VITAL.

    While there are always those who toe the D party line, there are many who understand that progressive values and Democratic political gameplay are quite often operating at cross-purposes. By raising concerns and criticisms of our elected officials, we demand accountability. Unfortunately, as the year has rolled by, I have also noticed more and more of the progressive movement shut down any and all not-immediately-complimentary discussion of any D incumbents…from our President and down our own tickets. I understand the fear many have of the future that may arise from a power change in the fall, and I understand this leads many to retreat to their most defensive corners. But turning a blind eye to Democratic party actions that defy progressive values does NO ONE favors. Today, our best hope to see genuine socially progressive change enacted exists in the Democratic party. But we have a responsibility as an electorate to mold the party we choose into the party we want. We have an uphill battle. Your voice is what helps.

    I came across your site looking for clarification of the #p2 tag, which at present seems to be a linkwar between the left AND the right. But mid-stream, among the ad nauseum partisan rhetoric, was this:

    Shoq Value ‏@Shoq
    “A liberal is someone who is willing to forgo something that they might have, so others might have something that they need. #p2 ”

    Election Panic may have stunted our national discourse and we may be learning that there are those within our own ideology who pose bigger obstacles than those on the other side of the spectrum…but centered and focused progressive voices are critical. Always. May you come back soon.

  2. Rachel

    You’ve voiced some of the most cogent and genuinely reasonable ideas I’ve heard this month from someone who identifies with the “left”. As someone who tends to lean more towards the right, I deeply appreciate your desire for clear discourse free of nitpicking or personal insults. Both sides, sadly, have been guilty of this, and it will no doubt get worse as Election Day draws closer, but it is refreshing to hear you express these words:

    “Someone voicing concern or consternation over an Obama decision, or lack of one, isn’t a sign that the party is falling apart and the GOP is going to take over the world. It’s a sign that members of our electorate care enough not to follow blindly…”

    I agree! No matter which way we lean, we cannot accept one person or a single party without question. It’s healthy to voice concerns and ask questions…it shows that we have brains and that we aren’t afraid to think! Thank you for writing this.

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