as long as any one can recall, the besetting sin of leftists has been their lust for ideological orthodoxy and their consequent tendency to splinter into ever smaller and more ineffectual factions. There have, to be sure, been historical moments when weeding out those who disagree with oneself in any way can can lead to greater power rather than less — one thinks of the Bolshevik revolution. But this moment in America is not one of them. So if you want to work effectively for major social change with any hope at all of success, you must learn to embrace and find common cause with men and women with whom you disagree. When I was young, this meant working for nuclear disarmament with Quaker pacifists and Catholic activists whose religious commitments were anathema to me. There is nothing admirable or morally uplifting about the refusal to forge workable coalitions with those who are — so to speak — part of the avalanche rolling down the same side of the mountain. / We have just come through a presidential election whose outcome was a good deal more progressive than any of us anticipated. Several really admirable women have been elected to the Senate; a wretched hollow man who would have brought in his train a nightmare of aides and appointees has been defeated. But the election revealed, once again, that very close to half of those 310 million Americans are opposed to the changes we seek to make in this country. That is a fact that we must confront and acknowledge, for it sets limits to what we can, in the short or medium run, hope to accomplish. / This is not the time for the left to splinter into angry factions more concerned with maintaining their ideological purity than with advancing common progressive policies. / I can assure you with absolute certainty that if we are successful, against all the odds, each one of us will still be disappointed in what has been left undone. The acceptance of that fact is, in my opinion, the mark of a truly serious and grown-up progressive. / I have been around a long time. Trust me. There are going to be some defeats ahead. For God’s sake, enjoy the victories.

Robert Paul Wolff