Slow Boring of Hard Boards

From a thinker who knew a thing or two about realism:

Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It requires passion as well as perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms—that man would not have achieved the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that, a man must be a leader, and more than a leader, he must be a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that resolve of heart which can brave even the failing of all hopes. This is necessary right now, otherwise we shall fail to attain that which it is possible to achieve today. Only he who is certain not to destroy himself in the process should hear the call of politics; he must endure even though he finds the world too stupid or too petty for that which he would offer. In the face of that he must have the resolve to say ‘and yet,’—for only then does he hear the ‘call’ of politics.


  1. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant February 23, 2016 at 9:42 am | #

    Corey, I have been-a hankerin’ majorly to post this on your site because I have watched “Eyes On The Prize” every time it was on back in the day, and the one I present here has a passage that goes squarely to the heart of all of your recent posts regarding the so-called “politically possible”. I have committed that moment to memory and have used it in EVERY argument I get into when some schlub would give that “no, we can only do what is politically ‘feasible'” crap. If we were to accept that as our standard (its constituent criterion always going little mentioned — no accident there, no?) we’d not have an African American president, Hillary would not be in the race for that office (and neither would Ms. Fiorina), and I’d be in Mississippi picking cotton next to my elderly mother (who retired from her unionized New York public sector job and is enjoying her pension, social security, and deferred compensation package in a house whose mortgage was retired decades ago) assuming, of course, that I hadn’t gotten lynched with a mouth like mine. Come to think of it, my mom’s mouth is the reason her relatives sent her north to save her from Mississippi’s hyper-sensitive white racists who would have objected to her use of a public restroom. That history has become family lore.

    This is the transcript from the raw, unedited footage:;cc=eop;rgn=main;view=text;idno=kin0015.0223.057

    From that transcript, here is the excerpt from the interview that I would have your readers hone in on:

    “QUESTION 24



    “Coretta Scott King:

    I knew that this was the beginning of many struggles, but I thought that the fact that we were successful in desegregating the buses and that this led to not only Montgomery buses being desegregated, but it would, it was a, an action that would cause the desegregation of buses trans—and transportation, of transportation anywhere, wherever it was segregated. And we knew that once we broke the barrier, that it would be easier for other areas of segregation to be eliminated. And we knew that we would have to go on. At first, we didn’t even ask for desegregation. We only asked for a, a more humane system of segregation on the buses. And when the opposition refused to grant that, then we realized that they wouldn’t grant anything anyway, so we might as well ask for, you know, complete desegregation. And that’s what we went for, and we realized we had to go for broke, so to speak. ** So, the, the fact that people were able to stick together for that length of time and that there was a favorable ruling from the courts on this, it meant that the courts—the climate was created around which the courts could act. And we realized that what we had to do was to take each situation, you know, separately, and continue to work on it until we had achieved that desegregation of public accommodations, and then the right to vote, and so on.” [The starred {**} segments is what got into the final cut of the documentary]

    Here is the video of the completed and broadcast episode:

    Importantly and relevantly, please see 37:19 to 37:50 which features Ms. Coretta Scott King and hear her response to the “No!” of the powers that be. Note, as well, the “stick together” part.

    I will allow that she may not intend it as an act of aggression against progressives, but Ms. Clinton is certainly channeling that species of “No!” intended to limit the possibility of a future that is better and healthier than the “No-ers” would permit to the rest of us. Maybe she means well and wishes to save us from disappointment; or, maybe she has already been appealed to by those who pay her speaking fees….

    Either way, if that is the reply we get then we have to push past that “No!” and, as Ms. King said, “go for broke”, “political feasibility” (whatever the hell that means) be damned!

  2. lee February 23, 2016 at 3:18 pm | #

    It’s a shame though that he had a tendency to go apeshit whenever the “Polish problem” came up:

    Just like so many storied scholars today fly off the handle when the “Palestinian problem” (or even the term “Palestinian”) is mentioned:

  3. Roquentin February 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm | #

    Politics as a vocation still is one of the best speeches in history.

    The key question on my mind and a lot of other people’s is does the neoliberal consensus, with its figureheads in Hillary and the hardcore reactionaries in the GOP, have enough gas in the tank for one more victory? Will it hold together long enough to cross the finish line for a 4 year rule? If the Sanders candidacy indicates anything, along with his overwhelming support among the young, the future belongs to the left. How long will it take for them to crack? These awful, corrupt political systems are always more resilient than one expects. What are they going to do when they really get desperate?

    I’ve been reading all kinds of stuff on the Russian Revolution, the events stretching from February to October of 1917, for couple of weeks now. It’s appropriate for this post given that “Politics As A Vocation” was delivered in 1919, during the German Revolution in the wake of the defeat during WWI. It’s finally dawning on me that these revolutions are the end result of protracted war. The strain of sending half the male population to the slaughter and utter indifference to human suffering displayed by the Monarchy finally blew the entire political system apart.

    Max Weber was mercifully spared the agony of watching the ascension of National Socialism in Germany due to an early death. I have to wonder how much he saw in 1919, with the episode involving the Sparticist League, the murder of Rosa Luxemburg by the Freikorps. I wonder if he would have grasped that in a little over two decades the same forces would mobilize to do the whole war over again, at an even greater human cost. Could anyone really have seen that coming?

  4. Mike February 24, 2016 at 2:06 am | #

    Hillary has never stood against the political winds. Heck, it took her over a decade to admit that she was wrong about Iraq, and she only did so when it was political safe.

    Sanders will stand up for what is right, regardless of the political wind.

    Hillary will only stand up if it benefits her.

  5. L.M. Dorsey February 24, 2016 at 8:29 am | #

    I imagine Weber trying earnestly to impart these nostrums to an insouciant Trump. And the real takes on a very different cast.

  6. David Green February 27, 2016 at 7:35 pm | #

    Corey, I just returned from a desultory political meeting when I read this, and it really hit the spot.

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