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Can The Democratic Party Problem Be Solved?

[ 180 ] November 4, 2010 |

The midterms have essentially ended any prospect for substantial progressive legislation for at least two years and probably longer, so progressive infighting will only intensify. Many critiques of Obama from the left — especially on his civil liberties record and his glacially paced and timorous process for executive and judicial branch nominations — are very much valid. On domestic politics, the question is more complex; in general, both the press and among both the Democratic and third-party left greatly overrate the president’s ability to enact legislation in general and overstate the importance of presidential rhetoric by a factor of about twelve billion. Still, there’s plenty of room for disappointment. The standpoint from which some of the more overheated criticism comes from is another question. As pointed out by Berube in this thread, the strangest form of criticism comes from the small faction (of which lambert is the definitive but by no means the only example) who sees Obama’s failures not as an indictment of the Democratic Party or America’s political institutions and culture, but as an argument that things would have been much better had the primary come out differently. The attempt to turn Hillary Clinton — a politician with impeccable DNC credentials whose campaign was being run by Mark Penn, fer Chrissakes — into the second coming of Eugene Debs couldn’t be more bizarre. However one evaluates Obama’s first two years, there isn’t the slightest reason to believe that the outcomes would have differed significantly no matter which viable candidate won the primary.

Greens, at least, because they harbor no such illusions about the Clintons or any other possible Democratic presidential candidate can at least offer a more plausible and coherent critique. But do they offer a viable solution? This brings us to dsquared. Daniel is a great blogger who is often a great contrarian, and the key skill of a great contrarian (like a great lawyer) is to ask and answer the right questions. This defense of third party voting is an excellent example. Scalia once said of an especially appalling Kennedy opinion that what “is obviously true is not relevant, and what is relevant is not obviously true.” I think here Daniel goes further here — everything he says is true, but none of it is really relevant. It’s true that the congressional Democratic caucus as a whole is unimpressive and not especially progressive, but unless third party voting or non-voting can change this it’s beside the point of his central claim. The reheated Anthony Downs that comprises the great bulk of his argument is true but in context proves too much. It’s true that it doesn’t matter whether any individual votes for the Democratic Party — but this applies not only to all voting but all political action. There’s no political “opportunity cost” to taking the time to vote since no not-voting political activity that an ordinary person could engage in during that time could have any impact on the course of American politics either. If we’re going to apply Downs properly, the appropriate response is just to be free riders and ignore politics entirely, not to vote Green or donate money to the ACLU or MoveOn or Chairman Bob Avakian or whatever.

Arguments about third party voting, then, generally aren’t arguments about whether any single individual should vote for the Democrats but whether groups of similarly situated individuals should vote for the Democrats. At this level, the advocate of third party voting in a first-past-the-post system has to address the fact that an unwillingness to sully one’s purity with strategic voting has very real downsides (such as hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted attacking a country that poses no threat to the United States, fiscal policy that increased inequities and make s future progressive reform much less viable, several decades each of Roberts and Alito, etc. etc. etc.) and no discernible benefits. If third party voting is supposed to be the key to making the Democrats better, well, Nader already succeeded in his goal of throwing the 2000 election to Bush — how did that work out? According to Daniel, not very well — and, remember, this is true! So I’m not sure why the next time will be the charm.

…as Pithlord notes in comments, see also Julian Sanchez.

Comments (180)

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  1. jeer9 says:

    There is no charm in playing the duopoly’s game. But rewarding Democrats for perpetuating Republican mismanagement which thereby tarnishes the Democratic label also seems pretty foolish. The base which didn’t show up in this past election has two years to find someone who is not a corporate hack, though whomever they come up with I’m sure voting strategically will be considered the most logical of decisions. It seems logic demands there be no distinctions between the parties.

    • Scott de B. says:

      So the solution is to primary Obama, a la Kennedy in 1980? How is that likely to improve things?

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Well it can’t hurt Obama.

        The problem, however, is that there is simply no Kennedy-like figure on the Democratic bench.

        The Kennedy challenge made sense because polls as late as mid-1979 actually suggested that he was the favorite to win not only the Democratic nomination but also the presidency. Were there someone like that in the Democratic Party today, I’d reregister as a Democrat and spend the next two years pushing her candidacy.

        But the Democrats have nobody remotely like that. Any likely challenger to Obama from the left would garner minuscule support from Dem primary voters. And if somehow she got the nomination, she’d be slaughtered in the general election.

        So I think primarying Obama, under the actual political circumstances we face, would be a great big waste of time and effort. But, for the same reasons, I don’t think it would hurt Obama. It would, in fact, make the President look more centrist and would send the (not entirely true) message that those to his left are a tiny, yapping minority that deserve no attention whatsoever.

        For those who imagine that one day the Democratic Party could be a force for progressive change, I recommend instead identifying a kind of Democratic Goldwater to run in 2016. It’s been nearly two decades since anyone who presented himself as coming from the left of the party was a remotely serious contender for the presidential nomination (I’m thinking of Brown in 1992). Unless liberal Democrats feel satisfied with Dennis Kucinich’s Harold Stassen impersonation, they’d do well to focus on identifying a candidate who can actually win.

    • soullite says:

      Why bother? He’s going to lose anyway and, in any circumstance where you could successfully primary a President, the winner of that primary would lose as well.

      Let him lose and discredit neoliberalism. Most voters will blame liberals, but the Democratic base won’t. Then we can just stick with ‘progressivism’ and there will be no real harm done.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        BTW, didn’t you spend much of 2008 asserting that Obama wouldn’t beat McCain?

        • cer says:

          Wait, a Democratic victory/GOP win in 2012 would discredit neoliberalism? Did I miss a revised version of Das Kapital?

        • soullite says:

          Lmao. Perhaps you should actually look up what people said in that time frame if you don’t want to look like an idiot. Go ask your buddy Ezra Klein, if he remembers me, how anti-Obama I was during the 2008 primaries and general election.

          I was probably one of his staunchest partisans at the time. I was virulently anti-clinton and while half the blosphere was running around talking about how ‘McCain was pulling away with it’ after his convention, I left comments on several blogs pointing out how if all he could manage was being 1% ahead 3 days after his convention, then Obama already had it in the bag.

          Stop just assuming you know people when you obviously don’t know much of anything.

      • DrDick says:

        No, it would discredit liberalism. Sadly, most of those would vote against Obama do not perceive him as neoliberal (or in many cases, even know what that is), but rather as just plain liberal. As a socialist, I would necessarily object to the demise of classical liberalism, but in this context it would discredit all leftist/progressive policies.

      • Teacherboy says:

        You know, I don’t often think about the actual people behind blog comments (mostly because I don’t care one way or the other) but whenever I see a post by soullite I just think Jesus Christ, cheer the fuck up already, you miserable, miserable person. Is this all you do, Eeyore-up blog threads all day?

      • Anonymous says:

        Obama’s at worst a 75%, 3:1 favorite to win re-election at this point- to assume he’s going to lose is just irrational.

    • djw says:

      The base which didn’t show up in this past election
      Wrong. The marginal democratic voters didn’t turn out. The base voted, like they always do.

      • DocAmazing says:

        A good many of those marginals are coming from the left, and would show up if they didn’t feel deliberately fucked over.

        Maybe deliberately fucking them over isn’t a good idea, if you seek to increase turnout.

        • cer says:

          I don’t think the numbers support the idea that the base did not turn out. 08 had crazy levels of turnout and they turned out for Obama. Those marginal voters are the ones who did not show up this time. See here. It was the first time that young voters outnumbered the old. That trend reversed this time. I really don’t believe those young voters are solid base voters pissed off at Obama (at least most of them). And minority voters declined and Obama’s approval ratings are highest among African-American voters so I have a hard time believing their failure to show up is attributable to a protest no-vote against Obama.

          • djw says:

            Prior to the election there were polls that suggested the Obama 08 voters who were unlikely to vote in 2010 actually approved of Obama at a considerably higher rate than average. I’m sure there were indeed some voters of the left who protested Obama’s perceived shortcomings by not voting. But there’s no evidence, nor any good reason to believe based on what we know about voting behavior, to assume their numbers were sizeable enough to have a meaningful impact on this election.

  2. Hillary Clinton — a politician with impeccable DNC credentials whose campaign was being run by Mark Penn, fer Chrissakes –

    and who, at last sighting, occupied a key position in the, um, you know, Obama Administration. While secretly opposing it from the left with every fiber of her being.

    And stop hippie-punching Chairman Bob, dude. If we’d nominated Chairman Bob in ’08, we’d have ourselves a 423-12 advantage in the House today. And single-payer and nationalized banks.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      And,most importantly, a free Mumia!

    • DocAmazing says:

      Actually, you should give money to Chairman Bob. The more people read his stuff, the better the effect on the Overton Window. Unopposed Glenn Beck is not a good thing; send copies of Revolution to every high school in the red states and maybe get some pushback generated.

  3. wengler says:

    I think Obama doesn’t get enough credit for being a competent leader. I’m not trying to minimize his mistakes, because HAMP and the foreclosure crisis as well as the low-balling of the economic stimulus are huge, but he has instituted a baseline of competence across government that values crazy shit like evidence-based findings.

    And the fact is we would’ve had a lot better legislation that would have empowered the base had the Republicans not stooped to an unprecedented filibuster of everything. Obama couldn’t wave his hand and make that go away.

    What common idiots need to see is that the Republican Party is willing to and has made hundreds of million of Americans lives considerably worse for the hopes of enjoying more political power. And hot damn did they know it was going to work!

    We can talk about Democrats all we want. We can talk about how they sell out to corporate power. We can talk about how there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties. But the simple fact is one of America’s institutional parties is fucking insane. The Republicans don’t value evidence as a part of policy and decision making. They don’t care about the possible repercussions of the application of their ideology. And they aren’t particularly concerned with not repeating past mistakes(I guess that goes along with evidence-based policy).

    And did I mention again how they are perfectly willing to make nearly everyone miserable just to satisfy their very narrow policy goal of taking more political power?

    • soullite says:

      ooga booga! Republicans gonna gitya!

      Most people think BOTH parties are completely insane. You’re the mad one here for thinking one of them isn’t a joke.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Which doesn’t change the fact that there are many areas in which the Democrats, as a whole, are better, and none in which they are worse.

        • jeer9 says:

          Public education.

          • DrDick says:

            So abolishing public education, or at least defunding it, is better than what the Dems are doing?? Are you frakking insane?

            • jeer9 says:

              Please explain to me how Race To The Top and the charter school propaganda, not to mention Arne’s merit pay crap, are superior to No Child’s Behind Left. When was the last time you stepped inside the trenches?

              • DrDick says:

                I teach at a public university in Montana. I freaking live in the trenches.

              • jeer9 says:

                Then you should know better, DrDick. And I won’t comment on your belief that university teaching is the same as public high school – though it explains a lot.

              • DrDick says:

                I never said they are the same, just that I see the results of Republican defunding of public education everyday in my freshmen students. No Child Left Behind is nothing compared to what a lot of the Republicans want to do, and some are trying to do here.

              • jeer9 says:

                Well, it’s getting much worse under the current administration, not better. The Dems have swallowed the Right’s BS about education and are pushing it even further.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                What’s the comparison here?

                Certainly, the range of things that Republicans across the country want to do to education is worse than the range of things that Democrats want to do.

                But the comparison here is between the particular policies of the Bush administration and the particular policies of the Obama administration. So let me repeat the question:

                How is Race to the Top better than No Child Left Behind?

              • DrDick says:

                Incontentia -

                The original question was about areas where the Democrats as a whole are worse than Republicans, not about those programs. My response was clearly in regard the total scope of Republican policy initiatives.

              • wengler says:

                Race to the Top is a lot smaller program than No Child Left Behind. Everyone has to remember that when Republicans design a social program they are looking for it to do a very specific thing: give rich people a lot of money.

                NCLB was designed to defund public schools and ‘prove’ they are absolute failures. Race to the Top is a dumb program that is supported by many misguided but well-meaning people. But in the end it is much smaller in scope than NCLB.

              • jeer9 says:

                More misinformation. Read Diane Ravitch’s ten points about RTTP.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Most people think BOTH parties are completely insane

        Evidence?

        Anyone who think the Democrats are equally insane is not paying attention. Yes, they suck, but one party believes in the long term, while the other believes Jesus is returning any moment now, and rules accordingly.

        • willf says:

          Anyone who think the Democrats are equally insane is not paying attention.

          Oh, you mean voters?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          To say that both parties are insane is not to say they are equal.

          Large majorities of the public dislike both parties. I agree with those voters (who may comprise at least a plurality) who dislike them both.

          But saying that doesn’t entail disliking them equally.

          This is a case in which the term “lesser evil” to describe the Democrats is very precise indeed.

          • wengler says:

            I like to compare it to two cars racing toward the edge of a cliff. In the Republicans’ car the people are clamoring for the driver to go faster and faster in the belief that when they go off the cliff the car will magically learn how to fly.

            In the Democrats’ car you have some people telling the driver to slow down, some telling him to brake, others telling him to turn around.

            So yes, it does make sense to support a party that may eventually slow down and turn away from the edge of the cliff.

  4. soullite says:

    I’m just going to keep voting against Democrats until they get better. I don’t think this will ‘push them to the left’ in the conventional sense. But realistically, if the current leadership keeps failing over and over and over again, then the party itself will abandon them and get new leadership. If corporatist Democrats keep failing, sooner or later corporatist Democrats will be unable to win primaries.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I’m just going to keep voting against Democrats until they get better.

      Yeah, that’ll solve everything.

      1. Perpetual far-right GOP dominance.
      2. ???????
      3. Profit! And Greens running the Boulder city council!

      • Paul Campos says:

        The Boulder City Council is run by Trustifarians. They expend their political capital on prairie dog colony preservation, traffic circle policy, and human rights in Tibet.

      • DocAmazing says:

        Actually, in areas that are safe for Democrats (like where I live), voting against them from the left does keep them honest and force them to address our concerns. Hell, Cindy Sheehan shamed Nancy Pelosi last time out. Third-party voting in safe districts appears to be pretty useful.

        • TT says:

          For better or worse, we are not, and never really have been, a multi-party republic. Frankly, I would prefer a straight parliamentary system, but this is the lay of our land.

          So, instead of sending your vote to the nearest septic tank, why not invest time, energy, and money in primary challenges? Some fail and some succeed. And some, as the GOP ruefully found out this year, are incredibly counterproductive. But put enough of them together, in both House and Senate races, and you can eventually create a more ideologically and–much more importantly–politically disciplined party.

          • DocAmazing says:

            I don’t see the either/or there.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            We have never been a multiparty democracy. Yet third parties have long played a vital and important role in our politics. They don’t win. They do shift Overton Windows. Our political history would look very different (for better or for worse) without the Populists, the various Progressive Parties, George Wallace’s American Independent Party, or the Reform Party of the 1990s.

            On way in which dsquared is absolutely right is that voting is not only about winning. Voting behavior in “safe” (i.e. uncompetitive) districts is only the most obvious, limit case of this phenomenon.

        • djw says:

          I’ve actually voted for Jim McDermott’s Green opponent a couple of times, so I’m hardly in a position to be particularly critical of what you’re saying, but it’s not at all clear to me how it did any good.

          • soullite says:

            If it didn’t make any difference that you voted against him, then it could not have made a difference if you voted for him, either.

            Either one vote matters, or one vote doesn’t matter. You can’t really have it both ways.

            I’d wager more people feel like I do than feel like you do: Most people didn’t vote this year. Most people who don’t vote don’t not vote out of spite, or because they are lazy; they don’t vote because they don’t think it will make a difference one way or another.

            If anything, the strategy offered here (Namely always vote for Democrats no matter what they do or you are an evil, irrational childish lunatic) has led to the point where nobody takes the Democratic party seriously anymore but yellow dog dems.

            I remember the 00′s. Democrats kept losing, and it damn near killed the DLC. You won’t find anyone bragging about belonging to it, and a lot of people who want to pretend they never did. Had they kept losing, you’d have found people renouncing the DLC and everything it stood for.

        • DrDick says:

          I would not argue against that, but the problem is that most areas of the country do not fall into that category. Here in Montana, the choice is generally between so-so to indifferent Democrats and batshit crazy Republicans. There is no competition from the left.

      • soullite says:

        If all you have is warmed over bullshit you heard on southpark, then really you have nothing. Explain to me where the logic fails. Do you actually believe that the Democratic party will stick to the same leadership that loses time after time after time?

        Unless you have anything better to offer as a suggestion, and it is clear that you do not, then I’m going with my plan. You can do whatever you want to do, but stop appropriating cultural symbols from my generation that you clearly do not understand whatsoever.

        And really, tell me when the Democrats opposed going to other countries and murdering innocent people, because I remember 2002 and 2003, and I remember then standing right behind GWB. So far all you’ve had is childish invective and outright lies.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yes, how surprising that Congress would go along with a war the president wanted — that is entirely without historical precedent. Obviously Gore would have done the same thing!

        • djw says:

          Did you actually just angrily stop your feet and assert a proprietary generational ownership over a South Park meme? Did that actually happen?

          I have no idea if I’m of the proper age to use that particular cultural reference, but it seems to me a not-unreasonable way of addressing the painfully obvious lacunae at the heart of your political strategy, in which empowering Republicans moves the Democratic party squarely to the left, while remaining electorally viable.

          Of course, since you seem to think the moderate decline in fortunes of the DLC (now conveniently rebranded as the Third Way, but never mind) is the most significant political event of the 2000′s, I’ve lowered my expectations accordingly.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Hey, don’t forget Greens will also be running the Santa Cruz and Eugene city councils….

      • willf says:

        Not that I agree with soulless, but the even-handed liberal in me must point out that the alternative is just as unbounded across the middle.

        1. Vote for Democrats, who will always and up spitting on you, and running to the right.
        2. ???????
        3. Profit!

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Except that the Democrats are, in fact, significantly and measurably better, which is what matters when voting in a two-party system. The larger problem is that there seems to be an underlying assumption that, given the right tactics, it would be possible for American political institutions and political culture to produce a continental-style social democracy. The problem is that this assumption is almost certainly false.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I’m just going to keep voting against Democrats until they get better.

      Heightening the contradictions never works. Never.

    • Anonymous says:

      Soullite strikes me as everything that is wrong with the (online) left in this country – whiny, overweening self-indulgent screeching blinding him/her to very real costs involved in not getting off your ass and attacking the hell out of Republicans constantly, consistently, articulately, and without any reservations. The “progressive” movement seems to me to be full of basement dwelling isolates wasting time clamoring for a great daddy Obama prince to rescue America and turn it into freaking Sweden overnight. Instead of going out, commando style, to forefend these Republican morons at town hall meetings, the spend their time firing their tiny toy pistols in the direction of people who are at least semi-sympathetics. I have absolutely no respect and no sympathy for this progressive idiocy.

      Of course, honestly, I don’t care about the Dems either. They suck. Whatever. My point is that if we lose sight of the fact that the Republicans are basically an existential threat to American life and fail to fight these mother fuckers with everything we’ve got, people – and I mean lots of people – are going to die in wars and die of poverty. There are real costs to not pushing against the REAL enemies here. It wastes time and it wastes energy. And it also wastes credibility. Nobody – and I mean nobody – is going to take the left seriously if it whines about how “Obama is no better than Bush.” Half this country thinks the man is a socialist for crying out loud! The fact that people in this country are so woefully ill-informed is not the fault of anybody but the left, who have consistently failed to stand up against anybody but their own.

  5. Bob says:

    There are some blogs I have stopped reading because they were so over-heated in their anti-Obama pro-Clinton ways during the primaries. Even when they put forth legitimate critiques of Obama today I simply can’t grant them any legitimacy. Had President Clinton done the exact same thing you know they’d be singing her praises.
    I never saw them as being all that different: those who look at Clinton and Obama and see Chomsky and Reid have zero credibility on anything.

  6. Bloix says:

    Wengler, it is a given that (1) Democratic politicians are hacks who 9 times out of 10 will sell out their base in favor of policies that favor their rich contributors, and (2) Republican policiticans are homicidal psychopaths who are bent on destroying the world and killing us all. Okay? That’s the baseline.

    It should also be clear as can be that, given the horrific structural defects in our electoral system, the only choice is to vote for Democrats. Voting for anyone other than a Democrat is the equivalent of casting one-half of a vote for the murderous lunatics.

    The only issue worth discussing is, WHY CAN’T DEMOCRATS WIN ELECTIONS AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

    • jeer9 says:

      Because they don’t represent the interests that they’re supposed to. Rewarding the same BS nonsense every election cycle and expecting there to be change is the definition of insanity. Republican policies always fail. Let them fail again. Let them take the blame. There will come another historic moment like 2008 – and perhaps then we’ll elect a candidate who actually is willing stand behind his rhetoric.

      • L2P says:

        Meanwhile, in the real world, an equally likely scenario is:

        1. The republicans block all meaningful legislation except some minor deregulation and tax cuts;

        2. Obama loses in 2012 because of the terrible economy and protest votes for pro-gay rights Candidate Newsom from California;

        3. President Romney enacts a Tax Cuts Aplently/Deregulate everything platform;

        4. There’s a slight rebound in the economy, because it’s bound to happen eventually;

        5. The pundits declare that tax cuts and deregulation solve all economic problems for all time based on absolutely no evidence. Actual analysis, like always, is ignored.

        6. For the next 50 years, anyone running on a platform of regulating the economy or not cutting taxes is openly mocked by whatever the current incarnation of Wolf Blitzer.

        Still, enjoy the idealogical purity of not having to vote for the lesser of two evils.

        • soullite says:

          Yeah. At the end of the day, a lunatic who wants to eat your baby after he’s killed it isn’t really any better than one who wants to bury it.

        • jeer9 says:

          Too funny. I think I just lived through that decade – with the Democrats running hand and hand down the deregulation hill with their “opponents.” That swamp must look like an autobahn in your reality. Best of luck with it. And Obama has absolutely no worries about his re-election unless he receives a threat from his left. The crazies just elected to Congress are going to make him look like a model of reasonableness and the Right’s nominee will be a Tea Party loyalist. That’s the deal that’s been made and Obama has fulfilled his part of the bargain: slap the progressive left hard (check); increase voter apathy and cynicism (check); increase spending on unwinnable wars (check); ignore the rule of law (check); and tout his Big Business reforms as a rebirth of the New Deal (check). The duopoly created the Tea Party specifically to frighten the masters of strategery in the center into accepting the ever-increasing slant rightward. Still, enjoy the smarmy feelings of adult practicality. It’s always wrong to act in a counter-intuitive fashion.

          • L2P says:

            Seriously? The health care bill is “deregulation?” The financial reform act from last summer is “deregulatoin?” We can argue those acts “suck” or “don’t go far enough” but to say they’re “deregulation” is simply crazy. The repubs are going to spend the next two years trying to undo them.

            That leaves me with only two questions. Are you high? Or are you insane?

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Yep, it’s that kind of knowledge that leads you to conclude that “logically” there’s no difference between the parties. The idea that the health care system is now less regulated couldn’t be more absurd, which is why insurance companies fought tooth and nail against it.

    • wengler says:

      Pretty much. The Democrats almost did the right thing about letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over 250k. The fact is the Democrats are the only institutional party that has members elected interested in governing semi-responsibly.

      Tax cuts for the rich during two wars are something I still can’t find any historical precedent for. Republicans are truly insane.

  7. cer says:

    In the last two years the GOP has managed to consistently make the argument that Bush was a failure because he was not conservative enough. Democrats backpedal from victory. In 2000, Gore ran away from Clinton and then after he won the popular vote (and EC college), he was hidden away. This year Dems ran away from Obama as quickly as possible and a large number of them still believe the way to win is to become republicans.

    • DocAmazing says:

      Since we keep bringing up Marx, the question a Marxian would ask is: cui bono?

      If you look at who pays the bills (corporate donors), the behavior makes a great deal of sense.

    • soullite says:

      I doubt Gore mattered much. Hillary Clinton ran some really nice commercials, too. I knew better than to vote for D-Credit Card Co’s, the War Queen of the Senate.

      People like them steal our money and send our friends off to die while they make shady deals and crooked investments and get rich by preventing us from ever getting anything.

  8. In large part the choice seems to be between a) slow steady decline in economic conditions for around 75% of people, equality of wealth distribution and social welfare and poor management of the economy leading to eventual systemic collapse (Democrats in Charge) or b) sharp rapid decline in economic conditions of 95% of people, vast increase in inequality and decline in social welfare, and catastrophic mismanagement of the economy leading to near-term systemic collapse (Republicans in Charge.)

    To me the most relevant question is which scenario leads most quickly to real opportunities for genuine progress. Put it another way – under current conditions (really awful, but not say, 1990s Russia or even 1970s Britain awful) it is still plausible for Marco Rubio to give a victory speech in which he spouts utter horseshit about how the USA is the greatest country in the world, and nowhere else could a son of Cuban immigrants become a Senator and blah blah blah. The ‘American Dream’ myth is so hegemonic that no amount of actual data showing social mobility in the US is stagnant or even in reverse will penetrate it. Now if things were REALLY REALLY bad somebody might be tempted to point out the Emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes.

    And from a strictly tactical point – the duopoly system means that when Democrats are nominally in charge cleaning up the horrific mess left by previous Republican governments, the Republicans can credibly (in the US media environment anyway) blame them for the mess and claim that another bitchin’ kegger will get the house clean before Mom and Dad get home. On the other hand, if the GOP is running the show and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio refuse to raise the debt ceiling or something equally stupid it will be much more difficult for them to escape blame for the catastrophic consequences. That has a better chance of forcing fundamental rethinks in political and economic programmes and preferences than anything else. Either that or New York and California etc. saying ‘fuck it, we’re forming our own countries and you morons in flyover country can have President Coburn and see how that goes for you.’

    • jeer9 says:

      Thank you, Daragh.

    • Simple Mind says:

      Thanks from me2

    • Bloix says:

      Yes, heighten the contradictions. That will work. It’s got a hell of a track record.

      • Well speaking only on behalf of my own small island, its the only thing that ever has worked. We’ve only ever seen basic and fundamental changes to the hegemonic discourse amongst the political and media elite. Now that things have gotten really bad (again) we may be on the verge of finally abandoning the Civil War era cleavages and loyalties that have defined the political system for decades and switching to a more traditional (and productive) left-right divide. I’ll take that and the prospect for genuine long-term systemic change over a temporary stabilisation any day.

    • Captain Splendid says:

      That has a better chance of forcing fundamental rethinks

      Exactly. All this analysis forgets the simple fact that the narrative paint liberals and Democrats as the bad guys whose only acceptable move is to renounce their sins and join the ‘good guys’.

      That’s not politics, that’s abuse. And you don’t get out of abusive relationships by doing anything remotely like playing by any kind of ruleset.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Exactly not.

        Heightening the contradictions doesn’t work. In part because nobody questions the two party system. Republicans making things worse faster only gets Democrats making things worse slower back in office. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        Either the Democratic Party needs to be fundamentally reformed, the two party system needs to be fundamentally altered, or we need an actual revolution. None of those things seems at all likely to me.

        But there’s no reason whatsoever to think that electing batshit crazy Republicans will make any of them easier. Indeed, as we saw after 2000, corporate liberals use Republican victories to consolidate power within the Democratic Party. Nader didn’t cost Democrats the 2000 election, but Democrats sincerely believed that he did. And they moved further to the right over the next eight years.

        Making things worse in the short run doesn’t necessarily make things better in the medium-to-long run. And along the way, on the margins, real people are hurt by the idiotic, half-baked applications of the principle of heightening the contradictions.

        • You misunderstand me I think. I’m arguing that there’s a limit as to how bad things can actually get until the alternate reality universe constantly espoused by GOP hacks becomes unsustainable and we can begin to have real conversations about the lack of social mobility, inequality etc. without someone screaming ‘socialist’ or ‘European.’ In other words – we have to get to the point where someone talking about the USA being ‘the greatest country on god’s green earth’ is LAUGHED at rather than saluted with a tear in one’s eye, when nativism doesn’t work because no-one wants to immigrate to a country that is plainly a basket case, and most importantly when the parasite caste of the top .1% simply runs out of shit to steal from everyone else. Because its going to happen with either the current iteration of the Democratic or Republican parties in charge, and from a justice point of view – IMHO – it is far better that it happen quickly and now, so we can begin serious re-construction (and when there’s no way the GOP can escape blame) rather than over decades.

          In other words the response from progressives to Randroid threats to filibuster raising the deficit cap should be ‘go right ahead.’ Then we can rebuild when the dust settles.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            I’m arguing that there’s a limit as to how bad things can actually get until the alternate reality universe constantly espoused by GOP hacks becomes unsustainable and we can begin to have real conversations about the lack of social mobility, inequality etc. without someone screaming ’socialist’ or ‘European.’

            There may be such a limit, but we’re nowhere near it yet, and before we get there, truly horrific things can happen. I’m thinking Rwanda, Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia…

            Not that we’re anywhere near any of those scenarios (we aren’t).

            But history suggests that a country can arrive at, e.g., genocide long before the reality principle kicks in and begins forcing it to question national myths (indeed, in the case of Nazi Germany, that principle never kicked in…foreign occupation occurred first).

            Frankly, when it comes to our incredibly circumscribed electoral politics, limiting the damages seems like a safer bet.

            • Yes but you also have to think of what those countries routinely suffered as ‘normality’ beforehand. I had a prof once who explained to me that the Soviet view of the US, post-WW2 was essentially that the USSR would prevail because its civilian population was more geared towards suffering. He called it the Annie Hall problem –

              Annie Hall: Sometimes I ask myself how I’d stand up under torture.
              Alvy Singer: You? You kiddin’? If the Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale’s charge card, you’d tell ‘em everything.

              I don’t think economic anarchy would be a good thing per se, nor will I guarantee it will lead to a better future. But it might. The USSR in the 1970′s 1980′s was awful as the system tried ‘reform’ and failed and totally unjust. The 1990′s were horrific. The 2000s have been better from a social welfare point of view than almost any point in Russian history. America’s choice is when the tipping point into the tar pits is, how long the awful decline is before the tipping point, and how quickly it clambers out and towels off and tries something new.

        • Captain Splendid says:

          Making things worse in the short run doesn’t necessarily make things better in the medium-to-long run.

          Maybe. But when your problems are systemic, as they are here, the opposite doesn’t hold either, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Who said the opposite held?

            I think our elections are 100% irrelevant to solving our real, longterm problems, none of which are being seriously addressed by either party.

            So the right question to ask is, given this fact, who will do less short term damage. And, for all their inadequacy, the answer is almost always the Democrats.

            Solutions to our longterm problems have to be found somewhere other than in normal, electoral politics.

    • Ian says:

      The ‘American Dream’ myth is so hegemonic that no amount of actual data showing social mobility in the US is stagnant or even in reverse will penetrate it. Now if things were REALLY REALLY bad somebody might be tempted to point out the Emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes.

      This is supposed to be a political strategy? “It’s never worked before…but maybe it will work *this* time!” I’d rather collect underpants.

      At any rate, you display a fundamental misunderstanding of how the American myth works. The perpetual complement to the American Dream is the American Jeremiad: we have lost our way, we must become again that shining city on the hill, etc., etc. That’s why Republicans can win in the midst of an economic catastrophe they created.

      All that aside, “let’s let things get really bad” is a shockingly immoral political position. Only people who have never suffered any serious economic hardship could endorse such a philosophy.

      • If there is a real progressive minority party/movement/whatever in the country ready to present a consistent and principled critique of the current order it might just be able to co-opt that Jeremiad and show a different path to the Dream as the current one is discredited.

        Secondly, on me being ‘shockingly immoral.’ My point is that I do not believe that Democratic policies will significantly reduce economic harship. Especially in the long run. In fact I think they’re likely to perpetuate said economic harship by doing nothing to address structural economic and political problems that lead to it. All they can do is be a clean-up crew that stabilise the economic situation after the GOP gets through one of its binges, and then lose the next election and allow the GOP to do it all over again, until the damage gets too great to repair.

        I don’t WANT things to get really bad, but I don’t think there’s anyway to KEEP that from happening. The only difference is does it happen NOW and result in a shorter period of collapse followed by a rethink of the fundamentals, or does it happen 15-20 years down the line followed by another bipartisan attempt to bandage up the corpse? I know which one I prefer.

        • Malaclypse says:

          All that aside, “let’s let things get really bad” is a shockingly immoral political position. Only people who have never suffered any serious economic hardship could endorse such a philosophy.

          It is not just economics. Democrats start (marginally) fewer wars of aggression. While Gore would have undoubtedly continued brutal sanctions and air strikes against Iraq, he would not have invaded. Heightening the contradictions back in 2000 has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

          I don’t WANT things to get really bad, but I don’t think there’s anyway to KEEP that from happening. The only difference is does it happen NOW and result in a shorter period of collapse followed by a rethink of the fundamentals, or does it happen 15-20 years down the line followed by another bipartisan attempt to bandage up the corpse?

          Genuine, non-snarky question: why do you think that the “rethink of the fundamentals” will go in a direction you want? It seems obvious to me that the most likely rethink in this country at this time means a military coup.

          • It is not just economics. Democrats start (marginally) fewer wars of aggression. While Gore would have undoubtedly continued brutal sanctions and air strikes against Iraq, he would not have invaded. Heightening the contradictions back in 2000 has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

            Absolutely true, but also requires 20/20 hindsight. One could also make the point that the Democratic response – when they controlled the freaking Senate and could have feasibly done something to stop the war, was to declare collectively ‘we must vote for the war or Republicans will call us America hating weenies and we’ll lose elections.’ Then Republicans called them America hating weenies and they lost the election.

            Genuine, non-snarky question: why do you think that the “rethink of the fundamentals” will go in a direction you want? It seems obvious to me that the most likely rethink in this country at this time means a military coup.

            Good point. And to be honest, I’m not sure it will. But if its a question of 0% chance of progressive change under current system vs. say 35-40% chance during a ‘rethink’ period, its an easy choice. And again, this is at least somewhat about political posture and organisation – unless there’s a relatively coherent and organised group with a relatively coherent and compelling critique of WHY we need to rethink, the chances it goes the direction I would prefer rapidly diminish. And I would argue that its difficult to see the Democratic party being that vehicle.

            Now I should be clear that this doesn’t mean I argue against voting Democratic. Far from it. I would have been pleased to see Pelosi retain the gavel this Wednesday if only to wipe the smirk off Glenn Beck’s face. And I think life for a lot of people would have been appreciably better. But nor should we be under any illusions that the Democratic party will implement all but the most marginal of solutions in its current incarnation, and will be perennially in hock to right-flank wankers like Bayh and Nelson, unless there is also an upper limit of shit we are prepared to take.

            Put it another way – Ben Nelson was one of the main reasons the ‘shellacking’ took place through his cretinous knee-capping of the stimulus bill. Why should any Nebraska Democrat lift a finger to help him win re-election? Or refrain from primarying him on the grounds that his vote is in many ways worse than useless, especially long term?

        • Ian says:

          If there is a real progressive minority party/movement/whatever in the country ready to present a consistent and principled critique of the current order it might just be able to co-opt that Jeremiad and show a different path to the Dream as the current one is discredited.

          Of course–every political movement in American history has used, or tried to use, the jeremiad, from Jerry Falwell to MLK. But you’re changing your argument: previously, you were suggesting exploding the American myth, not exploiting it.

          Secondly, on me being ’shockingly immoral.’ My point is that I do not believe that Democratic policies will significantly reduce economic harship. Especially in the long run.

          Right. That’s the part I consider shockingly immoral. When Democrats vote to extend unemployment benefits, or raise the minimum wage, or expand Medicaid coverage, and so on, economic hardship is tangibly reduced without doing much to change the system. Your position is that it would be better for people to suffer so that eventually the inequities of the system would become so glaring that it would collapse. Actually, it’s even worse than that: you’re prepared to condemn people to suffering on the *chance* that something better would emerge. I couldn’t live with that on my conscience, and I suspect that the only reason you can is that it’s all abstract for you: you don’t know anyone who is in severe economic hardship, and you can’t imagine this impending collapse affecting your own life in a serious way.

          I don’t WANT things to get really bad

          Well, yes, you do. It’s essential to your strategy. You should at least be able to cop to that.

          • Mate, if you want to make wild assertions about my economic status or those of my friends, family etc. go right ahead, but I can assure you you’re wrong. I actually live in a country that would be hugely affected by US economic collapse and without even the ability to take measures beyond general storm weathering.

            And yes – the Democrats can extend unemployment benefits which is good. They’ve not had a great record of actually creating jobs, or acknowledging that government can and indeed SHOULD create jobs, all of which is bad. Moreover my contention is that the Dems can extend unemployment benefits without creating jobs, up until the GOP gets back in power and yanks said benefits away. All of this without even having a conversation on shocking economic inequality.

            My argument has been based consistently on an assumption that a future ‘very bad’ scenario is going to happen under current structural conditions no matter what. The choice is not between Bad and not Bad. Its about when it gets bad, for how long, and do we have a coherent critique and program of action ready when it does or are we going to be caught saying, essentially, ‘don’t blame us, we supported the guys who would have staved off the collapse for a good 10-20 years.’

            • Ian says:

              Mate, if you want to make wild assertions about my economic status or those of my friends, family etc. go right ahead

              I’m sincerely sorry about that. I’m a little testy these days.

              My argument has been based consistently on an assumption that a future ‘very bad’ scenario is going to happen under current structural conditions no matter what. The choice is not between Bad and not Bad. Its about when it gets bad, for how long, and do we have a coherent critique and program of action ready when it does or are we going to be caught saying, essentially, ‘don’t blame us, we supported the guys who would have staved off the collapse for a good 10-20 years.’

              Okay. I’m not a determinist or an apocalyptist, so we’ll just have to disagree about the first part of this. Much of this sounds to me like attacking trade unions because they’re delaying the workers’ paradise. As for “do we have a coherent critique and program of action ready”: some of “we” do have a coherent critique of late capitalism, certainly, but none of “we” have a feasible program of action for taking power and we’re not going to get one.

              • I’m sincerely sorry about that. I’m a little testy these days.

                No worries.

                Okay. I’m not a determinist or an apocalyptist, so we’ll just have to disagree about the first part of this. Much of this sounds to me like attacking trade unions because they’re delaying the workers’ paradise. As for “do we have a coherent critique and program of action ready”: some of “we” do have a coherent critique of late capitalism, certainly, but none of “we” have a feasible program of action for taking power and we’re not going to get one.

                I think I’m less radical than you might assume here in that I’m all for capitalism and the market. Just sensibly regulated capitalism and a normative paradigm treating the market as a tool to foster human development not as an end in itself.

                I’m not necessarily a determinist but I do tend to believe that the structures of governance and the channels of mass media in the contemporary US have made it impossible for, shall we say, the ‘masses’ to get an accurate diagnosis of the problems afflicting the state much less the appropriate remedies. Moreover if by some off chance CNN or Fox happened to broadcast someone who said ‘Of course the founding fathers weren’t omnipotent god-kings and the structures of governance they devised are wholly inadequate for a 21st Century Republic and we need to consider changes’ the message would be ignored. Because as much as the American model of democratic capitalism has failed, it hasn’t failed enough to make that failure undeniable and move towards a debate about ‘what can we do to change’ vs. a debate between the mythical version of the founding fathers in Mike Huckabee’s head vs. those in Mitt Romney’s.

    • wengler says:

      Revolutionary defeatism doesn’t have a terribly good track record. It is a lot easier to destroy something than to build it.

      I grew up in the South. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is remarkable and evident every single day in every single way. This is where the whole of America is going. And how do they vote there? Well rich and poor both vote Republican of course. Judgment is left to God not to man, and even though I am living in my trailer home I am still better off than the black man and my guns are securely stowed above my bed for the time that I may need them to fend off the feds(Democrats) and their black welfare agenda.

      The poorer you get the more you gotta work just to live, the less critical thinking you do about how you got there. Chances are you’re just not gonna vote, and if you do you are just gonna put your peasant mentality of “any change means I’m dead” first.

      • Revolutionary defeatism doesn’t have a terribly good track record. It is a lot easier to destroy something than to build it.

        Absolutely agreed on almost every point (though I would argue that race-baiting as an electoral strategy has more explanatory value as to why the South hasn’t evolved a real class based cleavage as opposed to ‘peasant’ mentality.)

        But ‘stay the course with moderate, marginal improvements every now and then’ isn’t a hell of a good strategy either. And I haven’t seen anyone coming up with a plausible scenario in which the structural features of the US political system that have been so effective in hindering progressive change for the past 30-40 years while shovelling ever more fabulous rewards at the small caste of American citizens who actually fund and have the ear of both parties can be changed under current conditions, or by supporting the Democrats unconditionally.

        • Ian says:

          But ’stay the course with moderate, marginal improvements every now and then’ isn’t a hell of a good strategy either.

          Well, let’s count it up. On the side of incremental improvement helping countries transition from authoritarian regimes to something resembling social democracies we’ve got places like Taiwan, South Korea, much of Latin America, Spain, Greece, India, and the UK. On the side of “everything got so terrible that all of a sudden the people insisted on a more progressive government” we’ve got…nowhere, as far as I can tell. Even Eastern Europe and South Africa don’t really fit into this model, since their revolutions came once things had gotten substantially better.

          • On the side of “everything got so terrible that all of a sudden the people insisted on a more progressive government” we’ve got…nowhere, as far as I can tell.

            Try, everything east of the Berlin wall from 1989 onwards. It doesn’t mean they all got more progressive governments, but many did. Others are still struggling to do so. And as bad as someone like Putin is, let it be remembered – his style of minimally democratic authoritarianism is still considerably less repressive than Brezhnevism, and he has presided over the only sustained period of increased and significant material welfare of the Russian people since… well almost ever. Nazarbaev for all his flaws has done the same for the Kazakhs.

            Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan all saw revolutions precisely because of the sudden deterioration of the legitimacy of the political regime due to questions of economic rights and justice. Two out of those three saw sustained improvements, albeit while suffering significant mistakes along the way.

            The one that failed? Ukraine – primarily because things weren’t SO bad that Yushchenko/Tymoshenko could effectively banish the ancien regime completely. Yanukovych remained a powerful player, power was transferred to the parliament were the oligarchs could more effectively wield stolen power, and all sorts of patronage networks and schemes were left untouched. The result? Bck to the future in 2010.

            • Ian says:

              Try, everything east of the Berlin wall from 1989 onwards.

              Did you read to the end of my last paragraph? I think it’s pretty clear that economic and political conditions in non-SSR Eastern Europe were considerably better in the late 1980s than they had been in previous decades. Furthermore, you’re really talking about subject peoples here, which isn’t exactly a comparable model.

              • I did and I think you’re wrong on the ‘things got substantially better’ part (economic conditions across the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc were if anything on something of a downward slope.) As for them being subject peoples, there’s something to that – but the Eastern bloc states had their own governments with independent means of repression and a considerable degree of control over internal policy, and the Russians did eventually rise up themselves.

  9. Let’s take a look at where Democrats won.

    Deval Patrick, as close a friend as Obama has in politics, won Massachusetts handily.
    Within a year of Scott Brown, a Tea Party fave, taking the Senate seat held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy.

    Yes, liberals in Mass experienced disappointment with Deval, but we got out the vote, knocking on 400,000 doors on Tuesday. And we locked out the Republicans from all statewide and congressional seats. Liberal bastions like Boston and Cambridge turned out big for Democrats, and we kept the vote close in the suburbs and Republican towns.

    The way for Democrats to win is to talk to neighbors, friends and family, person to person, face to face, and ask for their votes. These social bonds are stronger than the nastiest TV ads and robo-calling pushpolls. People don’t pick up the phone anymore.

    You can call this a “machine” but it is the most personal and dignified form of campaigning.

    And it wins.

    • djw says:

      It’s looking like the a similar story can be told about Seattle–a late surge of turnout efforts leading to an unusually high turnout in King County–71%!–putting Murray over the top and possibly saving WA-02, not to mention the state house and senate.

      • cer says:

        This is apparently the key to Reid’s victory as well and does seem to be a way to combat massive spending by PACs. And makes Bloix’s point from downthread. Voting is not the only or even the most important political action. People who want the party to win need to be pounding the pavement. People who want to shape the party should do it with more than just their individual vote.

        • gmack says:

          Bingo! The annoying thing about these debates is that they assume that voting is the only relevant political action (from which it would follow that my decision about whom to vote for is the Most Important Political Decision). Heightening the contradictions is useless unless there is actually a viable leftist alternative that can make sense of what has gone wrong and what can be done differently (after all, a crisis can also become an opportunity to tack more radically to the right; given how well organized the right tends to be, this strikes currently strikes me as the much more likely outcome of a deepening crisis, at least in the near term). Similarly, voting for Democrats because they’re marginally better than Republicans is also useless unless there is actually a left movement that has a viable left that can push the party in better directions.

          And this viable alternative is only available through things like social movements, organization, and so on. I’ll add that, to my mind, this goes beyond party politics, but more importantly, it certainly goes beyond simply voting.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            This.

            And I’d add the following two observations:

            1) Though centralizing GOTV worked very well for Obama in 2008, essentially sucking the lifeblood out of local and independent organizing is a terrible way to fight most non-presidential elections. Democrats built no new local machines. So the people who could win last Tuesday were those who had machines of longstanding. Obama’s control-freaky style of political organization looked very good next to the disarray of the Clinton and McCain campaigns, but ultimately there’s as much bug as feature in it.

            2) We need a non-partisan, non-electoral progressive populist political movement that can exert pressure from without on Democratic elected officials and candidates. The “left,” such as it is, has become far, far too invested in electoral politics. Since we have no organized means of non-electoral expression, and 99% of the time our only means of electoral expression is voting for Democrats (or idiotically “heightening the contradictions”), our options are severely limited and failure is more or less assured.

  10. Pithlord says:

    Interestingly, the best critique of dsquared’s analysis is from Julian Sanchez, who effectively showed it is too individualistic. What should matter to a voter who identifies with a movement is how the movement votes. If you identify with labor or the women’s movement or the black community, then there is really no doubt that the Movement votes Democratic, not Green. Voting Green is an act of individual entitlement, which is a bad basis for progressive politics. Things would of course be different if the movement collectively decided to back a third party, as the labour movement does in Canada.

    Realistically, each of these movements is going to be committed to the Democratic coalition for the foreseeaable future, and will at most launch primary challenges.

    If your theory of change is not movement based, then it is hard to see how it could really be on the left.

    I actually think dsquared would get this in the UK context. If you don’t cross picket lines, you vote Labour. No matter what and for the same reason.

    • DocAmazing says:

      This would, of course, work better if the Democratic party were actually committed to any of the above movements. They shoved organized labor overboard some time ago and treat it like a bad smell. The black community has been treated to the sight of the Dems running like scalded dogs from ACORN and Shirley Sherrod and Van Jones. The women’s movement got the Lily Ledbetter act (good work! Don’t stop!) and a lot of doubletalk on reproductive rights.

      Having a party that one votes for because of movement identification would be a great idea. Now we just need that party.

      • willf says:

        The women’s movement got the Lily Ledbetter act (good work! Don’t stop!) and a lot of doubletalk on reproductive rights.

        And then they got Stupakked in a back alley.

      • Henry Holland says:

        Add to Doc’s list: gays & lesbians are treated as campaign ATM’s –you knew that all gay men are wealthy like David Geffen, right?– and our “fierce advocate” will fight for our rights, except when he’s kissing the ass of ex-gay homophobes like Donnie McClurkin and hiding behind procedure for the repeal of DADT. ENDA or DOMA? Hahahahaha, homo please.

      • Pithlord says:

        You miss the point. The point isn’t that the Democrats support these movements, but that the movements support the Democrats.

        The Democrats, like the Republicans, are an electoral machine for trying to win the median voter while doing just enough to keep the coalition together. Their problem is that the Democrats’ coalition is, was and always will be mroe heterogenous than the Republicans’ coalition.

        • DocAmazing says:

          You miss the point. The point isn’t that the Democrats support these movements, but that the movements support the Democrats.

          Yeah. That’s kinda the problem. See, the people who comprise the movements have supported the Dems for a very long while and have gotten merde for it. You don’t have to be BF Skinner to understand why people might just stop working for an organization that is clearly not working for them.

    • Yes. This. A thousand times this.

      As I said in the original thread on CrookedTimber:

      I’m rather astounded that a piece authored from the left of the Democratic Party would leave out a fundamental left-wing truth about how democracy actually works in favor of a classical-liberal individualist fairytale: democracy is the collective action of power through the creation of a majority coalition. The individual vote doesn’t matter because it’s not supposed to – unless joined together with the votes of others.

      In the end, that’s why you should vote Democratic. Because that’s where the forces that would actually push for the things that you want to happen are – that’s where labor is, that’s where the poor are, that’s where African-Americans and Latinos and Asians and Native Americans are, that’s where a plurality of women are, and that’s where a majority of the young are. And they are engaged and have been engaged for a long time in a struggle to make the Democratic Party progressive in deed as well as in speech – and they need your help inside the party to make that happen. Leaving aside the electoral implications of your suggestion, progressive abstention will never do anything to reduce the power of conservative Democrats within the Democratic Party – full stop.

      The second and related major point of disagreement is that you ignore an entire area of politics between electoral politics and non-electoral politics – namely, internal party politics. The very things that disappoint you about the Democratic Party – gay marriage, environmental regulation, redistribution, party discipline and efficient organization – are all decided within the party. If you want to move the party on those issues, if you want to replace “a bunch of old white guys, most of them rather rightwing” with candidates more to your liking, there is simply no organization better suited to do that than your local, state, and national Democratic Party. The Party organization, in the end, is the institution that has the most say in what candidates are nominated, what the party’s platform and agenda will be.

      Which is why beginning your argument from the position of a disaffected progressive at the voting both is mistaken, in my opinion, because the real opportunity for progressives comes long before that. It starts with joining your local party committee, and becoming a delegate to conventions, and building coalitions, so that when we get to the point of primaries, you have enough people with you to swing votes away from the conservative wing to the progressive wing. And after that, it’s about building the organization to ensure that those progressives win. I just spent a weekend up in Dublin, California, going door to door in the pouring rain for Jerry McNerny – because he’s one of ours, and because he’s up against a Tea Partier who wants to abolish public education, and unless candidates like Jerry win, we have no votes to push a progressive agenda.

      They matter, because another important variable you’ve left out of your analysis is the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the driving force of progressivism in national policy, may very well be replaced by John Boehner, and don’t think that the conservative Democrats’ knives won’t be out for her, the first progressive Speaker in a generation, as well. And I think the example of the House points to a major flaw in your analysis – the House has actually passed ENDA, DADT repeal, and other gay rights bills; the House actually passed a serious climate change bill, and some of the most progressive tax and spending bills in a generation. These things happened because progressives not only voted Democrats in, but also because they worked within the Party to build up the Progressive Caucus, and put in progressive chairmen and chairwomen. Losing the House means going from fighting over piecemeal gains to staving off right-wing onslaught, and giving extremist reactionaries the ability to defund health care reform and conduct witch hunts with the full power of the subpoena for years to come. It also means empowering conservative Democrats to go on a vendetta against the left of the parliamentary party.

      So that’s why you vote, not because of the marginal value to you as an individual, but because that’s how sovereign citizens of a democratic republic exercise power. And when you’re done with that, you go out and do GOTV, and phonebanking, and fundraising, and party development, and candidate recruitment – because that’s how individual votes are collected, and collated, and combined into a political force that can hold politicians accountable to a common platform.

      Seriously, to hell with marginal utility for the individual. The sovereign people is a collective – the utility is in getting enough people together to win.

      • DocAmazing says:

        As someone who has done some work within the state Democratic party to try to oust some of the more right-wing candidates within, I’m here to tell you: that party is very hostile to that sort of change. I’ve seen more improvement occur as a result of threats from without (Dems moving left because they need to keep Greens at bay) that I have from Dems trying to primary right-wing Dem candidates.

        Again, I don’t see the either/or here. Both approaches are needed.

        • I’ve done the same work, and are you honestly saying that the work is easier when you’ve got fewer allies inside voting with you?

          And while I don’t disagree that you do both – the dsquared position here is that you shouldn’t do one.

  11. scythia says:

    So…..what do you suggest be done, then?

    • Bloix says:

      What should be done? You work like hell between elections to push the Democratic party to the left. Then on election day you vote Democratic. Election day is way too late to be sending a message or working for change or punishing the apostates or anything like that. Election day is about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of people who want to help bring the Rapture in our lifetimes.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Disagree.

        You work like hell to build a non-electoral social movement to pressure the Democratic Party from the left.

        Then on election day, you hold your nose and vote for the Democrats, at least in competitive races.

        Then, after they win, you study your Alinsky and pressure them non-stop.

        Trying to move this Democratic Party to the left without such a social movement is a total waste of time, as Democratic progressives should have discovered over the last quarter century.

        • Sorry but this sounds entirely the same as Polly Toynbee’s ‘hold your nose and vote for Labour’ argument in the UK in 2005. Result? Three more years of Blairismo followed by the Brown interregnum and a centre-right coalition (which is of course, still vastly more progressive than any administration the Dems would conceivably put together.)

          ACTUAL significant withdrawal of support from Labour in 2005 would probably have snookered Blair, brought in a centre-left coalition, AND electoral reform that would have kept the Tories out for decades. Holding one’s nose just led to the most obnoxious book tour in history.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            And you’ve just described the difference between the US system and the British system, in which there’s a viable third party (however awful the Clegg-led ConDems look these days).

            ACTUAL significant withdrawal of support from Labour in 2005 would probably have snookered Blair, brought in a centre-left coalition, AND electoral reform that would have kept the Tories out for decades.

            There’s simply no possibility for such an outcome in the US.

            Had I been a UK voter in 2005, depending on the constituency, I would likely have voted LibDem.

            In the US in 2004, I was a David Cobb-supporting, “safe states” Green. Had I been able to vote for Cobb in my deeply red state, I would have. But had I been voting in a swing state I would have voted for Kerry. The only possible outcomes were Kerry or Bush. And things would have been less bad under Kerry (think two more center-right SCOTUS justices instead of the far right Alito and Roberts, which in effect would have meant no Citizens United decision).

            • I’m actually a moderate supporter of Clegg. I’m more Liberal than Social-Democrat, even if I’d prefer a more economically leftish government – but that was never on the cards.

              However the reason I’m MOST supportive of Clegg and crew is that they are promoting electoral reform, the single most important step in reshaping the awful British political (and economic) system. I’m sorry but I’m coalition all the way until (if) AV passes. Then I’m onto the party that can most credibly deliver PR. Then I’ll start thinking about how best to use my vote to support policies I want, because at the moment in the UK thats a pointless exercise.

              And that’s the problem with the US – the problems are deep and systemic, and yet the system is unusually resistant to change. Look at how difficult it is to change the filibuster – an obviously anti-democratic and terrible rule. How are you going to change the Senate itself, an obviously anti-democratic and terrible institution? Or overcome persistent GOP gerrymandering? Or an exclusively corporate and vacuous media?

              Isn’t it telling that this isn’t even on the agenda?

  12. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    So, I go to a blog like Balloon Juice where its “firebagger” (how I hate that term) punching time all the time, and people here are (pardon the ableism) fucking insane for hoping for GOP victories.

    I very well remember the 00s myself; I was probably saved from going to Iraq or A-Stan only through the combo of luck, timing, and even more luck. Yeah, I never, ever want to see a third party candidate enable the election of a Republican, and anyone who thinks a GOP Prez is going to bring about a progressive Democratic Party is just not with it.

    And please, if we’re gonna have doomsday 2012 scenarios, can we at least have more plausible Dem candidates than Gavin “I represent the Di Fi wing of the SF Democratic Party” Newsom? Jeebus, No progressive in SF itself would ever vote for Newsom for prez.

  13. Michael H Schneider says:

    It’s not right that the Tea Party gets to have all the fun. They have the gatherings in the parks, the costumes, the fun candidates. Like Christine (The Big O) O’Donnell. She’s clearly crazy, but she’s someone I wouldn’t mind splitting a 24 pack with. Before we were halfway through she’d be looking really really good.

    Now that I’m nearing 60, can I start a new chapter of the Youth International Party? How about ‘Pigasus, Episode 5: The Bacon Strikes Back’? I’ve been to too many really boring Democratic Party events. We need to become the Party! Party again

  14. Dave says:

    So many problems, when it comes down to it–why are Dems so bad? Why is our economy so fucked? Where do teabaggers come from? Why won’t climate change ever get solved?–problems of that sort all have solutions that start with killing millionaires.

  15. Simple Mind says:

    What “Next Time”?

  16. burritoboy says:

    What I find so astonishing about these types of discussions is how abstract they are. Political action isn’t limited to voting. People show up and comment on blogs when there are servile peons in Alabama and Oklahoma who are begging for someone – basically anyone – to come and rule them.

    Don’t any of you want power? Don’t any of you desire to command? Don’t any of you have enemies to punish and friends to benefit? What sort of human beings are you that you let scum mock and degrade you? Shouldn’t your enemies be terrified by the mere mention of your name? What sort of person allows a young woman to have her head stomped and the vermin who did that still live to insult her?

  17. PunditusMaximus says:

    I think a more interesting question is how to make the Dems stop hating their base so much that they’d rather lose elections than pursue good policy.

  18. Scott Lemieux says:

    I have to give jeer 9 this: his fondness for exceptionally implausible heighten-the-contradictions scenarios is at least consistent. We all remember his previous contribution to the field:

    1. Stop prosecuting child rapists if they’re sufficiently famous.
    2. ???????
    3. John Yoo in the Hague!

    • jeer9 says:

      The Duke of Sphincter returns, still obsessed about a complicated thirty-year-old case but even now plotting to extradite John Yoo in 2040 if he can catch him unawares as he lathers sun block over his fat ass on the Costa Del Sol. Meanwhile, vote Democratic because all of their policies, from Race To The Top to the Health Care bill which doesn’t kick in till 2014, are the best we could have hoped for examples of reform – and how do we know this? The industries affected whined and complained! How sweet. How theatrical. Like most of our host’s sweeping pronouncements, these notions are backed by nothing so much as his own sense of superiority and a desire to fit in with the sensible, prudent crowd. In Versailles, this called being a Very Serious Person. (His baseball predictions are marvels of insight as well.) Evan Bayh for President!

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Yes, very serious analysis would consist of assertions-without-argument that if Obama “took his rhetoric seriously” Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh could have been votes for single-payer health care, or perhaps advocates of single payer health care could win statewide elections in Nebraska and Louisiana and Indiana if only more people voted for third parties. Very, very, serious. Anybody who disagrees
        with this compelling logic must be trying to curry favor with someone.

        BTW, you were the one who brought up Yoo et al. during your apologia for famous child rapists, not me.

        • jeer9 says:

          I believe Greenwald, Hamsher, and others have done a fairly thorough job documenting how Obama got exactly the bill he wanted, but apparently their logic wasn’t persuasive enough for you. It is, however, funny the way Very Serious People always manage to excuse Democrats who voted for a ridiculous war promoted by the opposing party and yet can’t be blamed either when a decent Health Care bill isn’t passed through reconciliation (though tax cuts they can do.)
          1.) US legal system barely functions.
          2.) Torturers roam the corridors of power and appear on news shows promoting their autobiographies; con men award themselves bonuses for their faudulence and bailouts are received for their corporations; banks foreclose on mortgages they don’t even possess.
          3.) Anarchy averted when thirty-year-old rape case of dubious legal status is resolved. Approbation is given to lonely law professor whose self-righteousness and sense of priorities is finally justified.
          BTW, your first premise above is a truly silly mischaracterization of my argument, though it’s true I would like to see the nation’s legal energies be put to better use. Reform apparently begins with Polanski. You are indeed a talented lawyer and a credit to your profession.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            I believe Greenwald, Hamsher, and others have done a fairly thorough job documenting how Obama got exactly the bill he wanted, but apparently their logic wasn’t persuasive enough for you

            Even if this is true, it doesn’t matter, since there obviously weren’t 60 or even 50 votes for a robust public option (let alone single payer), and of course what Obama wanted can’t just be neatly separated from his perception of what was possible — you develop goals based on the game. You also don’t seem to understand that not all aspects of health care reform can be passed through reconciliation, while budget bills can.

            Also, I’m not a lawyer, but even so I can see that John Yoo isn’t going to be prosecuted no matter how many child rapists are allowed to remain free, so allowing child rapists to remain free really does have to be defended on its own merits.

            • jeer9 says:

              I don’t really want to argue with you further about the litigation of that unnecessary extradition case. It was a waste of time and energy that should have been foreseen. You obviously believe a different result would have had much more beneficial consequences. Still, your argument about Obama seems a variant on “the poor weak president whose hands were tied” line, as if he had no power to arm twist or threaten those acting as obstacles. Maybe if he spent less time campaigning for such actors, his perception of what was possible would change.

  19. Murc says:

    Jesus, I saw this thread last afternoon and was all ‘oh, I’ll let it collect fifteen or twenty posts overnight before hopping in.’

    Yeah. THAT worked.

    Anyway, I’m going to at least TRY to contribute something of originality and merit… giant freaking wall of text incoming. A rant, dare I say.

    There are a non-trivial number of leftists (and I count myself among this number) who would like the Democratic Party to behave more like the Republican Party, not in terms of policy goals and being, you know, evil, but in terms of the people they claim to putatively represent (Conservatives) completely and utterly controlling the party.

    We’d like for there to be a number of robust organizations and institutions out there that can and will throw well-financed primary challengers at incumbents who deviate from our proposed policy views to far while simultaneously raising fat bankrolls for preferred candidates, we’d like a caucus structure that makes it nigh-impossible to go all Holy Joe or Bart Stupak without suffering painful repercussions, and we’d like a leadership that lives in fear of activists rather than regarding them purely as tools. Lots of true believers in office is a bonus but not necessarily a requirement so long as votes go the way we like them.

    The big question is how we get there.

    Bloix, upthread, has made the eminently sensible suggestion in multiple places-

    You work like hell between elections to push the Democratic party to the left. Then on election day you vote Democratic. Election day is way too late to be sending a message or working for change or punishing the apostates or anything like that. Election day is about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of people who want to help bring the Rapture in our lifetimes.

    And you know what, I pretty much agree with that sentiment. But those who are pushing from the other side (the ‘firebagger’ side, although I hate that term) make another reasonable point; if its known that you’ll vote Democratic anyway, candidates and officeholders will see that as a prime chance to immediately run to the right, either because that’ll increase your vote share and the size of your coalition (and power) or because that’s where their actual political views lie.

    But the Republicans, and the right in general, have avoided this phenomenon. Why? Simple. Their base is willing to play the grand game of politics out Leninist style. They CAN and WILL stay home if there isn’t a candidate they feel they can vote for. They can and will replace candidates like Mike Castle with ones like Christine O’Donnel, because better an enemy you might one day defeat than an ‘ally’ who is only going to poison your caucus from within. (Not that Castle would have voted differently from O’Donnel on much of anything, but that’s the thought process.) They do this because they’re SO SURE that Democratic policies are going to crash and burn, HARD, (or that those policies are simply evil) that they’re perfectly willing to spend years or even decades out in the wilderness, letting the country be ‘stolen’ from them (in their eyes) and slowly rebuilding until the ruination wrought by Democrats gives them the chance to get back in. Goldwater loses in the most spectacular fashion in American history in ’64? FUCK moving to the left! We’ll gut it out until we win in 1980.

    For what its worth, I think this would work if it were emulated on the left. I absolutely do. I think if we purged the Democratic party of all the Blue Dogs, even disregarding the fact that some of them are from places like the mountain west where they NEED to run to the right somewhat to have a shot, and let the country have a decade or two of good, hard Republican dicking. I believe that they’d govern unsuccessfully, catastrophically even, and their colossal failure would pave the way for said newly-pure Democratic Party to come back in and finally fix shit, instead of our national body withering away by inches while we make do with band-aids and duct tape.

    But that’s an awfully huge gamble, isn’t it? In fact, its nearly sociopathic. I shy away from endorsing that sort of approach because after the Bush years, and given the current state of the right, I think if they ran the table for another decade we wouldn’t have much of a country left. Nixonss party, Reagans party, hell, even DOLES party, was actually interested in governing. They were wrong, and sometimes (often) evil, both in actions and rhetoric, but they at least wanted to try. Although the current Republican wants to do is like out Norquists dictum re: government and bathtub. And I’m willing to put up with a Democratic Party that takes my vote for granted no matter how much I hoot and holler between elections, rather than run the risk of turning on the TV in 2018 and seeing President Palin explain how well the wars in Iran and Mexico are going, and that she’s sure the stock market will swing back up and people will be able to live off their Private Social Security Accounts again any day now.

    So yeah, I guess I’m inside the tent. But I have enough sympathy for those who feel they have to leave it to not want to call them names.

    • Not to be terribly snarky, but I think you’re pretty much in intellectual agreement with most of the ‘heighten the contradictions’ caucus on this thread – except on the willingness to follow it through to its logical conclusions.

      Lets think of this another way – Palin wins in 2012. Things get so awful so quickly, that NY, CA and other states simply decide that their welfare is best served by striking out on their own rather than staying within a system so dyfunctional and awful that it can produce a President Palin. New England+ NY form a new, parliamentary government that produces far greater outcomes in social welfare and economic growth, providing an example to the confederate states etc.

      I mean I’m just spitballing rather wild scenarios here, but I don’t think they’re THAT outlandish.

      • Ian says:

        Lets think of this another way – Palin wins in 2012. Things get so awful so quickly, that NY, CA and other states simply decide that their welfare is best served by striking out on their own rather than staying within a system so dyfunctional and awful that it can produce a President Palin. New England+ NY form a new, parliamentary government that produces far greater outcomes in social welfare and economic growth, providing an example to the confederate states etc.

        I mean I’m just spitballing rather wild scenarios here, but I don’t think they’re THAT outlandish.

        No, you’re rehearsing the plot of Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, except on the East Coast instead of the West. In the real world, of course, attempted secession leads to either a military crackdown or civil war.

        • I really don’t know if that would be the case with sufficient democratic legitimacy for secession – say a referendum. And I’m sure a GOP President would be quite happy to hive off California, NY and a few dozen other Blue electoral votes.

          • djw says:

            And I’m sure a GOP President would be quite happy to hive off California, NY and a few dozen other Blue electoral votes.

            We’re obviously so far down the rabbit hole that a serious discussion is no longer possible, but: I’d take that bet, and I’d give you very, very long odds.

            I’m sure history is chalk-full of examples of far-right political leaders (or any political leaders, really) who respond to his opponents’ efforts to take the wealthiest and most prosperous parts regions of the state and secede with enthusiastic support, and I’ve simply forgotten about all of them for some reason.

            • Well the Canadian Quebecois have come close, and Western secessionism is an oddly popular if unmobilised political sentiment. Slovenia separated from Yugoslavia with relative ease, the Soviets ceded the Baltics when the jig was up etc. and so forth.

              Again – I’m spitballing rather rabbit-hole scenarios at this point where it becomes clear to both the political leadership and population broadly OF New York that secession is a preferable option to the status quo and VOTE for it. You then have very serious problems of legitimacy in supressing that sentiment, as well as short-term political advantages if you’re a Republican president – and lets not forget, the GOP is primarily about maintaining power and something of a treasury for its buddies to loot.

              However, there’s also growing wing that is motivated by non-rational, non-material factors (DeMint, Palin etc.) except perhaps personal self-aggrandisement. I’m willing to bed they’d happily let New England drop into the sea if it guaranteed them re-election.

          • Anonymous says:

            really- you do realize that in 1860- Lincoln had absolutely no electoral votes from those states which would later secede- how’d that work out for them.

            Additionally- lets be honest here- your ideas are more than a bit sociopathic- outside of the abstract people- tons of people live in the middle areas- not to mention the fact that NY and California would of course be seperate countries.

            • Again – not advocating for this as a good in and of itself. What I’m arguing is that the capacity of the current system to generate real and meaningful change is insufficient to the problems that the country faces. Therefore, while amelioration and improvement at the margins are certainly noble goals, actually addressing structural flaws should probably take some degree of preference over pallative care. And at some point that means refusing to simply help the Democrats keep cleaning up after the GOP trashes the place and starting to find ways to keep the Elephants out of the living room in the first place.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        This is similar to the “United States of Canada/Jesusland” scenario after the ’04 election, where the blue states (all contiguous with Canada) became provinces of that progressive land, and the red states got to see how they liked life without the net influx of tax dollars from the blue states. That was, of course, well before ’08, as well as before the Harper government in Canada.

      • Malaclypse says:

        New England+ NY form a new, parliamentary government that produces far greater outcomes in social welfare and economic growth, providing an example to the confederate states etc.

        Elderly white people, who voted against this plan, appeal to President Palin for help. She points out that the Constitution as originally written only let Real Americans vote, declares the vote illegitimate, and “liberates” New England. Nobody lives happily ever after.

        • Well yes that is a grimly predictable scenario, but then you try fielding an army with the economic resources of Nebraska and Wyoming vs. those of the Eastern seaboard and see how far that takes you ;)

          • Malaclypse says:

            They won’t need replacement parts right away. The rich part has cleverly placed most of the military bases in the poor part, and I’m assuming the military will obey orders and invade liberate.

          • djw says:

            You really do need to think quite a bit more deeply and carefully about 1) Why governments (left right and center, authoritarian and democratic) routinely and brutally move to crush secessionist movements, and 2) Why they’re so damn good at it, and 3) Why non-ethnic or national-identity based secessionist movements pretty rarely garner enough support to make (1) and (2) relevant, let alone overcome them.

            • You really do need to think quite a bit more deeply and carefully about 1) Why governments (left right and center, authoritarian and democratic) routinely and brutally move to crush secessionist movements,

              That would be violentsecessionist movements. Non-violent secessionism backed up by democratic legitimacy in (reasonably) democratic governments have a reasonable track record.

              3) Why non-ethnic or national-identity based secessionist movements pretty rarely garner enough support to make (1) and (2) relevant, let alone overcome them.

              Given that national self-identity is itself more of an elite-generated concept rather than some attribute of social groupings that arises ex nihilo I don’t see that as necessarily a restraint. I can easily see a relatively skillful politician in either a deep red or deep blue state exploiting the already existing and fairly deep cultural and economic divides existing in the USA. Is it really THAT impossible to imagine the Governor of California, or NY or Washington declaring – the majority of Alabamans voted against removing segregation from their constitution and think the President is a secret Muslim. They are different to us in fundamental ways and its best we embark on our own new path at this point?

              • Criminy my spelling/grammar is awful right now. Sorry but still on BSG…

              • djw says:

                Non-violent secessionism backed up by democratic legitimacy in (reasonably) democratic governments have a reasonable track record.

                Aside from the political re-alignments that took place in the fallout of a suddenly collapsed empire, what are your examples?

              • Aside from the political re-alignments that took place in the fallout of a suddenly collapsed empire, what are your examples?

                Given that I’m arguing in the context of what I believe to be the likely effects of the structural status quo being perpetuated (continued looting of the national wealth by an extremely politically powerful minority leading to economic crisis) I don’t see why that’s necessarily relevant.

          • Anonymous says:

            well considering- they’d have the entire US military vs. at best State national guard units- somehow I don’t think it’d work well, not to mention the fact that a ton left leaning folk would actually back Pres. Palin as she’d be constitutionally correct in opposing illegal secession.

      • Murc says:

        Oh, wow. Apparently I have the power to turn an attempt to air out my thoughts on a really contentious issue into a plot that involves totally balls-out sci-fi scenario. I need to take this shit over to Charlie Stross’ blog and see what I can do with it there.

        I kid because I love.

        Anyway Daragh, two things. One, I guess I kinda do believe in heightening the contradictions, but not so much I’m willing to play chicken with the country in order to gamble on the ultimate outcome. I dunno, maybe that makes me a pussy. But given the choice between Kerry (a wholly owned member of the Democratic establishment) and Bush, I chose Kerry rather than just not voting. In a choice between Obama and Palin? Not even close. If it were a choice between, say, Kerry and Bush the Elder, I could mayyyyybe be convinced to tell my fellow democrats ‘Fuck this, I voted for Kucinich (or his equivalent) in the primary, I’m leaving the Presidential line blank. Call me when the party nominates someone who won’t okay show trials for child soldiers.’ But that’s not the world we live in.

        Re: your crazy-ass seccession scenario (and by the way, I’m a native New Yorker. Upstate.) I can only say this; the Confederate States had ‘popular legitimacy’ on their side as well, and that still made them fucking traitors. (See just about every thread about this on LGM, ever.) As far as I’m concerned, short of something batshit insane like a President dissolving Congress at the point of a tank regiment, the only legitimate way to dissolve the Union or separate from it is via Constitutional Amendment. You bring up Quebec, but I’ll note that Ottawa consistently denied that Quebec had any legitimate way to unilaterally secede from Canada.

        Mal, Ian, thanks for being sane. And for reminding me that Ecotopia exists!

        • I’ll admit it is crazy and intended to be so. Its a thought experiment. And hey – I’m not saying I wouldn’t make the same choices you did. I was crushed when Kerry lost, elated when Obama won, crushed again last week etc.

          But again – its not like President Kerry would have done anything to actually arrest the decline that the country has been in since Reagan? Under the most favourable political conditions available to a Democratic president for generations, and titanic expenditure of political capital Obama has managed to a) stabilise the economy at a point where the richest 1% have continued to expand their share of the wealth, b) unemployment is at historic highs in term of duration – in fact the likelihood is by the end of his first term there will have been more consecutive months of 8%+ unemployment in the US than the previous 100 years – COMBINED. c) pass a healthcare bill that would be considered laughably unjust by the standards of Canada much less any European democracy.

          Things aren’t getting better. They’re getting worse, and its clear that the letter next to the name of the guys and gals in charge only really effects the speed.

  20. Ed says:

    I think if we purged the Democratic party of all the Blue Dogs, even disregarding the fact that some of them are from places like the mountain west where they NEED to run to the right somewhat to have a shot,

    A purging of a kind did happen this time, but even Joe Klein has admitted the Blue Dogs did it to themselves.

  21. Stag Party Palin says:

    You guys are all wrong. All of you. The next event that will precipitate change will be like the last one – a horrific physical event that nevertheless causes less human damage than the status quo. The WTC destruction is *nothing* compared to the well-known 40,000 annual deaths due to lack of health insurance. But, it started us off on the current paranoid race to the bottom.

    What may happen, and over which we have no control, is a right-wing beserker attack similar to Oklahoma City. If it can clearly be defined to the public as a right-wing-crazy event, it might, it just might change elections and policies. And to be clear, I am not advocating such an event – I’m predicting it. I am also predicting there is nothing we can do to prevent it. I am further predicting that no other kind of event will push us into action, although we would do well to prepare for the day by doing whatever we can to force the Dems to the left. Just don’t expect them to actually do anything until The Event.

  22. [...] commenter in the third party thread argues that people arguing against implausible heighten-the-contradictions arguments have their [...]

  23. [...] Great Society were enacted.   So while I agree with much of the criticism of Obama in one sense I also don’t have any sense of disillusionment, and I’m not sure what some people expected.   The fact is that Obama is the second most [...]

  24. [...] unlikelihood that Clinton would have played the debt ceiling hand as badly, for example. But the revisionism that has turned someone with an extensive history of centrist deal-cutting into the second coming [...]

  25. [...] for Obama as a moral statement on the grounds that it won’t actually have any consequences, knock yourself out. I’ll only note that the ineffectuality argument cuts both ways — if your vote [...]

  26. [...] and purposes they don’t exist.  (Personally, the only people I’ve seen do this are bloggers attacking Obama from the left, which is baffling on many levels.)  I’m not the one who thinks that the Democratic Party is [...]

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