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An Essay Only a White Person Could Write


Connor Friedersdorf writes the kind of political essay I can’t see anyone but a privileged white person writing. Going as far as to nearly (but not quite he says!) compare President Obama to an apologist for slavery, he can’t stomach voting for Obama because of his policies in Pakistan, drones, etc.

Instead, he says we should vote for Gary Johnson since there’s a candidate who won’t do those things.

In a sense I respect it when people care so much about one issue that they can’t vote for any candidate who disagrees. On the other hand, Friedersdorf doesn’t seem to care one iota about the horrible economic and social policies a Romney administration would enact. He doesn’t seem to care at all about labor, abortion rights, gay rights, environmental policy, etc., etc. It’s all about drones, civil liberties, and such. And Obama has indeed sucked on those issues.

But given that Friedersdorf probably doesn’t have to worry much about his next paycheck or be concerned about having an unwanted fetus in his body, it’s a luxury for him to be a one-issue voter on this particular issue. It’s all too typical of a lot of angry left-wing white men from Glenn Greenwald on down who live privileged enough lives that they can find the one issue where there really aren’t any differences on the two parties and instead suggest alternatives that completely ignore the poor in this country, whether being Paul-curious to not voting to voting for a whacko like Gary Johnson. That doesn’t solve any problems and it goes back to the worthlessness of politics to make a point I talked about last week.

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  • Warren Terra

    Given that Freiersdorf basically exists to advance the Republican agenda, I’m shocked, shocked that he would concern troll the Left in this way.

    • But he claims to have voted for Obama in 08 so it’s totally OK that he compared a black man to a slavery apologist!

      • Didn’t McCardle and/or Althouse do the same?

    • Right. I don’t think he doesn’t care about the horrible economic policies Romney would enact. They are probably a point in Romney’s favor.

      I don’t mind Conor, although he can be too much of an overprivileged white guy even for my tolerance (his bloggingheads diavlog about the real problems with Obamacare covering birth control was pretty much unbearable), but he drives me crazy when he makes his anti-Obama arguments on foreign policy grounds or the drug war or whatever without acknowledging his positions on economic issues.

      • bealbocht

        The problem is not that the CFs of the world are overprivileged white guys – most of the contributors and a large portion of the commenters here probably also fall into that category – it is that his analysis is wrong. Romney will be worse on all the ‘cowardly, immoral, and illegal policies’ Friedersdorf hates because he is a Republican and will have neo-con dead enders throughout his national security and foreign policy apparatus.

        CF’s voting for Johnson probably is the right thing for him this election. His vote will not matter in CA so he will not be responsible for Romney plus he receives some benefits to his psyche. His urging liberals to throw away their vote is another matter.

        I absolutely support not voting for a candidate based on a single issue or vote. I did it in the 2008 Democratic primary. It has not worked out as I thought, but disqualifying a candidate if they cross some line is a valid procedure for determining your vote. Doing so in a way that does not ‘help John McCain’ is even better and keeps your test from having negative repercussions for others.

        • The problem is not that he’s an overprivileged white guy, it’s that his analysis of issues often demonstrate that he can’t seem to get away from that perspective at all in analyzing issues, particularly issues relating to domestic policy. I do recommend most of his bloggingheads appearances and particularly the one I mentioned as evidence of that.

          • Bradley

            It takes a really big thinker to rise above their privilege and analyze things objectively.

            Like, say, an Obama voter.

  • Friedersdorf represents the attitude I held for most of my adult life, and I can find plenty of fault with Obama on foreign policy, etc. But I can’t afford the purity anymore. Republicans are psychopaths who would happily destroy the count out of hatred of Obama. In addition, I can’t think of any issue that Romney would be an improvement. 2012 will be my first vote for a major party candidate since 1984 (Reagan–I was young and stupid). As I tried to explain to a Libertarian friend, voting for Obama this time will partly make up for the GushBorism that I indulged in 2000–in retrospect probably the most important election of the last 40 or so years.

    • WJS

      THANK YOU for that.

      Friersdorf is a purity troll. By his standards, there aren’t many American presidents he would have been able to vote for, although I am quite certain that he could have voted for James A. Garfield without any reservation.

      • I’m super skeptical that he’s really a purity troll, because I think the difference between Romney and Obama for him is far less than for many of us in that CF is right-leaning on economics and really doesn’t seem particularly concerned about social issues even though he’d probably like for the Republicans to moderate on them.

      • rea

        Garfield actually led troops shooting at Amercian citizens who had not received a trial, you know. Although the fact that he was bad at it might be a point in his favor.

  • Hogan

    Connor Friedersdorf writes the kind of political essay I can’t see anyone but a privileged white person of the penile persuasion writing.


    • Indeed.

    • Warren Terra

      Should probably at Heterosexual, and Male. Possibly also Christian.

      • Warren Terra

        Er, add, not “at”. My brain isn’t working well enough to compensate for the lack of an edit function.

      • Warren Terra

        Also, “Healthy”, not “Male”. And that’s not even a typo. I think maybe I should give up until I’ve gotten some sleep.

      • You don’t think an atheist, Jew, or Wiccan (to name three) could write that?

        • Warren Terra

          I’m two of those, and I think doing anything to support the current Republican agenda, including failing to meaningfully vote against the Bastards, is inconsistent with that part of my identity (among others).

          • I didn’t ask if you would write it.

            I’m a Catholic, and i wouldn’t write it either. I can admit that some Catholics might, though.

            You can’t see any agnostics or Buddhists writing that piece, really? It’s gotta come from a Christian?

            I just don’t see it.

          • swearyanthony

            Goddam atheist Wiccans…

        • Joe, anybody COULD write it, but the groups you mentioned would be less likely to, if only because the policies of the GOP, in practice, also include a large amount of legislation driven solely by their own brand of Christianity.

          Every time they come out and insist that Christians are being persecuted, it’s because somebody is doing something to try to make it look like Christians aren’t the only religion allowed here.

      • tt

        Greenwald is gay and Jewish.

        • calling all toasters

          You’re ruining our two minute hate!

        • Lyanna

          And has not, to my knowledge, spouted anything quite as ridiculous as this Friedersdorf column, though he’s said some things I strongly disagree with.

    • brad

      Not quite.

      Megan McArdle.

  • avoidswork

    I have a love/hate with Friedersdorf.

    But his POV definitely reeks of growing up behind the Orange Curtain (Orange County, California).

    His POV also has that stench of being just a wee bit too young for full implications of the election of GWB 2000 and the odious re-election of Shrub.

  • calling all toasters

    I fail to see the parallel between Friedersdorf and Greenwald. Friedersdorf is an all-issues blogger who is trying to avoid being for Obama, and is using Obama’s poor record on civil liberties as a cover. Greenwald is a civil liberties (and national security) blogger. He does not AFAIK choose to blog in other areas, and whining that he ought to write about (insert heartrending or infuriating situation here) isn’t going to make him. Unless Greenwald had some big “my conscience aches” article about who he is going to vote for, I just don’t get this.

    • I’m just talking about this post with Friedersdorf.

    • penpen

      The OP criticizes Greenwald not for blogging about a limited subject matter but to the extent he advocates voters abandon Obama for vanity candidates solely because of his myopic focus on that limited subject matter.

  • Admittedly I’m engaging in some blogpimping here, but it’s germane, as this was the moment Friersdorf went from “has priorities I don’t agree with” to “suck and shouldn’t be listened to or even engaged”:



    • It would be hard to get past someone praising Dennis Prager.

      • Try, then, getting past this, from Friday:

        If Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager reflect on why they conduct themselves with more integrity than Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, even though they needn’t do so to succeed in talk radio; if the most intellectually honest scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation think about why they hold themselves to a higher standard than the most hackish of their colleagues; if all the people who know better reflect on the reasons for their own behavior, they’d perhaps better appreciate why it is vital to stop staying silent when prominent co-ideologues fall short of the most minimal standards.

  • prufrock

    Freiersdorf’s position reminds me of an old Prince Valiant storyline. Valiant and his companions find themselves trapped on an island where they are given a vision of the future of England if they leave (in this case, the Norman conquest in 1066). This makes Valiant and his crew extremely reluctant to go home, until the prince asks for a vision of what will happen if they don’t leave. As it turns out, Mordred becomes king if they stay, so they immediately set sail for Camelot.

    There is no alternative where a magic fairy is elected to prevent either alternative, because Prince Valiant is much more internally consistent and believable than anything Connor fucking Freiersdorf has ever uttered.

  • Jim Lynch

    First of all: most of the time Greenwald makes, at the very least, at least as much sense as you ever manage.

    And it doesn’t seem to me that being a “liberal” (whatever that means, you tell me) has much to do with a person holding a silly, simple-simon point of view about whatever. That’s known as being human.

    “All the clueless people,
    Where do they all come from?
    All the clueless people,
    Where do they all belong”?

    • Oh, did I upset you at mentioning Dear Leader Greenwald in a critical way?

      • witless chum

        You sorta irked me by throwing in a dumb dig at Glenn Greenwald during a deserved takedown of Conor Freisdorf. Greenwald’s a lot of things, but he’s not Conor Freisdorf.

        • No he’s not the same as CF, but he writes from a position of privilege that allows him to trivialize a lot of issues that matter to poor folks in favor of what matters to him. He’s part of a spectrum of angry white male leftists that combine testosterone and class privilege to take the one issue the two parties (sadly) differ little on and conflate that to both sides being hopelessly corrupt and terrible.

          • charles pierce

            What’s the argument? That unilateral killing by the president in complete contravention of the Constitution is something poor people aren’t, or can’t be, concerned about? Offer of proof on that one.

            • Do you see a lot of Latinos or African-Americans arguing we should vote for Gary Johnson?

              • charles pierce

                That wasn’t the question I asked. Are serious questions about constitutional war-powers simply a matter for white suburbanites or not, because recent history demonstrates quite clearly that it ain’t white elites who end up on the wrong end of them when they go bad.

                • No, but those who can say that they absolutely can’t vote for someone on these issues are almost always people who have the privilege to not have to worry about a lot of other issues that would convince them to vote for Obama over Romney.

                  That’s not to say that the poor or people of color support killing Pakistani children. But that the experience of their lives recognizes that the very real difference between the two parties on the issues that matter to them everyday are important. Friedersdorf doesn’t have to bother with that.

                • between the lines

                  No, but those who I know or interact with can that say that they absolutely can’t vote for someone on these issues are almost always white professionals like me people who have the privilege to not have to worry about a lot of other issues that would convince them to vote for Obama over Romney.

                  That’s not to say that the poor or people of color support killing Pakistani children. (Those trailer people I use to know certainly do) But that the experience of their lives recognizes that the very real difference between the two parties on the issues that matter to them everyday are important. Unlike, their more financially secure betters, they do not have the luxury of voting against their economic interests on principal. The probably do not actually have any higher ideals since politics is strictly transactional for them. Friedersdorf doesn’t have to bother with that.

                • Corey

                  Erik, doesn’t Greenwald live in semi-permanent exile from his home country because of a policy a hypothetical Romney administration would extend and probably strengthen?

          • witless chum

            I don’t see Greenwald, though, suggesting that Democrats’ participation in the national security state and all its works means that one should vote for Romney or that one shouldn’t support Obama over Romney. I see him assailing whatever administration happens to be in power in the U.S.

            I don’t read the guy every day or anything, so correct me if I’m wrong.

            • Drew

              You’re right. Greenwald has never advocated for Ron Paul, and especially not Romney, despite claims otherwise.

              • This is Greenwald’s schtick–he never actually advocates for individual candidates. He just hints very strongly at it. But he never takes the responsibility to be pinned down.

                • Ronan

                  As an on and off reader and never commentator, I think you’ve let your dislike for Greenwald get the better of you on this one. White privilege is a cheap shot against Greenwald and F-Dorf, two pundits who have been pretty consistent highlighting abuses against Muslims (domestically and in countries targeted by drones)..this isn’t a popular position, even among the left, certainly not in Europe (I live in the UK) and I’d imagine not the US (civil liberties violations aren’t theoretical arguments in a lot of communities) .. If Greenwald and F-Dorf don’t give a damn about the poor, women, African Americans etc (and I don’t buy that they don’t) who cares? Greenwald and F-Dorf are irrelevant to those arguments. I could argue a lot of people here don’t care one way or the other about abuses perpetrated against Muslims.. Is that an unfair position for me to take?

      • Jim Lynch

        “Dear Leader Greenwald”?

        Are you fucking serious? Because it sounds like you are.

        • Absolutely. The people (men) who love Greenwald create a cult of personality around the man.

          • Jim Lynch

            OK, Eric. I often find myself in agreement with the great Charles Pierce Esq., too. Does your “Greenwald Rule” extend to him as well? Are men also flocking to him in cult-like fashion?

            • No, but people don’t lose their shit if someone disagrees with Charlie. Disagreeing with Greenwald means you are incoherent or like to kill brown people or something.

              • Lawnguylander

                Give it a little more time and people will start losing their shit when Pierce gets ridiculed. And he’ll have no choice but to become more ridiculous if he wants to continue on his current trajectory. He’ll say increasingly ridiculous things and get ridiculed and shit will be lost.

            • Lawnguylander

              Yes, definitely. Pierce writes a lot if stupid shit, yet people refer to him as the great Charles Pierce, Esq. That would be fucking embarrassing, even if he weren’t a dumabss. And we have “Krugthulu.” Online lefties absolutely have their idols and none of them are worthy.

              • I think Krugman may be worthy, but it’s ok to criticize him.

                • Lawnguylander

                  He’s not worthy of being idolized. No pundit is.

              • Bexley

                Amazingly your writing “Pierce writes a lot if stupid shit” has not resulted in a truckload of whiny comments from his fans. Despite this being a blog where a lot of people like his writing.

                Analogy fail.

                • Lawnguylander

                  True, it’s only you that’s whining but look at the comment I made just above the one you replied to, dumbass.

                  Give it a little more time and people will start losing their shit when Pierce gets ridiculed

                  And now go read the comment I was replying to. Fucking context and verb tenses, how do they work?

            • Christian Sieber

              You have to admit that Erik is right about people losing their shit WRT Greenwald far more than any other left-wing pundit. There really is no comparison to Krugman, Pierce, Taibbi, or any other left-wing personality you’d care to name.

              Greenwald promotes this sort of intense rhetoric because he personally escalates disagreements with him to “WHY DON’T YOU SUPPORT DEAR LEADER OBAMA SOME MORE” and similar bomb-throwing. It is no surprise that his supporters go a step farther to call opponents the Second Coming of Rumsfeld.

  • Amok92

    Young Connor hasn’t come to grips with what a nightmare his country has become and the fact that yes, it really can get much worse than the lesser evil status quo. He should think of leaving the country if he can’t live the great American empire, a move I would respect.

    • DocAmazing

      Well, that’s pretty much what Greenwald did–unless I’m mistaken , he’s in Brazil most of the time.

      • Holden Pattern

        Because his partner can’t come here.

        • Warren Terra

          His partner can’t come here on the basis of being his partner, which is an injustice. Still, that’s not quite the same thing as saying he cannot come here. Given that Greenwald is prominent, successful, and probably not without financial resources, and given that this situation has endured for a good many years now, I rather suspect they could have arranged a residence permit for his partner, and could have married in one of several US states (albeit that their marriage would currently be meaningless for all federal purposes – a position Obama happens to oppose).

          • Holden Pattern

            Is Brazil now one of the countries from which it’s easy to get a permanent visa? This shit isn’t as easy as “you can just get a residence permit”, and if his partner can’t get a work visa and then a green card, his parter can’t live here unless they win the immigration lottery for which Brazilians are apparently ineligible (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversity_Immigrant_Visa).

            And it’s nice that Obama finally came around (Back around? Who knows?) but it’s irrelevant to the point I was making. On this issue, all I was pointing out is that Greenwald didn’t exit the country out of some fit of pique but because it doesn’t allow him to live within its borders with the person he loves.

            • Hogan

              And having that option puts him in an unusual position.

              • Holden Pattern

                Absolutely. Most people would not be able to work for themselves in the way he does, and couldn’t get a work visa.

                Again, I was making a very limited point. I am not going to get into the who is history’s greatest monster / fraud / naive purity troll ranking fight. It’s tedious and depressing.

                • Hogan

                  I’m right there with you on that.

  • Did anybody note that The Atlantic just isn’t a very good magazine these days?

    • If Coates left The Atlantic, we’d could legitimately compare its decline to Newsweek.

      • Warren Terra

        I’ve never much cared for Coates’s writing, but many people I respect adore him. I like Fallows. The rest of the people inhabiting that travesty upon a once-great magazine can go work for a living.

        • witless chum

          Coates also runs a great comments section. Seriously, that’s to be prized above rubies.

          • blight

            Coates’ comments and his comment section are better than his writing. Great blogger, good thinker, decent writer.

      • Coates is good sometimes, but not enough to make me actually pay for the magazine like I do with several others.

    • Halloween Jack

      McArdle isn’t there any more. I don’t know if the Atlantic had anything specifically to do with that, directly or indirectly, or if MegMac was simply lured over by the glamour of lich queen Tina Brown, but I’ll give ’em points regardless.

    • David W.

      I’ve noticed that since it became a neo-con rag back in the late 1990s.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Whether you want to use ‘white’ and ‘male’ as descriptors or not, there’s definitely a particular place you have to be coming from when you conceive of exercising your franchise as fundamentally an act of self-expression…

    • James E. Powell

      For an awful lot of people, that is all voting is. I know very few who vote based on an analysis of the candidate’s or party’s likely policies.

  • Paula

    Ugh. Please don’t call Glenn Greenwald left-wing. He’s a Libertarian. Which is not right-wing but neither is it left-wing. So he has no obligation write about any of those other left-wing things that you want him to write about.

    • The last time I called Greenwald a libertarian, he went utterly ballistic. So according to him, he’s not a libertarian.

      • Paula

        Yikes, really? Did not know.

        • Paula

          I retroactively apologize for not knowing about that clusterfuck of a thread … Freddie deBoer shows up, too!

          Jesus Christ I’m so glad I have the sense to occasionally ignore the blogosphere.

          • I thought about linking you to it, but then I didn’t want to relive it. I can’t say I’m glad you found it exactly. But it is enlightening I guess.

      • Well, you did so in a way to be as offensive as possible- not that I care about offending libertarians. Sometimes your posts get derailed by needless hand grenades. I just am uncertain at times why you want to open up multiple fronts at once. This thread is a mess. Just go after Friedersdorf. No need for kitchen sink or uttering CANDYMAN in the mirror three times.

        • I have to agree. That prior post was not designed for maximum success in eliciting a positive response from Greenwald.

  • To quoth myself, oh, please PLEASE, brilliant young straight, cis, able-bodied, upper-middle-class white dudes – TELL ME MORE about how, no no, you just cannot vote for Obama because PRINCIPLES.

    Principles which, of course, give a big middle finger to anyone who falls outside of those descriptors, as Erik notes. Gay rights? Women’s autonomy? Services for the disabled? PFFT WEV THAT’S PISH TOSH.

    Conor’s a douchebucket who can go fuck himself nine ways to Sunday.

    • Warren Terra


    • HHH

      Poor people and minorities did not make your list. The straight white dudes in the upper class are not the only ones who exclude certain groups when discussing the best policies, principles and who is getting fucked over.
      Back in the day, liberals fought for all those ‘who were in the shadows of life.’ Not so much anymore.

      • Warren Terra

        WTF? You’re criticizing Alison – all but calling her a racist – because the list in the second paragraph of this one comment didn’t refer to race or to money? A list that presumably wasn’t meant to be exhaustive, or even necessarily to indicate the areas of highest significance? Did you fail to notice the “upper-middle-class white” part in her first paragraph, when you accused her of not giving a sh!t about poor people or minorities?

        Your comment found you being either a true moron or a clever troll. If it was typical of you, in either case, get help.

    • Junaid

      You’re disgusting for not caring about civilians being killed.

    • Noami

      I’m black, jobless, and trans. And I’m not voting for Obama but for Jill Stein. There goes your very self centered, and judging remark.

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    On the other hand, Friedersdorf doesn’t seem to care one iota about favors the horrible economic and social policies a Romney administration would enact.


  • megan

    What struck me is that when Friedersdorf actually gets to comparisons between what Obama and Romney might do, he doesn’t really seem to give a shit. For someone claiming to care about these issues so deeply you’d think he’d try to come up with a better analysis than “Maybe Romney would be worse, maybe he’d be better, who knows?” He also completely ignores one of the few ways we could get positive change on civil liberties within the system we have: the supreme court. Someone who’s main issue civil liberties out to be concerned about the prospect of the court becoming even more dominated by conservatives.

    • megan

      Eek – I meant “someone whose main issue is civil liberties ought to be concerned”

    • It’s possibly unfair, but I think CF would probably want to vote for Romney on the majority of issues, but knows he can’t support the current Republican Party (or Romney) on foreign policy or civil liberties so convinces himself that even on those issues he isn’t obviously worse than Obama so voting for Obama is bad. Liberals, see how bad it is? You just aren’t as pure as CF!

      This is just particularly galling from CF because I don’t think he really is voting against interest or other inclination in the same way a liberal would be, yet he doesn’t acknowledge it. It makes his arguments feel more like anti Dem trolling, even though I’m sure he does care about the issues in question and prefer Johnson. (But again, there is an obvious reason Johnson would be a more appealing candidate to a self-proclaimed libertarian like CF than someone who normally votes Dem.)

    • Cody

      To be fair, who really knows where Mitt Romney stands on anything?

      Although it would be a pretty uphill battle to argue any Republican would be good for civil liberties. Has he seen the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars, or the Patriot Act?

  • A question for Loomis, but also other commentators here. I’m curious.

    Do you agree with Friedersdorf’s premise, namely that there are *some* issues which are dealbreakers, moral issues so stark that you couldn’t vote for a person who supported the wrong side whatever their advantages over the other candidate (and, thus, the moral thing to do would be to support a protest candidate)? Or do you think that it is *always* right to support the better of the plausible candidates, however odious their positions on any given question?

    And if the former, *what* issues do you think would be too immoral for you? Again, given something like the current choice on other issues. What issues would drive you to a protest vote? Or would none do it?

    • It’s a fair question.

      But elections don’t exist in vacuums. I have a hard time seeing myself voting for an Andrew Cuomo candidacy in 2016. In the end though, if it is Cuomo versus Eric Cantor or something and it’s a close election, I’d probably break down in the general election. Because I recognize that my issues are one or two of a lot of issues and that any mature analysis considers your own feelings as part of a larger context of the country and the world.

    • witless chum

      I don’t think so. The lesser of two evils is still less evil and voting for someone doesn’t mean I approve of them.

      • agorabum

        Yes; why do something that practically increases the evil in the world? Always go with the lesser evil.
        That’s how you start bringing down the level of evil in the world. Seems like a simple equation…not sure why people feel proud of themselves for doing something that increases the sum total of evil in order to prove a point…seems rather evil

    • Anonymous

      Friend, at 47 years of age I have never once voted for a candidate.

      I have always voted against.

      So yeah, I would vote Obama simply because he is not as bad as the alternative, every damned time.

      And despite all the concern trolling, a republican controlled government right now would be almost infinitely worse.

      • rhino

        the above was me

      • DrDick

        At 60, I have only voted for one presidential candidate (Fred Harris), who was slaughtered. Every other vote has been against someone worse.

        • rhino

          Sad, innit?

          Next year, if my current mayor decides to run for a second term, will be the first time I vote ‘for’. I expect to feel a warm glow.

    • I think it’s a sliding scale, a two-variable equation.

      Something that might be a deal-breaker when the Republican candidate was Gerald Ford wouldn’t be if the candidate was Dick Cheney. Snubbing the Democrats is a deal, too, and certain positions from the Republican candidate can break that deal.

      I could see myself voting for Stalin over Hitler. OMG, Stalin!

      • CaptBackslap

        That would be a pretty negative campaign.

        • Oh, yeah, just picture it:

          No, you changed your last name!

          They’d go right into the gutter.

          • John

            Hitler did not change his last name, so Stalin’s attack ad on that subject would receive a “pants on fire” from Politifact and five pinocchios from Glenn Kessler.

            • Hogan

              You’re nothing but a Schickelgruber apologist.

              • John

                Hitler’s father was the one who changed his name from Schickelgruber to Hitler, over a decade before Hitler’s birth.

              • A Schickel-bot, as it were.

            • Warren Terra

              Yeah, but Stalin not only changed his surname – he also changed his nickname. One of the fun parts of reading Trotsky’s biography of Stalin is the way Trotsky constantly baits Stalin by referring to him as “Koba”.

      • rea

        Something that might be a deal-breaker when the Republican candidate was Gerald Ford wouldn’t be if the candidate was Dick Cheney.

        Cheney was Ford’s chief of staff and campaign manager, you know.

        • …and George H.W. Bush’s SecDef.

          And George W. Bush’s VP.

          All of which were very different presidencies, owing to the very different tones set by the different presidents.

    • Dead Muslims

      There’s nothing Obama could do that would discourage his Followers from voting for their Leader. Trust us.

      • Do poor people in the United States matter to you? Women who might need an abortion? Gay people?

        • Josh

          They matter quite a bit. But not murdering people is kind-of a biggie for me too.

      • Mmm…toasty.

      • Left_Wing_Fox

        Sure there is. He could lose the Democratic primary.

        • NBarnes

          In the more sensible world that we’re not living in, Obama would be the Republican nominee, described as a ‘centrist technocrat’ by the media, running against a Democrat running on a platform of expansionary monetary policy and Federal investment in infrastructure and human capital in order to bring the economy back into proper growth and unemployment down.

          I’d probably vote for the Democrat in that election.

          Against Romney? I’m not entirely convinced that I’d vote for Obama over Romney if Obama were to be shown on prime time television eating roast baby, but it’d require some thought.

          • This x100.

          • brewmn

            Absolutely. When wading into the Obamabot wars, I have often said that I would love to vote against Obama as the more conservative candidate. But right now, he’s liberals best last hope.

          • Mrs Tilton

            Dude, move to Germany. Obama is Angela Merkel, just less pale.

            (Srsly, I always laugh at the rightard “Obama is a sociamalist!” shtick. If he lived here, he’d fit in very comfortably as a moderate CDU man. For those who don’t know, that’s the Christian Democratic Union, the conservative party that is the rough equivalent of the Republicans, or at least was before the Republican Party became Walter White’s best customer.)

          • In the more sensible world that we’re not living in, Obama would be the Republican nominee…

            In that more sensible world, Barack Obama is the Democrat, running on a platform much more in line with his record in the Illinois Senate than his record as President (which is almost certainly another way of saying, on a platform closer to his fondest desires).

      • More Dead Muslims

        There’s nothing Obama could do that would discourage his Followers from voting for their Leader. Trust us.

        Romney would kill a lot more of us–he’s campaigning on a pledge to do so.

        • Cody

          I laughed out loud at this.

    • Davis X. Machina

      The number of adults who reach adulthood and only then realize that there is evil in the world, or still are capable of being surprised that there is evil in the world is a constant source of wonderment to me.

  • Matt

    The “other stuff” notwithstanding, I’m baffled as to how people like Friedersdorf got so confused: the reason Obama’s policy on drone strikes and the like has been so terrible is that IT’S THE GOP POLICY, even more so than the scratch-the-Heritage-Foundation-name-off-and-call-it-new health care reform was.

    Either he’s so deluded that he thinks an outlier like Johnson can win, or he’s just so butthurt about his particular pet cause that he doesn’t care if Romney wins.

  • Someone

    What if CF had, rather than encouraging votes for Johnson across-the-board, had urged readers in non-swing states to vote for Jill Stein?

    Lesser-evilism, on the very important grounds you state, is hard to rebut for swing-state voters. But it doesn’t really apply to those of us living in New York, California or Texas, whose votes don’t increase the likelihood of the lesser-evil getting elected.

    • Depends. Is there any point to voting for Jill Stein? Is there any point to the Green Party running anyone for president in 2012? As I argued in the linked piece in this post, I don’t see it. Go build the party on the local level and then we will talk. Otherwise, it is posturing.

      • DrDick

        Exactly. She is not even on the ballot here in Montana, though the Libertarian is.

      • Someone

        Stipulating that Jill Stein isn’t going to win the election, yeah, it’s posturing. But it’s also posturing to bother to vote for President in NY/CA/TX/take your pick of a non-swing state. So I’m not sure what your point is there…

        If I’m going to be doing nothing but making a statement with my vote, I might as well make it for the person who isn’t for killing kids in Yemen/Pakistan, right?

        • You’d do something a lot more valuable if you took an office in your local Democratic Party machinery and pushed your agenda from within.

          • Someone

            What office do you hold in your local Democratic Party, Erik?

            • Someone

              Sorry, that was unnecessarily combative. Same side, and all that.

              In any case, I don’t disagree that being involved on the local level, whether via coopting the Democratic Party or some other group that achieves an actual positive effect [both, if I had 50 hours a day] is a good idea.

              But voting for Obama in a non-swing state? I’m not seeing much argument in favor of it. The argument against is that, however weak, it sends one more message that Obama’s killing of kids in Yemen and Pakistan is okay.

              • njorl

                Casting a vote shows that there is one more person willing to vote. Low voter turnout is what makes the modern Republican party possible. The right-wing extremism of the modern Republican party means Democrats don’t need to be responsive to their left wing.

                Until voter turnouts are higher, every election will be between the lesser of two evils for you. If you respond to that by staying home, you are dooming yourself.

              • Cody

                It’s fine. Every Democrat will just develop their voter turnout strategy

                “Well, those progressives who believe in Civil Rights don’t vote for us! Why even bother courting them? Let’s just run farther to the Right and pick up more ex-Republicans!”

            • rhino

              He’s not the one taking the indefensible position of throwing the election to Sauron out of purity-pique.

              And his position here on a fairly influential political blog, and his scholarly work in labour issues, are already full time jobs.

              Loomis has been known to irk me from time to time, but seriously, this?

              • Someone

                Wait, I don’t quite understand how a non-swing-state Stein vote — yes, based on “purity” A.K.A. not wanting to endorse a dude who kills lots and lots of children in Pakistan/Yemen/etc. — throws the election to Romney. Can you explain that bit again?

                • Cody

                  Well, if no one votes for Obama in non-swing swates… who is going to win them all?

        • You don’t feel compelled to make a statement against the guy who wants an Iran war?

          I do.

          I don’t think pumping up Jill Stein’s numbers sends that message. I think pumping up Barack Obama’s numbers does.

          • Davis X. Machina

            Yeah, but which one’s going to make you feel good?

            Because politics is primarily a form of self-expression.

      • Anonymous

        It’s posturing to proverbially tick a box in a secret ballot?

    • I wish Dr. Stein would knock off the pointless vanity races and run for a statewide office again, maybe as a Democrat. Imagine a left-wing insurgency in a primary campaign for Treasurer or Auditor against some Beacon Hill hack. All of the OFA and Warren troops would knock on doors for her.

      She lost to Bill Galvin, the best secretary of state in the country. That doesn’t mean she can’t win a race.

      • This makes so much sense.

      • Paula

        Here’s the problem — she becomes Elizabeth Warren running for Senate. Someone who instantly loses all cred because she does things to help herself win, like aligning with already established Democrats.

        • I have two questions:

          With whom do you think Elizabeth Warren has lost credibility?

          What is Jill Stein doing with her credibility these days?

          • Paula

            I’m saying the Left who used to really like her (like on Naked Capitalism) are peddling theories about how she got “shafted” and made irrelevant by Obama because he, somehow, was the one who “pushed” her to run for Senate.

            • Hogan

              Credibility on Naked Capitalism and four dollars will get you a large latte, but then you wouldn’t have four dollars for GOTV, so skip the latte and you’ll get one vote.

            • YankeeFrank

              Um, Obama did offer her the run for the Mass. senate as consolation prize for him not appointing her to run the CFPA that she invented, lobbied for and then physically built.

              On that note, and with the caveat that I do actually agree with Erik’s main point here, Obama isn’t exactly the friend of the poor here in the actual USA. His policies have left the poor (and middle class) much poorer on an accelerating basis. He didn’t create the mess, but he has done nothing to help mitigate the disaster for the poor that was the housing bubble, and has actually actively aided the banks by essentially driving the getaway car.

              That, coupled with his plans for social security and medicare, the TPP on the horizon, the other trade deals he’s signed, don’t point to a wonderful four years for the poor coming up. Would Romney be worse? Yes. And that’s why I pointed out my agreement up front. But, damn, Obama ain’t no prize for labor, the working man, the poor, or pretty much anybody below the millionaire mark. Perhaps he’ll come around in a second term and actually remember the struggling people of this nation, but I’m not holding my breath.

            • YankeeFrank

              Oh, and I’m from the NC crowd, and Yves’ line on Warren is that she was outmaneuvered by the Obama administration, like many others have been. But that’s pretty much as far as it goes — the NC crowd actively wishes her well and supports Warren’s senate run, so don’t speak for us. And don’t turn people away from the best finance/economy/econ blog on the internet for chrissakes. Yves Smith takes apart financial propaganda like its wet tissue paper. And that is a full time job. The left has ignored finance and banking for decades, to its massive failure and disgrace frankly. Since we are talking about helping the poor, understanding the economics and banking situation and being able to effectively counter the garbage that is spewed in support of those criminals is of the utmost importance. The left can no longer ignore these subjects for whatever reason they have in the past. They are too important, so please don’t casually fling around insults at a site that is doing God’s work on behalf of all of us, especially the poor.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Why do all the bands I like sell out?

          • I got this shirt when I saw Elizabeth Warren play in a refrigerator box in DC. This was before she released her first album. No, not the LP. The EP-cassette. Not many people have heard it. She was really punk back then.

          • Paula

            Whatever support Jill Stein is inspiring is less about Jill Stein than about her status as the Green Party candidate. Making her a Democrat tends to ruin that mystique.

            It would be credit to Jill Stein to actually run for a winnable seat. But the people who say they like her now openly admit that their support is about symbolism.

            • No, the people who say that will vote for her in this Presidential campaign only like the Green Party symbolism.

              Jill Stein is a brilliant, capable person. She is universally acknowledged to have won the debates during the 2010 governor’s race hands down – including by Deval Patrick.

              I think she’s got a lot on the ball, and could actually get somewhere and make a difference if she stopped screwing around with this Lexington-Concord protest candidate act.

              • charles pierce

                And our kids used to fence together for the Boston Fencing Club Junior team. So there’s that.

        • Informant

          I thought she lost credibility by pretending to be Native American?

          • Warren Terra

            How do you trolls type while tomahawk-chopping?

            • Mrs Tilton

              Yeah, what with the tomahawk-chopping, that leaves them… emmm… no hands to type with!

      • PSP

        The Beacon Hill hack please…. The Democratic party has had total control of the Statehouse for decades. The left in Massachusetts has about as much control there as it does in Montana. When the left can actually win enough elections to have some influence in the General Court, then it would be time to think about electing a couple congressmen, etc.

        Running for President when your highest previous office is being elected to the Lexington town meeting is about as meaningful as publishing a book at a vanity press.

  • Dead Muslims

    I guess we’re just “privileged white people”. Well, that sure is news to us.

    • If this comment wasn’t written by a white guy who grew up in the suburbs, then I’m RuPaul.

      • variable

        Does Lowell even have suburbs?

        • calling all toasters

          Yes, but in keeping with the literal meaning they are underneath Lowell.

        • There are suburbs around Lowell, but they are not suburbs of Lowell. They are suburbs of Boston.

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  • Joe

    When the Green candidate couldn’t tell the difference between Romney and Obama, well, I didn’t want to vote for her. Even if Obama is like +30 or something in my state.

    Let’s try this one more time. During armed conflicts authorized by Congress (Ron Paul signed on), presidents are allowed, without putting out a press release, to order the death of people. This is what “armed conflict” means. Also, see Civil War et. al., this includes if they are proper targeted, “American citizens.” This is not a precedent Obama “established.” You can be against this as horrible policy all you want.

    Armed conflict also results in the death of minors. I know this shocks people. But, it does. Ask the many many “minors” killed during WWII.

    “Civil liberties” include abortion, health care, reproductive freedom, gay rights etc. BTW, surely, he didn’t vote for Obama, who said upfront his intention to expand the war in Afghanistan and targeting Al Qaida in 2008.

    I appreciate the sense of perspective of the OP. But, well, I was told once someone wasn’t going to vote for Obama because of medicinal marijuana. I replied such one issue voting is a bit skewered. I was sneered at.

    One more thing. We didn’t “start” to spy on citizens in 2001. I welcome pacifism (the only way not to kill innocents) and all the rest, but the reality based community has more facts and perspective than guys like this have. Since some lose perspective around here (like the contributor who can’t see the difference between protecting same sex marriage in court and Bush v. Gore), I appreciate it especially from someone who in you know no Obamabot.

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  • IOKIYAR(ight-wing)

    Right-wing enabling of the greater evil perpetrated by Republican trolls like Connor Friedersdorf is either ignorant or evil itself.

    Republicans policies are the greater evil and dishonest or ignorant “moral” fools that that can’t, don’t, or won’t understand that can’t be taken seriously and can’t be trusted.

    Connor Friedersdorf is either a dishonest manipulator or a fool.

  • John Matthews

    On the other hand, Friedersdorf doesn’t seem to care one iota about the horrible economic and social policies a Romney administration would enact.

    While I enjoy Friedersdorf’s writing, frankly, I just don’t think he’s knowledgeable enough about economics to consider the implications.

    On Twitter earlier today, in a conversation with Josh Barro, he acknowledged that (under a hypothetical 2nd Obama term) a possible war with Iran would be much worse than (under a hypothetical Romney term) the U.S. defaulting and/or being downgraded.

    So yes, when you’re not versed in macro to the point where you can’t grasp what a downgrade would do to the fragile recovery, it stands to reason that the civil rights of American enemies would be your litmus test.

    Hah, I really like your point though (and had not thought about that until now). What a first world problem in things of terms to care about.

    There’s so much more at stake.

  • norbizness

    That may all be true, but Friedersdorf on Golf is still a VHS triumph of physical comedy.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    I’m very late to this picnic (it was Yom Kippur), but to me the key question is: where does Friedersdorf vote? ‘Cause if he’s not in a battleground state, it’s perfectly sensible for him to cast his presidential ballot symbolically.

    • Symbolic votes for presidential candidates is sheer narcissism.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        All votes in solidly red and solidly blue states are purely symbolic, Erik. Are you suggesting that voters in such states should just stay home?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Let’s get more concrete: I vote in Oklahoma. I plan to vote for Barack Obama, in part because only he and Romney will appear on the ballot (and we don’t have write-ins). However, were Jill Stein on the ballot, I might consider voting for her.

          My vote for Obama will be 100% symbolic. It will have no effect whatsoever on the outcome of this presidential election, just as my vote for Jill Stein would be 100% symbolic (were I able to vote for her).

          Why would my vote for Stein be narcissistic while my vote for Obama not be?

          Just to be clear: as you know, I think there’s are profound differences between Obama and Romney. That’s why, given a stark, symbolic choice between the two of them, I’m willing to vote for Obama. And if I had a (battleground state) vote that was more than symbolic, I’d absolutely cast it for Obama (even if I had other choices I preferred, as well).

          But whether or not symbolic presidential votes are narcissistic, a majority of voters in the U.S. are stuck with them, whomever we choose to vote for.

  • Friedersdorf & his ilk should realize that Eisenhower’s “military-industrial-Congressional” complex has morphed into a national security state that has effected a regulatory capture of sorts on the presidency & foreign policy establishment (no matter which party or what campaign promises were made) & that there is essentially nothing that can be done about this until people who think for themselves & reject most of the conventional fascist wisdom are elected to the Presidency & majorities in Congress.

    I’m hoping that this might happen by 2050 or so. OK, OK, 2075, if we’re lucky.

  • I am still overflowing with glowy rainbow happiness that my [in retrospect ill-considered, like many upthread] vote for Nader in the 2000 election really fucking showed those screws.

    I made a god damned statement with my vote, let me tell you. And all available evidence is that it made a Huge Fucking Difference. Why, look how much further left the national debate has moved since my Statement Vote!

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  • Junaid


    I am an Afghan-American, and I would like to say that I will not be voting for President Obama even though I’m not white.

    You see, I believe that you and your ilk suffer from a privilege of your own and that is one where you are not a Muslim villager who has been traumatized by more than 12 years of war. You are an American looking after your OWN self-interest. Because the bottom line is that ALL of us are looking out for ourselves. Romney is looking out for himself and those in his economic bracket. Women are looking out for those who will protect their own rights. I, as an Afghan, will be looking out for my countrymen.

    So, you can write an entire “blog” post about how privileged we are or you can admit that people are complex and they vote according to emotion.


    • YankeeFrank

      So you think Romney will be better for Afghanis than Obama?

  • Diomedes

    It is not a matter of simple principle that I choose to vote for someone who will end the drones, “etc.” America rules not just itself, but, in many ways, the world. Of course I care about people who are without money, skin-privilege, homes. I am currently homeless, as it happens. But this is not some single-issue. This is about the maintenance of the American empire that ensures its hegemony by obliterating innocent civilians, up to a quarter of those killed by drone strikes. Is it not arrogant to care about our own citizens, when poor, rural, brown people already living under oppression in their home countries must fear bombs coming from the sky? Is this not the privilege of living as a resident or citizen in the United States? Two more points: aren’t you advocating an argument on principle as much as we? Aren’t you making a trade-off — our abortion rights and saftey net at the expense of the very lives of non-American people of color? And, you know, I know plenty of people without great means and people of color who are voting against Obama because of his foreign policy. Many are Native American. They still remember what being the victims of the American military feels like. Your post above seems a little too easy, to me.

  • Scott

    I would like to think that, objectively, we can all agree that bombing poor women and children who have no ability whatsoever to defend themselves is the worst thing ever. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the new Stanford/NYU study on the effectiveness of drone strikes in the Middle East, but I’d highly recommend looking at it. Gay rights and abortion rights are important, but creating an atmosphere in which women and children cower in fear daily and parents are even afraid to send their children to school seems to be a much greater offense.

    Perhaps you should take a page from his own book and consider his “privilege” at not having to worry about his children (if you have them) being blown up as they walk to school. Then re-evaluate what’s more important.

  • Every comment here that accuses CF of callousness towards women, children, gays, etc should be edited to read “American women”, “American children”, and “American gays”. Obama is brutally callous, not to mention homicidal, towards certain *foreign* women, children, and gays — including those he is coldbloodedly killing in rural Pakistan (and other locales), and whose relatives he is leaving with PTSD. Not to mention, for gods sake, good Samaritans who rush to assist victims of a drone attack, and are subsequently targeted!! (BTW this last is a sadistic terrorist tactic known as the “double-tap”.)

    Also, FWIW I’m pretty stunned at all the casual assumptions about how white males will automatically agree with the CF article. I thought prejudging all members of a group defined by common birth/genes was one definition of bigotry. “Penile persuasion” ??? Good grief *listen* to yourselves! [And yes, I am what you folks would call a white, privileged male.]

    • PSP

      What is with the defenders of drone targets? Don’t you realize that the most likely alternative is not no bombs? The likely alternatives range from assassination teams to stick after stick of dummy iron bombs being dropped by B-52s, while the White House piously announces that there are no operations in Cambodia Pakistan.

      No conceivable American President has the political capital to withstand allegations that they aren’t doing anything about al quida members preparing attacks just over the border from Afghanistan. In fact, drone attacks are the only thing giving Obama the cover to withdraw troops. Without drone attacks, the war in Afghanistan continues indefinitely.

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  • David Dubinski

    This is one of the more offensive blog posts I have ever read.

    Its incredibly condescending to imply that the underprivileged must (or will?) vote their self interest but cannot (or won’t?) vote their conscience. On top of that, its incredibly presumptuous to then imply that only Barack Obama can promote their self interest.

    This post then gets into the realm of the absurd by implying that this self interest is due to Obama’s incredible policies on abortion rights and labor. Do I really have to remind the true believers on this board that under an Obama presidency, Mississippi only has one abortion clinic or that the labor market is horrible and wages have stagnated for all but the top 1%? Do I have to remind you that Obama’s former chief of staff is responsible a major battle against labor? The fact that said battle primarily affects women and children of color just adds to the absurdity.

    Maybe the underprivileged will vote for someone who actually represents them. Maybe the underprivileged will vote based on a dart board. I don’t know. I don’t speak for them and neither should you. Hocking an inferior presidential candidate that has done massive harm to the underprivileged, and then claiming that its in those same people’s self interest to vote for him is just audacious.

    • katie

      this blog post also lacks basic logic. a privileged white man who need not be worried about gay rights or women’s rights is going to be even less personally affected by drone strikes in pakistan.
      as a woman who is affected by far-right anti-abortion and anti-contraception policies, i have decided the actual lives of innocent pakistani children are more important than my ability to continue to live what is- relatively speaking- a pretty cushy life.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Erik, do Pakistanis count as “white”?

  • Drew

    Do you read any blogs by black progressives?

  • JOR

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is your brain on identity politics.

    Jesus Facehugging Christ. In the American Empire, Americans (that includes American poor disabled black gay trans women) are extremely privileged compared to the inhabitants of the client-states and invaded territories. By privilege-politics standards, “oppressed” Americans aren’t that oppressed at all in the grand scheme of things, and so are worthless. Deal with it.

    • katie

      very true.

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  • dino

    The funniest thing about this thread is that the odds of any persons vote changing or deciding the election or mattering is infinitesimal. Hence, your vote is irrelevant.

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  • 456789

    This post is one big ad hominem. Which is a logical fallacy, if you didn’t know. I don’t support or even empathize with fallacious arguments. Next.

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