Subscribe via RSS Feed

Leftsplaining

[ 389 ] September 28, 2012 |

I really loved reading this Rebecca Solnit article on “leftsplaining” after being attacked on Twitter all day yesterday from self-proclaimed lefties because I suggested that those who urge us to vote for Gary Johnson because of Obama’s terrible drone policies can do so because they are privileged enough to ignore what a Romney or Johnson presidency would do to poor people in this country. Glenn Greenwald has basically spent 24 hours attacking this site on his Twitter feed and essentially claiming that we are mouthpieces of the Democratic Party. Which if so, where’s my paycheck from the DNC? I hope it’s as much as Glenn makes from CATO.

Anyway, Solnit:

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

I don’t think we should be grateful to Obama for his successes. But it is OK to recognize them for the limited wins that they are without going completely ballistic about all the bad things in the world. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, we need a smarter left that understands the mechanics of the American political system if we want to create long-term meaningful change at the government level. Like myself, Solnit sees a lot of people who don’t get this:

So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she’s anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.

As Solnit points out, being yelled at by leftier-than-thou people does not build movements. If you can’t engage a diversity of opinion, forget about making change. It alienates people immediately. Yet, in our atomized and hyper-individualistic modern left, a modern left very much shaped by the fetishization of individualism pushed upon us by the consumer capitalism it theoretically rejects, each individual feels that have the right and responsibility to yell at the top of their lungs about the issues they care about and to personally attack anyone who doesn’t show their commitment to purity.

Of course, there are many, many committed activists who don’t do these things. But it doesn’t take a lot of people to tear apart movements when purity is demanded in loud voices. See the inability of Occupy Wall Street to continue in its present form for example.

Let’s let Solnit close this post with a statement I could not agree with more:

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all US presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.

Indeed.

Comments (389)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. pathman says:

    Here’s a little quiz to see which candidate you most align with. It’s interesting.

    http://www.isidewith.com/presidential-election-quiz

    • Malaclypse says:

      I’m pretty certain the quiz will tell me I align closely with Jill Stein. That does not change the fact that Jill Stein’s chances of victory are exactly equal to the chance that 51% of all voters will spontaneously guess my real name and write in me for President.

      • pathman says:

        Cognitive dissonance. Got it.

      • John says:

        I’d add that even beyond that, “what candidate I align most closely with on the issues” is not the only consideration in terms of what candidate I will vote for. On those quizzes in the primaries, I always got the result that I was most closely aligned with Dennis Kucinich on the issues. Even if Kucinich had been a viable candidate, there’s absolutely no way I would have voted for him, because he gives every indication that he would be a horrible, horrible president in spite of our agreement on most issues.

        • If you’re a movement conservative, and you don’t really care about how well the government can do its “day job” – if politics and government is just an arena for ideological combat and the provisions of spoils to your kind of people – then you don’t really have to consider anything except candidates’ stances on issues.

          But reality-based people don’t have that option. We also need to pick someone who is up for doing a very difficult, sensitive job.

      • Walt says:

        That’s a roundabout way of admitting that you’re really Jill Stein.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        The only reason that Jill Stein’s chances of winning Oklahoma’s seven electoral votes are lower than Barack Obama’s is that our ballot access laws are incredibly restrictive and nobody but Romney and Obama will appear on the ballot. Whoever appears on the ballot in Oklahoma, the only person with an actual chance of winning is Mitt Romney.

        Our presidential election is a series of fifty-one separate votes for electors from each of the states and D.C. In most of those elections, only one candidate stands any chance whatsoever of winning. There’s no reason in the world that people who can vote for Jill Stein and want to vote for Jill Stein (or Rocky Anderson or Gary Johnson or anyone else on the ballot) in very red or very blue states shouldn’t do so.

        • drs says:

          Of course, that logic only follows if few people follow it. If lots of e.g. California Democrats decided to vote Green, suddenly Romney could win.

      • sam says:

        I’ve always said that these quizzes should have as a gatekeeping question “Do you care if the candidate you most closely align with has a chance in hell of winning?”. As I always ended up with Kucinich as well.

    • Sherm says:

      Yes, I aligned with Jill Stein at a 97% clip, and Mitt Romney at a 2% clip. Thanks for the link btw. Since only Obama and Romney have a chance to win, I guess I should vote for Obama, with whom I aligned with at an 86% clip, to help defeat the person with whom whom I disagree with 98% of the time.

      • I haz a shock that people who don’t understand this rationale have failed to build a grand leftist movement to change the hearts and minds of median America.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I’m shocked that I was 53% with American Voters! That’s better than I would have dreamed.

          Stein 94%, Obama 90% (they’re that close?!), and Mitt 2%

          • Well now I feel like a troglodyte for being 62% with them.

            98%
            Jill Stein
            on immigration, foreign policy, healthcare, environmental, economic, domestic policy, science, and social issues

            86%
            Barack Obama
            on social, foreign policy, science, immigration, environmental, and healthcare issues

            85%
            Rocky Anderson
            on economic, social, healthcare, immigration, foreign policy, domestic policy, and environmental issues

            61%
            Gary Johnson
            on social and domestic policy issues

            11%
            Mitt Romney
            no major issues

            2%
            Virgil Goode
            no major issues

            62%
            American Voters
            on foreign policy, science, environmental, economic, immigration, social, and domestic policy issues.

            Who you side with by party…
            97% Democrat
            96% Green
            39% Libertarian
            6% Republican

    • Leeds man says:

      I’m just disappointed I got 5% agreement with Romney. Must’ve clicked summat wrong.

    • Joe says:

      Stein and Obama, separated by 1% and given the margin factored in weigh of concern, well, toss-up. OTOH, there was no vote on “Stein can’t tell the difference between Obama and Romney/Ryan” on economic issues or “Stein has no shot at winning.” But, hey, if we had instant run-off voting or some other system, I might think about voting for her, though Nader-esque comments about two different people not really being different piss me off.

    • Ruby says:

      I was confused as to how I got 9% for Romney, what with having voted massively hard left, until I noticed I’d accidentally said I don’t support gun control. O.o

      Fixed it (and tweeked a few other things) and he’s now down to 4% (We match on things like opposing SOPA/PIPA and supporting NATO in Sudan, as well as some things I don’t agree were matches.)

      The change also made me 94% Jill Stein (instead of 92%) and lowered my scores with Obama and Ohio/US voters.

      Though I’m STILL 98% Democrat (and now, 0% Republican ^_^). Only 93% Green.

      Either way, I’m still voting for Obama.

    • GFW says:

      A bunch of us (at another site) did that quiz a few weeks back and most of us got both
      a) Closer agreement with Stein than Obama &
      b) Closer agreement with Dems than Greens.

      All but one of us concluded that of course we should still vote for a second Obama term. The one who thinks he might vote for Stein lives in NY, so no worries.

    • I align with Jill Stein 95% and Barack Obama 88% according to that quiz.

      I align with Romney 2%.

      What I glean from those results in that all of this caterwauling from the left is over very small potatoes.

    • Auguste says:

      To echo and enhance what others have said, I agreed with Jill Stein 98%. Barack Obama 81%. Mitt Romney 0%. If it means I have to choose 81% in order to avoid 0% at the expense of a quixotic 98%, I’m so sanguine about that I might as well be bright fucking red. How hard is this to understand?

      • Colin says:

        To add to the useless results, I was thrilled to end up at 0% with Romney, but stunned that I ended up in 47% agreement with Texas voters (on issues of science, foreign policy, and domestic policy [!?!?!?]).

  2. david mizner says:

    Some of this debate may be a difference in outlook — despair v. hope, pessimism v. optimism, realism v. utopianism — but it’s also a difference in opinion about Obama.

    Take the health care plan, usually cited as Obama’s big plus, his life-saver. There are people who sincerely believe it strengthened the corporate-insurance regime, that it won’t contain costs and therefore will set back the cause of government health care. You may disagree with this opinion, fine — the jury is still out — but it’s held just as sincerely as yours. If lefties aren’t clapping, it’s not because they’re too cool for school (or white and privileged.)

    • Take another example. As highly as I think of Sarah Jaffe, she said something interesting yesterday. She said something to the effect that the people complaining(in her Twitter feed) about Obama’s use of drones were all white guys. I obviously follow a different set of people because the ones complaining in my feed weren’t all white. Far from it.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        What you fail to understand is that nobody is objecting to complaints about Obama’s use of drones. They’re objecting to idiotic non-sequiturs about how since Obama uses drones a Republican administration would be as good or better.

        • Corey says:

          Has anyone said this?

          • Corey says:

            Asking seriously.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            Friedersdorf said that voting for Gary Johnson would be better. Who was a Republican governor and would have the Republican economic war on the poor were he elected to the presidency.

            • Corey says:

              Well, that’s Young Conor. What about lefties?

              I’m not claiming to have read the entirety of this discussion on the internet, but it certainly seems like the idea is “an Obama vote is harm reduction” – not something to be proud of, exactly, and certainly not something to fight for – but something that needs to be done to temper to whatever degree possible the malignancy of American power.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Farrell did.

                Also, even if it was just Conor — I mean, it was his post that started it, and it’s the lefties praising his stupid post that have generated further discussion.

                • G. Angeletti says:

                  You’ve inadvertently linked to yourself. Link instead to the post in which Farrell says that voting for Romney or Johnson would be as good or better than voting for Obama. I can’t find it.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  As I quoted in that post:

                  public debate over this policy, since most of the right tacitly agrees with the bad stuff) weighs the balance in favor of voting against Democrats who you know are going to sell out.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  Farrell is an interesting guy, and blitheringly idiotic on this topic – but I believe he’s Irish. He’s not voting for anybody on the first Tuesday in November.

                • G. Angeletti says:

                  Farrell states that a strong case can be made for not voting for Obama. He also states that the “a Romney Presidency would be much worse” claim is not obviously true. Finally, he gives reasons for making each of these two statements. He neither says nor implies that Romney would be as good or better than Obama, and he says nothing at all about Johnson, at least not in the two posts to which you’ve referred me (one of them by Danial rather than Henry).

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Farrell states that a strong case can be made for not voting for Obama.

                  Precisely. And here’s the thing: there isn’t! Precisely who you think progressives should support once you’ve made this fundamental error is beside the point.

                • djw says:

                  I believe he’s Irish. He’s not voting for anybody on the first Tuesday in November.

                  He is now an American Citizen, so he will be voting presumably.

                  On about 90% of issues, “Henry Farrell strongly disagrees” would be sufficient to seriously reexamine my priors. I’m genuinely surprised to see him take such an empirically and morally indefensibly position so stubbornly.

                • Come off it Scott. That is both untrue and more than a little offensive. I never at any point said that voting for Gary Johnson would be better, or anything like it. I said that given the stuff with drones and stuff, I was on the fence about voting for Obama. If you really don’t want this conversation to degenerate – and I believe you when you say that you don’t – I would suggest that you be careful to make sure that you don’t misrepresent what others have, in fact, said.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  That is both untrue and more than a little offensive. I never at any point said that voting for Gary Johnson would be better, or anything like it.

                  Where did I say that? I didn’t say anything about Gary Johnson. I said that you implied that a Republican administration could be as good or better, because it would do similar things but generate more dissent. I don’t know how else to read your argument that “But it isn’t at all clear that the consequences of voting for Romney over the longer term, would be any worse than the consequences of voting for the guy who was supposed to be better on these issues, and was not.” I will grant that you don’t fully endorse this argument, but you do clearly believe that it’s reasonable, and here I’m afraid we fundamentally disagree.

            • MaxwellsDemon says:

              Right, Friedersdorf said that. But you took a gratuitous shot at Greenwald, who has never hinted that an Obama 2012 reelection isn’t best for progressives. His general counsel to the left to up the price of its support is sound, but implicitly conditional on the stakes of a Democratic loss. As for that potsht about CATO, you seem quite attached to the absurd reasoning that, since has written reports for Cato on issues on which his and Cato’s views align, all his other professed positions must be a ruse. Or you’re just confused and think PRO-regulation, PRO-redistribution, ANTI-inequality, ANTI-corporate positions, plus delivering the most unreserved, consistent, and eloquent support for Occupy from any pundit anywhere = libertarianism. You seem to have issues with Greenwald driven by something other than the content of his analysis and advocacy, which should be wholly inoffensive to a thinking progressive.

            • MaxwellsDemon says:

              Oh, and about your absurd differentiation of your “relation” to the Democratic Party from his to Cato. Yes, there is a difference. Greenwald has never written a word on Cato’s dime with which a progressive could disagree. But your attacks on the left could just as well have come from a corporatist DLC hack.

              • YankeeFrank says:

                Well, there was the post where Greenwald defended Citizen’s United as the law of the land and money as speech. That left a bad taste in my mouth. Here it is: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/30/free_speech_and_donations/.

                And… taking money from Cato, a Koch-sponsored enterprise, taints Greenwald for me. Whatever work he did for them, taking money from the Kochs makes Greenwald a shill. Studies have shown that even taking a can of soda as a gift can create a bias towards the giver, and here is Greenwald taking thousands of dollars (undisclosed dollars, until the exiledonline dudes shamed him into admitting it) from a “libertarian think tank” that is a front for Koch interests. Conflicts of interest like this do him no service. I have been an avid Greenwald reader for several years, and agree with him on much of what he writes, as far as it goes. But I am disappointed that he chose to do this and must question his motives. That said, I do not think that, because he pointed out that some of Ron Paul’s positions align with civil rights and liberties positions that liberals generally subscribe to more than Obama’s positions, that he is covertly or otherwise supporting Paul for president.

                But in the final analysis, Its a complex and massively corrupt world, and writers who want to be taken as independent thinkers need to be careful who they take money from. Period. The appearance of a conflict of interest IS a conflict of interest.

      • david mizner says:

        The ones complaining about it Pakistan are all brown.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Do any of them advocate voting for Romney?

          • david mizner says:

            No, but you can bet that many of them would’ve supported Ron Paul.

            • Malaclypse says:

              For values of “many” equal to “people who don’t understand Ron Paul’s chances of victory” that is no doubt true.

              And, for the record, I urge disaffected conservatives of the wisdom of voting for Paul or Johnson. I cannot emphasize enough that these two are the only real conservatives running. Conservatives should totally vote for them.

              • david mizner says:

                Well, two debates are getting conflated.

                There’s the debate about the election: you know where I stand. Vote Obama in a swing state.

                There’s a separate but relate debate growing out of the claim, made by vaccumslayer in this very thread, that those who “complain” about drones and the like are white privileged dudes. And you know where I stand: bullshit.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I saw VS claim that those who advocate voting third party are white dudes. I did not see her say that those who complain about drones are white dudes.

                  Many people complain about drones, without laboring under the delusion that Republicans are a million times worse.

                • david mizner says:

                  Oh, Ok. But the only person calling for a third party vote, it seems to me, is conservative Conor.

                  Anwyay, the “white dude” argument is a little odd given that the Green Party ticket is two women.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          And what Pakistanis really want, I’m sure, is for the drone campaign to continue with an invasion of Iran on the side.

        • Halloween Jack says:

          You traveled thousands of miles to run the paper bag test on all of them? Impressive.

      • hotsauce says:

        Comfortable white liberals do not read angry black leftists. Who knew?

        With all the professed concern with poor minorities at home and innocent brown people abroad, I am sure all the righteous liberals will be pushing the administration for much more humane foreign and domestic policy after the election.

        • L2P says:

          My favorite part about that site is when they start attacking Al Sharpton and other noted liberal fascists for not being liberal and supporting the black agenda enough.

          Now that’s some coalition building right there! My guess is racial equality will come seconds after we follow those well-examined plans!

        • G. Angeletti says:

          This is generally true. Firedoglake does now regularly link to BAR. But maybe those while liberals are not comfortable. Or are they not even liberals?

          Has anyone at LGM or Balloon Juice ever responded to anything Glen Ford has written? If so, I missed it.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      There has never been anything remotely resembling a good argument that the PPACA doesn’t improve the status quo, and that it “strengthens the corporate-insurance” regime is an issue only if you think it’s plausible that legislation destroying the private insurance industry could pass Congress, which requires remarkable cluelessness about American politics. That bad functionalist and heighten-the-contadictions arguments are sincerely held doesn’t make them less bad.

      • Robert Cruickshank says:

        I would agree with David’s points about PPACA and do not agree that a single-payer solution was not or is not possible.

        But that gets to the point as I see it, which is that it’s not about Obama but it’s about us as activists and a movement. This need to characterize Obama as good or bad, as worthy or unworthy of re-election, avoids the deeper and more pressing issues of how we organize to produce change.

        LGBT activism has proven that Obama can be moved. They learned that the trick wasn’t to spend time arguing over whether Obama was good or bad, but instead to spend time holding him to his professed values and making life difficult until he gave them what they wanted.

        It was a classic Alinsky strategy and it paid off.

        The progressive movement was very deeply divided over strategy on health care in 2009 and 2010. Those divisions existed for understandable reasons but they are a primary reason why the bill turned out the way it did. I would add that nobody really figured out to navigate the Senate and produce progressive outcomes during the crucial 6 or 7 months when Dems had a 60 vote majority. Well, actually, the only person who did figure it out was Obama, and the PPACA looks as it does as a result.

        More analysis by progressives of how power is won and used would be good. Endless arguments about Obama that are rooted in Great Leaderism haven’t accomplished any victories so far and I doubt they ever will.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          and do not agree that a single-payer solution was not or is not possible.

          Can you cite some precedents of major welfare legislation in American history that didn’t buy off entrenched interests? If you can count to 1 that’s higher than me.

        • “LGBT activism has proven that Obama can be moved. They learned that the trick wasn’t to spend time arguing over whether Obama was good or bad, but instead to spend time holding him to his professed values and making life difficult until he gave them what they wanted.”

          Um…no. The lesson of LGBT activist success is that you need to spend a lot less time trying to get the President to rhetorically pat you on the head and more time worrying about getting actual shit done…after which point the politicians will follow the crowd like they always do and pat you on the head.

          • Corey says:

            I don’t understand the “getting shit done” objection. Greenwald (and people who think like he does on drones and the security state) have radically changed my opinion – and I’m sure others – on the nature of American hegemony. Changing peoples’ minds is “getting shit done”.

            • thefax says:

              Changing minds is the easiest part of getting shit done. Now run for town consul or something, develop a resume so that you can run for congress in a few years. Encourage others to do the same, and find some wealthy political active patrons you would fund y’all. Challenge Republicans and Blue Dogs from the left, win a few seats. Encourage others to do the same, find funding for them, etc etc…

              • Corey says:

                Well, we have an extant, relatively radical-left coalition in OWS. A group that folks here certainly identify with and one that is, I’d be willing to guess, quite concerned with the drone war at least at the elite levels of the movement. Who says that changing minds isn’t changing the foreign policy outlook of that coalition?

        • Holden Pattern says:

          1) The LGBT victory was forcing Obama to publicly return to a position he had publicly taken before it was politically infeasible for him to take the public position on which he ran for President. So, good — clearly he’s able to be moved a little bit and like almost all politicians has his finger in the wind.

          2) I recall a lot of people saying to those who expressed concern about Obama’s softness on equality and friendliness with anti-gay bigots that they should STFU because Obama’s position was as good as it would get and he had to cozy up to the bigots, and OMIGOD SHUTUP SHUTUP SHUTUP THE REPUBLICANS WOULD BE WORSE!

          3) So the ongoing pressure and organizing by the LGBT community was done in the face of exactly the same lesserevilism STFU that everyone who criticizes Great Leader gets. IOW, it’s really hard to take that STFU as coming from a place of actual analysis instead of a reflexive team-jersey partisanship.

          • Paula says:

            Well, that’s how you remember it …

            I remember a pretty visible split between some veteran activist organizations like the HRC who were seen as being too willing to work inside the Democratic party/ too soft on criticizing Obama and the less insider-y bloggers who were pissed off at being told by insiders to be patient.

            As far as I can tell, the veteran insider types were the ones who were claiming victory inside that White House function.

            • Halloween Jack says:

              I remember a lot of people insisting that Obama would never get DADT repealed or change on SSM because he didn’t do so immediately. Unsurprisingly, once he did move on that, they decided that Gary Johnson or Jill Stein was their man/woman.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            recall a lot of people saying to those who expressed concern about Obama’s softness on equality and friendliness with anti-gay bigots that they should STFU because Obama’s position was as good as it would get and he had to cozy up to the bigots, and OMIGOD SHUTUP SHUTUP SHUTUP THE REPUBLICANS WOULD BE WORSE!

            The voices in your head are very insistent about making this argument. Other people, not so much.

        • NonyNony says:

          LGBT activism has proven that Obama can be moved. They learned that the trick wasn’t to spend time arguing over whether Obama was good or bad, but instead to spend time holding him to his professed values and making life difficult until he gave them what they wanted.

          NO! FUCK NO!

          The lesson of LGBT activism is that if you spend 50 FUCKING YEARS pushing for civil rights in an open and dedicated manner – often putting your life and limb on the line – you can manage to drag the population from an attitude of “let’s go out this Friday and beat up some queers” to “gay men and women are people too and should have the same rights as everyone else.” Once you have the majority of the population behind that idea eventually you’re going to get a Congress in place who can make the changes you want a a President in place who sees that the politically expedient thing to do is the same as the right thing to do and do it.

          This lesson is strangely similar to the lessons of the Abolitionist movement, the Women’s Suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, and ANY OTHER FUCKING PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT IN THIS COUNTRY THAT HAS EVER ACTUALLY GOTTEN ANY FUCKING THING ACCOMPLISHED EVER.

          Honestly it isn’t hard – we have a popularly elected government. Therefore the first necessary step to making change is make that change popular. It’s not sufficient – the next step is to make it politically beneficial for politicians to rally behind that change instead of fighting it. And any movement that has succeeded in this country has managed to do both of those things.

          You want the government to take an anti-war stance? You need to figure out a way to make War unpopular with the masses. Then you need to figure out a way to give politicians a way to benefit from taking an anti-war stance that is more than what they get from taking a hawkish stance. You get those dominoes in play and eventually they will fall.

          That’s how it works. That’s how it has always worked. The President who gets the credit is the guy who happens to hold the office at the time AND figures out that it’s the time to make the change. But it’s the PEOPLE who decide that that change should or should not happen. Concentrate your efforts on them and expect to put in a century or so of effort to get the change you want and you’ll be on your way to actually applying some of the lessons that people have learned in this country over the last 200 or so years.

          • rea says:

            That’s how it works. That’s how it has always worked

            And that’s how it is supposed to work in a democracy.

          • So then why is the President talking about a “Grand Bargain” when people outside D.C.(and Wall Street) wants jobs and don’t give a shit about the deficit? Do you think the Spanish and Greeks want more austerity? Yet that’s what they are being given. So your point about the majority of people backing a position doesn’t mean shit. Politicians will do what they want to do, whether the public backs the position or not.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Once you have the majority of the population behind that idea eventually you’re going to get a Congress in place who can make the changes you want a a President in place who sees that the politically expedient thing to do is the same as the right thing to do and do it.

            And for things that progressives and leftists want, that Congress and President need to be Democratic. That’s not a good feature of the world. Since Republicans have power roughly half the time, it’d be handy if they did at least some good things somewhat competently, however reluctantly. But that’s not where they’ve been or, afaict, where they’re headed.

      • david mizner says:

        You just break out “the heighten-the-contradictions” line wherever, as if it made sense. This has nothing to do with heightening the contradictions. Many people believe, sincerely, that the ACA, because it relies on a broken system, won’t work and will come to be seen as a failure, dooming the chance of more fundamental reform, that Obama’s neoliberalism will hurt liberalism. Also that is strengthens the clout of the main obstacle to fundamental reform.

        Anyway, as I said, whether or not it’s valid doesn’t matter. I was contesting Solnit’s belief that the failure of some to cheer the ACA derives mainly from gloominess.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Any argument that tells the uninsured and the people who will benefit from the Medicaid expansion to go fuck themselves until the situation gets to bad that completely unprecedented legislation will pass in a generation or six is a heighten-the-contradictions argument.

          • david mizner says:

            No, it’s I’m-not-exicted-about-a-bill-that-despite-some-good-things-actually-make-a-sane-and-more-humane-system-more-unlikely argument.

            Seriously, it’s like a reflex with you, heighten the contradiction, heighten the contr…

            Lose it. It’s embarrassing.

            • Holden Pattern says:

              There’s a “greenlanternism” and a “stupid Naderite” in there somewhere too.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                Don’t forget: BULLY PULPIT!

                [Though on the substance of this particular argument, I actually think Scott is more or less correct.]

            • Ugh, Scott is of course completely right in so much as it only makes single payer less likely on the basis that single payer was only more than 0.0% likely of passing in a world in which the private insurance system has totally collapsed. Short of that, there is, again, a 0.0% chance of single payer ever being enacted in the U.S.

              • drs says:

                I’m not sure “Medicare For All” has a 0% chance of passing. OTOH, someone would have to actually pitch that to the public; my biggest complaint about Obama and the Democrats was that they started off with the compromise of public option, and gave that up, rather than starting with MFA on the table. I don’t know if anything more than PPACA could have passed, given the Senate, but they could have *tried*.

                California’s legislature passed single-payer multiple times, to get vetoed by Arnold. (Vermont’s crawling toward single-payer at some laughably slow rate too, but it lacks the interests California and the US have.)

                • spencer says:

                  my biggest complaint about Obama and the Democrats was that they started off with the compromise of public option, and gave that up, rather than starting with MFA on the table. I don’t know if anything more than PPACA could have passed, given the Senate, but they could have *tried*.

                  I think the biggest problem with that logic has been expressed by Scott a number of times – the Republicans would have been perfectly happy to see nothing pass at all. They could have dismissed the entire idea of HCR out of hand if MFA had been proposed – and then Obama would have been in a much weaker position when he came back with something else.

            • Cody says:

              You’re not that excited about the bill, but the people he was arguing with aren’t saying that.

              They’re saying Obama didn’t accomplish anything in healthcare, ad that simply isn’t true.

              He accomplished more than try to force a single-payer system would, because that would’ve accomplished nothing.

            • Malaclypse says:

              No, it’s I’m-not-exicted-about-a-bill-that-despite-some-good-things-actually-make-a-sane-and-more-humane-system-more-unlikely argument.

              You know, some years ago Mrs Mal and I were pondering moving. And we talked, and we pondered, until the moment that she pointed out that Massachusetts had a ban on denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions, while other states did not, and she had a preexisting condition, so we could never move out of state no matter what.

              The chances of a sane, humane system were always zero. They were zero in 1993, they were zero in 2008, they are zero today. But today, millions of people with preexisting conditions can find insurance.

              • Cody says:

                This doesn’t matter Mal, because it’s single-payer! David would prefer if more people died with pre-existing conditions, that way we can move towards single-payer.

                This totally isn’t heighten the contradictions.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Opposing something you don’t actually contest is an improvement on the status quo on the grounds that it will reduce the chances of passing single payer for the foreseeable future from 0% to 0% is a heighten-the-contradictions argument. Sorry, but it just is.

              • david mizner says:

                No, an actual heighten-the-contradictions argument would be: I don’t want this bill to pass, so that the suffering would lead to radical overhaul. What I’m saying is a) the bill could prove to be unpopular, which would be bad for sweeping health reform of any kind (including a public option) and perhaps sweeping social legislation unrelated to health care. That is: it’s important for liberal or “liberal” bills to work. b) the private health regime would become that much stronger, and more entrenched, which is bad.

                Anyway, I didn’t oppose the ACA and don’t know. I do, however, contest the triumphalist claims for it and see its downsides, which prevent me from regarding it as a Grand Liberal achievement.

                And one of the claims made for it, often, one I contest, os that it would increase the chances of getting government health care, that it was something to build on.

                • The problem is that b) is totally disjointed from a). The only way that the private insurance industry would become not entrenched in America right now is for it to completely collapse. Therefore any bill short of single payer that works will further entrench the private insurance industry.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Perhaps you didn’t oppose it but presumably many of the people who think Obama doesn’t deserve any credit for did. Which, actually, would make more sense.

                • YankeeFrank says:

                  What concerns me is that the insurance that most of us will be able to afford will be practically unusable. By that I mean the deductibles will be so high that we won’t be able to afford to actually use the insurance we are forced to purchase unless we have a major health catastrophe. Might as well just purchase a much cheaper major medical plan instead. Show me where I’m wrong. Seriously.

                • drs says:

                  YankeeFrank: That’s a concern worth considering, yes. http://www.acscan.org/pdf/healthcare/implementation/background/PlanLevelsStandardizationofCoverage.pdf discusses some of the details.

                  Subsidies apparently are aimed at “the second cheapest silver plan available”, so if you’re in between “poor enough for expanded Medicaid” and “rich enough to get no subsidies” you’re at least not being forced onto the most cut-rate plan. And apparently there’ll be cost-sharing credits as well, not just premium credits, for people on silver plans, making them even better.

                  I do think the system is overly baroque, with too much room for hanging oneself with a cheap plan, and for adverse selection between plan levels, but I think it’s better to be in the domain of “tweak the numbers” rather than “fight for a right to health care”.

                • YankeeFrank says:

                  drs, thanks for the response. I too agree. The main moral import of Obamacare is that is does further the establishment of the principle that the people have a right to healthcare. Perhaps not as completely as I think such a principle exists, but better than what we had before. And as for the insurance itself it does appear that it will help people, however imperfectly.

        • A lot of people sincerely believe that demon possession is real too. Sincerity of belief does not change the fact that you’re a fucking idiot.

          • Murc says:

            Which has nothing to do with what David is saying. At all.

            Believing that the ACA won’t work and will come to be seen as a failure might make you dumb, but if it’s a sincerely held belief it undercuts Solnit’s rather insulting point, which is that people adopt positions they don’t REALLY believe out of some desire to be gloomy.

            • david mizner says:

              Right.

              And more generally, I’d argue, this debate is really about how we feel on about the Obama presidency as a whole. Sure, praise him when we agree, criticize when we don’t, etc, but the overall assessment colors the specific assessments. Some smart people on the left think he’s been a pretty good president and some smart people on the left think he’s been an awful president.

              On the latter, all the anti-Obama discussion seems to focus on his War of Terror. In these parts we mostly ignore his monstrous failings in the Wall Street-banking realm. Almost without exception, the leftists who focus on those issues believe Obama’s been terrible president.

              • Malaclypse says:

                In these parts we mostly ignore his monstrous failings in the Wall Street-banking realm.

                I don’t disagree. When Brad DeLong is criticizing a Democratic president from the left, something is very wrong indeed.

                But Obama’s monstrous failings are far better for the nation and world than Romney’s monstrous successes would be.

                • Pseudonym says:

                  Is Brad DeLong now considered some kind of arch-conservative? My impression was that he’s a relative moderate (like Krugman) who’s been cast in the role of token leftist by the extremism of the modern conservative movement.

            • Believing the ACA won’t work as a matter of policy is fine. Believing it made single payer less likely to be enacted is stupid when compared to the actually existing chance of single payer being passed under the circumstances (which was 0.0%) is stupid.

        • Greg says:

          The problem is your goal is fundamental reform. The people who hold up the ACA as positive example do so because their goal is more people getting health care. If people are getting the care they need, how that care is funded moves way down on my list of priorities.

          • bob mcmanus says:

            how that care is funded moves way down on my list of priorities.

            How that care is funded is very high on my list of priorities. Not at the top of my health care concerns, which is why I am conflicted, and how this extremely evil and likely permanent transfer of trillions of dollars in wealth from wages to capital managed to become law.

            • Greg says:

              What wealth was transfered from wages to capital? The medical loss ratio rules mean that at least 80% of the premium dollars get spent on care. While that’s lower than it would be under single-payer, certainly, it’s still more than it was previously. The wealth was moved away from capital and into health care.

              • bob mcmanus says:

                How’s that gonna work, the nation adds up a monthly cost of health care, which then decides the premiums?

                It is so good to know the FIRE will never get to play with mandate/premium money for even a single day, because there are lots of physics majors in London who would love to have it for an hour. And in any case, cash on hand isn’t even necessary if you can demonstrate cash-flow to leverage up.

                ACA ain’t gonna last a decade. Wall Street will leverage and gamble it, and eventually lose.

                Then there will a failed health care system, lots of dead people, and some new billionaires. The new bilionaires, likely including Obama, was the entire point.

                The reason for single-payer is exactly the reason we don’t privatize Social Security.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  How’s that gonna work, the nation adds up a monthly cost of health care, which then decides the premiums?

                  No, that is done annually. Can we take this to mean you are not paying attention to the actual content of the bill, but rather to what ersatz-Marxist theory tells you the content must be?

                  Man, I remember when Marxists were smarter than libertarians…

                • bob mcmanus says:

                  The important point is how long do the insurance companies (like AIG) get to hold and use the money.

                  Single-payer means you get the healthcare and send the bill.

                  That is very far from the way mandate will be used.

                  We have moved from an extractive exploitative economy to a full-on slash-and-burn looting. Bubbles bursting. They knew what they were doing in real estate, and ACA was also designed for this purpose, because burning and looting is all that’s left with social revolution.

                  To get the last blood from the stone before the deluge.

                  Try Michael Roberts economic blog (not him, the Marxist one), Graeber, or Michael Hudson.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  The important point is how long do the insurance companies (like AIG) get to hold and use the money.

                  Oh. I thought the important thing was whether or not more sick people would get well that would otherwise.

                • drs says:

                  Germany’s been using something whose principle is identical to Obamacare… since the 1880s.

      • SN says:

        Electing right-wing democrats that (1) take single payer off the table at the outset (2) reform a system that preserves the power of insurance and pharmaceutical industries and (3) want 60 votes in the Senate for a health care bill (instead of the 51) are not the fact of nature that you suggest above. You function as a agent policing the left, keeping an alternative from emerging and assisting as the mainstream keeps moving to the right on economic and financial policy.

        • Except that it’s not merely right-wing Democrats who wouldn’t have voted for single payer, but the vast majority of the Democratic caucus, and it’s not just the unpopular insurance industry who would oppose it, but the entire healthcare industry including the massively popular doctors’ lobby.

          Other than that your whining is totally on point!

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Also, you have to be remarkably deluded to think the PPACA is a move “to the left.” Odd how every conservative in America failed to see that.

            • YankeeFrank says:

              Where did SN say its a move “to the left”. SN made a good point, that Obama didn’t really fight very hard for something better. He took almost all of his negotiating leverage off the table at the outset, lied about supporting the public option to the public, and passed Romneycare, which will still leave tens of millions uninsured, and many more massively under-insured. Yes I’m glad we have it rather than nothing, but damn, Obama is one solid centrist Republican. And a neoliberal dickwad to boot. I’d vote for him anyway though, if my vote counted (I live in NY).

              And OT, can we get rid of the stinking electoral college already?

    • vacuumslayer says:

      I just don’t see how we get around the privilege argument. I mean, unless all the people I see complaining are not white guys. No, I’m not saying that everyone who supports 3rd party candidates to a person is white and male. It just seems like an awful lot of you are. Weird.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        I would love to see some demographic information breaking down race and Gary Johnson voters. Or race and the Libertarian Party.

      • david mizner says:

        Wait — You think “all the people [who are] complaining are white guys”?

        You need to get out more.

        • STH says:

          No, of course not. You’ve stripped all the nuance out of the argument, which is that it’s easier and more attractive to vote for somebody like Johnson if you have some privilege in society because the advantages of, say, the ACA don’t affect you as much. For example, my health insurance company has decided to no longer offer any prescription coverage (fuck you, Lifewise); however, the cost of my three prescriptions a month has actually gone down because of the ACA rule on covering birth control with no co-pay. For a white male with some money, this is a minor issue; for me, a broke female college student, this is a big deal. Privilege insulates you from the slings and arrows of everyday life, changing your perspective on what’s a big enough policy change. Those with less privilege are less resilient and these sorts of relatively minor policies have a big impact on us. I’m concerned about drones, yes, but my bigger concern right now is stretching the few dollars I have. Voting just on the basis of drones is not a luxury I can afford.

          • david mizner says:

            OK, but who are all these white guys calling for a 3rd party vote. The Green Party ticket includes two women, including an anti-poverty advocate who grew up in poverty.

            • L2P says:

              Did you notice Herman Cain, Candidate for Republican Nominee for President? Privilege doesn’t come only in the flavor of “white male.” There are plenty of others that will never feel much pain. And there are some true believers in the Green party, living on communal farms eating oats and tofu and wearing hemp clothes. More power to them!

              But that is different than the Greenwald/Davies position that you should go on with your daily life but if, and only if, the presidential election comes around, well, then you screw the pooch and vote Green because, hey, it won’t bother you! You have health care! You’re a wealthy something or other, and Romney will cut your taxes anyway! And then you can feel like at least any bad stuff Obama does when he wins, you voted against it! And if Romney does bad stuff, you were against that TOO!

              It’s like you get to eat your broccoli, and you get a pony!

      • Corey says:

        Funny, we must be bombing the only enclave of “white guys” in Pakistan, I suppose

        • vacuumslayer says:

          Are Pakistanis eligible to vote in our election? I thought we were talking about the electorate.

          • Corey says:

            So they’re irrelevant because they don’t vote?

            • david mizner says:

              And the dead ones certainly can’t vote, so fuck ‘em. The more vaccumslayer comments, the less persuasive she becomes.

              • vacuumslayer says:

                Well, garsh, I know strawvacuumslayer isn’t very persuasive.

                • david mizner says:

                  Who are all these white guys urging people to vote third party? Who besides Conor? Real question.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Who are all these white guys urging people to vote third party?

                  Ahem.

                • G. Angeletti says:

                  Malaclypse, look again at that Crooked Timber post. Henry Farrell is not saying what you think he’s saying: he does not “urge” people to vote third party.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Malaclypse, look again at that Crooked Timber post. Henry Farrell is not saying what you think he’s saying: he does not “urge” people to vote third party.

                  No, he’s just saying that voting against Obama makes more sense than not doing so, because the much more heinous things that Romney would do would generate more ineffectual opposition. Which isn’t any less indefensible.

                • What is “indefensible” here is Scott Lemieux’s misrepresentation of what I say. I simply do not say that “voting against Obama makes more sense than not doing so.” This is not true. RTFP. The degeneration of LGM into an orgy of hippie bashing over the last few days is depressing and disappointing.

                • G. Angeletti says:

                  Scott, suppose for a moment that Farrell’s interpretation of what he said in that post is correct. Do you distinguish between statements that are less than unassailable and statements that are “indefensible”? I regard the latter as a small subset of the former. So for example your statements against Green Lanternism are certainly less than unassailable, yet hardly indefensible. And so too, it seems to me, is Farrell’s fence-sitting position. Do you agree? If so, you should be more careful in what you’re saying here. But perhaps you do believe that less than unassailable statements are in truth indefensible – in which case the same, of course, would have to be said of your anti-Green-Lanternism and most other positions taken on this site. Right?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  What is “indefensible” here is Scott Lemieux’s misrepresentation of what I say. I simply do not say that “voting against Obama makes more sense than not doing so.”

                  You’re right — this does attribute to you an argument different than the one you made, and I apologize for the mischaracterization.

                  To be more precise, my objection is that you say that it’s plausible to think that “[b]ut it isn’t at all clear that the consequences of voting for Romney over the longer term, would be any worse than the consequences of voting for the guy who was supposed to be better on these issues, and was not.” For reasons already stated at too much length I do not in fact think this is remotely plausible, and nor do I see the merit in the (actually explicitly pro-Johnson) that you link to and praise.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  And so too, it seems to me, is Farrell’s fence-sitting position. Do you agree?

                  Well, there are two arguments that should be distinguished here. In terms of the fence-sitting bottom line itself, as I’ve said I don’t actually care who Henry or any particular individual votes for.

                  I do, however, assume that when someone discusses their voting choices in the Atlantic or a widely-read and well-respected political blog that they’re trying to persuade others and make a broader point. And here’s where my disagreement comes in. In terms of whether it’s 1)plausible to think that the long-term consequences of a Romney presidency would be no worse than a second Obama term, or 2)that leftists as a group could plausibly think that not voting for Obama is the right choice (which, I think, inescapably implies that lefists should be indifferent about the outcome of the election), I do in fact think both of these arguments are indefensible, I don’t think either Henry or anyone else in these threads has offered a remotely adequate defense of their plausibility.

            • Emma says:

              For the election? Yes, they are. Heartless of me, worse than… who would be the female version of whichever right-wing boogeyman you favor. But until you can convince the majority of the American people to change their minds on the issue, you will get either Obama or Romney.

              • Malaclypse says:

                I’m pretty sure that makes you worse than Eva Braun, technically. Alternatively, you may consider yourself worse than Jiang Qing.

            • L2P says:

              Well, they’re not AMERICANS.

              We are talking about the United States election. We are Americans. We want to take care of Pakistanis, too, but we’re not going to condemn 60 million Americans to suffering to do that.

              And if your electoral position is “This election I want you to suffer to make Pakistan a better place,” thanks for playing. The 15th place finish is right there, behind the Nazi party.

      • zwerg says:

        I totally support privilege being used to advance the cause of less killing of innocent brown people.

        • david mizner says:

          Funny, that. Consider Greenwald, who’s used his perch of relative privilege to speak out against policies that harm poor people of color almost exclusively.

          • L2P says:

            Of course, I have yet to hear him argue for something that would cause him anything other than some nominal amount of extremely minor pain.

            I mean, is it really odd when “generic rich white guy” sees no problem in sacrificing tons of poor brown people in America to help poor brown people somewhere else? None of them are him after all.

            Greenwald is almost exactly why most of my dad’s side of the family are conservatives. He’s incredibly willing to put up with theoretical pain that he’ll never have to feel.

            • david mizner says:

              What in Allah’s name are you going on about?

              • L2P says:

                None of his solutions do a damn thing to harm his “privilege,” do they? So don’t go on about him using his “privilege” to help “brown people.” He ain’t. Any time he wants to help the Pakistanis, he can go give them $50,000 to build a school.

            • Lyanna says:

              I mean, is it really odd when “generic rich white guy” sees no problem in sacrificing tons of poor brown people in America to help poor brown people somewhere else?

              Nononononononono. It’s not even that. That would be a substantive, if monstrous, moral argument.

              Generic rich white guy sees no problem in sacrificing poor brown people in America in order to elect a guy (Romney) who will kill even more poor brown people elsewhere than his opponent, all because he wants to make a statement against killing poor brown people.

              • david mizner says:

                Except Greenwald is urging people to vote against Obama, so your comment is senseless.

                Also: our Terror War terrorizes Muslims in the United States too, which is why Greenwald has become extremely well regarded in many Muslim American communities.

                • david mizner says:

                  Is *not*

                • Lyanna says:

                  Yes, I misread L2P’s comment as being about the general “leftsplaining” phenomenon (which DOES involve a large number of white male comfortable “hard leftists” talking about how one should vote against Obama) and not about Greenwald himself.

        • Greg says:

          The killing of innocent brown people in foreign countries will continue and likely increase under Romney, as will the domestic killing of innocent brown people. The only way to prevent this outcome is to vote for Obama.

        • vacuumslayer says:

          Groovy. Well, my mind is on other things in addition to that. So I’m gonna vote for the guy who can do something about those other things.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Recent third party efforts have done a terrible job organizing people of color. You’re entirely correct about this. But, as I said on another thread, I think this is a more contingent fact than you do. It says a lot more about these particular parties and their failings than about something essential about third parties.

        Certainly in the past, third-party movements have featured many more poor, working class, and African American activists and voters: the People’s Party (Populists) in the 19th century, the Socialist Party in the early 20th century, or the Communist Party in the mid-20th century.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Recent third party efforts have done a terrible job organizing people of color.

          I’m sorry, it’s not about organization; it’s about that fact that third party votes, in this context, are completely irrational for the most vulnerable people, because the only practical effect of a major third party effort is throwing an election to the party that’s much worse.

          It’s true that this wasn’t always the case, but this is because for much of American history party coalitions were very loose and especially at the congressional level the consequences of third party votes were less clear. (And the Communist Party never had a non-trivial electoral presence in any case.)

      • YankeeFrank says:

        I do. Look, this Conor Friedersdoof dude is a neoliberal libtard twerp. Agreed. But would we be having this discussion if it was Glen Ford ‘s piece we were talking about? There are plenty of poor black Americans who don’t like Obama’s policies. I met one on the line at Walgreens the other day. She said, and I quote, “he’s for the rich”. So perhaps the poor black people who don’t vote for Obama, or do but don’t like him all that much despite the fact, don’t like him for a different reason. But, Friedersdouche aside, caring about due-process-of-law-free assassinations over economic issues does not make one an over-privileged twerp. It makes one an over-educated twerp. Because its usually the educated types who understand the implications of civil liberties, as such principles don’t usually affect most of us, until they do. And in the end, if we have no civil liberties, will we really have any economic rights? I don’t think these things are so easily teased apart as you think.

        That, and I don’t really like it when people who probably spend zero percent of their time rubbing elbows with the poor taking positions on their behalf. Its condescending. If you don’t like Romney’s economic policies it should be because you see them as unfair or regressive or whatever as a general matter; or because they would screw you (as they surely would). Is Erik Loomis so financially secure that he needn’t worry about such things? Scott Lemieux? YankeeFrank? Let’s not climb over each other so aggressively to speak for the “disadvantaged” — many of whom can speak for themselves just fine. Let’s not pretend that these things don’t affect us. I know its embarrassing and all for us middle class petite bourgeois to admit we are one paycheck away from disaster but let’s get over it.

        And in closing, yes Obama’s economic policies are undoubtedly better than Romneys. His tax policies alone are much more progressive (though that’s not saying all that much when Romney’s plan is to make it so that multi-millionaires, big corporations and billionaires don’t have to pay any taxes at all). He’s better foundationally than Romney on many economic issues, if that’s a word. It is now! That being said, Obama is pretty awful on economic issues. He has presided over an acceleration of income inequality as compared to even the W years. He basically drove the getaway car for the banksters after their great big biggest heist in history, he has eviscerated the rule of law when it comes to real property rights, chain of title, foreclosure law, fraud and forgery before the courts, etc., etc. all supposedly because, OMG! Teh banks! Are so fragile! He proposes cutting social security and medicare in his second term, and his trade negotiators are secretly arranging for that wrecker of national sovereignty and jobs known as the Trans Pacific Partnership as I write this totally ineffectual comment.

        So taking a position on an issue that, frankly, underlies all the others, is not so crazy after all. The REAL problem with arguing that its cool to not vote for Obama is, as someone above so helpfully stated, that it will unleash greater evil into the world because we will wind up with the Romneybot as Prezident of our Souls instead. The hierarchy of reasons is really secondary.

        And Erik, I love your writing, but you are engaging in the same divisive argumentation you claim is destroying the left by nitpicking over which reasons are more important. By all means, let the hate fly for lil’ Conor (what a douche), but that shouldn’t mess with our common cause of fighting for labor over wealth. If some lefties feel civil liberties are their thing, that’s fine. We don’t need to make them change THAT about themselves. We merely need to make them see that its a bad argument for voting against Obama. Because as awful as he is on that issue, Romney would be worse. I mean, the guy has brought the neocons back to life to staff his foreign policy team! And he just loves him some torture. And he just loves him some Iran war. And he won’t just blow up muslim American citizens, but likely others as well (and btw, and not to go OT, but when Awlaki’s son was blown up, it was because he was in the company of someone who was the actual target, who was likely an actual terrorist planning to blow up our asses — I forget the name, look it up if you care).

        Whaddayasay?

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Sorry, david, but the principal measure of the worth of an argument cannot be that people believe in it sincerely. People believe in all kinds of ridiculous and appalling things.

      • david mizner says:

        But I wasn’t citing their sincerity to demonstrate the strength of the argument. I was citing their sincerity to contest the notion that people aren’t willing to cheer Obama’s successes because of their psychological outlook; rather, they don’t see them as successes. I don’t know why people are having trouble understanding this simple idea.

        • STH says:

          Please re-read my comment above; they tend not to see the successes because the successes don’t affect them as much. No, the ACA is not the bill I wanted, but it’s the bill we have and it has some benefit to people like me. We are not going to have anything like it if Romney is elected (and you can bet we’ll still have drones) and a third-party candidate will never win, so therefore we have to re-elect Obama if we want any successes at all, no matter how small.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            I agree with this, with the important caveat that we should be honest with ourselves and others about what it takes to reelect Obama.

            If every Kansan with a preference for Jill Stein over Obama voted for Jill Stein rather than Obama, it would matter not one iota to Obama’s chances of reelection. This is dramatically less true in regards to potential Jill Stein voters in Florida or Ohio.

          • DocAmazing says:

            No, the ACA is not the bill I wanted, but it’s the bill we have and it has some benefit to people like me.

            This is the problem I have with the ACA, and this is the problem I have with the “white guy” argument. The ACA is likely to threaten health care for undocumented aliens, and that’s not “people like me”. The Obama administration has a bad history with the undocumented, prior to seeing the light and backing the DREAM Act; let me assure you that this hasn’t been forgotten in big parts of the immigrant Latino community.

            It’s not just a white guy thing.

      • G. Angeletti says:

        It’s true that many people hold false beliefs. The people David is talking about are generally left-leaning on many issues. So is not a key question this: How might you and others who frequent this site try to persuade such people to give up these beliefs, beliefs which you seem to deem ridiculous? Surely not by telling them that their beliefs are ridiculous or appalling, or by telling them that they’re idiots, or by telling them that only a privileged white guy would hold such beliefs. So, how would you try to persuade them to join in agreement with you – in practice (voting for Obama) if not in theory? I intend this as a serious question.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          I agree entirely that this is no way to get people to change their beliefs. But as I say elsewhere in this thread, I’m convinced none of this is about trying to change anyone’s beliefs or actions.

          • G. Angeletti says:

            Does this apply to all the people to whom David is referring, or only to some of them? If only to some, then, I believe, my question remains relevant.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              I think your question is relevant, in that it’s always politically beneficial to be able to convince people to do what you think is the right thing. My point was merely that I think that’s not what these threads have been about. Nobody has been trying very hard to convince anyone else and nobody much cares that nobody’s been convinced.

  3. So, what’s your reaction to this?:

    http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/09/28/rebecca-solnits-mirror/

    Frankly, you’re just as bad as the people you claim to dislike.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      My response is exactly what I’ve been saying. We need a smarter left, one that understands more about how coalition-building and successful social movements have been built in the past and in the present.

      People can complain that Solnit (or myself) don’t kow-tow enough to yelling and whining, but she (and I think I) are absolutely right. And I mean, go ahead and prove us wrong. Build some coalitions. Start creating legislative change. Do whatever.

      • tomk says:

        The heart of emptywheel’s post was that Solnit’s article was ineffective, not so much that it was wrong, and ineffective for the exact same reason that purist left arguments are ineffective.

        I have actually been persuaded by reading LGM to the point where I’ll very reluctantly vote for Obama, because I’ve followed coherent arguments that have convinced me to put my purism aside. The condescension of a Solnit, Tbogg, and to a lesser degree, you guys, for idealists, purists, unicorn chasers, whatever you want to call us, does nothing to persuade.

        Cody and Brien offer some obnoxious responses, and it’s hard to believe that Jason really read it. I’ve never thought of EW as anything other than one of the best reporters working today, and just because her focus happens to be the dark side of our government’s activities doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        • thusbloggedanderson says:

          EW is great, but her particular area of expertise is the one that would make any sane person deeply depressed and disappointed about Obama. My “fuck Obama” blog posts usually come after reading EW.

          But: there are, indeed, other issues out there than torture/drones/detention. And even on those: does EW really want to imagine President Romney’s SCOTUS appointees? Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown, anyone?

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I have actually been persuaded by reading LGM to the point where I’ll very reluctantly vote for Obama, because I’ve followed coherent arguments that have convinced me to put my purism aside.

          That’s pretty cool. One thing I’m very interested in is how that change affected your moral psychology.

          Taking a sort of Humean picture, tend to think the vividness of certain wrongs has a large effect on lots of people (this is why I found the Le Guin story more interesting than Walt did). The more vivid the wrong, the harder it is to act on a colder moral calculus.

          The vividness could come because the wrong hits you directly or because of your imaginative powers. I rather suspect this is what drives a lot of pet issues. They catch us and mesmerize us with the dreadful force of their awfulness. Moral revulsion is hard to overcome.

          If the most vivid of the issues to you happens to be one that e.g., Obama is relatively good on, it’s easier to support him. If the most vivid of the issues to you happens to be one that Obama is relatively poor on, it’s going to be hard to understand why other people aren’t likewise revolted.

          So, I don’t know if persuasion is particularly easy. Some people might be moved on calculating grounds, but I don’t know that people with riveted moral attention are going to find it easy to look away for a bit to gain perspective.

          And there may be costs to doing so. For example, it may dull your moral sense or affect other aspects of your normative affect.

          I think this is a dimension of political participation that’s easy to lose and is one of the great things about the francise. Voting is a fundamental means of expression, of connection, of solidarity with the democratic polis (as well as a break on power, as djw pointed out, as well as something to be used, bartered,etc.).

          Even with voting for lessor evils, I feel some of that. I think about expansions of the franchise both retail (as when someone turns 18 or becomes naturalized) and wholesale (as when some marginalized group gains the franchise) and marvel. Voting and democracy — the idea that we are all part of the sovereign — is a profound innovation in political institutions.

          I think these all stand beside the need for a sensible tactical and strategic view. This is why I mourn, a bit, when I feel I have to make a vote more toward the lesser evil end and why when I do make such votes I look for what I can affirm with it as well as what I must deny from it. I’ll feel pretty good about my Obama vote, without having to blind myself to the evil involved. But likewise, I don’t want to blind myself to the better (or less bad) and the actual good.

      • We need a smarter left, one that understands more about how coalition-building and successful social movements have been built in the past and in the present.

        Frankly, I don’t think people like you, or Sonit, have any more idea how to do this. All you do is whine about people to the left of you.

    • Cody says:

      Seems like this guy is butt-hurt. Hey look, I can take an article and pull out words to criticize them!

      I’m totally helping the world! WHEE!

    • I say I probably won’t bother to click on it, which I suppose does in fact make me rather different than them, in so much as I won’t make any pretense of desiring to build some sort of grand movement with them. My preference would be to see them mocked, ridiculed, and discredited.

    • Jason says:

      My reaction to the emptywheel post is that it’s embarrassingly childish. I would have thought, “If you’re mean to me for being mean to you, then you’re just as bad!” stops seeming a compelling rejoinder once you get out of elementary school.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Marcy Wheeler writes in the above response to Solnit:

      It is fair to try to persuade us that voting for Obama is a better choice than not voting or voting third party.

      It’s just that I’m stunned that anyone–particularly people who work with words–could imagine Solnit’s piece effectively accomplishes her goal.

      But I don’t think the point of Solnit’s tirade (and other similar ones) is to persuade anyone to vote for Obama. They don’t have to. The fact is that the percentage of people on the left who are seriously considering voting for minor party candidates this year is tiny. It’s very telling that these idiotic knock-down-drag-out fights over the moral necessity of voting for (or not voting for Obama (I’ve been following them here and on CT, but I take it they are taking place elsewhere, too) are going on at precisely the moment that Obama seems to be pulling away from Romney.

      This is about boundary setting and intra-left score settling. I share Erik’s desire for a left that’s smarter and more focused on doing practical things to move politics in the right direction. But these discussions feature very little that is practical on either side. It’s mostly people (on both sides) heaping abuse on those with whom they disagree.

      It’s really discouraging.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        erp…I failed to add a close parenthesis: “(or not voting for)”

      • I’m calling bullshit, simply because we’re now stretching the definition of left-policing in the same way we’ve stretched the definition of hippie punching. I certainly don’t find leftist disagreements with Obama or the mainstream of the Democratic coalition to be illegitimate and worthy of ostracizing the dissenters completely, I simply have no use for individuals who respond to disagreement by taking their ball home and flaming people for the sin of not agreeing with them.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          Brien,

          I don’t expect for you to agree with me about the substance of these issues, but tell me what useful things has come out of all the endless threads on the must-I-vote / must-I-not-vote for Obama issue here and at CT? It’s just people yelling at each other. I think both sides come off looking pretty terrible.

          And I don’t think I’m using a new definition of left policing. One side wants to suggest that it’s always wrong for progressives to vote for third party candidates for president (this is a very old form of left policing); the other side wants to suggest that progressives who vote for Obama are at best naive and at worst war criminals…certainly not real progressives (another very old form of left policing).

          • Well I’ll invert these. On the definition of left-policing, I guess I’m thinking of that as an intellectual exercise. So saying that it’s a tactical mistake to vote for third parties is not the same as saying that, for example, being in favor of same sex marriage in 1970 makes you a crazy extremist who must be shunned outright for taking this completely unacceptable position or something like that.

            As far as effects go, I do think that marginalizing the Greenwalds or substitute their own egos for leftism and wage war on the actual left as a result will produce some level of good, to the extent that anything we do on the pages or comment sections of blogs.

  4. Robert Cruickshank says:

    This also dovetails well with your excellent post from yesterday about the progressive penchant for wanting a great leader to solve all their problems for then, based on a misreading of history.

    Great leaderism involves classifying politicians as inherently good or inherently bad without paying attention to the nuances, to the reasons why a certain course of action is taken, to the political environment in which they’re taken, and to the methods that would produce a given outcome in those circumstances. But whenever such explanations are offered, they get misread as excuse-making or as reasons why nothing can be done.

    The antidote to Great Leaderism is organizing. And good organizing requires nuanced understanding of political reality in order to motivate people to take action. If Obama was inherently bad, why bother wasting any time trying to push him to be better? You and Solnit are getting at the fact that many of Obama’s positive accomplishments came because of strong and sustained progressive organizing efforts to push him toward that goal. If we don’t acknowledge those victories, how are we ever going to get people to take further action to achieve more wins?

    Demands for purity are typically a sign of an activist or a movement that is uninterested in actually producing change, and more interested in rhetorical positioning.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Exactly–learn from the victories and the defeat. And then apply that knowledge to the next fight. Don’t retreat into feel-good narcissism.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Demands for purity are typically a sign of an activist or a movement that is uninterested in actually producing change, and more interested in rhetorical positioning.

      I would say that demands for critics to silence themselves are the same.

      • Such demands not actually existing being something of a problem here.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          People are always trying to silence Holden Pattern! Of course, it’s always in comments by Holden Pattern preemptively discussing how uncited other people are trying to silence Holden Pattern, but still!

          • Pinko Punko says:

            Just to be technical, “your argument is stupid, here is why it is stupid, stop making it” can be read as “be quiet”- this comment is not judging the value of anyone’s arguments as stupid, just that one has to recognize that someone holding a “stupid view” (not quote as in actual quote) might not automatically be persuaded that their prior views were stupid. This means that they might not be shutting up, but then inevitable, additional posts about why the view continues to be stupid and more claims about why people should keep saying those things (and stopping saying those things can be viewed as being quiet) will be inevitable. Best part: this ongoing discussion could then be reflexively be attacked as obsession/hippie punching/evidence of not caring about something else. Same as it ever was.

  5. Phoenix_rising says:

    As a digression, upset and disappointed ponies don’t cry. They drop one shoulder while stopping on a dime, and make little girls cry all the way to the ER.

    But yeah, try telling the recreational bitterness crowd anything about ponies, or Medicaid, or Tony Scalia showing signs of early-onset dementia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg being a 79 year old cancer survivor…all they’re gonna do is whine some more about heightening the contradictions.

    Keep up the good work, and remember, your real sin is apostasy. The idiots who participated in the Nader clusterfuck, or wish to perpetuate something similar, feel hurt when one of thier own betrays the One True Cause.

  6. Ya know, I spent some time randomly thinking about this yesterday, and the more I think about it the less complicated it really seems to me. At the end of the day, the Greenwaldian set of leftier-than-thou types are just flat out egotistical assholes who are downright enraged that they can’t get a majority of the let-of-center to not only agree with them but to recognize them as the leaders of the left. This is a dynamic that starts the second they quantify their mostly white/male/privileged cadre as The Base of the Democratic Party, and it’s why they can’t hold a debate with “their side” for more than 30 seconds without accusing them of stupidity or malice.

    This, incidentally, is also why they aren’t interested in coalition politics or movement building. Because if they don’t get to be The Liberal Rush, they just aren’t interested in playing in your sandbox.

  7. mpowell says:

    For what it’s worth this whole debate highlights the reason why we still need posts explaining why Nader’s run in 2000 was counter-productive. God damn.

    • James E. Powell says:

      It’s like throwing a snowball into a volcano.

    • Why do you hate democracy? Are you going to say anything about Al Gore’s, at the time, corporatism?

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Well, throwing the election to George W. Bush in exchange for no benefits whatsoever sure showed him! And a few hundred thousand dead Iraqis too, but who gives a shit about that?

        This still isn’t a first-rate Naderite non-sequitur, though — you need to follow up by attacking Gore for not doing enough to appeal to conservative southern Democrats in Florida and Tennessee.

      • There is no difference between the Al Gore of 2000 and the Al Gore in the wilderness during the Bush administration.

        Same guy. You need to learn what it looks like when someone one your side is actually trying to accomplish things within a position of influence.

    • Rarely Posts says:

      What I find oddest is that the Green / Naderite critique of the Democrats and Republicans made much more sense in 2000 than today (not that it was correct).

      Bill Clinton really did govern to the center and passed a lot of bills that were worse than the status quo – repeal of Glass–Steagall Act, AEDPA, welfare reform, (arguably) NAFTA and DADT, (arguably) appointing Breyer, and on-and-on. Moreover, Bush I was not a hideous President – the first Gulf War went fairly well, Bush I passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

      In 2000, the correct decision was to support Gore and not Bush II, but at least to me, the distinctions weren’t nearly as obviously extreme as they are in hindsight. The democratic party was very corporate, and the last Republican President had been worse but at least a reasonable person.

      Then, Bush II governed way to the right of his father, and the Republicans moved substantially to the right. His tax cuts, his appointments of Alito and Roberts, the Iraq War, authorized torture, Katrina, and on-and-on. And, the Republican Party hasn’t abandoned any of that – if anything, they’ve doubled-down and moved farther right.

      In the meantime, the Democrats have moved to the left and Obama has been well to the left of Clinton. ACA, the repeal of DADT, support for gay-marriage, good EPA regulations on mercury, initial regulations on CO2, winding down the war in Iraq, support for women’s healtcare, appointing Sotomayor and Kagan.

      I just find it funny because the differences couldn’t be more obvious today.

      • Pinko Punko says:

        I don’t think it should have been surprising that W was not Bush pere. Cheney vs. Quayle- in this case the dynamic is flipped- Bush pere was the experienced politician and the empty shell was the VP. The empty vessel was President in W’s case. Who was going to run the show? The people were different in HWB vs. W’s case.

      • drs says:

        Point of pedantry: recall that DADT came out of the backlash to Clinton trying to unilaterally let gays into the military. He went left before going right… Not sure how much room he had to veto it, even; skimming wikipedia makes it sound like part of NDAA.

  8. Bertie says:

    Possible derail: no one in northern Pakistan or Yemen would self-identify as brown.

    Which doesn’t matter much if you’re using the term brown to slur the Right or Americans generally (i.e., “Americans don’t care about droning brown people”), but which is a little weird when used by the Left in some kind of show of solidarity as both sides of this debate are doing here and at CT (i.e., “we need to help brown people here as well as those being droned”). Cut it out, IMO.

    • Karate Bearfighter says:

      Hear, hear!

    • SN says:

      So ethnicity is only a matter of subjective navel gazing and categories like ‘white’ ‘black’ and ‘brown’ are merely self-refential and not demarcators of institutional patterns of economic, political and cultural power???

      • Karate Bearfighter says:

        If “brown” is an ethnic category, what does it include? Are latinos brown? South Asians? Southeast Asians? American Indians?

        The only time I ever hear anyone use the term “brown”, it’s in the context of accusing someone else of racism — the subtext being, “you, my interlocutor, view all non-white people as an undifferentiated mass of ‘brown’.” The way I have seen it used is as a catchall category, shifting in meaning, applied to whatever non-white, non-black group needs to be described in a political argument where one side is trying to claim the moral high ground. I accept that usage as valid when anyone applies it to him/herself; what I find problematic is the usage of “brown” by groups of white people.

        That said, I may be assuming bad faith where it doesn’t exist, in which case, my apologies.

      • LeeEsq says:

        I imagine that most Pakistanis and Yemenis see themselves as Muslims first and foremost and see the drone strikes as being against them because they are Muslim rather than people of color. After Muslim, Pakistanis probably identify with one of the myriad ethnic groups that make up their country or with a certain socio-economic class. Yemenis most likely see themselves as Arab after seeing themselves as Muslim.

        • Ronan says:

          Most people, including Muslims, tend to associate with those from their own communities..so faith might be important, but I think it’s a push to imply (if you are)that ‘Muslims’ see themselves first and foremost as part of some global Ummah

          • LeeEsq says:

            Well, not all Muslims see themselves first and foremost as part of global Ummah just as not all Roman Catholics see themselves first and foremost as part of the Roman Catholic Church. However, many Roman Catholics do see themselves first and foremost as part of the Roman Catholic Church and many, a plurality or even a majority of Muslims make their religious identity their primary one. Its one of the reasons why I think Muslim-majority countries are not having an easy time adapting to modernity.

  9. Christopher says:

    The amazing thing is that both of these arguments have deployed against the left.

    First off, hearing a bloody labor historian endorse the “Why do you always have to bring up bad stuff? Why can’t you focus on the good things that come out of this country?” just absolutely boggles my mind. The reason right-wingers accuse us of hating America or blaming America first is precisely because we won’t just let them talk about all the nice things Reagan did for the country.

    Second, the “Okay, you might be right, but you’re not right because of thinking, you’re right because you’re an insufferable twat!” is exactly the argument that we Iraq war opponents started to get when it went inarguably pear-shaped.

    “Greenwald might be right, but what’s more important is that he’s an asshole!” is not a sophisticated or convincing argument. I mean, I know it’s super unfair that he argues back when you disagree with him, but still.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Who on earth is saying these things? Who is saying to focus on the good things? I’m saying you learn from the good things and you acknowledge them. But this isn’t a race to yell the loudest or could can cover themselves with the most sackcloth and ashes. It’s a race to create effective change.

      • James E. Powell says:

        It is probably not polite to say this, but there are people who are not that concerned with creating effective change because they have no need for effective change.

        • Cody says:

          I think this is sort-of where this thread is going. The general consensus so far seems that leftier-than-thou prototype aligns very nicely to the “I’ll be okay if Romney wins” liberal.

          No doubt there are people in the world who prefer to be “right” over actually helping people.

      • thebewilderness says:

        Yes it is a race to see who can yell the loudest. That was one of the points.

        JoPa was all about he has done so much good that we must la la la the bad.
        Same thing Church sex scandal.

        That is the mirror.

        If you say x was a terrible thing someone will try to shout you down by with all the good.
        If you say x was a good thing someone will try to shout you down with all the bad.

        It replaces discussion with argument and a perpetual game of yes, but. It is aggravating and frustrating and effing rude to be talked to as though what you are saying is no interest or importance whatsoever and what they have to say is of paramount importance.

    • Murc says:

      hearing a bloody labor historian endorse the “Why do you always have to bring up bad stuff? Why can’t you focus on the good things that come out of this country?” just absolutely boggles my mind.

      I think Erik’s larger point was not that some people don’t focus on good things, but have a complete inability to even recognize them when they happen.

      I can see where he’s coming from, but, well… I expect people to behave in a decent manner, and systems to work, as a baseline. You don’t get special credit for knowing how to dress yourself and tie your shoes; those are expected as the baseline of being a functional part of society. So when I personally move past good stuff to focus on the bad stuff, its because the bad stuff needs attention, and fixing. The good stuff will take care of itself.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        There’s a difference between recognizing the good stuff and stopping when something good happens. But even when the sky actually is falling, you aren’t going to stop the sky from falling by shaming the people who are (or want to be) your allies for pointing out that perhaps the sky is not falling at quite the same speed as you think it is. And that’s really what I’m saying here.

        • Murc says:

          To an extent, this comes down to communication strategies and what responses imply.

          Example: If I exclaim “The building is on fire!” and someone else goes “Well, it’s a SMALL fire.” my initial reaction is not going to be “thank you for clarifying the situation.” It’s going to be “why are you downplaying this? There’s a motherfucking fire!”

          Even if all they MEANT to do was clarify the situation, the implication of immediately jumping in with a correction (and if you’re communicating via print, you don’t have body language and tone to read in) is “you’re wrong.” Followed by “anyone who thinks I’m wrong about a goddamn building on fire is an idiot.”

      • Which brings up a somewhat relevant point that the emoprogs are actually defeating their own goals. It would be a lot easier for everyone to focus on the things that Democrats do wrong if we didn’t have to constantly fight off Obamneyism or Paul curiosity along the way.

    • mpowell says:

      As Erik himself has pointed out, you are now talking about something completely different. And the fact that you have confused these issues (and that this is typical) probably does a lot to explain why people hold views like yours.

      There are debates all the time around here about whether the president should be congratulated for policy X or whether he should be criticized because policy X does not go far enough. And people take different sides on those debates depending on the issue (some people tend to always take one side, but whatevs). But people should recognize that that’s much different from a debate about whether you should vote for Ralph Nader. It may or may not be politically useful to politically criticize the president on any given issue where you disagree with what he is doing and, in my view, it is probably beneficial to have all those voices out there to be heard. But it is never politically useful to vote for Ralph Nader in a presidential election. And it is not beneficial to have anyone suggesting that it would be a good idea (assuming they are likely to actually influence anyone).

  10. Cheap Wino says:

    I hope it’s as much as Glenn makes from CATO.

    This should be pointed out more often.

  11. C.S. says:

    “[W]e need a smarter left that understands the mechanics of the American political system.”

    Sort of. What we really need is a smarter left that understands the difference between self-righteousness and actual moral superiority. When GG and (good lord, even him) Henry Farrell indulge their inner Nader and contemplate a “protest” vote because they can’t stomach being complicit in and validating extra-judicial killings (in this case, but if there were no extra-judicial killings, they’d sure as shootin’ find something else to hoist their fucking conscience up the flagpole), they always always always employ the same idiotic rejoinder — something to the effect of: “maybe you can look the other way while people die, but I can’t, and oh-by-the-way maybe it’s because you are too privileged to see beyond your own petty self-interest.”

    Not one of them even acknowledges the simple fact that their protest vote isn’t a protest vote. Ever. At any time. It’s an indulgence, nothing more, and it is infuriating that in arguing with them, people constantly cede the moral high ground to them, attacking them for not being “realistic,” for being too “idealistic.” They’re not idealists — they’re idiots. They’re advancing the exact same arguments in the exact same self-righteous tone that Nader advanced in 2000. Their indulgence ushered in the world they now complain of. They are far and away more individually responsible for, say, unfettered torture than any thousand people voting for Obama, because their pet philosophy created the circumstances where someone as soulless as Dick Cheney got to make decisions. They don’t get to complain now. They don’t get to walk away from the havoc they create. And they sure as hell don’t get to claim a moral high ground.

    • Murc says:

      I sort of feel a little insulted by this.

      Maybe I’m just wallowing in self-indulgence, but I sort of consider voting to be important, and I consider myself to be complicit in the failures of those for whom I vote. I think I’ve arrived at this position legitimately, and the tension between it and the fact that if I vote my conscience, I’m abetting crazy people, is something that has, very literally, kept me awake at night.

      I don’t talk about this shit to be self-righteous. Frankly, contemplating it for any extended period of time gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I do it because I think getting it right is important, but my own judgment and the judgment of those who seem smarter than me is often at odds.

      • Cody says:

        Sucks being an American, eh? Should probably move to Canada where you don’t have to feel even a little responsible for so many bad things.

        If more people felt like you did, we’d have a much nicer government.

        • Murc says:

          It’s not like Canadians are devoid of tough choices.

          “Well, the guy representing my riding is a completely lazy sack of shit who wouldn’t know a constituent service if he ran one over. But he’s NDP, which means a vote for him is a vote to kick out Harper.”

          Or having to decide which not-Ford to vote for in the last mayoral race in Toronto.

      • This would seem to come up against Erik’s complaints about the hyper-individualist left quite nicely. (Incidentally I agree with Erik on that quite forcefully, and would like nothing more than to tattoo “you’re not special” on the heads of quite a few snowflakes).

        • Murc says:

          Well, yeah, I suppose that’s true, Brien, but I’m uncomfortable subordinating my own judgment about what is and isn’t appropriate to others.

          Well, at least in a non-technical sense. I’m not about to tell my doctor or plumber or mechanic how to do their jobs. Moral quandaries are trickier.

          • So do you think that people aren’t bound to follow laws that they find morally wrong?

            • Murc says:

              Er… I’m not sure how you got there, but I’d ask you to clarify.

              We are, of course, legally bound to obey all laws. But morally, it’s long been held in this country that one isn’t bound to obey laws they find morally wrong. The Civil Rights movement was predicated on the widespread disobedience of laws found to be morally odious.

              Of course, the flip side to that is if you take that moral responsibility on yourself, you should be prepared for your ass to end up in prison.

              • Because at the end of the day politics, coalition politics, is about how we interact with society. So with a few extreme exceptions, I very much do not see the difference between a coalition member who declares he has the right to tell everyone else to fuck off and do whatever he wants when he’s in the minority and someone who declares that they don’t have to abide by the rules society has made for itself if he doesn’t like them.

              • And, to quibble somewhat, I think you have your social progression backwards. It’s not so much that we’ve decided that violating laws you find repugnant is okay, it’s that society has come to agree that the laws themselves were,in fact, repugnant. If anything we tend to just ignore the fact that the sit ins were illegal.

                • Murc says:

                  We do that NOW.

                  At the time, though, the people breaking the law in the name of Civil Rights were not clearly in the right. Many people decried them as lawbreakers, saying that no matter how pure their intentions they didn’t have the right to violate duly enacted statutes.

                  The country was founded by traitorous revolutionaries who established as part of our political traditions that you have not just the moral right, but the moral obligation, to violate unjust laws. Society sometimes judges people who do that very harshly, on account of how a lot of crazy wrong yahoos (at one point enough to start a civil war) have availed themselves of this principle, but it doesn’t make it wrong.

                • This is decidedly at odds with your claim that we’ve long established that people can break laws that they find morally reprehensible.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        My own position on this is to departisanize it. You aren’t complicit in the failures of who you vote. You are complicit in the failures of our country. Regardless of your vote or not vote. That’s why not voting or protest votes aren’t answers. We’re all complicit in our country’s terrible past and present regardless of what we do.

        • Murc says:

          You aren’t complicit in the failures of who you vote. You are complicit in the failures of our country.

          It can’t be both?

          • Malaclypse says:

            Yea, that seems wrong. I can’t see how someone who voted for Bush in 2004 is not more complicit than someone who voted for Kerry. That was a powerfully blame-worthy vote.

      • C.S. says:

        You’re damn right voting is important — good for you for figuring that out. It’s not that difficult, really, but some folks do take the scenic route.

        Here’s the thing, though . . . you’re not just complicit in the failures of those for whom you vote. You’re also complicit in the failures of those for whom you don’t vote. Because – and I hope you figured this out as well – you’re a citizen, and we’re all in this together. And also because somebody is going to win. Somebody will be President. If your pettiness puts someone in office that you believe is not the best person for the job, then you are complicit. It is impossible to not be complicit. Making a protest vote would be – in your words – abetting crazy people. You don’t get to take the moral high ground for abetting crazy people.

        • Murc says:

          Well, this rather nicely encapsulates my dilemma.

          You (and Erik, up above) both believe that there isn’t any special complicity that devolves onto you because of your specific votes.

          I do believe this. Which then means I have to enter into moral calculus; balancing “I can’t vote for this guy, he sucks” with “Oh dear god, his opponent is light-years beyond suck.”

          I find trying to solve that equation difficult. At best.

          • Your vote doesn’t matter. Problem solved.

            • Murc says:

              If I genuinely thought that, I just wouldn’t vote.

              • Well, okay, but your vote doesn’t matter. Because you are not, in fact, a unique and special snowflake, but a collection of cells and matter not all that dissimilar from 6 billion+ other such cells in the world, ~100 million of whom will also cast a vote in the Presidential election. So yes, as an individual act, your vote is completely meaningless to anything beyond making you feel good about yourself. Your vote only has meaning to the extent that it’s one piece of a much larger collective of votes, which is why all large scale politics is coalition based.

                • Murc says:

                  Your vote only has meaning to the extent that it’s one piece of a much larger collective of votes

                  “Only?”

                  Either my vote matters, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t matter, what the hell do you care? And if it does matter, then it MATTERS.

                • Well, no, context does clearly affect whether or not something matters. Straw that breaks the camel’s back and all that.

          • Greg says:

            A Guide to Moral Decision-Making:

            1. Take a survey of the possible worlds that would be brought into being by your actions.
            2. Decide which of these worlds is the best.
            3. Take the action which would bring that world into being.

      • Lyanna says:

        I sort of consider voting to be important

        It is, in its practical and collective effects.

        It is not, in the sense that voting does not carry your endorsement of a candidate backed by your personal integrity or honor or whatever.

        Both of which are good reasons to vote for the Democrat, generally speaking.

    • dave says:

      +1

      and I am actually a fan of Greenwald.

  12. DrDick says:

    I agree about the dynamic going on here. While I am quite critical of Obama and many of his policies, I think it is also important to recognize accomplishments. You move politicians not by just criticizing their faults, but by combining that with praising what they get right. As for the ACA, yes it is a very flawed plan that does not really do enough (I favor single payer), but it is a step in the right direction and substantially improves the lives of millions of people. Critique Obama, and every other politician, for what they get wrong, while praising what they get right.

    • Cody says:

      This.

      The fact there is a disagreement over a strategy of criticizing but congratulating things that move in your direction is disturbing.

      How many people had a teacher who just told them they were pieces of shit until they got a 100% on everything, and still learned much?

      Any sane person would just give up on pleasing the teacher and move on. And I’m guessing that’s what Democrats have done with the far Left. All I hear is “Obama is such a Republican!” and all Obama hears is “These people will never like me, screw them and their protest votes. I’m going to win the middle”

      • You mean you didn’t find Ceynk’s “criticize Obama for everything all the time no matter what he does!” theory of activism to be compelling? You fucking neoliberal!

      • Lyanna says:

        I don’t think Obama much cares, honestly.

        I think highlighting the good is important for our sakes, as an appropriate part of measuring our progress against our setbacks. But do politicians respond to praise? Do they care too much about their “fringe” (i.e. principled) base? Not more than minimally.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I think that politicians of all sorts respond very strongly to praise. People who seek elected office as a career, left, right, and center tend to have a very strong need to be admired, loved, and respected by their fellow human beings. You see this most strongly amongst legislators. Mass adoration is one of the benefits of a political career, mass hate one of its disadvantages.

          Even dictators want both the love and fear of their subjects.

          • Lyanna says:

            Yeah, I was unclear–I think politicians want the praise of the general public.

            The praise of their “base” or their principled fringe, though?

            • LeeEsq says:

              As much as both the base and the fringe are part of the general public yes. I’d argue that praise from the base is especially important for politicians because they represent their fandom so to speak.

      • DrDick says:

        Which is pretty much my point. If all they hear is criticism, they ignore you. If you also praise them on occasion you gain some credibility with them.

  13. Christopher says:

    Also, something I missed because the general countours of Solnit’s argument are so terrible, isn’t the fact that California’s attorney general is in favor of illegally buying the drugs to enforce the death penalty have direct bearing on whether she’s anti death penalty?

    I mean, Solnit’s basically saying, “What kind of Debbie Downer won’t let me celebrate the fact that the attorney general is anti-death penalty just because her office has taken strongly pro-death penalty actions?”

    • L2P says:

      In California? She doesn’t have a whole lot of choice.

      If the Attorney General refused to buy the drugs, and I was part of the LA PAL, I would hire an attorney to file a writ of mandate/waste action against her, and I would almost certainly win. Executing convicted murderers sentenced to death isn’t discretionary; she’s been ordered by a court to do it. She has a lot of discretion over what her attorneys prosecute, how she allocates resources, and things like that, but she can’t as a matter of policy just refuse to perform her duties under the Constitution.

  14. Ronan says:

    No ones mentioned bomb privilege yet?

  15. eclipse says:

    For the record, here is the great Gary Johnson talking about the drone war.

    Johnson said that while he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean he would necessarily stop drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, even though he believes they create more enemies than they kill.

    “I would want leave all options on the table,” Johnson said

    I am glad Conor F. and the rest of the purity trolls care so deeply about the drone war, but I am curious why they somehow overlooked Gary Johnson actual positions in the midst their lecturing.

  16. Brett Turner says:

    Am I the only one struck with the fact that the far lefties in this argument are behaving exactly like the far righties in the other party? E.g., trying to push their party as far away from the center as possible?

    Because it’s pretty clear where this attitude is getting the far right; they can’t beat an incumbent president in a middling-bad economy with middling approval ratings. Romney has run a bad campaign, but he has an impossible task; there is too much distance between the GOP base and the centrist voters who will actually decide the election.

    Hard to believe that the far left is actually trying to follow the far right’s example.

    • Meh, I don’t really care about that. Assuming you sincerely believe your ideas are best for the world, by all means try to bring everyone else around to your way of thinking. My problem is that the Greenwaldian set, for lack of a better term, skips past the whole “spend a lot of time convincing other people thing” and goes straight to the “get viscerally angry when someone disagrees with you and begin attacking them with your full rhetorical might.”

    • Am I the only one struck with the fact that the far lefties in this argument are behaving exactly like the far righties in the other party? E.g., trying to push their party as far away from the center as possible?

      There’s a big difference, though: those far-righty tea party types really do speak for a big, perhaps majority, chunk of the Republican electorate. They actually are the Republican “base,” in the sense of “the broad base of voters on which Republican elections depend.”

      As opposed to their Democratic counterparts, who are a “base” in the sense of “an outpost.”

      • DrDick says:

        They also have a substantial well organized network of candidates, funders, campaign staff, and think tanks that they spent the last 40-50 years building. The left simply does not have anything remotely comparable. If the Greens want to be taken seriously they need to do that kind of serious grassroots organizing nationwide.

  17. Murc says:

    I’m not sure the privilege thing, while self-evidently true, is very productive.

    It’s probably true that a lot of the Obamney stuff comes from people whose socieconomic position is such that the impact of a Romney Presidency will fall on them less strongly. And that this fact may very well have influenced the positions they take.

    But, well… so what? Your position in society and your privilege, or lack thereof, will always influence and inform your politics. That’s called “being a person.” It doesn’t make those positions wrong or illegitimate in and of itself.

    Greenwald being an affluent white guy who lives abroad doesn’t somehow make him MORE wrong on the many occasions when he’s wrong about political strategy. It’s worth pointing out to him and others like him “hey, dude, you’ve got a lot of privilege. You should examine that, because self-awareness is a good thing and will make you a better person and help you relate to the millions who aren’t as fortunate.”

    But tarring an entire position with “well, the people hewing to this are overwhelmingly affluent and white” seems lazy.

    • Malaclypse says:

      It’s probably true that a lot of the Obamney stuff comes from people whose socieconomic position is such that the impact of a Romney Presidency will fall on them less strongly. And that this fact may very well have influenced the positions they take.

      But, well… so what? Your position in society and your privilege, or lack thereof, will always influence and inform your politics.

      Okay, but privileged people who fail to show concern for real harm done to those who are less privileged are normally called “conservatives.”

  18. shn says:

    sorry but this is just bullshit.

    I’m a woman of low income and I will probably suffer from a Romney presidency – but guess what?

    I’VE BEEN SUFFERING UNDER AN OBAMA PRESIDENCY AND WILL CONTINUE TO IF HE’S ELECTED

    your rationalizations and excuses don’t work for me.

    Your position is basically one of “as long as our lives are ok who the hell cares about mass murder being committed by this wonderful savior in the white house?”

    Who cares about civilians in Yemen and Pakistan as long as we can have legal abortion and gays and lesbians can serve in the military (where they can go on killing civilians)?

    What’s tragic is that Obama is NO protector of even the people in the US you want to protect. He’s called himself a blue dog Democrat and WILL make a “grand bargain” – starting us on the road to destroying medicare and medicaid.

    He will NOT do anything to protect legal abortion because he and the Dems have done NOTHING these last 25 yrs while the right has decimated access to it.

    The simple basic fact is that the ONLY way for liberals to get off their asses and actually protect social security, civil rights, medicare, legal abortion, etc. is when a GOP president is in office. That’s why Bush was unable to destroy social security–liberals mobilized against it.

    With Clinton liberals did NOTHING while he destroyed welfare for poor families. Liberals will do NOTHING when he destroys medicare, medicaid and social security.

    Meanwhile, Obama WILL continue his repulsive wars, secret govt, war on whistleblowers, surveillance, etc.

    The simple basic fact is that if Obama were a Republican you and your ilk would be screaming bloody murder.

    • Cheap Wino says:

      There is a lot of baseless assertion going on here.

    • Malaclypse says:

      He will NOT do anything to protect legal abortion because he and the Dems have done NOTHING these last 25 yrs while the right has decimated access to it.

      Ahem.

      • Murc says:

        See, this is why Mal is better than us. He actually dug up an important piece of legislation that isn’t as well-known as it should be.

        I would have gone straight to Supreme Court Justices. Say what you will about Clinton and Obama’s choices, not one of’em is going to vote to strike down Roe anytime soon.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          In fairness, I can’t see any daylight between Ruth Bader Gunsburg and Sam Alito on abortion. At any rate, I deplore Obama for not using the BULLY PULPIT to stop Mississippi from passing stupid abortion regulations.

    • dave says:

      I’m a woman of low income and I will probably suffer from a Romney presidency – but guess what?

      I’VE BEEN SUFFERING UNDER AN OBAMA PRESIDENCY AND WILL CONTINUE TO IF HE’S ELECTED

      There is not (and never will be) one candidate who will ever alleviate your suffering completely. The question is: Will you suffer more or less under Romney?

      Your position is basically one of “as long as our lives are ok who the hell cares about mass murder being committed by this wonderful savior in the white house?”

      That is not anyone’s position. The president is going to be Obama or Romney. Whether we vote for Obama, Romney, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, or no one, Obama or Romney will still be president and will commit “mass murder”

      Who cares about civilians in Yemen and Pakistan as long as we can have legal abortion and gays and lesbians can serve in the military (where they can go on killing civilians)?

      We all care about civilians in Yemen. However, the president is going to be Obama or Romney. Whether we vote for Obama, Romney, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, or no one, Obama or Romney will still be president and will kill civilians in Yemen and Pakistan. The choice is therefore between legal abortion + gay rights + dead Yemenis and Pakistanis and no abortion + no gay rights + dead Yemenis and Pakistanis.

      What’s tragic is that Obama is NO protector of even the people in the US you want to protect. He’s called himself a blue dog Democrat and WILL make a “grand bargain” – starting us on the road to destroying medicare and medicaid.

      He will NOT do anything to protect legal abortion because he and the Dems have done NOTHING these last 25 yrs while the right has decimated access to it.

      We disagree on this. Legal abortion is constitutionally protected by Supreme Court decision and at least two justices will be replaced in the next four years. Those justices need to be pro-abortion or legal abortion is over.

      The simple basic fact is that the ONLY way for liberals to get off their asses and actually protect social security, civil rights, medicare, legal abortion, etc. is when a GOP president is in office. That’s why Bush was unable to destroy social security–liberals mobilized against it.

      Liberals haven’t had to protect social security, civil rights, medicare and legal abortion in the last 4 years because they were protected and/or never seriously threatened by Obama.

      Meanwhile, Obama WILL continue his repulsive wars, secret govt, war on whistleblowers, surveillance, etc.

      As will Romney. Only moreso.

      The simple basic fact is that if Obama were a Republican you and your ilk would be screaming bloody murder.

      Only if the democrat provided a credible lefter-than Obama alternative.

      • Lyanna says:

        The choice is therefore between legal abortion + gay rights + dead Yemenis and Pakistanis and no abortion + no gay rights + dead Yemenis and Pakistanis.

        Minor adjustment: the choice is therefore between legal abortion + gay rights + FEWER dead Yemenis and Pakistanis and no abortion + no gay rights + MORE dead Yemenis and Pakistani + dead Iranians.

    • Murc says:

      The simple basic fact is that if Obama were a Republican you and your ilk would be screaming bloody murder.

      Well, there’s an argument to be made this Obama’s positions are functionally equivalent to those of a liberal Republican thirty or so years ago (which is depressing in and of itself) but this is just crazy.

      Sketch out for me how someone with Obama’s positions remains a Republican in good standing, gets elected to the Senate with an R after his name, wins their nomination, and then goes on to win the Presidency and usher his current legislative record through.

      Alternate history has to be POSSIBLE to be interesting.

      • Jesse Ewiak says:

        If Obama were a Republican and pushing the same policies he currently is, I probably would be upset at him, but I’d also be probably voting for a liberal who could win an election and be much better than Obama.

    • L2P says:

      “The simple basic fact is that if Obama were a Republican you and your ilk would be screaming bloody murder.”

      What, you mean if he was like a slightly more liberal Sen. Boxer? Who screamed bloody murder about Boxer? Not even Greenwald screamed bloody murder about Boxer.

      That’s the crazy right there! If Obama was running against Nominee Boxer, right now, Greenwald would be saying it’s a moral imperative to throw the election to her!

      • Malaclypse says:

        Who screamed bloody murder about Boxer?

        My google-fu fails me, but I’m pretty sure Patrick Nielsen Hayden over at Making Light has, indeed, screamed bloody murder about Boxer.

  19. Walt says:

    Do right-wingers have these interminable internecine fights. I like to imagine that they don’t, and that this is just a particular character flaw for people on the left. The alternative — that it’s just general human nature — is just too depressing.

    • Murc says:

      Yes. They do. They absolutely do. In fact, there are plenty of righties who talk about voting Paul or Johnson because they’re disgusted with how far to the left, economically, mainstream Republicans are. That commie Paul Ryan wants to hand out people free money to buy health care with.

    • djw says:

      Ask Jeff Goldstein…

  20. The Perfect says:

    We have always been at war with the good.

  21. Ronan says:

    Glenn Greenwald is actually penniless. He lives in a dustbin in Missouri and is illiterate, so his articles are transcribed by a Cato intern (who also steals all his money) He also lives on the scraps of food that you people throw away. He is also Vietnamese, and an illegal immigrant, although he was born in the US, due to a mix up at the Department of Homeland Security. (Hint) And he has the plague.
    Now that we’ve cleared that up, what does everyone think of the continuing institutionalisation of the WOT?

    • Greg says:

      It’s bad. Romney will make it worse. He will continue all the of the same policies that Obama continued from Bush, plus bring back the policies Obama discontinued.

      In the meantime, he’ll repeal the ACA, block grant Medicaid, voucherize Medicare, appoint more hard right conservatives to the bench, and neuter or eliminate the CFPB, the NLRB, and the EPA.

      You have an opportunity to stop Romney from taking power. You can take that opportunity, and vote for Obama, or decline that opportunity by voting for a third party or declining to vote at all.

      • Ronan says:

        I don’t as I’m not American, but if I was I’d vote Obama..I just think Loomis’s line of argument is idiotic..and the lack of concern around here for the continuation of the WOT (both domestically and internationally) is, to use a phrase, a direct result of white privilege

        • Greg says:

          I’m deeply concerned with the continuation of the WOT. That’s why I spend a lot of time arguing people who are also concerned should abandon their futile pursuit of the perfect candidate to join me here in the Democratic Party so we can build an intraparty coalition large and influential enough to change the direction of our public policy.

        • Paula says:

          WTF do you think would happen if Republicans win — that the War on Terror would stop?

          The ridiculousness of overlooking the strength of basic domestic improvements over a stagnant foreign policy is that policies concentrating on the domestic sphere actually mean there’s a chance of the US getting out of the way abroad.

          If Obama did permanently change the course of our economy in his subsidizing green markets and jobs, we have less call to be involved in the ME.

          If Obama did significantly improve Americans’ lives via higher ed opportunities, they have less opportunities to be uneducated douchebags about the rest of the world.

          If Obama actually made a significant dent in the Defense budget and/or has transferred it from making weapons to caring for veterans, then that’s less of our money tied up in defense.

          If people’s health care is no longer presented with a possibility of financial catastrophe, well … That affects a whole lot of people’s lives on a really fundamental level that has no direct effect on foreign policy. But millions more people with health care is a definite improvement, and they take some financial burden off states so that maybe lawmakers will feel less compunction to rely on the many defense contractors that currently provide jobs for a lot of states. (I’m in CA, so we have state programs that provide health care to the poor.)

          • Ronan says:

            If you read my response to Greg you’ll see that I said if I could vote in the US elections I would vote Obama..to repeat (1)I think Erik Loomis’s line of arguing is infantile, and that he leaves a lot to be desired as a ‘movement builder’..(2) that there’s a lot of strawmanning going on here, on the basis of a libertarian like F-Dorf saying he might, shock horror, vote libertarian..(3) A loada white people banging on about white privilege to shut down a debate that concerns abuses being committed against, primarily, non whites (both domestically and internationally) is a sign of heroic levels of obliviousness (at best)..and (4) This whole debate reeks of xenophobia and Islamophobia..

            • Paula says:

              Well … I tend to think isolating Obama’s use of drones is a strawman in and of itself.

              Because the choice as it stands isn’t between “Drones” and “no drones” or “killing terrorists w/o trial” or “killing terrorists with trial”. It’s between “Drones” and full-bore invasion and “killing terrorists w/o trial” or “letting them rot in Gitmo w/o trial”.

              I don’t know what special American history books ya’ll are reading to think that what Barack Obama has done makes him somehow especially evil in the history of leaders elected to make decisions on behalf of an imperial power. But goddamn, I sure as hell am not familiar with the world in which America didn’t do this shit once it had the capability of doing so.

              Which is not saying that it is America’s destiny to always act this way. But certainly, when only a minority of the public are aware that such things are going on and so are not able to provide public pressure, it becomes more pertinent to educate the public rather than throwing up your hands and bloviating at elected officials for not being moral.

              As if they care about being moral.

              People who are ideological about political positions claim the most knowledge about politics, but I can’t for the life of me accept that claim if it all seems to be based on such a naive and/or willful disregard for the hows and whys of political power. Namely, why others have it and they don’t. And, here’s a hint: a bunch of bloggers calling you stupidly idealistic isn’t actually the reason why you can’t get votes and change policy.

              Again: MARCY WINOGRAD LOST TWICE TO AIPAC CRONY JANE HARMAN IN A DISTRICT THAT INCLUDES VENICE BEACH, CA. Find a way to keep stuff like that from happening, first. Then maybe you can talk about the presidency.

              • Erik Loomis says:

                “Again: MARCY WINOGRAD LOST TWICE TO AIPAC CRONY JANE HARMAN IN A DISTRICT THAT INCLUDES VENICE BEACH, CA. Find a way to keep stuff like that from happening, first. Then maybe you can talk about the presidency.”

                This. Jesus Christ, this.

                • L2P says:

                  Oh man. Jane Harman.

                  Do you know how many ACLU contributors GAVE MONEY TO HARMAN’s CAMPAIGN? I was at an ACLU lunch and every single lawyer there from the Westside was going straight to a Harman dinner. No lie.

                • Paula says:

                  ACLU people?

                  That’s some awful cognitive dissonance.

                • L2P says:

                  They love her on the LA Westside.

                  It’s crazy to try to build a coalition based on hating on anybody who supports war in the Middle East. There’s nothing there.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Remember, the ACLU helped Citizen’s United in their landmark case.

              • Ronan says:

                I don’t claim any special evil for Obama. I don’t think Romney would be better in power. I don’t want Romney in power..But all I’ve seen here is bullying by the LGM crowd over a pretty marginal perspective (who votes on Foreign Policy in the US?)..so if people around here had said Conor F-Dorf won’t vote Obama, who cares, that would be a grown up and sensible response..instead we get special pleading and white privilege and demeaning an important topic..all wrapped up, imho, in some pretty crude caricatures and borderline racism against muslims.. If I came on here saying we should ignore abortion, it’s irrelevant to me and anyone who disagreed is racist, I’d expect to be booted out..that’s basically been the LGM response..as for the last point there’s a lot of way’s to become politically active,not everyone has the temperment to build movements (although I respect those that do)..people approach differn’t issues from differn’t angles..if you expect an ‘ally’ on the issues you want dealt with, then you sure as f**k could start by not attacking issues that people dedicate a lot of time and energy to (even if their time doesn’t lead to any long term solution, because it’s not designed to)

                • Paula says:

                  That’s the thing, no one’s saying the drone war is irrelevant.

                  But to make that claim, you have to tell me how policies on abortion equals defense strategy.

                  The fight on abortion is a lot easier to draw the line around because it consists of “allow” and “not allow” in regards to how it’s implemented. Counter-terrorism and foreign policy is not dealt with in this way, obviously. It’s like you think there’s “war” and “not war”, if the analogy holds. But the problem is that there has never been a state of not war. So we wage war but try to get to a place where it’s less costly in terms of human life. But you can guess that there are many, many variables that impede that attempt.

                  As for the white privilege business and the xenophobia …

                  Higher order desires are a result of getting more basic needs met. So, I’m sorry to say, the desire for America to support a peace-loving government trumping the desire for an America that gets more people access to basic health care, is, indeed, an expression of privilege in that most of the people who take the former clearly do not need their health care subsidized ATM. Not necessarily racial, though.

                  It’s not really xenophobia that’s on play here as much as the fact that we, as Americans, care about Americans first. That’s just life. Pakistanis care about Pakistanis first, Yemenis care about Yemenis first. It’s pretty normal, if not always desirable. The most we can realistically expect to have is that everyone’s interest somehow aligns.

                  In the cases where we are still heavily involved in the ME, it seems like there is a tacit approval of our tactic to kill hard-line terrorists via drone because those governments think that letting AQ run around is worse than letting the Americans run around. Is that illogical?

                  I want the US completely out of the ME, but I can’t deny that there are pertinent reasons for us to act like a police force over there. Especially since so much of what’s bad over there right now began with invading Afghanistan. Which I and some other citizens completely opposed, but which only one person in the entire US Congress voted against.

                  Sorry.

                • Ronan says:

                  I have no problem with a concentration on domestic issues, and the same concern would push me to support Obama if I was in your position..My problem was primarily with the way this issue was framed at LGM..The problem is that trying to bring attention to the topic isn’t easy, and begins on the ground with locals who count the dead, or local human rights groups (the elements of civil society that many claim don’t exist in poor countries)..the information is given to journalists/activists/lobbyists who then try and presure govts to limit the ‘colateral damage’..so it doesn’t exist as an issue that people expect to end, or one even that you can build a movement to transform US policy..it exists purely to bring attention to it, and despite their faults GG and F-Dorf are part of doing this..I just think the initial reaction around here was cheap..of course on some level it is a privilege to be able to dedicate your time to lobbying these issues (you’re generally going to be removed from the day to day struggle to survive – and you fit a certain ‘type’ that people will hire to speak on the issue, (white male, there are plenty of local activists who get none of the attention of GG etc)..but it’s also a privilege not to be affected..which is something that should be acknowledged

                • Ronan says:

                  On the last point, i don’t deny the culpability of the local governments, or elites, who use the US to further their own interests..I sympathise with Obama’s position – but I’m surpised how defensive the US left is on this issue (not the ones that support it – there’s no hypocricy there)

                • Ronan says:

                  Last thing..the xenophobia comment was in relation to the fact that an article largely on US FP, became an internecine squabble within the US left..if this had been a post about something that specifically concerned women or african americans, and evolved into a two day argument about something else, with the initial issue being all but ignored, I dont think calling misogyny or racism would be out of order

                • Paula says:

                  so it doesn’t exist as an issue that people expect to end, or one even that you can build a movement to transform US policy..it exists purely to bring attention to it,

                  I expect it to become rare, certainly, when there’s no more profit to be gained in covert wars and may even be politically costly.

                  That campaign begins at home, in changing our economy and arming people with knowledge.

                  But THAT campaign doesn’t begin by voting people into office that would go in the opposite direction.

                  It also tends to discount the fact that GG is not exactly w/o readers and followers and actually do large part in framing the issues they write about. His framing in particular is deeply Manichean and very erroneous when trying to think of ways of interrogating the hegemony of the National Security apparatus on Capitol Hill and in states. It doesn’t begin and end with who gets voted president.

                  Also, the fool defended Citizen’s United. Money from defense contractors leaking into the government at will. What the hell does he think will happen?

                • Ronan says:

                  I don’t necessarily disagree with all the critiques of GG around here (tbh I don’t tend to read him that much, more out of habit than anything else)- I didn’t know that about Citizens United, wtf was he thinking??!! He’s a peculiar man at the best of times

              • Ronan says:

                As an addendum, i do think F-Dorf had a point..that there is a good deal of hypocricy among certain parts of the left over the drone war..and it seems from a distance that the concern over W’s FP was just political posturing

        • the continuation of the WOT

          There has been no continuation of the War on Terror under Obama.

          The “War on Terror” is a phrase developed to lump a number of unlike things into the same category as the war against al Qaeda. Most notably, the invasion of Iraq.

          The phrase “War on Terror” refers to the sum total of actions undertaken in the name of stopping terrorism post-9/11, beyond action against al Qaeda. Obama’s expansion of the war against al Qaeda, while peeling off an discarding the global imperialist Risk game lumped along with that legitimate war, is not a continuation of the War on Terror. It is a replacement of the “WoT” with what we should have had instead all along.

          • Let’s not forget: Iraq was the central front of the War on Terror.

            Not only is Iraq not the central front of the war against al Qaeda, but President Obama has completely abandoned Iraq as any sort of a front at all. What was central to the War on Terror has nothing to do with this President’s actions against al Qaeda.

        • DrDick says:

          Everybody here agrees that the global WOT is an abomination that needs to end. That said, none of the alternatives we have for president in this election is going to do that. Many of us have criticized these policies here, including Loomis, but that does not mean that Obama is not at least somewhat better on these issues than Romney and dramatically better on other issues that matter to us. WTF are we supposed to do and why wouldn’t we critique those who advocate positions and actions that increase the likelihood that we will get someone far worse?

          • Ronan says:

            Because it wasn’t a critique..it was a lot of posturing and empty sloganeering as far as I could see..and because the WOT isn’t just a FP issue, it has domestic implications, most of those implications are dealt with by american muslims – and this isn’t a topic generally dealt with (so those that shout down any counterargument with ‘white privilege’,which Loomis does a lot, should check their own)..as I said the problem was the tone, not the fact that you have very little influence over FP
            And comments that Farley, and others, have made, such as that Yemeni and Pakistanis are used to state violence, are really pretty racist, and should be called as such

    • I think that people who use the phrase “War on Terror” when discussing policy are engaging in sloppy thinking and conflating unlike things.

      Even if they precede it with a big word.

      • Ronan says:

        How so Joe

        • Seriously?

          You can’t think of anyone who has used the phrase “War on Terror” in order to conflate unlike things?

          • Ronan says:

            The fact that the phrase became such a joke under Bush means that it’s now useful to highlight the reality that it’s still ongoing and that there are a number of related domestic outgrowths which generally go unmentioned..the war on drugs is an idiotic phrase, but it’s used because it’s a real phenomenon..the fact that Obama’s stopped using the phrase doesn’t mean it’s gone away..I don’t see the issue
            I’m not exactly submitting a peer reviewed article here

            • No, it is not still ongoing. The war whose central front was in Iraq ended years ago. Simply using the same term to describe unlike things, in an effort to make them appear alike, is the definition of conflation.

            • The fact that the phrase became such a joke under Bush means that it’s now useful

              This is the only honest part.

              You say it, because it is useful to you to try to conflate the use of force against al Qaeda with the invasion of Iraq.

        • How about this, Ronan: the use of the phrase “War on Terror” is, and has always been, an attempt to make the invasion of Iraq and the use of force against the people behind the 9/11 attacks seem like the same thing.

          You get people trying to use the halo of going after al Qaeda to make a case for invading Iraq, and you get people who try to use the horror of the Iraq War to make a case against using force against the the people behind the 9/11 attacks.

          Just to pick one prominent example.

          If there is some policy Obama has taken in the war he is waging against al Qaeda that you have strong feelings about, talk about that policy. Don’t use the so-broad-it’s-meaningless phrase “War on Terror” as a medium for guilt-by-associative-nomenclature.

  22. scott says:

    So remind me again, who’s doing the holier-than-thou leftsplaining? Just based on the level of volume, frequency, and demonization, it’s difficult to tell. What makes this kinda hilarious is that this is happening not in some 2000 cliff-hanger scenario where Every Vote Counts! and where it’s all hands to the pump, but where Obama’s main opposition has immolated himself and is growing weaker every day. If it were closer, would we have 15 posts daily on this theme rather than 5?

    • Murc says:

      Scott likes this topic, dude. He writes about it a lot because he considers it important.

      You could argue that the level of importance he ascribes to it is wrong, of course.

      • Murc says:

        And of course this post was made by Erik.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        It’s not just Scott or Erik. This debate over the infinitesimal number of left voters considering voting for third party candidates is all over the internet. Both those defending third party votes and those attacking them seem to love this argument.

        Not only is it politically irrelevant, it’s happening at a time that its already small relevance is fast declining as Romney’s fortunes fade. The whole thing reminds me a bit of all the “Paul-curious progressives” nonsense from earlier in the year, except this time, both sides seem more invested in it. Whatever this is all about, it’s not about convincing anybody to vote for (or against) Obama (there’s clearly no convincing go on for either side in any of these threads), nor need it be, as Obama does not need these votes and this year’s third party crop are going nowhere fast. As I say upthread, I think this brouhaha is about intraleft score-settling on both sides. I could guess that the root cause is a sense of frustration not only among the anti-Obama crowd, but also among the pro-Obama crowd. Beating the powers-that-be in this country is hard. Engaging in quasi-sectarian shouting matches with others on the left is pretty f**king easy.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s part of figuring out what I’m voting for and why.

          As I wrote above, I think voting is important beyond the political effects, so it’s worth thinking about and talking about beyond the point where there’s a risk of a bad outcome.

          Just one data point.

        • npd says:

          It is a rhetorical contest to determine the true liberals. Bunch of well off white people fighting it out to see who is really the most concerned with the unfortunate be they domestic poor or foreign innocents. You have people who dont give a fuck about corporatism and lingering unemployment championing the poor vs muscular interventionist now coming to the defense of murdered women/children. Spectacular levels of bad faith and narcissism abound.

        • G. Angeletti says:

          This explains the fact that many at LGM and elsewhere appear to be making no effort to change anyone’s mind, or even to read with minimal care what their antagonists on the left have actually written. For the aim is not persuasion or understanding, it is to be victorious in a flame war, to oust them from the acceptable left. One question: Since these antagonists are small in number, as you say, and Obama and the Democratic Party don’t need them, why not just ignore them? Is it that they may persuade others? Are CF, GG, et al. dangerous? Whereas David Dayen, Kevin Gosztola, and Glen Ford (of BAR) can safely be ignored altogether?

          A second question: Is it wrongheaded, then, for Jamelle Bouie to respond to CF with an argument rather than name-calling etc? Isn’t that rather close to fraternizing with the enemy?

          • L2P says:

            Henry said that he supports a vote for a third party because he values stopping harm to non-Americans higher than stopping harm to Americans. OK. Davies literally said that he doesn’t think that a third party vote is justified because the President doesn’t have any meaningful administrative or appointment powers. OK. Conor said that the only issue he is voting on is Drone strikes and wars. OK.

            I’m not sure what “close reading” you’re wanting here. Those are the arguments for a third-party vote. If you think there’s another one, make it.

            • For fuck’s sake. When you have just been collectively chided for not wanting “even to read with minimal care what … antagonists on the left have actually written” in the previous comment, best not to engage in blatant misrepresentation of what those antagonists have said. At no point whatsoever do I say that I “support a vote for a third party.” Really. Nowhere. Nor does Scott Lemieux’s suggestion that this is what I am arguing leads there or that it amounts to pro-Romneyism carry any more weight than Glenn Reynold’s old penchant for arguing that people who were against the Iraq war were “objectively pro-Saddam” (indeed, the logic of the argument is more or less identical). Again, I’m sorry to see that LGM has come to this.

              • Steve LaBonne says:

                So Henry’s position isn’t actually intended to lead to its obvious logical consequences- he just like to hear himself talk. Well, that’s a well-known occupational hazard of academia.

        • G. Angeletti says:

          Incontinentia Buttocks, should I have added Henry Farrell to the list of those to be flamed, rather than with those to be ignored altogether, or with those to be dealt with in a respectful manner? I myself would certainly place him in the third group. Many here seem to put him in the first group when they do not effectively put him in the second. But if you agree with me that he should be placed in the third, then surely it’s important to take the trouble to understand what he’s actually said and to deal with it as an genuine if not airtight argument. As far as I can tell, no one at LGM has done this, and that includes Scott by for reasons given upthread.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            In general I think it would be better for everyone to err on the side of actually listening to what those with whom they disagree have to say (which can be extremely difficult in an internet discussion in which talking is easy, but indicating that you’re listening is not). So I would provisionally put everyone who is not an out-and-out troll in the category of people who deserve to be dealt with in a respectful manner (though we all say stupid things on occasion and should work on calling each other on the stupid things we say in ways that open up discussion rather than shut it down).

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              I concur — everyone but outright trolls should be in category #3. (That Henry belongs in this category should not be in the slightest question, of course.)

            • Pinko Punko says:

              Yeah, and when someone doesn’t listen, maybe don’t go for the easy kill of “you are deliberately misrepresenting my words, how dare you you, you must have sinister motives. I PRESUME YOU MASTURBATE FREQUENTLY” The only way to prevent the internet from being the internet is to either not engage on it or not fall for the easy slams. They are the little smokies of internet commenting. Each one is 50 spiritual calories, you can’t stop eating them once you start, they are made from mechanically rendered animal parts and chemicals, you will hate yourself afterwards, but OOOOH MUSTARD AND FANCY TOOTHPICKS

    • Erik Loomis says:

      At this point, I’m not talking about the election per se, which Obama is obviously going to win, but broader principles of how change takes place and how it very much does not take place.

  23. Joe says:

    Spent a few years in Gary Johnson’s New Mexico back in the 90′s. What a fascist prick he was, ignoring the massive poverty and illiteracy in his state while pushing for legalized marijuana. Cutting budgets to the bone, tossing old people and the disabled off medicaid. It took 3 years to get my disabled son on the dd waiver program, no educational programs for him. When I moved to Hawaii it took 3 weeks. Fuck Gary Johnson.

    • Joe says:

      This is another “Joe” that isn’t me, but more power to him.

      Gary Johnson praises Ron Paul. Paul is bad on various fronts. But, let’s take drones. Paul voted for the AUMF 2001, which authorized use of force against persons, groups and nations involved (the language is pretty loose; Bush wanted it stronger, but Dems tightened it a bit) in 9/11. Obama is still using this, along with authorizations in Afghanistan etc. to use drones etc. since these are included in the type of “force” allowed. Likewise, traditionally, you didn’t have to put out press releases before using force. Presidents could do it secretly. No first going to court to get their okay. No rule that U.S. citizens can’t be targets if they were enemy combatants. And, the determination again wasn’t a matter of going to court first.

      How “Ron Paul” helped Pakistanis by later, after tossing the President the keys, is unclear to me.

  24. wengler says:

    Why the fuck would any leftist vote for a Libertarian Party candidate? There are plenty of socialists, even some of them good, likely on the ballot line.

  25. curiouscliche says:

    I thought that Rebecca Solnit piece was excellent, but I do have two critiques of this post.

    1) I think the charge that we need a smarter left is probably more applicable to Obamabots than to Obama critics. The fact is, 80% of Americans don’t live in swing states. We should be encouraging those 80% to vote for whatever presidential candidate makes them feel good, and make sure that they elect/volunteer/donate with more progressive Dems down-ballot. This is especially true now that the presidential election is looking like a rout. But anyway, what’s wrong with giving people a reason to feel good about voting if it won’t make it more likely that Romney’s elected? Voting actually is a huge pain in the ass if you lack transportation, you’re in a minority-majority precinct with long lines/shorter hours, photo ID is required, and poll vigilantes threaten you. This is part of the reason why turnout in this country is a joke. Letting people who otherwise wouldn’t vote feel clever and good about voting is part of the solution (as is making it easier to vote, including removing the requirement to register, like in North Dakota). Anyway, my point is that the third party/write-in supporters don’t have to be in conflict with the hard and long-term efforts to re-make the Democratic Party.

    It’s probably a straw attack to say that most Obamabots get bent out of shape at every criticism of Obama, even when it takes the form of someone from a safe state saying they won’t vote for him. It’s also a straw attack to say that most Obama critics deny the safe state privilege that allows them to vote for Mickey Mouse, without any negative effects.

    2) It’s ridiculous to suggest that there was ANY reason for the current lack of physical occupations other than the intense police brutality directed at the encampments. Occupy Wall Street could’ve been marching punctually in military formation, with a carefully delineated hierarchy of control, and they still wouldn’t be in Liberty Plaza after the NYPD assaults.

    • DocAmazing says:

      We should be encouraging those 80% to vote for whatever presidential candidate makes them feel good, and make sure that they elect/volunteer/donate with more progressive Dems down-ballot.

      Next time anyone feels inclined to hyperventilate over another persons voting preferences, please re-read the foregoing.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      “The fact is, 80% of Americans don’t live in swing states. We should be encouraging those 80% to vote for whatever presidential candidate makes them feel good, and make sure that they elect/volunteer/donate with more progressive Dems down-ballot.”

      Um….the logical extension of this suggestion is that by diluting those “non-swing-state” votes for Obama (in states where he is leading markedly) and distributing them to other parties, those states go from being non-swing-states to being swing states. At which point, we go right back to either collectively supporting Obama again, or accepting that Romney will be the next POTUS.

      This conundrum isn’t solved that easily.

      • curiouscliche says:

        Please read my comment again. My point is that the people who wouldn’t vote at all should vote for third parties/write-ins. Besides, even if Nader levels of Obama voters switched (a 4 point shift), it wouldn’t move states like New Jersey into the swing state category.

  26. Steve LaBonne says:

    It’s probably a straw attack to say that most Obamabots get bent out of shape at every criticism of Obama

    Circular definition is circular.

  27. Steve S. says:

    “Glenn Greenwald has basically spent 24 hours attacking this site on his Twitter feed”

    Is that the secret Greenwald twitter feed? The one I just looked at has one direct reference to LGM since Wednesday. Of course there were the two or three subtle but devastating references to “pet issues.” Will no one stop this madman! We don’t want the smoking twitter gun to be a mushroom cloud!

  28. mds says:

    Yet, in our atomized and hyper-individualistic modern left, a modern left very much shaped by the fetishization of individualism pushed upon us by the consumer capitalism it theoretically rejects

    ‘Congratulations. That’s the shortest time yet for a member of – let me see -’ he made a pretence of counting on his fingers ‘- a split, from a split, from a split, from the Fourth International to call me a sectarian!’

    –from The Stone Canal, by Ken MacLeod

  29. [...] least Loomis — who loved Solnit’s piece, of course –  is more specific.  I’ve already mentioned his [...]

  30. [...] I’ve also seen the point made innumerable times that Romney would be the same, or worse, but [...]

  31. [...] I’ve also seen the point made innumerable times that Romney would be the same, or worse, but [...]

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

  • Switch to our mobile site