Home / General / Third Party Nihilism: The Arguments Can Always Get Worse!

Third Party Nihilism: The Arguments Can Always Get Worse!


To its credit, the occasional inexplicable book-plugging interview aside Salon no longer promotes Camille Paglia. Alas, it is now fairly regularly publishing Matt Stoller, who is sort of Paglia but 1)with fewer references to Madonna and uses of the word “Dionysian,” and 2)less coherent. His latest ridiculous argument in favor of throwing the election to Romney has all of the same transparent defects as his previous ones, the most notable being a lack of an argument for how throwing the election to someone who is far worse than Obama on most things and better on nothing will work any better than it did in 2000. (If you’re looking for an explanation for how taking health insurance away from tens of millions of people and eliminating a major expansion of Medicaid will address economic inequality, or a defense of the implicit proposition that the uninsured should go off quitely and die somewhere until the point sometime after we’re all long dead when Senate supermajorities have the votes to eliminate the American health insurance industry, you’re out of luck.)

But he does add a couple of new twists. First of all, needless to say he asks us to take Connor Friedersdorf’s conservative case against Obama seriously, silliness we’ve already discussed plenty around here. But, even better, we have this remarkably confused argument that electing Romney won’t even matter for the Supreme Court:

Meanwhile, Obama-appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor has in her career already ruled to limit access to abortion, and Elena Kagan’s stance is not yet clear. Arguing that Romney justices would overturn Roe v. Wade is a concession that Senate Democrats, as they did with Alito and Roberts, would allow an anti-choice justice through the Senate. More likely is that Romney, like Obama, simply does not care about abortion, but does care about the court’s business case rulings (the U.S. Chamber went undefeated last year). Romney has already said he won’t change abortion laws, and that all women should have access to contraception. He may be lying, but more likely is that he does not care and is being subjected to political pressure. But so is Obama, who is openly embracing abortion rights and contraception now that it is a political asset. In other words, what is moving women’s rights is not Obama or Romney, but the fact that a fierce political race has shown that women’s rights are popular. The lesson is not to support Obama, who will shelve women’s rights for another three years, but to continue making a strong case for women’s rights.

It’s hard to know even where to begin, given the sheer density of nonsense that, I fear, isn’t even being offered in bad faith. But let’s make a valiant effort at noting the most flagrant errors:

  • The fact that he takes Romney’s statement’s about not wanting to change abortion laws at face value is, in and of itself, a reason to ignore anything Stoller ever writes again.   Anybody who believes this would give their Social Security number and account information to a mortgage broker who was fired for Countrywide for being too unscrupulous.   And this would be true even leaving aside the fact that if you look carefully Romney’s alleged “moderation” on abortion was completely meaningless; it wouldn’t contradict his statements for him to sign legislation restricting abortion or to appoint anti-Roe justices (as he has, rather more credibly, pledged to do, something Stoller omits.)
  • With respect to Sonia Sotomayor’s vote against an abortion rights claim, Stoller doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a circuit court justice and a Supreme Court justice.   In ruling on the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s Mexico City policy, Sotomayor was bound to apply black-letter Supreme Court precedent (that, incidentally, while very problematic did not directly conflict with Roe v. Wade anyway.)  To infer from this ruling that there would be any chance that she would vote to overrule Roe v. Wade would be remarkably foolish.   By the same token, Sam Alito voted to strike down legislation banning D&X abortions while he was a circuit court justice, but (as everyone with the possible exception of Stuart Taylor knew he would) voted to uphold an identical federal ban as a Supreme Court justice.
  • The bigger problem is with Stoller’s belief that what Obama or Romney “really thinks” about abortion matters.   Even if we stipulate that neither cares about the issue (despite the lack of evidence), as leaders of political coalitions presidents will appoint nominees with predictable beliefs on many issues.   Even relatively squishy Democratic nominees (like Breyer) will steadfastly support Roe, and the typical Republican nominee will oppose Roe.  And even if you happen to get one of the dying breed of moderate country-club Republicans like Anthony Kennedy, note that they’re far worse on abortion rights than the typical Democratic nominee even if they won’t go quite so far as to vote to overrule Roe v. Wade.   To pretend that there’s any serious question about whether Elena Kagan or Sotomayor will vote to uphold Roe betrays remarkable ignorance about American politics even if you think that Obama could have done somewhat better (plausible in the former case, not really in the latter.)   “Political pressure,” to state the obvious, doesn’t end once an election is over.
  • For related reasons, the argument that Senate Democrats will be to blame if Romney gets an anti-Roe nominee onto the Court is also all kinds of wrong.    Sure, if Romney can get someone with an egregious paper trail like Janice Rogers Brown confirmed, you can blame Senate Democrats.    But you can’t reasonably expect Democrats to serially reject Supreme Court nominees, which means a justice who’s anti-Roe since the generic Republican appeals court judge in 2012 is anti-Roe even if there’s no Bork-like paper trail to prove it.   The third choice isn’t going to be another Blackmun or Kennedy in 2014, and both early Blackmun and Kennedy are more conservative than you might think anyway.
  • The implication that Democratic and Republican appointees are equally pro-business is also profoundly wrong (note the subtle insinuation that the Chamber of Commerce went undefeated because of Obama — you know, his two nominees could have had three votes each if they really wanted to.)    To take a couple of many examples, AT&T v. Concepcion, an extremely poorly reasoned opinion restricting the rights of consumers who had been defrauded by phone companies, was a 5-4 decision along straight party lines (including Kagan and Sotomayor in dissent.)   So was an even worse opinion gutting Arizona’s public finance law.  Etc. etc. etc.   The Supreme Court is (not surprisingly) a microcosm of the presidential race.   Breyer and Kagan might not be as liberal as Brennan and Douglas, but that doesn’t remotely make them indistinguishable from Thomas and Alito.   Just as while there are many ways in which Obama’s record is less progressive than would be desirable (sometimes due to his choices, sometimes due to structural constraints), it is really stupid to argue that there’s no real difference between Obama and Romney.

And the sad thing is that you could do this with pretty much every paragraph of the article — there’s scarcely a sentence in it that isn’t premised on an obvious factual or logical error.   Could we at least get at Obamney argument that’s a little less insulting to the reader’s intelligence?

…and, yes, the idea that throwing the election to Romney would be a good idea because opposition to awful policies is a worthwhile end in itself is insane.  By the same logic, we should have wanted Bush’s Social Security privatization plan to succeed, because that would have created even more opposition.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Anon21

    The Chamber didn’t weigh in on NFIB? I’m surprised.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Technically, the Chamber only submitted a brief on the severability argument, which was ultimately moot.

    • Antonio Conseilhero

      To its credit, the occasional inexplicable book-plugging interview aside Salon no longer promotes Camille Paglia. Alas, it is now fairly regularly publishing Matt Stoller, who is sort of Paglia but 1)with fewer references to Madonna and uses of the word “Dionysian,” and 2)less coherent. His latest ridiculous argument….

      No need to read the rest.

  • Cola714

    As soon as I saw that article I figured you would write abou it. It really is amazing that liberals are willing to throw this election to Romney. How dumb. Plus the winner of this election will probably get credit for the economy adding jobs for the next four years.

    • Barry

      “As soon as I saw that article I figured you would write abou it. It really is amazing that liberals are willing to throw this election to Romney. How dumb. Plus the winner of this election will probably get credit for the economy adding jobs for the next four years.”

      Not liberals, ‘liberals’. Professional concern troll douchebags.

      • bob mcmanus

        Thank you for linking to that terrific piece by Stoller. I would never have read it without you.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I thought you’d like it! It takes real talent to jam that many non-sequiturs and obvious errors into a piece of that length.

      • blah

        I blame Obama. If he thrashes Mittens in that first debate all the crazy talk from the “leftish” would have been drown out by a month of wailing on the right. I was looking forward to all the ‘Romney was not a true conservative’ and now I have to wait until November 7.

  • Cols714

    What I mean by that is that in 4 years, the economy will look much much better. The debt problem will largely be under control and Obamacare will be fully implemented.

    The Democrats will be well positioned in 2016 to win again.

    However if Republicans win, then they will get credit for the economy and be positioned to run on a Democrats failed we didn’t type of message in 2016.

    • fasteddie9318

      Yeah, but if Obama loses the Democrats will go full lefty and win in a landslide, just like when the Nader/Chomsky ticket won in 88. I’m going to start printing my Kucinich/Sanders yard signs right away.

      • Sanders is too old, get serious

      • Davis X. Machina

        No way. Half the ticket, at least, must be women.

        • Walt

          Women? Like a lesbian couple? Bold choice.

          • cpinva

            wow, that is a bold choice!

            Like a lesbian couple?

            while most people would suggest it’s a suicidal choice, i disagree. the right will be so paralyzed with outrage, they’ll completely forget to vote. hell, the republicans/tea party might even forget to actually nominate anyone. not that they really have for the past 20 years, but still……..

    • mpowell

      Maybe. Republicans will definitely go down in flames in 2020, though, when their ‘tax cuts for the rich, fuck the rest of you’ plans causes the economy to tank again due to a lack of demand after a brief resurgence in 2016 when the fed finally decides that, ‘oh shit, a Republican in the White House and unemployment at 7%? Hell no, we’re going to double QE purchases every month until it comes down!”

      • John B.

        “Republicans will definitely go down in flames in 2020….”

        Nope. Republicans will have cancelled all elections by then as superfluous. Why burden federal, state, and local governments with the added expense of an election when our corporate overlords dictate who we vote for, anyway?

    • The debt problem will largely be under control and Obamacare will be fully implemented.

      What debt problem? Haven’t you people learned anything from the Clinton years?

    • PBF

      I would rather Obama/Democrats benefitting from the gradual recovery but it is amazing how little good performances matter. Democrats were ‘well positioned’ in 2000 and running against an inept part time governor and still lost.

      • Halloween Jack

        They weren’t ready for the hostility of the press, which was willing to pick up any negative meme that the W campaign put out about Al Gore, no matter how inane, and run it as far and as long as they possibly could. W himself had something to do with this–one of his few genuine talents has to do with scorekeeping and score-settling, particularly with the press–but I think that a lot of the impetus came from the press themselves, who experienced first the double-tap of the threatened “end of history” and the rise of the internet, and then got a reprieve in the form of the Clinton scandal, and knew which side their bread was buttered on.

    • dlankerlanger

      Look in the bright side, republican policies might be terrible enough to send us into ANOTHER economic tailspin

  • DrDick

    Salon is where bad ideas go to moulder and rot.

  • As someone who has bashed incessantly on Scott’s position (mostly on the ground that I think he pretends / sincerely and incorrectly thinks that he and left-wingers share an ideology and just differ on particulars, and therefore thinks he is entitled to an alliance with them, when in fact he should treat left-wingers the same way he treats conservatives, as enemies to his liberal political ideology who have no interest in forming a tactical alliance with him), I can nonetheless say that the Supreme Court is the most obvious fact in support of Scott’s position. Democratic appointees have not only been better than Republican appointees, but have even actively supported some “leftist” rather than “liberal” causes on the Court and have gotten to the left of the Democratic Party on some issues relating to crime and personal liberty.

    There is one, fairly minor way in which the Supreme Court is overblown. Everyone always overestimates the number of appointments the next President will get. We kept on hearing about “four” Supreme Court appointments, but only Reagan got that many. Usually it’s two over eight years. Similarly, most of the justices time their retirements, which makes it hard to shift the ideological balance of the Court.

    But having said all that, the issue’s still important and is a clear distinction between the parties, and anyone pushing third party votes has to deal with it and argue why a vote against Obama is nonetheless justified on balance.

    • I suspect that Breyer and Ginsburg will time their retirements for Obama’s 2nd term. I mean, who knows. But I’d be pretty shocked if there wasn’t at least 1 vacancy in the next 4 years, and that doesn’t even count the very real possibility of Kennedy or Scalia dying.

      • KailuaKid

        Scalia’s too mean to die. Same with Thomas. My fear is that Ginsberg dies and Romney gets in, letting him appoint the 5th vote to overturn Roe and making Citizens United immune to challenge.

    • John

      I’m not sure I understand why Matt Stoller should be viewed as a member of an enemy tribe. In the first place, his proclaimed policy preferences are basically identical to Scott’s, so far as I can tell.

      Stoller’s not a radical socialist. His disagreements with moderate liberals, so far as I can tell, are entirely in judgments of what is politically possible, what is politically likely, and what kind of compromises are morally acceptable.

      That is not at all the same thing as the difference between moderate liberals and conservatives, who have wildly different ideas of what the ideal policies should be.

      • Scott Lemieux

        This. Although Stoller seems unable to understand this, saying that Obama deserves credit for the PPACA because it was the best health care bill that could have been enacted doesn’t suggest that it’s optimal health care policy in any absolute sense.

        • Meanwhile, saying that the PPACA should have been killed because it wasn’t good enough, because it entrenched health insurance companies and made further reform more difficult, or because it redirected the push for a single payer system is a criticism about tactics, and one that is based upon an assumed common viewpoint about the ideal policy.

        • Scott:
          Have you thought about why Stoller believes what he does, especially after working for a member of Congress for two years?

          • Scott Lemieux

            I assume he believes it because he thought that if progressives held together on the public option and killed the PPACA this would give them a lot of leverage going forward. Unfortunately, this is really stupid.

            • kj

              Scott: Using extreme characterizations (“ridiculous”, “density of nonsense”,”stupid”) may appeal to those who are your fans already… but to a new visitor, it’s tiresome. I’m learning about your skill and capacity for colorful condemnations. But, frankly, that’s about it. You clearly don’t like Stoller. Well, you could have saved everyone a lot of trouble with a post that said, “I don’t like Stoller!!!”

              • Scott Lemieux

                Do you have any reply to the many substantive points on the merits?

          • John


            • Anonymous

              I see you’ve met Matt.

      • Warren Terra

        I measure Stoller’s policy preferences at least in part not by what he claims they are, but by the inevitable results of his efforts to change political outcomes, were they to succeed. By that standard, he’s either a nihilist of the far left, or he’s an agent of the Republican party. Either way, he’s hardly a moderate progressive.

    • mpowell

      Scott is spending his energy attacking people who are writing for large audiences and claiming to be relatively centrists in their views. I think it’s pretty foolish for someone of the far left to skip voting for Obama, but it is world’s difference for someone with Stoller’s professed views. Or in other words, less projection please.

      • DrDick

        True. I am a socialist and I generally share Scott’s views on third parties (but I am an old man and a realist). I also know that if I ever want to promote my agenda, no matter how diluted, I have to make alliances with liberals and others on the moderate left, though I may part ways with them on some issues. It is fundamentally why I normally call myself a “progressive.”

    • Dilan, did you RTFA?

      Stoller writes that he worked on Capitol Hill on Dodd-Frank, helped set up Act Blue, and raised millions of dollars for the Democratic Party.

      It is not Scott, but rather you, making the error of confusing genuine radical leftism with a disagreement about tactics and particulars.

      • I agree Stoller is not a leftist. But Scott’s position ON leftists voting against liberals is stupid. The Supreme Court is, however, the one genuine salient point in favor of that position.

        • I don’t think you understand Scott’s position:

          he pretends / sincerely and incorrectly thinks that he and left-wingers share an ideology and just differ on particulars, and therefore thinks he is entitled to an alliance with them,

          Scott’s argument is not that leftists owe anything to the Democrats, but that it is in their own leftist interest to vote for them.

          when in fact he should treat left-wingers the same way he treats conservatives, as enemies to his liberal political ideology who have no interest in forming a tactical alliance with him

          The problem here is that leftists have, in fact, formed tactical alliances with liberals throughout American history, and that doing so has succeeded (is, in fact, the only thing that has ever succeeded) thereby in advancing leftist goals.

          • DrDick

            And the sane realists among us still do.

            • Yes, you do.

              And in the actual practice of politics, leftists have, in fact, been much, much more loyal team players in this alliance than the center-right Blue Dog types.

              • And, in practice, the Stoller-class “liberals” seem to dislike the Blud Dogs less than they dislike their fellow progressives who don’t think the Blue Dogs should be forcibly expelled from the coalition or something.

                • And as soon as I hit “submit” on that, I realize that that’s basically the logical extension of their belief that Blue Dogs aren’t actual people with their own agency, but merely templates for well the President used the BULLY PULPIT, isn’t it?

                • Anonymous

                  Yup. There are no actual Blue Dogs, see, just patsies for a diabolical party-wide racket to raise liberals’ hopes, then dash them.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Whoops, Anonymous was me.

    • Scott Lemieux

      he should treat left-wingers the same way he treats conservatives, as enemies

      And I will repeat, again, that 1)at least in the context of American politics I am a “left-winger” — certainly far to the left of the typical congressional Democrat; 2)throwing elections to Republicans doesn’t advance any kind of left agenda, whether it’s communism or mild reform liberalism; 3)it’s not clear to me whether a “left” analysis that ignores hegemony when evaluating politicians is “left” at all.

      Usually it’s two over eight years

      If one of them is Ginsburg or Breyer, that would be enough.

      • DrDick

        And there is the fact that averages are just that. We currently have, as you indicate, at lest two justices who could well be considering retirement (or who could even die) over the next 4 years. It may be quite a while longer before anyone else does.

      • laura

        It’s a fair point if you’re talking about Alex Cockburn or the Counterpunch crowd (who would have been communists back in the day but now as far as I can tell are more like left-wing anarchists.) They are as different from liberals as conservatives are. Somebody like Stoller who is just itching for mainstream recognition and thinks the easiest way to get there is by throwing bombs about how disappointing Democrats are, is just a very bad liberal.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The thing is, even from a left-anarchist standpoint it’s really not the case that throwing elections makes internal sense. Chomsky’s position is much more rational.

          • laura

            It’s a relatively new position for Chomsky, but I agree it’s more rational. Chomsky isn’t what I would consider a pure left anarchist.

            • I don’t think it’s correct to say it’s a new position, save in emphasis. Chomsky’s a bit more struck by the lunacy of the republicans this time around (properly so), but his basic position — that the difference, while quite small, makes a big difference to the levels of power involved, so you should vote for the lesser of two evils — is one he’s said many times over the years.

              • Scott Lemieux

                I would defer to Stephen in any case, but this is my understanding as well. As far as I can tell, Chomsky has never advocated third party nihilism under the current national partisan configuration.

              • laura

                I should be clearer. Chomsky’s view that you should strategically vote D in battleground is relatively new (starting in 2004 unless I’m mistaken). The fact that Chomsky sees differences in the parties in terms of domestic policy and argues that government action can help the poor and that should have some impact on how people vote strikes me as essentially a social democratic view and not a far left libertarian (or left anarchist or whatever) view. That’s why I say I don’t think Chomsky is a pure left anarchist.

        • peorgietirebiter

          I agree.

          Obama’s history of personal use of illegal narcotics, combined with his escalation of the war on medical marijuana (despite declining support for the drug war in the Democratic caucus), shows both a personal hypocrisy and destructive cynicism that we should decry in anyone,

          Here He shows a little leg in case the Fox scout picked up the ticket Mattt left at will call.

          • Pooleside

            Nicely said

          • So you think he’ll join Joe Lieberman, Susan Estrich, Jim Traficant, Dick Morris and various random Dixiecrats who haven’t officially yet followed Strom Thurmond into the GOP in the ranks of what Bob Somerby calls “Fox Democrats”? (That is, people who want revenge on the Dem party establishment or certain persons in it for imagined slights usually connected to their being punished for corruption, malfeasance or incompetence, and wouldn’t mind padding their bank accounts at the same time?)

      • Michael Sullivan

        Well I suppose if what your hypothetical “leftist” wants is Soviet Stalinist Communism, the Republicans actually have a lot to offer: hypernationalism, authoritarianism, military aggression, social control, creating your own reality, etc. I mean, yeah, the PR is diametrically opposed, but a huge portion of the actual practices are perfectly aligned.

    • (mostly on the ground that I think he pretends / sincerely and incorrectly thinks that he and left-wingers share an ideology and just differ on particulars, and therefore thinks he is entitled to an alliance with them, when in fact he should treat left-wingers the same way he treats conservatives, as enemies to his liberal political ideology who have no interest in forming a tactical alliance with him)

      What are these differences? Are these enemy leftists against abortion rights? Universal heath care? Due process? What?

      Seriously, what is the daylight between these people and Scott that makes them enemies comparable to conservatives?

      This is so obviously bonkers I’m not sure what to make of it.

      • DrDick

        As an actual socialist, I have to agree with this. Either that or it is simply brain dead stupid.

      • John

        Let’s be clear here – when we are talking about Matt Stoller, specifically, there is no real evidence that his policy preferences are in any respect to the left of Scott’s. His disagreements are entirely in the realm of political strategy and tactics.

        And, to be honest, what Stoller’s disagreements, in particular, are really about are his need for attention and being sucked up to.

    • Joe

      I have not heard that Obama is going to appoint “four” nominees. Biden in his debate said one or two. Where do we “keep” on hearing this?

      Two is enough. Bush appointed a Chief Justice and a key swing vote. The CJ isn’t up but one or two votes will matter a lot given the number of 5-4 issues. They delayed their retirements some, but events made delaying them eight years (if Gore won) unlikely (one died, the other had to take care of a sick husband). Brennan, Marshall and Douglas also delayed things just so long.

      Others note some problem with the stuff you don’t agree with him on.

      • Pith Helmet

        I want obama to appoint five. He’s already got two, another three during the second term would be great. I i would prefer either scalia or thomas be replaced, if not both.

        • Scott Lemieux

          And as somebody else mentioned, given the business cycle the incumbent party is likely to be favored to retain the White House in 2016. Scalia might not live to see 2019…

        • The only way Scalia, and or Thomas, are being replaced by Obama is if either, or both, of them die in the next 4 years.

          • PhilPerspective: Don’t be surprised if Roberts goes first. He’s already had a few hemi-demi-semi strokes (that we know about, anyway).

  • cpinva

    it isn’t at all hard to know where to begin, it’s pretty obvious, in fact.

    we begin with the proposition that Salon is desperate for readership (much as the MSM is desperate for reader/viewership). being desperate, and paglia, having worn out her ZOMIGOD! appeal, they’ve simply replaced her with someone fresh, who may excite the readership to actually read Salon. ad revnues increase temporarily, until readers get tired of him as well. lather, rinse, repeat.

    this is the entire schtick of the entire rightwing “shock” personalities, and it works pretty well. the rubes (and their dollars) follow it like the sheeples they are, and everyone is happy. god forbid romney actually gets elected, they’ll all be out of jobs.

    • Halloween Jack

      I see Stoller as more of a replacement for Greenwald; I’m not even sure that Paglia has left Salon, as she always had the demeanor of someone who’s taking a little vacation from her meds and wanders in mumbling something about the bebop jazz stylings of Sarah Palin (and throwing in something about Madonna at random in eternal hopes that Madge will start paying attention to her) and collects a check on the way out.

  • It’s hard to know even where to begin

    How about the proposition that Lily Ledbetter, nondiscrimination regulations for health insurance, and oh yeah free contraceptive coverage with no copay is shelving women’s rights.

    Especially those last two. Contraceptive coverage and equal pricing for male and female insurance customers were core planks for the feminist and health care reform movements for decades…right up until the point Barack Obama implemented them, at which point they don’t warrant notice.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if these holier-than-though leftist wankers adhered to the same principles during the Obama administration that they so loudly promoted under Bush?

    • Scott Lemieux

      I also like the idea that the only thing you have to do to advance women’s rights is to argue for women’s rights. This, apparently, will magically force the party strongly opposed to these positions to adapt these views. And a pony!

      Contraceptive coverage and equal pricing for male and female insurance customers were core planks for the feminist and health care reform movements for decades…right up until the point Barack Obama implemented them, at which point they don’t warrant notice.

      Right. Sort of like how DADT was a huge deal when it wasn’t being done, and then when it got done oddly, Obama didn’t deserve credit for it.

      • dms

        How did it get “done oddly”? What was so odd?

        You need an editor.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Or, you know, you could fill in the obvious missing comma.

      • Halloween Jack

        It did sort of get done “oddly”, in that there was some sort of review period built-in, which angered a small but vocal segment of LGBT activists who thought that Obama should have just executive-ordered it away or that the review was an out for the military to rationalize recommending against repeal. That the latter didn’t happen and the new policy was implemented with such little drama that it’s starting to get hard to remember what all the fuss was about means little to these people, who now insist that Obama hates gays because he’s not working full-time on getting same-sex marriage equality in all fifty states.

    • It is kind of funny that all of the “progressive” blogger types who complain about Obama not doing enough for women’s issues are dudes, idnit?

      • Guy

        Also this, all too often. It’s a lot easier to hold out for perfect when it’s not your life.

        • And you can contrast that with, say. Amanda Marcotte, who’s hardly a squishy moderate type but has no problem pointing out that Ledbetter and free contraceptive coverage is a big fucking deal for women.

  • Scott goes easy on Stoller by focusing on the Supreme Court point.

    The heart of his argument is to show a chart depicting longstanding economic trends that continued into Obama’s presidency, and writing “And yes, Obama did this.”

    To back that up, he then proceeds to list a bunch of bills that died in the Senate.

    What a dishonest fool.

    • Eric

      Yeah, income equality rose in 2009 and 2010 with a Democratic Congress!!! ZOMG!

      Naturally, the fact that we’re still digging ourselves out the Bush Administration hole doesn’t have anything to do with it. There are a lot of things I’d fault Obama for, but trying to entrench income inequality isn’t one of them.

      • Naturally, the fact that we’re still digging ourselves out the Bush Administration hole doesn’t have anything to do with it.

        Most people making his argument just sort of leave that bit out. He explicitly, by name, absolves the Republicans from blame: most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress.

      • archer

        Go look at the date. Income inequality FELL as a result of the crisis. So will you now give Bush credit for that?

        • The short-term crash in investment income during the financial crisis, which hit the wealthiest harder than the rest of us, was, indeed, attributable to the policies of Bush and the Republican Congress.

          And? Am I supposed to think worse of Obama, or better of Bush, because the Republicans cratered the stock market and set the financial system on fire?

  • Scanner

    Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. And if you look at the chart above, most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it’s not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

    This is the shape of the system Obama has designed.

    I admit I was a bit surprised when Congress passed the “Give 93 Cents of Every Dollar to the 1%” Act in early 2009.

    …Seriously, I get how the Federal Reserve shoveling money at the financial sector and bungling the HAMP/foreclosure response probably aggravated a bad situation with income inequality, but ascribing everything up to sinister design and shunting aside structural factors seems like an ironic cult of negative personality around the President.

    • most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress.

      He is literally blaming the consequences of the financial crisis on people who came into office in 2009, and explicitly absolving, by name, the Republicans who caused that crisis to happen.

      • Did anyone else notice that his absolution of the Republicans, and blaming of Obama, extends to the passage of TARP?

        This is the problem with contrarian “both sides are just the same” posturing, whether from the left, the center, or the libertarian right: in order to make your position appear plausible, you have to work very hard to not only deride those who are doing better, but to prop up and defend the worse actors.

        Why the hell would anyone with two brain cells to rub together write, explicitly, that the Republican Congresses didn’t cause the effects of the financial crisis?

        • archer

          Obama whipped aggressively for TARP. It would not have passed without his support.

          And you clearly didn’t bother reading the Stoller piece. Bush had a plan to use TARP funds to help modify mortgages. Obama nixed it. So Bush was willing to do MORE for ordinary Americans than Obama did.

          You need to stop reading Obama PR and get familiar with the record on how Obama has bent over backwards every time he could for the banks.

          • Obama whipped aggressively for TARP. It would not have passed without his support.

            So, therefore, “This was not the fault of the mean Republican Congress.” Flawless logic.

            Bush had a plan to use TARP funds to help modify mortgages. Obama nixed it. So Bush was willing to do MORE for ordinary Americans than Obama did.

            Sure he did. You are a very gullible person.

          • So what you’re saying is that Obama whipped aggressively for a version of TARP that included a plan to help homeowners. The bastard.

            Anyway, modifying mortgages wouldn’t have arrested the meltdown. Doing so for eleventy billion mortgages would have taken far too long, and meanwhile, all of those side bets that were the real problem (which the mortgage defaults served only to trigger) would have continued to default.

            how Obama has bent over backwards every time he could for the banks

            Just because you didn’t get what you wanted, archer, doesn’t mean that the banks got what they wanted. Did he bend over for them whipping through the Credit Card Bill of Rights? Creating the CFPB? Including the Volker Rule? Requiring that the management be fired before systematically-important banks can receive assistance? Trying to implement a bank tax to pay for it all?

    • You forget two things. He appointed Geithner, and reappointed Bernanke. Why did he do both? Both shouldn’t be any where near government, despite Krgthulu’s soft spot for his old boss.

      • Helicopter Ben has been great. He is the prime mover behind the years of zero interest rates and two record-breaking rounds of quantitative easing. He has spent Obama’s entire term testifying to Congress that they need to do more fiscal stimulus. And his patient handling of the inflation hawks on the board is what finally got them to endorse QE3.

        The chances that anyone else could have gotten even more monetary stimulus out of the Fed are approximately zero.

  • laura

    Last I heard of Stoller, he was playing straight man to noted feminist progressive Russell Brand on Brand’s new TV show, which has predictably tanked.

    Stoller is a self-promoting imbecille trying (and mostly failing) to break his way into the on-air commentary racket. There will always be a market for lefter-than-thou denunciations of Democrats, and they are the go-to vehicle of the despearte. The quality of the arguments doesn’t matter a bit. It’s not a matter of logic, it’s a matter of attitude. Shame on salon for feeding the troll.

    • That’s Matt Stoller?

      I did not think my opinion of him could go any lower. And yet here we are.

    • Scott Lemieux

      You mean that unbelievably horrible-looking show they promote during Louie? Yeah, Stoller would fit right in on that, although I certainly don’t plan to find out.

  • David W.

    Living in Wisconsin and having gone through two recall elections since Scott Walker took over, I think Stoller’s advice is genuinely harmful. A few victories at the margins this election matter a lot, given that Tammy Baldwin needs every vote she can get to hold a Democratic seat in the Senate and Obama can’t afford to lose here either.

  • Pingback: Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » They Just Never Stop()

  • Chris

    No worries, everyone. Most of us poor, deluded lefties will keep our powder dry and vote for Obama again. Your centrist government is assured to continue until the next centrist is elected in 2016.

    Sure, it’s a shame that climate change didn’t rate a single mention during those oh-so-contentious debates.

    Oh, and that each candidate outdid himself in projecting American power through drone strikes. I admit, I wonder why that 16-year old American citizen (what’s his name again?) was killed by a drone strike without being accused of a single crime, let alone convicted in a court of law.

    Too bad we didn’t hear about that either, except that the better candidate’s campaign adviser made it clear it was the dead kid’s dead _father’s_ fault he was killed.

    I understand, though, even _thinking_ of voting for Jill Stein or any of the socialist candidates because of this bloodthirstiness is equivalent to wilfully handing the keys over to Romney.

    Not choosing to reward someone who WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, then starting engaging in remote warfare via joystick, with my vote is the same as voting for a Republican, right?

    No, don’t worry, self-appointed “real Democrats,” we lefties and socialists will toe the line for you this time, just like we have for decades.

    I look forward to that single Supreme Court nominee, who will somehow get through a Senate filibuster, washing away all the blood.

    Forward into the future! Obama 2012!

    • This is exactly why it’s impossible to take people like you seriously:

      Sure, it’s a shame that climate change didn’t rate a single mention during those oh-so-contentious debates.

      Nevermind CAFE standards. Nevermind billions of dollars in clean energy investments. Nevermind the EPA regulations. Nevermind that the United States under President Obama has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other nation on earth.

      You don’t care about actual policy advancing your purported goals. All you want is public affirmation.

      • Or that proposing to do anything truly meaningful on climate change in the short term is political suicide in American politics.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Despite which Obama did so, although inevitably cap-and-trade ran aground in a Senate whose malapportionment makes passing such legislation essentially impossible.

          • Well yeah, you could indeed note that the House did indeed pass a cap and trade bill. Plus, Obama’s EPA has been about as aggressive in terms of regulating greenhouse gasses as they’re allowed to be yunder the law. But hey, OBAMNEY!

      • EIA

        The EIA attributed the decline to a combination of three factors: a mild winter, reduced demand for gasoline and, most significant, a drop in coal-fired electricity generation because of historically low natural gas prices.

        The Obama administration had little to do with the current reduction in carbon admissions though its policies should lead to a continuing decline per capita. May also need some action on the increase in methane.

        • A four-year decline can be solved by a single mild winter?

          Did you not understand what “more than any other nation on earth” meant? Virtually every western democracy, along with many other countries, went through the same economic contraction, and yet the United States had a larger decline than any of the others.

          And finally, for natural gas to be cheaper than coal requires to factors: low natural gas prices and higher costs of producing electricity from coal. Treating the ever-rising cost of running coal-fired power plants as a natural phenomenon, unrelated to any policy, demonstrates a profound ignorance about public policy in this area.

        • There is another important point buried in that quote: the most effective action at reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been the ramping up of natural gas-fired power plants.

          This is rubber-meets-road time. Are you serious about reducing climate change? Or not?

    • laura

      Climate change being discussed in the debate would have made zero difference to any policy outcomes ever, except giving Romney an opening to attack Obama for being overly theoretical and not sufficiently concerned about the economy. Americans care about climate change when the economy is good, see it as a dangerous distraction when the economy is bad. A sensible climate change agenda stays quiet on the issue when people are out of work and scared about their personal futures.

      Also, it’s worth remembering the previous two Dem nominees were big climate change guys and talked up the issue all the time. Leftists hated them too, and now all of a sudden the fact that Dems don’t promote the issue all the time is a huge betrayal.

      As for drone strikes, the estimated deaths are somewhere between 2000 and 4000 since 2004, and the number of strikes and deaths has been falling year on year since 2010 and will likely be barely above the level in 2008 at the end of 2012. (I don’t ever remember hearing about this issue until Obama was half way through his term.) Most sources put the militant-to-civilian kill rate at around 9/1. There is a real case against the policy for sure (as against any military action) but the unthinking “it’s death by joystick” left position is ridiculous. Compared to warfare, or say a strike on Iran’s nuke facilities near a major city, the collatoral damage is very very low. Also compared to the number of unnecessary deaths in the US if Obamacare is repealed.

      Even if you don’t agree and think the policy is indefensible, the idea that Romney will be better on drone strikes is crazy. Voting for Jill Stein or whatever will not save a single person’s life.

  • angry bitter drunk

    I think everyone is missing the point on abortion. The Right will never completely repeal Roe v. Wade, because they’d lose all that fundie activism on their behalf. Of course they’ll do everything possible to chip away at it, but the right to an abortion is pretty seriously eroded already (thanks in part to Obama’s Blue Dog buddies).

    I’ll be voting for Democrats at the state level, since at this point Republican state officials are essentially Koch employees. My vote actually means something there. But as far as Obama, not a chance. He’s just another corporate tool, helping the World Elite shred what’s left of the planet and the middle class, because… profit! His policies on education, the environment, immigration, jobs, housing are fucking disasters. Oh, did I mention Wall Street coddling, torturer coddling and killer robots? Those drones will be turned on this country eventually, and then maybe that shite will bother you hypocrite, chicken-shite, smug, delusional Team D-fluffing assholes.

    And when Rmoney wins because his kid bought those voting machines in Ohio, not a fuking word about Jill Stein costing Obama the election.

    • We need a Poe’s Law for the left.

    • laura



    • Mass Independent

      If Romney wins because his military service evading son throws Ohio to the Rethugs, the Dems will blame we who vote for Jill Stein, but not do anything anyway, like demand a hand count, paper certification, not ANYTHING to mitigate the Rethug fraud that has been going on for at least 12 years now. But I voted for Ralph Nader twice, and am proud of it. I hate the Dims almost as much as the Rethugs, because they are corrupt and only interested in retaining power. They don’t REPRESENT ME, so I will no longer vote for them. I am making an exception for Liz Warren this time though, because she hasn’t been corrupted yet. But I will vote for Jill Stein, who underwent 8 hours of a “stress position” while handcuffed to a chair for trying to get into the Dim-Rethug controlled debates.

      • Janastas359

        Yes, Dims and rethugs, very clever.

        Seriously – poe’s law for the left.

    • Scott Lemieux

      The Right will never completely repeal Roe v. Wade, because they’d lose all that fundie activism on their behalf.

      The thing is, this isn’t actually true. Had Reagan gotten his first choice to replace Powell — or just nominated Bork and Scalia in reverse order — Roe would have been overruled in 1989. Or had DOJ wingers not blocked Starr’s nomination and giving us Souter. The survival of Roe has involved Democratic wins and a lot of luck; it’s not a willful Republican conspiracy.

  • bcw

    I guess I’m going with Obama in the hope that there is enough Supreme Court turnover that the court moves back on center under him and the new court actually takes due process, prohibition of torture and the right to trial before execution sufficiently seriously to restore rule of law to this country even if Obama himself has no interest in doing so.

    The other hope is that in his second term, Obama’s rush to a grand bargain doesn’t saddle the Democratic party with the lead jacket of undermining social security for the next ten years. Here Tea Party insanity is our best chance.

    • takes due process, prohibition of torture and the right to trial before execution sufficiently seriously to restore rule of law to this country even if Obama himself has no interest in doing so

      Barack Obama banned torture as his first act as President, and has tried every single terrorism suspect detained during his presidency in the federal courts under ordinary criminal statues.

      But don’t let that get in the way of the bracing sensation that comes from pretending you’re a dissident.

      • Mass Independent

        Except that he allowed the torture of Bradley Manning, an AMERICAN SERVICEMAN, and is pursuing Julian Assange, a digital journalist/whistle blower whose only crime is exposing US hypocrisy and hegemony around the world.

        • The Bradley Manning Wuz Tortured bullshit was debunked years ago. Bringing him up as an example of torture is like writing “Ignore me” on your forehead with a sharpie.

          • John

            joe, can you point to a good summary of the Bradley Manning stuff?

            • Bradley Manning, who was being tortured with isolation and sensory deprivation, had a TV in his cell, carried out conversations with the other prisoners in his cell block, and had weekly visitors.

      • wang

        Terror suspects are still being tortured just not by US personnel. Diplomatic assurances for transfers are still the same CYA they were under Bush. It is a major improvement in framework but only a minor change in what actually happens to terror suspects.

  • Third Party Spolier

    For people who self assurdley proclaim Obama’s invincibility in this election, you guys sure are scared of us marginal “crazy” leftists.

    I live in VA. I will be voting Jill Stein. Your corporate party is not entitled to my vote.

    • You’re confusing “annoyed” with “scared,” and thereby doing an impression of a Sarah Palin supporter.

      • Third Party Spolier

        Why are you annoyed if we are just some tiny fringe group with no influence?

        Your party is not entitled to our votes. They must be earned. Mr. Endless War has not done so.

        • Why are you annoyed if we are just some tiny fringe group with no influence?

          Because I spend considerable time on liberal web sites and, unlike in the real world, people like you are not a tiny fringe group with no influence in that particular subculture.

          Although that particular subculture is, indeed, tiny and irrelevant, it’s one I frequent, and so your presence there is meaningful enough to annoy me.

          Your party is not entitled to our votes. They must be earned. Mr. Endless War has not done so.

          Good. Vote for Jill Stein. When Barack Obama wins his second term, I want there to be absolutely no room for misunderstanding about your insignificance.

          • laura

            I think somebody has linked this thread on Z-net or something. If that still exists.

          • Mass Independent

            Obomber has already let the PROGRESSIVE LEFT know how insignificant he thinks we are. We’re just returning the compliment.

            • laura

              I take it back. Not Z-net. You’re obviously a conservative troll immitating a leftist.

            • You aren’t the progressive left. You’re a tiny minority faction of the progressive left.

              Speak for yourself only, because a large majority of the progressive left strongly supports Barack Obama.

            • this would be a good place for your “Protest People” comment, joe.

              • You mean “The most important thing to Protest People is their self image as Protest People?” I agree, that saying applies to this guy, in spades.

                I stopped using that phrase, though. It just seemed to stop making sense after Occupy Wall Street’s success in changing the national political discourse to one about income inequality and the power of the financial sector. Those were some Protest People who genuinely wanted to get stuff done, and went about in a meaningful way.

          • Anonymous37

            Because I spend considerable time on liberal web sites and, unlike in the real world, people like you are not a tiny fringe group with no influence in that particular subculture.

            A bit of advice, joe from Lowell: stay out of the politics threads in Metafilter. The loudest voices are the left-wing purity trolls who are completely incapable of understanding the actual written language of the NDAA and the libertarians who profess outrage at drone strikes but were completely silent when Ron Paul was in favor of setting mercenaries loose on the Middle East. Because, you know, the good folks at Blackwater would never kill any innocents to collect bounties on Al Qaeda operatives.

      • John

        Misspelling “spoiler” doesn’t help.

    • It’s past your bedtime.

  • Third Party Spolier

    If you guys want to obsess over something how about the fact that the company that built the Ohio voting machines is Mitt Romney’s son? They are going to steal the election again yet not a word from Obama or other Ds. Go fight your real enemy that’s trying to steal your vote just like in 00 and 04.

    • laura

      Oh good lord not this shit again.

      • Third Party Spolier

        What “shit” would that be? Fighting voter disenfranchisement by the corporations?

        • No, fighting voter disenfranchisement is what Eric Holder is doing.

          • Third Party Spolier

            Has Holder done anything about the voting machines that are basically owned by the Romney family?

            Don’t blame us when Ohio goes Romney through vote stealing then. We warned you.

            • Marc

              You do know that there is a paper trail on the Ohio voting machines, right?

              My wife is a precinct judge here. I don’t know what the deal is with other states, but the Ohio vote is not going to be “stolen by Romney voting machines”.

              (And why would you care anyway? An Obama win just gets in the way of the glorious people’s revolution and all that…)

            • Laura was right; you are a conservative troll.

              Bradley Manning? Ohio voting machines?

              Calling yourself a spoiler and then repeatedly writing “Don’t blame us?”

              Piss off, troll.

    • the company that built the Ohio voting machines is Mitt Romney’s son

      Corporations are people, my friend.

  • scott

    Here’s my stunning prediction – 3rd parties will get considerably less than 2 % of the vote and more like 1, as it’s been in the last 2 elections. So Scott and Rob obsessing over this tells us a lot about their state of mind (nervous about the election) and little about objective reality. At this point, regardless of the merits, I pray for an Obama landslide just so the interwebs won’t be crammed with their daily anathema against third parties, Nader, Friedersdorf, and whoever else doesn’t show sufficient fealty to the Democratic Party as it has been, is, and ever shall be. Deliverance!

    • Yeah, I’m not why it gets so much play. Low turnout hurts Democrats much more than third parties do, but you don’t see nearly as much space devoted to it. Voting for Obama as an individual won’t make a difference anywhere. Relatively large groups of people choosing a third party candidate over Obama only matters in a small handful of states.

      • Janastas359

        I think if writers on the net were talking about low voter turnout, you’d hear about it here. If Matt Stoller wanted to write an article about how low voter turnout might swing the election, I bet we’d be talking about that. It is indeed a problem.

        Instead, we have lefty concern trolls with foolish arguments, so that’s what is getting discussed. Mayhaps you should write a letter to Stoller and CF if you think low voter turnout is more important than third party spoilers?

        • It depends on what the point is, because there are a few that have been brought up. Is Stoller’s writing silly? Yeah, but it has been for years, nothing new here. Do votes for third parties swing the election to Romney? As I said, the vast majority of votes for liberal third party candidates wouldn’t make a difference, even if all of their votes went to Obama – a highly dubious assertion. Is Matt Stoller going to convince people to switch from Obama to Stein? I seriously doubt that.

          It seems silly to get worked up over something like this.

          • Scott Lemieux

            On reason third parties will be ineffectual in this cycle is that 2000 discredited left-wing vanity campaigns. But this won’t happen naturally, and people like Stoller are trying to fool people again — they need to be countered.

            • Because left-wing third party candidates were so successful before 2000?

              I’m sorry, but if you are feeling that you need to stop Stoller from moving Obama voters to Stein voters, then your target is voters who are considering voting for a third party. I doubt that dismissing them as nihilistic and insane is going to win them over.

              • I think his point is that third-party candidates were success at getting some liberals to snub the Democrats before 2000, not at accomplishing their policy goals.

                • But they weren’t at all. Who was the big left-wing candidate before Nader? Rockefeller Republican Anderson twenty years before?

  • Alex Blaze

    Problem: Some liberals/leftists/progressives/etc. are fed up with Obama, because of the dirty wars and grand bargain stuff. It happens.

    Proposed solution from Lemieux-like Dems: bully them into loving your party.

    I’m sure it’ll work!

    • DrDick

      No, the answer is to recognize that Romney is worse on pretty much every issue and better on none and that your actual choice for president is between him and Obama. It is not about loving Obama (I don’t), it is about voting for the lesser evil so the greater evil does not in fact come to power. It is also about recognizing the reality that “heightening the contradictions” only drives the Dems further to the right, just as it has done in every election they lost for the past 40 years.

      • If you think those handful of votes from Stein voters is truly important to Obama, you should recognize that calling the voters nihilists, fools, and enemies is a horrible way to convince people. If you think that they don’t matter but you just want to vent at some hippies, that’s fine, but I don’t see the point.

        • Don Anon

          Umm, no. He’s calling Stoller & Co. nihilists–that is, those who are trying to bamboozle voters into not voting for Obama.

          • So you’re only a nihilist if you openly state your opinion; if you have the same opinion but it’s covert, it isn’t nihilism.

            Your logic astounds me sir.

      • Kit P-W

        Cause and effect, or correlation? I think that you would have a hard time building a convincing case that “heightening the contradictions” is the factor that drives Democrats further to the right.

    • Gepap

      As opposed to cheering for the enemy of everything progressives claim to support win and cause misery to millions? Damn right. Anyone who claims to be progressive but does not do everything they can to stop the Republicans from taking power is clearly lying to themselves about how much they actually care about progressive policies.

    • Janastas359

      It is also, as has been said a million, million times, about understanding how to bring real change to the political system. Let me give you a hint – voting for third party candidates isn’t how you do it.

      • Voting for anyone isn’t going to do it. Even in a swing state, the likelihood of your individual vote counting is effectively zero. If you’re not in a swing state, there’s even less of a reason to be concerned.

        • Voting for anyone isn’t going to do it.

          This is true, for certain values of “real change.” I happen to think that the differences between Obama and Bush on things like Iraq, abortion rights, and universal health insurance are a BFD.

          But for definitions of “real change” that are more radical, you are right, your vote in a presidential election is not going to do that. That’s simply not what such elections are for. You need to do things like grassroots organizing and otherwise working for a broader shift in society, like the SCLC, or the abolitionists, or OWS.

          But here’s the thing: human beings are capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Working to generate major shifts in our society and working to elect the better candidate in a Democrat vs. Republican election are not mutually exclusive actions. People who want to see a radical leftward shift in our society and politics should still want to see Obama beat Romney – not because such a victory would meaningfully advance that left-wing agenda, but because getting more people health insurance, locking in the CAFE standards, making sure the next 2-4 justices on the Supreme Court are not from the Federalist Society, etc etc etc are important objectives for a radical leftist, even if they are not, themselves, part of a radical remaking of American politics.

          Think of a suburbanite who wants to reduce his energy costs. Someday, he’s going to buy a condo in a converted mill in the city, within walking distance to his job, but right now, he can’t. Replacing the Chevy Suburban with the Prius is the right move right now.

          • You misunderstand me. I’m talking about as an individual. Even if your main goal is to get Barack Obama reelected, voting still isn’t the way to do it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote. But your vote is much less important than donating, canvassing, phone banking, etc. Especially if you don’t live in a swing state.

            Now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to single-handedly change the next election by doing such things, but you’re going to have a much bigger impact than your vote will. Which, again, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote, but it does mean that you shouldn’t view that as a good way to make a difference.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Voting for anyone isn’t going to do it. Even in a swing state, the likelihood of your individual vote counting is effectively zero. If you’re not in a swing state, there’s even less of a reason to be concerned.

          If you want to think like a vulgar economist, that’s fine. And I do not, in fact, give a shit who Matt Stoller or anyone else personally votes for. But this defense obviously doesn’t apply when you’re trying to persuade people to throw the election to Romney in the pages of Salon or The Altantic.

  • Sly

    And which third party would the Senior Policy Adviser to Alan “AIPAC” Grayson have us all support?


    • I recall that it was people like you who made it impossible for LBJ to run in 1968 because — despite his backing of civil rights and the Great Society — you were pissed at him for keeping us in Vietnam and bought into Nixon’s “secret plan to end the war” even though Nixon was actively sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks (go look up “Anna Chan Chennault Paris Vietnam” in the search engine of your choice sometime).

      The sad fact is that even though most working-class Americans opposed the war, they were so ticked at the hippies — who they saw as smartassed disobedient and unwashed children — that they voted for Nixon just to put the disobedient kids in their place. (Note that the majority of Americans cheered on Mayor Daley’s use of teargas against protesters during the 1968 DNC. Or later, how many Americans applauded the shooting of unarmed students — one of whom was an ROTC member — at Kent State.) With LBJ’s loss of the South because of his brave and principled stands for civil rights (a loss the GOP encouraged by the use of the “Southern Strategy” that would become the GOP’s main strategy up to the present time), and the loss of the left, LBJ had no choice but to let another Democrat run for the White House in 1968.

      And the person who would have beat Nixon like a gong, RFK, was shot to death much like his brother was shot to death less than five years earlier.

  • Pingback: that’s the wrong reason | The Handsome Camel()

  • From this post and thread, I’ve learned that the best way to achieve change is to keep doing the same thing.

    Also, anyone who says means things about President Hope and Change is a poopyhead.

    Thanks, Scott!

    • From this post and thread, I’ve learned that the best way to achieve change is to keep doing the same thing.

      I’m glad you’re no longer a Nader voter, then.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Also, anyone who says means things about President Hope and Change is a poopyhead.

      Ah, yes, the eternal strawman — if you point out that third party politics is all downside and no upside, you must believe that Democrats should never be criticized! In fairness, I certainly wouldn’t want to defend any actual claim made by Stoller on the merits either, so I can’t blame you for the non-sequitur.

  • Jesse

    While there is a lot of opinion in the article. I did find an interesting point and was curious how true it was. Obama appointed Supreme Court Justices shifted more conservative on certain issues. I know the same has happened in the past with some justices shifting more liberal. I find it interesting how Justices are a bit of a wild card.

    As far as the speculation goes on what will happen if either president get’s elected. I think it will still be fairly moderate. You still have the house and senate to consider to keep a president from going all willy nilly. Look in 2008 Obama had the house, the senate and the presidency. He still couldn’t pass a budget and really his big accomplishment was ACA. He biggest letdowns were Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton (at least in my line of work).

    I am strongly for a 3rd party candidate and if the hatch act were not a major concern you would see a lot of people actually be able to voice their opinion that a 3rd party candidate is the way to go to shake things up. Being recently told if I am to have a bumper sticker on my car saying I was pro a certain candidate would result in my termination was very infuriating to men and women who spend their careers fighting terrorism. The government excels at certain things but miserably fails at others. At the field office level simple decisions take weeks and months to make like what time you can use the gym at work. I always say there are two types of government employees the minority who realize they work to serve the American people and the majority who believe it’s us vs them. A 3rd party candidate may be what it takes to beat down the bureaucrats and accomplish something big. I did not vote for Obama and I applaud him on the ACA. However with two years of control in the house and senate and he really did not accomplish a lot shows you the horrendous level of bureaucracy. So Romney or Obama getting in means very little they still have to contend with a republican house and democratic senate. They still have to deal with the BS in Washington. If Romney get’s in we get rid of Clinton, Napolitano, and Holder. Which for those of us whose lives are in the line would be happy about. However we could also get someone even worse than them.

    • Don Anon

      Obama’s Supreme Court nominees did not move the Court to the right. At all. Stoller provides no evidence for that little “fact” because there is none.
      And it is absolutely, positively, utterly false that Obama had “two years of control” of the House and the Senate. Do the math. It was barely a few months. It’s amazing the amount that he was able to accomplish in such a short time in the face of a unified opposition.

      • It was barely a few months.

        And even in that few months, that “complete control” relied on the votes of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson.

      • 4jkb4ia

        There was a chart in a Liptak article that is evidence that this is the most conservative court in at least 30 years, but that depends on what ideology measure you are using.

        • Just out of curiosity, does that account for polarization? I.e., couldn’t it be that the conservative half got way more conservative?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Yes. The conservatives moved right much more than the liberals moved left. In addition, justices picked for ideological reasons are, in fact, extremely predictable. “Drift” occurs when presidents pick justices for political reasons (Brennan, O’Connor, Souter) or don’t get their first choice (Blackmun.)

            • That’s what I thought. Is there any evidence that the Obama appointee’s are particularly more conservative than the typical Democratic appointee over the last 30 years? My impression is that they are pretty good, all things considered.

              The ACA case pretty clearly shows how completely over the top the right half (and Kennedy) can get.

          • John

            The charts show everyone getting more conservative. I would suggest that this shows a problem with the model.

  • I can’t wait for Conor Friedersdorf’s columns called “Why I Refuse Not to Play in Traffic” and “Why I Refuse to Breathe”.

  • Paul w

    I think my parents voted for Hitler in 1932 so the left would get a shot in the arm for the next election.

  • c4Logic

    I quit reading Salon 13 years ago it was so lame. But Matt Stoller is as big a buffoon as I have read in many a year. Voting for Obama or voting for Romney, would lead to VERY different outcomes. This is an IQ test. Only a moron would choose the suffering that a Romney win would certainly deliver. If Romney prevails, there will be buyer’s remorse like no one has seen since Aug 1974 in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. People need to get smart–fast. Time is running out. This is critical.

  • Anonymous

    Nice intellectual discussion. Now what’s the plan to derail the Grand Bargain to screw everyone Obama pushed again this week? Or maybe the bargain doesn’t upset the “progressives”

    • Gepap

      And you think the social safety net would fare better under Romney? HA!

      Its pretty damn simple actually – voting is not about about YOU, its about the commonweal.

    • c4Logic

      I’m not a single issue voter. I am not an ideologue.

      “I would rather have fun with fungi than idiocy with ideology”-Aldous Huxley.

      You obviously prefer the idiocy…

    • Scott Lemieux

      The Grand Bargain Obama has attached conditions to (tax increases) that ensures no support from House Republicans? I’ll take my chances.

      Anyway, you know what’s not a plan to stop stupid Grand Bargains? Throwing elections to Republicans in exchange for nothing.

      • Jesse Levine

        I always knew you were the master of straw man creation, but that’s ridiculous. I accidentally posted above as anonymous, but but let me make clear that I and every other liberal concerned with this are talking about the lame duck session, not throwing the election.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I apologize for thinking you were making a comment that was responsive to the subject under discussion.

          • Jesse Levine

            Only way to get you to even mention the elephant in the room.

        • I and every other liberal concerned with this are talking about the lame duck session, not throwing the election.

          And yet, Scott’s comment fully addresses your point on the lame duck reading as well.

    • FlipYrWhig

      The “grand bargain” means nothing more than doing revenue increases and spending cuts at the same time. People, some in good faith and others in bad, appear to have convinced themselves that it means more than that.

      • As with most things, these people don’t have to know anything about what’s in a bill or agreement to know they oppose it.

        They’re the equivalent of the Republican candidates saying they wouldn’t take $10 in cuts for $1 in tax increases. They don’t give a crap about what’s in any proposed deal; they just want to posture as being against deals.

  • 4jkb4ia

    This is just sad. Matt Stoller is far smarter than to think that a Supreme Court nomination comes down to one issue. No, really, he is. My excuse for not being fire-breathing on reproductive rights is that with real people and real candidates, reproductive rights views are indicators of ideological complexes. You know that the median Republican court nominee will support the Federalist Society agenda no matter what their views on abortion are. You also know that being vague on abortion is effective to get a nominee through the Senate, but the days when the best legal mind will automatically get the appointment are gone. Romney is strongly motivated to pick someone who will have highly conservative/libertarian economic views at least.

    I was thinking about not voting for president since the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College means that my vote does not count anyway. I would not advocate that anyone else do the same.

    • 4jkb4ia

      I will vote for McCaskill happily and enthusiastically. I will vote for Jay Nixon knowing that he is the only thing between our state and barbarism. For the other state offices the Democrats are all acceptable.

    • FlipYrWhig

      By the same token, you could conclude that since America as a nation was founded on genocide and plunder, any civic-minded act you undertake would validate those crimes. But the number of people who advocate such a thing is effectively zero. Because while The System is corrupt and exclusionary and toxic in any number of ways, it’s still the best vehicle we have for moving in a better, fairer, more just direction. Build a movement, and while you’re doing that, vote for the better major-party candidate. I don’t think it’s even slightly difficult to make that call.

      • 4jkb4ia

        I went back and read all the earlier posts, and hilzoy’s line about having to be engaging in armed rebellion was a good one.

        Although the US was founded on genocide and plunder, I am still extremely lucky to be living here. As a citizen I am the last line of defense for the liberties of the people. But most of the energy in that idea seems to have gone to the Tea Party side of the population. Building a movement for the future is difficult because you have to educate people within the interstices of fighting for what you already have and a dreadful mainstream media. There might be a constituency for preserving Medicare or even people who will benefit from the PPACA and are for preserving that, but that doesn’t mean that they are automatically a civil liberties constituency or know what they want done about climate change. A progressive movement could look very different once you are not talking only to people in the educated progressive comfort zone.

  • bob mcmanus

    Hardt & Negri, Empire p 212

    “Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the era of imperial control it may be desertion. Whereas
    being-against in modernity often meant a direct and/or dialectical opposition of forces, in postmodernity being-against might well be most
    effective in an oblique or diagonal stance. Battles against the Empire might be won through subtraction and defection. This desertion does not have a place; it is the evacuation of the places of power.”

    • FlipYrWhig

      Isn’t “the evacuation of the places of power” literally the exact opposite of Occupation?

      • bob mcmanus


        What seemed apropos and interested me about that paragraph was exactly the response I, and maybe Stoller, have been getting. That the act I view as an abandonment and desertion is being interpreted, my act is appropriated, by Democrats as an act of sabotage.

        This reinforces my understanding of Democrats as a modernist conservative party, the party that disciplines the workers and preserves the Fordist panopticon way past its sell date.

        And you know, we are being “Disciplined and Punished.”

  • So, no argument that Matt’s prescription is misguided, but what of the general thesis of the argument that objectively speaking that in the end Obama is a bad dude and that if we continue to allow bad dudes to win, we will continue to be served up bad dudes?

    I agree, voting for Romney does not seem a sane solution, but just what the hell are we going to do to get good candidates, rather than Republican-lite?

    They both seem to be elevators to Hell, just the Republican one is an “express” version…

    • Troy

      Bad politicians aren’t the problem, the bad electorate putting these people into office is the problem.

      We need to focus on fixing a) how people think and/or b) our bad electoral system that is putting bad people into office.

      At the root of everything is money, money that is paying for the active propagandization of the people, and the trillions of dollars of wealth being extracted from the people by the 5% that own most of everything, creating a self-energizing system.

      Obama is one state away now from losing to Romney. This dose not indict him, the Greens, Blues, or Reds, it indicts the American system as a whole.

      The only fix may be to GTFO.

  • As a final note, I think it’s kind of sad that while people on both sides of this argument essentially are “on the same side”, just how vitriolic and insulting they are to each other.

    It’s the kind of language that one would expect aimed at or coming from the opposing aisle, not different branches of the same club.

    In the end while I think both sides have their point, the internecine warfare isn’t constructive no matter how you look at it. It’s too bad we can’t discuss this rationally and as if those we disagree with were the brothers/sisters in arms that they probably are.

    • Janastas359

      I don’t think of Matt Stoller as someone who is “On my side.” If it were up to him, instead of the PPACA, we would have… nothing. And this isn’t the only area where I think his tactical approach would lead us astray, in that perfection would get in the way of the good.

      He and I may share policy views, but that doesn’t mean he and I are fighting for the same things. I think of the leftier than thou types like Stoller are just as much an obstacle to my policy views as any conservative, but at least the conservatives are honest about wanting to shut me down.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Yes. I would not show anything like this level of vitriol to someone who was on my side. Stoller is just a cat’s paw of the Republican Party, so it’s not really applicable here.

    • As a final note, I think it’s kind of sad that while people on both sides of this argument essentially are “on the same side”, just how vitriolic and insulting they are to each other.

      As soon as Stoller stops writing contrarian gibberish with the upshot of Republicans in power, we can all get along.

      Until then, I think fast tracking Stoller to irrelevancy by whatever mockery necessary is the restrained option.

  • DB

    And who is advising Mitt Romney on judicial policy and appointments? None other than Robert Bork himself. If that’s what you want guiding the Supreme Court and Federal Courts for the next four years, have at it. Otherwise, think twice before you buy into snake-oil like Stoller’s rubbish.

  • I’ll give you an argument that might or might not be better than Stoller’s.

    Social Security was safer under George W. Bush than it is under Barack Obama right now. You might be going, “What, are you insane?” But remember back when Bush wanted to privatize SS. The Democrats in Congress united to thwart him and then to rub his nose in it.

    Now flash forward to 2012, as we read the tea leaves and hear the rumblings (including the late interview between Obama and the newspaper, Cincinatti or whatever it was) where he embraces the Grand Bargain yet again and only decries that it cuts defense spending too much. Is that what we have in store for us?

    So we might be better off with Romney as president and a loyal opposition acting to obstruct it than we will be with Obama as president, urging Democrats to cut the safety net. As David Atkins over at Hullabaloo recently pointed out, people are preparing for the apocalyptic post-election battle over this, with progressives lining up with the few dumb Tea-Party obstructionists to stop Obama from bargaining away parts of Medicare and SS.

    Not that any of this matters. Obama is a shoe-in. I’m going to vote for him. I just see it as frying pan versus fire. With Romney, things might be worse.

    • Your evidence for that rather implausible claim is a prediction. Not very persuasive.

      There’s also the rather odd claim that the Democrats in Congress would line up to get their asses kicked by the senior lobby if Barack Obama, who never has to face another election, asks them too. That, too, is rather implausible.

    • Social Security was safer under George W. Bush than it is under Barack Obama right now. You might be going, “What, are you insane?” But remember back when Bush wanted to privatize SS. The Democrats in Congress united to thwart him and then to rub his nose in it.

      And every time the Democrats tried health care reform over 50 years, the Republicans managed to thwart them and, in some cases (Clintoncare) rub the Dems’ noses in it. But here we are.

      A major party that is routinely in power and is determined on a significant policy goal has a reasonable shot of achieving that goal at some point. It’s really important to limit (or make) the opportunities.

  • Michael

    Obama’s supporters leave out one key fact:

    If I don’t live in a swing state, I can’t “throw this election to Romney”. In fact, voting for President is a complete waste of my energy (downticket is fine), because it is physically impossible that I would affect the results.

    I can, however, vote 3rd party and throw the same kind of scare into Obama that he got when the LBGTQ community stopped giving him cash.

    Obama’s a centrist who believes in inevitable American decline into a sort of mild Russian oligarchy. That’s not something that I’m going to spend a lot of energy defending. Sure, he’s better than Romney. But neither of them have any intention of seriously addressing the issues facing this country, and it’s the height of foolishness to pretend otherwise.

    Anyways, like I said: irrelevant. I don’t live in Ohio, so I can vote for whomever I care to.

    • Troy

      vote 3rd party and throw the same kind of scare into Obama

      If you’re not in FL, VA, OH, MI, WI etc Obama doesn’t need your purity vote.

      If you are in these states, Obama and centrist democrats in general have to go to where the votes are.

      I am lefter than thou but I understand that my views are about 2% of the population while centrist-right is about 20%.

      This is all about preferring Romney or Obama serving as President 2013-2016. That’s it. There is no other choice that is being vended this month.

      Elections select office holders. They are not statements.

      so I can vote for whomever I care to.

      And still be irrelevant.

  • Rob

    I don’t agree with Matt Stoller’s position because it seems he is a Democrat who wishes to shift the focus within that party to the issues that concern him most. So his third party vote could rightly be considered a ‘protest vote’, and that doesn’t mirror my experience. But why take this individual and attack anyone who is voting for a third party? I have already voted early for a third party, and I did so because the candidate best represented my values. How is that different than what anyone else is doing around the country? Why would I want to vote for someone who doesn’t represent my values? Just because the candidate cannot win? If so, then why not just conduct polling and cancel any election where the margin is greater than 5%? If a candidate that you don’t agree with wins then welcome to democracy I guess, that’s what the majority of people wanted. We’re all responsible for that outcome together as a society. Crying out blame and shaming people for doing what they think is right is pretty vile. Furthermore, if you are so sure that third party voters are persuadable then why not go after Republican values voters? If it works for third party candidates it should work for someone who thinks abortion is a red-line voting value, right? And the bonus is you not only get a vote for Obama but take one away from Romney.

  • Bob Richardson

    Dear Scott,

    I have never voted for a Republican in my life. I spent over 200+ hours campaigning for Obama in 2008. But not this time. This time, I will put in half as much energy to defeat him. He doesn’t deserve re-election.

    Besides, as much my friends are trying to convince me to stay loyal to Obama — with great reluctance and foot-dragging, I might add – their best argument in *favor* of Obama is scare-mongering like typical conservatives hyper-exaggerating the damage that Romney will do to the country.

    This does not make sense, since out of the other side of their mouths they keep insisting to me ’til they’re blue in the face that Obama really would fulfill all of his promises — if only it wasn’t for intransigent GOP obstructionism.

    Seriously – did anybody expect the GOP was going to give Obama a free ride and let him do whatever he wanted?

    If the GOP can obstruct Obama, then the Dems can damn well do the same to Romney’s policies and agenda. At least, I hope they will. If they have a spine. (Looking at Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid… I fear they don’t have a single spine between them.)

    For myself, a Romney presidency means a re-birth of an anti-war, anti-empire opposition.

    Noam Chomsky is right. When the GOP has the keys to the White House, liberals stand up and provide opposition. But when Obama gets in the same office and does the neocon bidding, it’s utter silence. I’ve seen my party for what it truly is – phony. If Bush & Cheney played for the Blue team, Dems would stay just as silent.

    For that reason alone, I’m voting Romney, because we’ll be able to prevent his damaging polices instead of caving-in and rolling-over for Obama’s same policies.

    There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two candidates. Both are corporate fascists who don’t care about the rest of us. But at least us rubes will have a voice of opposition once Romney takes office, because that’s the way Democratic operatives and tribalists play when the GOP is in power.

    Sorry, but it’s true. Obama hasn’t simply been a progressive disappointment – he’s been an abject failure. As such, he deserves the door.

    Thank you for permitting me to explain myself.

    Bob in Cleveland, OH.

    • When the GOP has the keys to the White House, liberals stand up and provide opposition.

      Thank god they stopped those wars.

  • Pingback: Why I’m Voting to Re-Elect President Obama | themcglynn.com/theliberal.net()

  • Pingback: Links 11/1/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist()

  • Cappadonna

    Its easy to exalt your fantasy football candidate than, say actually build a true ground swell for change. Also, it amazes me how many so-called Progressives want to blame Obama for everything so wrong with Democrats and America but make two fatal flaws:

    A. Many on the left fail to realize that Obama for all his skills, is not a king and can not make change by decree. The “Bully Pulpit” and “arm twisting” are metaphors – Congress doesn’t have a damn thing no matter how much the President stamps his feet and screams. Your so worried about our military industrial complex, elect Congressmen and Senators who will work to dismantle it. Then it won’t matter what the White House does, since Congress writes the checks.

    B. Since most of these guys have either zero street cred (only Johnson has been a governor) and virtually no ground game – the point of their campaign is pretty much ego-tripping for the true believers on the Left (Green, Justice) and Right (Libertarian, Constitution). Too many third parties want to be in the Big Show (Presidential Politics) but can’t bother building a base at the local school board and city council – where policy and movements take shape and grow. The main reason I and many other progressives gave up on the Greens after the Nader run of 2000 is because it was more a Socialist discussion group in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse than a real political party.

    C. Because they’re only speaking to the true believers, the cynical, and the cynically ill informed – third party candidates benefit from no one actually caring what they say, so they can say pretty much what they want. Now this frees these guys to talk about real issues Obama and Romney dare not touch, because they’ll piss off donors or key members of their base they need to turn out and just plain scaring undecided voters. But, it also allows third party candidates to wax poetically about BS ideas they know they can’t achieve and tell misleading things and revel in conspiracy theory.

    So, yes the main four vanity candidates can sing Kumbaya about not supporting NDAA, drone strikes and ending the drug war Because the people who care about those issues are relatively small or simply don’t vote.

    But, they can say crazy policy positions without stating alternatives or laying out plans unchallenged – again, because nobody cares. Its easy for Gary Johnson to talk about eliminating Pell Grants and all Medicaid – because only a handful of people outside of New Mexico know who he is. (And most of my libertarian friends who know his position are either too rich or cynical to care). Jill Stein has all the political experience of a neighborhood watch captain and less media exposure – so yes, she can talk beautifully about Medicare for all, without actually saying how she’ll win support in a divide and hostile congress or even how she’ll pay for it.

    So, no I no longer waste time on Presidential candidates. Now, when the Green Party or any other third way progress coalition gets serious about politics and starts running in winnable local races – count me in.

  • I don’t even know how I ended up right here, but I thought this publish used to be great. I don’t recognize who you’re but certainly you’re going to a well-known blogger in case you aren’t already. Cheers!

  • Pingback: What Ryan’s Budget Would Mean For Women - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Keystone and Movement-Building - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Today With America’s Greatest Champion of Civil Liberties - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: “If You Want to Send A Message, Use Western Union” - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • alan2102

    Wow! By the time I got done with Stoller’s article, I wanted to yell “Bravo!” Excellent work. Far surpassing, it would seem, anything of which you are capable, Scott. Intelligent, well-reasoned, well-documented, sensitive, morally grounded, principled. The whole of your critique seems to involve a convoluted problematic regarding the supreme court and abortion; maybe Stoller is off the beam on that; I don’t know. But it detracts little from the overall success of his piece, either way. And you come off as a nattering little weasel, far too sure of himself, completely missing the point of Stoller’s piece, and likely just another of the army (all too numerous) of fake “progressive” Obama shill/apologists, anxious to denounce anyone with obviously valid criticism of your darling corporate/fascist/warmonger president. Who knows? You might even be on the CIA payroll. If I were in The Company, I would pay people like you to write the kind of stuff you write, attacking thoughtful people of principle and moral consciousness.

  • Pingback: The Eternal Mystery of Republican Health Care Policy - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: "Dane Cook with a better vocabulary and an accent." - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: NSA Bill Killed By Fillibuster - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Republican Priorities II - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Pingback: Cool Story, Brogressive - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

It is main inner container footer text