Home / General / Thoughts on the Left at the End of an Election Cycle

Thoughts on the Left at the End of an Election Cycle


Scott has provided the fundamental case for Obama’s reelection, no matter how disappointed with him you might be. I want to build on that a bit by summarizing a few thoughts I’ve had about the left during the election cycle. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed in many of those who consider themselves to be on the left. We have created some self-mythology that we are the reality-based community, the ones who have an understanding of history and government, and who take policy seriously and learn from the past and present.

This is obviously not true.

Within left politics in 2012, the big story has not been Occupy or any other social movement. It hasn’t been building on the Wisconsin protests to create long-lasting change. It’s been a discussion of this question: Has Obama been so horrible that we can’t vote for him?

I’m really disappointed in the left in this conversation.

I would like to think that we on the left actually do understand history. We do not. There is a clear path to change. Conservatives understand this. You take over the party structure. That’s what they did in the 1950s and 1960s when they were disgusted by the moderate Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren, and Nelson Rockefeller. They took over party structures and local offices and turned them into bastions of energized conservatism. Note that conservatives basically don’t run 3rd party campaigns. Libertarians might talk about doing this–but they almost all vote Republican in the end because they know that they are moving their agenda forward by doing so.

Any reading of history shows that change within the American political system does not come through third party campaigns. It comes through the hard work of organizing our communities to demand change. Eventually legal and political changes are necessary–but only after people are organized to demand them. Look at the major movements in the last century. The labor movement, African-American civil rights, the women’s movement, gay rights movement. Each of these movements spent decades (or a century) organizing for change. For each of them, there was a moment when it all came together and they could demand transformations of federal and state law, which for gay rights is happening right now.

Note that not a single one of these transformational social movements used a third party mechanism as an important strategy.

At times, a 3rd party could theoretically make sense. The last one that made any difference was the Populists. But there are two caveats to using that as an argument in favor of a 3rd party today. First, as historian Jeffrey Ostler has shown, in reality Populists thrived primarily in 1-party states after the Civil War. For reasons of regional identity coming from the Civil War, corruption, and political violence, many states had only one functioning political party. That meant that there was no way for the Populists to get their voices heard. They were really operating as a 2nd party. In states that were legitimately contested by both parties such as Iowa, the Populists had a very hard time gaining traction. Second, the Populists came out of nearly 20 years of organizing among angry farmers. It was the voices of millions of bankrupt farmers coming up through the system. Unable to see the changes they wanted on a local or state level, they eventually went national.

There has not been a single 3rd party campaign since World War II that has come out of grassroots organizing. Every one of them has been about a nationally known figure (or a rich self-funder) deciding to make a point and through a 3rd party presidential run. That’s true whether we are talking about Henry Wallace, Ross Perot, or Ralph Nader. The only possible counterexamples to this are the segregationist runs of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, but that’s obviously such a different phenomenon as to be irrelevant to this conversation.

Those who are calling for a 3rd party run today have no interest in party building, just as Nader didn’t in 2000. They are angry at Obama and want to shove it in the Democrats’ faces by throwing the election to Romney. That shows a massive ignorance of how change works in this society, as well as a hyperactive fetishized individualism coming out of our consumer capitalist society that privileges these sorts of positions and stands over organizing.

There’s also been a leftier than thou aspect to this, which again is a spawn of our individualistic fetish. Politics have become like a tattoo for many on the left–how you mark yourself means how cool you are. If you argue with Matt Stoller directly about his inane arguments, as I have, he will just call you an Obot. There’s no intellectual engagement from him–he just simply dismisses you as some kind of centrist blind follower of Dear Leader Obama. That kind of non-argument has been a major part of the discussion from a lot of people who provide red meat to the left–Stoller, Greenwald, and others. This is all just silly. There’s a reason socialists and communists worked to reelect FDR in 1936 and 1940, even though they thought he was a sell-out to the capitalists. They knew he was the best hope they had to build the kind of society they wanted and that by running some kind of 3rd party, they would completely alienate the base of people they wanted to organize.

I don’t disagree with Scott when he calls Obama the 3rd most progressive president of the last century, but obviously Obama has been disappointing on a lot of foreign policy and civil liberties issues. Of course, FDR threw the Japanese in concentration camps and LBJ invaded Vietnam. You can certainly make the argument that every single president of the United States has been fundamentally evil and has done terrible things. It’s not a hard argument to make. It’s also an intellectually cheap argument to make. But then intellectually cheap arguments have been par for the course from much of the left in 2012.

To summarize:

1. Change happens outside the election cycles–elections are for institutionalizing the changes you have attempted to make in the past 4 years.

2. Every single U.S. president has blood on his hands. Voting in a presidential election is always a choice between two evils.

3. We need to think less about our own personal moral position in voting. It’s not about you. It’s about the community where you live. Even if you vote for Jill Stein, the blood of Pakistani babies killed in drone strikes is on your hands. You cannot wash off that blood without changing the system–something that 3rd parties have never done. You want clean hands–organize the American public around the issues you care about. It will take the rest of your life. That is the timeline of real change.

4. There actually are lessons from the past on these issues. There are lessons in how to organize. And there are lessons about what third parties do and do not do. When someone can tell me what value a third party has had to pushing the agenda to the left in the last 80 years, I’ll be real interested in hearing it.

5. We need a tougher and smarter left. The self-described left punditry and journalists in 2012 has been individualistic, holier than thou, disorganized, and narcissistic. The real story of the left this year is smart and tough–the Chicago Teachers Union. That’s how you demand and make change. Writing editorials obscuring the differences between Obama and Romney and encouraging well-meaning people to protest vote is worse than worthless–it’s mendacious and serves as a tool for conservatives to continue pushing this nation back to the Gilded Age.

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  • Thomas Jefferson

    It not like he violated the constitution and purchased the Louisiana Territory.

    And then treated the Natives like squatters.

  • mpowell

    The left is reality based on a lot of issues. But not on politics.

    • terry

      You are the only one wise enough to save us all.

    • Ad hominem

      • Anon

        That’s not what an ad hominem is.

        • Only an asshole would say that’s not an ad hominem.

          • Timb


          • RedSquareBear

            +1, would +1 again.

        • Ethan

          Of course its an ad hominem. It’s clearly a personal attack on my good friend “The Left”, from Kingston, Lefty will be devastated.

      • cpinva

        they go nicely with some butter and salt.

        Ad hominem

    • Marc McKenzie

      Sad but true.

    • Anonymous

      Oddly, even the “get organized like the wingtards” crew on the left misses one big issue: money. The wingtards have (and have had for decades) a permanent, well-paid political organization.

      The only equivalent on the left seems to be the unions, who are… well, let’s just say they’re often mixed on issues that aren’t in their parochial wheelhouse, though some of them seem to be getting smarter about it. There are lefty organizations, but they aren’t interested in actively taking over the Democratic Party from the left — and most of them are entrenched in the small-think transactional politics of the party incumbents.

      So when I see this lecture (and I see it over and over and over again) and I think about the difficulties people I know have had trying to make a decent living in left-ish politics without being a mere party-line-of-the-day hack or corporate shill… I can’t really take it very seriously as a critique of the specific members of “the left” that it’s intended to address. This is true even when (as here, from Loomis in particular), it’s a true statement of concern rather than a deliberate red herring.

      • djangermous

        Oddly, even the “get organized like the wingtards” crew on the left misses one big issue: money.

        Conservatives in the 50s and 60s knew they needed to go out there and harness the grassroots, people-driven desire for big tax cuts for wealthy capitalists. Why don’t liberals have the sense to go out and get backed by wealthy elites to whom their platform is financially beneficiary and ideologically flattering?

      • mpowell

        So they should waste their efforts on 3rd party runs instead? I’m not sure what your point is. People on the left who work in politics are doing thankless but potentially valuable work. They shouldn’t waste their effors on the Ralph Naders of the world. It’s not really that hard to understand. But again, lack of basis in reality at work.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Right. It’s unlikely that the left will be as successful taking over the Democratic Party as conservatives were in the GOP. But that’s just because opposing hegemony is harder than supporting it, a problem that (to put it mildly) third party wankery does nothing to solve.

          • cpinva

            and tax cuts for the wealthy is a much more attractive goal, for the wealthy, that would then fund it.

            But that’s just because opposing hegemony is harder than supporting it,

            unfortunately, “freedom and economic equality for the masses!” has great appeal, for people who have no money to fund it. for the wealthy, it’s counterintuitive because, well, most of them like their money, and lording it over the proles.

            if only there were a way to gather all those modestly compensated people together, and everyone chip in $5. a million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking…………….the koch bros. petty cash fund.

            of course, authoritarian groups also tend, by nature, to be much more narrowly focused, than do more liberal/progressive groups. and the current iteration of the republican/tea party is nothing, if not authoritarian.

            • RedSquareBear

              A totalizing ideology is something that the modern, Social Democratic/Progressive Capitalist movement lacks. Say what you will about the tenets of Marxism-Leninism, at least it’s an ethos.

              My opinion is that this is not a bad thing, the rejection of a priori answers is part and parcel of the “reality based” approach. But an operational pragmatism will never stir the soul like the “Let’s make everything the way it (never, ever was) in the 1950’s!” does.

              Rightism benefits from the synergy of stasis. “Standing athwart History and crying stop” is an easy source of answers.

              We lack that.

              But I don’t see a solution to that lack, and I don’t even acknowledge that it’s a problem. The problem is our lack of an ability to communicate the poverty of stasis and our failure to build a media capable of conveying this message.

              • Malaclypse

                But an operational pragmatism will never stir the soul like the “Let’s make everything the way it (never, ever was) in the 1950′s!” does.

                Let’s be honest here. The Right does not want to bring back the 1950s, with their unions, and their high marginal tax brackets. They just want the part of the 1950s where the Negros knew their place, and a white man knew who he was better than.

                • RedSquareBear

                  Well, yes. Quite.

                  Although at this point it’s not even the 1950s, it’s the 1890s. (That’s a guess at the date, my post-Civil War history is weak. Really have to read that Railroaded book that got reviewed here not long ago. Robber barons were the 1890s right?)

      • Rhino

        What makes you think anybody is going to respect the opinion of someone who won’t even sign a pseudonym to their opinions?

      • Money plays a role. It doesn’t play an overwhelming role, especially at the local level. A much bigger problem is that there just aren’t enough people, and the people that are there aren’t organized enough.

        • If the money issue is a problem now, it’s certainly no more of a problem than it was in 1900 or 1933, when very real change was about to take place.

          • I agree. It becomes a useful excuse for inaction. Again, the biggest problem I see is the lack of people and organization. Something the “netroots” could lend more of a hand with, if it thought it was worthwhile.

            • mch

              Exactly. The money on the other side is no excuse. In fact, it just means we have to get more boots on the ground, use more imagination, be prepared to work harder.
              Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that.

          • Money isn’t the problem. it’s the excuse.

            Committed people make the difference and uncommitted people don’t. The folks in the civil rights movement never received the type of funding wingtards receive.

            There was no better difference between the commitment levels of the two parties than the 2000 election. All the Democrats in South Florida went home for Thanksgiving dinner instead of completing the recounts while the Republicans planned the Brooks Bros riot. Gore conceded without checking with all his state people or knowing at least to check with FL, etc, etc. while Bush categorically stated that calling FL for Gore was wrong. Polling consistently shows Republicans are ‘take no prisoners’ on their issues while the vast majority of Democrats want a ‘reasonable’ compromise.

            Whether superficial or profound commitment, at any level Democrats are collectively less committed. And that’s why they lose on issues that a plurality of them care about.

  • Obviously you are a tribalist legacy party Obot who espouses post-truth politics that favor of the corporatist oligarchical capitalist puppetmasters.

    Stein/Unskewed Guy 2012!

    • david mizner

      Says TBogg, one of the fake-left’s biggest fans of drone warfare — cause ah, duh, it’s better than a ground invasion!

      As for the post, yet another one that pretends Obama’s only major failing was to be as bad, and probably better, than every American president on civil liberties and violence. Obama’s greatest failing was sticking with Wall Street during what could’ve been a populist moment. The results have been disastrous and they’re still playing out.

      • tonycpsu

        Mitt Romney, on the other hand, will keep Wall Street in check by… purchasing it with a check?

        • david mizner

          Thanks for your off-point comment.

          • Malaclypse

            While drone warfare was central to the thread.

            • david mizner

              Did you read the post?

              obviously Obama has been disappointing on a lot of foreign policy and civil liberties issues. Of course, FDR threw the Japanese in concentration camps and LBJ invaded Vietnam. You can certainly make the argument that every single president of the United States has been fundamentally evil and has done terrible things. It’s not a hard argument to make. It’s also an intellectually cheap argument to make. But then intellectually cheap arguments have been par for the course from much of the left in 2012.

              TBogg’s not the best person to assess such failures since he doesn’t view them as failures.

              • david mizner

                That is, it’s like Andrew Sullivan counseling the left on how to view Obama.

              • David Mizner is the Pope of the Left. He speaks for us all. All else is heresy.

                • You betcha, Tbogg. David Mizner commands a huge majority of the left.

                  The Real Leftist Silent Majority.

                • djangermous

                  joe from lolments would be the silent majority, if he were ever capable of being silent

                • Whispers

                  Now that’s an ad hominem!

                  Lose the argument, go for the insult!

                  Point to Mizner.

          • tonycpsu

            You’re the one who mentioned Wall Street friendliness as Obama’s greatest failing. In a thread calling out take-my-ball-and-go-homers, I think it’s relevant to note that the only other alternative would be worse on Wall Street, worse or at least no better on drones, etc. The options are Obama or NotObama, which means Romney. Full stop.

            • david mizner

              Right, but I don’t think liberals should vote against Obama. I’m merely saying that liberals should be honest-aware about Obama’s failings.

              • Brandon C.

                How exactly did you expect him to go after Wall Street after they raised all that money to elect him though? Could they be convicted of countless crimes? Sure, but how do you simultaneously save the world financial system from collapse and prosecute the leaders of the same financial system for their crimes without utterly destroying any shred of confidence anyone might have had in finance.

                • DocAmazing

                  Hard to tell if this is sarcasm or not…

                • See Pecora Commission.

          • Rhino

            David, you’re a tit. A spoiled little tit who, discontented with merely destroying your own prospects and future with pony dreams and fantasies, now needs to destroy my world as well.

            Just. Fuck. Off.

            • david mizner

              You seem to be under the impression that I’m voting against Obama. I’m not. I’m merely suggesting that liberals try not to spout happy horseshit about his presidency. If the truth destroys your world, my apologies.

              • Rhino

                Then save it until after the fucking election, because your little leftier-than-thou tantrum is doing nothing but help Romney.

                Now go away until Thursday.

                • DocAmazing

                  Yes, telling unfortunate truths is the very same thing as voting Republican.

                • Rhino

                  Doc, there is a time and a place, and that time and place are after the republicans have been defeated in this election. That is the most important goal, that is what matters right now. Anything you or anyone else does that gets in the way of that goal is highly destructive and is going to get a lot of angry push back from those of us who are more concerned with elections than posturing.

                • We’ve been dealing with your “angry pushback” for an awfully long time. Figure it out: if you find the truth damaging, then there’s something wrong with what you’re doing.

                  Meanwhile, Obama’s going to win handily, and nothing anybody posts on LG&M is going to change that.

            • Whispers

              Well aren’t you special!

              So glad that so many people like you decided long ago that demanding better behavior from Obama on civil liberties issues was unrealistic.

              Obama wouldn’t have a hit list without the support of the “Better than Romney” crowd.

              • RedSquareBear

                Obama’s hit list will exist independent of the degree of support of The Nation crowd. That this is a reality may be unfortunate but it is still reality.

                The only dependent variable in this equation is who sits in the Oval Office.

                Fuck you and fuck your crypto-GOP defeatism.

      • That’s neo-crypto-fake-left to you, sparky.

        • SOMEWHAT POPULAR neo-crypto-fake-left.

        • david mizner

          I don’t often read your stuff — it’s always so obvious and easy — but I wandered into a comment thread in which you said essentially that it was silly to fear that our elites would use drones to kill lots of civilians.

          How fucking naive can you be?

          • How fucking naive can you be?

            Should I use your endorsement of John Edwards as a naivete baseline and work from there?

            I’m just asking…

            • david mizner

              That’s the best you could in Googling? Shit, I think must have done/said more embarrassing things than backing the most liberal viable candidate.

              • Sorry. I have never heard of you before. The good news is that I apparently I wasn’t missing out on anything.

                • david mizner

                  I’d stopped paying attention to you till I saw you playing keyboard commando.

                  I’d assumed you were just churning out the same lukewarm, occasionally funny mockery of right-wingers; I had no idea you were actually finding common cause with Glenn Reynolds.

              • Warren Terra

                For values of “Most Liberal Viable Candidate” that equal “Longtime DNC stalwart who saw as John Kerry’s campaign crumbled around him where the market opportunity might be in 2008 and promptly nipped into a phone booth, to emerge as Super-Liberal, Friend Of The Oppressed, apparently fooling an especially gullible fraction of the electorate in the Democratic Primaries”

                It’s actually quite embarrassing that someone who was such a monumental sucker as to be taken in by John Edwards‘s supposed liberalism is criticizing mainstream Democrats for supposedly being blind Obots.

          • Posture of worldliness? Check.

            Furious profanity in response to light chiding? Check.

            Folks, this is what it looks like when a left-winger is getting his butt kicked.

            • david mizner

              Butt kicked? On what argument? I call Tbogg out for digging drones, and he responds with…jokes.

              • Malaclypse

                Why do you assume his Edwards question was not serious?

                • david mizner

                  I’m happy to defend my backing the person who ran the most liberal major campaign since Jesse Jackson, not least since all my criticism of Obama have been validated.

                  But I am willing to admit that I should’ve listened to that icky feeling he gave me. Distrusting all pols, I forgot that some are more dishonest than others.

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m happy to defend my backing the person who ran the most liberal major campaign since Jesse Jackson

                  That’s not unreasonable.

                • david mizner

                  Well somehow in Tbogg’s strange world, defending the killing of innocent Muslims — and denying that the powerful would abuse drones — is like backing a person running a campaign by labor organizers.

                • david mizner

                  That was worded poorly. I mean: labor organizers ran Edwards’s campaign and was managed by Bonior — until he screwed them all over.

                • John

                  You weren’t suspicious of a guy who suddenly started echoing Jesse Jackson after his previous campaign was “I am Bill Clinton reincarnated! Worship me as the dream moderate Southern Democrat who can beat Bush by not taking a stand on any issue”?

                • Paula

                  Edwards’ voting record was fairly conservative, being the rep of a conservative state. Most of the people who supported him as being the “true left” were going on “just words”, as well, though they were loathe to admit it.

                  I once pointed out to someone (bob mcmanus? Bruce Weber? Some male named B who posts frequently) that Edwards’ foreign policy advisers in 2008 included a handful of execs from what looked to be military contractors. He said he didn’t think Edwards would do that much on foreign policy because his domestic policy was so prominent. Awesome logic, there.

                  People who took Edwards seriously have apparently never heard politicians speak about poverty. It made me take them a lot less seriously. Of course, the fact that he turned out to be such a tool (his poverty foundation shut down shortly after his campaign failed) is merely more evidence that they were hustled.

              • Butt kicked?

                Stay down, Luke!

  • Gepap

    Well said, all of it.
    I have never understood people who think that all we need is some magic unicorn President that will make everything better – presidents aren’t Kings, with absolute power. They are only onw of three branches of federal government, sitting astride fifty other governing systems. If Republicans have remade this country in the last 3 decades, its because they have fought to gain control of power at all levels, not just the presidency. Just look how much damage the position of Ohio Secretary of State can do – I wonder if Stoller and Greenwald will be pushing for some Green party candidate for the position in a couple of years…likely not.

    • Lee

      It makes more sense when you realize that many liberals to leftists in the United States are parlimentarians. They don’t really want the United States to have a Leftist President, their desire is for the United States to have a leftist Prime Minister. Thats why they focus so much on the Presidency, they want Congress to follow the executive like it does in parliamentary systems.

      • Lan

        Well that explains why when the right gets upset they run for Congress and when the left gets upset they sit around in a park.

      • Aaron Morrow

        I wish we could hear more about liberals in the blogosphere talking about more liberal legislators for Congress and the states.

        Here’s to the hard work from liberals at the grassroots that looks to be getting us a more liberal Senate. (THAT is how you get a more liberal government; with a more liberal Congress you get more liberal laws for a Democratic president to sign.)

        • JohnC

          Well, we kind of did have a left wing legislature during the first tow years of the Obama presidency, and that was still a massive crap shoot.
          Our political system is broken, that’s the tall and short of it.

      • IM

        That is just a exchange of one set of problems with another. You tend to have necessary coalition parties etc.

    • As commander in chief, Obama has unfettered power to end the drone program, which is an issue that vast swaths of the electorate don’t even know exists.

      • lol

        I’m sure you meant to write “which is an issue the vast majority of the electorate supports”.

        • Murc

          Both can be true!

      • L2P

        Every family with a teenage boy sees a dozen terrorists get blown up by drones every night while their kid plays XBOX. What makes you think they give half a crap that Obama’s using drones in the Middle East?

      • PSP

        Except that refraining from killing taliban and alquida supporters with no risk to American lives is a position with damn little support from the American public. A percentage or two could throw the election, but isn’t going to get anyone elected. Do you really believe helping Romney win is going to save a single life in Pakistan?

      • Gepap

        And that public would support completely if they did know about it. What makes ‘leftists’ think that your average American gives a rat’s ass about the safety of civilians in Warizistan? For all they know, they are all terrorist sympathizers.

      • IM

        And Romney would end the drone programm?

      • wengler

        The drone program may be irrelevant to American politics, but it is very relevant to Pakistani politics.

        If the Islamic fundamentalists get full control of that country, I imagine it could become a very costly military operation to evacuate or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

    • Whispers

      “I have never understood people who think that all we need is some magic unicorn President that will make everything better ”

      I never understand people who burn straw men as their opening argument.

      You’re obviously not talking about any actual people when you derisively refer to “magical unicorn President.” Since there actually are people on the left who have substantive differences with Obama’s policies, I can only conclude that you have no substantive rebuttal, and thus are reduced to name-calling.


  • parrot

    um, i could be wrong (i usually am), but politics like most of life is not rational nor are the choices it presents nor are the choices that are made … even if your psyche isn’t slaying phantoms and shadows, you’re in a vortex that is fully engaged in a maelstrom of its own making, beyond its capacities to control or understand … it’s beyond ideology or retail politicin’

  • You are disappointed in the left for focusing on the “is Obama awful or should we support him” issue instead of focusing on movements that will create lasting change – so you decide to write a post on the former instead of the latter?

    • I’ve written a zillion posts on change through time. That’s not the point here.

      • As you wish, but looking at the front page and the page before it I see two other articles about Stein and none about change through time. Personally I don’t see the need for another article talking about why we shouldn’t talk about Stoller. But hey, whatever your priorities are.

        • david mizner

          That’s LGM’s primary game: focusing vitriol on 1) right-wing nutjobs and 2) Greenwald, Stoller, and anyone else who strays from respectable liberal orthodoxy.

          Very little discussion of movement building and first principles.

          • Marc McKenzie

            And lemme guess–you’ve got that covered, right?

          • True, I’ve never written a single post about how the labor movement was built.

            • david mizner

              You should stick to that, instead searching for imaginary enemies on the left.

              • Fake Irishman

                So go read this:


                I will now stop enabling trolls and go hit a phone bank for Michigan Prop 2.

                • Joseph Slater

                  Go Prop 2!!!

              • It’s always the people who devote the most time to attacking other liberals who throw the biggest hissie fits when anyone dares disagree with them.

              • Scott Lemieux

                imaginary enemies on the left.

                Funny, Erik and I don’t get our stuff published at Salon, but apparently people who publish there are supposed to be beneath notice. (Except when you agree with them, which remarkably you do. The take of people who think that Romney might appoint the next Warren and Brennan is worth hearing!)

                • Not worth hearing, but worth arguing with, apparently.

                • david mizner

                  Stop lying. I don’t agree with them.

                  And yes, there are a handful of leftists opposing Obama (remarkably only a handful). The imaginary ones are the ones Loomis is concocting in order to spout this bullshit:

                  The big story has …been a discussion of this question: Has Obama been so horrible that we can’t vote for him?

                  This has only been “the big story” is at LGM.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I don’t agree with them.

                  So the guy arguing that Stoller’s evaluation of Obama was right in the other thread was another David Mizner?

                • david mizner

                  No, I said that despite Stoller’s errors, his general take on Obama was more accurate that your amusingly generous one.

                  And I reject the idea that liberals should vote against Obama. That’s the area of dispute here.

          • Rhino

            Whereas your primary mission is throwing the election to republicans, because the cheerleaders won’t date you.

            At the risk of repeating myself, just fuck off. We aren’t that into you. Nobody is.

            • Whispers

              “Whereas your primary mission is throwing the election to republicans, because the cheerleaders won’t date you.”

              Arguing with the voices in your head isn’t healthy.

              Mizner has made it clear his “primary mission” is not to throw the election to the Republicans. Why are you being such an ass?

              • Paula

                Well, mizner’s the one who frequently takes the bait when 1) no one actually asks for his opinion by name in the OP and 2) he often repeats everything he reads from those Obamney nihilists who are publishing in more widely-read venues.

                Guilt-by-association, except that mizner isn’t really denying being associated with their ideas.

                So, since it’s not his blog, mizner’s perfectly clear to stop posting on every single one of these flame wars. Especially since he’s got the same five talking points that he repeats ad nauseam. And then he’d be “free” of people visiting said assery upon him.

                Like, really, I have no life, but even I have a other interests than chanting the same five arguments over and over on a blog that clearly doesn’t take me seriously.

        • rea

          It’s the day before election day, when the focus is properly on electing the farthest left viable candidate. The time for grass roots movemenst to change our society leftward starts Wednesday.

          • I’ve been contacted by a number of people over the past couple of days that need help phone banking or knocking on doors. If the focus is on getting Obama reelected, they would spend their time encouraging people to get out the vote, not spending their time talking about how cool Stoller sees himself.

            • david mizner

              You’d think this was 2000 all over again, with a third-party candidate actually threatening to give the GOP the election and dozens of left bigwigs supporting him/her.

              But the threat is non-existent.

              There are little green men in Loomis’ head.

              • Malaclypse

                You’d think this was 2000 all over again

                At least we can take comfort in the idea that there is no Republican Secretary of State conducting illegal voter roll purges in a swing state.

                • david mizner

                  And Matt Stoller, with his massive clout, is playing right into his hands!

                • Paula

                  I do find it ironic that the Obamney people only understand the actual limit of their progressive constituency when it’s beaten into their heads during election time.

                  No such clarity during the health care debate, certainly none about the drones.

              • Yeah, Johnson’s polling much better than Stein. I’m not sure where Loomis gets the idea that conservatives don’t run third-party campaigns – it seems they do this more than liberals.

                • That’s not really an apt comparison, though.

                  Libertarians are not merely more extreme than the Republicans on a left-right axis. They are at right angles to that spectrum.

                • Perhaps, but there are also qualitative and no just quantitative differences between Democrats and Greens. In general, Greens are seen as being to the left of Democrats and Libertarians (like the Reform Party) being to the right of Republicans. The fact that this Libertarian candidate, like the previous one, was a former Republican underscores this, as does the fact that most people see Johnson as taking more votes from Romney than from Obama.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Joe is right on this. Libertarian support is much more cross-cutting. There’s no Jill Stein-curiosity on the right comparable to Johnson and Paul curiosity on the left. There are issues on which, from my perspective, Johnson is better than Obama, but if you’re a conservative there’s no issue on which Stein is better than Obama.

                  The Constitution Party is the equivalent to the Green Party, and it’s a nonentity.

                • So you were just joking when you said this?

                  “Obama over Paul is at least as easy as LBJ over Goldwater or FDR over Landon, and to think that progressives could be genuinely conflicted over whether to prefer a moderate Democratic president to a guy who wants to restore the Articles of Confederation is absurd.”

                  Three of the past six Libertarian Party candidates were former Republicans; hell, David Koch was a Libertarian party candidate.

                  Sure, Greenwald and Sirota expressed interest in reaching out to Libertarians on issues they agree on. They expressed the same interest in the Tea Party – does that mean the Tea Party isn’t a conservative movement?

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Um, the fact that there are a few issues I agree with libertarians on doesn’t make it difficult for me to prefer Obama to Johnson. So there’s no contradiction. However, not everyone on the vaguely left side of the electorate shares my values.

                • You were arguing that it’s a clear choice for those on the left. I don’t think most people would disagree.

                  The candidacies of Bob Barr, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson might have some positions that some on the left find interesting, but that doesn’t mean that their candidacies aren’t conservative overall – again, a point that you and others have argued before, when it suited you.

      • In the coming year, you will have every opportunity to prove your points by working hard to push the Democrats to the left. But you won’t!

        • Argive

          And what will you do? Argue with people on the internet? People who are just as polarized and unlikely to change their minds as you are? I don’t think that will work.

          • Keaaukane

            If you feel dissatisfaction
            Blog your frustrations away
            Some people may prefer action
            But give me a blog post any old day

            With apologies to Tom Lehrer

    • david mizner


      the big story has not been Occupy or any other social movement. It hasn’t been building on the Wisconsin protests to create long-lasting change. It’s been a discussion of this question: Has Obama been so horrible that we can’t vote for him?

      You’re mistaking LGM’s pet obsession — focusing on the 4 or 5 prominent bloggers (some of who aren’t even of the left) who’re not voting for Obama and then pretending that everyone else is obsessing too.

      We’re not. We’re talking about and trying out how to start a movement. Care to join us?

      • Marc McKenzie

        Quit talking and start DOING something, then. Something that brings about concrete results, not just lip-service at somewhere that is being occupied.

        But that also means that you’ll have to wade into the muck of–gasp!–politics. And purists will avoid that step like a man avoids a turd on the sidewalk. You’ve got to organize and set a goal and also be prepared to enter the system and use it. If you don’t, you will achieve nothing.

  • The basic problem with this post is that it does not define exactly what it means by left. I am pretty sure that Dr. Loomis is not talking about any type of communist movement. Although that is what is historically meant by the term “Left” in the 20th century. On the other hand he seems to be talking about something slightly more radical than the liberalism that dominates the Democratic Party. I get the feeling he wants something akin to a European Social Democratic Party with a commitment to organized labor and the environment. But, such parties have not been particular radical or left when ruling in Europe. They have been in practice quite centrist.

    • Malaclypse

      They have been in practice quite centrist

      For values of “centrist” =/= any party that would be considered centrist in the US, yes.

      • John

        While obviously Europe has a more developed welfare state, I have a lot of problems with the idea that this means that center-left political parties in Europe are more genuinely left wing than the Democratic Party in the US. They are operating in a framework that is to the left of the one in the US, but within that framework most of them espouse a kind of cautious centrism that is not very different from the Democratic Party. I strongly doubt that very many mainstream Democratic politicians (i.e., excluding people like Ben Nelson or Heath Shuler) would actually feel ill at ease in a European social democratic party, nor would most center-left European politicians feel particularly ill at ease with the Democrats. American Democratic political consultants have actually worked on election campaigns for European social democratic politicians.

        The differences in outlook are actually quite minimal, I think.

        • That is why I said “slightly more radical.” I lived in the UK under Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair and it did not strike me as particularly left wing. Yes, there was NHS which also existed under Thatcher, but everything else suggested a state not much less capitalist than the US. In fact in some ways much more capitalist than the US. In the summer of 1989 before the wall came down I spent some time in East Germany and it had a system orders of magnitude different than places like Denmark or even Finland. There the state actually ran the economy.

          I have also spent quite a bit of time in Central Asia where my wife and kids come from. Although she was only 13 when the USSR collapsed her description of it in no shape resembles the capitalist states of Western Europe. They both had developed welfare states, but in the case of the USSR the everyday role of that state was much greater. It literally provided everything not just education and medical care like in Western Europe. According to her Soviet style socialism provided a better quality of ice cream as well as education and health care than what exists now. In Blair’s UK a lot ice cream production was controlled by capitalist concerns like Baskin Robbins, Hagen Das, and if one was desperate McDonald’s.

    • Leeds man

      In the US, “Left” has come to mean “not obviously insane, sociopathic or willfully ignorant”.

      • Dave

        AKA, “the other 1%”

    • spencer

      Is Obama running for President of Europe too?

  • Rob in Buffalo

    One thing we need is to elect Democrats in Ohio and Florida. [/stating the obvious]

    • FLRealist

      I keep trying, but I’m surrounded by nutcases.

      • spencer

        Yeah, me too.

        At least I live in one of the more tolerable parts of the state, politics-wise. But that’s a pretty low bar.

    • Whispers

      Good luck getting any kind of fair election in Florida. I mean that sincerely! This is a state that elected Rick Scott as governor.

  • WhatDragon

    I want to play every true scotsman with those who write anti obama screeds on “the left”.

    Matt Stoller, not left wing.

    Glenn “Cato Institute” Greenwald, obviously not left wing.

    Who else?

    • Larry Johnson
      Mort Zuckerman
      That HillBuzz guy

    • Whispers

      Ad hominem, ad hominem.

      I have to assume that you know that “nae true Scotsman” is a fallacy.

  • Leeds man

    You’re right of course, but your summary, like so many others, misses a fairly important long-term issue.

    No doubt this will be addressed on November 8.

  • “It will take the rest of your life. That is the timeline of real change.”

    This is a real problem in terms of internecine lefty warfare, and it’s never going to get better because people tend to see forward rather than backward. The reality is that fights for marriage equality, contraceptive access, enfranchisement, labor, etcetera, are fought on ground laid by decades and decades of progress and setbacks, wins and losses. You’ve got to ignore all of that to think that one more awful Republican administration will cause the country to snap to your preferred political views.

    That thread from last week about how it’s now necessary to tell current college students that just fifteen years ago it was very uncommon for a high school to have even a single out LGBT student (http://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2012/11/i-am-become-history) is a perfect example. We take the world as it is when we become adults and assume it’s been like that forever, and from that perspective it’s all too easy to assume that all the gains are set in stone and just a little more progress is necessary, so why not wait out Romney and run the perfect pony candidate in 2016 or 2020? The reality, that you’re going to be fighting these fights for you whole life, and that all you can hope for is incremental change and maybe a few big wins, is just too damned depressing.

    Stoller and his ilk are promising victory, once and for all. It’s a sham, of course, but there’s no mystery to it’s enduring appeal.

    • Joshua

      Why is it, though, that the right seems to get this so much better than the left?

      Goldwater got his ass blown out in 1964, but his lunacy is now standard for the GOP. The right has spent the past fifty years fighting every seat from President down to dogcatcher and ensuring their voice is heard.

      The left goes unicorn hunting once a decade and gets disillusioned when things don’t fall in line like it does in their dreams.

      I know it’s structurally easier when you are campaigning for bigger business, lower taxes for the rich, etc., but few in 1964 saw 2012 looking like it does politically.

      • Anonymous

        Money. Money. MONEY. FUCKING MONEY! Go find some lefty sugar daddies willing to deficit fund, for example, an ENTIRE FUCKING TV NEWS NETWORK, and you’ll see a hell of a lot more organizing and taking over of permanent party structures. Those are of course far more rare than the unicorns that the stupid lefties are hunting.

        So as long as the incumbent power structure holds all of the purse-strings, and there’s no viable funding source for a lefty takeover, this situation will stay the way it is.

        So the legitimate critique of lefties who don’t like this situation might be “These are the facts — you are outspent, and someone else owns the joint. So either wait for the revolution, focus on those issues that the money players don’t care about, or just walk away.”

        “Why haven’t you organized to take over?” is saying to a lot of these people (probably almost all of them) “Why haven’t you given up your job, moved to an area of the country where the Democratic Party isn’t stuffed full of party hacks with more waiting in the wings, where the county committee campaigns aren’t overcompetitive, and tried to both find a new job and work half-time for free in party politics against the entrenched incumbents who want to destroy you?”

        • tonycpsu

          +1 Sparkly Unicorn in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land.

        • Lee

          Except that the Left had a pretty good run using these tactics to drive the Democratic Party to the Left from the late 19th century to the 1970s or 1980s. Especially after the Great Depression. The rich didn’t support left-liberal goals then but the take over the party strategy still worked.

      • PSP

        At least 20 years ago, I was driving late one night listening to the am radio to keep awake. I found myself listening to a rather scary lecture instructing wing-nuts how to take over their local school board.

        They pointed out that most voters had no idea who the people on the ballot for local offices were, making the vote party line or random. Thus, even a congregation as small as 500 could, by voting as a block, elect school board members in most places.

        The LGM writers are simply telling liberals and the left that we need to think that way, and start getting involved in electoral politics. What they haven’t talked about is the way relatively conservative democratic political machines will freeze out people who try to follow their advice.

        • David W.

          I don’t understand. If 500 progressives showed up at my county’s Democratic Party meeting, they’d have more than enough votes to prevail. Of course, they’d actually have to, like, show up.

          • Pretty much. It’d be great if the Netroots could actually push this message more instead of focusing on Stoller’s coolness. If the focus was on actually pushing people to get out and get involved instead of focusing on this petty bickering, we’d have much more success.

  • SatanicPanic

    I wish we did see more talk about Occupy. The Professional Left made a big show of being in solidarity with them. In spirit, of course. And Greenwald was nice enough to try to send them some branded hats, with your donation much appreciated. But they pretty much forgot about them and went back to griping about Obama as soon as the big media companies stopped paying attention.

    • Reilly

      Greenwald is on record in his comment section at Salon, prior to the Occupy movement, as stating on more than one occasion, his belief that protests are ineffectual. Of course when Occupy began heating up he was happy to pontificate about the importance of what they were doing.
      This fits perfectly with Eric’s spot-on assessment:

      The self-described left punditry and journalists in 2012 has been individualistic, holier than thou, disorganized, and narcissistic.

      Pre-Occupy, individualistic narcissism can’t allow for the efficacy of submerging oneself into group purpose, but after Occupy’s leaderless group effort is validated by national media attention, individualistic narcissism can hold forth on the merits of group purpose. Building movements is what groups do, and it’s much harder than simply championing causes.

  • Lee

    Why does it seem that the inability to organize goes all the way back to the 1968 Democratic Party debacle and Vietnam? From the early 20th century to then leftists were great organizers whether they were labor unions, civil rights advocates, or women’s rights groups. The organizing wasn’t necessarily in concert. The individualistic streak seems like a bad leftover from the 1960s.

    A lot of it could also be because a lot of the curretn leftist punditry comes from a middle-class/upper middle class background and has no direct experience with organization at the grass roots level. Possibly for generation or more if they are about my age.

    • bob mcmanus

      Yes, this is my question, consider it an efficient market hypothesis.

      If the Loomis Plan is so obvious and the only possible way, why has it not been done? Why will organizing at a grass roots level for economic justice only begin when I get out there and do it? I am not the smartest strongest attractive organizer the left center has been waiting for.

      Or to put it another way, why have the identity movements been so much successful than environmental or economic movements, or right wing movements?

      This prescription is just moralizing and blaming the victim without a strong historical materialist theorizing of why we are where we are. Just Green Lantern populism.

      My own analysis approaches Walter Benn Michaels. Identity politics makes class politics impossible.

      • bob mcmanus

        Respect Why We Resign a nascent British left organization collapses in months.

        I am not taking a side there, just providing a recent example.

        An awful lot of very smart people have been trying to organize for decades, and Loomis is just being insulting by claiming nobody has worked, nobody has tried.

        • Dave

          If Respect and “very smart people” are inside one blob on your Venn diagram, so must be pretty much everyone still breathing.

      • It is being done today–by the gay rights movement. Not coincidentally, this is the most successful social movement in the country over the last 20 years.

        • Argive

          Perhaps Stein voters should go check out How To Survive A Plague.

        • bob mcmanus

          You must have missed where I said that Identity politics makes class politics impossible.

          Certainly the Identity movements have been relatively successful.

          Now to go back to the turn of the 20th, Identity Politics and Class Politics did merge, provisionally.

          Goldman, Du Bois, Pankhurst.

          What is the difference, what is the change? Why the split?

          • Paula

            I’ll hazard a guess but I’m thinking race had something to do with it.

            The Wages of Whiteness (Roediger)
            How the Irish Became White (Ignatiev)

            • Paula

              Also, keep in mind it’s not a bunch of gays or people of color or women who keep making identity an issue of life or death.

              If you want to lecture people on how so-called “identity politics” is blinding people to the true relationship between labor and capital, as long as we’re in the United States I’m going to have a hard time not laughing in your face.

    • I think the history could be refined here. The left organized inside the Democratic Party in ’68, and in ’72 and did quite well internally.

      The issue is ’76 and beyond.

      • Whispers

        Hard to think why anybody would think 1972 represented a “success” for the left.

      • If having over 56% and 61% of the population voting for ‘not you’ in consecutive elections constitutes success, then I’m missing something.

  • bradP

    The real story of the left this year is smart and tough–the Chicago Teachers Union. That’s how you demand and make change.

    What got changed there?

    • Malaclypse

      Shorter Longer brad: nothing changed at Stalingrad, because formal control of the city never changed hands.

      • bradP


        I thought the Chicago Teacher’s Union is in more of an adversarial position to city and state government than it has ever been.

        Are you saying that the teacher’s strike put the teachers in a better position now than they were in a few years ago?

        • Murc

          I thought the Chicago Teacher’s Union is in more of an adversarial position to city and state government than it has ever been.

          … it is the JOB of the CTU to be in an adversarial position to the city and state government.

          • bradP

            … it is the JOB of the CTU to be in an adversarial position to the city and state government.

            I only want to point out the ethical dilemma created by having a organization whose necessarily is adversarial to government because it is beside the point.

            The real job of the CTU is to represent teachers in negotiations. I think you can pretty much count on negotiations going much worse for the CTU going forward than they have in the past.

            There is a reason there hadn’t been a strike for 25 years, and there is a reason they went on strike this year. Power is trending away from them and organized labor in general, and I don’t see the strike and resolution as a reversal of that trend.

        • L2P

          Are you saying they’re in a WORST positin than if they hadn’t struck?

          Politics is relative. This is a time of huge retrenchment and lost labor power. The CTU actually stood firm and gained stature and support. That’s a victory.

          They didn’t get higher wages, but why would they? There’s no money to pay them. They did show that the CTU has strong support, is willing to stand up for reasonable measures, and must be negotiated with.

          Pure win in the real world.

          • bradP

            The CTU actually stood firm and gained stature and support. That’s a victory.

            I don’t see where they gained stature and support for themselves or for organized labor in general.

  • Karen

    I have a suggestion for the left, or at least someone who isn’t suffering from active delusions like our current incumbents — the Texas State School Board. Find someone to run for the South Texas position, understanding that even if she wins, she will lose every vote, but who will be able to publicize some of that agency’s daily nonsense, between the catastrophes that attract national hilarity.

    • Doing this very thing would create more positive change than the total of 3rd party presidential campaigns in the last 80 years.

    • Hell yes. That was the most depressing section of the ballot — nothing but Republicans and Libertarians running, and this was in a left-leaning college town… :(

      • Ignoring local politics will screw us over more than voting Green ever could.

  • 60th Street


  • So many of the things here you’re saying are pure ad hominem. It’s like you’re writing a section for a college logic textbook demonstrating that fallacy.

    • Marc McKenzie

      “Ad nominee”?

      He’ll no–it’s actually been the cold blunt truth since 1968. Then again, the truth does hurt….

      • Marc McKenzie

        Sorry, I meant “ad hominem”. Damned iPad spell-checker!

      • Whispers

        I thought “ad nominee” was funny!

    • Every Russian ever

      You should get yourself a college textbook and read about that fallacy, because you don’t know what it is.

      • Malaclypse

        You only say that because you are a Stalinist!

        • Hogan

          Curses! You saw through my clever disguise.

    • IM

      name one.

    • Full Metal Wingnut

      You know, it seems to me that you and LGM are talking past each other, or at least having an ungainly (and indirect) back and forth.

      But, looking at political realities, what is your parting message? I’m inclined to agree with your characterization of Loomis’ argument. I think the personal attacks have gone past the point necessary to send a message and are simply gratuitous. And I don’t disagree with you on civil liberties or Wall Street or any of what you discussed in your most recent post.

      So what do I do Freddie? I really want to know. I’m voting for Obama because I realize that while he’s disappointed me, I have no reason to believe any of the following: that Romney will be any better, that civil liberties will be better under a Republican administration because liberals will be hypervigilant and less forgiving (i.e., Matt Stoller’s facile argument).

      I read your blog. Even when I disagree with you I think you’re a fundamentally intelligent and concerned, politically aware individual. Put aside your spat with Loomis and LGM, and tell me, someone who doesn’t want to call you names, realistically, why shouldn’t I vote for Obama? I live in Florida, for crying out loud.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    A quibble about the Green Party, Erik. You write as if the GP was the Nader campaign. In fact, Nader never even joined the GP and was even defeated for the party’s nomination in 2004. The party continued long after its association with Nader. And none of its other presidential candidtes have been nationally known figures. The GP deserves plenty of criticism for its inability to successfully engage in grassroots organizing outside a few states (e.g. NM) and localities. As a former GP activist, I’m certainly willing to entertain the possibility that it was doomed to fail. But the party itself has always been very much a bottom up, grassroots organization that has been very focused on party building, whatever its failures to make good on its goals.

    • Loomis writes

      Those who are calling for a 3rd party run today have no interest in party building, just as Nader didn’t in 2000. They are angry at Obama and want to shove it in the Democrats’ faces by throwing the election to Romney.

      That’s completely absurd, of course. I know many people who have worked tirelessly, literally for decades, to build a real third party. They aren’t just angry at Obama; they’ve been doing it for long before Obama was prominent. But as long as we’re just ascribing positions to people that they don’t really hold.

      • I know many people who have worked tirelessly, literally for decades, to build a real third party.

        Would it be impolite to point out that, after “decades”, they either must not be very good at third party building or that people aren’t buying what they are selling?

        • tonycpsu

          I’ll at least partially defend Freddie here by pointing out that it’s damn near impossible to build a third party in this country, what with the vise grip on power the two parties have and the first-past-the-post voting system and alll… Which is exactly why we shouldn’t be wasting our time on that fool’s errand, and should instead push the best of the two parties we have from within.

          • Whispers

            My problem with the “work inside the system” is that it seems to be failing miserably. Have we forgotten how the Democrats, in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, voted to extend the Bush tax cuts during the last lame duck Congress?
            That cynical vote lost me for this election cycle. You may vote as you feel is necessary, but when a party deliberately waits until after an election to betray the desires of half of their constituency, it smells like they are really hardly interested at all in what I think.

            The country as a whole is far, far to the right of where it was in the 1970s. And the Clintons, the DLC, and Obama, have all been playing leading roles in pushing the Democratic party to the right, all while claiming that there were never enough votes to do anything else.

            As a political maneuver, it was brilliant. The Democrats have taken the center away from the Republicans. But the problem is that I’m not “the center”. The “center” favors all sorts of bad ideas like wars of adventure and the simultaneous support of tax cuts, deficit reduction, and a refusal to cut spending.

            The “center” is populated by idiots.

            • ” Have we forgotten how the Democrats, in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, voted to extend the Bush tax cuts during the last lame duck Congress?”

              Vaguely, yes. As I recall, however, they traded that vote for an extension of unemployment benefits, which you would think would be a pretty big deal to liberals who give a damn about the unemployed, and certainly to the jobless themselves.

              I mean, seriously, you can argue (and I would) that the Democrats didn’t get enough in exchange for extending the upper class portion of the Bush tax cuts, but this tendency amongst “leftists” to rewrite the history in such a way as to pretend that the Democrats just pulled a bait and switch on everyone for no reason is a part of what (I imagine) Erik is talking about.

            • Lee

              The procedural rules of the United States Congress gives more power to the minority party than is given in other democracies, especially in the Senate. The Democrats inCongress voted to extend the Bush tax cuts in order to get something they wanted from the Republicans, extended unemployment benefits.

      • Working to build a third party for its own sake is silly. Working to build a social movement around specific issues that engages people both within and without of the electoral system that *might* see some value in challenging the two party system (but probably won’t) is far more valuable.

        • L2P


          How many third parties, in over two hundred years, have done anything useful? Short list there.

          How many broad social movements have co-opted two party politics and made things work for them? Long list there. Let’s start with Woman’s Suffrage. Ignored for years. Didn’t start a third party; started a broad-based movement and got what they wanted.

    • I don’t entirely disagree, but it seems like a large portion of the Green Party is resigned to losing. They don’t get involved much in the political work necessary to get things done (focus on hyperlocal and small positions, work on joint campaigns, etc.). They seem to think that just running is the way to go, but they aren’t going to attract the candidates they need if they’re viewed as a protest vote party.

  • david mizner

    By the way, few if any of the people who’re voting against Obama have said they believe such a move is integral to building a movement. They, more than most people, certainly more than many Obamapologists, believe in radical politics. You should view them as friends.

    • Marc McKenzie

      “You should view them as friends.”

      With “friends” like those, I sure as hell don’t need any enemies, do I?

      Sorry David, but Erik, like Scott before, has made the superior argument. Just satin’….

      • Marc McKenzie

        Meant to say, “just saying…”

        • Janastas359

          Marc, I think you need to fix the spell checker on your iPad :)

          • Marc McKenzie


    • Gepap

      Why would I want to be political friends with people who have a basic misunderstanding of how to work the system we currently have? They have failed utterly to win anything, and clearly their arguments aren’t good enough to convince enough people to, again, win anything.

  • Todd

    I’m more impressed with how quickly and massively voters have embraced early voting where it is available (and easy).

    I predict a lot of pressure on other States to implement newer and wider and easier methods for early voting in future elections. And I also predict its corollary: the Right’s attempts to block early voting initiatives and cast them as somehow undemocratic.

    • Ed

      And I also predict its corollary: the Right’s attempts to block early voting initiatives and cast them as somehow undemocratic.

      I support early voting under our current system, where workers can’t get the day off or time off to vote on Election Day as they properly should. But it’s not the best way to go. Making absentee voting easier is also not ideal.

      • Murc

        In my ideal system, everyone would vote with pen and paper, and the polls would be open for a full week, one day of which would be a mandated holiday with full pay for everyone who wasn’t an emergency services worker.

        • Lurker

          In Finland, we have a pretty workable system:
          * No voter registration. Everyone is registered to vote in his domicile according to the national population register (more than 99% accurate).
          * The voter gets a letter informing her that she is entitled to vote and gives the address of the polling place and a short description (1 page) of the duties of the body or person being elected.
          * Advance voting is possible for about a week. Advance polling stations are usually located in libraries, supermarkets and town halls.
          * Anyone can vote in any advance polling station, nationwide. The vote is mailed to the polling station of the domicile of the voter in a double envelope. The voter registered is updated online to prevent double voting.
          * Election day is always Sunday.
          * Voter must present government-issued photo ID. If the voter does not have it, the police will issue a temporary ID card (valid only for the election day and the advance voting period) free of charge.
          * If the poll official knows the voter personally, the ID requirement may be waived. (Usual in small rural communities.)
          * Prisoners, hospital patients have an advance voting station in the prison or in the hospital.
          * Mobility-impaired persons can request the possibility to vote in their home. In that case, the polling officials visit them at their home.

          • Lurker

            And I forgot to mention the actual method of voting: the voter draws, with a pencil, the number of the candidate on the ballot which only contains a large circle with text “No:”. No write-in votes are possible. If the ballot contains any other markings than the number, or if it is empty, it is deemed void. (This happens to ca. 0.5% of the votes.)

            The voter emerges from the booth with a ballot that has been folded to conceal the vote, lets the poll official to stamp the ballot and drops the ballot into the ballot box. The box has been inspected to be initially empty by the first voters to arrive at the polling place and then sealed by the officials.

            The ballots are then counted by hand. After the election and the mandatory recount, the ballots are archived until the next election.

      • Full Metal Wingnut

        What’s wrong with early voting? I can see an objection on the grounds of administrative costs, but conceptually I don’t see anything objectionable.

    • Not much of a prediction. The Republicans in office in Ohio and Florida are already doing that.

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  • polyorchnid octopunch

    I have to say that listening to the “firebagger” crowd, I really wish the US electorate would grow the fuck up. Guess what, there are no perfect options. Hey, you know… the perfect is the enemy of the good. Why not try for the most good option realistically available now, and try to open the window to make for more good options to be realistically available in the next election cycle?

    To put it slightly differently… why on earth aren’t people out to Occupy Political Parties?

  • Jim Lynch

    “Has Obama been so horrible that we can’t vote for him”?

    What rubbish. You sound like Rahm Emanuel hippy-bashing a non-existent “professional left”.

    • Marc McKenzie

      Problem is, that IS the argument that’s been made by Greenwald, Stoller, Lindorff, Swanson, Sirota, Ross…the list goes on.

      How anyone could say that Obama is worse than Romney or even GWB….I don’t know. It must require a leap of logic that cannot be fathomed by normal, mortal minds.

      • david mizner

        Greenwald’s never made that argument; either has Sirota.

        As for the rest, yeah, radicals refusing to vote for a Democratic candidate. I love the notion that this is unique or surprising, coming from someone touting his knowledge of history. What’s actually surprising is how few leftists have broken with Obama. That’s the real story.

        • Malaclypse

          What’s actually surprising is how few leftists have broken with Obama. That’s the real story.

          I’m puzzled why you think that the fact that most leftists do not behave in an obviously counter-productive manner is somehow a story. Why do you think leftists are idiots?

          • david mizner

            Because there’s a long history of radicals refusing to vote for a corporate-war party. You know this. Surely it’s the memory of 2000 that’s playing into to this; if anything, Loomis et al should be celebrating how few leftists have broken away rather than looking for little green men.

            • bob mcmanus

              I think what is actually happening in the Democratic Party is that the Neo-Liberal Economics, War, and Identity Wing has become dominant, and is now trying to leverage the dominance into hegemony.

              Resistance was futile, now it must be unthinkable. There will be no effective resistance to Obama in his second term. None.

              Hell, a primary alternative to Obama was absolutely unthinkable this year, and Loomis expects a radical insurgency within the Party?

              Republicans in the 50s and 60s had insurgencies and potential allies enough, and plenty of fail to help them along.

            • leftists =/= radicals.

              • Paula

                Yeah — it’s quite self-flattering to think of oneself as a radical, though.

                No, Greenwald, Sirota, et al are not radicals of any sort.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Yeah, radicals who took the radical positions of supporting the Iraq War and and noted Trotskyite Jon Tester. Give me a fucking break.

                • david mizner

                  Please reread my comment and revise your accordingly.

            • Timb

              Personally, I’m glad radicals gave us Nixon. Without Nixon, we would have never had the liberal Jimmy Carter, who then paved the way for the Savior of Ronald Reagan.

              Radicals who cause Republican presidencies aren’t helping their cause or the people who need their help.

        • As for the rest, yeah, radicals refusing to vote for a Democratic candidate. I love the notion that this is unique or surprising, coming from someone touting his knowledge of history.

          Could you quote me the part where he said it was unique or surprising?

          I”m seeing “stupid.” I’m seeing “pointless.” I’m seeing “counter-productive.” I’m seeing “whiny, self-indulgent wankery.”

          I’m not seeing “unique” or “surprising.”

        • Marc McKenzie

          Never touted my knowledge of history–but I also don’t tout “I’m purer than all of the rest I’df you because I constantly criticize Obama!”

          Give it a rest, will you? You’ve been taken to the bloody cleaners time and time again and still you come back with nonsense.

  • You mention some of the strengths of conservatives, right? Some tactical intelligence, some rhetorical advantages?

    Here’s another one: they don’t cut off their extremists at the knees. Moderate conservatives might not agree with extremist conservatives. They might work quietly to oppose their preferences. But what they certainly don’t do is undermine and attack them, publicly shame them, or make broad accusations of bad faith, which is essentially your only argument here. Why? Because they know that the extremes define the center. They know that you move the needle by dragging the middle with you, not chasing it into your opponent’s territory.

    So look at the Democratic party and the country you have. Neither are what you want. Why? Because you push them to chase the center rather than to define the center by pushing towards the left. That means that even when you win, you lose– you’ve won a center that is now far to the right of what you want.

    So please, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep making your blog indistinguishable from 2003-era TNR. Keep redbaiting and marginalizing the left. You’ve been doing it for decades, after all. And the country that we have is what you have to show for it.

    • Cody

      Really? Republicans don’t fight against their extremist?

      Did you not watch the Daily Show or something that showed clips of Fox News in the early 2000s?

      Mainstream Republicans HAAAATE the tea-party. Unfortunately, influential Republicans with a lot of money back them.

      Additionally, the Tea-Party never voted for a third-party candidate. They never went out of their way to make George W. Bush lose because he wasn’t right-enough.

      Loomis isn’t saying bad things about the far Left, he’s saying bad things about people on the Left who think voting for a third-party candidate is going to help them at all.

      • Joshua

        Right, exactly. They sure as hell never said that Republicans should vote for Kerry so they can get Reagan’s zombie corpse in 2008.

        They vote for the Republican and then spend a lot of time and effort holding the Republican they vote for accountable. Which is, you know, exactly what Loomis is saying liberals should do.

    • Argive

      Extremist conservatives don’t tend to advocate throwing national elections to the other side under the belief that doing so would somehow embolden the conservative movement.

    • Marc

      People advocating counter-productive tactics deserve to be told that they’re counter-productive. I view the Greenwald and Stoller critiques as being factually wrong, intellectually sloppy, and objectively disastrous pragmatically. People who attack anyone disagreeing with them as blind Obots and followers of Dear Leader also don’t get to complain about not being treated courteously.

      I want a left that elects people like Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, and a left strong enough to elect liberals within the Democratic party. This is a tactical preference. I also prefer that our positions not be based on magical thinking, historical amnesia, and reading the motives of people in the least charitable way possible. And a lot of what passes for a “left” critique, e.g. Greenwald, has these bad ingredients in spades.

      • Seconded. Very succinct and to the point.

      • jeer9

        I also prefer that our positions not be based on magical thinking

        Like taking over the party from the ground up, activists gradually gaining power in local and city offices in order to eventually wrest power from the party hacks and corporate interests at the state and national levels?

        Like believing that Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz want to make the Dems more progressive by financially supporting strong liberal candidates and primarying blue dog hacks?

        Obama should win, and fairly easily, though I keep reading sites that discuss the very real possibility of electronic vote tampering and with the margin much closer than ’08 I fear a Kerry repeat. Somehow, I don’t think Obama, if such irregularities occur, will concede quite so easily. Let’s hope the popcorn doesn’t have to be passed.

        • “Like taking over the party from the ground up, activists gradually gaining power in local and city offices in order to eventually wrest power from the party hacks and corporate interests at the state and national levels?”

          Well then I guess you might as well just go lock yourself in the garage with the car running or something, if you just don’t think anything is possible.

          “Like believing that Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz want to make the Dems more progressive by financially supporting strong liberal candidates and primarying blue dog hacks? ”

          Who the hell believes that? I think you’re projecting again.

          • jeer9

            The dream of reform from within is possible but nobody really believes the Dem party leaders will support it. Good stuff, Brien, as usual.

            I’ll leave the car running for you.

            • You act as though “Dem party leaders” is some sort of unified perpetual entity. You do realize that if you control a local party you get to elect members to the DNC, right?

              And, again, you’re far too focused on bright light races, which continues to be a problem for you in terms of following along.

              • jeer9

                You act as though “Dem party leaders” is some sort of unified perpetual entity.

                Yes, it’s the one that’s been moving rightward for the past forty years. And I’ve always had problems following along, though that doesn’t seem to be an issue with you.

                • Oh Christ. Whatever dude. Why don’t you just try drinking already?

    • tonycpsu

      Because you push them to chase the center rather than to define the center by pushing towards the left.

      This is a gross mischaracterization of what’s happening. The Boggs, Coles and Mieux of the leftosphere just want guys like you pulling in the same direction, by which I mean not toward more indefinite detention and more drone attacks, but toward a sizable Democratic majority that’s led by voices who oppose indefinite detention and drone attacks. This is roughly the “more and better Democrats.”

      You can work exclusively on the “better” by contributing toward primary challenges of bad democrats in solid blue districts, or championing approval voting, or getting out in the streets to protest against Obama’s drone wars, and I think most of us would support that, just as we’re all doing our part in our own ways to advance the same causes. Some folks in red states are going to have to focus on the “more”, supporting Democrats who probably aren’t extremely reliable on choice or guns, but who might be reliable on other important issues, and would suck it up and confirm a Roe-supporting SCOTUS justice.

      That means winning winnable Senate races in Massachusetts with Elizabeth Warrens, but it also means not throwing away the presidency to Romney with a protest vote. It means letting shitty “Democrats” like Lieberman walk when they’re helping more than they’re hurting, but also understanding the value of pricks like Joe Manchin to be the 60th vote on something important when necessary.

      I think we all have about the same rough assessment of the diseased Democratic party, but it’s still the only host vehicle we have for getting shit done, and the alternative is a revolution that I wish you lefty agonistes would come right out and say you want instead of taking shots at people who are willing to work within it for real tangible change without the downside risk of Republicans running the country further into the shitter.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’m sure you’d like to think that “the left” means “people stupid enough to think that Obama and Romney are indistinguishable.” But you’re wrong. As revealed by your claim that we’re like 2003 TNR. Dammit, Erik, STOP AGITATING FOR AN INVASION OF IRAN ALREADY!

    • Ethan

      This is by far the most ridiculous thing that you repeatedly say. According to you, a terrible thing to be is a leftist that attacks and marginalizes other leftists because they see the tactics of those leftists as self-destructive to shared goals. These leftists have such self-destructive tactics in pursuit of your shared goals that you (a leftist) will frequently attack them until . . . wait a minute.

  • Ed

    Even if you vote for Jill Stein, the blood of Pakistani babies killed in drone strikes is on your hands.

    Speak for yourself, old boy. A vote for Stein is a vote against the drone wars. You can argue there are other and better reasons not to vote for her and you may have a point, but a vote is as legitimate a form of political expression as any other.

    • Malaclypse

      A vote for Stein is a vote against the drone wars.

      Genuine question: would a write-in vote for George Fox’s Ghost be equally a vote against drone warfare?

      “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.”

      Why is a vote for Stein more effective than a vote for Fox?

      • George Fox’s ghost. I love it!

      • Argive

        This Quaker school graduate applauds thy post. Go in peace, friend.

      • Because Stein is running and Fox is not.

        • Malaclypse

          Perhaps, but his chances are every bit as great as hers, and he is better on the issues.

    • rea

      A vote for Stein has the real world effect of making an attack on Iran more likely. You don’t get to wash your hands of it, anymore than Pilate did.

      • NonyNony


        In this country a vote for a third party candidate for the Presidency washes your hands of guilt exactly as much as slapping a “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For The Other Guy” bumper sticker on your car does.

        Actually, come to think of it, in this country with the way things are structured, a vote for a third party candidate for President is EXACTLY like planting a “Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Vote For Him” sticker on your car.

      • Marc McKenzie

        Yeah, but they sure do love scrubbing their hands and making a show out of it….

    • A vote for Obama is a vote against the Iran War – a war which would be roughly 10,000 times more deadly than the ‘drone wars’ – with the added bonus that such a vote is not purely symbolic.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Why isn’t the logic that voting, for anyone, props up American hegemony, so deprive the machine of your complicity by withholding a vote that is tantamount to consent?

      • rea

        I don’t know–why isn’t nonsense logic?

        • FlipYrWhig

          No, I know it’s nonsense. My point was supposed to be that it’s kind of goofy to act like voting for Jill Stein is a serious blow against the structures of power when, if you _really did_ think the whole framework is rotten, you should probably also think that casting a vote _at all_ was just perpetuating it too.

      • Marc McKenzie


        • FlipYrWhig

          My bad. It was a failed attempt to call attention to how there’s always something more futile to do while hoping to show what a REAL radical looks like. Maybe just existing in America validates the way America conducts itself. I don’t see why voting for Obama is something only a sellout would do, while voting for Jill Stein is a dramatic statement. It’s not that dramatic. It’s still part of the system. And one you’re working with the system, you’re not being all that radical, so knock off the pretense.

          • JWR

            The more I read Freddie, (or FDL, for that matter), pretense is the name of the game.

          • Marc McKenzie

            Actually, it’s mine. I was responding to Ed’s statement about voting for Jill Stein–sadly, it seems that I ended up responding to you. No need for apologies; the fault is mine.

      • Because it’s not about you. This is one of the things that really annoys me about the liberal paradigm of democratic politics – the point of voting isn’t to make yourself feel better, or get yourself right with Jesus, but to exercise collective power.

        Because if you feel better, but things don’t get better, you don’t deserve to feel better.

    • Bruce Baugh

      I don’t know if you ever read James Morrow’s novel, This is the Way the World Ends. If not, I recommend. It’s a confabulation, in which the ghosts of the generations who will never be put the survivors of a nuclear war on trial for their crimes against all of humanity’s future. We can imagine such a trial without the death of the whole species, the ghosts of descendants not allowed to be of people who died of starvation, weapons, disease, and everything else we’ve unleashed on them over the decades.

      “Not guilty by reason of voting for someone who couldn’t possibly win.”

      Really? Really? That makes you any more innocent than the rest of us? Like hell it does. You’re still here funding the machine like the rest of us – as others have pointed out lately, tax money binds each of us into the system no matter what slogans and doomed candidacies we may wish to support. And that’s just for starters.

      We are all criminals against our fellow humans here, and choosing an objection that cannot make anything better and just might help make them significantly worse is not an escape.

      • Marc McKenzie

        Well put. That’s what drives me batsh*t–the purity attitude, that they’re better than the rest of us poor, misguided sheep. That attitude is in full effect in this piece of wankery by Dave Lindorff:


    • Scott Lemieux

      A vote for Stein is a vote against the drone wars

      No, it isn’t. In an atomistic sense, it does nothing to stop the drone wars; in a collective change, it will make national security policy worse.

      • DocAmazing

        Oversimplification. In a safely blue state, it makes clear that there is a group to the left of the Dems. This becomes useful when the argument is made by various Blue Dogs and their abettors that the electorate is to the right; there’s documentation to the contrary. In a safely blue state, there’s no risk to this strategy.

        • I don’t think it matters unless that group is willing to make a big deal within the party structure during the next 4 years. Showing up once every 4 years to get 5% of California to vote for Jill Stein is completely meaningless.

          • DocAmazing

            Nope, but having a bunch of Greens in office in San Francisco has done a few things here–over the objections of the national Dems. Plenty of party-building going on. Your lack of awareness of it does not make it disappear.

            • Marc McKenzie

              “Plenty of party-building going on.”

              Uh yeah, okay….so when can we expect results–2063?

              • We’ve got results here now. Nationally is another tale.

        • “there is a group to the left of the Dems.” Yes, and that group no longer has any influence on who gets nominated by the Democratic Party.

          If you want to demonstrate demographics, pursue ballot fusion. I don’t know why third-party enthusiasts outside of the WFP aren’t doing anything about ballot fusion.

          • DocAmazing

            Mostly because the Dems refuse to work with outside groups in the Bay Area–though they do love donated labor.

  • Ubu Imperator

    You know what the extremists on the right don’t do? Argue that there’s no difference between Romney and Obama. This may suggest why establishment Republicans are more eager to work with them.

  • Sly

    John C. Fremont for President in 1864! Lincoln sold us out on Reconstruction!

    As I said before, in about half a century another Democrat will be in the Whitehouse running for reelection, and there will be plenty of people complaining loudly on whatever platform exists in that era that this Democrat is a lying, corporate/warmongering sell-out and wonder why we can’t have honest, progressive champions like Barack Obama anymore.

    • Scott Lemieux

      1864? Christ, how could you support Lincoln in 1860 — he wasn’t even an abolitionist. We should have thrown the election to Breckenridge — now that would have emboldened the left.

  • At least they’re smaller in number and less vocal than in 2000. Woof.

    • david mizner

      Shh. You’ll undermine his point.

    • David W.

      Yeah, but they more than make up for it be being more obnoxious. Meow.

    • djangermous

      Amanda Marcotte!




  • Anonymous

    2. Every single U.S. president has blood on his hands. Voting in a presidential election is always a choice between two evils.

    The second sentence is a complete non-sequitur, and your implicit endorsement of bloodshed has been noted. Nice, timely choice of pronoun, though.

    • Scott Lemieux

      complete non-sequitur

      No, it isn’t.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, it is. It literally doesn’t follow. Read without context, one would think Loomis is advocating complete abstention from voting. Which would be preferable from the needs must schlock you guys are publishing of late.

        US presidents have blood on their hands when, and sometimes before, they enter office. That’s because they’re elected by a country awash with the blood of their own and other people. Insisting that there is always, there always must be (only two!), candidates who are unworthy and undesirable is not a feature. It’s the result of folk like you, who seem to live and breathe insisting that mediocrity is acceptable ‘cos Yer Party must win no matter what. Take responsibility for making that inevitable, Scott. It appears to be what you and likeminded self-professed but untested “progressive” people genuinely want.

        Now please bleat more about other people’s purity. It’s so cute and distracting.

        • If you can provide any evidence from American history on how 3rd parties have moved politics to the left, please do so. Note that evidence is necessary.

          Moreover, I wish people would understand the larger point that change is not created through elections.

          • Anonymous

            As I haven’t argued anything of the sort, that’s not a game I’ll play.

            More non-sequiturs.

  • SusanB

    I agree with much of what is said here, but in my experience, it’s the libertarian left and center that is not reality-based. They want us to vote for Gary Johnson, ostensibly because of Obama’s drone attacks, his inability/unwillingness to close Guantanamo, and because of TSA abuses. But I can’t help feeling that what they really dislike is Obama’s economic policies. While I agree with them on the issues I mention above, I have the feeling these civil liberties issues are being highlighted at the expense of issues (GLBT rights, religious freedom, and reproductive rights, for instance) on which Obama is clearly a better choice than the only guy who could beat him – Romney.

  • Glenn

    I just don’t understand how you can tar “the left” with this 3rd party fascination. This is fringe crap. You’ve mistaken the fascination this blog has with debunking it (correctly, might I add) with its importance to the left “community” as a whole. Think maybe you need to get out more, Erik. There is life outside of LGM. (Yes, I know, heresy!)

    • David W.

      On a whimsical tangent: just as every fairy tale begins with the line “Once upon a time” and every war story begins with “No shit, there we were”, every blog post beings with “Someone is wrong on the internet.”

  • Dave

    Guys, guys, why don’t you just leave the USA and move to any one of the many other countries in the world where they speak English, you’d fit right in, and you’d find the politics much more congenial to generally sane people? The USA is fucked, really; you’re wasting your time. Come back, maybe, when the teabagger generation are all dead, and maybe then you could have a moment. But right now, no.

    • Linnaeus

      Well, it ain’t exactly cheap to do that – there’s the expenses of moving, of dealing with immigration procedures, etc. There’s also the problem of finding a job.

      On top of that, folks in those other countries might not be so keen on a wave of American political immigrants (not that I actually expect such a thing to happen).

    • spencer

      why don’t you just leave the USA and move to any one of the many other countries in the world where they speak English

      On some days, my answer is “I would if I could.”

      On other days, my answer is “fuck that, this is my country – let those other bastards clear out.”

  • I searched this entire thread (well, my browser did) and I don’t see one mention of John Anderson (1980).

    Yes, it was the Last Gasp for Sanity from the Ancestral Party–“how do you cut taxes, balance the budget, and increase military spending? You do it with mirrors!” is even more true for Willard–but at least it marked a tombstone.

    That it’s a lesson neither the Democratic Party (“the current Republicans are fiscally insane”) nor the Libertarians (“we’re going to make intruding on your life a political issue’) have learned thirty-two years later is a side issue.

    • David W.

      What is this “Ancestral Party” of which you speak? John Anderson was a spoiler in 1980 who siphoned off moderate voters from Jimmy Carter and was never heard from again. And as painfully recall, four years later it Walter Mondale ran on a promise to do the right thing and raise taxes, and boy, was that ever a lesson for the Democratic Party.

      • David W.

        Sorry, make that “And as I painfully recall, four years later it was Walter Mondale”. Carry on.

  • Wido Incognitus

    That shows a massive ignorance of how change works in this society, as well as a hyperactive fetishized individualism coming out of our consumer capitalist society that privileges these sorts of positions and stands over organizing.

    I agree with the first-part (both in terms of “if you are on the left, then of course Obama is better than Romney to the point where you should vote for him,” and in terms of “if you think the Democrats are too moderate, then work with the Democrats to make them more on the left”). However, I am not really sure that I agree with you on the second point, about fetishized individualism of consumer capitalism. I mean, I know there is a lot of that, but I am not sure that it is closely related to politics.

    • I don’t see how the ideology underpinning our existence wouldn’t have a profound effect on our politics.

  • tt

    I agree with 95% of this post but this is just wrong:

    Note that conservatives basically don’t run 3rd party campaigns. Libertarians might talk about doing this–but they almost all vote Republican in the end because they know that they are moving their agenda forward by doing so.

    In 2008, the Constitution party + the Libertarian party received approximately as many votes as Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. Same with 2004. The most successful third-party campaigns in recent history were by Ross Perot, a right winger (even if he had a lot of Democratic support). Only in 2000 were left-wing third parties greatly more successful than their right-wing counterparts.

    Really, almost every strategic discussion leftists have among ourselves is mirrored in the right. We’re not so different (other than our ideology). The great majority of leftists who are unhappy with Obama will vote for him, just like the great majority of rightists who don’t like Romney will vote for him.

    • Bertie

      I think so, too.

      Also, the “paleo” wing of the center-right (that is, those with unreconstructed views on immigration, affirmative action, and related issues and value such issues over everything else) is probably larger in both absolute and relative terms than the “Left” is to the center-left, but the paleos are probably farther removed from the actual levers of power and influence these days in their half of the political spectrum than the Left is on this half. And the paleos definitely go through all these same strategic debates that the Left does.

    • Lyanna

      In 2008, the Constitution party + the Libertarian party received approximately as many votes as Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. Same with 2004.

      “As many votes” isn’t the right measure to use. “As high a percentage of the most woo-able (by 3rd parties) constituencies” is.

      There are more libertarians and Christian Right folks combined than there are leftists who would theoretically agree with the Green Party platform. So if the right is as likely to contemplate 3rd parties as the left, I’d expect a higher number of Constitution Party and Libertarian Party votes than Green Party votes.

  • The one thing Obama did which is really coming back to haunt is throwing Howard Dean out. Dean was building a political party, Obama (and Axelrod) wanted the spotlight on them.

  • Pat

    You know, in AA there’s a line that gets used when someone in denial tries to rationalize their drinking problem to convince themselves they don’t need the program, that they can drink just a little bit. “Really? How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

    Look, I’m not going to fault anyone who still buys into the Democratic party and into voting, and I’m still cheering for your candidates to win. I no longer believe, however, that voting is a meaningful way to effect necessary social change. We lived through the Clinton years, and that was tolerable, because the country had moved right and Democrats had to be strategic about what they fought for. Then we lived through the post 9/11 years, when Democratic leaders told us we had to stand shoulder to shoulder with the president in order to draw distinctions on domestic policy. Then we lived through ’04, when those same leaders told us we couldn’t possibly nominate an anti-war candidate because no one would think we were serious enough. (And to think, we could have had a candidate whose best line on Iraq wasn’t “for it before I was against it.” Thanks, TNR editors.) The one victory we did have was Dean’s DNC chairmanship and the 50-state strategy, which all our supposed betters told us was naive—until it got us Speaker Pelosi, when they all rushed to take credit for it.

    Then in 2008, all the work liberals had done resulted in a Democratic president and historic majorities in both Houses of Congress, and what did we get? A stimulus bill of $800bn. mostly comprised of tax cuts (pared down to $700bn, even more weighted to tax cuts, when the GOP objected), an extension of the Bush tax cuts, and a health care regime to the right of effin’ Switzerland’s. Not to mention four years of hippy-punching from people who owe their jobs to the work we did.

    So tell me, Mr. “You take over the party structure,” how’s that workin’ out for ya?

    • FlipYrWhig

      Fine, voting is not the way to make social change. You still should fucking well do it. Make social change through your magical non-voting methods, and ALSO vote for Democrats including Obama while that society changes to the point where the hippies and Deaniacs will all be proven right, no backsies, infinity.

      Until the Gotterdammerung of Social Change occurs, there will still be “fiscal conservatives” making up at least half of the would-be left-of-center party, whose votes are necessary to make new law and policy. Pissing on them gives you first jack, then squat. Would that it weren’t so. But it, um, were.

      • Pat

        We have a striking disagreement on who it is doing the pissing and whom they’re pissing on.

    • Scott Lemieux

      when the GOP objected

      Fortunately, it’s not like any of their votes were needed or anything. What was Obama thinking?

      a health care regime to the right of effin’ Switzerland’s

      How it compares to the status quo ante in the United States seems rather more relevant.

      • Pat

        Le sigh. You’re accepting the premise of the filibuster, for reasons I don’t understand. As to the second point: Fifty years ago, when the social insurance was last expanded, by LBJ, health care costs comprised 5% of U.S. GDP. Today it’s 20%. The Swiss are the only other country with health care costs growing anywhere near the rate of the U.S., and Joe Biden’s “big [effin’] deal” isn’t as good a deal as the Swiss get. Fifty years between incremental expansions in health coverage implies it’ll be another 100, 150 years before the American political establishment achieves a sustainable health care status quo. The growth in health care costs over that same time, however, implies the health care sector will comprise 65% of the U.S. economy by that time.

        I could go on with climate change and wealth inequality, but somehow I think the message would still not hit home. That message, again, is this: The Democratic party does not have a meaningful strategy to handle any of this. Winning elections is scoring points, bu they don’t have a plan to win the game. Kicking a field goal late in the fourth when you’re down two touchdowns, call it. To repeat myself: Voting for Democrats isn’t a meaningful way to accomplish necessary social change.

        • Single payer can definitely happen at the state level, as Vermont has shown. We can’t do as much about the climate at the state level, but there’s still a lot we can do. It’s a mistake to focus too much on the national level, and particularly on the presidential race.

        • Scott Lemieux

          You’re accepting the premise of the filibuster, for reasons I don’t understand

          I’m “accepting” the filibuster because the filibuster rule was, in fact, in effect in 2009. It’s like saying “why do you accept the premise of the United States Senate?” By the rules actually in place, Republican votes were needed to pass the stimulus; that I’d like to get rid of the filibuster is beside the point.

          The Swiss are the only other country with health care costs growing anywhere near the rate of the U.S., and Joe Biden’s “big [effin’] deal” isn’t as good a deal as the Swiss get.

          I’m not saying that the Swiss system isn’t better. I’m saying that given the institutional realities of the American system it’s the ACA or nothing, and it is incredibly reactionary to choose “nothing.”

          • Pat

            And I’m not saying that the Swiss system is better. I’m saying that the Swiss system would be insufficient, and we didn’t achieve even that much.

            What confuses me is that we seem to be analytically on the same page. I agree that, in the context of American institutions, greater change than what Obama managed was probably impossible. (On my grimmer days, I have a different view, and I wonder what the world would look like if Tom Daschle, and not Tim Geithner, had been given a pass on the nonpayment-of-taxes thing. If you ever want to suffer, retain that little bit of hope.) And I suspect you agree with me that greater change than what Obama managed is very, very important (I would say “necessary” but hesitate to put that word in your mouth).

            But put those two together, and you get the following: The American political system makes impossible the sorts of changes that we need very much. My response to that realization—why bother?—makes sense to me. Your response—bother a great deal!—does not.

            • Scott Lemieux

              My response to that realization—why bother?—makes sense to me.

              If you’re a reactionary, complete indifference to changes (Medicaid expansion, bans on pre-condition exemptions, DADT repeal, Ledbetter Act, voting rights enforcement, civil rights enforcement, environmental regulation enforcement, etc. etc. etc.) that benefit the most vulnerable citizens in America might make sense. If you’re a progressive, not so much. To not care about making things better if you can’t get everything you want is 1)puerile, and 2)not remotely progressive.

              • Pat

                Le sigh, again. I can “shorter” your comment by deleting every word but “reactionary” and adding an exclamation point.

                And, lest it be overlooked, the condition “if you can’t get everything you want” is a gross bit of misreading. I’m not talking about a perfect world; I’m talking about a status quo that is bare-minimum sustainable. The Democrats are not currently steering the ship of state in that direction, and I don’t particularly intend to cheer for them on the way to the iceberg. To abuse a metaphor.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  “Sustainable,” “necessary”…this is all bullshit thinking, Fred Hiatt thinking. Hundreds of millions of people will live in the United States of America. Things will be better, or worse. Spending too much on healthcare won’t cause the country to disappear, and is a really stupid reason not to expand medicaid or uphold Roe v. Wade.

                  Your “kicking a field goal” analogy is instructive, because it doesn’t actually make any sense. In football, the only object is to win. In public policy, better is always better than worse and makes a difference in a great many lives.

                • Anonymous

                  Ah. So you’ve given up on calling me “reactionary” and taken up calling me Fred Hiatt.

                  Clap. Clap. Clap. You’ll forgive me if I don’t find your insults to be terribly compelling. And not to put too fine a point on it, as between “vote because you’re supposed to” and “voting is a feel-good gesture that actually accomplishes nothing,” which do you suspect Fred Hiatt’s likelier to believe?

            • Lee

              Why bother? Because its still much better than the alternative, which is horrible beyond belief.

          • djangermous

            I’m “accepting” the filibuster because the filibuster rule was, in fact, in effect in 2009.

            Except for the parts of HCR they passed through reconciliation, which they couldn’t have used for HCR, until they did.

            • Scott Lemieux

              1)They couldn’t have passed the PPACA (as opposed to a bill making some minor changes to reconcile the bills already passed by the House and Senate) through reconciliation, and 2)we were talking about stimulus, which certainly couldn’t have been passed through reconciliation. But thanks for playing!

              • Whispers

                Somehow these filibuster restrictions never seem to stop the Republicans from getting passed the legislation they want passed. While the Democrats make excuses for their traitors, the Republicans demand compliance from their own while going on the offensive against Democrats who stick with their own caucus.

                It’s like watching a tug-of-war where one side cares about which way their people are pulling while the other side doesn’t.

                The filibuster is only a barrier because Democrats let it be one.

                • “Somehow these filibuster restrictions never seem to stop the Republicans from getting passed the legislation they want passed.”

                  It was truly impressive how George W. Bush crushed that bloc of Democratic Senators to steamroll the gutting of Social Security back in 2005, wasn’t it?

                  More seriously, when you say “what Republicans want” you mean “tax cuts,” and the reason for that quite simply is that you can easily get those through reconiliation, which is exactly what Bush did. But other than that, what filibusters did Bush quash?

                • Pat

                  The filibuster is only a barrier because Democrats let it be one.

                  Genaue gesagt. Exactly put.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Somehow these filibuster restrictions never seem to stop the Republicans from getting passed the legislation they want passed. While the Democrats make excuses for their traitors, the Republicans demand compliance from their own while going on the offensive against Democrats who stick with their own caucus.

                  The major legislation passed under the Bush administration was either stuff that actually can be passed through reconciliation (tax cuts) or compromise bills with some measure of Democratic support (NCLB, Medicare expansion.) The Bush steamroller is largely a myth, with the addition that Senate malapporionment means that the GOP can afford to be more homogenous.

                • dlankerlanger

                  “Somehow these filibuster restrictions never seem to stop the Republicans from getting passed the legislation they want passed.”

                  well see the republicans can pass tax cuts because through reconicilation because they massively balloon the budget deficit, whereas democrats can’t pass a public option or a stimulus package through reconciliation because those would shrink the budget deficit.

                  mmmmm, koolaid is yummy

              • dlankerlanger

                which absolutely could have been passed through reconciliation.

                But you’re right, I mistakenly thought you were talking about the public option that could have been passed through reconciliation, instead of the stimulus which could have been passed through reconciliation.

                u sikk-burned me reel badd thur dugg

    • Malaclypse

      So tell me, Mr. “You take over the party structure,” how’s that workin’ out for ya?

      Well, if I were gay, or uninsured, or Iraqi, it would have worked reasonably well. I’m a straight white male who makes okay money, so I suppose I could ignore those not in that position, and vote purity. Solidarity, Comrade!

      • Pat

        Thanks for the lecture. Sadly, I’m uninsured myself, so I didn’t actually need it on that point.

        DOMA and DADA are one area where I actually think my argument is pretty thin; I can’t imagine McCain or Romney matching Obama’s steps on this. (I’m ambivalent on the material impact of the president announcing his support for gay marriage on state laws, but let’s concede it for sake of argument.) I think women’s health and reproductive rights supports your point more than Iraq.

        • Pat

          Grr, that should of course be “DADT,” not “DADA.” I like Dada, tho’.

      • Whispers

        I’m uninsured. Obama and company have passed a law ordering me to buy insurance.

        Not seeing how that helps me. It’s not like I have been unaware of the existence of health insurance.

        Has Obama made life better for Iraqis? What about Yemenis? Or Libyans or Afghans or Pakistanis? It’s far from clear to me that Obama’s continuance of Great American Empire policies is really helping people abroad. I know it’s what Real America (TM) wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

        • Janastas359

          I think you “forgot” to mention the part of the law where the government will help you pay for your medical care if you can’t afford it. If you don’t have insurance not because of the cost, but because you just don’t think you need it, I don’t have much sympathy for you.

          Of course, glossing over any actual achievements of the last four years seems to be one of your favorite things to do, so there’s that.

    • Progressives haven’t attempted to take over party structures. They’ve voted for Obama. Very different things. Taking over party structures means going to boring ass meetings.

      • Slight correction, because I’ve done just that for seven years: it means going to both boring meetings and insane off-the-wall meetings where you realize that contrary to empirical evidence, not all of us are living in or seeing the same reality.

        • Well, if we are talking public meetings, sure thing. Nothing worse than random people pontificating for 5 minutes about nothing. If we are talking about boring internal county Democratic Party committee meetings, probably much less so.

      • That’d be a much better conversation to have with Greenwald and Sirota than the degree of pointlessness a vote for Stein is.

        • Paula

          Well, you can start with telling me how many people Accountability Now! has gotten elected.

    • In 2004, TNR editors endorsed Lieberman, not Kerry. Just for the record.

      • Pat

        I recall. That endorsement mentioned Howard Dean about a dozen times before it got around to naming the subject of the endorsement itself; my point was more about the anti-Dean movement than any pro-Kerry sentiment. Since, you know, the latter was about as easy to find as Sasquatch.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The New Republic, to state the obvious, wasn’t the reason Dean lost, and the guy he lost to had a more liberal record.

          • Pat

            Effin’ cee. On gun control. Not on the Iraq war. You do recall 2004? You do remember that Iraq was somewhat salient and gun control somewhat, um, less so that year?

            On a larger note, can I just flag that (a) you’re picking nits that are largely irrelevant to the larger case and (b) it’s entirely obvious the reason why you’re picking at those nits rather than address the central case? If you want me to revise my argument in light of your stellar observation, then fine, TNR is merely emblematic of a centrist Democratic establishment that resists any tendency of its membership to embrace any sort of actual leftism, and their endorsement of not-Howard Dean Joe Lieberman was not the reason for Dean’s loss but surely correlates to its actual reason, the alignment of the party’s apparatus against him? It was not merely TNR banging the drumbeat against Dean’s candidacy.

            Look, it’s all over now, and I expect this flareup of supposedly righteous fury has subsided. So let’s just put forward what’s entirely obvious to everyone who has thought these things through: From now until the end of Obama’s administration, every time he sells us all out, every time the president makes a compromise that you simply can’t understand except through the lens of “maybe Democrats don’t actually care about the things they tell us they care about, after all,” you can just append a big “WE TOLD YOU SO” at the end.

            Starting with the raise of the Social Security eligibility age in five, four, three .

  • Anonymous

    What’s missing from this argument is the case for voting for Obama. You’ve conceded that Obama has killed a disappointing number of children, and that electing him is basically tangential to progressive goals, which happen at the local level.

    So, why should we care about the Presidential election, again?

    Also, I like how bringing up the deaths of millions of people is cheap and tawdry, unless, of course, you’re talking about Romney’s policies.

    • djangermous

      What’s missing from this argument is the case for voting for Obama.

      That’s because it’s a separate article linked from the first sentence of this post.

    • Bruce Baugh

      Many of us think that significant even though flawed expansions of health care, and pay equality, and whittling away at entrenched homophobic law and regulation, and some significant new measures of financial oversight, and giving the FDA a lot more meaningful regulatory power over tobacco, are…

      Well, hold on. What do you you think progressive goals are all about? What does progressivism, in your view, consist of?

      • FlipYrWhig

        If I have learned anything from the past 4 years, it is that the most pressing political, social, and legal issue of our time, the defining matter that separates progressives from reactionaries, is what to do about people who move from America to Yemen to plan terrorist attacks, and what kind of projectile it is or isn’t appropriate to try to hit him with.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Also, once a long-time progressive goal is turned into a statute, it by definition ceases to have ever been a progressive goal. Repealing DADT, who cares, Obama should have issued an executive order making same-sex marriage a national right!

        • Lyanna

          Seriously. The obsession with drones is pretty weird. There was an extremely stupid argument in the comments of Jill Filipovic’s Obama endorsement on Feministe, wherein commenters were seriously arguing that drone strikes were worse than a declared war because at least declared wars involve public debate and (I’m not kidding here) give Pakistan a chance to fight back.

          What good all this public debate actually does, or how exactly Pakistan would ever fight back against the US, went happily unexplained.

          • david mizner

            The “obsession” with drones begins with Obama, who’s made it the primary killing tool of the US military machine. If he were using staple guns to kill suspects without due process, break the law, slaughter innocents, and perpetuate secret, dirty wars, then the antiwar movement would focus on staple guns.

            • Marc McKenzie

              Nice way to dodge Flip’s point….

              • Leeds man

                Flip’s point seems to be that there is no such thing as “collateral damage”. It’s one thing to give a temporary pass during election season, another entirely to pretend that all drone casualties are on the kill list.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  My point re: drones is that I have seen nothing to indicate that drones are more likely to cause civilian casualties than any other weapon. If your issue is “dead innocents,” what you want is tighter oversight over how all weapons are used.

                  My point re: civil liberties is that the phrase is getting twisted and constricted so that a very small set of issues (basically Awlaki and civilian casualties in Pakistan) is being made to seem like a very big one.

            • FlipYrWhig

              I don’t think that’s true. The only reason why the complaint has any traction is that it’s a way to create a narrow category to decry Obama as a unique new kind of warmonger. Because no one, but no one, thinks that Obama has presided over more civilian casualties than other presidents. If anything, he’s noteworthy for his _restraint_ in that regard. It’s like being all in a dither because Woodrow Wilson was the worst president yet when it came to biplanes.

              Anything above zero is obviously still a moral problem, but it’s beyond peculiar to decide that this is the issue around which politics and ethics will henceforth revolve.

        • david mizner

          Funny that you think that dismissing the killing of innocents bolsters your point.

          • Marc

            Nope. We think the war itself, and not a tactic used in the war, is the relevant question.

            Silly us.

            • david mizner

              See above. It’s not antiwar liberals who are making drones the issue. It’s the prowar president.

              • Marc McKenzie

                Uh…nah, not even gonna bother. Not sure if serious.

              • Bruce Baugh

                I listened again to MLK’s speech against the Vietnam war this afternoon. He had very little to say about the means of warfare: he preached against the triple evils of racism, economic inequality, and militarism. That seems right to me.

                The war in Afghanistan wouldn’t be any more moral if it were fought without drones. Arguing about drones is basically a wonk’s argument, like the people who get really passionate about which particular model of jet fighter gets used in immoral, unjustifiable battles. Among other things, it wastes the limited time and attention of people we need to be persuading of the fundamental point, which is that the war itself needs to end.

                Right now, the argument that drones are bad, m’kay, comes across to a lot of bystanders as an argument that we need more Americans getting killed – because they haven’t yet realized that the war itself needs to end. And it’s not like I was the first to point this out, or will be the last. Drone obsessing may well be hurting the cause of peace.

                And no, I’m not arguing that Obama is a peace candidate. But he definitely a less enthusiastic warmonger than Romney. A vote for Obama is in this regard something like pushing the body politic away from landmines and people spraying napalm, in hopes that we can keep it alive long enough to treat its cancer and leprosy.

        • Marc McKenzie

          Sadly, Flip, you’re spot-on about this. Think about it–how many times has GG written about the voter ID laws, the GOP’s war on women, and the repeal of DADT and HCR?

          Answer–nowhere the amount of times he’s written about drones. In other words, when it comes to these other issues, he’s been as quiet as the proverbial mouse.

          • Whispers

            If you want to write a blog about voter ID laws, the war on women, DADT, etc., go ahead and do so!

            GG is a constitutional lawyer primarily concerned with abuses of power. That’s what he was concerned about when Bush was President and that’s what he’s still concerned about.

            This type of complaint (“Blogger X isn’t writing about Y”) deserves a name of its own. Evasion? Distraction? But it’s worse than that. It’s an attempt to demand that the blogger serve your wishes. That’s not how the world works! He’s a blogger, not an elected representative! If you care about issues that he doesn’t write about, go write about them yourself! That’s how the marketplace of ideas works, right?

            • FWIW, I generally disdain that style of complaint too, but in this case, where you have a blogger who has routinely pushed Paul-curiosity on the basis of his assumed position as a “leading leftist,” the fact that he gives very little pen to these very important issues for progressives does seem somewhat relevant to the question of how serious actual progressives should take him as one of their own.

              Or, put another way, the lack of writing about those issues combined with his playing footsie with people like Gary Johnson and Ron Paul strongly suggest that, at the least, he doesn’t really care about them, which makes the notion of him as a “leading progressive” a touch problematic.

              • Scott Lemieux

                I don’t think GG has any obligation to write about anything. I would prefer that he stop promoting incredibly dumb arguments that endorse throwing the election to Romney that put no weight on most progressive issues.

  • And for anyone that wants to make a final push for Obama, you can make calls from home here:


  • Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think that the major reason for not voting for Jill Stein is the behavior of your average insane local greenie at neighborhood meetings. We sneak out for beers while the Randies and the greenies go after each other.

  • scott

    Never hold your own leaders accountable for their piss-poor performance + “organize” the public in some unspecified manner (How? To what end? With what message and means?) for uncountable decades = Paradise! It’s like the political version of Disney’s Tomorrowland, dodging any engagement with the last 4 decades’ rightward drift of the Democratic Party in the service of fuzzy happytalk about “reform from within” that promptly gets abandoned after every election. If you want to be disappointed, be disappointed with yourself for joining in the ever popular exercise of excusing our “leaders” while hectoring poor schlubs like us if we ever deign to express any anger about it. I’ll vote for Obama because I hate the other guy, and I agree with strong support of unions, but giving the feckless Democratic Party leadership a free pass as you do is just a recipe for continued rightward drift. I’m disappointed with you.

    • Yes, an unthinkable fairyland paradise.

      Like the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and a whole lot of other movements in American history.

      No one is giving the Democratic Party leadership a free pass. Fuck the Democratic Party leadership. That’s not the point.

      • “Yes, an unthinkable fairyland paradise.

        Like the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and a whole lot of other movements in American history. ”

        Though none of those movements have produced anything that I or, I suspect, anyone associated with them would call “paradise,” which I think should be the main takeaway here. Fighting for progressive changes is a decades to centuries long process, so if you’re looking at it as a game of moving a few pieces around to produce a glorious victory, you’re just never going to get it right.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The slow boring of hard boards, some German said.

    • “With what message and means?) for uncountable decades = Paradise!”

      I see someone totally missed the point! I’m shocked!!

    • Scott Lemieux

      last 4 decades’ rightward drift of the Democratic Party

      Yeah, that mid-70s Democratic Party, with Robert Byrd as the Senate Majority Leader, was a real Golden Age. There were so many legislative accomplishments during the Carter administration I’ve lost track!

      • Pat

        OSHA, the CRA, SALT II, Camp David, plus he signed the law making air travel affordable for ordinary Americans. Oh, and he appointed the best Fed Chair this country’s ever seen. He got slammed for using a word (malaise) he actually never said, and in retrospect he should have sent one more helicopter, but I never understood the impetus to take a crap on Carter. His presidency was a series of small, sensible steps to make the world more peaceful and the American economy more humane—no more than that, but surely no less.

        And nice trick, naming Robert Byrd and not the guy who served as Majority Leader directly before him. I see what you did there.

        • IM

          The considerable democratic majority in congress and Carter didn’t work well together.

        • Scott Lemieux

          So, a set of accomplishments far less impressive than Obama’s. So where’s the rightward drift?

          • Plus, well, Volcker is, um, yeah…

            • Scott Lemieux

              Well, better than Greenspan. As a substitute for actual progressive legislation, not so much.

              • Well the best you could say for him, I guess, is that he did what was necessary to solve stagflation. Holding up a policy of deliberately creating a devastating recession as a huge victory for liberalism, however, seems a touch odd.

            • Pat

              Volcker is… what, exactly? A better central banker than Bernanke, Greenspan? Perhaps the only American central banker who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as any of the Swedes whose names I’d most certainly mispronounce?

              And Scott Lemieux, you’ll note that just a moment ago we were on different sides of the “it’s something, but not what I’d want in a perfect world” debate. Not sure I have a larger point, but it’s curious.

              • Scott Lemieux

                you’ll note that just a moment ago we were on different sides of the “it’s something, but not what I’d want in a perfect world” debate. Not sure I have a larger point, but it’s curious.

                ? I’m not saying Carter doesn’t deserve credit for appointing a better-than-average Fed Chief. But to compare that to the PPACA or repeal of DADT, no.

                • Pat

                  Well, let me put it this way: Fill in the blank. “Had President Obama appointed a Fed Chair even halfway as good as Paul Volcker, unemployment would be __ million lower than it is now.”

                  I really don’t see how you fail to get this point. Perhaps if I shout?


                  Better? Do you finally understand why some of us simply cannot declare allegiance with a president who can’t even say the word “stimulus,” let alone push for it? There are six million unemployed more than there should be, and potential employers ain’t exactly calling people with a four year gap on their resume. Which translates to six million lives, permanently ruined.

                  But hey. You voted for a guy who says he supports a woman’s right to choose. Which should be a terrific comfort when all the Planned Parenthoods get closed over his protest.

                • rea

                  If you have some marvelous theory about getting a bigger stimulus enacted, I’m sure we’d all love to ehar it, Pat.

                • Pat

                  Got-dammit… okay, how about the following: President Obama realizes at about the time that Rush Limbaugh says “I hope he fails” on a live microphone that Republicans, in fact, are not going to cooperate with his agenda, and dispatches President of the Senate Biden to Harry Reid’s office to announce that the Democrats are going to embrace party government, rather than some beautiful-dream vision of bipartisanship. On the first day of the session, the Senate does away with the filibuster rule, et voila! The only votes a bill needs in the upper chamber are those of the Democratic majority, which is comprised of self-interested politicians who realize that if the economy tanks, they lose their jobs.

                  Even easier: “Not turn economic policy over to Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke.”

                  I know. Totally crazy, right? To think our country could be run by effin’ grownups. What could I possibly be thinking?

                  Let’s step back for a second to the larger point. At the analytical level, I agree with you! The system is broken, and necessary as they all are, the outcomes I describe above were not going to happen. And that’s my point! Even with the Congress resulting from historic wave election, the Democrats were incapable of taking that minimal step toward fixing the economy for poor people. That Paul Krugman told them how to fix it and Nate Silver told them why they should fix it didn’t matter as long as David Gregory et al. told them it would cost too much. (You will note short-term treasuries are pricing below expected inflation, and this was all free money we’re talking about.)

                  You will forgive me for not dancing in the streets that these guys just got reelected. It is, of course, your right as an American to do so, should you choose. But if you think this election changed anything that needs changing, sheesh.

          • Pat

            I can’t tell if you’re a Nate Silver fan, so I don’t know if I could get by with the heuristic of “park effects,” but let’s just agree that context matters. President Obama took office at the beginning of a global depression where the only political opposition had just been thoroughly discredited; I’m not sure if President Carter in such an environment would have succeeded in resurrecting the New Deal coalition (minus the outright racists), but I am beyond convinced that a President Gore would have. President Carter faced a starkly different political environment but still managed to do some good.

            • President Carter was too the right of the median Democrat in Congress, however, which helped produce some of those problems.

              • Pat

                *”the post-Watergate Congress, which was historically quite liberal.”

                Fixed that for ya. And evidently I do need to explain “park effects”….

      • dlankerlanger

        “Yeah, that mid-70s Democratic Party, with Robert Byrd as the Senate Majority Leader”

        Well that was a breathtakingly one-two punch of casual dishonesty.

  • I will say that I think you’re a touch off base in more or less saying The Left has fallen out of the reality based community. I don’t think it’s really that bad, certainly not as bad as the wingnuts, and instead think you’re really dealing with two kinds of animal:

    1. The professional pundit rabble-rousing for their own gain (and I would note that the wingnut radio hosts actually do this same thing with the GOP, even though they own the damn party)

    2. A segment of “leftist” who doesn’t care about actual politics and change so much as he cares about tribal signaling and winning internecine fights. These are the ones who incessantly move the goalposts to declare that anything that gets done by definition doesn’t count, or who prattle on about “deal breakers” like the public option or some other such nonsense.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Also, the guy who has never been close to “tough” who enjoys lecturing everyone else about how to fight hard and stand up to bullies.

      There are people who specialize in never being satisfied because they think once you’re satisfied, you’re a patsy. They want to be disgruntled to show that they can’t be bought off or placated.

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