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If You Can Have Chuck Schumer, I Can Have Neoconfederate Crank Du Jour…

[ 119 ] July 18, 2013 |

Matt is at his best when he steps outside the confines of Moneybox

Police tactics based on systematic racial discrimination are wrong, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly seems to have pursued such tactics, and as such I would not be pleased to see him appointed to federal office. So I agree with Conor Friedersdorf that it reflects poorly on Senator Chuck Schumer that he’s pushing for Kelly to be Secretary of Homeland Security. And since a big part of Friedersdorf’s schtick is overblown accusations of liberal hypocrisy the fact that Schumer has this bad idea becomes “Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling.”

Conor’s game here is fairly clear; if Democrats can compromise on Ray Kelly, then why do they complain so much when libertarians and anti-imperialists embrace Rand Paul on drones/imperialism/the national security state?  Setting aside the fact that even Rand Paul doesn’t know what Rand Paul’s position on drone strikes is, Matt arrives at the correct answer:

Does that make Schumer a civil liberties hero? No. If you actually know much about Schumer you’d know he really distinguishes himself as one of the least civil libertarian major figures in the Democratic Party. He’s part of a cohort of white Democrats from big liberal cities who made their political bones during the high-crime 1980s and early 1990s by specifically distinguishing themselves as pro-cop, “tough on crime,” figures and he’s carried that political profile with him forward into the Senate and into a very different time in American urban life. It is no coincidence that Senator Dianne Feinstein shares a very similar career trajectory and ideological profile (it’s superficially paradoxical that two of the most aggressively authoritarian Democratic Senators are from San Francisco and Brooklyn, but there’s a reason for it). But Schumer did do this one thing, at least. To be maximally ungenerous to Schumer, he did it because he is embedded in a New York State political coalition that heavily depends on the votes of people of Puerto Rican origin so he needs to do something or other to promote the careers of prominent Puerto Rican Democrats and it just so happens that you can’t find any well-qualified Puerto Rican jurists who endorse systematic racial discrimination. Maybe if you could have found a judge like that, Schumer would have picked him instead. But of course it’s not a coincidence that well-qualified Puerto Rican jurists are unlikely to endorse systematic racial discrimination. What we see here is an example of how when you empower the political coalition that includes racial and ethnic minority groups, you end up promoting the interests of racial and ethnic minority groups even in cases when the leaders of the coalition don’t share their priorities because politics is complicated. And though Schumer certainly is a prominent Democrat, he is an outlier in the party on this particular topic and (fortunately) the Democrats currently running for mayor in New York come from a different political context and don’t want Kelly to keep his job as commissioner which is precisely why Schumer is casting about to give him another gig.

Meanwhile, though Schumer is personally bad on civil liberties in a municipal policing context he is personally taking the lead in securing amnesty for millions of otherwise law-abiding people who’ve violated America’s immigration laws while libertarian hero Rand Paul calls for increased militarization of the border and a more intrusive domestic surveillance system to help “track visitors still in the country because of visa overstays.”

Rand Paul, by contrast, is embedded within a coalition that strongly values neo-confederate crankery, something that Conor is all too aware of.  The pleasant (if often contradictory) statements of Paul notwithstanding, this coalition has not demonstrated any significant, long-lasting commitment either to civil liberties (if we understand this to mean something more than “the gubmint stays out of the hair of rich, privileged white folks”) or an anti-imperialist foreign policy. To be most charitable to Conor, it seems that he just doesn’t get that white supremacy and white privilege are features, not bugs, for a significant portion of the voting constituency of right wing candidates who make pleasantly libertarian sounding noises.  It’s not as if “reject government interference” and “white supremacy” are the “tastes great” and “less filling” of the Paul coalition, with each contesting for Rand’s precious soul; the rejection of federal government interference is a key objective of the white supremacists, and white supremacy an extraordinarily likely outcome of the rejection of government interference.

Hypocrisy trolling makes up a very considerable percentage of Conor’s political commentary. Matt again:

I mention this not-so-Moneybox subject because Friedersdorf and I have had some exchanges on twitter recently where I’ve expressed frustration with his writings on these kind of issues. And to me it comes back to this. I think he and I are close on the merits of the issues at hand. But he has a hyperactive hypocrisy detector combined with a dogmatic and highly tribal opposition to political tribalism that creates blindness about the actual modalities of political change. While liberals may hope that Paul comes to have more influence over GOP foreign policy and Schumer less influence over Democratic Party views on policing, people who understand how representative government works are going to remain fundamentally comfortable with our basic partisan commitments and there’s nothing even a little bit hypocritical about it.


I still remain utterly perplexed as to why the Crooked Timber folks thought that Friedersdorf’s trolling on drones before the election was to be taken seriously. The answer to the question “Why do Democrats vote Democrat even because of the drones?” is neither complicated nor particularly interesting; the answer is obviously that a) Democrats care about things other than drones, and b) that alternative voting choices were likely to produce worse outcomes even on drone policy.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    “Is it moral to vote for Obama because of drones?”

    No. Thankfully, that wasn’t the only issue at stake in the 2012 elections. Jesus X Christ, how can anybody write that kind of thing with a straight face?

    • rea

      “Is it moral to vote for Obama because of drones?”

      . . is a awkward way to phrase it. Plainly, Obama’s drone policy does not make voting for him a moral imperative. But, considering the alternatives and the other issues invvled in a presidential election, Obama’s drone policy does not make voting for him immoral.

  • Ronan

    “The answer to the question “Why do Democrats vote Democrat even because of the drones?” is neither complicated nor particularly interesting”

    But, and Im not trolling, that wasnt the question. The question was why do ‘Democrats’ find these policies more objectionable during a Republican admin than a Dem one.
    That might be a strawman, but that was F-dorfs argument (along with why is gay marriage or creationism a dealbreaker but not drones) He did acknowledge there are ways you can continue to vote Dem and not support drones

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I think it becomes more of an issue for Dems when Republicans are in charge for political reasons – which is sort of a bad thing yet it’s also how things are – if we had President Rand Paul, he’d be using drones as much as Obama and the majority of Republicans wouldn’t be saying much if anything about it

    • Robert Farley

      Again, doesn’t seem to me to be terribly complicated. Turning down the volume on some concerns at some times in pursuit of success for the coalition as a whole isn’t stupid or tribal or even hypocritical in any kind of politically meaningful sense; it’s strategic.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Perhaps that works for people who feel strongly identified with the coalition and can thus understand their own behavior as strategic in that sense.

        I voted for Obama (twice, if fruitlessly, in a deeply red state), but did so purely because the alternative was even worse. I do worry about a ratchet effect on issues like drones and civil liberties, in which things get dramatically worse when Republicans are in charge and then the Democrats slow down the speed with which things get worse but essentially reaffirm the losses that took place under the GOP. For me the shape of the Democratic coalition is itself a major problem in contemporary American politics. But, having said that, in the short (and probably medium) run, we have only two real choices in national elections and the Democratic Party remains the lesser evil and will get my vote as a result.

      • Code Name Cain

        it’s strategic

        …And I’ve found the disconnect. Libertarians don’t believe in game theory.

        • Cody

          Libertarians don’t believe in game theory thinking


      • I think the complicated part is that coalition politics involve two games: 1) success for the coalition; 2) making sure the coalition delivers on your issues of interest.

        I think the deal breaker and voting issues do tend to be trolling. However, varying your level of support (how much money to donate? give to candidates or to PACs or to party organizations? how much time spent advocating) is part of the ensuring-delivery game and is often easier to play before elections.

        To use the example above, presumably various Puerto Rican leaders and voters effectively made their interest known to their Senator by a variety of means, sometimes before the election. That’s part of coalition politics too.

    • Royko

      Gay marriage has never been a dealbreaker. Obama himself was elected while opposing (though not forcefully) gay marriage, and Clinton signed DOMA.

      Heck, it’s even possible that Democrats would elect a creationist if he was better on enough other issues and running against a Republican creationist, but there’s never really been an opportunity to test this theory.

      In both parties, there is a degree of being more concerned about transgressions of the other side, but this usually just makes itself pronounced in the intensity of blog posts and comments. In most cases, it just comes down to the lesser of two evils rather than willful disregard for their own side’s problems.

      But if Republicans want to start nominating extremely liberal candidates to test that theory, hey, more power to them.

    • rea

      The question was why do ‘Democrats’ find these policies more objectionable during a Republican admin than a Dem one.

      The question is a straw man. Armed drones were only invented toward the end of the last Republican administration. That adminstration cheerfully used jet fighters and cruise misssiles in circumstances in which Obama uses drones. Obama’s policies on use of military force, however objectionable, are in fact significantly more restrained than his predecssor’s.

      • Ronan

        Well his point was more general rather than specifically comparing drone outrage across admins, more along the lines of ‘why so much outrage against Bush but not Obama’

        • Because, after all, who can tell the difference between “targeted attacks” and a full on (illegal) ground invasion of another state?

          • Ronan

            Well, lets not get back into Obamas options in 2013 and Bushs in 2003, and the hypothetical Gores War that I feel was inevitable

            • JMP

              Bush’s options in 2003? Wasn’t that to either do what he did or basically, you know, not decide to invade Iraq just for the hell of it, and lie to the American people to get them to support the invasion?

            • rea

              I don’t mean to be impolite, but you notion of a “Gore’s War” is nonsense.

              • Ronan

                I know I know, ive become reconciled to the fact that this hypothetical will be ignored in my lifetime

                • JMP

                  Probably because it deserves to be taken as seriously as the “The moon landing was faked!” conspiracy theory.

                • Ronan

                  There’s no exclamation mark at the end of that conspiracy

                • Ronan

                  we like to be taken seriously

                • Ronan

                  If the moon landing wasnt faked then why did Hitler kill JFK?

              • Ronan
      • i.boskone

        Armed drones were only invented toward the end of the last Republican administration

        Armed drones began flying missions then, but according to books like THE WAY OF THE KNIFE by Mark Mazzetti, the idea of fitting ordnance to them for a more focused approach to hitting targets was floated during Clinton’s administration and after the cruise missile strikes against bin Laden in response to the African embassy bombings missed him by a matter of hours (or less IIRC). An uncharitable thought would be that when GWB came into office, the armed Predator program was left dormant for the better part of his two terms because it was “a Dem’s idea”.

        • joe from Lowell

          An uncharitable thought would be that when GWB came into office, the armed Predator program was left dormant for the better part of his two terms because it was “a Dem’s idea”.

          Far be it for me to be charitable to the Republicans, but it’s much more likely that the Bush administration did very little with armed drones because armed drones simply aren’t very good at doing the things the Bush administration wanted to do.

          They can’t control territory. They can’t control resources. They can’t crush a state-sized military. They can’t install puppets. They can’t overthrow governments. You need large ground forces for those things.

          Armed drones are good at killing a couple of high-value targets at a time, and we know how seriously President I-Don’t-Really-Think-About-Bin-Laden, OK-You’ve-Covered-Your-Ass took the job of taking down al Qaeda.

    • Ronan

      Just to reply to all three comments (and I agree generally with the points made) but is there not a legitimate space for someone to actually see drones as a dealbreaker? (although Im not saying F-Dorf is that person – and I do think that to take that position you would generally have to be coming from a quite privileged position with a whole host of other issues not affecting you)
      And Farrels point, that maybe making this an issue would change it, does seem to have something to it retrospectively as the public outcry against drones seems to have had some affect on the admins policy (from what I can see, although Im open to be wrong, and accepting that a move away from drone strikes will prob just increase more covert actions)

      “Turning down the volume on some concerns at some times in pursuit of success for the coalition as a whole isn’t stupid or tribal or even hypocritical in any kind of politically meaningful sense; it’s strategic.”

      I can see the strategy in turning up the volume when the other side are in office, but to turn it down would be to imply that it was never a real concern/priority. Isnt that the time to push concerns(when your side are in office)so as to try and affect change? (And once again I dont have a problem with people prioritising domestic concerns, or ones more realistically able to be changed, just think that he did have a point that some of the opposition to some of Bush’s FP were more strategic than genuine concerns)

      • djw

        Speaking only for myself,I continue to believe that the very concept of “dealbreakers” are a fundamentally unserious and irrational way of thinking about political engagement.

        • Ronan

          I have to say I have a good bit of sympathy for those who stand by dealbreakers. I think of my grandmother, who voted for the same party throughout here life b/c of the ‘economic war’ with the UK in the 30s, and said she would still vote for them even if they took away her pension and kicked her out into the street (she’s prone to hyperbole)
          I know that’s not really a serious repsonse, and I dont have a rational explanation for why standing by dealbreakers is a good idea..but I tend to sympathise

          • Royko

            I’m sympathetic to it, too. I think emotional responses, and, in small doses, stubbornness, are qualities that can, in the right context, help humanity. But they just aren’t qualities that are especially useful in American elections. In those, you can only choose the less bad of two options.

            If you want anything else, you need to work at a long-term strategy to change the party, from without or within (which is a topic I’d love to see delved into more often.)

            • Ronan

              Yeah I agree its no substitute for l/t strategy, and in the context of the US (from what Ive read around here) there’s no alternative really
              I wouldnt not vote Dem based on drones either, if I had the choice, so Im not pushing some holier than thou moralising

        • Bill Murray

          see I would say having nothing that you wouldn’t give up in the pursuit of winning is fundamentally unserious and irrational way to be a human. Further it is often inimical to actually winning

          • janastas359

            But, that’s not what he’s saying. The point is that issues exist as part of a larger context, including what both candidates believe.

      • rea

        is there not a legitimate space for someone to actually see drones as a dealbreaker?

        I’s a binary choice–you either elect the Democrat or the Republican. Nobody other than a complete idiot would find Obama’s drone policy so objectionable as to prefer the election of someone who thinks the problem with the drone policy is it’s too wimpy, and wishes we still had 250,000 troops in Iraq, and thinks that we should stay in Afghanistan another century, and beleives that additional wars in Iran and Syria are desirable.

      • L2P

        but is there not a legitimate space for someone to actually see drones as a dealbreaker

        What’s the “deal” that’s getting broken? If you don’t vote Democratic it’s not like the Republicans are going to suddenly stop using drones because of your vote because you have a “deal” with them. You have three choices: (1) vote for the perhaps-only-slightly-better Democrats, (2) vote for the absolutely-will-bomb-the-CRAP-out-of-our-enemies Republicans, or (3) vote for somebody else, which is a vote for the absolutely-will-bomb-the-CRAP-out-of-our-enemies Republicans.

        Even if stuff like feeding the starving and not watching children die of cancer doesn’t matter to you at all, it’s still an easy choice if you’re against drones.

        • EliHawk

          Recently reading Nixonland, I was struck by how all the anti-war protesters descended on Chicago to destroy the Democratic Party and seemed to completely ignore Nixon in Miami, even though he ended up being far worse than what Humphrey likely would have been.

          • Well, to be fair, it was the Democratic incumbent who was prosecuting the war up to that point.

            • EliHawk

              I get that, but then I read about some of them hoping Nixon would win so the revolution will come sooner, and I want to strangle them.

              • rea

                Nixon actually campaigned as something of a dove on Vietnam–“secret plan to end the war” and all that.

              • Hogan

                Some of them mentioned Wallace too.

            • joe from Lowell

              Well, to be fair, it was the Democratic incumbent who was prosecuting the war up to that point.

              And the 1969-1975 period of the Vietnam War serves to demonstrate the efficacy of this thought process.

    • I find these questions “why did liberals do X under Bush” kind of weird–I objected to each and every policy put forward by Bush in turn, and there were days when he was putting out so many I felt like I was being attacked by a swarm of bees. I barely had energy left to breathe. I still object to many of those policies–in fact I’m still fighting Bush era economics, health care issues, voting rights issues, militariazation issues, etc..etc..etc… The question should be–why should I privilige fighting the Obama administration on drones more than I privilige fighting on all the other fronts I need to be fighting on just to try to keep even on other shit?

      • Ronan

        I, personally, dont think you should privilege drones over other fronts, i dont think it’s in anyway reasonable to expect people to make that decision.
        My only argument is that there seems to be more continuity on foreign policy than not, (which is always the Dem defence when the broad outlines of policy dont change), and that the line of argument that goes ‘without Bush we wouldnt have had X’ rings hollow, to me personally (but I accept fully that there are substantial differences domestically, and some reasonably important ones in FP)
        But the hypocricy argument is one often used against Reps (why wasnt X concerned with extension of presidential powers under Bush etc)

        • What the fuck is this continuity?

          • Ronan

            Where isnt there continuity? Are we going to imagine that path dependance isnt hugely important in sustaning US alliances/policies internationally? Look at the Israeli relationship, the main features of which broadly stay the same, (with changes depending on circumstance and context – and with george HW being one of the strongest presidents pushing against Israel)
            Look at the Iranian relationship and how overwhelmingly it still exists in the shadow of the rise of Khomeni, the hostage crisis and regional alliances (read Trita Parsi’s new book on the institutional difficulties that Obama faced when trying to change US policy towards Iran)
            Look at the Iraq relationship which, before 2003, was the arse end of an unsustainable sanctions regime that devastated the country
            Look at the way (according to Matzetti) targetted assasinations came from the CIA out of fear of prosecutions for torture. By extension look at how torture ended. How rendition came from policies that precedded it. How torture came from that context
            Either these institutional, ideological, geopolitical pressures matter or they dont.

            • joe from Lowell

              Where isnt there continuity?

              Uh, Iraq?

              Missile defense?

              Nuclear arms reduction?

              Iran war?

              Arab Spring?

              Opposing coups in Central America instead of launching them?

              • Ronan

                I must have missed the Iran war. Also the Republican response to the Arab Spring (what difference would there have been, directly arm the Syrian oppossition earlier?)
                What *major* differences have there been on nuclear arms reduction and misssile defence? That seems fair as an area where presidential perogatives might make a difference, but a substantial one?
                A lot of central american coup supporting was tied up in cold war politics and regional alliance, why do you think a Dem president wouldnt have supported the overthrow of Allende, or supported the contras, or taken out Noriega? A Dem escalated Vietnam, a Dem implemented the bay of pigs? Where’s this actual difference?
                Torture was all but ended when Obama came to power, maybe a Pres Gore wouldnt have implemented a torture program that americans were directly implicated in (although theres a history of US support for torture and proxy torture, imo, would certainly have happened regardless) But do we know enough about how these decisions wer made to be sure? Im sceptical is all
                Which isnt to take a moral opinion on any of this, more to opposse the Rep bad Dems good dichotomy

                • Ronan

                  latin american rather than central would be more accurate

                • rea

                  I must have missed the Iran war

                  If there had been a Republican in office, you wouldn’t have.

                • Ronan

                  I think you seem like a wonderful human being rea, but we’re going to have to disagree on this one
                  With love and respect though

            • joe from Lowell

              By extension look at how torture ended.

              Oh, that’s right:


              Black sites.

    • joe from Lowell

      The question was why do ‘Democrats’ find these policies more objectionable during a Republican admin than a Dem one.

      They don’t. Opposition to drones has become much more common and important among Democrats under Obama than under Bush. Similarly, opposition to the war in Afghanistan has become much more widespread among Democrats under Obama than under Bush.

      This is a made-up controversy, drummed up by people who are so enamored of the “partisan hypocrites” storyline that they can’t bother checking their facts.

    • Cody

      I always assumed it more due to coalitions that they were a bigger deal under the “other team’s” party.

      For example, if Bush was using drones a lot of Democrats would be upset. Not a lot of them would care specifically about drones however – many would be there just because they opposite Bush for a lot of other things. It would just be a “rallying point”. We can all agree this thing is controversial, so we will protest around it. Sure, there are other issues I’m far more against, but why not link up against the Repubs?

      When your own team is in office, there is no coalition on your side forming like that. Some people are opposed to Obama’s drone policy – but people opposed to the NSA are linking up to those people. There is no desire to “protest Obama”, but a specific policy.

  • JMP

    What I still don’t understand is why drones are so bad. It seems like if you’re blowing people up, it doesn’t make a difference whether the pilot is in the cockpit or on the other side of the world; the people bombed are just as dead either way. The real problem seems to me that our targetted attacks on terrorists aren’t very well targetted, and kill far too many civilians that the government – and vast majority of Americans – are willing to accept as collateral damage.

    But no, apparenly according to a loud group of people is the kind of plane used for bombings. Because drones are bad, because – well they just are.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      It makes a difference because the psychological effect of the constant presence of drone surveillance on the targeted populations seems to be quite distinct from the effects of air strikes, raising concerns both about the human impact of drone warfare and its strategic effects. See, for example, the Living Under Drones study conducted by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law.

      • Barry

        In addition, drones are cheap, deniable and can be mass-produced much more easily than aircraft.

        • Davis X. Machina

          But not as cheaply as dumb iron gravity bombs, delivered by aircraft that we bought and paid for before most of us were born.

      • Hogan

        the psychological effect of the constant presence of drone surveillance on the targeted populations seems to be quite distinct from the effects of air strikes

        Is “distinct from” the same as “greater than”?

        • JMP

          Oh, I’m sure there’s tons of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen going, “A drone blew up my brother and I am very angry at America – because they used a drone to do this. If only they had killed him with a bomb dropped from a piloted plane, then I’d be perfectly OK with that.”

    • Marc

      It makes a difference because people who hate Obama finally found a narrow metric where they could complain that he was worse than Bush. Because the people killed by other means under the Bush adminstration didn’t count if the deaths didn’t involve drones.

      • JMP

        That’s about the only reason that I can think of. Let’s ignore that, as rea poined out above, the technology for drone strikes didn’t exist until shortly before Obama took office; some people need to prove their leftier-than-thou bona fides where they can claim “Obama was worse than Bush!” on a technicality.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Why assume that this is all about a comparison between Bush and Obama (about which drones are, for the reasons mention, not a particularly reasonable metric)?

          There are legitimate reasons to be disturbed by the widespread use of drones by this (or any other) administration.

          Yes, Bush was still clearly a vastly worse President than Obama. And drones did not constitute a sensible reason to vote for Romney last year.

          So what?

          • scott

            That’s really the point. Romney bad, Paul bad, Bush bad, I disagree with none of it, and they deserve every bit of criticism they get. Why we have to rope them into a discussion of what the administration is doing, and whether it’s good or bad, escapes me.

            • mpowell

              Are you paying attention at all? The debate is about whether “Is it moral to vote for Obama because of drones?”

              That’s specifically why the comparison is relevant.

          • JMP

            Because I don’t see how the widespread use of drones specifically is supposed to be disturbing. They’re invoked like like a big scary boogeyman. The issue should be that we’re bombing populations in order to kill a few individuals without regard civilian casualties, and not the delivery method.

            But instead, the focus is “drones scary!”.

            • Cody

              Also, I’m skeptical we didn’t do these kinds of “strikes” with other means.

              How often does the CIA assassinate someone? Would people in a Yemeni restaurant simply be shot by some guy in a drive-by instead, or a bomb put on his car?

              Seems drones just make it more traceable to the US as we’re the only ones using them right now. Otherwise, you have more deniability with more traditional means.

        • joe from Lowell

          Let’s ignore that, as rea poined out above, the technology for drone strikes didn’t exist until shortly before Obama took office

          Actually, no.

          The CIA killed a car full of al Qaeda with a drone strike in November 2002.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        So the folks at the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU Law School were big backers of Bush’s policies?

      • Scott Lemieux

        It makes a difference because people who hate Obama finally found a narrow metric where they could complain that he was worse than Bush. Because the people killed by other means under the Bush adminstration didn’t count if the deaths didn’t involve drones.

        We have a winner!

  • Uncle Kvetch

    And since a big part of Friedersdorf’s schtick is overblown accusations of liberal hypocrisy the fact that Schumer has this bad idea becomes “Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling.”

    The parallels between Friedersdorf and a certain regular commenter here at LGM are striking. Would it be irresponsible to speculate?

  • scott

    As I read it, the article was about how Dems like Obama and Schumer seemed comfortable with promoting a guy responsible for widespread racial and ethnic profiling, surveillance, and disruption of normal life in the local Muslim communities. He didn’t like that and thought that giving the guy a Cabinet post, instead of marginalizing him or just not rewarding him, was bad and reflected badly on people who supported it. It’s mysterious to me how an article like that is objectionable, especially when Matt himself says he agrees with it and just seems to dislike the tone or thinks CF is mean too Dems or whatever. What’s wrong with just calling BS where you see it?

    • rea

      There is nothing wrong with calling BS when you see it, which is why I’m clling it here. Schumer backs Kelly, apparently, and Obama has made a polite noice in response. Until someting actually happens, alarm is premature.

      • Bill Murray

        yea, I never leave a building until I’m sure the fire is going

        • Well, there’s a difference between making noise about a bad potential nominee and using a bad potential nominee to make a completely unwarranted accusation against Democrats/liberals.

        • NonyNony

          When the fire alarm gets pulled daily and you haven’t seen a fire yet?

          There have been a number of times I’ve sat in my office waiting to either smell smoke or have someone come and tell me we really need to get out because the alarm system in our building is unreliable.

          It’s actually a really good analogy, because if I freaked the shit out at everything that people raising the alarm wanted me to freak out I would be in perpetual freak-out mode 7 days a week. And if I wanted that in my life I would be a Republican.

    • mpowell

      “Prominent Democrats Are Now Comfortable With Racial and Ethnic Profiling”

      That’s the title of the article. And the whole story just misunderstands the dynamics of politics that allows this to occur. Read the article. The story isn’t that Ray Kelly shouldn’t be considered for the job. It’s a story about politics. And the story is wrong. That’s why MattY responded to it.

      • JMP

        According to the title, apparently Chuck Shumer is more than one person, because he’s the ontly prominent Democrat promoting Kelly actually mentioned in the article. It’s almost as if the author is disingenuously trying to smear Obama and the entire Democratic party based on the actions of one Senator.

    • L2P

      The article itself, if written differently, wouldn’t be objectionable if, say, a prominent Democrat had written it as a means of shaming her own party into not nominating Kelly. But instead it comes from a libertarian concern troll. And instead of putting things in context, this libertarian concern troll writes the article as if the Democrats, and not the Republicans, are the bad guys on racial profiling and drone use.

      Lack of context in an article like this makes it propaganda.

    • “What’s wrong with just calling BS where you see it?”

      Because this is not how either Friedersdorf nor real world politics works.

    • Sharculese

      You’re operating under the mistaken notion that young Conor is arguing in good faith. He isn’t.

    • Halloween Jack

      It’s mysterious to me how an article like that is objectionable, especially when Matt himself says he agrees with it and just seems to dislike the tone or thinks CF is mean too Dems or whatever.

      Nice handwaving there, sport. Does it hurt your wrists when you do it that vigorously? Doesn’t all that blood rushing to your fingertips sting a little?

      Yggy is in fact very clear about what he finds objectionable. Perhaps you could actually trouble yourself to read it and respond on that basis.

    • joe from Lowell

      especially when Matt himself says he agrees with it and just seems to dislike the tone or thinks CF is mean too Dems or whatever

      That does not come within 100 miles of describing Yggie’s argument.

      Are you being deliberately disingenuous, or did you completely fail to understand what you read?

  • Pingback: Thursday Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging #3: Matthew Yglesias Is Tired of Trying to Reason with Conor Friedersdorf()

  • Peter Hovde

    I hereby award Farley 5 Internets.

    • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq

      Be sure to get Farley’s credit card number, for purposes of verification only, before you give five whole internets to him.

      • Cody

        If you pass me his social I can make the transaction go faster.

    • IM

      why Farley? Hasn’t Yglesias done the work here?

      Reward good behavior and all that.

  • TribalistMeathead

    alternative voting choices were likely to produce worse outcomes even on drone policy

    Well, if by “alternative voting choices” you mean “Romney/Ryan,” sure. Electing…whoever the fuck ran for President as a Libertarian may not have produced worse outcomes on drone policy, but definitely would’ve produced worse outcomes in other areas.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont

      Yes, it would have produced a Romney win. See 2000 presidential election.

    • NonyNony

      And electing a unicorn would have shit purple happy sparkles that cured cancer for the masses.

      You don’t just “elect” a third party candidate. It doesn’t happen. And if by some chance a third party candidate got thrown into office by some kind of cosmic accident, the amount of political bullshit they would put up with from Congress would make what Obama is going through now look like a day at the fair. They would have no allies in the legislature to help them at all because that’s how our government works.

      • Cody

        I feel like this also comes down to the stupid “President is responsible for everything” philosophy. Obama doesn’t make all the laws or budgets. He isn’t some kind of king (no matter what Republicans say).

        Imagine an independent… they would have to either make Dems or Repubs their allies. If not, they might go down the middle? In which case at best we would have our current President…

  • Jeffrey Beaumont

    I dont understand why the concern trolls are driven so crazy by the “lesser of two evils” argument. It is fine to be righteously idealistic, but if you can’t also put your pragmatic hat on, then you certainly can’t really engage with American politics (or really democratic politics anywhere).

    • Because, paradoxically, the people who consider themselves the True Progressives are much closer to libertarians than liberals in personality (that is, they’re very much obsessed with themselves), that they just do not begin to understand the reality of coalition politics.

    • JL

      Because they see it as a way to handwave away anything the lesser evil does as long as it’s still lesser. Because they think that their vote is their voice and by voting for the lesser evil they’re endorsing it.

      My own take on this is that this is why you participate in politics in multiple ways. I have voted for Obama twice, because I’m a believer in harm-reduction voting. I’ve also been involved with several protests of his policies, and give money to organizations like the ACLU that fight some of his nastier policies.

      I’m always a little confused that so many activists buy into the “My vote is my voice” argument against harm-reduction voting. These are people who express their political voice in all sorts of ways, many of which have a greater impact than their individual presidential-election pick. Your vote is a part of your voice, but so is everything else you do, and I’ve never gotten why so many are willing to implicitly downplay everything else that they spend their time and money on.

    • JMP

      I once was self-righteously idealistic like the purity trolls – but then I got old enough to drink legally. I understand it coming from the young, naive, self-important and idealistic, but from anyone ove 25 or so that kind of attitude is really had to understand.

    • Greg

      It’s a purity-based morality. A lot of our moral judgment as a species derives from the concept of disgust. There’s a primal connection in our minds between things that are gross–like spoiled food, feces, dead bodies, etc.–and things that are immoral. Moral repugnance feels the same as actual repugnance.

      Some people have a habit of treating all moral questions as questions this way. Getting too close to a source of moral repugnance is the same as getting too close to a source of physical disgust. You wouldn’t eat food you knew was spoiled, even if most of it was okay, because deliberately taking noxious bacteria into your body is gross.

      However, if your morality is based on avoiding taint, once you’ve avoided taint, your job is done. Consider the people whose only response to Walmart’s business practices is to boycott Walmart, or people who protest factory farms by only eating organic food. These actions by themselves will not change anything. But since they’ve separated themselves from the impurity, they’re in the clear.

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the same people who support third party politics also protest things like vaccinations and fluoridation, nor that one of their most common reasons for not supporting Obama or politicians like him is that they don’t want “blood on their hands”.

      • Jeffrey Beaumont

        Good analogies, but I guess those people are really just moralizing, and are not in any real way engaging in a political process.

      • Halloween Jack

        I think that that’s a really good point. See also: the recent anti-vaxer that visited here.

    • joe from Lowell

      I dont understand why the concern trolls are driven so crazy by the “lesser of two evils” argument.

      Because they view politics and voting primarily as a means of self-expression and -actualization.

  • CJColucci

    Back in 2008, someone put out a bumper sticker that said, in effect, vote for Obama and prepare to be disappointed. I was prepared to be disappointed. I expected to be disappointed. I even looked forward to being disappointed. Because disappointment isn’t rational unless there is some possibility of not being disappointed.
    And, indeed, I am disappointed. On a number of issues, on every single one of which the alternative would have been far worse. Which leaves everything where Obama has been acceptable or better.
    Would I like more exciting, less disappointing alterntaives? Sure. Do I know how to get them? No.

    • Greg

      In 2004, Howard Dean, the lefty darling in the primaries for his opposition to the war in Iraq, didn’t have anything approaching universal health care in his platform, and was considered part of the fringe for vocally supporting civil unions. Obama withdrew from Iraq, actually passed universal health care and is openly supportive of full marriage equality. By 2016, someone who merely supports civil unions will be seen as unacceptably conservative.

      Today’s compromise is tomorrow’s status quo. Take what you can get and demand more next time. You will simultaneously always be disappointed and always be making progress.

  • JL

    Conor’s doing his concern-troll thing again, but I don’t think he’s entirely wrong – there are some Democrats who seem a lot less bothered by problematic policies when someone from their own party is behind them. See the polling numbers by party affiliation on the NSA data collection programs.

    This is human nature, and about the least surprising thing ever (and I think libertarian implications that they are above all that petty tribalism are largely crap), but it’s still a phenomenon that exists and can have an impact.

    • janastas359

      I think it’s easier to get on the outrage train about this sort of thing when you see yourself as outside of the two party structure (like CF clearly does). His reward for being a libertarian is that he gets to snipe at members of both parties for changing views based on who is in power.

      On the other hand, CF also has very little ability to actually get his desired policies enacted, because he prefers to see himself as “above the fray” than actually try to get involved in a meaningful way.

      • L2P


        His purity allows him to (1) criticize people that actually have the opportunity to make messy deals that accomplish [some] of their policy goals while (2) having absolutely no ability to accomplish ANY of his policy goals.

        In other words, pro-free market republicans have to ally with cultural conservatives and put up with a lot of crap they haaaaate to get those tax cuts. Conor can just pretend that he would have gotten those awesome tax cuts through the power of his awesomeness.

    • rea

      Well, of course, if you had been paying attention, you’d know that Bush’s policies on this stuff were alot more extreme than Obama’s. Obama get warrants, for example.

      • Cody

        Yea, I try to remind people of this. At the same time, I don’t want to say “this is okay”. However, people use “Obama is spying on us!!!! Worst President EVER!!! Elect small-government Republicans!!!” as a line because of it. I just try to remind everyone on reddit, Bush did it illegally. And then we allowed those laws to get passed. And not enough people cared, why is this different? It’s not, just Republicans are spending tons of money reminding us of Obama and not Bush.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont

      I am less bothered by problematic policies when the democrats are behind them because at least we might be getting some good things along with the problematic policies. With the GOP, that is a lot less likely to be the case. There is really nothing else to say is there?

  • Joe

    Good analysis. I’m glad Sen. Gillibrand is there as a sort of sorbet to take the edge out of the bad taste at times in my mouth.

  • Manju

    its too early to tell, but domestic surveillance apparently “does not conform neatly to a liberal-conservative dimension”. Only a handful of topics in American History, Civil Rights for Af-Ams being the biggie, ultimately make their way out of the left-right paradigm.

    But for what its worth, take a look at the Patriot Act extension:

    An perfect ideological divide would produce a vertical line. This one, not so much.

  • joe from Lowell

    Missing from all of this back and forth: But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones.

    It is not hypocritical for liberal Democrats to vote for a President who pursues a policy that is overwhelmingly popular among liberal Democrats. A small minority whose opinion of an issue differs from a landslide majority of liberal Democrats does not get to define what the liberal position is on an issue.

    • Manju

      joe, lets not complicate this discussion by pointing our that the answer to the question:

      The answer to the question “Why do Democrats vote Democrat even because of the drones?” is neither complicated nor particularly interesting

      …is even simpler and less interesting than the masses here think.

      Democrats vote Democrat because they support the use of drones.

  • scott

    Is Ta-Nehisi Coates a hyperactive hypocrisy detector, too? Just asking?

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