Third Parties as Infantilism

by Henry on July 11, 2004

Brad DeLong tells us that Barbara Ehrenreich’s version of left-wing politics are an ‘infantile disorder.’ In support of this claim, he quotes in extenso from a Nation piece that she wrote in 2000, advocating support for Ralph Nader rather than Al Gore. Brad is being both condescending and obtuse – I have difficulty in seeing any evidence whatsover of infantilism in the piece that he quotes. Ehrenreich has two points to make. First – that if you’re really committed to major reform of the US political system, voting for the Democrats isn’t going to do it. The only way to create a real alternative is to build an alternative social movement – and alternative party – on the ground, which necessarily is going to involve conflict with the institutional interests of the Democratic party. Second – even if we are stuck in a two party system for the foreseeable future, the way for leftists to get their voice heard by the Democrats isn’t to roll over and play nice – it’s to credibly threaten to vote for somebody else unless the Democrats start pushing for the things that you care about.

There are some very good counter-arguments against voting for Nader, and they’re even better in this election than the last one. Because of basic personality flaws, he’s an improbable candidate for real social change (although I should say that I know and like some of the people who work for him). He’d be a bad President. This time around, he doesn’t have the support of the Greens, or much in the way of supporting organizations (apart from the Republicans). Thus, voting for him wouldn’t do anything to help build a viable alternative political movement. Finally, the alternative to a Kerry Presidency is demonstrably too horrible to be contemplated. Still, Ehrenreich is posing a very serious question that Brad doesn’t start to answer. If you believe (as Ehrenreich does, and as I do) that the current two party system in the US is systematically flawed, and produces deeply inequitable results, then why should you vote, year in, year out, for candidates who have no intention of changing things? The ‘lesser of two evils’ argument may cut it this year; it isn’t going to cut it forever.

Update: for a different defence of Ehrenreich, see Kevin Drum.

Update2: It seems that Brad wasn’t being quite as condescending as I thought – his ‘infantile disorder’ jibe is a nod to Lenin. I still reckon that he doesn’t establish much of a case that Ehrenreich is in fact being infantile.

{ 73 comments }

1

Jeff 07.11.04 at 6:17 pm

I think the problem is that the electoral system, as currently set up (where all you need is one more vote than all of your opponents to winner-take-all) inevitably leads to a two party system. Unless and until one changes the rules of the game (instant runoff, for example) third parties will largely remain nothing more than a way for the third party’s supporters to guarantee the victory of their enemies by divide-and-be-conquered.

Either one has to change the rules of the game, or you have to do the far harder work of working within the constrants of the game –that is, to change majority opinion to the extent that one of the great national parties *does* represent your opinions.

2

Jason 07.11.04 at 6:43 pm

Jeff, how do you propose changing the system then, if not by voting against it (ie, a candidate who proposes changing the system, be they in a minority party or no)?

3

Dave 07.11.04 at 6:50 pm

I agree with Jeff. Short of massive changes to the U.S. Constitution, you’re not going to be able to achieve the sort of structural change that is required to make third parties viable.

As for changing the nature of one or both of the current parties – you can’t do that if the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right. Currently, the two parties do a very good job of straddling the political median, and whichever party moves away first is going to get slaughtered. I think the only hope for those who are not near the center is to influence their parties to adopt more of a “big tent” atmosphere, where attitudes that are not mainstream may be voiced.

Another way to initiate change is to establish election systems in local and state elections. Introducing approval voting, IRV, and/or some form of proportional representation is easier in a city or state than it is at the Federal level. If people are exposed to those systems and decide they prefer them, then it will be much easier to institute the same changes higher up the chain.

Of course, one has to accept the possibility that most Americans are perfectly happy with a two-party system and a first-past-the-post electoral system, and that things will never change. Our system has produced a great deal of stability over the past two and a quarter centuries; if it ain’t broke…

4

Matt Weiner 07.11.04 at 6:51 pm

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

5

self 07.11.04 at 7:01 pm

For the present election the question of achieving structural change misses the point. In the short run, party platforms are superior vehicles to provide a solution for the conflicts between Democrats and Greens.
To this effect, the Edwards selection takes a strong step forward. Now if we could see something in writing, Progressives like myself could support the Democratic party in principle not just for effective voting strategy.

6

Walt Pohl 07.11.04 at 7:10 pm

There is an unbridgeable gulf of understanding here. I think the strategy you outline would not only _not_ lead to the advancement of the causes you favor, but it would aid the advancement of causes you abhor. If there’s a serious party to the left of the Democrats, then the Democrats will move right, and political dominance will alternate between two parties both currently to the right of the Democrats.

Do you think that the fact that not voting for Kerry in this election is unthinkable is a _coincidence_? Back when Democrats controlled Congress we could survive a Republican presidency, but the post-1994 Republican party is completely controlled by a bunch of crazy people. This is what happens when we let them out of the asylum.

7

bunny 07.11.04 at 7:15 pm

Instant runoff voting doesn’t require changes to the constitution, at least in presidental races.

People are voting for electors, and as for as I can tell, there’s no special requirement for how those electors are chosen. If a state wants to chage their election laws to choose electors the way they choose juries, it should be able to.

However, it’s silly to talk about the Greens or any other third party in a presidental run yet. Ten seats in the house or two in the senate would give them more leverage over the Democratic party than anything else would.

8

peBird 07.11.04 at 7:36 pm

First – that if you’re really committed to major reform of the US political system, voting for the Democrats isn’t going to do it.

I think it’s more accurate to say that “voting in and of itself isn’t going to do it.”

The idea that the way to reform the US political system is to focus on the US Presidential election IS naive and infantile.

It’s also anti-democratic.

Focus a 3rd party on gaining 20 seats in the House, dividing the Dems and Repubs and forcing a change in politcal debate.

If you can’t win a House seat, why are you running for President anyway?

9

Myca 07.11.04 at 7:58 pm

Okay, as I posted a while back in Pandagon’s comments, I’m just absolutely mystified as to why Nader doesn’t offer Kerry a deal like “look, I’ll drop out right now and tell all of my supporters to vote for you, and in return, I’d like you to come out strongly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting.”

The thing is, IRV is good for the Dems, because it means no more spoiler bullshit, IRV is good for the Greens, because it means that everyone who actually wants to vote for them can do so without feeling like they’re drinking lye, I can’t imagine that endorsing it would lose Kerry any supporters, and it might well gain him some new ones. Nader doesn’t pull away enough of Kerry’s vote to demand huge concessions, really, but something relatively minor like this, I would think would be well within the realm of possibility.

Sure, if Nader did this, it would mean that he’d be out of the race this go-around, but so what? I mean, HE’S the one who keeps telling us that we have to think long term, right? Well: Think long-term, bucko!

Now, I’m not one of those people who will infer from the fact that Nader hasn’t done this yet that he’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics . . . after all, ‘not doing what I say’ isn’t a decent metric for serious commitment. I do, however, infer that Nader’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics from the fact that he hasn’t done a goddamn thing since the year 2000 that would actually advance his stated goal.

—Myca

10

Myca 07.11.04 at 7:59 pm

Okay, as I posted a while back in Pandagon’s comments, I’m just absolutely mystified as to why Nader doesn’t offer Kerry a deal like “look, I’ll drop out right now and tell all of my supporters to vote for you, and in return, I’d like you to come out strongly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting.”

The thing is, IRV is good for the Dems, because it means no more spoiler bullshit, IRV is good for the Greens, because it means that everyone who actually wants to vote for them can do so without feeling like they’re drinking lye, I can’t imagine that endorsing it would lose Kerry any supporters, and it might well gain him some new ones. Nader doesn’t pull away enough of Kerry’s vote to demand huge concessions, really, but something relatively minor like this, I would think would be well within the realm of possibility.

Sure, if Nader did this, it would mean that he’d be out of the race this go-around, but so what? I mean, HE’S the one who keeps telling us that we have to think long term, right? Well: Think long-term, bucko!

Now, I’m not one of those people who will infer from the fact that Nader hasn’t done this yet that he’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics . . . after all, ‘not doing what I say’ isn’t a decent metric for serious commitment. I do, however, infer that Nader’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics from the fact that he hasn’t done a goddamn thing since the year 2000 that would actually advance his stated goal.

—Myca

11

Myca 07.11.04 at 8:01 pm

Okay, as I posted a while back in Pandagon’s comments, I’m just absolutely mystified as to why Nader doesn’t offer Kerry a deal like “look, I’ll drop out right now and tell all of my supporters to vote for you, and in return, I’d like you to come out strongly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting.”

The thing is, IRV is good for the Dems, because it means no more spoiler bullshit, IRV is good for the Greens, because it means that everyone who actually wants to vote for them can do so without feeling like they’re drinking lye, I can’t imagine that endorsing it would lose Kerry any supporters, and it might well gain him some new ones. Nader doesn’t pull away enough of Kerry’s vote to demand huge concessions, really, but something relatively minor like this, I would think would be well within the realm of possibility.

Kerry could do it without looking like he’s caving in to Nader. Nader could do it without looking like he’s selling out to Kerry. Win-win.

Sure, if Nader did this, it would mean that he’d be out of the race this go-around, but so what? I mean, HE’S the one who keeps telling us that we have to think long term, right? Well: Think long-term, bucko!

Now, I’m not one of those people who will infer from the fact that Nader hasn’t done this yet that he’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics . . . after all, ‘not doing what I say’ isn’t a decent metric for serious commitment. I do, however, infer that Nader’s not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics from the fact that he hasn’t done a goddamn thing since the year 2000 that would actually advance his stated goal.

—Myca

12

jam 07.11.04 at 8:41 pm

In defense of Brad’s invocation of “an infantile disorder”:

The thrust of Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet was you have to work within the existing political system until you have enough strength to break it. He criticizes the Spartacists in Germany for not supporting the Weimar republic, for not participating in parliamentary and other political coalitions. They looked for a revolution from below to overturn the existing order. Lenin regards this as infantile wishful thinking. In the light of the later history of the Weimar republic, it’s difficult to say Lenin was wrong.

He criticizes the Workers’ Socialist Federation and the Socialist Labour Party in Britain for not being willing to affiliate with the Labour Party. True he praises them for their revolutionary zeal. Their hearts are in the right place. But “we must tell them openly and frankly that a state of mind is by itself insufficient for leadership of the masses in a great revolutionary struggle.”

It seems to me that one can regard those who would turn their backs on the Democratic party and seek “pure” politics through third party candidacies as the modern equivalents of the WSF and SLP. If one does, it seems fair to borrow Lenin’s characterization.

13

jam 07.11.04 at 8:45 pm

In defense of Brad’s invocation of “an infantile disorder”:

The thrust of Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet was you have to work within the existing political system until you have enough strength to break it. He criticizes the Spartacists in Germany for not supporting the Weimar republic, for not participating in parliamentary and other political coalitions. They looked for a revolution from below to overturn the existing order. Lenin regards this as infantile wishful thinking. In the light of the later history of the Weimar republic, it’s difficult to say Lenin was wrong.

He criticizes the Workers’ Socialist Federation and the Socialist Labour Party in Britain for not being willing to affiliate with the Labour Party. True he praises them for their revolutionary zeal. Their hearts are in the right place. But “we must tell them openly and frankly that a state of mind is by itself insufficient for leadership of the masses in a great revolutionary struggle.”

It seems to me that one can regard those who would turn their backs on the Democratic party and seek “pure” politics through third party candidacies as the modern equivalents of the WSF and SLP. If one does, it seems fair to borrow Lenin’s characterization.

14

chun the unavoidable 07.11.04 at 8:53 pm

If I were still blogging, this is what I would be blogging about:

Does the NYT employ anyone else as stupid as Deborah Solomon?

15

Jason 07.11.04 at 9:01 pm

Is it not reasonable to want to have the President be independent of any substantial presence in the house, and thus act as an additional voice in any debates?

If you feel strongly about this, you should vote for strong independents (independent of Rep/Dem) regardless of left/right bias. I imagine there are quite a few people who voted for Perot and also for Nader. They’re not evil people for electing Clinton, and they’re not evil people for electing Bush.

P.S. I agree that concentrating on the smaller (and more democratic) electoral processes is probably more effective, but if you’re an activist, you activate everywhere.

16

Tom 07.11.04 at 9:01 pm

I can understand progressives being unhappy about their lack of political power, but I find it hard to understand how a third party helps.

Is the idea that a progressive platform would be a popular success but Democrats choose not to run on one?

17

Jason 07.11.04 at 9:02 pm

Is it not reasonable to want to have the President be independent of any substantial presence in the house, and thus act as an additional voice in any debates?

If you feel strongly about this, you should vote for strong independents (independent of Rep/Dem) regardless of left/right bias. I imagine there are quite a few people who voted for Perot and also for Nader. They’re not evil people for electing Clinton, and they’re not evil people for electing Bush.

P.S. I agree that concentrating on the smaller (and more democratic) electoral processes is probably more effective, but if you’re an activist, you activate everywhere.

18

jam 07.11.04 at 9:09 pm

” Ehrenreich has two points to make. First – that if you’re really committed to major reform of the US political system, voting for the Democrats isn’t going to do it. The only way to create a real alternative is to build an alternative social movement – and alternative party – on the ground, which necessarily is going to involve conflict with the institutional interests of the Democratic party.”

Henry,

You and Brad are in agreement. This is what Ehrenreich thinks. And it’s precisely the political attitude that Lenin attacks in “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.”

The thrust of Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet was you have to work within the existing political system until you have enough strength to break it. He criticizes the Spartacists in Germany for not supporting the Weimar republic, for not participating in parliamentary and other political coalitions. They looked for a revolution from below to overturn the existing order. Lenin regards this as infantile wishful thinking. In the light of the later history of the Weimar republic, it’s difficult to say Lenin was wrong.

He criticizes the Workers’ Socialist Federation and the Socialist Labour Party in Britain for not being willing to affiliate with the Labour Party. True he praises them for their revolutionary zeal. Their hearts are in the right place. But “we must tell them openly and frankly that a state of mind is by itself insufficient for leadership of the masses in a great revolutionary struggle.”

The WSF and the SLP tried to build an alternate party on the ground with the result, to use a Leninesque phrase, that they are now consigned to the dustbin of history.

Why should one believe that Naderism, whatever it is, will do any better?

19

Jason 07.11.04 at 9:21 pm

Is it not reasonable to want to have the President be independent of any substantial presence in the house, and thus act as an additional voice in any debates?

If you feel strongly about this, you should vote for strong independents (independent of Rep/Dem) regardless of left/right bias. I imagine there are quite a few people who voted for Perot and also for Nader. They’re not evil people for electing Clinton, and they’re not evil people for electing Bush.

P.S. I agree that concentrating on the smaller (and more democratic) electoral processes is probably more effective, but if you’re an activist, you activate everywhere.

20

sennoma 07.11.04 at 9:35 pm

Focus a 3rd party on gaining 20 seats in the House, dividing the Dems and Repubs and forcing a change in political debate.

Now there’s a strategy I think could work. The House is far more accessible than the presidency or the upper echelons of the Dem party, and it provides considerable leverage.

21

sennoma 07.11.04 at 9:36 pm

Focus a 3rd party on gaining 20 seats in the House, dividing the Dems and Repubs and forcing a change in political debate.

Now there’s a strategy I think could work. The House is far more accessible than the presidency or the upper echelons of the Dem party, and it provides considerable leverage.

22

harry 07.11.04 at 10:41 pm

Defensive dismissal of the likes of Ehrenriech is calculated to suppress debate within the DP both about whether it should be the place for the left, and what direction it should take. GIven the rules of the game the most likely outcome of any serious and moderately successful left organising effort outside the DP is that it will get absorbed into the DP, and change the DP’s iunternal politics (a bit) as a result. Taking as your staring point the idea that the DP is your home (if you are on the left) is a sure-fire way of diminishing your influence on it.
BE knows all this. SO, I suspect, does Brad De Long. BE is a left-of-center social democrat in European terms. Brad is a moderate conservative/Christian Democrat in European terms. The DP is very much in the hands of people with Brad’s basic outlook, which is one reason that the Nader issue still hasn’t gone away, despite the all the whining of the DPers who wish they could take the left as much for granted as they do, eg, African Americans. If the left isn’t willing to consider alternative to the DP they can forget about influencing it.

23

Matt McGrattan 07.11.04 at 10:57 pm

Dave wrote:

“As for changing the nature of one or both of the current parties – you can’t do that if the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right. Currently, the two parties do a very good job of straddling the political median…”

From a European perspective neither the Democrats or the Republicans look very much like centrist parties and neither looks much like the U.S. political centre of 30 or more years ago. As has been pointed out a lot on blogs recently, the Republican party of Nixon was much more redistributive, more commited to social justice and less transparently friendly to the interests of the investor classes than either of the current US parties.

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right. This isn’t unique to the US. The UK has seen the same sort of thing and, to the extent that the current Labour party does sometimes enact legislation with a redistributive element it tends to do so by stealth.

This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

Changes in the political system can counter this — in Scotland, for example, a more proportional system of representation has led to power via coalition for the mildly left-of-centre Lib Dems and relatively large number of seats for the Scottish Nationalists, the Socialists and the Greens…

Note: this is not to say that there aren’t individual politicians who are members of the mainstream parties and who are of the centre or of the left…

24

Kieran Healy 07.11.04 at 11:07 pm

Test comment. (Or: this space intentionally left blank.)

25

CMatt 07.11.04 at 11:32 pm

pebird makes good points about the how.

As for the what, I disagree with dave that As for changing the nature of one or both of the current parties – you can’t do that if the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right. Currently, the two parties do a very good job of straddling the political median…

Are the centrists thrilled with the increasing polarization of the two parties? Or are swing voters content simply with using their clout to elect divided government (certainly one of the less-bad options, considering the polarization of the parties)? Wouldn’t having something to vote for instead of just two evils to choose between bring people back to the polls?

Third parties in a first-past-the-post voting system may elect their opponents. Worst case, a centrist third party might swing the election to the party with the fewest centrist ties. But even then could they really claim a mandate for their more-extremist agenda? Especially with a divided government to provide resistance; or, better, if the centrist third-party had support from the grassroots to Congressional level first.

How badly does the idea of marginalizing the extremist agendas in both parties scare you? If nothing else the answers to that question should be enlightening.

26

John 07.11.04 at 11:35 pm

I just note that one thing nobody has mentioned is that the two party system in the United States is remarkably open, because parties here don’t work the same way as parties in other countries. Anybody can run for nomination for either of the major parties, and they can become that party’s nominee so long as enough people vote for them. In many states, just about anybody can vote in those primaries, even if they aren’t really of the party whose primary they are voting in. So while the system ultimately results in two candidates, those two candidates are not chosen by a party bureaucracy, but by a democratic process.

now, I would agree that this system ultimately isn’t very good, but it ought to be said that this is how it works. And the best bet for “progressives” (God, I detest that term), is to run candidates in Democratic primaries. If they can win primaries in strongly Democratic districts, in particular, then they’re very likely to ultimately come out of it elected. Why is this impracticable? In what way is it a better bet to run completely hopeless campaigns which they have no chance of winning? The Democratic Party itself already provides the best possible vehicle for “progressives” to participate in the political process, if only they were willing to try. Look at how extreme right wingers have taken over the Republican Party – why can’t leftists do that?

27

John 07.11.04 at 11:36 pm

I just note that one thing nobody has mentioned is that the two party system in the United States is remarkably open, because parties here don’t work the same way as parties in other countries. Anybody can run for nomination for either of the major parties, and they can become that party’s nominee so long as enough people vote for them. In many states, just about anybody can vote in those primaries, even if they aren’t really of the party whose primary they are voting in. So while the system ultimately results in two candidates, those two candidates are not chosen by a party bureaucracy, but by a democratic process.

now, I would agree that this system ultimately isn’t very good, but it ought to be said that this is how it works. And the best bet for “progressives” (God, I detest that term), is to run candidates in Democratic primaries. If they can win primaries in strongly Democratic districts, in particular, then they’re very likely to ultimately come out of it elected. Why is this impracticable? In what way is it a better bet to run completely hopeless campaigns which they have no chance of winning? The Democratic Party itself already provides the best possible vehicle for “progressives” to participate in the political process, if only they were willing to try. Look at how extreme right wingers have taken over the Republican Party – why can’t leftists do that?

28

Robin Green 07.11.04 at 11:39 pm

What I think is often forgotten is that voting for a third party can be a more positive step than not voting at all. If you’re not going to vote for an imperialist like Kerry, the least you can do is vote symbolically for a more positive alternative. That’s not taking votes away from Kerry, because (by assumption) you wouldn’t have voted for Kerry anyway.

29

Robin Green 07.11.04 at 11:40 pm

What I think is often forgotten is that voting for a third party can be a more positive step than not voting at all. If you’re not going to vote for an imperialist like Kerry, the least you can do is vote symbolically for a more positive alternative. That’s not taking votes away from Kerry, because (by assumption) you wouldn’t have voted for Kerry anyway.

30

CMatt 07.11.04 at 11:53 pm

pebird makes good points about the how.

As for the what, I disagree with dave that As for changing the nature of one or both of the current parties – you can’t do that if the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right. Currently, the two parties do a very good job of straddling the political median…

Are the centrists thrilled with the increasing polarization of the two parties? Or are swing voters content simply with using their clout to elect divided government (certainly one of the less-bad options, considering the polarization of the parties)? Wouldn’t having something to vote for instead of just two evils to weigh bring people back to the polls?

Third parties in a first-past-the-post voting system may elect their opponents, and in the worst case a centrist third party might swing the election to the party with the fewest centrist ties. But even then could that party really claim a mandate for their more-extremist agenda? Especially with a divided government to provide resistance; or, better, if the centrist third-party had support from the grassroots to Congressional level first.

How badly does the thought of marginalizing the extremist portions of both parties scare you? If nothing else the answers to that question should be enlightening.

31

Dave 07.12.04 at 12:08 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

32

Dave 07.12.04 at 12:09 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

33

Dave 07.12.04 at 12:09 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

34

Dave 07.12.04 at 12:10 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

35

Adam Kotsko 07.12.04 at 12:28 am

Wow. This comment section has apparently become a total echo chamber.

36

Adam Kotsko 07.12.04 at 12:29 am

Wow. This comment section has apparently become a total echo chamber.

37

anti-neocon 07.12.04 at 12:33 am

Ok, want a real perspective on the alternatvies:

http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=DefenseWatch.db&command=viewone&op=t&id=561&rnd=713.9062175551647

and more. The real military types out there aren’t happy with the current situation in Iraq.

You will learn more about what is going wrong over there by reading material like this than you will ever get here.

Or from the Greens.

38

anti-neocon 07.12.04 at 12:34 am

Ok, want a real perspective on the alternatvies:

http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=DefenseWatch.db&command=viewone&op=t&id=561&rnd=713.9062175551647

and more. The real military types out there aren’t happy with the current situation in Iraq.

You will learn more about what is going wrong over there by reading material like this than you will ever get here.

Or from the Greens.

39

Dave 07.12.04 at 12:47 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

40

Jim Harrison 07.12.04 at 12:57 am

Am I alone in thinking that the great problem of the left is not political but ideological? While Ehrenreich or Nader can score critical points against the powers that be, what are they offering as a coherent alternative to business as usual? What the heck is democratic socialism—or whatever— in the 21st Century?

I’m not writing this to carp. I keep looking around for a confident voice on the Left that has something to offer but theoretical nuance or petit bourgeois moralizing. I’m not sure I’d buy into a fresh radical point of view, but I’d sure like to hear one.

41

Jim Harrison 07.12.04 at 12:58 am

Am I alone in thinking that the great problem of the left is not political but ideological? While Ehrenreich or Nader can score critical points against the powers that be, what are they offering as a coherent alternative to business as usual? What the heck is democratic socialism—or whatever— in the 21st Century?

I’m not writing this to carp. I keep looking around for a confident voice on the Left that has something to offer but theoretical nuance or petit bourgeois moralizing. I’m not sure I’d buy into a fresh radical point of view, but I’d sure like to hear one.

42

Dave 07.12.04 at 1:18 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

43

Dave 07.12.04 at 1:27 am

The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right … This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

That’s because they’re no longer mainstream. The fiscal and corporate policy spectrum has moved to the right in the U.S. This leaves traditional social democrats (of which I am not one) on the fringe. In other words, even if there were a party to represent “the real Left”, it wouldn’t win many elections, because it doesn’t line up with popular sentiment.

And do you think that the prospects for change are better if progressives abstain from the two-party system than if we attempt to take over (or at least change the direction of) the Democratic party?

Neither. If you abstain, the result will be government that reflects your views even less (example: the 2000 elections). If you change the platform of the Democratic Party to move it further to the left, you will lose the center and the party will get blown out at the polls.

The only real way to give the Left a voice in the U.S. is to change the minds of the electorate. Convince them that your policies are sound and will benefit them. The result will be a movement to the left, which in the short term will mean huge victories for the Dems, but in the long term will force both parties to the left as they struggle to split the new center.

This is exactly what the Republicans did in the ’80s. The Reagan Administration convinced a majority of the American people that conservative fiscal policy was good for the U.S., and both parties were forced to move to the right. I have no doubt that those on the Left can move public sentiment the other way. In fact, it may happen spontaneously if things like protecting high-quality jobs and providing affordable health care become big issues among voters.

44

Dave 07.12.04 at 1:35 am

While Ehrenreich or Nader can score critical points against the powers that be, what are they offering as a coherent alternative to business as usual?

That’s the fundamental problem with revolutionary or anti-establishment movements. It’s very easy to say what you’re against – it’s very difficult to come up with a consistent and effective plan for changing things for the better. While I value Nader’s anti-corporate activism, I suspect that, were he to implement everything he claims to believe in, he would succeed only in crippling the U.S. economy.

45

Simon 07.12.04 at 1:38 am

The last successful external third party movement occured over 150 years ago, on the wings of regional and ideological differences so profound that they have no parallel in today’s politics.

All subsequent successful challenges to the orthodoxy of the status quo came through one or both of the major political parties.

What should this tell us?

Simon

46

Scott 07.12.04 at 2:16 am

The obvious problem with the argument is that it assumes that building alternative social movements requires a third party. But in the American context not only do third parties not do much to mobilize voters, they are in fact counterproductive. Did movement conservatives use a third party to mobilize?

47

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.04 at 5:26 am

“The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right. This isn’t unique to the US. The UK has seen the same sort of thing and, to the extent that the current Labour party does sometimes enact legislation with a redistributive element it tends to do so by stealth.

This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

Changes in the political system can counter this — in Scotland, for example, a more proportional system of representation has led to power via coalition for the mildly left-of-centre Lib Dems and relatively large number of seats for the Scottish Nationalists, the Socialists and the Greens…”

If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right, why in the world would we want to make changes in the political system to counter this? Is there some God-given (ahem) right of the left to be have political power in democratic countries where they don’t have the numbers to back it up?

48

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.04 at 6:56 am

“The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right. This isn’t unique to the US. The UK has seen the same sort of thing and, to the extent that the current Labour party does sometimes enact legislation with a redistributive element it tends to do so by stealth.

This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

Changes in the political system can counter this — in Scotland, for example, a more proportional system of representation has led to power via coalition for the mildly left-of-centre Lib Dems and relatively large number of seats for the Scottish Nationalists, the Socialists and the Greens…”

If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right, why in the world would we want to make changes in the political system to counter this? Is there some God-given (ahem) right of the left to be have political power in democratic countries where they don’t have the numbers to back it up?

49

msg 07.12.04 at 7:28 am

“…the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right…”
That’s probably accurate.
How much of that sentiment is manufactured?
Isn’t it about time to talk about how controlled American public discourse is? Or did it suddenly stop being controlled? Did I miss the announcement?
It’s shifting dramatically, right now, July, 2004. People are waking up. But it’s still owned and deliverable. That same vast majority are in literal thrall to the multiple-personalitied television, that occupies the most privileged spot in their homes.
They’ll do, not what it tells them, but what it makes them want to do. That’s the egregious con of this election – it’s going to be business-as-usual next year, more of the same, only this time there won’t be a scapegoat.

50

raj 07.12.04 at 8:19 am

Sebastian might have a point, except for the fact that his political party (die Republikaner) is in the process of screwing people like him. Or at least people that he purports to portray on the Internet.

51

raj 07.12.04 at 8:20 am

Sebastian might have a point, except for the fact that his political party (die Republikaner) is in the process of screwing people like him. Or at least people that he purports to portray on the Internet.

52

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.04 at 8:51 am

Ah yes, people in the US lean right because they are so easily duped. It couldn’t be that they legitimately see the world differently than you. They must just be poor fools, led around by the nose.

“How much of that sentiment is manufactured?
Isn’t it about time to talk about how controlled American public discourse is? Or did it suddenly stop being controlled? Did I miss the announcement?”

You have as a premise the idea that obviously American public discourse is controlled. Really? Controlled by who? For whom? By what process? And notice how your manufactured premise is transferable. While we are being conspiracy minded, could I not say that the only reason Europe leans left is because the sentiment is manufactured by paternalistic practices which stifle creativity and discourse?

Since free speech is undeniably not as protected in Europe, if we are going to posit manufactured sentiment shouldn’t it be Europe which is more likely than the US to fall into it?

53

Dave F 07.12.04 at 1:25 pm

What Comrade Lenin advocated is called entryism. Remember the fate of Militant, which tried for a parasitic invasion of Labour. It isn’t going to mean more democracy if Naderists try to white-ant the Dems from within. It just means that the party will lose touch with the broad sweep of voters because a small minority will have a disproportionately loud voice on the platform. Then there will be only one strong party: the Republicans. Not a desirable outcome for most here, I suspect?

54

The Navigator 07.12.04 at 3:52 pm

This, at least, is infantile:
“if you’re an activist, you activate everywhere.”
Neither Gandhi nor MLKing thought that was true. If you’re an intelligent, thoughtful activist, you pick your battles.
Also, this:
“Defensive dismissal of the likes of Ehrenriech is calculated to suppress debate within the DP both about whether it should be the place for the left, and what direction it should take.”
Please, the stupid old “criticism=censorship” argument again? That is, literally, sophomoric. Dismissal of the likes of Ehrenreich, whether defensive or no, is calculated to acknowledge their arguments, engage them on their own terms, and point out that they’re wrong. You don’t “suppress debate” by debating people.

55

Walt Pohl 07.12.04 at 4:00 pm

Sebastian: Just curious, have you ever claimed that it’s media coverage that is turning Americans against the war in Iraq?

56

The Navigator 07.12.04 at 4:05 pm

Dave’s point, which he generously shared with us about 10 times, is spot on.
As is John’s, which he modestly posted only twice: “In what way is it a better bet to run completely hopeless campaigns which they have no chance of winning? The Democratic Party itself already provides the best possible vehicle for “progressives” to participate in the political process, if only they were willing to try. “

Hey, folks, there are some real progressives in Congress! There’s even a Progressive Caucus, IIRC. Its members can even run for President – and, indeed, this year one of them did! Dennis Kucinich was in all the debates – and virtually no one voted for him!

Progressives need to convince the electorate to support their views before they plot to wreck the Democrats out of petulant spite that the party won’t adopt views that have failed to capture public approval. And spare me the sour grapes that Kucinich and Sharpton were imperfect vehicles – so is John Kerry, but he actually got people to vote for him. You can’t wait eternally for just the right conditions, candidates, etc. – you have to win some goddamn elections outside of liberal enclaves. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good – you should support the least-bad alternative.

57

Brad DeLong 07.12.04 at 4:07 pm

How long since you read “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder”?

58

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.04 at 4:15 pm

No, I think unrealistic expectations about how quickly things should be over have turned people against the war.

Was that a dodge?

59

Detached Observer 07.12.04 at 5:36 pm

“…I have difficulty in seeing any evidence whatsover of infantilism in the piece that he quotes…”

Uh, the complete and utter disgregard for real world consequences? The disqueting obsession with feeling good about your vote, most importantly of all?

You are right to point out that some coherent arguments cane be gleaned out of Ehrenreich’s essay. But the essay is not the only piece of evidence DeLong cites to argue that Ehrenreich is infantile — only one of many.

60

nick 07.12.04 at 6:03 pm

If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right…

Er, no, Sebastian, he’s not doing that at all. Try reading for a change.

61

Dave 07.12.04 at 7:00 pm

Sorry for the multi-post, by the way.

62

burritoboy 07.12.04 at 7:03 pm

Additional supports to Brad’s argument is something else that has also always irked me about the “our co-op/free health clinic will save the world!” school of thought:

There’s the obvious and long-elaborated criticisms that many of these types of “local activism” really are just hobbyhorses for wealthy liberals to exorcize their guilts in various ways. I don’t always buy that in every (or even most) cases, but it is true enough times to be meaningful. These groups often don’t add up to a meaningful whole. Yes, the xxth Ave. Free Health Clinic does great work on xxth St, but it doesn’t help the housing needs of the people living on xxth St. Meanwhile, on yyth St, the poor have housing, but no healthcare.

Again, it’s great that these things exist, but only government has the resources to be able to really change things on a mass scale. Or organizations that are quite quasi-governmental (unions in Europe, the Church in the Middle Ages, etc). And government can (and must) do things that are simply too unpleasant or impossibly scaled for tiny non-profits. Fixing the sewers and imprisoning violent criminals, for just two of many examples.

Essentially, BE would renounce even having an sustained, organized impact on such things – that are often as important, if not far more important, than the xxth St. Free Health Clinic. Giving away power over these things entirely is a great way to empower and entrench your opponents.

Also, all of the co-ops and etc. that BE is enamoured of, operate entirely inside a framework designed by the government (in cooperation with other major societal forces). Your non-profit operates the way it does partially because the Congress has made charitable donations tax-deductible. That part of the tax code could disappear tomorrow, or be greatly expanded tomorrow. It’s the composition of Congress that makes the difference. Change who’s in Congress and the environment for your co-op could be vastly better or worse in months.

Again, to simply cede institutional control to your opponents is not just ill-advised, it’s pretty close to suicidal. Your opponents could make your entire system of legal supports illegal in a day, and everything you’ve worked for would disappear in an instant. BE would dismiss policy wonkery. Admittedly, it’s hardly fun, but that’s hardly the point. If you want politics to be fun (or more broadly, some sort of expression of your authenticity), then you’re not only deluded, but close to self-destructive.

Even if there would be a Revolution (TM), that wouldn’t negate the need for policy wonkery. We always need to worry about incremental change, even in tyrannical regimes (yes, it’s always bad to have a murderous dictator but it’s better to have one who kills a few than one who kills many). Stalin and Breshnev were both leaders of a bad regime that needed to go, but the difference between them is also vast and important. Gladly, we’re in far better of a position here and now, making incremental changes that much more critical.

63

Dave 07.12.04 at 7:21 pm

Again, to simply cede institutional control to your opponents is not just ill-advised, it’s pretty close to suicidal.

Even moreso, to act/vote based on principle when doing so effectively generates a situation that is contrary to your goals is stupid.

Here’s another thought – if the “progressives” secede from the political process, the Democrats will have to go farther to the right to pick up enough of an electoral base to win.

64

decon 07.12.04 at 7:44 pm

Overrepresentation of red state rednecks — through the Electoral College, and through equal representation in the Senate — is, unfortunately, a Constiutional right of American rednecks.

Changing these two institutional features of our so called democracy — by threat of extralegal action, including secession if necessary — will do more for progressives than will any other changes.

Are you ready for the revolution? I’m not, but it would be entertaining.

65

boban 07.12.04 at 7:56 pm

Dave makes the most relevant point regarding the likely outcome of a sustained electoral challenge by a third party situating itself to the left of the Democrats: The Democrats will simply move right.

If the Greens were the source of such a challenge, for example, we could expect the environment to suffer as Democrats begin to advocate more offshore drilling, drilling in Alaska, snowmobiles in Yellowstone, killing wolves in Wyoming, etc….

66

Dave 07.12.04 at 8:54 pm

Are you ready for the revolution?

No way. Those “rednecks” have all the guns.

67

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.04 at 9:33 pm

“If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right…

Er, no, Sebastian, he’s not doing that at all. Try reading for a change.”

Nick, I’m quite willing to reevaluate my reading of a text, but what issue are you taking within my reading of:

“…the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right…”

That’s probably accurate.

What are you saying that I misread?

68

Matt McGrattan 07.13.04 at 3:43 am

Sebastian you are cheating now…

Here’s the first part of your quote containing Nick’s response :

{begin_quote}
“If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right…

Er, no, Sebastian, he’s not doing that at all. Try reading for a change.”
{end_quote}

This [‘if you are correctly…’, etc.] refers to MY message above. The line Nick quotes is from a message by you quoting and responding to me.

The second part:

{begin_quote}
Nick, I’m quite willing to reevaluate my reading of a text, but what issue are you taking within my reading of:

“…the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right…”

That’s probably accurate.

What are you saying that I misread?
{end_quote}

The ‘that’s probably accurate’ line quoted here is a quote by someone ELSE other than me.

Your selective quotation implies that I agreed that the actual political centre – i.e. the views of the American people – had moved to the right. It’s THIS that Nick is calling you on.

It’s dishonest. Or, being charitable, sloppy.

As a matter of fact I don’t think that the actual political centre has shifted to the right. There’s always a possibility of a distinct difference between the political platforms of the parties in an election and the views of the electorate and there are good institutional reasons why that might be the case.

Two-party systems are particularly likely to be vulnerable to this. There can, theoretically, be two parties that don’t really reflect the views of ANY of the electorate and yet people might still overwhelmingly support the party which they see as the least bad option.

This doesn’t necessarily have to have bad consequences — advocacy of the death penalty or of blatant racial discrimination are not on the platform of any major party here in the UK, for example, and yet both would command the support of a significant percentage of the electorate.

I’d just want to make the general point that political parties can shift either to the right or the left without that shift reflecting any ‘real’ shift in core attitudes in the wider population.

69

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.13.04 at 7:34 am

I was quoting MSG at 7:28 a.m.

He was quoting ““…the vast majority of American political sentiment is center or center-right…”
and then offered his own comment “that’s probably accurate”

That’s probably accurate is not a quote from someone upthread, because it does not appear upthread from the quoted passage. The next line is “How much of that sentiment is manufactured?” Which goes right in line with the idea that the author thinks it is accurate that the sentiment has gone rightward AND that the sentiment is manufactured.

If that isn’t what you meant, that still seems to me to be what you said.

And you haven’t dealt with any of my responses to your idea of ‘manufactured sentiment’–which I think was the main point of the post, and the main point of my response.

70

mc 07.13.04 at 8:15 am

“Since free speech is undeniably not as protected in Europe, if we are going to posit manufactured sentiment shouldn’t it be Europe which is more likely than the US to fall into it?”

Sebastian, would you care to expand on that with a few instances of how “free speech” is not as protected in Europe, and how does, for instance, a major US tv network holding back news on the request of a DOD General square with that assertion? Or perhaps you were thinking of “free speech” being more guaranteed in the US as in the right for, say, overtly neonazi organisations to be legitimate and hold marches and distribute material and so on? Because that’s just about the only formal difference in terms of what is and is not allowed out in the open in the US and Europe. But if you know of others, please do tell.

Sorry everyone for going off topic, I’m just curious.

71

Piotr Berman 07.13.04 at 9:15 am

British Militants basically failed, and American Religious Right basically won in their infiltrations.

A thought: could a progressive (or true liberal or whatever) defeat a DINO senator in primaries in one of the states? And the primary winner would then become a Senator? Or could, in some jurisdiction, a district attorney be defeated because he/she was more devoted to transparent political grandstanding than to justice?

In the age of internet, a worthy candidate could gather several million dollars and a bunch of volunteers. Democrats do not have centralized Leninist party structure of New Labour, and the winner would be a serious player on the national scene, nudging “the common wisdom” in the leftward direction.

72

Matt McGrattan 07.13.04 at 6:47 pm

Sebastian, you are just straight out lying now…

I quote below the bulk of your post in question [the one Nick was quoting in his response to you]:

{begin quote}
“The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right. This isn’t unique to the US. The UK has seen the same sort of thing and, to the extent that the current Labour party does sometimes enact legislation with a redistributive element it tends to do so by stealth.

This makes it incredibly frustrating for people who, 30 years ago, would normally have thought of themselves as centrist or as of the moderate centre-left — there’s no mainstream political representation left for them.

Changes in the political system can counter this — in Scotland, for example, a more proportional system of representation has led to power via coalition for the mildly left-of-centre Lib Dems and relatively large number of seats for the Scottish Nationalists, the Socialists and the Greens…”

If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right, why in the world would we want to make changes in the political system to counter this?
{end quote}

This was posted at 5.26am and everything inside the quotation marks is quoted by you, from I post made BY ME.

Not by MSG later at 7.28am as falsely claimed in your response immediately preceding this one.

It is in response to the quote from me that you write as part of the same message:

“If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right…”

It was this line that Nick raised in his criticism of you above and the one under discussion in the preceding couple of messages.

So don’t weasel around claiming that it was someone else you were responding to – someone who happens to have conceded precisely the point that I’d NOT be prepared to concede.

Nick made the point that you were misreading what I said. You were.

End of story.

I don’t really see much point in continuing this particular line of debate since you don’t seem to be prepared to conduct it with much intellectual honesty.

73

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.13.04 at 7:12 pm

Matt, I have no idea what you are talking about at this point.

You say, and you admit that you say: “The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right.”

I say, “If you are correctly identifying the fact that a majority of people have moved to what you identify as the center-right…”

What the hell are you saying that you think I have so horribly misinterpreted? Are you saying that the debate has shifted to the right but the center is still at the left? I still don’t know, even after repeated screeds about how I’m misrepresenting you.

I then make an extended response to MSG who keys off that point a manufactured consent argument. I thought Nick was complaining about that.

But what are you complaining about? You go on and on without telling me what you did mean. You quote yourself but it still looks to me like you said exactly what I responded to.

What do you mean when you say “The whole political spectrum has been pushed to the right.”?

You go on to defend the sentence. Do you not really mean it? The only possibility I can see is that you see it shifting to the right but still think the center is ‘on the left’. But you surely don’t make that clear. Even now.

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