Learned helplessness, strategic victimhood and … the Democrats

by Daniel on September 27, 2012

What the hey, let’s keep this theme rolling …

One of the responses to Henry’s post, from Scott Lemieux’s has a passage which (though probably meant rhetorically rather than literally) really perfectly exemplifies what I see as one of the biggest problems with lesser-evilism.

But, the argument seems to run, at least Romney would generate more opposition from Democrats when he committed similar and worse abuses. I believe this is true. But to carry any weight that would justify the repeal of the ACA, the overruling of Roe v. Wade, the gutting of environmental and civil rights enforcement, massive upper-class tax cuts, etc. etc. etc. it’s not enough that there be more opposition; it must be the case that this opposition be effectual. And it’s overwhelmingly clear that, in fact, this increased opposition would be extremely ineffectual.

The “Ect, ect, ect” bit there could have been a much longer list, but even at that length it seems implausible on the face of it. Recall, Obama’s whole strategy was based around abandoning all other priorities such as carbon tax, an effective stimulus bill, half his nominations, most of the financial sector reforms and so forth, all to concentrate on passing health care. And he only got about half of that – the version passed was something he’d specifically camapigned against as not being anything like radical enough. So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion? You would have to believe that under a Democratic administration Congress is a sclerotic, obstructionist institution which prevents all possibility of effective government, but as soon as the Republicans get in it becomes a streamlined ideological machine.

Which is in fact not far from what’s being argued here and it’s really quite frightening. Part of the case for persuading people to vote to keep the Democrats in government is that they’re so terrible at being in opposition. Specifically, their very weakness and incompetence in carrying out the business of politics is being used as an electoral asset. That’s not a cool rhetorical ju-jitsu move; it’s nightmarish. Similarly, the case has been advanced that the time for the liberal wing of the Democrats to express their opinions is at the primary stage, but there wasn’t a primary this time – the economy was so weak and the administration so unpopular that nobody wanted to risk weakening the candidate further.

This is the problem with lesser-evilism – it’s very vulnerable to strategic behaviour. If all you care about is the gap between parties, you can increase it either by making your own party more attractive to vote for, or by making the other side look even worse (either by strategically weakening your ability to resist them, or by being somewhat adventurous in your claims). This is really just a specific case of Henry’s general point that in the long term, one is unlikely to change the behaviour of any self-aware entity by constantly rewarding it for going on in the same way.

{ 636 comments }

1

DarrenG 09.27.12 at 7:57 pm

You would have to believe that under a Democratic administration Congress is a sclerotic, obstructionist institution which prevents all possibility of effective government, but as soon as the Republicans get in it becomes a streamlined ideological machine.

Disagree. You only have to believe that a substantial part of Romney’s agenda could be achieved through executive and/or judicial action rather than legislative. And there’s precedent for this in the Bush administration.

Overturning Roe doesn’t require an act of Congress, just one or two more Supreme Court justices. Gutting environmental and workplace safety enforcement can be done by fiat in the executive branch. Repealing the ACA is unlikely without a massive change in Congress, but sabotaging its implementation could be easily accomplished without legislation.

2

Steve Laniel 09.27.12 at 7:59 pm

Hi Daniel,

I think I’m having a hard time drawing practical conclusions from this series, which is a fault in me rather than in your essays (which are thought-provoking and seem very true). So I wonder if I could ask you to focus on one question. What I want most out of my government is an expanded commitment to the social-insurance state: universal health insurance, a real pension, long-term-care insurance, etc.

So if you were in my shoes, starting this very day, what would you do to maximize the chances of achieving these goals?

Cheers,
Steve

3

alkali 09.27.12 at 8:05 pm

Part of the analysis you’re missing here is that it’s easier to tear down than to build up, and plus the Republicans can use executive orders and judicial nominations as part of the “tearing down.” If the Republicans had to pass a bill through Congress to repeal Roe v. Wade and replace it with an alternative regulatory structure for contraception and abortion, they might not be able to do that, but they don’t need to do that. All they need is one more Supreme Court justice. Gutting regulatory enforcement is even easier — you can do it by executive order. And for a party in control of the White House, starting a war is a trifle compared to doing something like passing the ACA.

4

Anon. 09.27.12 at 8:05 pm

>The “Ect, ect, ect” bit there could have been a much longer list, but even at that length it seems implausible on the face of it.

It’s “etc”. From the Latin “et cetera”, which means “and the rest”.

5

Daniel 09.27.12 at 8:07 pm

Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.

6

Steve LaBonne 09.27.12 at 8:09 pm

Sounds like what a number of leftish Lib Dem voters (rightly) hacked off with Labour were telling themselves before the last election. How’d that work out for them?

First past the post systems mean that there is literally NO chance of influencing the behavior of the less-evil party merely by “failing to reward” it. (One can do so only by working to gain influence within it. And the example of the far right and the Republicans suggests that a certain amount of intransigence can actually be put to effective use in that effort, much moreso than remaining intransigent on the outside.) The best one can hope to do, unless we find a way to get rid of these undemocratic voting systems in the countries that are saddled with them, is to constrain the less evil party from crossing over to become the more evil party. Until someone can demonstrate to me that the Dems are in danger of becoming more evil than the Republicans, I would say that to that extent voting is effective.

7

Daniel 09.27.12 at 8:10 pm

How’d that work out for them?

We’ve got Ed Miliband and predistribution. A really quite significant advance on the state of the Labour Party in 2010.

8

DarrenG 09.27.12 at 8:12 pm

Assumes existence of a spine not in evidence, Daniel.

Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts did get on the court, and lower courts got packed with equivalent right-wing ideologues. The Bush admin did eviscerate many regulatory agencies and shift the priorities of others away from their nominal function. Claims that Romney wouldn’t be able to achieve the same (or more) requires more than just a flat denial.

9

christian_h 09.27.12 at 8:15 pm

So you agree that the Democrats lack of spine (or tacit agreement?) is a reason to vote for them. This really does guarantee disaster. Will there come a point where you would say “yes, voting Democrat will delay disaster a bit, but at this point we have to risk actualy changing course”, or not?

10

Jeffrey Davis 09.27.12 at 8:16 pm

Democrats in Congress were so muscularly obstructionist during the 8 years of George W. Bush that the bozo hardly got anything he wanted.

11

L2P 09.27.12 at 8:20 pm

“So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion? You would have to believe that under a Democratic administration Congress is a sclerotic, obstructionist institution which prevents all possibility of effective government, but as soon as the Republicans get in it becomes a streamlined ideological machine.”

Wow.

No, you’d just have to believe that Romney wouldn’t have nominated Kagan and Sotomayor, but instead would have nominated Alito, Jr., and Alito the Second. Aaaaaand that’s it. Then we don’t have Roe v. Wade. Nor do we have ANY affirmative action. Nor do we have any ability to regulate commerce. Have you heard of Lochner? The Republican Party wants the Supreme Court to resurrect those doctrines. That’s the end of the ENTIRE WELFARE STATE.

We don’t need to get beyond Supreme Court justices to understand why voting for a Third Party candidate is pure evil. But if you want to, we can talk about those administrative rules you don’t like. Obama, for instance, actually funds and enforces environmental regulatory action. Does not having cattle grazing on national parks matter? What about environmental review of mining and drilling? If yes, then there’s a huge difference. Do you think the IRS should focus on making sure poor people don’t get the EITC, or rich people don’t abuse tax shelters? I’m guessing you think that’s an important difference.

I could go on, but if you’re desperate to justify a vote for Romney (through a vote for a third party) I’m not going to change your mind. If you really, really, really want to condemn people to suffering because your conscience demands it, knock yourself out. But don’t think the angels are singing for you.

12

Steve LaBonne 09.27.12 at 8:20 pm

Assumes existence of a spine not in evidence, Daniel.

In fact Duncan Black (Atrios) has repeatedly skewered statements by supposedly-Red Ed which demonstrate precisely the lack thereof (and/or of a clue). From a distance I can see no evidence that he’s meaningfully different from Gordon Brown, any more than Obama was from Hillary Clinton.

13

JW Mason 09.27.12 at 8:22 pm

Another way of making this point might be, you cannot cordon off the theory of politics you apply in presidential elections from the theory you apply elsewhere. The strong claims about consequentialism and lesser-evilism that get applied to presidential votes are going to bleed into the rest of your politics. It is hard for a party that’s committed to consequentialism and lesser-evilism to, for instance, be effective at obstruction. Obstruction only works when you’re credibly committed to holding out in a negative-sum game longer than the other guys, which is a lot easier when you are standing on principle. (“Let justice be done, though the heavens fall” is among other things a strategic resource.) So a party or movement that wants to be capable of obstruction needs to cultivate its capacity to stand on principle, even when its not appropriate in particular situations.

The principle “I will not vote for drone assassinations, no matter what the tradeoffs” won’t do much good if it just means we get Romney instead of Obama. But it could do a lot of good to strengthen the negotiating hand of politicians who wants to end drone strikes, and who needs to be able to threaten trouble if they don’t get their way. A politician who can credibly say that their base won’t tolerate compromise, is in a stronger negotiating position than one whose base is known for lesser-evilism. In that sense, Lemieux et al. are doing more to weaken the Democrats than any of their critics on the left.

14

DarrenG 09.27.12 at 8:24 pm

Christian, I see that lack of spine as incentive for two things:

1) Doing what is necessary to prevent Romney and the Republicans from regaining control of the executive in 2013.
2) Supporting Democratic candidates at all levels who show evidence of having a spine and evolving the party in a better direction over time.

15

Steve LaBonne 09.27.12 at 8:26 pm

Also on the UK example, even if it’s true that Labour will be marginally less evil when it next comes to power (which remains to be seen) and that if so, this will have been the result of the coalition victory (which would be pretty hard to establish), one would have to be quite the optimist to imagine that they’d accomplish enough positive things to outweigh the massive damage done by the coalition. And I think polls show that a lot of former Lib Dem voters pretty much see it that way- the party is toast.

16

Daryl McCullough 09.27.12 at 8:29 pm

As I said somewhere else recently, if someone has a plausible plan in which allowing Republicans to sweep into office will eventually lead to a better world, I’m all ears. But it seems to me that the effect of the principled rejection of “lesser-evildom” will most likely be that we are stuck with the greater evil.

17

abra11 09.27.12 at 8:29 pm

I haven’t followed this series as closely as I would have liked… and I am sympathetic to the moral dilemma of “less evil-ism,” which is a byproduct of our first-past-the-post electoral system, which I would like see scraped for any number of reasons.

However, operating within current constraints, I have a hard time not caring deeply about the distance between the parties. I am to the left of the Democratic Party and that distance has grown over — both because I have moved left and the Democratic Party moved right. The Democratic Party moved right because of the strength of the GOP and Religious Right and their ability to frame the national debate. So, it is a balancing act between strengthening the party and moving the party back to the left — changing the the terms of the debate without making the Dems a permanent minority party.

Same sex marriage is case in point — 4 years ago it was a verboten topic because no one wanted to draw attention to a topic that divided the party, this year the guy with 2 moms spoke at the DNC. The party shifted to the left on that issue because the terms of the debate have changed — and it is much harder to influence those changes when you’ve banished yourself to the righteous/ideological wilderness.

Well… actually, I think there is a place for both the protest vote (or abstention) and the strategic vote. But politics is inherently strategic — so hopefully they are both strategic votes.

18

Steve LaBonne 09.27.12 at 8:31 pm

And to DarrenG’s list @14 I would add 3) Understanding that this effort has to end at the Presidential level, not start there. Parties are rebuilt from the bottom up.

19

alkali 09.27.12 at 8:45 pm

@5: Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.

So no voting for Obama, and presumably no voting for Democratic House candidates, but we are morally obliged to vote for some — but not all — Democratic Senate candidates?

20

chrismealy 09.27.12 at 8:46 pm

Obama’s whole strategy was based around abandoning all other priorities such as carbon tax, an effective stimulus bill, half his nominations, most of the financial sector reforms and so forth, all to concentrate on passing health care. And he only got about half of that – the version passed was something he’d specifically camapigned against as not being anything like radical enough.

Obama was for cap and trade, not a carbon tax. Pelosi got America’s first cap and trade bill passed in June 2009. It went nowhere in the Senate. All this happened before health care really got started. Getting the Senate (with its rural overrepresentation) to pass a climate bill is going to take a generation, and when it happens it’ll suck and we’ll all be mad about it.

The health care bill that passed was pretty much exactly what Obama (and Clinton and Edwards) campaigned on, except we didn’t get public option, and Obama said he was against the insurance mandate. To me the mandate was always bargaining chip. I’m fine with it. The public option loss is too bad, but as a version 1.0 product it’s not bad.

21

Patrick 09.27.12 at 8:47 pm

The success of the reactionary elements within the Republican Party came, not through a refusal to support the Republican Party by reactionaries, but by taking over the Party through its institutional structures, while supporting the Republicans they had. Changes in the agenda of the parties are accomplished by working within them, not by protest voting for candidates who are free to take positions that they don’t have to reconcile with political reality.

If you think about politics in terms of particular politicians who have plans formed by personal convictions and then are chosen between by an electorate, you aren’t thinking about politics at all. President Obama’s dedication to healthcare reform is best understood as a result of structures and interests within the Democratic Party, rather than Obama’s preferences. The fact that such a non-ideal version passed has more to do with how awful Congress is as an institution than anything.

Why is the US in the bipartisan buisness of blowing up brown people in foreign countries? Is it because Bush and Obama are both naturally bloodthirsty people who love blowing up brown people? At most it’s why they were/are president instead of someone else. The US blows people up because it is an imperial power which suits the elites very well, and the majority of the electorate is supportive of or at least indifferent to this fact.

I support activism designed to make the US not an imperial power or to change the political realities of other terrible things, but pretending that you get there by pretending to be shocked that the US is an imperial power and that includes Democratic administrations is silly.

22

chrismealy 09.27.12 at 8:48 pm

What’s Labour’s excuse? You guys don’t have all the insane veto points in your system. You don’t have some asshole Senator from Nebraska who can hold up everything, right?

23

L2P 09.27.12 at 9:00 pm

“Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.”

That’s . . . an amazing statement. Well, yes, if you assume away 1/2 of the powers of the Presidency, then yes, I guess the differences between any two candidates DO disappear, don’t they?

In any event, that’s just painfully wrong. Filibusters of Supreme Court justices are difficult. Bork is the only successful modern filibuster. If they were trivially easy to filibuster, Sotomayor and Kagan would not be on the Court. You can argue that the threat of the filibuster moderates nominations, but that’s about it.

And then you’re left with the President’s control of the nomination process. There’s a huge difference between nominating the “moderate” Justice Alito and the “moderate” Justice Kagan, both filibuster-proof (we know that because THEY WEREN’T FILIBUSTERED.)

But again, sure. If you want to assume away a vast area of power in which President Obama would be vastly different than President Romney, then, yeah, I guess your third party vote is awesome.

24

shah8 09.27.12 at 9:02 pm

/me does a heavy-lidded smirk

I’m black, so I’m fortunately without such illusions that Daniel seems to entertain.

As to the the confusion that seems to be erupting…

Take this essay by TNCoates: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/no-one-left-to-race-bait/262622/

Read through it, and inverse the reasoning. In other words, the benefit of being white in terms of state and elite vision is being eroded. Instead, it is preferred that democracy and voting have absolutely no impact on policy rather than society as a whole increasingly participating in politics and policy.

Don’t believe me? Can you stop some fly-by-night energy company from fracking up your water supply? It used to be that the system polluted on the basis of environmental racism. Can you stop your kids from being penured by gatekeepers to “middle classhood”? Or prevent your home from being taken in some thoroughly illegal ways, and shot and killed if you defended your stuff?

You know, technically, we’re seeing this happen all over the world, except Nordic countries and African countries too poor and fast growing to be that affected.

This is some real pre WWI shit going on, globally. Revolution, or an attempt at one, seems to be ever more invevitable.

Arab Spring isn’t over yet, I think, and in some further future, it won’t be called Arab Spring.

25

L2P 09.27.12 at 9:04 pm

“Will there come a point where you would say “yes, voting Democrat will delay disaster a bit, but at this point we have to risk actualy changing course”, or not?”

Of course.

When the Democrats are actively campaigning to end gay rights, using dog whistles to enforce racial stereotypes, campaigning for patriarchal laws, fighting for entrenched economic inequality, openly campaigning against most environmental laws, openly mocking evolution, global warming, and tolerance, and answering all economic problems with lower taxes.

Then I’ll say we need to risk changing course and vote for a third party.

26

rootless_e 09.27.12 at 9:05 pm

I love the “lack spine” analysis. It brings to bear all we’ve learned about class, politics, hegemony,economics, and history and then tosses that into the trash to seize on to some cable TV gibberish.

This may startle some here but:the rich and powerful are … rich and powerful! It’s a lot easier for a determined executive to give favors out to highly influential members of the power elite than to, e.g.take money from highly influential members of the power elite and pay for schools. No serious liberal/left reforms in US or any other history have come in the absence of strong popular movements – which are conspicuous by their absence in the USA right now with one exception.

Furthermore, the US Republicans are a highly organized and disciplined party that has a large organized activist base of racists and evangelicals and benefits from a lot of funding from the rich and powerful. So the Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth enforce party discipline. The Democrats, on the other hand, are an ungainly coalition with disparate agendas and they have nothing like the national tightly organized policing organizations that shape the GOP. This is not rocket science, yet US progressives seem unable to understand the simplest dynamics of how the system works. C. Wright Mills? Ring a bell? So expecting e.g. the Democratic Senate to filibuster as effectively as the Republican Senate indicates a total unfamiliarity with the American political system.

Sheesh.

27

Josh G. 09.27.12 at 9:16 pm

L2P @ 22: “In any event, that’s just painfully wrong. Filibusters of Supreme Court justices are difficult. Bork is the only successful modern filibuster.

Bork wasn’t filibustered, he lost on a straight-up vote (42 for, 58 against).

L2P @ 11: “No, you’d just have to believe that Romney wouldn’t have nominated Kagan and Sotomayor, but instead would have nominated Alito, Jr., and Alito the Second. Aaaaaand that’s it. Then we don’t have Roe v. Wade. Nor do we have ANY affirmative action. Nor do we have any ability to regulate commerce. Have you heard of Lochner? The Republican Party wants the Supreme Court to resurrect those doctrines. That’s the end of the ENTIRE WELFARE STATE.

I think this cuts to the core of the issue and pretty much demolishes the entire “argument against lesser-evilism”. I’ll bold this because people who don’t live in the USA may not quite realize how bad things are: THERE ARE ALREADY FOUR VOTES (OUT OF NINE) ON THE SUPREME COURT TO BASICALLY REPEAL THE 20TH CENTURY. Everything. Social Security, Medicare, regulation of commercial activity. Everything. Everything.
Let the Republicans appoint another Supreme Court Justice and we’re back to 1905. And the middle class is dead and buried.

28

Ben Alpers 09.27.12 at 9:31 pm

rootless_e @25:

Totally agree. The problem with the Democrats isn’t that they’re spineless. It’s that they are not the mirror opposite of the Republicans, for all the reasons you suggest.

Nonetheless, in the short-run, the sane billionaires of the Democratic Party are significantly less bad than the insane billionaires of the GOP. And, yes, the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to be as obstructionist as the GOP is a crucial part of this equation.

The OP is entirely correct that, in the long run, this creates a ratchet effect to the right, even when the Democrats win. The problem is that short-run GOP victories do nothing to end this ratcheting….indeed they simply speed it up.

29

JRoth 09.27.12 at 9:32 pm

5 sort of weirdly pretends that, if the Senate filibusters Romney’s first nominee, the second one will be slightly to the left of Sotomayor.

There is no precedent – none – for Congress rejecting serial nominees for the SCOTUS; Alito won 90+ votes after Bork was, uh, Borked. It’s true that, if Romney were to nominate Alito^2 3 times in a row, then Dems might – might – block all three, even in the face of unanimous gnashing of teeth at this “unprecedented obstruction”. But all Romney needs to do is nominate someone a bit more centrist than Alito (that is, someone like Scalia, Roberts, or Kennedy), and he’ll get his nominee through. And someone like Scalia, Roberts, or Kennedy will vote to end/eviscerate Roe, Lochner, and who knows what else.

And none of this is predicated on Dem spinelessness. The GOP, in its role as the most obstructionist Congress in US history, allowed Sotomayor and Kagan to join the Court, despite genuinely left of center bona fides. What Daniel is trying to posit as a given would be completely historical behavior. Nice question-begging.

30

Dave 09.27.12 at 9:37 pm

This is all very convincing, if you reduce the Obama administration to the ACA and a lot of hand-waving, and further presume that a Republican president would just vanish into the ether upon inauguration.

31

Brendan 09.27.12 at 9:42 pm

So maybe I’m missing the big picture here, or I’m misreading what I take to be your point (in particular, I’m not sure if this is really meant as an argument). With that in mind, your post at least suggests that it might be rationally required for any voter significantly to the left of the Democratic party to vote for a third party, the idea being that this would lead to an outcome where Democrats end up in the minority in the short term, but move left (or are replaced by a more left-leaning party) in the long-term. This conclusion is defended partially on the basis that, in the past, temporary Republican majorities haven’t been able to do anything *that bad*, and that to suggest otherwise is fear-mongering.

I tend to think this sort of reasoning conflates two very different things: (1) the sorts of majorities Republicans have had in the past and (2) the sorts of majorities that Republicans would get if, say, the left-most 10% of voters no longer engaged in “lesser-evilism”. The problem isn’t just that the Democrats would be a minority; it’s that they would be such a small minority (at both the national and state levels) that they would be powerless to stop the sorts of systemic changes that would put left-liberalism at a severe disadvantage in the long-run: supreme court justices, education policies, voter-ID laws, changes to immigration policy, anti-union laws, and so on. I don’t find it plausible that these sorts of things could be outweighed by moving the Democratic party to the left.

In any case, I think it’s perfectly fine (actually, I think it’s almost trivially true) to note that there are certain cases in which it is rational to give your money/support/vote to a third party, even if this increases the chance that your second-favorite party loses. However, given the structure of the American political system, and the types of things supermajorities can accomplish in a short time, I don’t think these cases are at all typical, and the sorts of evidence you cite doesn’t seem (at least on the face of it) especially relevant to establishing that they are.

32

Lee A. Arnold 09.27.12 at 9:56 pm

These political threads quickly go off into ridiculous name-calling so let me get my two cents in here before this one explodes too. I had a comment in the last thread that got stuck in moderation. I will repeat my point, because I think it is central.

Basically the point is that elections are not the end of the process. They are only a step in it. It is necessary to keep the pressure on, after an election, in order to move things forward.

Therefore, voting for the lesser of two evils is the way to go, if you are committed to changing the system.

I bring forward as my evidence: The Democrats might have gone along in 2005 with Dubya’s initiative to “reform” Social Security by privatisation (or partial privatization). After all, the Democratic Party had already stated publicly since the Clinton Administration that it was in favor of “reform”, a pernicious hold-over from the Reaganoid gibberish. And they might have joined the Republicans in doing so, if a large bunch of people who had recently been given voice by the bloggysphere, had NOT said, “Wait a minute, this is not a good direction for the party to go in.” That message got through.

It is demonstrably better to vote for the lesser of two evils if you have input into it afterward. And the Democrats are listening, largely because they do NOT have a rigidified ideology like the Repubs. The Dems are the “anything goes” part, they are looking for ideas. They don’t have their ideas prearranged. One party is healthy, if a bit slow. But the other party is currently pathological.

Now I am not under any illusions. After the election, if the Dems do well, they may still try to “reform” Social Security in a budget deal because Obama fancies himself a compromiser in the great American tradition. So there is another argument, soon to come. But you have to wonder whether the left will have the brains to make the argument successfully. They want perfection NOW. The healthcare reform is a “failure”? Why? Because you can’t see far enough to understand that it heads right into a single-payer system, in almost any event short of repeal?

Look at what the actual stakes are. The future is going to have a huge welfare state, predistributional and redistributional. It should be paid for out of current revenues. The correct design of it is going to require people to recognize this fact.

This is the current status of things, yet it is not widely understood or accepted.

The Dems are a little further along on this than the Republicans are, but they still have some road to travel. The Dems still pay a lot of lip service to the need for smaller government, the need for individual initiative — but the rhetoric isn’t really applicable, in every case case.

They might start by explaining that the tax money is not “lost”, it goes right back into the private economy of goods and services and jobs, in sectors where there is a need to expand: e.g. elderly healthcare, and helping as well the ancillary sectors such as construction and retailing. If lower capital gains taxes resulted in gambling on mortgage derivatives and a bubble in house prices, then there is no downside to re-hiking capital gains taxes a little to help cover a social demand. Meanwhile there is low overhead: “big government” is big spending, but it is not necessarily “big bureaucracy”, and it ought to be possible to structure the programs to minimize moral hazard (a good example of this again is Social Security).

I don’t know enough about Britain to speak accurately. But in the U.S., I think the public conversation about domestic policy is going to proceed along lines like these, in the near future. The Democratic Party is better positioned. They have less hare-brained nonsense obstructing the discussion. We are not quite there, yet. But voting against your own best future advantage, strategically and tactically, makes no sense.

33

js. 09.27.12 at 9:58 pm

The success of the reactionary elements within the Republican Party came, not through a refusal to support the Republican Party by reactionaries, but by taking over the Party through its institutional structures, while supporting the Republicans they had.

Patrick’s comment, from which the above is taken, is eminently sensible. I’d add one thing though. The take-over of the institutional structures of the party was itself made possible through prior organizing and movement-building outside of party structures and party politics.

Combine this with the point that JW Mason and others made on the first of these threads that left of liberal movements generally fare better under Democratic administrations, and the answer’s pretty simple, I think. Sure, vote Democratic strategically, but make the focus of political activity non-electoral politics. This will inter alia require serious and sustained criticism of, e.g., Obama’s “opprobrious foreign policy”, the lack of which Henry was rightly bemoaning. It may also sometimes require strategically not supporting Democrats or a Democrat. Either way, I don’t see how defending lesser-evilism for the 50 millionth time does any good.

34

Daniel 09.27.12 at 9:58 pm

There is no precedent – none – for Congress rejecting serial nominees for the SCOTUS

Again nuh uh. There is no precedent for anything, until it is done for the first time. Supreme Court nominees require approval and no feasible scenario has the Democrats without a viable blocking minority. If you’re arguing that they are not willing to use that blocking power to defend abortion rights you need to own that.

35

Barry 09.27.12 at 10:07 pm

Daniel: ” So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion? You would have to believe that under a Democratic administration Congress is a sclerotic, obstructionist institution which prevents all possibility of effective government, but as soon as the Republicans get in it becomes a streamlined ideological machine.”

The first rule of US politics (and elsewhere) is that it’s not symmetric.

The GOP is a servant to the financial elites, with very few exception. The Democratic Party is strongly influenced by the elites, with counterfactions. The GOP will almost always pass legislation/regulate/deregulate/appoint judges who are very, very desirable to the financial elites. The Democratic Party, much less so.

That means that the playing field is tilted, and strongly.

In foreign policy, crises favor the right. Note that the f*ck-up in Iraq would have taken the Democratic Party down for twenty years.

36

Salem 09.27.12 at 10:16 pm

“What’s Labour’s excuse? You guys don’t have all the insane veto points in your system. You don’t have some asshole Senator from Nebraska who can hold up everything, right?”

Fewer veto points means the next guys can repeal everything you did. Which means that if you want to achieve anything, you have to pass popular laws, and get re-elected, and you can’t blame that one crazy Senator for all your problems. Socialism isn’t popular. Some form of “third way” was (and still is). I don’t think Labour need an excuse for anything.

Besides, the talk of veto points and asshole Senators and billionaires is mostly excuse-making. The US tortures and bombs and so on because that’s what the median voter wants.

37

Alex 09.27.12 at 10:18 pm

Sounds like what a number of leftish Lib Dem voters (rightly) hacked off with Labour were telling themselves before the last election. How’d that work out for them?

Not so well.

38

shah8 09.27.12 at 10:19 pm

Daniel, you’re assuming that the Democratic Party is coherent. The part of the Party that represents what we’d think of as even a left wing is rather small. At least it’s bigger than it used to be, proportionally, as blue dogs got defeated, but there’s still roughly 10 or so Democratic senators that would have little trouble voting for reprehensible Republican bills, especially for services rendered or future considerations. So, for each kind of proportion of the Senate, Dems need about five to ten more seats than they superficially need.

Moreover, you’ve expressed some attachment to process and procedure that Republican party members plainly don’t feel, since at least Bush vs. Gore. Romney can get his agenda because they will change or ignore the rules to pass it. From Gang of 14 event that plainly refutes your thesis, to Plan D shenanigans, etc, etc…

39

shah8 09.27.12 at 10:22 pm

The median voter does not particularly *want* bombing and torturing. The median voter does not *care*.

Your average right-wing creep does want bombing and torturing. They’re privileged with extra/better rights because they will help the elite achieve goals that requires bombing and torturing. That’s 25-7% of the population, though.

40

Daniel 09.27.12 at 10:25 pm

Not so well.

Although not at all so badly as that remaining group of LibDem voters who are left hanging on supporting the coalition and telling themselves that they are better inside than out, they are mitigating the worst excesses of Cameron etc and that it would be stupid to have stayed out of the coalition out of ideological purism etc. Not really very sure who the mainstream Democrats think they are analogous to in British politics.

41

Holden Pattern 09.27.12 at 10:26 pm

I encourage all of the “grass-roots, bottom-up change-the-Party” advocates to identify exactly where the money will come from to pay all of the full-time activists needed to do that in a meaningful way. Because the Republicans didn’t really do that with part-timers who worked day jobs.

42

bexley 09.27.12 at 10:40 pm

Again nuh uh. There is no precedent for anything, until it is done for the first time. Supreme Court nominees require approval and no feasible scenario has the Democrats without a viable blocking minority. If you’re arguing that they are not willing to use that blocking power to defend abortion rights you need to own that.

If no precedent is required I could point out that when the Republicans next control the House, Senate and Presidency they can just get rid of the filibuster. If Romney wins then it’ll mean the Republicans have kept the House and may well have flipped the Senate. Given how obstructionist they’ve been this time they could choose to eliminate the filibuster to avoid retaliation from the Democrats.

43

Salem 09.27.12 at 10:45 pm

>The median voter does not particularly *want* bombing and torturing. The median voter does not *care*.

The median voter cares a certain amount. Not top of the list of priorities, but it’s certainly on there. As is keeping out immigrants, and cutting benefits to single mothers, and onwards thus. Now each individual item may not be a dealbreaker in itself, but put it all together and it matters.

It’s fantasy to think that CT-style politics is mainstream. As Brendan suggests above, 10% at the very most. Now maybe you can use the institutional leeway to shift policy outcomes leftwards to a certain extent, but frankly I’d argue that the Democrats already went too far doing that (hence 2010). Politics is the art of the possible. If you want to win, you need to persuade people to agree with you. And quite rightly so. That’s ultimately what all the talk of institutional structures and movement-building means.

44

Barry 09.27.12 at 10:46 pm

Another: “There is no precedent – none – for Congress rejecting serial nominees for the SCOTUS”

Daniel: “Again nuh uh. There is no precedent for anything, until it is done for the first time. “

And we’re supposed to hang our hopes on that analysis?

45

Bloix 09.27.12 at 10:54 pm

Look, the problem with not voting for the Democrats is that the Republicans are fascists who will destroy representative government and usher in an age of brutal corporatist one-party rule for generations to come. Every Republican president since Nixon has tried to subvert democracy and every time they’ve come closer to doing it.

Romney will seal the deal by appointing one or two more Mussolini-style Supreme Court justices and an Attorney General who will use the criminal law to steal elections, and who will start another war or two – Iran, and maybe a proxy war with China – to justify a domestic Reign of Terror against political opponents.

You can call this “less of two evils” if you want. I call it not helping the people who want to put me in prison and send my boys off to die. I don’t know why this is so hard to understand.

46

MPAVictoria 09.27.12 at 10:56 pm

Daniel you are embarrassing yourself here. You obviously are very unfamiliar with the American political system.

47

shah8 09.27.12 at 10:57 pm

The median *white* voter cares about white supremacy and all of the assurances of white supremacy, but do you really think that’s the median of all voters?

48

Daniel 09.27.12 at 11:05 pm

Daniel you are embarrassing yourself here. You obviously are very unfamiliar with the American political system.

What is your specific objection here? This might certainly be the case, but just saying it as a blank generalisation isn’t very convincing.

49

TripleMused 09.27.12 at 11:08 pm

In what way is avoiding “lesser-evilism” not a direct endorsement of “greater-evilism?” I remember this crap in 2000 and what happened then? Good stuff, I suppose, and no one could have known that would happen. And I suppose the sting of that loss and the one in 2004 shifted the Democratic party left, eh?

Cthulhu-Dagon 2012!

50

Ben Alpers 09.27.12 at 11:09 pm

Actually, there is some precedent for serially rejecting SCOTUS nominees. Nixon had two in a row rejected when he first became President in 1969: Clement Haynesworth and Harrold Carswell. Nixon then nominated Harry Blackmun, who the Senate confirmed. So it worked out quite nicely for Democratic Senators. Though it should be noted that both parties were quite different then than now. And Nixon (and the Senate) had every reason to think Blackmun would be more conservative than he turned out to be (he was sort of Souter-like in that way).

The other (semi-)example is under Reagan: in 1987, the Senate rejected Robert Bork, and Reagan nominated Douglas Ginsburg, who ended up withdrawing his name when it was revealed that he had smoked marijuana (!). Reagan then nominated Anthony Kennedy, who while now Harry Blackmun was also certainly no Robert Bork (I know nothing of Ginsburg’s jurisprudence). In this case, I think, Kennedy was less of a surprise than Blackmun (or, later Souter). But, again, the two parties are quite different from what they were a quarter century ago.

51

Ben Alpers 09.27.12 at 11:16 pm

js. @33:

Sure, vote Democratic strategically, but make the focus of political activity non-electoral politics. This will inter alia require serious and sustained criticism of, e.g., Obama’s “opprobrious foreign policy”, the lack of which Henry was rightly bemoaning. It may also sometimes require strategically not supporting Democrats or a Democrat. Either way, I don’t see how defending lesser-evilism for the 50 millionth time does any good.

The first sentence in the quoted passage appears to endorse tactically voting for the Democrats, while affirming that doing so should not be the focus of political activity. I basically agree with this. The last sentence, however, claims that it does no good to vote tactically for Democrats. I disagree with this….and don’t really understand how it fits in a paragraph with the first quoted sentence.

Voting for Democrats is no better than playing defense. Doing so makes things get worse more slowly than allowing Republicans to get elected. We can expect no more from our electoral politics today, unfortunately. But playing defense is nonetheless important, even if it shouldn’t be the focus of our political activities. It’s still worth spending the minutes (or even hours) to cast a vote for the lesser evil, at least if one lives in a presidential battleground state or is voting in a competitive Senate race or, more unusually, a competitive House race.

52

pc 09.27.12 at 11:21 pm

Daniel, a successful filibuster won’t even neccessarily protect againts the Court rolling back the 20th century. If Ginsburg retires the four conservs are guaranteed a split in any case at worst and so any bad fed circuit opinion will be the law for foreseeable future in that circuit; and that is the worst case scenario from their point of view. Then if Kennedy wobbles or retires, that’s the ball game.

53

adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.27.12 at 11:22 pm

@Daniel – the specific objections, as noted above, is that when you engage in a hypothetical scenario in which one party is willing to filibuster a series of qualified (in the sense of their credentials – i.e. think John Roberts not Harriet Myers) SCOTUS nominee, that scenario includes that the majority party uses the “nuclear option” and gets rid of the filibuster for judicial nominees or just in general.
The filibuster is not in the constitution…

The only immediate recourse against that is a 5-4 conservative SCOTUS, so that’s out. The only other recourse is a popular backlash against the nuclear option and that seems widely optimistic.

54

John 09.27.12 at 11:28 pm

It should be noted that neither Haynesworth nor Carswell was filibustered – they were rejected by a majority in the Senate. If multiple Romney Supreme Court nominees were filibustered, despite having majority support, I don’t see how there’s any way that the judicial filibuster would survive – the Republicans would definitely nuke it.

55

MPAVictoria 09.27.12 at 11:30 pm

” I don’t see how there’s any way that the judicial filibuster would survive – the Republicans would definitely nuke it.”
Bingo.

56

js. 09.27.12 at 11:48 pm

Ben A. @50:

Sorry, I should have been more clear. The last sentence (in 33) is not supposed to imply that it’s no good voting for Democrats tactically. It’s directed at people (on these threads and elsewhere) who argue it’s a moral imperative to vote for Democratic candidates, that anyone who considers not doing so on principled leftist grounds is some sort of moral monster who only cares about his or her moral purity, etc. Or even, and perhaps with less vehemence, feels the need to repeat how much good Obama has done, how he’s categorically better (or is it less evil) than Bush, Romney, etc. That’s the sort of thing I meant by “defenses of lesser-evilism”.

57

rootless_e 09.27.12 at 11:58 pm

As the late great Molly Ivins used to point out, the lesser evil is less evil.

58

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 12:06 am

rootless_e @54 and 55:

Thanks for the clarification, in light of which I agree wholeheartedly with you.

59

Anderson 09.28.12 at 12:06 am

Daniel is really smart about some things, but US politics may not be among them.

His ideas here seem to assume UK-style party discipline and equivocate between Democrats in Congress (lame) and a Dem in the White House, a huge diff unlike a parliamentary executive.

60

Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 12:08 am

Ben Alpers 09.27.12 at 11:16 pm:
‘… Voting for Democrats is no better than playing defense.’

It’s not a defense. If you want to defend what’s left of the U.S. social democratic state, you’d better be prepared to go into the streets starting on Nov. 7th, or on strike, or whatever you can think of. Last fall, the Democratic Party leadership was willing to put their great almighty sacred cow, Social Security, on the block; but OWS seemed to scare them for a little while, probably because an election year was coming up. Which demonstrates that, whoever wins the upcoming election, there will be nothing standing between the ruling class and the social democracy / Welfare state such as it is, except those who choose to make trouble; certainly not the Democratic Party leadership.

61

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 12:09 am

John @52:

I think you’re entirely correct about the unlikelihood of even a single Democratic filibuster of a SCOTUS nominee actually having its intended effect in the current political atmosphere. The Republicans would nuke it. And while I favor getting rid of the filibuster entirely, the Republican nuclear option wouldn’t do that: it would preserve the filibuster while ridiculously ruling that it was unconstitutional in the case of judicial nominations.

62

Ed 09.28.12 at 12:14 am

Is the Supreme Court the version of Hitler in the equivalent of Godwin’s Law for American politics threads?

63

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 12:15 am

Anarcissie @58:

I certainly didn’t mean to argue that electing Democrats defends what’s left of the social democratic state. I meant that it was “playing defense,” in the sense that it keeps the Republicans out of power, and that is tactically worthwhile. Electing Democrats slows the deterioration of what’s left of the social democratic state relative to electing Republicans; electing Democrats doesn’t preserve it. About this much I agree with you. And I also happen to think that what’s left of our social safety net is inadequate, even adding the Heritage Foundations early ’90s healthcare reform proposal “Obamacare” to the mix. But given the choices we face today, the best one can do electorally, is vote for Democrats…which is precisely why progressive political efforts should focus on non-electoral politics for the foreseeable future.

64

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 12:16 am

myself @56:

I somehow joined rootless_e and js. into a single person. As it turns out, I agree with them both.

65

js. 09.28.12 at 12:19 am

Just to be clear, I’m not rootless_e, and I don’t know what he or she is trying to say at 55 (beyond stating a tautology).

66

js. 09.28.12 at 12:20 am

Posts crossed, sorry.

67

Leeds man 09.28.12 at 1:05 am

I wonder if there are any non-white, non-male, non-relatively-comfortable folk making arguments about the evils of lesser-evilism.

68

T. Paine 09.28.12 at 1:11 am

Daniel, this is lunacy. Obama can’t control what a Senate controlled by obstructionists (and conservative Dems like Nelson and Lieberman) passes. Hence a sub-optimal healthcare bill. In contrast, an election that goes for Romney keeps the House in Republican hands, and likely passes Senate control to the Republicans. Romney isn’t driving the agenda then; Eric Cantor and his tea party buddies are. Which means whatever crazy bullshit they want to pass (no more “Obamacare,” for instance).

Vanity voting accomplishes little of actual value, but apparently makes some people feel righteous. Good for them, but bad for women, the poor, and, by coincidence, all the foreigners to be killed by a Romney military.

69

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 1:11 am

Leeds man @67:

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Adolph Reed, Jr. would be two examples of African Americans on the left who have been very critical of Obama and have raised questions about the efficacy of “lesser evilism.”

70

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 1:11 am

We have to change people’s preferences and then make the Democratic Party follow along. Actually that won’t be too hard: the function of a politician is to want the job. But I don’t understand the illusion that voting in elections is about choosing a better world. That is rarely true. I also don’t understand why the only alternative is grassroots activism. As Wilde said about socialism, it takes too many evenings. The correct route in my opinion is to change people’s preferences, before they even get into the voting booth. And to do so on the medium at hand, which is the internet. It has already beaten one great obstacle, which is that mass media is controlled. Why is it so difficult to construct a narrative which convinces people that some functions of the welfare state are a good idea, that the taxes are immediately recycled back into the private economy, that it is restricted to needs which the market cannot manage, and so on? Preferences are exogenous. Exogenous, not only to markets.

71

rf 09.28.12 at 1:14 am

All of those things together or each separately? I’m sure there are, these things don’t fall into such carefully defined categories. I’m genuinely at a loss how a topic that began by trying to bring attention to the abuses perpetrated against ‘certain types of Muslims’, both internationally and domestically, has become an example of white privilege.

72

rf 09.28.12 at 1:15 am

That’s at leedsman

73

Leeds man 09.28.12 at 1:29 am

rf @71

Any combination. I’m not trying to make it an example of white privilege, just pointing out where I’ve seen most of these types of arguments. I happen to agree with them, right up to the point of voting in a two-party election.

74

Dave 09.28.12 at 1:32 am

maybe it would be wise to revisit this argument on or near november 7, the day after 60 to 70 million morally degenerate americans vote for barack obama and twenty or thirty of you abstain or vote for lizard people or whoever. it will be just as fascinating then, i’m sure

75

Coulter 09.28.12 at 1:34 am

Why is abortion such a big deal in the list? It doesn’t even make my top 25 list, except as some strange are-you-with-us-or-against-us test. Even if RvW is overturned, and abortion becomes a states issue, abortion will be legal and safe in all the states we’d want to live in. As for the states where we wouldn’t want to live in, guess what? There are not many doctors there today anyway performing abortion. In a post RvW world, folks in the south and midwest will be taking bus rides to civilization to get abortions. In the RvW world of today, they most likely still have to travel to get an abortion …

76

chris 09.28.12 at 1:38 am

But it could do a lot of good to strengthen the negotiating hand of politicians who wants to end drone strikes, and who needs to be able to threaten trouble if they don’t get their way.

That would be Sanders and, uh, Sanders, I believe. Sure, I’d love it if he had a large national base. He doesn’t. I’m not entirely sure how he keeps getting reelected as it is, although being from New England probably helps.

A politician who can credibly say that their base won’t tolerate compromise, is in a stronger negotiating position than one whose base is known for lesser-evilism.

Yeah, but you have to HAVE A BASE first. The hard right took over the Republican party because they had (and still have) a frightening number of foot soldiers ready to vote, work, donate, and even assassinate doctors for their agenda. Corporate money helped too, of course, but without the dittoheads they couldn’t have done it.

The hard right base is maybe 25% of the population — people substantially further left than the Democratic Party are more like 5%.

Either build mass popular support for the left-of-the-Democrats agenda or give up the expectation of seeing it implemented. It’s not going to make it into policy as long as it remains a splinter opinion in the population.

77

rosmar 09.28.12 at 1:42 am

I have some radical queer people of color friends who think like this, so it isn’t only white men who do. But I argue with my friends, too, because, given the “facts on the ground,” this way of thinking is self-defeating. (I’m of the school that believes the best strategy is to vote for who does the least harm and/or the most good, and, if you can, get your ass out there and organize to push from the left, too.)

78

heckblazer 09.28.12 at 2:10 am

My perspective is along the lines of a party whip, in this case for the party of Not Republican. There’s a hugely important vote coming up. It’s important enough we can’t afford any abstentions, which it seems to me is the idea of not voting for Obama. Even in states that are a lock for electoral votes pushing up the popular vote helps marginalize the GOP.

To win we also need to get the largest possible turnout. Most people, even putative undecideds, have pretty much made up their minds even if they don’t admit it. The main question is whether or not they show up at the polls. I think this in particular is why this topic gets under my skin, since realistic or not it makes me worry it will depress enthusiasm and hence turnout. The Obama campaign’s main worry right now certainly is overconfidence leading to supporters staying home.

79

heckblazer 09.28.12 at 2:17 am

Chris @ 75:
“Yeah, but you have to HAVE A BASE first. The hard right took over the Republican party because they had (and still have) a frightening number of foot soldiers ready to vote, work, donate, and even assassinate doctors for their agenda. Corporate money helped too, of course, but without the dittoheads they couldn’t have done it.”

That’s exactly it. The GOP wins by combining corporate money with the organized manpower of white evangelical churches. The Democrats used to have unions for ground-level organizing but membership keeps declining (Republican attacks on labor are a twofer: it makes the corporate backers happy while at the same time hurting the opposition party’s organization).

80

shah8 09.28.12 at 2:20 am

You know what? I just realized something, especially after reading Erik Loomis’ latest. It was just never any different for people in most places and time than it was for us in the here and now. It’s not different for the Syrians who would prefer As’ad to revolutionary leadership (out of ethnic cleansing and poor Sunni looting everything fears). It’s not different for the Venezuelans about to vote for their president. It’s not any different for those Greeks who decided to with with the traditional parties rather than SYRIZA or Golden Dawn in the last elections. It’s not different because the machinery of public consent is one, long, interconnected chain of various groups with varying agendas that might conflict in wildly unforeseen and undesired ways. We are dependent on, and hopeful for, the kind of “we all get together and work out a meaningful government process regardless of who wins and who loses same as the Chinese folk talking about and watching the upcoming 18th National Congress. That makes it very hard for any of us in the world to interact with the system in any other way than the least bad, in most years.

Change really only happens when the system breaks under real strains, or times are so bubbly that formerly repressed people are able to nimble their way out of oppressive legal regimes. To think otherwise, is naïveté.

81

jim 09.28.12 at 2:22 am

I lack the philosophical attitudes of many of those speaking above. I walk for Obama every weekend, and long for victory by him, and a Democratic land slide in November. I am certain that this would be infinitely preferable for the future of America than the victory of their opponents.

82

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 2:33 am

JIm, you may appreciate this ad:

83

mclaren 09.28.12 at 2:43 am

Actually, that’s not the problem with lesser-evilism at all. Lesser-evilism gives the most extreme party carte blanche to move the perceived center infinitely far in either direction.

Let’s take a simple hypothetical. Given a choice between Mitt Romney at Obama, you vote for Obama because Romney proposes going to war with Iran and slashing the safety net and so on. In another 4 years, you’re now faced with a Democratic presidential candidate who proposes going to war with Iran and slashing the social safety net allegedly in order to prevent complete fiscal collapse, and given the choice between this new Demo candidate and Paul Ryan in 2016, you vote for the new Demo candidate. This gets you what you voted against in 2012. Now in 2020 you get a Democratic candidate who proposes to microchip all Americans and use indefinite preventive detention against “suspected subversives” and who proposes to privatize all police forces and fire departments in America while shutting down social security and medicare. Given the alternative of the extremist Tea Party Republican candidate in 2020 who is running on a platform of impaling all people of Arabic descent and declaring martial law and imposing nightly curfews and setting up death camps for political protesters, of course you vote for the Democratic candidate. You now get everything you voted against when you voted against Paul Ryan’s presidency in 2016.

Eventually you reach the point where you get presented with a choice between Hannibal Lecter and Vlad the Impaler. You vote for Vlad because he’s not as extreme as Lecter. Then, as your wife and children get impaled in public, the police who are doing it remind you, “Remember — you voted for this.”

“Lesser evilism” represents a rapid race to the most extreme possible outcome. All one political party has to do is offer increasingly extreme policies and it may be sure that its policies will soon be implemented as the opposition party gradually veers away from the center and toward that extreme.

Because of “lesser evilism,” Democrats are Republicans with a phase shift of 12 years. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan proposed to end welfare: a firestorm erupted and Democrats fought him tooth and nail. 12 years later, by 1996, Bill Clinton had ended “welfare as we know it,” wrecking the safety net and forcing children to live in cars with their homeless parents. In the late 1980s, Ronald Reagan proposed irresponsible foreign wars (in Nicaragua and El Salvador) based on crazy conspiracy theories. Democrats pushed back and prevented them. By the early 2000s the Democrats in congress had enthusiastically voted in favor of irresponsible foreign wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) based on crazy conspiracy theories. In the early 2000s, George W. Bush proposed extreme surveillance and detention powers that provoked a firestorm of opposition. By 2012, a Democratic president (Barack Obama) was ordering the murder of American citizens without even accusing them of a crime and had signed off on a bill (the NDAA) that authorized kidnapping American citizens and hurling them as prisoners without names into a cells without numbers, without charges, forever, and Obama had also signed off on unlimited warrantless wiretapping of every American’s emails and bank records phone calls, all stored in a gigantic NSA data center in Nevada, to the point where the NSA whistleblower who designed the system says that “almost every American now has an NSA dossier.”

There’s no point in voting Democratic today because it means you’ll get whatever insane extremist policies the Republicans are proposing, just 12 years later. So if you vote Democratic today, you’ll get the policies Paul Ryan is proposing (but from a Democratic president) by 2024: shutting down medicare and social security, war in Iran, massive increases in America’s military spending, and so on.

84

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:05 am

Shorter mclaren- Lets make it as bad as possible as soon as possible!

85

mclaren 09.28.12 at 3:20 am

Shorter MPAVictoria: “I like Paul Ryan’s proposed policies and will enthusiastically applaud them when the Democratic president I voted for implements them 12 years from now.”

86

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:21 am

Shorter mclaren- I have very poor reading comprehension.

87

Leeds man 09.28.12 at 3:22 am

@84 Lets make it as bad as possible as soon as possible!

Well, wasn’t that the attitude adopted by Robert Graves’ Claudius* when he realized Britannicus didn’t want the Republic back? That worked out OK, didn’t it?**

*Something like “let the serpents breed out of the swamp”, IIRC.
**Yes, it’s fiction, but mclaren opened the door.

88

js. 09.28.12 at 3:31 am

Shorter mclaren- Lets make it as bad as possible as soon as possible!

But this is not what anyone is saying. Look, I take it that almost everyone that’s part of this conversation agrees that (a) the current Democratic party is significantly right of where we (=almost everyone on here) wants it to be, and that (b) not only is this a problem, but on some issues like civil liberties and killing random brown foreigners, it’s a really fucking serious problem!

A lot of us on here are also saying that (c) knee-jerk defenses of Democrats on (b)-type problems don’t really help, because they end up having a significant ratchet effect where the discourse and the policies keep moving rightward. So we get from welfare reform to extra-judicial killings. This was, e.g., one of the key points of Farrell’s original post. Pointing this out isn’t about heightening contradictions, Communists for Goldwater, or whatever bullshit. It’s about holding that sometimes non-electoral politics might be the most fruitful place to try to start effecting meaningful change. This is not an insane belief.

But right, you (and others) are very pissed off that they won’t pull the lever for Obama. But here’s the thing: as people never tire of pointing out, we’re talking about a tiny minority. So, umm, let them! And if a tiny minority of that minority actually seriously works outside of electoral politics, esp. in favorable conditions, it might help the causes we all supposedly care about a lot more than pulling the lever for the Dem candidate for the next ten cycles.

89

L2P 09.28.12 at 3:35 am

It sounds like the people that are in favor of voting for a third party rely on assuming (1) that a Republican president won’t have the power of even a hamstrung Democratic president (like making moderately conservative, filibuster proof appointments), and (2) the president has no powers other than vetoing or promoting legislation and drone strikes.

If you think that’s true, than I can see why you’d be in favor of not voting for the Democratic president. Why not? The problem is that’s not true. It’s particularly troubling to see this coming from political scientists and economists who should know that a lot of work happens at the margins. Each marginal budget decision, each marginal appointment, each marginal prosecutorial decision, they add up.

Just be honest. Tell the working poor you don’t care about them. Tell the black people, the immigrants, the women, the children, the sick, the uneducated, that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.. Acknowledge you don’t care if they stripmine Yellowstone Park and dump formaldahyde into the sea. If those things mattered to you, you’d vote for Obama; if you care more about something else, just say so and vote for Jill or Ralph or whatever fair angel tempts you this election.

90

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 3:39 am

heckblazer @79:

There’s a hugely important vote coming up. It’s important enough we can’t afford any abstentions, which it seems to me is the idea of not voting for Obama. Even in states that are a lock for electoral votes pushing up the popular vote helps marginalize the GOP.

I vote in Oklahoma. I plan to vote for Obama, in part because only he and Romney will appear on the ballot here. But my vote for Obama will contribute not a bit to his reelection, thanks to the electoral college. Nor will it marginalize the Republican Party, which is growing by leaps and bounds in my once (conservative) Democratic state. So why, in your view, would it be unconscionable for me to vote for, e.g., Jill Stein were she on the ballot here?

(Incidentally, I think it’s a fantasy that the GOP can be marginalized in very blue states by increasing the size of the popular vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. Obama captured nearly 62% of the vote in Massachusetts in 2008. A year later, Scott Brown won his Senate seat. Do you have any empirical evidence that the size of the popular vote majority for one party affects the state of the other party down the road?)

91

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:39 am

js. this IS what everyone is saying. The alternative to a democratic administration is not a green or a people’s party administration, it is a republican administration. People here are both exaggerating the negatives of a second obama term and underestimating the negatives of a Romney one.

92

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 3:50 am

js. @88:

I actually think there are deep disagreements in this discussion about a) how much difference a Romney win would make (the OP, for example, attempts to minimize the difference); b) under what circumstances (if any) it is permissible not to vote for the Democratic candidate; and c) whether voting for the lesser evil is an unfortunate necessity, unacceptable (in the long run…or even the short run), or a frame that itself is an example of unconscionable privilege.

FWIW, as I say in various places upthread, my views are: a) a Romney win would be much worse than an Obama win; b) it’s nevertheless entirely permissible for people voting in states in which the outcome is not in question (i.e. very red or very blue states) to vote their conscience rather than vote pseudo-tactically for Obama; c) voting for the lesser evil is an unfortunate necessity in the short run, but cannot make things better; it will only makes things worse more slowly (which is, nonetheless, truly better than making them worse more quickly). Those interested in progressive change, at this point, ought to focus on non-electoral politics (though one goal of such organizing should, eventually, be real, positive electoral change).

93

mattski 09.28.12 at 3:52 am

“Evil” is not a good word. (Ahem.) It prejudices the mind, it’s completely unscientific and it has no objective meaning whatsoever.

How about this instead: of the two candidates in play (with a chance to win) I plan to vote for the one who would bring us closer to the society I’d like to live in, and I’m not going to vote for the one who would take us further from the society I’d like to live in.

94

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 3:57 am

mattski @93:

I’m happy for you that you believe that one of the candidates promises to bring you closer to the society you want to live in. But for those of us who feel that both candidates will move us further away from the society we want to live in (though one significantly more swiftly than the other), what word do you suggest as a substitute for “evil”?

95

Ed 09.28.12 at 4:00 am

Having raised Godwin’s Law earlier, I will go ahead and flout it now. The ultimate example of lesser-evilism in electoral politics, of course, was the German presidential election in 1932. Hitler ran against Hindenburg. Most of the German left supported Hindenburg. In this case they weren’t trying to stop a party that people were comparing to the Nazis, they were trying to stop the actual Nazis. Hindenburg won. How did that work out?

96

mattski 09.28.12 at 4:04 am

People here are both exaggerating the negatives of a second obama term and underestimating the negatives of a Romney one.

Yes, yes and yes.

97

js. 09.28.12 at 4:05 am

Ed @ 95 might be the exception that proves Godwin’s law. (Or, I’ve been on these threads for too long…)

98

mattski 09.28.12 at 4:12 am

Ben, if only the two have a realistic chance to win then indeed (presuming there is a material difference between the two) there are two possible scenarios. One is closer and one is further from the world I’d like to live in. And you too.

99

Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 4:12 am

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 1:11 am:
‘… I also don’t understand why the only alternative is grassroots activism. …’

I don’t know what else to do. You mention the Internet; but I’ve been on the Internet and its predecessors for about 25 years, and I haven’t seen much of a material effect so far. Maybe it’s on the way…. but in general Net blathering seems to take place in a high, abstract realm that seldom impinges on daily life. Whereas local activism does, sometimes, seem to have some effect, as opposed to my Internet writing and my voting (or anyone else’s).

100

shah8 09.28.12 at 4:13 am

…smh…

No–response to mclaren et al:

There is only so much policy space in any one direction. Once you hit the limits of those policy spaces, all of your ideologically preferred actions either promote ideologically undesirable outcomes or they undermine elite/public support for your ideology for whatever reason.

This sort of reasoning was how I could guess that Chief Justice Roberts would not, in actuality, overturn ACA. He knew we will come back to it almost instantly, for a number of pressing reasons, and when the issue is put on the table, the Supreme Court will be acknowledged as an enemy of the process and the conservatives on the courts will have a weaker hand dealing with a necessarily less complex and more comprehensive plan such as Medicare For All.

This sort of process is driving the delegitimaztion of current seated power in Europe and China–the strong desire of elites (and their methods) to cut out the need for public consent has become problematic. The present day sees both the Zhongnanhai, European elites, and the respective central banks captured in a kind of political economy zugzwang. The US elites has more options, but what is true of everyone is that political insiders have to take losses, in terms of both cash and power. This refusal to do so has had many implications, and I think there is going to be a great deal of work attaching aspects of real world evident political economy (such as rent capture) to models of sticky prices a lá G. Calvo. However, the ultimate outcome is revolution as the system finds *some* way to force losses onto some of the insiders.

In any event, you can’t actually do any kind of slippery slope to worse and worse people by choosing the lesser evil. The world is not predictable that way. If it was, we’d get a president far more Republican than Bill Clinton. Republicans have gotten worse and worse because they didn’t have to compete for a certain kind of vote, and that reachable vote was in areas (The South) where there was plenty more of it. However, nowadays, you have a Republican Party that might get a bit of a drubbing in Nov, but will get outright murdered in ’14. No more new Southern votes, and uncompetitive for existing votes they don’t already have, and said base is extremely jealous of the leadership’s affections.

Again, the world is very random walk.

101

js. 09.28.12 at 4:25 am

More seriously: Ben A @92:

Well, yes, I agree with almost all of that. But the thing is, the disagreements that you point out are perfectly consistent with the points of agreement I noted in 88.

More importantly, though, I find the “things will get just as bad, but more slowly” position to be pretty cold comfort. If that were my only reason to support the Democrats, I probably simply wouldn’t. The reason I do, (where support equals votes; I’d rather give money and time to organizations I actually care about), is that (1) I think on what are called “social” issues, which tend to be really important issues that often shouldn’t at all be cleaved from “economic” ones, they are or can be genuinely good (not some “less evil” crap); (2) my point above, that Democrats in power opens room for greater leftward movement, even if the Democrats have not a single leftward bone in their body.

But given (2), people who choose to work outside of electoral politics to try and ratchet discourse and policies leftward have my full and unstinting support. And my point in 88 was simply that I find it weird when people who already consider themselves to be left of the Dems get very very upset at someone who would choose to vote on non-purely instrumental grounds.

102

Angry Geometer 09.28.12 at 4:25 am

Take the number of innocents who will die if Romney gets to have his wars with Iran and Syria, aided by his cadre of Bush-era cronies and unencumbered by Bush’s nominal “compassionate conservativism”.

Subtract from that the number of innocents who will die if Obama keeps being president.

On a scale of 1 to 10, that’s how big of an asshole you are, and how little of a shit you actually give about human life.

103

Charles Peterson 09.28.12 at 4:25 am

Lesser evilism is precisely what Democracy can deliver if and when it actually works. When it doesn’t work, we get Dick Cheney.

Utopia is not something that can be voted into place, especially given a Madisonian system.

It’s not just the man but the downticket that counts–possibly more. More people vote in Presidential elections than any other. Dissing the top kills the base.

Government is a collective activity, and so is voting. As such, these activities are incompatible with taking “principled stands” unless the goal is obstruction.

Nothing unprincipled at all about being consequentialist, just a different set of principles that many find more valid.

When government stands still, private predators move forward. Capital has many inherent advantages, regardless of party, and will exercise them regardless of party.

The only thing the people can do, or have ever done, is vote for the set of elites who can act somewhat better than the other.

Marx himself endorses voting for capitalist parties (in Communist Manifesto) rather than voting for small radical parties.

Vibrant and possibly threatening third parties may have made the New Deal possible. But it was Democrats who actually signed the paperwork. Threatening 3rd parties aren’t on the horizon now. It took decades of economic hardening for them to become significant last time.

104

Aaron 09.28.12 at 4:26 am

In the game of (American) football, there are times when a player tries to run backwards, in the hope that he can gain the space needed to make a long run. It almost always ends with a tackle for a loss. This is the political equivalent, but the truth is that touchdowns happen a few yards at a time.

105

js. 09.28.12 at 4:36 am

the truth is that touchdowns happen a few yards at a time.

Also: if you have a shit offensive line, touchdowns might not happen, though you might well have lots of fumbles.

106

mclaren 09.28.12 at 4:42 am

heckblazer@79:

“There’s a hugely important vote coming up.”

No there isn’t. The only genuine issue in this election is whether you want Paul Ryan’s insane extremist policies in 2013, or 12 years later enacted by a Democratic president. Either way, history shows that Democratic presidents have continually enacted increasingly insane fringe right-wing policies like “ending welfare as we know it” (AKA millions of starving children living in cars) and “declaring American citizens enemy combatants and murdering them without even charging them with a crime” (Anwar Al-Awlaki) and “torturing and brutalizing anyone who publicly dissents” (LRAD military sound cannons now used against political protesters to permanently destroy their hearing) and “privatizing financial losses on Wall Street while socializing all losses” (see aftermath of 2007-8 financial crisis in which the Wall Street financial crime lords continued to receive their massive annual bonuses, while the average taxpayer gets hammered in the form of skyrocketing bank fees — meanwhile, not one of the financial criminals responsible for the 2007-8 global financial meltdown has gone to jail, but tens of thousands of Occupy protesters have gone to jail for protesting this injustice).

So the only real issue here is: do you want to end welfare and social security in 2013? Or in 2025? That’s our only choice. Because history proves that every single insane far-right proposal put forth by Republicans gets enacted by Democrats 12 years later.

Do you want Romney/Ryan to go to war with Iran in 2013? Or would you rather a Democratic president went to war with Iran in 2025?

What the [expletive deleted] is the difference?

We’re supposed to believe this is some huge issue? It’s like asking a girl whether she’d rather be raped right now, or a month from now. That’s not a choice. It’s life in hell.

” It’s important enough we can’t afford any abstentions, which it seems to me is the idea of not voting for Obama.”

No, this election isn’t important at all. It has no importance except insofar as it serves to ratify the insane far-right policies by getting Democrats to vote for a regime which will eventually enact those insane policies.

Face reality. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get limitless ever-accelerating growth in America’s military-prison-surveillance-torture complex. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get more American jobs offshored and a smaller U.S. middle class. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get more endless unwinnable foreign wars. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get more escalation in the endless unwinnable War on Drugs. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get more escalation in the endless unwinnable War on Copyright Infringement. No matter which party you vote for, you’re going to get more erosion of the Bill of Rights, with more Americans dragged off the street and hurled into secret prisons forever without charges, more American murdered by the government without even being accused of a crime, more criminalization of political dissent, more brutal and repressive police savagery against anyone in the bottom 20% of the income distribution, more data being gathered from every American’s emails and phone calls and tweets and bank records and cellphone tracking and buying habits and facebook postings, and that data getting shared more widely with employers and cops and college admissions committees and every other unaccountable secretive quasitotalitarian hierarchy in our society.

So your vote won’t change anything. The only choice you have is whether you scream out in rage as you’re crucified.

Write in someone like Elizabeth Warren for president instead of the good cop Barack Obama (as opposed to the bad cop Mitt Romney). The good cop works for the same people as the bad cop. The good cop and the bad cop are just two halves of a team designed to crush you and turn your life into a living hell. Reject the good cop/bad cop “choice” and put your fist through the one-way mirror in the interrogation room and shout “I REFUSE TO CONFESS BECAUSE I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG!”

“Even in states that are a lock for electoral votes pushing up the popular vote helps marginalize the GOP.”

Get a clue. America is a country in which Ayn Rand’s paeans to sociopathic narcissism and homicidal greed have outsold the Bible. Nothing is going to marginalize the GOP.

107

bad Jim 09.28.12 at 4:52 am

The problem with the ratchet argument is that the ratchet tightens to the right whenever a Republican is elected. We lose ground every time they win. When a Democrat is in office it takes a while for the electorate to adjust to a reality-based government, but to the extent that it actually makes their lives better it makes it easier for us to turn the lever the other way.

People like Medicare. Most of us are proud of the Civil Rights Act. Vietnam was a cascade of horrible things, but Johnson did crank the ratchet a few notches counter-clockwise for a few decades. It’s worthy of note that the current crop of Republicans are more or less openly trying to reverse even that. We shouldn’t let them.

Some things get better over time unless there’s an effort to stop it. Democrats are generally no worse than neutral with respect to social progress while Republicans are reflexively hostile. If you want to move the lever a notch to the left, one party may give you a certain amount of slack while the other will array the machinery of state to stop you.

The Democrats, by design, are the party of the weak: workers, women, minorities. We really can’t afford to play games when our livelihoods are at stake. If the lesser evil offers us a little more income or dignity or security than the alternative, and over time, confers legitimacy on that offering, it’s not a hard decision to make, especially when that hard-won legitimacy is under attack.

[0] Slavery is the eternal footnote to any discussion of American politics.

108

Charles Peterson 09.28.12 at 4:58 am

#67. My lady friend, who qualifies, has been doing campaign work for Obama and a rare local left-Democrat who got redistricted into our center-left neighborhood. I strongly endorse the latter and weakly the former (in fact, just tried but failed to talk her out of working Saturday for O to make more time for me). She qualifies, and also tells me many of the O workers are, as you might expect, black. Just as many whites are taking this election very personally, so are many non-whites. Many of those I find promoting what I consider useless leftish 3rd party voting are lilly white with a populist-conservative view of political economy. US Greens seem about as anti-government as US Libertarians, if not moreso. I wonder who they think will be collecting the Carbon Tax. Of course, the grandest ideas always have the Carbon Tax automagically appearing as a credit to all world citizens.

109

chrismealy 09.28.12 at 5:06 am

#95 that’s not the whole story. The communists and the social democrats didn’t stop fighting each other until it was too late, and they all wound up getting killed.

110

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 5:11 am

mattski @98:

Ben, if only the two have a realistic chance to win then indeed (presuming there is a material difference between the two) there are two possible scenarios. One is closer and one is further from the world I’d like to live in. And you too.

You’re moving the goalposts. Back at @93, you opined that…

of the two candidates in play (with a chance to win) I plan to vote for the one who would bring us closer to the society I’d like to live in, and I’m not going to vote for the one who would take us further from the society I’d like to live in.

The claim I was disagreeing with was your argument that one candidate would move us in the right direction, the other candidate would move us in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, your later claim–that so long as I believe that one of the candidates would move us in the wrong direction more slowly, I believe that one candidate will leave us closer to the way I want things than the other candidate–is a truism. And I still don’t understand why it’s inappropriate to call the candidate who makes things worse more slowly the “lesser evil.”

111

mclaren 09.28.12 at 5:18 am

L2P: Just be honest. Tell the working poor you don’t care about them. Tell the black people, the immigrants, the women, the children, the sick, the uneducated, that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.. Acknowledge you don’t care if they stripmine Yellowstone Park and dump formaldahyde into the sea.

That’s what a vote for Obama will do.

Tell the black people…that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.

Has Obama proposed to end the War on Black People (otherwise and inaccurately known as the “war on drugs”)? Of course not. Obama loves the brutal oppression of black people that results in nearly one out of every three urban black males under age 35 either in prison or on probation or a felonized and non-voting unemployable ex-offender and the evidence is clear: he hasn’t lifted a finger to change it. In fact, Obama has significantly cranked up the War on Drugs by sending out DEA agents to handcuff grannies with cancer in their wheelchairs who dare to defy federal anti-drug laws by puffing weed sold in state medicare marijuana dispensaries.

Tell the working poor you don’t care about them. Tell the…uneducated, that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.

Has Obama proposed to reform Clinton’s sick and brutal slashing of welfare? Of course not. Obama doesn’t care about the poor and your vote for him ratifies that contempt for the poor.

Tell…the immigrants…that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.

Has Obama proposed changes in immigration laws that stop targeting people from Islamic countries? Of course he hasn’t. Obama loves brutalizing immigrants, it’s an ever-popular way of boosting his popularity by bashing easy scapegoats. Has Obama reduce ICE enforcement or radically increased it? Obama has savagely increased it, of course, putting the lie to your entire claim.

Tell…the sick…that their problems aren’t your problems; your conscience is what you need to worry about.

Has Obama proposed any changes to the fraudulent non-reform ACA that would actually control costs? Of course not. Changes like taking the AMA to court for restraint of trade because of its refusal to allow enough people to enter medical school (there are fewer medical schools today than in 1965, despite massive population growth) so as to insure that general MDs in America makes more than twice as much as doctors in France or Germany or the Netherlands or Spain? They’re off the table. Changes like prohibiting doctors by law from taking bribes from big pharma companies? Off the table. (Recently the Journal of the AMA printed an editorial allowing as how it might not be a good idea for doctors to take bribes from big pharma in order to prescribe overpriced medications. Imagine a major medical journal having to print something like that at all.) Changes like banning non-disclosure pricing agreements and sweetheart contracts between medical devicemakers and hospitals? Off the table. Out of the question. Impossible. Can’t be done. So the number of uninsured people has grown despite the ACA, and now even more sick people are being denied medical care as poor people find themselves unable to make co-payments for the insanely overpriced meds and procedures which, in America, cost 300% to 7000% what they cost in Europe (the exact same MRI by the exact same machine that costs $250 in Germany costs $3500 in America; a routine doctor’s visit that cost $20 in France costs $190 in America…and so on).

the federal reforms resemble the legislation passed in Massachusetts some four years ago that mandated near-universal coverage but made essentially no provisions for containing the costs that would inevitably ensue. Massachusetts is now struggling with its costs and is being forced to curtail health services.5 Last year a special state commission for controlling costs suggested replacement of the fee-for-service payment method by global payments to groups of providers in ACOs that would have to be created. Although many experts in Massachusetts agree that fee-for-service is a major impediment to the control of costs, the current payment system is so profitable for most medical providers that they are not inclined to change it. The state legislature therefore recently decided to postpone any action on this idea.

The Massachusetts experience is likely to be repeated nationally in the next few years. (…)

…the present trajectory of federal health expenditures predicts continued rapid growth of Medicare expenses and the exhaustion of the Medicare Part A fund—which partly covers hospital costs—within a decade or so. Second, most economists agree that the states will not be able to pay the rising costs of Medicaid in future years, when millions of beneficiaries will be added to the rolls. And looking at the private sector, there is increasing evidence that the inflation in the cost of health insurance cannot be supported by employers and employees much longer. In sum, the whole health system, if not radically transformed, seems headed toward bankruptcy. (…)

The cost crisis now facing the US health care system urgently calls for more effective control than the new [ACA] legislation provides.

Source: “Health care: the disquieting truth,” The New York Review of Books, Dr. Arnold Relman, 30 September 2010.

The ACA has done nothing to control costs, and as a result the legislation in Massachussetts it’s based on is driving the state into bankruptcy. Massachusetts is now in panic mode, with hysterical proposals for prize freezes (good luck on that) and premium freezes (that works so well in a market economy). The smoking gun is the “Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley -
Examination of Health Care Cost Trends and Cost Drivers Pursuant to
G.L. c. 118G, § 6 1/2(b), REPORT FOR ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING UNDER G.L. c.
118G, § 6 1/2, June 22, 2011, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY”

In the 2010 Report, we examined whether the existing health care
market has successfully contained health care costs, and found the
answer to be an unequivocal –no.

The market players – whether insurers, providers, or the businesses
and consumers who pay for health insurance – had not effectively
controlled costs, in part, because the prices negotiated between
insurers and providers were not designed to encourage or reward
provider efficiency. The resulting market dysfunction has threatened
the viability of efficient providers, who have lost ground on payment
rates while also losing patient volume to higher priced competitors.

http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/healthcare/2011-hcctd.pdf

This is the future of Obamacare: infinitely rising health insurance premiums due to limitlessly rising medical costs until America goes broke and no one can afford health care. And of course that’s exactly what you’d expect — because the only workable solution to health care costs worldwide has been the government stepping in and mandating cost limits. Which Obamacare does not do.

Acknowledge you don’t care if they stripmine Yellowstone Park and dump formaldahyde into the sea.

That’s what you are acknowledging by your vote for Obama. Mountaintop removal stripmining continues apace under Obama. Toxic waste dumping has increased. Everything has gotten worse.

Take a look at this report on Bill Moyers’ Journal by Chris Hedges about the economic and ecological atrocities in America that have turned whole portions of American states into third-world hellholes. All under Obama, with Barack Obama’s full blessing and delighted approval.

You want to vote for Obama because it salves your conscience when a Democratic president orders American citizens murdered without charging ‘em with a crime instead of a Republican president. It makes you feel like a good person when you vote for an American president who is helping to insure that within 50 years there will be no more fish left in the sea, rather than a Republican president who does it.

You’re like the “good wife” who blubbers that your husband really truly loves you each time he beats you with a baseball bat, while you shriek with horror if you’re mugged by a random stranger.

Shame on you, Obama voters. Shame!

112

mclaren 09.28.12 at 5:27 am

Incidentally, I really love it when foolish ignorant Americans cite sports analogies for politics. Aaron gives us the beloved analogy with football.

As it happens, medical science has now shown that professional football athletes suffer extreme debilitating brain damage. Anyone who plays pro football is destroying himself, leading to Alzheimers-level dementia and brain damage by his mid-thirties to early forties.

This is the perfect summation of the crazy counterproductive self-destructiveness of the Obama voters. Like pro football players, they think they’re wonderfully wise winners for playing the game, when they’re actually insuring their own debilitation and rapid descent into dementia and brain-damage induced death.

113

mclaren 09.28.12 at 5:50 am

shah8: In any event, you can’t actually do any kind of slippery slope to worse and worse people by choosing the lesser evil. The world is not predictable that way.

Oh?

Really?

Then why has the slippery slope side ever downwards towards totalitarianism and a return to 19th century labor practices since 1968, when Nixon was elected?

Creditors in Europe are now demanding a return to 6-day workweeks with 13-hour
workdays. Almost identical to the working conditions of the 1880s, prior to the establishment of the 40-hour work week and the 8-hour limit on work per day. All courtesy of that wonderful austerity economic policy — originally proposed in 1930 by Herbert Hoover’s secretary of the treasury Andrew Mellon:

“Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

http://libcom.org/blog/greece-coming-place-near-you-16092012

If it was, we’d get a [Democratic] president far more Republican than Bill Clinton.

Which of course we have. Democratic president Bill Clinton inaugurated extraordinary rendition; Democratic president Barack Obama has gone much farther, inauguratingt he murder of American citizens without even charging them with having committed a crime. What will the next Democratic president propose? Flaying the babies of terrorists alive? Slowly roasting political protesters over a bonfire? Using VX gas against the entire civilian populations of countries that produce terrorists, like Pakistan?

Once a Democratic president starts ordering U.S. citizens murdered without even accusing them of a crime, we’re off the maps. Here there be dragons. We’re in terra incognita.

Republicans have gotten worse and worse because they didn’t have to compete for a certain kind of vote, and that reachable vote was in areas (The South) where there was plenty more of it.

And Democrats have gotten worse and worse because they didn’t have to compete for a certain kind of vote — yours.

However, nowadays, you have a Republican Party that might get a bit of a drubbing in Nov, but will get outright murdered in ’14.

Oh?

Really?

If you have that kind of oracular ability to predict the future, why aren’t the world’s richest man? Presumably you can tell us the DJI in 2014. You should clean up. You’ll make trillions.

Ignorant fools like you told us that 2008 was the start of a Democratic wave, whereas we got a huge backlash in 2010 because voters realized that Obama was just Bush’s third term and the Democrats stopped turning out, while the Teahadists become energized and realized they might as well vote for the real far-right fringe lunatic crazies instead of the Far-right Lite Obama.

Again, the world is very random walk.

Oh?

Really?

Then how did Kevin Smith correctly predict The Coming Republican Majority back in the mid-1960s, 25 years before it actually happened?

You’re like a blind man who confidently proclaims that no one can see simply because he can’t.

The future may be obscure to you, but it’s pellucidly clear to the rest of us. The near future of America is a supersonic powerdive into collapse well described by Chuck Spinney:

…my guess is, unlike his first landslide, another Obama landslide will not generate much in the way of coattails in Congress. Mr. Obama and the Democrats in control of Congress between 2008 and 2010 had squandered their first set of coattails by 2010, and the same crowd is not likely to get a second chance. So, we can expect yet more gridlock and more of the same, and while enabler Democrats get an increasing lock on the Presidency and the crazies strengthen the control of the Republican base, the bloated plutocrats can laugh all the way to the bank.
Despite this rosy scenario for enriching plutocratic power in the coming years, history tells us that sooner or later, the insatiable greed of any oligarchy overreaches itself and becomes intolerable to impoverished masses who think they have or should have a voice in selecting their political leaders. When that tipping point is reached, the political system becomes ripe for revolution. In our case, I think a more likely result will be an American version of a fascist revolution on the right than a social justice revolution on the left. The vanguard of a neo-fascist revolution will be the impoverished, radicalized, middle class, minority white men who need jobs, but feel their opportunities have been screwed by the alien “others” in our increasingly diverse population. This is an outlook that can be easily exploited by ruthless politicians to shift the focus of their anger onto other victims of the very same plutocrats who created the intolerable conditions in the first place.
Of course, the vanguard of an American neo-fascist revolution, like the brownshirts of the 1920s and 1930s, will be snookered into working for the further entrenchment of the oligarchy, perhaps eventually opening the door for an election victory (via another stolen election like that of 2000?) of a right wing fanatic instead of an enabler. Whoever he or she might be, the fanatic, like the Enabler, will be beholden to the oligarchy; but unlike the Enabler, the fanatic will be far more predisposed to go all the way toward establishing an overt police state, giving the thuggish domestic policing jobs (in the military, police forces, and private security firms guarding our gated communities, etc) initially to members of the angry mob . If such a scenario unfolds, it is a virtual certainty that it will be accompanied by an even more militaristic foreign policy, because war (and the patriotism and money flows it engenders) is the surest way to distract the attention of the increasingly impoverished masses from the reality of their growing disenfranchisement.
It seems to me that some kind of neo-fascist evolution will be far more likely at this point than a revolt led by the fops of the enervated left, who are more at home in the brie and chablis salons of the Upper West Side, Versailles on the Potomac, and in the gated communities springing up across America than in the diners of Akron or Steelton or in the poor black/hispanic urban and rural ghettoes spreading across our land.

Source: “Get Ready for the Slaughter,” Chuck Spinney’s blog, 18 August 2012 (also cross-posted at Conterpunch on 12-14 August 2012).

114

bad Jim 09.28.12 at 6:04 am

Okay, so, what? Pick up the gun? General strike?

“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards”, said Max Weber, and there’s nothing in the thousands of years of history we can read to suggest he was wrong.

Forgive me for trying to be practical, but how do we get from where we are to where we want to be, while doing the best we can to take care of each other in the meantime?

115

Steve Williams 09.28.12 at 6:09 am

Just thought there were two comments on this thread that nicely summarize the prevailing viewpoint:

Ben Alpers @28:

“The OP is entirely correct that, in the long run, this creates a ratchet effect to the right, even when the Democrats win. The problem is that short-run GOP victories do nothing to end this ratcheting….indeed they simply speed it up.”

So we’re completely clear, voting for the Democrats specifically leads to ratcheting politics rightwards, and there is no alternative to this in voting D. So maybe I’ll vote for someone else then? Wait a moment!

L2P @11:

“We don’t need to get beyond Supreme Court justices to understand why voting for a Third Party candidate is pure evil.”*

Oh. So I must vote for a party that I’m explicitly guaranteed will make things worse (at a slower rate, though!) or else I’m guilty of pure evil, evil incarnate. This is the argument from ‘counsel of despair’, and if there are people here who think it’s going to prove a winner on destroying political apathy, instead of “they’re all the same aren’t they?” cynicism, I think you should think again. If these two arguments were actually meant seriously together, they wouldn’t lead to the voting booth, but to the shotgun cabinet.

*This argument is scarcely worth taking seriously, but lets indulge it for one moment. Voting for a 3rd party candidate is pure evil, because it lets Republicans do bad things. Obviously, then, voting Republican is pure evil at least, and maybe x2! And we can’t let off people who don’t vote, because they’re not stopping the Republicans either. So that’s >70% of the population of America then, helpfully summarized as “pure evil”. This message is brought to you by the same people who’ve spent the last 2 weeks pretending to be scandalized by Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe.

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Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 6:34 am

Steve Williams @114:

Oh. So I must vote for a party that I’m explicitly guaranteed will make things worse (at a slower rate, though!) or else I’m guilty of pure evil, evil incarnate.

I don’t know exactly what role you’re trying to cast me in, Steve, but I’m definitely not of the view that voting for a third party makes you guilty of pure evil incarnate. My view is that in most states you should vote for whichever presidential candidate on the ballot you honestly feel is best (major or minor party). But in “battleground” states, it makes sense for progressives to vote tactically for Obama, because significantly limiting suffering on the margins in the short run is a good thing (and won’t have any negative effect on long-run outcomes, either…indeed, in the long-run in might marginally slow the ratchet effect, though it certainly won’t stop it).

Nothing you do electorally at the moment will stop the ratchet effect.

But that’s just my view (which I don’t honestly think you can fairly mix-and-match with bits and pieces of random other commentators views in order to fabricate some sort of pseudo consensus).

117

bad Jim 09.28.12 at 6:47 am

The New Deal was a ratchet to the left. So was the Great Society: the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and environmental protection. The other side is trying to undo every good thing we’ve done in this century. The Affordable Care Act will also be a ratchet to the left, but only if we allow it to come into effect.

I season my meat with the sweet salty tears of the religious right as they weep over the coverage of contraception as preventive care. They are thundering into the ears of their credulous followers the very message that we most want to impart, that getting together to make each other’s lives better is socialism. If we can make this work, if people’s lives in fact get better, we might win another election and move the ratchet a notch or two our way.

The other side is proposing to take the pawl out of the ratchet and let it spin the other way. Are they serious? Never. If they’re in charge, though, the economy is bound to suck and we’ll probably have another war and another hundred thousand dead.

But if you didn’t vote for them your conscience will be clean.

118

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 6:49 am

Actually, let me be more blunt than I was @115: however bad Obama is, Romney would be much worse. As others have said upthread, the OP totally underestimates how bad Romney would be. And the ways in which Romney is worse would have negative longterm effects, certainly in the areas of our already tattered social safety net (Romney would be worse for the ACA and for Medicare and Social Security), in regards to war and peace (Romney is much more likely to start a war with Iran), and in appointments to federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Lesser evils are less evil. And that can make a huge difference in the real world.

119

Chris Bertram 09.28.12 at 7:08 am

I’m surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the Chirac/LePen run-off in these discussions. I would have voted for Chirac, under the circumstances, but I find it hard to take seriously the idea that there was a moral obligation on “the left” to do so.

120

bad Jim 09.28.12 at 7:46 am

With all due respect, may I reiterate that the American legacy of slavery mangles nearly any international political comparison? Much of the country has become accustomed to the inexpensive effort and enterprise of the emerging Latino plurality, because having a resident underclass was never an affront to the American identity. That’s where we started.

One party has gotten partly unstuck from that tangle, and the other is using its tatters as a net. “Those people”, they say. The 47%. Not like us.

Can anyone credibly argue that the Republicans are anything but the white people’s party? And the rich people’s party? Say what you like about the party of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses trying to breathe free, but at least we’re willing to live in the future.

121

Kadin 09.28.12 at 7:55 am

It seems to me that there’s an easy empirical way to evaluate whether ‘punishing’ a party for not being any more than a lesser evil by throwing an election to their opponents actually works, because that actually happened in 2000. So, strategically, was the election of Bush a good thing for progressives?

122

reason 09.28.12 at 8:01 am

All this boils down to pointing out in a round about way, that the US electoral system stinks, and leaves conscientious voters stuff between a rock and a bad place. Shouldn’t the target here be the US electoral system and not the democratic party.

123

reason 09.28.12 at 8:01 am

Oops
Stuck not stuff

124

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.12 at 9:42 am

Haven’t read all the comments, so maybe someone already made this point.
Anyway: the doom and gloom scenario, Republicans taking over and killing everybody, it ignores the fact that refusing to vote, and/or casting a protest vote, if attempted on a large enough scale, changes the paradigm. In fact, even mass apathy changes it. There is a reason one-party systems always fabricate 99.8% turnout. Consent has to be manufactured (the Democrats perform this function); if you fail to do it, hey, it’s the writings on the wall.

125

Katherine 09.28.12 at 9:52 am

I posted this on the last thread, but since the conversation seems to have moved on…

It seems to me that the morality or not of voting Democrat depends a whole lot on where you are. If you’re in a rock solid blue state/area, and there’s a half way viable third party candidate, I’d personally go for the third party candidate, in the hope of moving the Democratic candidate leftwards. In a marginal state (is that what swing state means?) then tactical issues are going to matter a lot more.

Frankly, the US left could do with a major organisation of vote swapping between Democract votes in safe seats and third party votes in marginal seats.

126

Matt McIrvin 09.28.12 at 11:27 am

This is the problem with lesser-evilism – it’s very vulnerable to strategic behaviour.

Says the left-wing blog currently working full-time as a sabotage instrument in support of libertarian conservative Conor Friedersdorf.

127

Z 09.28.12 at 11:43 am

I’m surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the Chirac/LePen run-off in these discussions.

The situation is slightly different though: Chirac would have won hands down and blindfolded even if every single left of center voter had chosen to abstain. In some sense, a more relevant comparison would be the first round of the 2002 election (should one vote for the center-left incumbent or try to move him to the left by casting a vote towards one of the then numerous green and far-left candidates).

128

sherparick1 09.28.12 at 12:03 pm

I see a lot of empirical weakness in this “anti-lesser than two evils” theory. First, I would argue that in his vale of tears, as the phrase that gives this blog its name, all democratic elections are an choice between which is the lesss or “two evils.” Also, contraray to the initial assertion, Obama’s campaign on health care and other issues was to the right of Hilary Clinton (hence is campaign’s rejection of the mandate that he later accepted in the bill that Congress produced). I know it has been fashionable on the Left to pooh-pooh the first major expansion of the American welfare state since 1965, but still, it is what it is. Also, Obama was well captured ideologically by the Koolz kids of Robert Rubin’s clique on economic and finanicial policy. Had they not produced the nineties boom and a balanced budget!!! I think he is somewhat disentrhalled by his experiences of the last four years, but he still seem to think a balance budget needs to be pursued as the Great White Whale of American political accomplishment. Still, although far from the Marxist cabal imagined by the Right and perhaps that some here dream to establish, this Administration is certainly as liberal as Jimmy Carter’s and has moved to the left relative to the DLC administration of Clinton. And given the nature of America and the undemocratic nature of its Constitution (the Senate, the Senate, and remember the Senate), the rural, small, white, Evangelical, and Southern (always the South) is a drag anchor back to the 18th century in American politics.
Further, it is not Democratic victories that drage the Democrats to the right, but it is the defeats. From 1972 onward, each defeat usually led to a retreat to the right as they were seen (often correctly – read Nixonland) as the American majority rejecting liberalism for variety of reasons, good and bad.

129

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 12:09 pm

Matt McIrvin – indeed. It’s a great collection: white radicals who burn with the need to explain to black people why they are wrong, representatives of a flaky 5% that is unorganized and fickle who wonder why nobody in power kisses their ass, nostolgics for the imaginary golden era of “rule of law” , civil libertarians who don’t give a damn about civil rights, straight out racists, and obvious right wing sympathizers serving up GOP propaganda with sprinkles of righteous left slogans – ladies and gentlemen, America’s left.

130

faustusnotes 09.28.12 at 12:15 pm

I think Daniel doesn’t understand how important healthcare reform was, how difficult it was to get through, or Obama’s tactics in connection with it. As a result he sees healthcare reform as some minor side project that Obama stuffed up, rather than the complete burning of all his political capital to overcome the most obstructionist, nihilist and miscreant right-wing opposition in history. If he were up against someone smart right now he’d be toast… and if Romney wins that healthcare reform is toast, and that’s something the importance of which I don’t think Daniel gets.

Also Daniel, your comment at 7 is hilarious. let’s reread with emphasis:

we got Ed Milliband

That’s 100 shades of win for everyone involved. Only you didn’t “get” him, he’s in opposition, and the only reason he’s going to get back into power in 2015 is because the Conservatives have fucked the country beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.

When Ed Milliband is your good outcome, you are clutching at straws.

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rootless_e 09.28.12 at 12:25 pm

faustusnotes- but that’s a key aspect of the modern oppositional left. First, losing is what they want – none of that icky actual exercise of power. Second the details of the largest redistribution of wealth in the USA in 50 years are not as interesting to them as what someone in opposition says. It’s the slogans that matter.

132

Barry 09.28.12 at 12:34 pm

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.12 at 9:42 am

” Haven’t read all the comments, so maybe someone already made this point.
Anyway: the doom and gloom scenario, Republicans taking over and killing everybody, it ignores the fact that refusing to vote, and/or casting a protest vote, if attempted on a large enough scale, changes the paradigm. In fact, even mass apathy changes it. There is a reason one-party systems always fabricate 99.8% turnout. Consent has to be manufactured (the Democrats perform this function); if you fail to do it, hey, it’s the writings on the wall.”

Considering that the right works very hard at *reducing* overall turnout, I think that we can dismiss this argument without further debate.

133

Cranky Observer 09.28.12 at 12:37 pm

Not sure if I’d call it a tactic or a strategy, but rootless_e’s plan of encouraging others to “vote tactically” by insulting and dripping contempt on them is brilliant! Very likely to work, too, if the history of human nature is any indication.

Cranky

Can’t help but noting that this topic has driven more comments on “Debt” off the radar screen: a first for a political economy blog.

134

Daryl McCullough 09.28.12 at 12:52 pm

Mclaren, you argue that “lesser-evilism” or whatever the phrase is can lead us to a very bad place, but I think it’s important to think about your scenario. There are two different situations, electorally, and I think that the tactical responses should be different:

1. There is a majority, or near-majority support for the GREATER evil. In this case, withholding support from the better candidate is insuring that evil wins.

2. There is a large majority of support from the lesser evil. In this case, it is worth challenging the less-evil party (in primary elections) to try to move it even more in the less-evil direction.

If in a hypothetical 2016 election, the Republican candidate is Paul Ryan, or someone even worse, then you need to make a serious assessment as to his likelihood of winning. If it’s small, then there is room to take some risks. If it’s considerable, then principled rejection of “lesser-evilism” will elect Paul Ryan.

Someone earlier asked whether people are sneering at the idea of acting out of principle. Well I am, sort of. I think that actions should be judged by their consequences. It’s certainly possible that there could be a long-term plan to get to a better place that involves making things worse in the short run (that is, electing Republicans). But it’s also possible that making things worse in the short run will make things worse in the long run, also. That’s the way I feel about electing Republicans, or allowing them to be elected through “principled” withholding of your vote.

I’m willing to listen to someone who has a plausible long game strategy, but if someone is just voting out of moral principles, with no concern about whether it accomplishes anything other than making him feel morally superior, I have no patience with him. It seems like selfishness to me.

135

sherparick1 09.28.12 at 12:53 pm

Since this started out as a rif off a Conor Freidersdorf blog on the immorality and hackishness of Left/Liberal Democrats voting for Obama, I thought, since Freidersdorf is a well known libertarian, to see how the rest of the Libertarians are voting.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/priorities-libertarian-edition.html

Apparently, the guy who will bring back torture as an instrument of American policy and start a war with Iran is the guy for 77% of self-identified libertarians.

Hence, what I think Conor really finds objectionable about Obama is not the Drone War, that Obama wants to restore tax rates to Clinton era levels for upper income earners and that he raised the Medicare tax to 3.16% on upper incomes to include captial gains. This is why the Right really hates Obamacare and Obama as a “Marxist redistributor.”

136

John 09.28.12 at 12:53 pm

In terms of Hindenburg vs. Hitler, obviously it didn’t work out well, but that was for reasons that weren’t really foreseeable at the time. The Brüning government that got Hindenburg re-elected was a pretty classic “lesser evil” kind of business – it was very conservative, and pursued terrible austerity policies, and was increasingly leery of the Republic itself, but it was also clearly anti-Nazi and not illiberal in general.

Hindenburg really was the only viable alternative to Hitler winning, and it wasn’t obvious at the time that he’d throw over Brüning at the first opportunity and install an absurd ultra-reactionary government in its place, much less that he’d then appoint Hitler chancellor. Sometimes the lesser evil doesn’t end up being really less evil, but I’m not sure generalizations can be made about this.

A rejection of lesser evilism, by the way, is how Hindenburg got elected in the first place – if the Communists had been willing to support Marx in the second round of the 1925 elections, he’d have never been president at all.

137

Phil P. 09.28.12 at 1:03 pm

Daniel,

You obviously have never spent significant time in the U.S. You would be amazed at what sorts of reactionary B.S. our politicians and puppydog news media can gin up support for, at least temporarily, among much of the population. Many Dems later regret their indiscretions during theterrible hangovers they bring on by willingly sucking down the strong, strong Koolaid punch, and they end up with only hazy memories of repeatedly shouting “woo-aahh!” during their highs, but it happens. I’m still sore from the whiplash I experienced as many of my supposedly rational lefty friends went full Bushy & hatin’-brown-people during the runup to the Iraq War.

It’s best to keep the wingnuts away from the levers of power–particularly the insecure news media–because they use them effectively.

138

Bernard Yomtov 09.28.12 at 1:09 pm

Daniel,

#5

Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.

Filibustering regulatory nominees does little good. First, someone is going to be in charge of the agencies regardless. What policies do youthink th eactinghead of EPA or OSHA is going to follow? Second, since the Republican goal is to have the regulatory agencies regulate as little as possible, keeping them from having a confirmed head does little to block their agenda.

#34

Supreme Court nominees require approval and no feasible scenario has the Democrats without a viable blocking minority. If you’re arguing that they are not willing to use that blocking power to defend abortion rights you need to own that.

I’m not sure what you mean by needing “to own that,” but it’s certainly true. The Democrats did not block either Roberts or Alito. The way to defend abortion rights in the Supreme Court is to have the power to nominate Justices.

139

rea 09.28.12 at 1:24 pm

The US political system is not symmetrical. The Republicans are the party of rural voters, and the federal system given them disproportionate power as a result. The Republicans are the party of the rich, and so they are the ones with the money, the fuel that makes politics run. The Republicans are the party of religion, and that gives them discipline and a way to get voters to vote against their own economic interests. These factors mean that when Republicans try to change things, they are pushing a boulder downhill. When Democrats try to change things, they are pushing the boulder uphill.

If Republicans hold the presidency and majorities in the House and Senate, it’s not at all clear how the Democrats retain sufficient control over a veto point to prevent the Republicans from doing whatever they want. Because of the asymmetical nature of US politics, a Republican rump retains much greater power to obstruct.

And yes, many Democrats are conservatives, but the Republicans are radical authoritarians. It’s not a good time for the left to abandon the Popular Front

140

NBarnes 09.28.12 at 1:29 pm

Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.

Well, that’s great in Bizzaro World where we can rely on Bizzaro Green Lantern Democrats who fear no evil. Unfortunately, here in the Real Goddamn World, we get the same Democrats who successfully failed to prevent so much of Bush’s agenda.

141

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 1:29 pm

Cranky Observer – years of being called a neoliberal by barely disguised libertarians and having my morals sneered at by assistant professors has cracked even my Buddha-like calm.

142

NBarnes 09.28.12 at 1:31 pm

Sorry, that clearly should have read “Bizzaro Green Lantern Democrats who am fear no evil.” I apologize.

143

rea 09.28.12 at 1:51 pm

And specifically about the filibuster–it can be abolished by majority vote of the Senate at the beginning of a session (rule changes during a session, as opposed to at the beginning, require a 2/3 vote). The presiding officer of the Senate–the Vice President–can also rule a particular filibuster out of order, and be sustained by a majority vote. To do either of these things is a major departure from tradition, requires a significant expenditure of political capital, and has the effect of reducing the power of individual senators. Tradition also required that use of the filibuster be an extraordinary thing–routine use of the filibuster by the Republican minority in the last two sessions has been a shocking departure from tradition.

The Democrats have not tried to get rid of the filibuster over the last two sessions, to the dismay of many. It’s not clear that the party leadership could have gotten the votes to make this change, since the Democrats have difficulty with party discipline, particularly in the Senate, and the filibuster empowers the more conservative Democrats. The Republcians, though, don’t have this part discipline problem. The filibuster will be gone as soon as the Republicans have majorities in both houses and the presidency. The Republicans will enact their agenda without worrying about a hypothetical future when they are in the minority again.

144

Steve Williams 09.28.12 at 1:56 pm

“Unfortunately, here in the Real Goddamn World, we get the same Democrats who successfully failed to prevent so much of Bush’s agenda.”

. . . this message brought to you by their campaign re-election fund.

145

bianca steele 09.28.12 at 2:07 pm

I take it that almost everyone that’s part of this conversation agrees that (a) the current Democratic party is significantly right of where we (=almost everyone on here) wants it to be

Which is why it seems reasonable, totally, that any significant part of the readership will not spit their coffee at their computer screen on reading that maybe a Romney vote might make sense?

Really, I do not know what the assumptions are here. Maybe there are places in the US where the Democrats really are to the right of the libertarians. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there are places where the Democrats are worse on civil liberties, egalitarianism, and so on than the libertarians–but where I live, libertarians tend to be more focused on taxes and regulation than anything else.

146

Roger Gathman 09.28.12 at 2:07 pm

The argument always seems to revolve around appointments to the Supreme Court. Among the most pernicious bits of the antiquated constitution is the Supreme Court. I don’t know of another system that is burdened with a Court with that much power over its constitution. France gets along very well with a Constitutional commission, which puts the stamp on laws as constitutional. End of story. It would be lovely if some Democrat politico did us a favor and started proselytizing for limited Supreme Court appointments. That is a constitutional amendment that would be extremely popular – save, admittedly, with politicians. For if the Dem militants couldn’t use the Supreme court as its ace argument, they’d have to argue about, well, what they would do and what they did. Maybe even have to justify the fact that the Dems pretty much rubber stamped Scalia back in the day, gave a majority vote to John Roberts, and chose not to make the kind of fuss they used to make (say, in Nixon’s time) about the justices.
I would love to see the Supreme court stripped of its power of being the ultimate arbitor of constitutional questions and simply made into the highest appeal court, and that would be that. It would solve one of the perennial vices in the American system.

147

NBarnes 09.28.12 at 2:07 pm

. . . this message brought to you by their campaign re-election fund.

And the campaign fund of their primary challengers. I may be bitter, but I am not resigned.

148

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 2:07 pm

Steve Williams: I can understand not liking the reality of the parties in American politics, but the sheer insistence on sulking about it mystifies me. Consider the Democratic Senator from Louisiana. She’s aghast at the wealth gap, is a reliable vote for protecting the safety net, voted for health care reform, and has supported key efforts to get the government to offer credit alternatives to banks. Yet she represents a state that voted 70/30 for McCain and is, in many ways, dependent on oil interests (as her constituents want). You might believe electoral politics is a fraud and your armed insurrection will overthrow the state, but if you don’t believe that and want to play electoral politics, you don’t get anywhere by whining that the rules don’t let you win easily.

149

Brad DeLong 09.28.12 at 2:22 pm

Matt McIrvin on 09.28.12 at 11:27 am wins the thread:

“‘This is the problem with lesser-evilism – it’s very vulnerable to strategic behaviour.’ Says the left-wing blog currently working full-time as a sabotage instrument in support of libertarian conservative Conor Friedersdorf.”

150

ajay 09.28.12 at 2:27 pm

Among the most pernicious bits of the antiquated constitution is the Supreme Court. I don’t know of another system that is burdened with a Court with that much power over its constitution

Germany’s constitutional court seems to be similar. Probably because it was set up under American tutelage.

151

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 2:30 pm

Everyone talking about how the ratchet only moves right is basically ignoring ALL the progress the democrats have made on social issues over the last 30 years. Gay rights matters to me. Does it to you?

152

Henry 09.28.12 at 2:32 pm

Matt McIrvin on 09.28.12 at 11:27 am wins the thread:

sounded more like epistemic closure/”La la la. I CAN’T HEAR YOU” to me, but then, very likely, we come to this with different understandings of what constitutes good debate.

153

ajay 09.28.12 at 2:40 pm

Can’t help but noting that this topic has driven more comments on “Debt” off the radar screen: a first for a political economy blog.

DD may be a troll, but he’s good at his job.

154

Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 2:42 pm

bad Jim 09.28.12 at 6:04 am:

‘Okay, so, what? Pick up the gun? General strike?

“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards”, said Max Weber, and there’s nothing in the thousands of years of history we can read to suggest he was wrong.

Forgive me for trying to be practical, but how do we get from where we are to where we want to be, while doing the best we can to take care of each other in the meantime?’

Clearly, voting will not accomplish this. The outcome of the next election will not be decided or influenced by your vote. This seems to leave local activism and organization. If what you want to do is preserve the social democratic state, then you need to make it more troublesome for the ruling class to get rid of it than to tolerate what’s left of it. At this time I don’t know of any large organizations ready to do this; if so that means you must begin with local and individual actions. If you want to establish a socialist or communist society, likewise there are no large organizations or institutions currently doing this, so you would have to find or start local cooperatives, communes, squats, etc. Either way, Weber seems to be right, although occasionally the boards break unexpectedly.

Guns do not appear necessary at this point. Although the police have been partly militarized and our civil liberties infringed and diluted here and there, there is still a lot of political space in which to act, as OWS, Wisconsin, and the Chicago teachers’ strike showed.

155

Henry 09.28.12 at 2:43 pm

Or to be a bit more explicit (since Matt is someone whose views I usually have a lot of time for), I’ve been reading Friedersdorf’s blog for the last few years. His writing mostly consists of (a) how shit the Republican party is these days, and (b) how shit both parties are on the security state and civil liberties. Unless he’s working the longest con in blogospheric history, I think that it’s pretty obnoxious to dismiss him as a conservative political saboteur, and +1s for this claim look to me like chuckleheaded denialism of a set of issues that partisan Democrats find awkward.

156

LFC 09.28.12 at 2:43 pm

McLaren:
Has Obama proposed changes in immigration laws that stop targeting people from Islamic countries? Of course he hasn’t. Obama loves brutalizing immigrants…

He did take steps to prevent deportation of people in their late teens or early 20s who arrived as very young children in the company of ‘undocumented’ parents.
(Maybe someone said this already.)

157

Gepap 09.28.12 at 2:44 pm

There is simply no great general popular movement in the US to deny the current economic and political system legitimacy, period. Therefore, anyone here who disagrees with the system and wishes to see it changed needs to:

1. Work within that system to nudge it in the direction of your desired outcome.
2. Carry out a campaign to get popular support for actions that deny legitimacy to the system.
3. Carry out a revolt/insurrection.

Given the relative political AND economic weakness of “progressives” overall, 2 and 3 are currently pie in the sky ideas, which leaves 1 as the only viable short term action, and 1. means voting for the Presidential candidate that will enact policies closest to those you want. In this case, that is Obama.

As for the idea that “well, we have to start sometimes if we want real change, right?”, the problem is that not voting for Obama is THE WRONG WAY TO START! Again, the problem for progressives if they lack the political and economic power to carry out 2 and 3. A Romney victory makes gaining that power much harder, and Obama victory makes it less hard. Daniel’s idea is akin to a General, commanding a weak and underarmed force deciding that, you know what, lets not wait to strenghten our forces, lets carry out that charge against the well fortified enemy position because, you know what, we have to start some times! And besides, a little decimation of our forces will be good for morale!

158

Marc 09.28.12 at 2:46 pm

@150: The CT crew is the group apparently impervious to evidence. It doesn’t appear to matter what Democrats say, what Republicans say, or what either of them do. Apparently the actual events of the Bush administration, for example, do not count evidence for what Romney could or will do. Neither do his own statements. The stated positions of Obama are not relevant, and any positive achievements that he has can either be ignored or minimized. By contrast, any faults that he has are to be taken as gospel truth.

Listening to a few of the front-pagers here is like talking to Republicans raised on a diet of talk radio and Fox News. The Naderite garbage is destroying your credibility as a group; you may wish to think about whether you want continue, or whether instead you’d prefer to have people take you seriously on other matters.

159

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 2:46 pm

Read his tweets Henry:
http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2012/09/26/chickensoup-for-the-privileged-butthurt-soul/

The man is a con artist! And you and others at this blog have fallen for his con.

160

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 2:47 pm

Comrades! The Revolutionary Peoples Purity Party endorses Gary Johnson and his program of getting high while children work. Down with the black guy neoliberal hegemonists!

161

Mike Huben 09.28.12 at 2:49 pm

Daniel Davies wrote:
“So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion?”

And the simple answer is to ask Scott Walker in Wisconsin how he did it.

There is an enormous load of pre-written right-wing legislation just waiting for the opportunity. Think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation have been churning it out for decades, and the practice probably goes back more than one century.

162

William Timberman 09.28.12 at 2:52 pm

Forty-four years ago. Those kids were a sabotage instrument that ruined Hubert Humphrey’s promised New Jerusalem. Bullshit then, bullshit now, but I still hear it every time a group of Democrats gather. Yeah, we got Nixon instead, but I suspect that was as much a result of the good things that LBJ did — the Civil Rights Act, the National Voting Rights Act, food stamps, etc. — as the bad things he did. (the effing Vietnam War, in case anyone’s forgotten.) America’s Moral Arc has always followed an erratic trajectory, and sometimes nudging it onto the right path involves more than shaking a finger at people who aren’t content to let the Very Serious People take care of things the way they always have. Which is to say, vote for Obama or don’t vote for Obama as your conscience dictates, but please, please, spare us the lectures on our moral imperatives.

163

Harold 09.28.12 at 2:56 pm

@ 76 “The hard right base is maybe 25% of the population — people substantially further left than the Democratic Party are more like 5%. Either build mass popular support for the left-of-the-Democrats agenda or give up the expectation of seeing it implemented. It’s not going to make it into policy as long as it remains a splinter opinion in the population.”

Only 20% more to go!

164

Brad DeLong 09.28.12 at 3:03 pm

The problem is that there are different degrees of party loyalty in the Democratic and Republican coalitions. The Republicans are a party: they can be whipped–and are. Party loyalty, when the chips are down, trumps ideology and policy preferences. The Democrats are a themeless pudding: a blancmange, say. When the chips are down, Republican moderates like Snowe, Collins, Brown, Murkowski, Cochran, Bond, Lugar, and Grassley have voted with their party’s leaders–even against their own policy proposals. But when the chips are down, Hagan, Johnson, Warner, Lieberman, Baucus, Webb, Nelson, McCaskill, and Carper have not–they have had to expensively negotiated into the Democratic policy line every time.

As Norman Ornstein says about the difference in party loyalty between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate:

>I think it reflects a deep cultural difference between the two parties in a host of different ways. And part of it is the Republican part. In the Republican Party, moderates and progresses were always a relatively small minority. They were there, they were significant, but they never made up more than 20, 25, 30% of the party. For the Democrats, the southern conservatives made up 50% or 40% from a very long period of time. And so there was a different sense of the importance and the power that those people had. Secondly, I do think there is simply a cultural difference. For Republicans, it’s almost more of a religion or a tribal identification than it is for Democrats.

>That is sometimes really curious to see. Watch Olympia Snow get caught up in this the way that she did.

>I worked with Olympia very closely on the campaign reform staff. She was under enormous pressure from McConnell and others. She stood fast.

>Then you fast-forward to the aftermath of the Citizens United decision. What we worked on with Olympia, when campaign finance reform was floundering over the Republicans’ insistence that if you are going to keep corporations out of the game, you need to freeze labor out too. Trying to find a common ground. So we came up with something that ended up being the Snow-Jeffords amendment–which was a way of keeping corporations and unions out of elections and communications when we are close to elections, all of that stuff. It passed the court when Sandra Day O’Connor was still there. It was the target, as much as anything in particular was, of Citizens United.

>So we get the response to Citizens United: the Disclose act. Now you can quibble with portions of that. But this is a bill that passes the House handily, and then gets to the Senate and all 59 Democrats support it. And not one Republican, including Snowe—this was her most important legislative achievement–would vote for cloture, and so it dies. We would be in a different place if that bill had passed–not radically different but different, and you will see more of this sort of coming forward. The desire not to be shunned within your own party is a part of it.

>It’s almost like you are in a religion. You look at misbehavior on the part of the leaders of that religion, and you are shocked and dismayed, but you are not leaving your religion. And you are still going to go to church: you just can’t give up something that you held in a lifelong way.

>I think Democrats are just different in that front. They don’t have the same discipline. I see even some of it outside. You get a talking point that gets distributed. Now, for example, we can’t meet anybody in or out of office who doesn’t say: “Well, what do you say about the Senate not passing a budget resolution for three years?” They picked up on a talking point. It’s a phony talking point. But it’s a talking pointit’s. It’s not like they have a phone call every morning where everybody dials in and they are given marching orders. It’s just there and they pick up on it.

>By contrast Democrats are all over the map.

>So there is a difference in culture there. But I would just add that I think Thomas was right in pointing out that given all of that, Obama’s achievement–and you know you have to give some of it to Pelosi and to Reid–at getting all 60 democrats from socialist Burney Sanders to Ben Nelson to vote for a health care bill…

>Brad DeLong: The Heritage Foundation’s healthcare bill. Romney’s healthcare plan. Something that’s significantly to the right of Olympia Snowe’s policy priorities, as demonstrated by her life up to 2008.

>Norman Ornstein: Okay. And they got socialist Barney Sanders to vote for it.

>Brad DeLong: Yes.

>Norman Ornstein: You know it’s the Heritage Foundation’s bill, but it’s also the Hatch-Grassley healthcare bill.

>Brad DeLong: Yes.

>Norman Ornstein: But the fact Pelosi got enough Democrats to support a cap-and-trade bill, even if it never went though the Senate.

>Brad DeLong: But they were not organized enough to pass a carbon tax through reconciliation in February of 2009 and then bargain back in the Senate to cap-and-trade.

>Norman Ornstein: Well, you know, let’s remember this is the Democratic Party. Will Rogers said: “I am not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” So that’s built into the culture as well. But there is a difference here. I think it’s one of the things—part of our frustrations, I could easily pick out 30 Republicans in the House who are problem solvers, and who would love to be out there working with Democrats–and in some cases they do in committee and sub-committee. Then there are bills which they contributed to, and they have been compromised before they even get to the floor, and they all vote against him. And of course the other part of this is there is no Democratic Club for Growth that says: “We are waiting for you, and if you vote in way that we don’t like, there will be millions in to knock you off in the primary.” It happens to Democrats, but nowhere near as significant and the threat is nowhere near as deep.

>Brad DeLong: So is the problem that Daily Kos and Netroots Nation are not strong enough?

>Norman Ornstein: No, we are not advocating having both parties have an ideological police…

165

bjk 09.28.12 at 3:05 pm

Doesn’t this post violate Chris Bertram’s rule that only Britons should comment on British politics? I don’t think Daniel is a US citizen.

166

Chris Bertram 09.28.12 at 3:12 pm

Chris Bertram’s rule

Did I enunciate a rule to that effect? I believe I may have expressed impatience with US commenters whose remarks demonstrated a lack of basic understanding of the British political system. But for obvious reasons, British commenters are probably better informed about US politics than Americans are about the UK.

167

bjk 09.28.12 at 3:15 pm

Fair enough. As the imperial capital, we do attract a fair share of peripheral scrutiny.

168

Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 3:16 pm

Yeah, we got Nixon instead

And that made things worse. No matter how much you like to wallow in left nostalgia, it’s still the case that that made things worse. If you still can’t deal with the truth about the past you have no hope of doing so in the present.

Look, I’m much closer to you in overall political thinking than to a mainstream Democrat, but the situation is accurately described by Gepap @ 155. One can work within that reality or one can retreat into fantasy and nostalgia. Like it or not, the best thing that can happen to the American left at the current moment is for moderate-Republican Democrat Obama to run up the score and bring in a moderate Republican Democratic House majority with him. I would love for there to be something better on offer but I prefer to deal with reality.

I wish this and the related threads weren’t such a devastating demonstration of the impotence and fecklessness of the American left. It’s depressing, especially in contrast to the discipline and organization of the right, which will only be temporarily be dented by the flameout of the hapless Romney.

169

Henry 09.28.12 at 3:18 pm

Con artist how? He has beliefs about economics that I don’t for a moment endorse or find attractive. Radley Balko, whose work I also admire (he’s actually gotten off his arse, and helped get a guy off death row and shit) has views on economics that I find similarly weird and unlikable. Is Balko a con artist too? This smacks of motivational reasoning. Friedersdorf is unquestionably deeply committed to pushing back against the US security state. He’s been writing about it, at length, and in detail, for years. This isn’t a con. Really. It’s not. You can disagree, and think that he’s wrongheaded on his own lights. You can, if you think that libertarian economics are cackheaded, be very suspicious of wanting to sign on for Gary Johnson. But dismissing this as a con seems to me to be an exercise in denial about the nasty, non-liberal things that the Obama administration has been directly responsible for.

170

LFC 09.28.12 at 3:23 pm

W. Timberman @160:
Yes, this is the problem with facile historical analogies. They often don’t work very well. Hubert Humphrey, who would have been a good (maybe even a very good) president, helped ruin his own New Jerusalem because by the time he clearly separated himself from LBJ on Vietnam, in Sept ’68 in a speech at Salt Lake City, it was too late. A real shame. Instead the U.S. got Nixon and Kissinger and their “secret plan” to end the war. We know how that worked out.
But you’re right that people should stop blaming Eugene McCarthy (or RFK for that matter) and his supporters for Humphrey’s defeat. I’m surprised you still hear this mentioned “every time a group of Democrats gather.” It was a long time ago, after all, as ‘political time’ is measured in the U.S. these days.

171

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 3:23 pm

Henry – well, geez, since Connor’s proposed protest candidate is not necessarily against drone warfare,
http://dailycaller.com/2012/04/09/thedcs-jamie-weinstein-gary-johnsons-strange-foreign-policy/

one could be forgiven for doubting his sincerity.

172

William Timberman 09.28.12 at 3:25 pm

One can work within that reality or one can retreat into fantasy and nostalgia.

You think that the Democratic Party represents reality. Whatever it is that makes you think so, you’re welcome to it.

173

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:26 pm

Come on Henry. You are not that naive.

174

Marc 09.28.12 at 3:29 pm

@166: an awful lot of us are looking at threads like this as direct evidence that British academics apparently have as little understanding of US politics as American ones do of British politics.

175

rf 09.28.12 at 3:30 pm

Yo rootless, this is very easy. What you do is Google F-Dorf’s name, it brings up his Atlantic page, and then you can read through and check his sincerity. It might take a little time, but it would prevent you from speculating….

http://www.theatlantic.com/conor-friedersdorf/

The most unusual thing is that he actually uses testimony from those that suffer at the hands of these policies, not just offer an overwrought, western interpretation (when it’s the other party in office, of course)

176

Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 3:33 pm

You think that the Democratic Party represents reality. Whatever it is that makes you think so, you’re welcome to it.

The fact that it has the support, in a good year, of the majority of voters, while ideas more congenial to you and I have the support of maybe 5%, should make anyone with a mental age greater than three think so. Holding your breath until you turn blue won’t change that.

177

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 3:38 pm

rf – so he tells us he sadly and reluctantly can’t vote for someone he always detested and whose politics he opposes, only because of a drone policy, so he will protest vote for a principled candidate who is not opposed to that policy! Sincerity!

178

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:42 pm

“so he tells us he sadly and reluctantly can’t vote for someone he always detested and whose politics he opposes, only because of a drone policy, so he will protest vote for a principled candidate who is not opposed to that policy! Sincerity!”

Exactly! Also a candidate that he supported with such sincerity that he did not even know said candidates economic policy. Truly the man is a modern day Plato. We all have so much to learn. Face it. You people have been had.

179

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 3:44 pm

@ Anarcissie # 99 — Why do you think the Democrats declined to go along with Bush privatization of Social Security in 2006? Where do you think the Obama TV ad team is getting its ideas and technical expertise? How do you think the social mind is formed, in any era? Do you think our daily blatherings should have instantaneous effect? Is 25 years a long time?

180

Henry 09.28.12 at 3:46 pm

MPA Victoria – When someone devotes a couple of years of their life to pushing a set of awkward and unpleasant issues that they are unlikely to get thanked for raising by any of the major factions in US politics, yes, I am that naive. Only I wouldn’t call it naive, obviously. The alternative explanation – that all of this work is a long con aimed at furthering teh awesome presidential chances of Gary Johnson (or, alternatively, at cunningly swaying liberals away from supporting Barack Obama, handing the election to Mitt Romney), I would call partisan wishful thinking.

181

rf 09.28.12 at 3:46 pm

F-Dorf is obviously a libertarian (in all senses including economic) A lot of his opposition to the national security state is ideological, some of his road to damascus moment is political posturing on his part..nonetheless, I don’t think his sincerity on the actual issue can be doubted..and the American ‘left’ still haven’t answered his main question..why so indifferent to the WOT now it’s your candidate in office?

182

rf 09.28.12 at 3:47 pm

that was to rootless

183

Cian 09.28.12 at 3:48 pm

While I don’t entirely agree with Daniel on this one, I think the point underlying it is sound. Voting will not change things significantly, because Obama is not one of us – he’s one of them. The Democrat party is not the party of the disenfranchesized, or the poor, or minorities. It’s a party of a particular group of rich people (just like the Republicans), which is able to draw upon particular tribes of ‘ordinary’ people for political purposes (just like the Republicans). Just like the Republicans, it is susceptible to pressure from those constituencies, but don’t make the mistake it represents them. It doesn’t.

This election is not politics, as least for ordinary mortals (it’s politics for the elites, which is closer to office politics). Politics is the organizing going on around Occupy, the teacher’s strike in Chicago, etc. This is just our chance to choose one particular group of aristocrats over another group. And sure, maybe one group will be better. But at the end of the day they’re still aristocrats – to them we’re the little people. We don’t matter. Unless we can create a big enough force, or mob, that they have to pay attention.

As for lesser evils. Romney probably is as bad as people say, and will have the capacity to do a lot of damage (Daniel is almost certainly wrong about this). On the other hand, Obama is a lot worse than his defenders here are suggesting. Education will be privatized, social security and Medicare will almost certainly be dismantled. The banking/financial system will become even worse, oversight will be further reduced. And, as Bruce Dixon never tires of pointing out, minorities have done very badly indeed under Obama. So maybe Obama is a better choice, but it’s not just about civil liberties/the endless war.

184

Henry 09.28.12 at 3:50 pm

No MPAVictoria – you are being had. By yourself. I know that this is a terrible time to try and convince people about stuff that goes against their partisan biases. But the Obama administration has been responsible for some terrible, horrible, shitty things. Things that are so bad that people of good conscience genuinely might have good reason not to want to vote for him. And trying to pretend this isn’t true (unless you think that drone strikes in which multiples more children are killed than terrorist leaders, anyone who is male and above a certain age is counted as a terrorist etc are a good thing) is a form of denialism.

185

Cian 09.28.12 at 3:50 pm

The fact that [the Democrat Party] has the support, in a good year, of the majority of voters, while ideas more congenial to you and I have the support of maybe 5%

Well that’s the thing isn’t it. The majority of voters, which is what percentage of the population? And largely which section of the population?

186

Aaron 09.28.12 at 3:51 pm

One reason why American liberals may be slow to embrace this sort of thinking is from the awful Bush/Gore experience. Anti-Globalists were right to despair about the choice between a “compassionate”, isolationist conservative and a neoliberal democrat who was complicit in Clinton’s foreign misadventures.

Of course, we know how that one turned out. Within weeks of getting into office, Bush’s advisors were a) planning radical tax cuts that had limited support in the polls b) looking for ways to attack Iraq and c) dismantling the EPA and other regulatory agencies. If Romney is elected, you can replace b) with: looking into an attack on Iran.
Were Romney holding a slight lead, even hardened Marxists might have a hard time arguing that they’re all the same anyway.

Obama was elected as a moderate, not a radical. Most leftists were aware that Hillary was more liberal than Obama, and made an effort to win her the 2008 nomination, but Obama has always been a charismatic middle of the road democrat. Obama is simply doing what the electorate wants, and is a small step on the road to a more liberal country rather than a great leap.

187

Cian 09.28.12 at 3:52 pm

I don’t think his sincerity on the actual issue can be doubted..and the American ‘left’ still haven’t answered his main question..why so indifferent to the WOT now it’s your candidate in office?

The same reason some ignored the crimes of Stalin. Lesser evilism – at least in their analysis.

188

ajay 09.28.12 at 3:54 pm

Cian: “Obama is a lot worse than his defenders here are suggesting. Education will be privatized, social security and Medicare will almost certainly be dismantled. “

He’d better hurry up, he hasn’t done any of those things yet and he’s only got four years left. You’d think he’d have made some progress on them in his first term if they were such priorities.

189

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 3:56 pm

So Henry Friedersdorf’s support for Gary Johnson is so strong that he does not even know basic facts about his candidates views? And you continue to minimize the good accomplished so far by the Obama administration and the bad that a Romney administration would do. It is you who are suffering from denialism.

190

The Raven 09.28.12 at 3:56 pm

“So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical…”

Who would have thought that Thatcher could be so successful? Consider that radical right has been working up to this for 30 years and has won many victories. Bush II was very successful. (Abortion by the way, is in practical terms, banned in many states.) It is not implausible at all.

You don’t understand US politics and you are forgetting the rise of fascism. Please. You are an educated man. Review some of the history and look for parallels–they are there.

191

NBarnes 09.28.12 at 3:57 pm

Clearly, voting will not accomplish this

Voting alone won’t accomplish that. Nobody here is saying that. But not voting at all is actively detrimental to the cause of social justice. So don’t not vote.

The entire case in about a 2.5 dozen words.

192

Cian 09.28.12 at 3:58 pm

He’d better hurry up, he hasn’t done any of those things yet and he’s only got four years left. You’d think he’d have made some progress on them in his first term if they were such priorities.

The first is happening. He made a good attempt at the other two (but ironically was defeated by posturing from Republicans), and has said that these are things he wants to achieve in his second term (he didn’t put it that way, but given who has been advising him, its pretty obvious what he’s planning).

Of course the idea that a Democrat would dismantle welfare is very hard for some [cough Clinton] to get their head around.

193

The Raven 09.28.12 at 3:59 pm

“Do you want Romney/Ryan to go to war with Iran in 2013? Or would you rather a Democratic president went to war with Iran in 2025? [...] What the [expletive deleted] is the difference?”

There’s 12 years to get the country to change course–that’s the difference. Sheesh.

194

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 4:00 pm

rf – connor is obviously an insincere con artist. His pose of reluctantly refusing to support President Obama due to horror at the war on terror is deeply dishonest – both because Connor opposes Obama anyways and because his critique of the “war on terror” is itself based on fiction. As for the bogus attack on liberals, it’s composed of the usual dishonest right wing invention of liberal positions. I remain opposed to the war in afghanistan and Yemen but I don’t need some hypocritical right wing creep telling me that I am therefore morally bound to protest vote for a racist supporter of child labor who doesn’t even oppose those wars – and thus increase the chances of Neocons coming back into power.

And, like most Americans, I do not buy the tendentious theory that American citizenship is a license to join a hostile military force while still enjoying judicial protection. I think Abraham Lincoln was well within his mandate to tell the army to shoot Confederates without judicial process and President Obama similarly can act against the superstitionists who brag of their war against US civilians. Since CF doesn’t seem to be able to even fucking read the 5th Amendment, I will point out again that it does not anywhere refer to citizenship status.

195

Scott Lemieux 09.28.12 at 4:01 pm

Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.

Even assuming for the sake of argument that an equilibrium in which presidents are unable to confirm anyone to important branch positions is desirable and would be good for progressives (although this strikes be as self-evidently erroneous), the recess appointment power means that it wouldn’t even work, particularly for the executive branch. Filibustering Romney’s appointments to executive agencies doesn’t mean that left-wingers will be in charge of them by default or something.

Also, if Democrats just prevented Romney from replacing Ginsburg and/or Breyer, this would mean…a 7 or 8-justice Court (still fully legally empowered to decide cases) with 5 conservative votes. I must admit I don’t see how this is a good outcome.

196

js. 09.28.12 at 4:03 pm

He’d better hurry up, he hasn’t done any of those things yet and he’s only got four years left.

Education is being steadily privatized through the increased funding of charter schools and other “reforms”. (See also: Chicago.) The reasons that Social Security is still intact are: (1) Republican intrasigence (cf. “the grand bargain”), and (2) Occupy. So yeah, Cian’s basically right.

(Before 5000 lesser-evilers jump on me, let me just note that I’m not saying that Obama and Romney are equally bad, or that there’s no point to voting for Democrats, etc.)

197

ajay 09.28.12 at 4:05 pm

The first is happening. He made a good attempt at the other two (but ironically was defeated by posturing from Republicans), and has said that these are things he wants to achieve in his second term (he didn’t put it that way, but given who has been advising him, its pretty obvious what he’s planning).

So, you reckon Obama has said that he wants to dismantle Social Security and Medicare in his second term – OK, maybe not in so many words, but in a way that makes it pretty obvious that that’s what he intends to do.
Link?

198

ajay 09.28.12 at 4:05 pm

Education is being steadily privatized through the increased funding of charter schools and other “reforms”.

I don’t think you really know what privatisation means.

199

Henry 09.28.12 at 4:07 pm

MPAVictoria – I have no idea what your underlying theory is of Conor Friedersdorf’s vile motivations, except that it seems to be a cobbled together mixture of innuendo, partisan bias, and profound ignorance of what the guy actually writes (conveniently linked to in #175). But since this conversation feels to me like Someone Is Wrong on the Internet (doubtless you have the same perception in reverse), I’m going to bow out.

200

Metatone 09.28.12 at 4:08 pm

@Chris Bertram – I don’t live in France but I have similarly brown skinned friends there and I’m curious about your statement that there is no moral imperative to vote for Chirac over Le Pen. Care to say more?

(I can accept the proposal that Chirac was going to win without any leftist voters, so no imperative there – but is that your point?)

201

Metatone 09.28.12 at 4:09 pm

(Similarly brown-skinned to me…)

202

Cian 09.28.12 at 4:14 pm

I don’t think you really know what privatisation means.

Well generally I feel that when a school is run, or owned by, a for profit company the term applies. But do feel free to enlighten me Ajay. Preferably in that delightfully patronizing tone.

203

L2P 09.28.12 at 4:17 pm

“The alternative explanation – that all of this work is a long con aimed at furthering teh awesome presidential chances of Gary Johnson (or, alternatively, at cunningly swaying liberals away from supporting Barack Obama, handing the election to Mitt Romney), I would call partisan wishful thinking.”

Why would it be “wishful thinking” for liberals to believe that a conservative like Friedersdorf is attempting to do exactly what the Republicans have done? They backed Nader in several key states, supported his attempts to get on the ballot, used their powers as secretaries of state, and were major fundraising supporters.

So why is it “wishful thinking” to believe that a conservative would support a third party candidate to siphon support from a Democratic candidate?

204

Gepap 09.28.12 at 4:19 pm

Why is it so hard for “progressives” to understand that politics is about POWER, not values? In order to enact the policies you want, you need power. How does taking actions that you reasonably believe will place individuals in positions of power with values and policy ideas actively hostile to your own in almost every field of policy imaginable in any way, shape, or form empower you?

Is Obama a progressive? No. Would his administration pose fewer obstacles to progressive aims or schemes than a Romney admin? Of course it would. As a progressive, why the hell would you then think that it is irrelevant whether Romney or Obama win?

People are capable of mutliple acitons. If you think the way to go is to start organizations that can slowly build a progressive body of citizens willing to fight for the values you hold, please, go ahead , do so. But at the same time you can also act to place in power people who will make your job just a little less terribly hard.

And for those people who think that all we really need is to wait for things to get so awful, so terrible under crazy reactionaries that the people will sponteneously rise up in some form progressive revolt, realize that we live in a world of climate change and nuclear weapons. Its a very risky bet to assume that the revolution will reach us before there is no public commonwealth to revolt in the first place.

205

Stuart 09.28.12 at 4:20 pm

Wow, I like the principles espoused here – we should give in to the extreme right wing, because then the amount of dead bodies and suffering caused by them will eventually be large enough that enough people might decide to do something about it.

At least fascists are honest about their use of people purely as tools of their beliefs.

206

js. 09.28.12 at 4:26 pm

And for those people who think that all we really need is to wait for things to get so awful, so terrible under crazy reactionaries that the people will sponteneously rise up in some form progressive revolt

And why is so hard for people to see that there’s a huge difference between (1) honest criticisms of the Obama administration and the Democratic party as currently constituted, and (2) believing this fuckin’ crazy thing. Because, seriously, can you actually point to anyone who is defending the above.

207

L2P 09.28.12 at 4:30 pm

“But the Obama administration has been responsible for some terrible, horrible, shitty things. Things that are so bad that people of good conscience genuinely might have good reason not to want to vote for him.”

I’m trying, really, really, hard, to come up with the last American President who didn’t fail under that standard. I’m thinking Harrison? Maybe he died too quickly for anything really bad to happen. Of course, you couldn’t vote for him, being as he’s dead and all.

Your theory seems to be just to never vote for any incumbent president. I don’t think you could vote for any leader of any decent-sized country (let’s say bigger than Denmark.) Any Mayor of Los Angeles has authorized more shitty stuff than you can possibly imagine – just go through any year of court filings and you can see it first hand. So I guess you’re out of that election, too. Hell, I don’t know how you can vote for Mayor of DC.

So what can you do, really? If the theory is “don’t vote for any President who’s done shitty, shitty things that hurt your conscience,” we’re kind of done here in realworldville. But I’ve got awesome candidates for you over there in “everybody-gets-a-pony-land.”

I guess that IS a lot like voting for the libertarian candidate!

208

ajay 09.28.12 at 4:33 pm

202: I think when you’re talking about privatising a government service, the assumption is that you’re talking about privatising all of it, or at least a very large part of it. (I don’t think anyone would have talked about the Conservatives in the UK privatising British Steel if they had sold off a single rolling mill and kept all the rest of the company in state hands.) As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t happened to US education – most pupils are still in state schools – nor is it set to happen any time soon.

Maybe he announced it in the same speech where he said he wanted to dismantle Social Security and Medicare?

209

ajay 09.28.12 at 4:37 pm

I mean,Bush used a lot of military contractors. I wouldn’t say he had “privatised the US army”.

210

Gepap 09.28.12 at 4:38 pm

@js

That situation, of hoping things get so bad people will see just how smart progressives are, is the rational end of the program of action advocated by those who urge people to stand aside,and claim that both political parties are just the same but who at the same time fail utterly to explain how they are going to build that other movement.

There is a difference between being critical of Obama (which I am) and then deciding to say, f**k it, I don’t care if Romney gets elected.

211

Ben Alpers 09.28.12 at 4:39 pm

Aaron @186:

Obama was elected as a moderate, not a radical. Most leftists were aware that Hillary was more liberal than Obama, and made an effort to win her the 2008 nomination, but Obama has always been a charismatic middle of the road democrat.

I am always amazed at people who are disappointed at Obama because they expected him to be more radical or even more liberal. But I am equally amazed at folks who still insist that Hillary Clinton is more liberal or “left” than Obama. Ideologically speaking, they are nearly identical, middle-of-the-(very right-shifted)-road Democrats…though Clinton is a less charismatic middle-of-the-road Democrat than Obama.

Each became objects of political fantasy for slightly different groups of people further to the left in 2008 (Clinton seemed to appeal to the fantasies of older folks to her left, Obama to a younger crowd of left wishful-thinkers). That Clinton remains such an object of political fantasy is really unfortunate. Although I firmly believe that voting for the lesser evil is sometimes necessary (and we may find ourselves having to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016), we never do ourselves any favors when we imagine that the centrists, for whom we vote tactically, are something other than what they are.

212

Henry 09.28.12 at 4:43 pm

Why would it be “wishful thinking” for liberals to believe that a conservative like Friedersdorf is attempting to do exactly what the Republicans have done?

Because he’s spent the last few years talking to anyone who’ll listen about what a stinking heap of shit the Republican party is?

But right. It’s the long con. Only when he has succeeded in swaying millions of liberals not to vote for Obama, tossing the election to Romney, will Friedersdorf reveal his true agenda, with fiendish cackle and a debonair twirl of his elegantly waxed moustache.

On the other ideological front of this dispute, as Jim Henley noted on Twitter, the unseemly enthusiasm with which many (not all) self-declared liberals have descended into an orgy of hippy-punching is sort of astonishing.

And with that, I’m out of here completely.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 4:44 pm

It might help to look at what is likely to happen next, so long as Obama is re-elected and people remain willing to help push it along:

1. Automatic cessation of all the Bush Tax Cuts after January, which automatically a) reduces the future deficits and thus reduces their impact as a political rhetorical issue that is wielded by the Republicans to destroy the welfare state; b) reduces the immediate need for a phony “deal” on Medicare; and c) forces the Republicans to accede to middle-class tax-cut extensions without the wealthy tax-cut extensions, because they have little bargaining power remaining.

2. The economy continues to improve in minute increments, not due to any political policies left or right, but because household debt is being paid-off and house prices are returning to pre-bubble levels, thus increasing consumer spending, which is the major driver of GDP and jobs (and still, it would appear, the worldwide driver, at least for a little while longer).

3. The return of stable economic growth, after increased taxes on the wealthy, along with no reduction in the welfare state plus re-regulation of the financial sector, PUTS PAID to the political rhetoric that supply-side Reaganomics is the only way into the future, and inculcates a very difficult P.R. hurdle for the plutocracy to surmount.

4. The use of drones, which is clearly supported by everyone from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton to all the liberal hawks (just observing the Democratic side) is going to become a much larger public issue, in the same way that the mainstream media waited until after Dubya’s re-election in 2004 to start hammering on the Iraq War. But the issue of the danger of Islamic fundamentalism is not going to recede, and lefties are going to have to find another way to deal with it besides relying upon the ideas that it is understandable blowback from decades of U.S. foreign policy, and can be dealt with as a criminal police matter. That is NOT going to fly with the large majority of the U.S. public. This is a partly religious problem and what is really needed is some sort of ecumenical movement.

5. After his second term is over, if he gets it, Obama will be nominated for Secretary General of the U.N. Because that is where the action is going to be.

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rea 09.28.12 at 4:46 pm

But for obvious reasons, British commenters are probably better informed about US politics than Americans are about the UK.

Those reasons are not particularly obvious, and in fact Daniel (for whom I ordinarily have tremendous admiration) doesn’t seem to understand American politics at all, as I and numerous others point out above.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 4:47 pm

6. I should have added, the Republicans are going to look hard at Marco Rubio for 2016, because they are going to be extinct without picking up Latino votes.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 4:48 pm

Although I firmly believe that voting for the lesser evil is sometimes necessary (and we may find ourselves having to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016)

If Andrew Cuomo is her main primary opponent, then she’ll be the lesser evil even in the primaries. (And that pretty much exhausts the good things I have to say about her. Anyone who thinks she’s to Obama’s left has truly never been paying attention. If there’s a meaningful difference at all it’s probably that she’d be even more enthusiastic about drone strikes and worse. Even some conservatives would prefer her to Obama for precisely that reason.)

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 4:50 pm

I should have added, the Republicans are going to look hard at Marco Rubio for 2016, because they are going to be extinct without picking up Latino votes.

Are you, like the Republicans, naive enough to believe that a right-wing Cuban has any appeal to other Hispanic groups?

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Barry 09.28.12 at 4:51 pm

Chris Bertram 09.28.12 at 3:12 pm
” Did I enunciate a rule to that effect? I believe I may have expressed impatience with US commenters whose remarks demonstrated a lack of basic understanding of the British political system. But for obvious reasons, British commenters are probably better informed about US politics than Americans are about the UK.”

Daniel seemed to be awfully unaware of the basic tilt of the political playing field in the US. Which is doubly bad since it’s not unrelated to the tilt in UK politics (i.e., the elites are pushing downhill, so to speak).

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Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 4:58 pm

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 3:44 pm:
‘@ Anarcissie # 99 — Why do you think the Democrats declined to go along with Bush privatization of Social Security in 2006? Where do you think the Obama TV ad team is getting its ideas and technical expertise? How do you think the social mind is formed, in any era? Do you think our daily blatherings should have instantaneous effect? Is 25 years a long time?’

1. Up until recently, Social Security was the Democratic Party’s sacred cow, its Ark of the Covenant. I was astounded when the Great Leader started talking about putting it on the block. Back in 2006, the Democrats still adhered to the faith; they were still the party of conservative social democracy, or at least appeared to be. Not any more.

2. I don’t care about the sources of mainstream propaganda. It is hardly a praiseworthy association for the sources.

3. That’s a pretty complicated question to answer in a little old comment.

4.+5. I’m just reporting what I observe. We don’t know what the Internet is going to do, or in what timeframe. I expect it to have revolutionary effects, not all of them necessarily nice. Thus far, however, it does not seem to be leading to much material action in the political realm. For many people, it seems to be a substitute for showing up, giving money, doing work, and other political activities. Again, I agree that may change, or turn out to not matter.

NBarnes 09.28.12 at 3:57 pm:

‘ ” Clearly, voting will not accomplish this”

Voting alone won’t accomplish that. Nobody here is saying that. But not voting at all is actively detrimental to the cause of social justice. So don’t not vote.’

Your individual vote, in fact, the votes of everybody participating in this discussion, will not have any significant effect on the outcome of a national election. Therefore it will not enable you to save the social-democratic state this year or in the immediate future. (I agree it may have other good effects, like some personal payoff if you vote for someone you like, or preserving the idea of voting for some better time.) Therefore, I suggest those fond of social democracy plan to do something else besides cast a vote for Mr. Lesser Evil and his friends, because, again (1) your vote will not change the result of the election, and (2) even if Mr. L.E. wins, that will not in itself save social democracy. Clearly.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 4:58 pm

I do wish we’d see some acknowledgement that if every single person who feels inclined to vote third party did so, they stand no chance whatsoever of changing who gets elected. Didn’t matter before 2000, didn’t matter in 2000, didn’t matter in 2004, didn’t matter in 2008, won’t matter in 2012 or 2016, etc. Frankly, I’d like to see some evidence that the sensationalist-partisan folks spend at least this many hours, or at least this many paragraphs, being vicious and angry at citizens who stayed home and didn’t go vote.

Bush stole the election through Supreme Court shenanigans. Had every single Nader voter voted for Gore, Bush would have stolen the election through Supreme Court shenanigans. There were more than enough leftover ‘controverisal’ ballots to accomplish the task.

It’s been twelve fuckin’ years. Stop blaming some of the victims as if they were asking for it. (You might respond, “But they were! By not voting Gore they were totally asking for it! They’re the ones at fault! If not for them, our country wouldn’t have been so awful! They got what the asked for!” In which case, fuck you. If she had just put up with the guy hitting on her at the bus stop, she wouldn’t have given that assaulter a chance! What kind of awful person gives a rapist a greater chance of success? Didn’t she know her actions could have that bad a consequence? And why did she walk?! Didn’t she know it was a dangerous part of town?! She was inviting a disaster SO MUCH WORSE than whatever she would have faced on that bus! At least the bus provided the status quo! She should have just kept her mouth shut! Now she’s gone and contributed to a rape-friendly culture! What an awful person!)

The people who were responsible for getting Bush elected were the people who supported Bush’s policies. Blaming the fucking victim: still noxious.

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bianca steele 09.28.12 at 5:01 pm

@212
More like because from what I can see he has spent the last few years trying to take seriously the non-right, non-conservative ideas he encountered at the beginning of that time, while remaining essentially rightwing and conservative on principle. As time has gone on, he’s jettisoned the former and revealed more and more of the latter. Also, to some extent, he may be taking seriously different non-right, non-conservative ideas, but I haven’t seen that their fate will be any different from the earlier ones. I honestly don’t see that he has any deep convictions w/r/t those ideas that will prevent their being jettisoned as soon as he finds there is no way to reconcile them with rightwing, conservative principles.

I do see that he has seemed to be trying to take people like Henry Farrell seriously. On other issues, which I wouldn’t say are essential to any left-right continuum I recognize, and some of which I don’t recognize as “political” actually, he probably does disagree with the bulk of the conservative right.

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bexley 09.28.12 at 5:03 pm

Barry

Daniel seemed to be awfully unaware of the basic tilt of the political playing field in the US. Which is doubly bad since it’s not unrelated to the tilt in UK politics (i.e., the elites are pushing downhill, so to speak).

He also seems to be ignoring the damage a Republican president can do even if the Dems successfully filibuster everything in sight. For starters Romney could use executive orders to massively hurt the implementation of the ACA and make horrible interim appointments to various agencies. That’s before we get to the use of reconciliation to get around Democratic filibusters on terrible budget proposals.

If your aim is to have Government do as little governing as possible then the you can get a lot of mileage out of the powers of the POTUS. Less so if you actually need to pass legislation to make things better.

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brandon 09.28.12 at 5:04 pm

Well, the unfortunate thing about the Nader 2000 run – Nader’s subsequent career aside – is that it made just enough of an electoral impact that it can be an object of blame, but not nearly enough of one to be an object of fear. Since people, including Democrats, are basically dogs, their reaction is predictable if not nearly as interesting as they think it is.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.12 at 5:07 pm

Barry 132 “Considering that the right works very hard at *reducing* overall turnout, I think that we can dismiss this argument without further debate.”

You can dismiss it of course, but that doesn’t follow from the premise, and the premise itself isn’t even true. Karl Rove strategy had been based on the high turnout of The Base, and that’s probably still the game plan for Romney. Nobody ever had the goal of reducing the overall turnout, it just doesn’t make sense.

Incidentally, boycotting elections doesn’t have to be a strategy of the left; I suspect most of the wingnuts are not too happy with their party either. Republicans concentrate on cutting taxes for billionaires, and destroying the social safety net, but they never deliver on cultural issues: prayers, flag burnings, all that good stuff. Just like the Democrats concentrate on cultural issues, and ignore the rest. This could be a truly bipartisan movement, for a system of proportional representation.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 5:09 pm

@ Steve LaBonne #217 — I am not sure that the Republicans will have much of a choice, unless they intend to run Jeb Bush. But the economy ought to be doing well enough by then that if Hillary decides to run, she will win, and Jeb wouldn’t bother to try running against Hillary. She is already one of the most popular people in the country, right now. Something like a 75% approval rating. Despite the drones on her watch. Who do you think is creating foreign policy, anyway?

But then, are you really naive enough to believe that all other people respond to left-wing/ring-wing distinctions as you do? The questions for most people will be as usual: what is happening at the time, and how is it spun? Not some pre-arranged categories.

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bexley 09.28.12 at 5:09 pm

Karl Rove strategy had been based on the high turnout of The Base, and that’s probably still the game plan for Romney. Nobody ever had the goal of reducing the overall turnout, it just doesn’t make sense.

That and depressing likely turnout of Democratic voters with bs voter ID laws.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 5:12 pm

But then, are you really naive enough to believe that all other people respond to left-wing/ring-wing distinctions as you do?

Mexicans (for example) have no particular love for Cubans irrespective of politics.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 5:16 pm

@ Anarcissie #219 — Your #1 is incorrect. The Democrats had been making ominous noises about reforming Social Security since the Clinton Administration. The Reaganomics rot had proceeded quite far. Bush went with it, because he believed the Dems would come along. Why didn’t they?

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 5:19 pm

Bush stole the election through Supreme Court shenanigans. Had every single Nader voter voted for Gore, Bush would have stolen the election through Supreme Court shenanigans. There were more than enough leftover ‘controverisal’ ballots to accomplish the task.

Keep telling yourself that. Back in reality-land, Nader got over 97,000 votes in Florida. That’s almost 20 times the margin by which Bush “won” in the official count. A fraction of those votes going to Gore would have put him in the White House. No, Gore should not have run an incompetent enough campaign for it to be that close, but facts are facts.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 5:20 pm

@227 — Well now you are avoiding your indication of right-wingyness, but let’s go with that: you see no future in which some Mexicans could not be induced to vote for a Cuban–enough Mexicans, say, to make up a 2-point spread in thetotal vote?

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Daniel 09.28.12 at 5:21 pm

I see that 200 comments in, the fact that the Democrats have non-existent party discipline and are unable to prevent Republican excesses has been converted from “the main argument of the post” to “something of which Daniel is clearly unaware, demonstrating his ignorance of American politics”. Oddly enough, I find the prospect of a few beers and The Thick Of It on telly (or indeed, twitter) to be more attractive than carrying on a debate on that basis.

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Frank in midtown 09.28.12 at 5:22 pm

I didn’t like that nose anyway.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 5:27 pm

I see that 200 comments in, the fact that the Democrats have non-existent party discipline and are unable to prevent Republican excesses

The non-existent “fact”, you mean. They didn’t block as much as they should have under Bush, but things would have been significantly worse if he’d controlled Congress the whole time. Also, their failings only undercut your argument anyway, because, as 100 people have also pointed out, much of the bad stuff wouldn’t have come down the pike in the first place if Gore had been in the White House. The ever-growing ineffectuality of Congress, year in and year out, is one of the major reasons not to screw up one’s vote for President, which is after all what the discussion is mostly about.

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rea 09.28.12 at 5:27 pm

Q. [H]ow are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion?

A.[T]he Democrats have non-existent party discipline and are unable to prevent Republican excesses

Which is why I’m voting for Obama . . .

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 5:28 pm

Well now you are avoiding your indication of right-wingyness, but let’s go with that: you see no future in which some Mexicans could not be induced to vote for a Cuban–enough Mexicans, say, to make up a 2-point spread in the total vote?

Not. He’s a white guy as far as they’re concerned. You must not get out much.

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rootless_e 09.28.12 at 5:31 pm

Daniel: One can only sympathize. After all, a substantive post that starts with “. If all you care about is the gap between parties, ” and if followed on by “Nuh uh on anything that requires judicial or regulatory nominations, which are trivially easy to filibuster for a Congressional party that has even a modicum of spine.’ demonstrates such a deep understanding of political process in general and US process in particular, that it deserves more cheering than impertinent rejection.

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bexley 09.28.12 at 5:58 pm

Awesome daniel is now trolling his own post. Ignoring the fact that romney can use executive orders to do significant damage to aca (and overturn obama’s own order on torture) doesnt make it go away. If you dont want government to govern then uou can use the presidency to do a lot of damage.

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 6:04 pm

@235 — Actually I work with Mexicans almost every day and they are fair-minded, generous, and very funny. I would imagine that Rubio’s real problem will be in getting the Republican Party to think about a unified immigration reform, a policy change that he may find himself uniquely able to force upon them, particularly if the Repubs are routed in about a month from now, and decide to look in a different direction. I don’t see how the Mexican/Cuban differences are going to last; community leaders report in Miami that the enmity is subsiding, and bridging that gap could become a major lever in favor of the GOP.

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Bruce Wilder 09.28.12 at 6:06 pm

Gepap @204: “Why is it so hard for “progressives” to understand that politics is about POWER[?]“

Because to do so, would lead to the realization that American liberals / progressives are powerless. The social organizations and institutions, which once gave American liberals a resource base and a means of coordinating action, generating propaganda, etc., are gone.

Those most shrilly and obsessively focusing on the difference between Obama and Romney, want to believe that their choice matters to the bigger picture, and if you look at the bigger picture, you realize that you’ve been had. If you are a liberal Democrat, as I have been all my life, and you find yourself being asked to vote for the pro-plutocratic Obama, then something is seriously wrong. Your vote (and all the rest of your political efforts and investments) are no longer making a difference. You’ve been co-opted. And, that’s an unpleasant realization. (I’ve had that realization, and I testify, it is unpleasant.)

Gepap: “As a progressive, why the hell would you then think that it is irrelevant whether Romney or Obama win?”

As a Facebook user, are you the customer? Or, the product?

Voters are trying to control the politicians, and the political class, which includes the politicians, political operatives, media pundits, etc., the political class are trying to control the voters.

Right now, I’d say the political class are winning that struggle, hands down. I think the political class are trying to control the voters, and the government, on behalf of the plutocracy: the financial sector, giant business corporations and a relatively small number of super-rich families — the 1/10th of 1%

Obama is to the right of virtually the entire Democratic Party electorate. Not just me. You. Everyone, who habitually votes Democratic, except maybe Tim Geithner. What happened in the financial crisis of 2008-9 has been called a bankers’ coup. (See Simon H. Johnson at the Baseline Scenario, or Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism) The financial sector took over the government, and has been running policy in their interest, and at the expense of the country, ever since. It is deeply destructive to the country’s long-term interest. Obama has been the great facilitator of this bankers’ coup. And, it has involved an enormous transfer of income from labor to “capital”. (I put quotes around capital, because we are largely talking about the claims of fictitious financial capital and various forms of fraud and parasitic finance, which derive income from disinvestment, rather than investment.)

If you can step back from your righteous hysteria long enough, and tolerate the sense of fear and powerlessness that will come with it, you might just look at who Obama is, and what he has done, and for whom. Who has power? What are they using that power for? How are institutions being changed?

The difference between Romney and Obama is real enough, but it isn’t a choice to empower you, it is a manipulation. Voters on the Republican side are being manipulated even more cynically. Romney isn’t the candidate actual Republicans want to elect. Neither their voters nor their pundits want him. He’s there to lose, to be such a bad candidate, that Obama can be re-elected, despite his performance in office. You, the Democratic voter, are meant to be so horrified by the spectacle of Romney that you don’t notice the horror that is Obama. And, you are not supposed to notice how both campaigns have pulled their punches, so to speak, in the interest of protecting the financial sector, which now controls the country.

The 1/10th of 1%, and their parasitic financial sector, are worse than rabid dogs. They won’t stop. They know no limit.

And, folks, who think social tolerance means much, or can survive, mass impoverishment and the institution of authoritarian repression, don’t know much history.

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mdc 09.28.12 at 6:07 pm

I guess this thread is dead, an someone must have pointed this out, but if the GOP gets the WH and congressional majorities, they will end the filibuster. Take it to the bank.

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Cian 09.28.12 at 6:08 pm

I think when you’re talking about privatising a government service, the assumption is that you’re talking about privatising all of it, or at least a very large part of it.

So when an administration designs a system that forces schools into private hands over time, and the process is all one way, this is not privatization. Interesting argument. Ajay, how familiar are you with what is going in the American school system. Bobby Jindal ring any bells? The ‘reforms’ of Bloomberg? The testing fiasco? The Chicago strike?

Maybe he announced it in the same speech where he said he wanted to dismantle Social Security and Medicare?

He didn’t use that language, any more than Ryan has. He wishes to ‘reform’ it. He actually stated this in one of the debates for the 2008 election – so its not as if this is a new thing. What that means in Obama’s case is pretty obvious given the people he chose for his debt reduction panel.

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Asteele 09.28.12 at 6:11 pm

If I honestly thought the republicans would get rid of the filibuster I’d volunteer to go door to door for them.

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MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 6:15 pm

Watch this:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107857/harold-pollack-video-medicaid-cut-vincent#

Then remember that Paul Ryan has promised to end medicaid. We are all vulnerable.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:16 pm

Obama is to the right of virtually the entire Democratic Party electorate.

This is demonstrably a fantasy, and is typical of the active fantasy life of too many lefties.

The 1/10th of 1%, and their parasitic financial sector, are worse than rabid dogs. They won’t stop. They know no limit.

And voting for a third-party candidate is the first step in changing this! If, that is, you subscribe to the underpants gnome theory of politics.

Sigh. Luckily these people are statistically invisible in the electorate and only matter when there’s a 2000-style perfect storm, which is very rare.

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rf 09.28.12 at 6:18 pm

Rootless @ 194

But the WOT is not a foreign policy issue alone, and Al Awlaki is not the only US citizen affected. (If that’s your concern) No long term war exists in isolation, with no domestic manifestations. The reality is that those Americans (though this is not only applicable to the US) most affected by the WOT domestically are not the concern of mainstream leftists, for reasons I could speculate on. You stand in the same spot the serious left stood in during the early years of the cold war and the war on drugs, expressing some sympathy for those outside your clique, but also kind of relieved (that there will be less blacks on the street and less communists at the next meeting)

It’s fine by me if you’re making political calculations, and are willing to ignore the attacks on American Muslims for them, but if your response to the only mainstream commentators who highlight these very real abuses is to brand them as suffering from ‘white privilege’ or as con artists, or demean their ‘pet issues’, then you don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:26 pm

Nader got over 97,000 votes in Florida. That’s almost 20 times the margin by which Bush “won” in the official count. A fraction of those votes going to Gore would have put him in the White House.

You’re responding to a claim that you’re blaming victims, by blaming victims. And you’re blaming victims painfully selectively–well over 97,000 people stayed the fuck home in Florida, and a fraction of those folks going and voting for Gore would have put him in the White House. You’re focusing on Nader voters because they were ‘asking for it’ with their behavior. Had they just kept their heads down and stayed home, you’d have no problem with them.

I am trying to say that’s a sick way of looking at the world. As recently as 2010 I tried to be sanguine and accommodating, to the point of specifically promising to you and MPAVictoria and others that I’d go along with you and vote D here in 2012. That promise will be kept.

But frankly, every conciliatory attempt I’ve made has been met with cold hostility, contempt, and anger. Misplaced hostility, misplaced contempt, misplaced anger.

You are not a fucking moral warrior. You’re a coward who takes his enemies for granted, and so chooses to turn on his friends. You’re exploiting the fact that folks like me have enough ideological common ground with you, that we feel obligated to hear you out, in trying to establish some veneer of comity. So you take advantage of that at every opportunity.

But you have no argument why it’s us (rather than nonvoters or even Republican partisans, whose behavior you take for granted) whose behavior needs to change. It’s only us who are out of line, and it’s only us who you view as not monolithic. But there’s no evidence that we are the only coalition that might budge, and for that matter, there’s no evidence that we’re budgable ourselves.

So why us? We’re around, we’re visible, we’re easier targets. It takes less energy and less thought to engage with us, and you have a better chance of getting away with insulting us and berating us with emotionally satisfying rhetoric. The only argument you have for focusing on us, rather than nonvoters or people who voted for Bush, is that you know we’re more likely to stick around the conversation, take the abuse, and maybe even let ourselves get bullied into making concessions.

It’s convenient. You have evidence we voted. You have evidence we might consider you an ally. You have evidence we have some incentive to be polite to you, and to listen to you. You’re exploiting that in order to attack us, because we’re close at hand and willing to listen to it. You’re attacking us because we’re here.

And that’s an act of moral cowardice. And it’s blaming victims–fellow people who suffer at the hands of the person whose regime they didn’t support and vocally opposed. So, fuck you. You can choose to not spend that energy anywhere else, or on anyone else, and instead choose to spend it here. I just don’t have any reason anymore to not be hostile in response. I gave folks in your camp a full decade of conciliation. Enough. Go to hell. Expect pushback until you decide to treat Nader voters, and people who with principled intent abstain from voting for a lesser evil, they way you treat every other party ‘responsible’ for Bush’s election to the presidency in 2000: by conveniently forgetting they exist whenever the contention arises.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:29 pm

Salient, I stated facts. Spinning doesn’t change them. Of course one can come up with a million other scenarios, but simple arithmetic shows that Nader cost Gore Florida and the White House. I’m sorry if that fat makes you uncomfortable. Wait, no I’m not.

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:29 pm

Fact, that is.

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Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 6:31 pm

@ Lee A. Arnold #228 — Noises, yes, but I think in 2006 most Democrats were still treating Social Security as sacrosanct, at least in public. That’s why I thought Mr. O’s willingness to chop was so remarkable. Or, we could be more Machiavellian and suppose that, with malice aforethought, the Democratic leadership of the time, looking toward presidential victory in ’08, wanted to bring their masters the bleeding corpse of Social Security under their own administration, rather than Bush’s. Is my second guess better, or am I overestimating their talents?

250

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 6:34 pm

Salient trust me the disagreement I have with you is nothing compared to the contempt and hatred with which I view republican voters/politicians/intellectuals.

251

Hidden Heart 09.28.12 at 6:35 pm

Daniel, if you know how to bring party discipline to the Senate Democrats’ rightmost 10-15, a lot of us would like to hear it. Heck, there are probably campaign organizers who’d pay real money for it. Merely believing that it should be possible (as I did in 2008, though I no longer do) isn’t enough.

Keep in mind here that a discipline which leads directly to the Republicans gaining 5-10 defections will not be considered desirable.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:36 pm

Actually the admission “these people are statistically invisible in the electorate and only matter when there’s a 2000-style perfect storm” is pretty solid evidence that you in particular step in to bash these folks for the emotional satisfaction of it, not out of any strategic calculation to improve the chance’s of a Democrat winning.

And of course that’s always been true. It’s for the satisfaction of pummeling somebody who’s around to be pummeled, the kind of thing you’d use as a clarifying example in a dictionary entry for scapegoat. Everybody arguing against third-party voting or principled nonvoting knows that to be the case. (And most people know it was true even in the “perfect storm” of 2000. If Gore wins the election because he had the most votes, and then the election is stolen from him by invalidating an astonishing number of votes, it’s obviously absurd to declare that what Gore needed was more votes. But saying even that much is conceding that you have a moral right to blame your allies for the behavior of your enemies, which is a concession I’m no longer willing to make.)

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Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:40 pm

Actually the admission “these people are statistically invisible in the electorate and only matter when there’s a 2000-style perfect storm” is pretty solid evidence that you in particular step in to bash these folks for the emotional satisfaction of it, not out of any strategic calculation to improve the chance’s of a Democrat winning.

No, it’s a matter of relief that you won’t be able to fuck up this election and land us with the catastrophe of a Romney presidency.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:40 pm

trust me the disagreement I have with you is nothing compared to the contempt and hatred with which I view republican voters/politicians/intellectuals.

I trust you. I also trust that the guy who comes home and drinks and beats the shit out of his wife every evening feels hostility toward her which is nothing compared to the contempt and hatred with which he views his colleagues/competitors at work, or whatever. That’s actually a significant part of the point I’m making: the expressed contempt and hatred is disproportionate to the felt contempt and hatred, and the only reason for that is because we’re around to take it on the chin, and because you can take it for granted we’ll still be around to take it on the chin tomorrow.

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Katherine 09.28.12 at 6:41 pm

Honestly, anyone would think from listening to some people that the Nader voters wanted Bush to win. No one anticipated how close it was going to be. No one could possibly have anticipated it. Everyone here agrees that a single person’s vote doesn’t make any different, and yet there are still those who will blame each individual Nader voter for their single vote.

No one could have anticipated that Bush was going to take the thing to the Supreme Court and that they would effectively appoint him! How exactly were the Nader voters going to know that?

I’m pretty sure that if the Nader voters had even an inkling of what was going to happen, they’d have voted for Gore. But they didn’t! No one did!

But if we’re spreading blame around, how about doing it a bit more accurately. I’d bet there were more than 1000-odd Gore supporters who didn’t go to the polls that day. Let’s blame them!

256

Salient 09.28.12 at 6:41 pm

People don’t usually express relief with hot hostility, Steve. Relief would be giving it a rest.

257

Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:43 pm

I’ll give it a rest when such people stop trying to the best of their poor powers to hand elections to the fascist party.

258

rea 09.28.12 at 6:45 pm

If I honestly thought the republicans would get rid of the filibuster I’d volunteer to go door to door for them.

They’ll only get rid of the filibuster under cicumstances which allow them to pass their maximalist agenda. Then they won’t need it any more.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:45 pm

Actually: relief would be giving it a rest and thereby granting us the space to discuss our perspectives on moral principle, and our reflections on the conflicting moral responsibilities we feel internally, without bullying us for having dared to bring up the subject. Every time someone on CT tries to express thought about the morality of voting, we have to keep our heads ducked or we’ll get swatted by you lot again. Give it rest, give us space, and relax, you’re statistically correct, you’ll never have us to kick around and blame for another election for as long as we both shall live.

260

Steve LaBonne 09.28.12 at 6:45 pm

Honestly, anyone would think from listening to some people that the Nader voters wanted Bush to win. No one anticipated how close it was going to be. No one could possibly have anticipated it.

That was a valid excuse then. There’s no excuse for condoning, and advising others to repeat, such behavior after living through 2000.

261

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 6:48 pm

“I trust you. I also trust that the guy who comes home and drinks and beats the shit out of his wife every evening feels hostility toward her which is nothing compared to the contempt and hatred with which he views his colleagues/competitors at work, or whatever. That’s actually a significant part of the point I’m making: the expressed contempt and hatred is disproportionate to the felt contempt and hatred, and the only reason for that is because we’re around to take it on the chin, and because you can take it for granted we’ll still be around to take it on the chin tomorrow.”

Oh give me a break. No one is making you post or read here. And I have never once said I hated you Salient or anyone else who posts here regularly. I am not mad. I am disappointing in people I think should know better.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:52 pm

I’ll give it a rest when such people stop

Which is to say, you ain’t gonna stop bullying. Well, okay. I tried to illustrate how that bullying is misplaced, and clarify why it’s noxious. Not much else I can do at that point, beyond put up fists in defense (and be thankful that we’re only online acquaintances, because the idea of real-life me putting up fists in defense would be more hilariously adorable than provocatively menacing).

263

Hidden Heart 09.28.12 at 6:53 pm

By the way, about the problem of Senate Democratic discipline…

This blog’s posters genuinely changed my mind about humanitarian interventions in recent years, and particularly with the argument that if you can’t identify who’s going to be the better leaders and why they are better and where their support is, then you’re just shooting and hoping. I see this as exactly the same. Lots of us wish, a lot, that there were good ways to make the Democrats more united in Congress and doing more good things. But wishes like that are not satisfactory basis for voting decisions unless people can show how those wishes might actually become reality, with what we’ve got to work with now and in the immediate future.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 6:55 pm

No one is making you post or read here.

Nobody’s making that hypothetical wife go home every evening, either. The point of this kind of bullying is to make people feel unwelcome/unsafe/uncomfortable with speaking up.

265

Salient 09.28.12 at 7:01 pm

Salient, I stated facts. Spinning doesn’t change them.

I would apologize and retract in other circumstances, but here you went on to say stuff like trying to the best of their poor powers to hand elections to the fascist party

and There’s no excuse for condoning, and advising others to repeat, such behavior after living through 2000 — so I don’t think it’s fair of you to retreat and say “oh no wait all I meant to say was the mathematical statement that there were enough Nader voters to move the margin, I didn’t mean to imply anything with that, it was just a statement of fact.” Bullllllshit, dude. We both know what you meant to imply with that fact, it was that implication I was replying to, and you went ahead and said it explicitly just a couple moments later.

266

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 7:03 pm

@ Anarcissie #249 — Well the Dems are not a unified group, on this Daniel is correct, but the fact is that Wash. D.C. as a whole has been moving toward “reform” of Social Security for about two decades, in the name of “deficit reduction” and “giving younger workers a fair break”, all of it under the Cato Leninist strategy that Bruce Webb has written about, and aided and abetted by the Democratic Party’s near-universal acceptance of theoretical Reaganomics (up until almost the present time). Social Security had not been sacrosanct; many Democrats are on record throughout the period mumbling that Social Security would have to be “dealt with.” But the tip-off is this: President Bush would never have done months of town-hall meetings, strictly aimed to whoop-up privatization, in a mid-term election year if he did not think the Democrats would be on board. Presidents just don’t waste their time that way.

On the other hand, I think Obama’s offer last summer to put Social Security on the table, in return for a Republican capitulation on tax hikes in a grand budget deal, happened because he knew they would not take it. At the present time, Republicans don’t want a debt deal on anything but their own terms, because a budget deal, of ANY sort whatsoever, does the following thing: it reduces the saliency of debt-fear in their political rhetoric, as an immediate consequence. Why? Because a budget deal, any budget deal, will reduce the future debt projections. Nobody is going to keep banging on about the debt, after the future projections have just been reduced. It would make the op-ed clowns sound like really boring imbeciles (if you weren’t there already). Consider that the Republicans really don’t have that many political issues, outside the social-conservative ones. They need a clean win on the debt to maintain the ideological purity, meaning: NO tax revenue increases.

267

Jonathan Mayhew 09.28.12 at 7:06 pm

So disagreeing with your opinion is beating my (hypothetical) wife? If an argument is going on a for a certain amount of time, with rhetorical violence on both sides, then who’s to say who is the bully and who is the victim?

268

Gepap 09.28.12 at 7:08 pm

@Bruce Wilder

Your assertion that most Democrats are to the left of Barack Obama is one made without a shred of evidence, and given the make-up of the Senate and House, its most assuredly false. I could add my own anecdotal evidence since almost everyone I know and everyone I regularly hang out with is a self-identified Democrat, and your assertion is spectacularly wrong as an attempt to describe that group as a whole.

I work in politics, so I understand very well how policy is made by those with power. if the political class is pulling the strings of the masses, it is because the masses allow it, willingly. How else can you explain a situation in which most people hate Congress as an institution but still give their own member a relatively positive grade?

The US is a democracy still, and the awfulness of the government is a direct result of the choices made by the masses. The buck stops, in the end, with the voters. People have actively wanted to be fooled, to be praised as suffering taxpayers, to believe that if they are just selfish and expect everyone else to be selfish, then everything will be better.

I agree with you that plutocrats rule – where we disagree is that you think the masses have been fooled and coopted, while I believe that the masses WANTED to be folled and coopted because it made their moral universe easier and played to all their selfish aspirations. You think that our problems can be solved just by “sticking it to the man” to use outdated slang, while I think we need to gain control of the narrative and convince the masses that they need to realize the selfish dreams peddled by the right are, to use outdated langauge again, just more opiates for the masses.

269

JanieM 09.28.12 at 7:10 pm

Sweet Jesus. (@Hilzoy, in the previous thread)

Amen.

*****

What’s that sound I hear in the distance? Ah, the laughter of Mordor….

270

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 7:11 pm

“Nobody’s making that hypothetical wife go home every evening, either. The point of this kind of bullying is to make people feel unwelcome/unsafe/uncomfortable with speaking up.”

So disagreeing with you is the equivalent of beating my hypothetical spouse?

271

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:22 pm

Who appointed Steve LaBonne chief of the thought police?

272

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 7:23 pm


But the WOT is not a foreign policy issue alone, and Al Awlaki is not the only US citizen affected. (If that’s your concern) No long term war exists in isolation, with no domestic manifestations. The reality is that those Americans (though this is not only applicable to the US) most affected by the WOT domestically are not the concern of mainstream leftists, for reasons I could speculate on.

Well you could speculate all you want, but during the last GOP administration, Blackwater militias patrolled the streets of a major city, police engaged in wholesale murder, people were arrested and sent to nameless prisons, and the Administration claimed the right to designate anyone, on US soil even, an enemy combatant outside the reach of either US law or the Geneva Conventions – or even the Torture Treaty. The claim by this administration that it can pursue military actions without judicial supervision is not even slightly similar.
There is a reason Muslim-Americans are going to vote overwhelmingly for President Obama.

273

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 7:25 pm

“Same-sex couples will be considered “family relationships” in immigration proceedings, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a move that could help stem the deportation of those in gay or lesbian binational relationships.”

Yep, Obama sure is histories greatest monster….

274

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:29 pm

It is simply crazy to call Hilary Clinton a liberal. She endorsed the Iraq war over the opposition of 99.99% of her constituents. Thank God for my representative Nydia Velasquez.

Humphrey was a hideously unpleasant red-baiter who was photographed embracing base-ball- bat-wielding segregationist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox. Ga’s the archetype of Ga’s racist businessmen.

Bleech!

What’s with you people.

275

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:29 pm

It is simply crazy to call Hilary Clinton a liberal. She endorsed the Iraq war over the opposition of 99.99% of her constituents. Thank God for my representative Nydia Velasquez.

Humphrey was a hideously unpleasant red-baiter who was photographed embracing base-ball- bat-wielding segregationist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, the archetype racist businessmen.

Bleech!

What’s with you people?

276

rf 09.28.12 at 7:30 pm

rootless

Once again I’m not arguing on the basis of Romney/Obama – if I was from the US I’d vote Obama – but just pointing out the lack of concern the left shows for these issues (really it was Loomis’s nonsense that got me riled up, so I’m gonna give it up and sign out at this stage – I see that sure sign of western privilege, the Republican = facist card, has been played -)
Anyway it’s been nice talking with you rootless, all the best in the election!

277

adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.28.12 at 7:30 pm

I wonder if anyone of the blog owners would care to state why Salient isn’t getting banned for the crap he’s pulling here.
Comparing people to wife-beaters is so far beyond the pale in so many ways that I hope I don’t have to state them.
You asshole – domestic abuse is a fucking reality. It’s not a fucking rhetorical device!

278

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 7:31 pm

“Obama is to the right of virtually the entire Democratic Party electorate.”

means, among other things, “I have never spent 1 hour canvassing for a political campaign”.

279

christian_h 09.28.12 at 7:32 pm

It’s interesting to see when liberals (a) completely lose it and (b) expose themselves as the reactionary bullies many of them are. I mean it isn’t the first time of course, but when it happens in response to the more than harmless contention that whether to vote for Obama is actually something requiring thought it has that more… insane… quality. Add a good dose of racism – e.g. supporting the president’s racist terror campaigns because those Muslims are mysogynist anyway, suppressing the voices of radicals of colour (“only white people would ever consider not voting for Obama”) or suggesting that people of colour in the US couldn’t possibly be as sophisticated as white liberals and vote for Obama in large numbers despite the fact they are aware his policies in Pakistan or Yemen are, well, racist – and you can understand why the Democratic party is where it is.

280

rf 09.28.12 at 7:33 pm

“I wonder if anyone of the blog owners would care to state why Salient isn’t getting banned for the crap he’s pulling here.”

I agree, ban all dissenters!!

281

LFC 09.28.12 at 7:37 pm

Harold:
Humphrey was a hideously unpleasant red-baiter who was photographed embracing base-ball- bat-wielding segregationist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox

Humphrey was one of the earliest and strongest proponents of civil rights (cf. the 1948 Dem convention etc etc). If you’re going to slander the dead so inaccurately, please go do it somewhere else.

282

christian_h 09.28.12 at 7:37 pm

Also hilarious is the “but the electorate wants their government to kill brown people, there’s nothing to be done” argument. Would the liberals making this argument here apply the same standard to, say, same-sex marriage, which was quite unpopular (and still is) with many Democratic voters? Of course they wouldn’t, and rightly so. After all it is indeed possible to move people politically, if it wasn’t what the heck are we all doing here?

283

MPAVictoria 09.28.12 at 7:37 pm

“I agree, ban all dissenters!!”
Salient is a dissenter for agreeing with the OP? Black is white! Up is down! Heroes are cast as villains and brave men as cowards.

/I do not think Salient should be banned by the way. Though comparing an intellectual debate to domestic abuse is in extremely poor taste.

284

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:38 pm

Politics is not about morals it’s about power — Power to stomp on the weak!

285

christian_h 09.28.12 at 7:38 pm

That’s what political debate means, rf, don’t you get it? Shut up and pull the lever.

286

Maynard Handley 09.28.12 at 7:40 pm

@103
“Vibrant and possibly threatening third parties may have made the New Deal possible. But it was Democrats who actually signed the paperwork. Threatening 3rd parties aren’t on the horizon now. It took decades of economic hardening for them to become significant last time.”

uuh, so what are you saying? If it takes “decades of economic hardening for them to become significant” then that’s what it takes — we start off with a 2% protest vote this election, then 4% the next, then 8% the next.
What’s your mental model here? It worked this way in the early 20th C therefore it CANNOT work this way in the early 21st?

No-one is arguing that a 3rd party vote will result in Eugene Debs being elected. The argument is that a 3rd party vote opens up the space of allowable options and informs Washington, the media, et al that people are willing to consider possibilities that the two main parties have been unwilling to mention.

Look, this is very simple
- either the American people (or, if you prefer, the American elites) are so evil, so determined to behave a certain way, that nothing (certainly not the number of votes for 3rd party candidates) will change their minds. If this IS the case, then we have a Leninist heighten the contradictions system. They ARE going to do what they can to destroy the world, and all that’s being done by delaying this a few years is to ensure that the weapons are better. This was the point of the “democrats are republicans delayed by twelve years” post.
- OR the American people/elites are not so irredeemably evil that there is no hope. If they are not irredeemably evil, then offering up alternatives (by showing that you do NOT support EITHER the party of the upper 1% OR the party of the next 9%) is the single best thing you can do to get us out of this situation, to create a situation where future FDRs have more space in which to work.

287

rf 09.28.12 at 7:44 pm

“That’s what political debate means, rf, don’t you get it? Shut up and pull the lever.”

It certainly appears that way. Luckily I live under an electoral system that allows me to nominate myself, and then vote for myself..which I plan to do from now on (so I can ignore all of these difficult moral questions!)

288

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:45 pm

http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1968/4/15/huberts-wagon-pbib-never-though-id/
Excerpt:
Humphrey’s largest power base is the South, which has been quick to recognize the surest way to stop Kennedy, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee all plan to line up behind favorite sons to hold their delegations for the Vice-President.

Beyond being a potential Kennedy-stopper, Humphrey has won Southern support with his firm stand on the war and with his frequent trips to Southern capitals in the last year. Last May, when Southern anger over the school desegregation guidelines was at its height. Humphrey visited the Southern governors to soothe their feelings. The highlight of this effort came in Georgia, where he put his arm around Lester Maddox and called him “a good Democrat.”

289

adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.28.12 at 7:48 pm

apparently it is not clear why a blog that is interested in having women among its commentariat would have an interest in strongly discouraging (aka banning) the chance that someone gets compared to a wife beater as part of a regular political discussion. I thought this was obvious.
It’s stated policy of CT to ban comments that are “are blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic we will delete them and ban you from the site. The same goes for comments which are personally defamatory or insulting” and I think Salients comments pretty clearly cross both those lines. That’s not true for multiple other people here who are able to make the same points, just as forcefully, without being sexist assholes in the process.

290

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:50 pm

291

rf 09.28.12 at 7:50 pm

I think Salient’s probably developed enough goodwill around here to be excused the odd rhetorical flourish (I think, but don’t know..for sure)

292

JanieM 09.28.12 at 7:54 pm

adam.smith: I wonder if anyone of the blog owners would care to state why Salient isn’t getting banned for the crap he’s pulling here

Can you produce any evidence that salient is a he?

293

JanieM 09.28.12 at 7:55 pm

Sorry, “Salient,” not “salient.”

294

Bernard Yomtov 09.28.12 at 7:55 pm

Katherine,

Honestly, anyone would think from listening to some people that the Nader voters wanted Bush to win. No one anticipated how close it was going to be. No one could possibly have anticipated it.

Oh for Pete’s sake.

No one knew Florida was electorally important?

No one knew the outcome was likely to be close?

No one could figure out that a vote for Nader instead of Gore would help Bush?

Salient,

Had every single Nader voter voted for Gore, Bush would have stolen the election through Supreme Court shenanigans. There were more than enough leftover ‘controverisal’ ballots to accomplish the task.

As Steve LaBonne has repeatedly pointed out, this is just not true. It’s a ridiculous statement.

295

Harold 09.28.12 at 7:58 pm

Verbal bullying can be as bad as beating. So the police told a husband of my acquaintance when called to the house by the wife.

296

christian_h 09.28.12 at 7:58 pm

Look, it’s the self-appointed blog police. I had the impression another policy of CT was not to allow debate on bannings etc in the comments.

297

Bernard Yomtov 09.28.12 at 7:59 pm

the fact that the Democrats have non-existent party discipline and are unable to prevent Republican excesses has been converted from “the main argument of the post”

If the Democrats in Congress are so terrible then it becomes all the more important to have a Democrat in the White House, doesn’t it?

298

LFC 09.28.12 at 8:00 pm

From wikipedia Hubert Humphrey article:

The national Democratic Party of 1948 was split between those who thought the federal government should actively protect civil rights for racial minorities, and those, who believed that states should be able to enforce racial segregation and infringe on the rights of non-white citizens.

At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, the party platform reflected this division and contained only platitudes in favor of civil rights. The incumbent president, Harry S Truman, had already issued a detailed 10-point Civil Rights Program that called for aggressive federal action on the issue of civil rights. He, however, supported the party establishment’s platform that was a replication of the 1944 Democratic National Convention plank on civil rights.

A diverse coalition opposed this tepid platform, including anti-communist liberals like Humphrey, Paul Douglas and John Shelley, all of whom would later become known as leading progressives in the Democratic Party. These liberals proposed adding a “minority plank” to the party platform that would commit the Democratic Party to a more aggressive opposition to racial segregation.

I’m out of here. It’s one thing to have debates about Obama, Romney, F-Dorf, etc etc etc — people who are alive and can defend themselves. It’s another thing to slander the dead. To quote H. Farrell, I’m out of here.

299

Brad DeLong 09.28.12 at 8:04 pm

Daniel Davies complains: “I see that 200 comments in, the fact that the Democrats have non-existent party discipline and are unable to prevent Republican excesses has been converted from “the main argument of the post” to “something of which Daniel is clearly unaware, demonstrating his ignorance of American politics”. Oddly enough, I find the prospect of a few beers and The Thick Of It on telly (or indeed, twitter) to be more attractive than carrying on a debate on that basis.”

The thing that makes Daniel’s original post an example of him trolling his own weblog–and that excites the 300 comments–is his posture that the lack of party discipline is something that an entity called “Democrats” chose rather than a fact about the world under which we suffer…

300

JanieM 09.28.12 at 8:05 pm

Just for the record, I think it’s sexist to assume “he” as the default gender, all the more when the commenter in question has been (exceptionally?) careful to reveal/imply nothing either way. When I asked for evidence, I meant, of course, evidence based on the commenter’s own self-presentation, which, except in cases where we happen to know each other personally or the commenter is a known public figure, is all we have to go on.

301

christian_h 09.28.12 at 8:07 pm

Friends, you all have to understand that Nader and his misguided voters are personally responsible for the Iraq war since we can say with absolute certainty that no Democrat would ever have started a foolish war like this. This is proved by the historical record: it was Republicans getting the US into WWI, and Republicans who started the war on the people of Vietnam. Also we are bound by honor to take at face value what someone not in office says he would have done if he was in office.

On the other had, those who do actually vote for someone currently running a terrorist bombing campaign in Waziristan are most certainly in no way responsible for said terrorist campaign (which also is justified by the Waziristan-ess of the people living there anyway).

In more abstract terms, we must by all means apply a first-grade understanding of causality to apportion responsibility for actions. For example, it is quite uncontroversial that the Soviet Union would have collapsed under the Nazi onslaught in 1941 were it not for the brutal collectivization, industrialization and increase in national cohesiveness brought about by Stalin’s murderous regime. It follows that anyone who did not suport Stalin’s actions wanted the Nazis to win.

(I hope this counts as a violation of Godwin’s law so we can finally end this depressing thread.)

302

Anarcissie 09.28.12 at 8:10 pm

Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 7:03 pm:
‘… On the other hand, I think Obama’s offer last summer to put Social Security on the table, in return for a Republican capitulation on tax hikes in a grand budget deal, happened because he knew they would not take it. …’

But even suggesting that Social Security might be harmed, from a traditional Democratic point of view, was a kind of blasphemy. It’s cursing the god from whom your divine political energy flows.

It’s just anecdotal, but my experience among the folk is that while they consider Welfare, unemployment insurance, OSHA, regulation of banking and commerce, and so on, sort of peripheral or even objectionable, Social Security is something they bought and paid for already, and they expect the money. You don’t have to be a liberal or a progressive to feel that way. When Mr. O starts talking airily about cutting it along the lines suggested by the Catfood Commission, he’s violating the sacred social-democratic contract (see above) for no visible purpose but to make the rich richer and start more wars. This is what brought 5000 people daily to Liberty Park a year ago to see the commie hippie radicals, not because they like commie hippie radicalism, but because they were the only group still standing against the plutocracy. The Democratic Party had deserted them.

303

Harold 09.28.12 at 8:11 pm

I am a New Yorker and hold Hillary Clinton personally responsible for her vote.

304

js. 09.28.12 at 8:11 pm

Those wanting to uphold the norms of “intellectual debate” might consider not arguing against a straw man for once.

Here’s the thing. I actually disagree with the people saying that voting for Obama would be the wrong choice. I don’t even think it’s a particularly difficult decision. Yet, a lot of these people seem actually a lot easier to engage in conversation than a lot of the lesser-evilers. If you have any interest in convincing anyone other than yourself, you might consider some new rhetorical strategies.

305

christian_h 09.28.12 at 8:12 pm

Harold, you know I was being sarcastic right?

306

The Raven 09.28.12 at 8:19 pm

Since Brad Delong has already provided the famous Will Rogers quote, I won’t repeat it here.

A Romney victory would undo decades of work to gain civil rights for women, blacks, and gays. That alone is a reason to oppose it.

You’re still thinking like the USA has a parliamentary system. The way US parties more-or-less work is that they are big tents with internal factions, which form coalitions internally and sometimes across party lines. Within the factions, discipline is often intense; between the factions there are only shifting alliances. The Republicans have major far-right and Wall Street factions; the Democrats have conservative and liberal (social democratic) factions.

It doesn’t, I think, take much subtlety to see that the current governing coalition of the USA is between the Wall Street Republicans and the conservative Democrats. This is called “centrist,” but it is only the center of a political spectrum skewed far to the right.

The Democrats usually campaign social democratic; the Republicans used to campaign Wall Street. Currently, the Democrats are campaigning social democratic. The Republicans, as I imagine you know, are campaigning radical-right.

Should the Republicans win the Presidency, and keep their hold on the House, there is little doubt they would attempt to implement their hard-right program. As we have seen during the past two administrations, the Senate Democrats are dominated by Democratic conservatives. So the result of a Romney victory, and R’s holding the house, would be numerous centrist programs passing, including cuts to social programs and tax cuts for the rich. An authorization of a war on Iran would probably pass, if indeed the President needs one at all under current law. Decades of work to gain civil rights for women, blacks, and gays would be undone. And so on, and so on. I find many actions of the Obama administration repugnant, but I see every reason to believe that the acts of a Romney administration would be more so.

Now, in the very rigid US two-party system one way a vote for a third-party can count is as a signal. The major parties take those signals very seriously. So if progressives vote third party in safe elections, that communicates. But there is a need to be careful.

307

Harold 09.28.12 at 8:24 pm

Yes. But my dander is up. It raises my blood pressure to think of Hubert Humphrey, Lester Maddox, and Hillary Clinton and their “pragmatism”.

Humphrey, the great “pragmatist”, majored in political science. Like ex-President Bush, the business major, he was not a reader.

Politics is not about morality? It was not always thus. Aristotle prefaced his book on Politics with a book on ethics for a reason.

308

novakant 09.28.12 at 8:40 pm

Here are some good reasons not to vote for Obama:

http://stpeteforpeace.org/obama.html

309

Substance McGravitas 09.28.12 at 9:03 pm

Here are some good reasons not to vote for Obama:

You don’t find the Obama-in-a-yarmulke pic and the bit about him being “the first Jewish president” a little iffy?

310

JW Mason 09.28.12 at 9:17 pm

I’d like to associate myself with the comments of Salient, who as usual manages to stay calm and on point in the midst of the shouting.

I’d also like to make a confession: I was a Nader voter in 2000. Or rather, I intended to be a Nader voter. But, well, I just didn’t make it to the polls. I didn’t vote.

I’ve always been kind of ashamed of that. But now I’m wondering, if I meant to vote for Nader but didn’t, was that still taking a vote away from Gore? Or, if a vote for Nader is the same as a vote for Bush, then by forgetting to vote for Nader, did I actually take a vote away from Bush? In which case, when the polls closed and I was still sitting in the coffeeshop playing Go or whatever, was I actually doing my part to elect Gore? That would be a relief.

311

Mao Cheng Ji 09.28.12 at 9:23 pm

306: “The Republicans have major far-right and Wall Street factions; the Democrats have conservative and liberal (social democratic) factions.”

Actually, at least during the Clinton presidency, the Democrats were the ones representing Wall Street (which is why he was talking about privatizing social security), and the Republicans were sponsored mostly by the energy sector. Of course the Democrats have be so effective that recently Wall Street has become super powerful (there are people there who make more than a billion/year and pay little or no taxes) that both parties are extremely eager to be sponsored by it. Which is why social security privatization is most certainly in the cards, whoever the president is.

And in the end they, the big banks, big investment companies, will decide whether there is a new big war or there isn’t, which is why all this lesser-evilism is a complete nonsense and self deception. On the other hand they, the banks, have nothing whatsoever against the gay marriage and affirmative action, so there you go.

312

Harold 09.28.12 at 9:31 pm

Nader was the only one talking about exorbitant consumer interest rates. For this reason he is a hero, whatever unwise position he was goaded into taking in his later years. The only sign I saw for President here in my neighborhood in 2000, was a Nader sign on a Lebanese bakery.

I stayed home on the Democratic primary in 1992, because I was so disgusted by the “centrist”, i.e., right-wing policies of Clinton and particularly Gore, a pioneer in privatization, with his “re-inventing government.” No thank you.

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novakant 09.28.12 at 9:39 pm

You don’t find the Obama-in-a-yarmulke pic and the bit about him being “the first Jewish president” a little iffy?

Well, if you want to accuse Abner Mikva or John Heilemann of antisemitism, be my guest …

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Bruce Wilder 09.28.12 at 9:41 pm

JW Mason @ 310 ;-) !

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Maynard Handley 09.28.12 at 9:45 pm

@240
“I guess this thread is dead, an someone must have pointed this out, but if the GOP gets the WH and congressional majorities, they will end the filibuster. Take it to the bank.”

Really? THIS is your big scare tactic? That the Republicans WILL (not might) end one of the most non-democratic parts of the US system? And I’m supposed to be scared of that eventuality?
Are you not aware of the usual way the filibuster is ACTUALLY used in US politics (as opposed to how it was used in 1930s movies)?

What’s next? Will voting GOP also promise an end to the Electoral College?

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Substance McGravitas 09.28.12 at 9:53 pm

Well, if you want to accuse Abner Mikva or John Heilemann of antisemitism, be my guest …

They like him! If an anti-Obama protester – like the author of the reasons – was carrying a sign with the image and the headline I don’t think you could mistake the idea. I’m fine with Obama-bashing and a lot of that list (although I think voting for him is as good a thing as you can do with a presidential ballot) but there’s an outlying kookery to avoid.

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Donald Johnson 09.28.12 at 10:01 pm

“You don’t find the Obama-in-a-yarmulke pic and the bit about him being “the first Jewish president” a little iffy?”

Sure it’s iffy. The phrase and a photo of Obama in a yarmulke appeared on the cover of New York Magazine last year and that’s what the website in novakant’s link is referencing. Apparently one of his advisors Abner Mikva coined the phrase first. Of course that was all meant as a compliment , while the website links to an article critical of Obama for siding with Netanyahu last fall when the Palestinians tried to obtain UN recognition for a Palestinian state.

It is an iffy use of language, but it was iffy when New York Magazine used it as a compliment. The implication is that by siding with Israel Obama is showing his sympathies with Jews and is therefore Jewish in some symbolic kind of way. It’s a stupid and dangerous way to compliment a politician for pandering to a constituency.

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Maynard Handley 09.28.12 at 10:02 pm

@272
“Well you could speculate all you want, but during the last GOP administration, Blackwater militias patrolled the streets of a major city, police engaged in wholesale murder, people were arrested and sent to nameless prisons, and the Administration claimed the right to designate anyone, on US soil even, an enemy combatant outside the reach of either US law or the Geneva Conventions – or even the Torture Treaty. The claim by this administration that it can pursue military actions without judicial supervision is not even slightly similar.
There is a reason Muslim-Americans are going to vote overwhelmingly for President Obama.”

And during THIS administration it was established that
(a) it’s perfectly safe to engage in that behavior, you won’t get punished for it by the opposing political party (something that was NOT true pre-2009)
(b) what you WILL get punished for (and as aggressively as the US state knows how) is informing the rest of the world about exactly what that US state is doing.

I don’t see the vast gap between these two administrations that you do. Perhaps you find it comforting that this time round the guy being tortured (Bradley Manning) is a white christian, not a brown muslim? To me that looks exactly like “first they came for the muslims, and I did not speak up because I was not muslim”…

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Lee A. Arnold 09.28.12 at 10:02 pm

@ Anarcissie #302 — I agree with that, and I don’t think we can claim victory yet. I also wonder why the Dems don’t get smart about this, and part of it is that they really don’t understand economics. You have to realize however that nothing is ever set in stone. No matter what taxes or spending are cut or hiked, it doesn’t matter, it can always be undone at a later date, and that is part of the cynical politicians’ calculations, too. At some level they don’t really care, because their decisions can be reversed 10 or 20 years from now, or in the next congress if necessary.

I think going on from here, the key to the puzzle is teaching people: 1) that Social Security spending stays flat as a percentage of GDP, from here on out; 2) that the trust fund was drained by income tax cuts favoring the wealthy, and it ought to be redeemed by hiking taxes on the same; 3) that Social Security is a smart institution that covers a multitude of sins with almost no overhead; 4) that the money goes right back into the private economy, this isn’t some dream world where the money gets stuck in the pockets of the old-timers; and 5) that privatization benefits no one but the banksters.

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Barry 09.28.12 at 10:13 pm

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rf 09.28.12 at 10:21 pm

Has everyone forgotten what’s being argued here. Conor F-Dorf might vote libertarian, Glenn Greenwald is non comittal, Henry Farrell will probably vote Obama but has moral issues..and this deserves this much attention, because? (A Paradise built in Hell was really good, but that article is nonsensical..would make you wonder)

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rf 09.28.12 at 10:25 pm

For someone who spends all his time banging on about building movements, Erik Loomis is really, really bad at it

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Salient 09.28.12 at 10:47 pm

@adam smith: I wonder if anyone of the blog owners would care to state why Salient isn’t getting banned

They (= CB) have written posts about who they intend to ban that suggest they’re inclined to err on the side of not insta-banning people for temper-flareup incidents, at least giving people a warning first for fuckups such as the fuckup that you’re calling me on. That seems consistent with all the stuff we see that isn’t behind the scenes; though I’m obviously not privy to all the info, I don’t know if there’s ever been somebody banned without a couple warnings, so the answer to your question is probably just “because that sort of banning would be unprecedented.” On the other hand, people sometimes get their posts deleted/modded without a warning, you might encourage the CT folks to disemvowel those comments instead. Having just come back to it with a cooler head to reread, I certainly wouldn’t blame you for requesting that, though it’s probably fair to leave them up as evidence against me that I can be a total stupid shit sometimes. :-/

Comparing people to wife-beaters is so far beyond the pale in so many ways that I hope I don’t have to state them.

…I was going to write something about how comparing people to fascists is so far beyond the pale, etc, but actually, the historical reality of fascism has receded into mythological/rhetorical status in a way that the ongoing reality of domestic violence obviously hasn’t. So.

Comparing people to wife-beaters is so far beyond the pale in so many ways that I hope I don’t have to state them.

You don’t have to state them. You’re completely right, and I apologize for losing my temper in #254 and beyond, going beyond the pale, and for saying inappropriate and insulting things. MPAVictoria is forgivingly kind to say it was only in extremely poor taste. (I’m also upset at myself for roping MPAVictoria into this back-and-forth because it was Steve’s “anyone with a mental age greater than three” line that sent me off into a defensive rant in the first place, not MPAVictoria’s much milder “You’ve been had” which is easy enough to shrug off–and certainly isn’t bullying! So even if someone felt the comparison were fair in general, it still wouldn’t have been fair to MPAVictoria).

I’d just read #253 and was feeling very angry about it–I had had this hope that pointing out “blaming the victim” was occurring might actually reduce the occurrence of blaming the victim happening here, rather than provoking even more of it–and I failed to run any kind of mental check for “is what I’m about to say totally out of line” (which it was). A short while later I thought “oh shit I’m just writing this because I’m angry” and deleted what I had been typing and walked away; it just should’ve been twenty minutes sooner.

Comparing verbal exchanges to physical altercations metaphorically is this terrible habit I picked up who knows where. Actually come to think of it I do know where, it was teaching high school–people’s intuitions about verbal bullying are sometimes wildly off their intuitions about physical bullying, in that the former never really triggers their wrongness filter, and sometimes the only way to clue parents in that their child is being horribly hurtful, is to suggest a hypothetical in which you substitute physical violence for verbal violence. “If your kid had just gone and slapped the other kid, how would you feel about that? Why? Do you see how the stuff they actually did do should upset you also, for the same reasons?” Problem is that only works in a very narrow circumstance, and it does run the risk of either inflating the problem of verbal violence or trivializing physical violence–the latter is obviously a horrible thing and I’d be pissed at someone doing that too.

Unfortunately, my error obliterated and compromised a fairly good point I was trying to make, which is this: let’s stipulate that a commenter who is attacking and demeaning Nader voters probably feels more hatred, loathing, and contempt for every single American who didn’t vote or who voted for Bush. How does that justify attacking and demeaning Nader voters? Doing so is like saying you recognize other people are more responsible for the problem, but you’re going to still going to invest your energy targeting the Nader voters.

Is it because you’re hoping to bully Nader voters into voting as you wish next time around, and you think they’ll be easier to bully into alignment than the other groups of responsible parties?

If not, then why the fuck are we the ones getting targeted with insults like “mental age of less than three”? Why? Because you find it convenient to blame us, and hold us to account for our political opponent’s misdeeds. Why? Because it’s easier than targeting the people who were actually responsible for putting Bush into office. (In 2004 as well as in 2000.) That population is much larger, much more diverse, much harder to address, and less easy to engage with, because they don’t have a strong ideological-ally incentive to put up with your shit. So you target the people who are the most defenseless (insofar as they can’t shoo you away as marginal, since they’re more marginal, and they can’t blow you off wholesale as a political enemy, because they have to acknowledge you’re the closest bloc to them ideologically–there’s none of the standard mechanisms available through which they can avoid taking your abuse to heart by belittling and marginalizing you). So I’ll stand by my ‘moral cowardice’ comment, even though I was out of line later.

@JanieM: Just for the record, I think it’s sexist to assume “he” as the default gender, all the more when the commenter in question has been (exceptionally?) careful to reveal/imply nothing either way.

The carefulness is intentionally exceptional (and probably absurd), but admittedly I don’t personally mind ‘she’ or ‘he’ either way, just for ease of conversation and stuff. Though one of these days the old guard of Grammaria will retire and we’ll finally get everyone to use ‘they’ for the singular as well as plural, and there will be much rejoicing throughout the land.

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William Timberman 09.28.12 at 10:48 pm

LFC @ 170 (Sorry about replying so far down the thread, but I’ve been away most of the day — probably a good thing, as it turned out, but I suppose I should finish what I started.)

I’m surprised you still hear this mentioned “every time a group of Democrats gather.” It was a long time ago, after all, as ‘political time’ is measured in the U.S. these days.

Well, for one thing, I’m in northern AZ, where the most ardent Democrats tend to be even older than I am. For another, stuff like this comes up these days quite often in discussions of Obama’s foreign policy, which we’re told we should shut up about in the interest of getting him re-elected, or OWS, which we’re told we should mock for not having a plan to change things, i.e., a plan to help get Obama re-elected. La plus ça change…. Steve LaBonne is atypical only in being less circumspect in his denunciations.

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William Timberman 09.28.12 at 10:50 pm

Ad as long as I’m throwing French phrases around, I might as well add this one: Non, je ne regrette rien….

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.28.12 at 11:08 pm

kudos to Salient – I respect temper flare as an explanation, it’s not like I’m immune to that.

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GiT 09.28.12 at 11:09 pm

This really has gone on hasn’t it. 700+ comments on… voting? Despite all the bluster things look pretty much the same to me:

1. Don’t whitewash shitty Democratic policies.
2. Don’t suppress Democrat votes in a way that helps Republicans.

Now, I know there are scary stories about empty-vessel sophist party-line Democrats who do the first all the time, and full on “heighten/accelerate the contradictions” Leninists who do the second all the time.

They both even exist, I’m sure (at, respectively, moveon.org and the columns of the Socialist Worker, I’d guess).

But most people here, I’d wager, are neither of these and can probably agree upon criticizing Democrats and suppressing Dem votes, so long as it’s not in a way that helps Republicans. (And this is a good description of the bulk of the time that passes in the world, I think. Pulling from the left is mostly always the easy choice, re: Democrats. I can’t speak to your anarcho-feminist commune’s weekly meetings, though.)

Of course, the tragedy is that there is an irreconcilable tension between the two view points, which sometimes manifests itself as an actual *problem* in a small set of states and circumstances and renders the strategy of “agitate from the left” a little risky.

So the question then becomes something like, “which should you talk about more in a swing state during a presidential election, ‘how shitty Republicans are relative to Democrats’ or ‘how shitty Democrats are relative to a world you would actually want to live in’?” (Hopefully no one was going to sully their rep as a more or less critical theorist here and waste their time extolling the virtues of a politician and his party per se! The horror of the mere thought!)

I would probably help solidarity and all that if we didn’t confuse bashing Republicans relative to Democrats with extolling Democrats, or bashing Democrats with respect to “real utopias” with extolling Republicans.

Boiling things down to “should I chiefly bash Republicans or should I chiefly bash Democrats in Ohio in October of years that are divisible by 4″ may or may not help resolve the tactical disagreement, but hopefully it highlights the relative triviality of the question at stake.

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JanieM 09.28.12 at 11:21 pm

Salient — I don’t want to take the point too far, especially since it’s off-topic (but maybe that’s a good thing at this point) — but I think there’s a difference between issues of grammar and issues created by our assumptions about whether people whose gender we have no way of knowing are male or female (or “the rest of us”).

I thought that adam.smith’s use of “he” meant that adam.smith thought “Salient” was male. That is, I assumed it was not a little glitch caused by the lack of the right kind of pronoun in English.

adam.smith framed him(?)self (“adam”? “Sebastian”) as standing up for CT’s goal of “having women among it’s commentariat,” without — in my reading — stopping to think that the commenter he(?) was attacking might be a women herself. If so…then what?

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rootless_e 09.28.12 at 11:24 pm

And during THIS administration it was established that
(a) it’s perfectly safe to engage in that behavior, you won’t get punished for it by the opposing political party (something that was NOT true pre-2009)
(b) what you WILL get punished for (and as aggressively as the US state knows how) is informing the rest of the world about exactly what that US state is doing.

(a) is a revelation to me. Want to point to an article on how incoming administrations prosecuted previous ones for war crimes? How many Reagan era high officials went to jail for murdering people in Central America? But if that’s what you want, I am quite sure that an incoming GOP administration will prosecute Democrats for various invented causes.

As for (b), it is absolutely not news that if you are a soldier in the US military and distribute classified material to the world against the wishes of your commanding officers, you will have consequences. The military has long had this thing about orders and stuff. Silly, I know, but that’s how they roll.

However, what was new under GW Bush was torture as a policy – one that Romney will undoubtedly revive, given a chance. The doctrine of enemy combatants who were not subject of Geneva Conventions was also new. When the Obama administration went to court about Al-Alwaqi it specifically noted that he was able to assert his constitutional rights to a trial if he was in custody.That was not the Bush doctrine. If you cannot tell the difference, I can’t help you.

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Scott Lemieux 09.28.12 at 11:29 pm

1. Don’t whitewash shitty Democratic policies.
2. Don’t suppress Democrat votes in a way that helps Republicans.

Pretty much. I’ll add that as far as I can tell there’s no disagreement on point #1; the disagreement is about whether eleven-dimensional chess theories about how throwing elections to Republicans will lead to social democrats winning Senate elections in Nebraska and Arkansas make sense. (SPOILER: they don’t, which is why the people making that argument always want to pretend that there’s disagreement on point #1.)

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rootless_e 09.28.12 at 11:29 pm

t’s just anecdotal, but my experience among the folk is that while they consider Welfare, unemployment insurance, OSHA, regulation of banking and commerce, and so on, sort of peripheral or even objectionable, Social Security is something they bought and paid for already, and they expect the money.

Of course it is not. Half the money there is from the employer tax.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.28.12 at 11:32 pm

yeah, I messed up with the gendered pronoun & assumption, no question.
But for the “if then so what” – for me it hardly matters. It was beyond the pale regardless of Salient’s gender, they agree, apologized, end of story (at least from my side).

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Salient 09.28.12 at 11:34 pm

As Steve LaBonne has repeatedly pointed out, this is just not true. It’s a ridiculous statement.

Well, I did misspeak a bit (hardly the worst of my offenses up there, but still a mistake). I should have said if Nader voters had made their voting choice as if only Bush and Gore were on the ballot, rather than saying had all voted for Gore. Huge difference. Under the appropriate hypothetical:

+43,600 Al Gore vs +26,300 George Bush
equals
+17,300 votes for Al Gore

There’s also some polling to indicate a lot of those 43,000 would have preferred for Gore to win but wouldn’t have bothered to go vote, though I can’t find it at the moment (links were on my old computer… god this is an old debate).

Seriously, Nader voters were not monolithic lefties who would’ve preferred Gore to Bush. Some of ‘em were, yes, me included, but quite a lot of them were ideological oddballs whose support for Nader was anomalous, idiosyncratic, purely contrarian or entirely personality-driven. Anyone who attended a rally for Nader probably remembers their experience of this–I remember feeling a lot of anxiety over maybe choosing to support Nader after attending a rally specifically because of who all I’d be lumping myself in with.

I think a lot of 90′s Ross Perot voters converted to Nader and then converted to Ron Paul, and I’d hazard the conjecture that they constituted the literal majority of Nader’s voting base in 2000. Obviously those folks aren’t going to break reliably for Gore More Years of Clinton.

Anyway, depending on who you ask, there were potentially 180,000 plausibly disputable ballots in play. There were even individual anomalous incidents (most notably that Volusia thing) which swung the vote total by about 16,000. For individuals who believe that a number of key Florida election officials and administrators individually made choices with the partisan intent of seeing Bush elected to the Presidency, a swing of 97,000 was probably beyond reach, but a swing of an additional 18,000 was well within the scope of plausible. Maybe. Or maybe not. Screw it, I’m not putting any more time into this. The “holy shit wtf all those links I thought I had bookmarked must have been on the old desktop from how long ago now, like 2002?” moment was enough for me. Gah.

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Donald Johnson 09.28.12 at 11:36 pm

“1. Don’t whitewash shitty Democratic policies.
2. Don’t suppress Democrat votes in a way that helps Republicans.”

Works for me.

But on the psychology of us 2000 Nader voters, it was obviously a matter of principle among the Gore supporters to demonize us as malevolent idiots. Maybe some were. I know what I was thinking when I voted for Nader in a safe state–I wanted Gore to win, but thought that having Nader in the campaign we’d finally have someone with a chance to raise extremely important issues that are normally ignored. At the time the big issue for me was, ironically enough, the Iraqi sanctions that had caused so much damage to the Iraqi economy and killed a disputed, but large number of children. There was bipartisan agreement on sanctions, so it wasn’t an issue. I can’t fathom a progressive who wouldn’t be bothered by this. The Nader campaign, as it turns out, was the wrong way to bring out all the issues that were normally ignored, because for Democrats the issue became the evil of Nader and his voters. I didn’t anticipate that the issues the Naderites wanted to be raised would be ignored in favor of attacking the egoism of Nader and his supporters. So was I an idiot. Yeah. But malevolent? Uh, no.

I’m a lesser of two evils voter now, but the problem of people whitewashing shitty Democratic policies remains.

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Platonist@yahoo.com 09.28.12 at 11:39 pm

The repetition of “lesser evilist” is getting tiresome. Can it stop now? Or, better, can we start calling your side The More Evilists?

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rootless_e 09.28.12 at 11:42 pm

But even suggesting that Social Security might be harmed, from a traditional Democratic point of view, was a kind of blasphemy. It’s cursing the god from whom your divine political energy flows.
——————

That’s great. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/security/stories/oss032498.htm

And consider Moyhihan’s 1983 bipartisan “compromise” on SS, which radically increased the regressive social security tax to fund Reagan and then Bush’s deficits.

Where is this rosy hued mythology of sacred compacts coming from? It’s pure gibberish.

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Salient 09.28.12 at 11:42 pm

Come to think of it both “Gore More Years Of Clinton” and “Blood And Gore” were signs I saw at that Nader rally, but Republican partisans weren’t really doing stuff like that (not to say they were better, just not quite the same flavor). The more I think about it the more it seems retrospectively evident that a lot of the Naderites really were sort of just rabidly anti-Clinton people, politics be damned, and were voting Nader instead of Bush or nonvoting mostly for middle-finger reasons. Crap, why did this not occur to me like eleven point five years ago? It’s like all my “with friends like these, I don’t need enemies” thoughts that I had before the election got wiped clean and forgotten in the trauma of election day.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.28.12 at 11:55 pm

actually I feel that
1. Don’t whitewash shitty Democratic policies.
and a slightly altered version of 2 i.e.
2. Don’t pretend Democrats and Republicans are the same
is what drives the emotional intensity of this and similar threads.
It can’t really be about actual voting, because as dsquared rightly points out in the first thread, the chance that anyone’s vote makes the difference is basically zero.

I think team “evil” is right that a lot of progressives tend to do
1) and they’re rightly upset about this. I mean, without Glen Greenwald, basically no one on the somewhat mainstream left would be talking about drones, renditions, etc. That includes more or less progressive bloggers like Klein, Yglesias, Drum, Krugman – all of whom disagree with the policy when you ask them, but none of whom have invested any capital in denouncing it. [to be clear, the real left has talked about this the whole time, but we're quite fringe in the US and this is the type of topic where many people assumed that if not the Democratic party, at least the progressive netroots were allies].

But then in a move that upsets team “lesser”, team “evil” goes out of their way to minimize the differences between Democrats and Republicans. That’s partly a question of perspective – obviously how far Romney and Obama are apart is a question of where you look from, it is an age old question among socialists (queue the various German history analogies in this thread), but at least I – as a moderate member of “team lesser” (i.e. I think you should vote Obama if you’re in a battleground state, but you’re certainly not obligated to if it makes you unhappy) – at times goes too far, as e.g. in dsquared’s position in this thread that Dems could just filibuster anything they don’t like.

I think those are the two real debates – how much time should a lefty spend denouncing Obama versus doing other things and how much does it matter if Romney or Obama win. The whole vote thing is a bit of a distraction in my opinion.

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Donald Johnson 09.29.12 at 12:00 am

“epetition of “lesser evilist” is getting tiresome. Can it stop now? Or, better, can we start calling your side The More Evilists?”

No, that’s not really accurate. There’s too much stereotyping on both sides. “More lesser evil” is a label I’ll accept for my position. “Unable to do anything about evil, unless supporting a third party candidate who doesn’t get to voice his or her views is supposed to accomplish something” was what I used to be. I’m waiting for someone to come along with a pithy phrase I can really get behind.

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MPAVictoria 09.29.12 at 12:01 am

“kudos to Salient – I respect temper flare as an explanation, it’s not like I’m immune to that.”
Seconded.

341

Harold 09.29.12 at 12:06 am

Well, there were plenty of anti-Clintonites who voted for Bush, probably many more than those who voted for Nader (including members of my own family). Though I had several family members who told me they would have voted for Nader if they had lived in NY rather than PA and FLA, where they did live.

Gore and Clinton have a lot to answer for — NAFTA, Reinventing Government, Welfare Reform, Alan Greenspan.

342

rootless_e 09.29.12 at 12:25 am

Part of what happens is that some people confuse the tactics they prefer with moral principles. For example, you may believe that any give at all on Social Security is bad tactics, and you may even have a case, but it’s not self-evident that you’d be correct and it is certainly not the case that anyone disagreeing with you wants old people to live on catfood. In fact, what the “Catfood Commission” chairs proposed included such horrible changes in SS as increasing payouts for the lowest income workers funded by reductions in pay for the highest income recipients. Some of us don’t think that’s evil. Furthermore, what Obama offered the GOP on SS was minor cuts in the far future in exchange for concessions that would break the GOP coalition and weaken its funding base and level some wealth disparity. If you really want to save the social safety net, that appears to me to be a much better strategy than pure weak defense. But according to some here, even thinking such a thought is morally unacceptable.

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Bernard Yomtov 09.29.12 at 12:28 am

salient,

Under the appropriate hypothetical:

+43,600 Al Gore vs +26,300 George Bush
equals
+17,300 votes for Al Gore

Why this breakdown, and what happened to the other 36,000 or so Nader voters?

And remember that it was not automatic that the recount would reach the courts. There were a lot of reasons that happened, including some bad tactics by Gore. I don’t know what legal issues might have been raised had Gore won, ostensibly, by 17,000 votes or so, and that lead had held up in the face of the first recounts.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 12:36 am

Gore and Clinton have a lot to answer for — NAFTA, Reinventing Government, Welfare Reform, Alan Greenspan.

Look, can we just stipulate that Clinton, Gore, and Obama all pretty much suck? But it’s kind of like celebrating your birthday when you’re old enough that having another one isn’t the pleasantest thought- you have to consider the alternative.

345

Bernard Yomtov 09.29.12 at 12:46 am

It seems to me that there is a glaring inconsistency here. Those who argue that a vote for Obama is immoral are at the same time unwilling to accept that the Nader voters cost Gore the election in 2000. So they are, it looks to me, unwilling to accept responsibility for the consequences of their argument.

Suppose the argument against voting for Obama becomes widely accepted, with the result that Romney wins the election. Are Daniel and Henry, among others, willing to accept responsibility for that? Clearly, I don’t know what the individual attitudes of various commenters are, but there seem to be some people who, while unwilling to sully themselves with an Obama vote, are very much hoping that others will do their dirty, immoral, work for them

346

Harold 09.29.12 at 12:59 am

Bernard Yomtov,

What? Who is arguing that a vote for Obama is “immoral”?

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GiT 09.29.12 at 1:01 am

“It can’t really be about actual voting, because as dsquared rightly points out in the first thread, the chance that anyone’s vote makes the difference is basically zero.”

It can’t really be about actual individual votes. It can, in tight enough circumstances, be about aggregate voting behavior. If it couldn’t then resistance to Republican voter suppression would be nothing more than pointless whining, because after all individual votes don’t matter, so who cares if you suppress some poor people.

348

mclaren 09.29.12 at 1:06 am

It cannot have escaped the notice of even the dullest knife in the drawer that the pro-Obama commenters here suffer from an exquisite self-contradiction. On the one hand, they assure us with oracular majesty that “life is a random walk” and “politics is unpredictable.” Thus we should hold our noses and vote for Obama because — the underwear gnome theory of politics! Step 1: Elect Obama; Step 2: ( … ); Step 3: A return of the rule of law and a rollback in the limitless grown of the police-military-surveillance-torture state! (As with the business plan of the underwears gnomes, there seems to be a step missing…) Life is unpredictable and anything can happen. Magic fairy dust! Everyone gets a pony!
But then, on the other hand, these same pro-Obama commenters assure us with punitive hysteria of the near future in hallucinatory detail. They bid fair to enrapture us with scenarios of the sequester process rolling back America’s out-of-control military-police-surveillance-torture state: what a joke. The reality of the sequestration legislation is that we’re in unknown territory and no one knows what will happen. Most likely, both parties will scramble to exempt the U.S. military from the sequestration cuts when they come due, leading to massive cuts in domestic and entitlement programs, but increases in U.S. military spending. No one has predicted that, but it’s much more likely to happen that this mythical fantasy of both Democrats and Republicans joining hands to sing Cumbaya while American military spending gets massively slashed. In case you hadn’t realized it, America’s military is now above the law and can never have its funding reduced; its funding can only be increased. If that means starving seniors and shutting down Medicare, that’s what will happen, and if necessary, the military whose funding has been increased will be call out to shoot down senior citizens who protest at their Medicare and SSN getting slashed to pay for those military increases.
Anyone must recognize this is a serious internal contradiction in the Obots’ argument. On the one hand the future is so unpredictable that a liberal paradise may flower unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances…on the other hand, the future is so clearly set in concrete that we all know the obvious results of Obama’s second term.
What the so-called “realists” on this site fail to recognize is that politics is unlike physics or mathematics. If you want to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, you’re out of luck. It’s a law of nature. Build a device which depends on repealing the Second Law and you’re not going to get anywhere because such perpetual motion machines simply don’t work.
But politics depends on human behavior rather than the laws of nature, and human behavior remains by its nature highly fluid and dependent on mindset and circumstances. So in politics the “impossible” often becomes possible simply because everyone’s mindset changes.
Our current president is an example of this.
Anyone else remember how back in 2005 and 2006 everyone agreed that “America is just not ready for a black president”? Doesn’t anyone else recall the disdain with which that little-known junior Senator Barack what’s-his-name got dismissed when he decided to run for president? What chance did he have? Weird name, black, no experience, a senator — not a chance in the world he’d ever win in 2008. Back in 2005 everyone knew who the two challengers would be in November 2008: Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton.
The plain fact of the matter is that enough people decide to go off the reservation and write in Elizabeth Warren this November, Elizabeth Warren will become president. Calling that “unrealistic” or “impossible” is as foolish and betrays as great an ignorance of the way politics really works as it was to call Obama’s presidential run in 2006 “unrealistic” or “impossible.”
Pro-Obama serenely ignore these self-contradictions because, of course, they don’t actually care about logic or observable facts: all they care about is retroactively justifying their learned helplessness so that they can look in the mirror each morning and not be disgusted by what they see.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 1:14 am

Why this breakdown

polls on which candidate they’d support in a Naderless election

and what happened to the other 36,000 or so Nader voters?

they declared to pollsters they would refuse to go to the polls

Suppose the argument against voting for Obama becomes widely accepted, with the result that Romney wins the election

if the argument against voting Obama became widely accepted, that would happen over time and be reflected in polls, so Obama would presumably respond to the dropoff in his voting base by modifying his stated goals and positions in order to reclaim the vote (this sea change is not magically happening all at once on October 1 2012)

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 1:18 am

Anyone must recognize this is a serious internal contradiction in the Obots’ argument.

to be sure you are correct if you just make up the “Obot” argument from whole cloth as you did.

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Bernard Yomtov 09.29.12 at 1:28 am

Obama would presumably respond to the dropoff in his voting base by modifying his stated goals and positions in order to reclaim the vote

Sorry if I don’t share your optimism that he could reclaim more votes than he would lose.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 1:38 am

What chance did he have? Weird name, black, no experience, a senator — not a chance in the world he’d ever win in 2008. Back in 2005 everyone knew who the two challengers would be in November 2008: Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton.
The plain fact of the matter is that enough people decide to go off the reservation and write in Elizabeth Warren this November, Elizabeth Warren will become president

Actually, the plain fact is that even if Elizabeth Warren got the popular vote via write-in, she would not be president because she does not have slates of electors on the ballot. The next plain fact is there is no appreciable difference between E. Warren and Obama on foreign policy – apparently the moral litmus test (” President Obama has taken a tough, smart, and pragmatic approach to foreign policy that has not only gotten results but also repaired our image and leadership around the world. I strongly support keeping President Obama as the Commander-in-Chief. “). The next plain fact is that contrary to Progressive theories, Barack Obama did not become President by spontaneous combustion, but through a huge and brilliant organizing effort that was initially possible because of alliances within Chicago liberal business community and 4 years of exhausting effort starting from before his speech to the 2004 convention.

And the constant pretension to moral superiority of people who don’t seem to give a damn about concrete human beings is more than a little annoying.

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novakant 09.29.12 at 1:44 am

Who is arguing that a vote for Obama is “immoral”?

We have come a long way when voting for immoral policies is considered moral (and even an absolute moral imperative by some).

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 1:48 am

Daryl McCollough claims: As I said somewhere else recently, if someone has a plausible plan in which allowing Republicans to sweep into office will eventually lead to a better world, I’m all ears. But it seems to me that the effect of the principled rejection of “lesser-evildom” will most likely be that we are stuck with the greater evil.

This is the kind of gross failure in logic that typifies arguments for voting for Obama this fall.
This formulation depends on two assumptions, both contrary to observed reality: 1) liberal voters can successfully keep Republicans out of office forever, as far as the eye can see, into the distant future and beyond. 2) The longer liberal voters keep Republicans out of office, the better the chances of restoring the rule of law and rolling back the limitless growth of corporate power and the military-police-surveillance-torture complex.
Neither assumption is even remotely credible.
First, as everyone knows, the Republican party keeps getting crazier and crazier. This was predictable and I among many others predicted it. As Eliezer Yudkowsky noted in 2007:

Early studiers of cults were surprised to discover than when cults receive a major shock—a prophecy fails to come true, a moral flaw of the founder is revealed—they often come back stronger than before, with increased belief and fanaticism.

Source: “Evaporative cooling of group beliefs,” Eliezer Yudkowsky, Less Wrong blog, 7 December 2007.

The mechanism here involves the flight of cultists with weak beliefs in the crazy doctrines of the cult, leading to an ever-increasing fanaticism of the cult as its predictions crash into reality and repeatedly fail in the real world. This is clearly what’s going with American conservatism and the Republican party. There is no point at which American conservatism will reform itself by returning to common sense: as each new shock disconfirms its cult beliefs, American conservatism will only become more fanatical and more extreme, as will the Republican party. We’ve seen this process for 50 years, so denying it involves a denial of observed reality.

This means that all we need is one election in which Republicans assume power and the game is over. They will repeal the rule of law and abolish the constitution and turn America into a quasitotalitarian corporate-military-police-surveillance complex so savage that we’ll never be able to get back a recognizable democracy. This is, in fact, a large part of the Obots’ frantic arguments for why we must vote for Obama. This election is a must-win once-in-a-lifetime crisis! We must put a Democrat in the White House or all is lost! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!
But the Obots expect us to forget that they also told us 2008 was a make-or-break election. We had to vote for Obama over McCain. That 2008 election was a must-win once-in-a-lifetime crisis! Because if we lost the presidency in 2008, McCain would plunge us into endless foreign wars, he’d continue the endless unwinnable war on drugs, he’d turn America in a totalitarian nightmare of warrantless wiretapping where every American citizen’s email and phone and bank records and credit card transactions were collected and pawed through in giant data centers! And if John McCain became president, he’d extend the Bush violations of the constitution, ordering U.S. citizens kidnapped or even murdered without even accusing them of a crime! And McCain would order even more drone strikes in foreign countries, murdering thousands of innocent women and children! And McCain might even force something truly appalling on Americans instead of genuine health care reform — perhaps McCain would force every American to buy unaffordable private health insurance without cost controls, guaranteeing that everyone in America would have to pay infinitely increasing insurance premiums as medical costs rose without limit, forever!
And look what we have. All the nightmare scenarios the Obots warned us against have come true — courtesy of Barack Obama’s presidency. The Obots painted hideous pictures of endless war, of a militarized police state, of Americans murdered and kidnapped by a president above the law — and that’s what we’ve got. The Obots conjured up dark visions of McCain letting the Wall Street crime lords go without even putting a single one of them in jail, yet calling out police and the DHS to blast political protesters with LRAD military sound cannons and pepper spray and tasers and rubber bullets and beat women and old men with truncheons because they dared to publicly protest the imposition of vast new fees on ordinary people to pay the public costs of the financial metldown, while the financial crime lords who perpetrated enriched themselves with enormous bonuses and kept their privatized gains courtesy of a low 15% capital gain tax rate.
But Obama has done exactly what the Obots warned us McCain would do if he got elected.
So the dire predictions of the Obots are starting to look very much like the boy who cried wolf. Each new election, we are warned, is a once-in-a-lifetime make-or-break crisis. Every 4 years, we find ourselves one millimeter away from dictatorship. Each presidential election presents us with a world-ending existential death-knell for liberalism and a sword of Damocles hanging over democracy itself.
There’s only so many time the Obots can go back to this well before it goes dry…especially since history shows that the dark nightmare predictions they make a Republican presidency keep coming true under Democratic presidencies.
But the additional problem with this scenario is that the underlying plan is just stupid. American history shows that voters simply don’t vote for one party all the time forever. Over a period of years, the electorate as a whole tends to get tired of one party and vote for the opposing party. In fact, the longest any party has stayed in power continuously has been the 24 years from 1932 to 1956.
Yet the Obots assure us that the only answer to our current sociopolitical dilemma in America involves keeping the Republicans out of the White House forever. Not just 24 years, but 32 years, 40 years, 60 years, 120 years, without limit.
That’s not realistic.
At some point, history shows that voters will tire of one party controlling the White House and they’ll vote for a Republican. And since, according to the Obots, that’s the end of America, it’s all over. Liberalism ends, democracy disappears, we get a nightmare totalitarian state and a Supreme Court controlled by Paul Ryan and Ron Paul clones. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!
Not a very good plan, is it?
In order to make that plan work, liberals would have to do something that has never been done before in history and that almost certainly cannot be done — namely, keep Republicans out of office for longer than 24 years.
That’s just not realistic. It’s not credible. It’s not a real plan. It’s an underwear-gnome-type plan, built out of fantasy and self-delusion, the kind of plan that will only work in a My Little Pony world.
But wait…there’s an even more fatal flaw in the Obots’ logic.
As part 2) of their genius master plan for returning America to the rule of law and rolling back the corporate-military police state, the Obots assure us that the longer we’re able to keep Democrats in office, the better chance we’ll have of changing polices back to a liberal direction.
But the entire history of the modern Democratic party shows that exactly the opposite is true.
The longer we keep Democrats in power, the farther right the Democrats move. So the worse their policies become. As Democrats become more swaggeringly certain that their base can’t possibly vote for anyone else, the Democratic pols write off the liberals and concentrate on picking pu votes from the right — and in order to do that, of course, the Democratic pols must move their policies continually rightward.
So both of these assumptions by the Obots are 100% completely totally wrong. They’re wholly contradicted by reality.
As a result, the Obots’ argument in favor of voting for Obama must be rejected.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 1:50 am

Harold 09.29.12 at 12:59 am:
‘What? Who is arguing that a vote for Obama is “immoral”?’

I did — I said that if the candidate won and had or was going to commit crimes, those who voted for him, her, or it would be (infinitesimal) accomplices. However, one could argue, as someone did, that if the other candidate(s) were likely to commit worse crimes, then one would be an accomplice in their crimes by merely failing to vote for the major lesser-evil alternative. This quasi-Gnostic pessimism of being always forced to do evil by the inherent nature of the prisons of the Demiurge (this world) rather appeals to me. However, I must add that one could respond to the second accomplice theory by pointing out that whereas the first complicity is immediate and spiritual, the second requires that one’s vote have some material effect, which is most unlikely in the elections presently being discussed. That is, voting for Romney or Obama will make me complicit in whatever murders and so forth my choice commits, but voting for Stein will make me complicit only in the hopefully fewer murders she may commit; it will have no effect on the outcome of the election, and will not connect me morally with the big-ticket guys, who will do their thing regardless of my vote. This would not be the case in an election where my single vote would have a chance of deciding between just the two present major evils.

I’m mostly concerned here with the depressing effects on oneself if one voluntarily consents to supporting reprehensible acts. I suppose one could feel happy about it — ‘He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard’ — but most of you don’t seem to express that feeling.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 2:04 am

rootless_e 09.28.12 at 11:29 pm:
‘ “It’s just anecdotal, but my experience among the folk is that while they consider Welfare, unemployment insurance, OSHA, regulation of banking and commerce, and so on, sort of peripheral or even objectionable, Social Security is something they bought and paid for already, and they expect the money.”

Of course it is not. Half the money there is from the employer tax.’

Please. The ‘employer tax’ is an obvious fiction, a way of hiding some of the real tax from the less observant. Value arises from labor, that is, from the employees, not from the employers (except those who also labor). Some is collected directly by the government, and some is collected by the employer and passed on to the government. From the employers’ point of view, it’s all labor cost, which could otherwise be paid directly to the employee (as is the case when the employee is nominally a subcontractor).

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 2:05 am

Roger Gathman bleats: The argument always seems to revolve around appointments to the Supreme Court. Among the most pernicious bits of the antiquated constitution is the Supreme Court.

Then we get treated to a disquisition on the alleged problems with the constitution of the united states and the way it structures the relationship twixt the judiciary and the legislature and the presidency.

Other commenters point to the filibuster (which admittedly is not part of the constitution, but an ad hoc invention of the congress introduced ex nihilio in the 19th century) as the central problem in modern American democracy.

What strikes me is that in the previous several hundred years of American democracy, nobody seems to have identified these allegedly fatal flaws as the death blows to American governance which they have now allegedly become. I would suggest that this is because in previous eras of American democracy, liberals dealt with Supreme Court obstructionism by simply re-passing the legislation that the Supreme Court struck down until the Supreme Court learned its lesson and stopped trying to obstruct the will of the people. This was how FDR’s congress dealt with Supreme Court obstructionism. And as a far as the allegedly terrifying power of the filibuster goes, Martin Luther King and Walter Reuther and the advocates of the 8-hour working day and the 5-day working week seem to have managed to put their agenda across without repealing the filibuster.

These technicalities (filibuster, structure of the Supreme Court, senate with 2 representatives per state instead of proportional population representation, the electoral college as an intermediary twixt the popular vote, and so on, ad nauseum) are all cheap excuses. They’re a smoke screen. The Obots are dragging up these lame long-debunked canards in order to distract us from what really needs to be done: mass non-violent action on a scale sufficient to shut down America until the rule of law gets returned and corporate power gets crushed and the military-police-surveillance-torture complex gets shut down.
Voting for Fringe Far-Right Lite Obama won’t accomplish anything. Millions of people in the halls of congress shutting down the legislature may. Tens of millions of people in sit-down strikes throughout Washington D.C. to the point where government officials can’t even get to their offices to do their jobs — that might change things.
Of course, the military-police-surveillance-torture complex will go berserk, sounds out hundreds of thousands of troops to beat and tase and LRAD-blast and eventually shoot down and hose with kerosene and set on fire millions of protesters. That’s probably what it will take.
YouTube videos of tens of thousands of riot-armored goons marching forward in lockstep to gun down thousands of non-violent protesters. And when the riot-armored troops are ordered to open fire on their own children, their own wives, their brothers and sisters, their fathers and mothers in the non-violent crowds of protesters…that’s when the crunch point comes.
That may not be much of a plan, but it’s at least a plan. Continually voting in favor of Far Right Lite candidates like Obama is no plan at all. It only gives the stamp of political legitimacy to placing corporate crime lords above the law, to repealing the constitution, to abandoning the rule of law, to a sadistic military-corporate police state, to endless unwinnable foreign wars that go on forever, to murdering limitless numbers of innocent women and children by remote control in the name of an out-of-control corporate kleptocracy backed up by paramilitary death squads above the rule of law, to the ongoing destruction of the middle class and the return of effective debt slavery and 19th century working conditions and pay.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 2:06 am

I’m mostly concerned here with the depressing effects on oneself if one voluntarily consents to supporting reprehensible acts. I suppose one could feel happy about it — ‘He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard’ — but most of you don’t seem to express that feeling.

Nobody gets a moral pass for inaction – or for ineffectiveness.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 2:13 am

From the employers’ point of view, it’s all labor cost, which could otherwise be paid directly to the employee (as is the case when the employee is nominally a subcontractor).
—-

That is the Conservative theory – SS taxes would otherwise be salary and drat those statists for interfering in the free market. This theory is bullshit. However, it’s not unusual to see right wing economic theories advanced as axioms by members of the anti-Obama “left”. The “left” is essentially libertarianism plus some slogans borrowed from the old Marxists.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 2:16 am

If only the hot air generated by the laughably ineffectual holier-than-thou left could be captured- we’d have the renewable energy problem licked.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 2:19 am

Sorry if I don’t share your optimism that he could reclaim more votes than he would lose.

I have no optimism, but if you’re hypothesizing he’s losing hypothetical votes because suddenly all these hypothetical supporters are mad about him supporting X, and then he goes on TV and explains he has “evolved on the issue” and now does not support X… at that point I’m not sure how we evaluate the plausibility of reclaiming those hypothetical votes, but the default assumption seems to me to be that he’d get them back.

I guess a loss beyond recovery could happen if people were suddenly mad about something he had already done and couldn’t take back, but that’s unfortunately not even hypothetically plausible to me. (I say “unfortunately” only because if it were plausible, we could hope for people’s minds to decide against Obama early in the primary season so that people could find a more suitable representative via primary and elect that person. I have no desire to see Obama lose to Romney; but I also find it absurd to think I have any influence over that happening…)

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 2:24 am

Now we’re treated to more learned helplessness from rootless_e:
Actually, the plain fact is that even if Elizabeth Warren got the popular vote via write-in, she would not be president because she does not have slates of electors on the ballot. The next plain fact is there is no appreciable difference between E. Warren and Obama on foreign policy – apparently the moral litmus test (” President Obama has taken a tough, smart, and pragmatic approach to foreign policy that has not only gotten results but also repaired our image and leadership around the world. I strongly support keeping President Obama as the Commander-in-Chief. “).

Actually, the plain fact of the matter is no one actually knows exactly what Elizabeth Warren would do in terms of her foreign policy. If she continue the Bush-Obama plicy of mass murder and torture (which continued under Obama’s administration into 2010 and Bagram airbase according to Red Cross reports) and kidnapping and assassination of our own citizens abroad, then we liberals elect someone else once Warren’s first term is up.
Again and again, the Obots assure us that nothing can be done. Obama is the best we can do because we can’t change the system. All the candidates espouse the same failed dead ideas, American institutions are sclerotic and unchangeable, the best we can do is vote for more genocide and more corporate crimes and hope vainly for some amelioration in the ongoing horror.
This is exactly the same argument the pro-slavery factions made in the run-up to the Civil War. Nothing can be done. A pro-slavery presidential candidate is the best we can do because we can’t change the system. All the candidates espouse the same failed dead ideas, American institutions are sclerotic and unchangeable, the best we can do is vote for more genocide and more corporate crimes and hope vainly for some amelioration in the ongoing horror. Rinse, wash, repeat.
This kind of learned helplessness not only proves tiresome, but absurd. It’s not just a whine of futile despair that elevates nihilism to the level of a political religion, it’s simply unrealistic. History shows that when determined majorities of the American people fight for a change in policy and refuse to accept candidates who consider those policies “off the table,” then we eventually get actual substantive policy change.
It’s doubly amusing that rootless_e is now using the Rovian tactic of claiming that he didn’t say what he actually said. Faced with the implications of their failed and faulty reasoning, the Obots typically throw up their hands and bleat “But we never said that!”
Obots love to make self-contradictory arguments: in favor of Obama’s murder of U.S. citizens because the president as commander in chief enjoys such plenipotentiary powers that he rises far above the mere contraints of congressional or judicial oversight or the rule of law; but then, Obots turn around an argue that Obama couldn’t possibly order his DOJ to indict the Wall Street Crime lords or fire Pentagon generals en masse to rein in the miltiary-police-surveillance-torture complex, that Obama couldn’t possibly end the Afghanistan quagmire by executive order tomorrow or shut down Gitmo this evening by executive order or end warrantless wiretapping by executive order or nullify the NDAA by vetoing the law because, after all, the president is a mere pitiful helpless pygmy far overshadowed by the earth-shattering powers of the purse wielded by congress, and by the Colossus of Rhodes known as the Supreme Court.
Either Obama is a pitiful helpless ant (unable to arrest a single Wall Street criminal impotent to shut down Guantanamo, unable to end America’s endless foreign wars, incapable of rening in the TSA or the DHS or the Pentagon, incapable of making recess appointments in the face of Senate Republican obstructionism, unable to use signing statements or sequester funds to shut down bad laws like the NDAA or ram through good like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now held hostage by Republicans), or he enjoys limitless power beyond the power of law (including the power to wage endless undeclared war in every country on earth forever, to order the murder of U.S. citizens like a mafia capo, and to warrantlessly wiretap every American without the slightest judicial oversight) — you can make either of those arguments. But you cannot make both arguments at once, as the Obots do, to justify any and all of the atrocities and illegalities and depravities and war crimes in which Obama has indulged over the past 4 years.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 2:29 am

This is exactly the same argument the pro-slavery factions made in the run-up to the Civil War. Nothing can be done. A pro-slavery presidential candidate is the best we can do because we can’t change the system.
———
Comparing your ineffectual blathering to the bravery of the abolitionists is truly funny.

By the way, Lincoln did not run for office as the anti-slavery candidate.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 2:31 am

If only the hot air generated by the laughably ineffectual holier-than-thou left could be captured

it’d be “regulatory capture” :)

but look. since you needn’t fear our success — none of us are really disputing ‘ineffectual’ — why expend all this energy calling us three-year-old-minded fascists? for the thrill of the rush? if our talk about principled nonvoting is just inconsequential preening, why do you feel the need to step in and grind it to a halt? what’s the impulse?

to answer my own question, my stake in this is, I’d like for CT people to be able to post about the morality of lesser-evilism without getting attacked for even raising.

yes 2000 and its aftermath was traumatic, and none of us can just get over it. just please, you’ve gunned at us with ire for over a decade now, at least please redirect your anger at those who actually voted for Bush. go chase them down and fire at them instead of firing at us whenever we pop our heads above water. I know that means you won’t get to yell at people over and over without them walking out on you, which might be a loss you’re not willing to take, but, you really need to reflect a little on whether or not that’s what you value most, getting to tear people down who still hope to stand beside you and ally with you on at least a few things.

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Harold 09.29.12 at 2:32 am

The sad fact is that it is very unlikely that Obama has much (if any) say in military policy. As far as that goes, he is a figurehead.

The best hope for the “left” is to build a mass movement with a core of at least 25%.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 2:33 am

Anarcissie makes a crucial point: I’m mostly concerned here with the depressing effects on oneself if one voluntarily consents to supporting reprehensible acts.

What’s really going on here is the normalization of atrocities. This is the real slippery slope — the slippery slope along which barbarism gradually becomes normative, until roasting human beings alive eventually becomes a subject of public laughter, rather than universal horror.

Make no mistake: George W. Bush and Barack Obama are both pushing America into the deepest shadows of barbarism. Repealing the rule of law that goes back 900 years to the Magna Carta by allowing the chieftain to arbitrarily murder his own citizens without even requiring an explanation or a justification is the kind of atrocity that even William the Conquerer was forced by his barons to renounce.

When you vote for Obama or Romney, you vote for a new Dark Age. You vote for a return to the Star Chambers, to shadowy figures who kidnap citizens and subject them to unspeakable torments and then use statements thus obtained as “evidence” in secret trials. When you vote for Obama or Romney, you vote to confer limitless power upon monied elites who need never obey any laws themselves, but who can send the minions of the state to brutalize anyone who protests their escalating crimes.

When you vote for Obama or Romney, you’re voting for a return to the Grand Inquisition and the Sun King’s laws making begging illegal even for starving peasants robbed of their land. That’s not just grossly immoral: history shows it’s unworkable. It’s a recipe for violent revolution.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 2:41 am

you forgot to tell me to get off your lawn.

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 2:54 am

I have a complaint to make about a trend on CT recently, I hope others will back me up. It seems like there’s a phenomenon of posters making controversial (or “trolly”) posts and then, after being (sometimes quite exquisitely) called on it very quickly in the comments, refusing to return to the post to engage in debate. This seems to be Tedra Osdell’s shtick (I’ve never seen her defend one of her more controversial posts), and now it seems to have crept into Henry’s work, and seems something of a habit for dsquared too.

I understand if you’re too busy, but if you’re not going to be able to engage with the argument you’ve made in the OP, you could at least say so. Otherwise it makes you look petulant, or like you think you’re some kind of superstar who doesn’t have to sully him/herself with the plebs in the comment thread.

One of the good things about CT in earlier years (I’ve been reading since 2006) was that the posters would engage heartily with the commenters. This isn’t happening as much anymore, it’s got a (dare I say it!) more presidential tone. If that’s the direction CT wants to go, that’s fine, I won’t stop reading and I’ll keep engaging, but I preferred the old tone, myself.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 2:54 am

And you, rootless_e, forgot to giggle and snicker when American citizens are murdered at the behest of an unnacountable chieftain beyond the rule of law.
Faced with war crimes and atrocities, snark is always the best response, isn’t it?
C’mon, rootless_e…you know you want to ask…
Why so serious?

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Jameson Quinn 09.29.12 at 2:59 am

Wow. 300-plus comments arguing about the lesser evil dilemma, and not one mentions that it doesn’t have to be a dilemma at all.

Without plurality voting, there’s no duopoly or dilemma. Approval voting, majorty judgment, etc… take your pick. You could vote for your hopes AND against your fears, and third parties could grow at least big enough to get their ideas coopted. It would also break the unhealthy zero -sum dynamics the post complains of.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 3:01 am

rootless_e 09.29.12 at 2:13 am:
‘ “From the employers’ point of view, it’s all labor cost, which could otherwise be paid directly to the employee (as is the case when the employee is nominally a subcontractor).”
—-
That is the Conservative theory – SS taxes would otherwise be salary and drat those statists for interfering in the free market. This theory is bullshit. …’

How? Where does the money, the value, that the employers pay to the government, come from, if not the employees? I’m not understanding your model of labor, wages and taxation. Please explain.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 3:05 am

Don’t you love it when allegedly “liberal” political activists disdain those of us who point us that the president of the United States must obey the law as “the hot air generated by the laughably ineffectual holier-than-thou left”?

Since when did the fundamental foundation of Western society in the rule of law become a “magic pony” and the concern of “purity trolls”?

Without the rule of law, you’re back in the jungle. Folks…you won’t like it. Trust me on this. America is rapidly heading toward Argentina’s “Dirty War.” This is not something that you supposedly tough-minded “realistic” allegedly “politically savvy” people are going to be able to tolerate. When you wife or your child gets dragged away by ski-masked security service paramilitaries and then that selfsame wife or child winds up as a mutilated corpse in a ditch by the side of the road a month later, you’re going to think back on these remarks about ” the laughably ineffectual holier-than-thou left” and you’ll start screaming like an animal and weeping uncontrollably.

By that time, of course, it’ll be too late.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 3:19 am

How? Where does the money, the value, that the employers pay to the government, come from, if not the employees? I’m not understanding your model of labor, wages and taxation. Please explain.
——

It is not a question of value, it’s a question of pay. People do not get paid the value of their labor in a capitalist system, generally they are paid much less than that. Government rules that impose costs on workers can raise effective wages. That’s why minimum wage laws work to raise the wage of the lowest income workers and why abolishing social security employer tax would not automatically shift that
money to salary.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 3:19 am

Jameson Quinn offers another quickie techno-fix to salvage American democracy. This one involves a new voting method.

Like all techno-fixes, this one leaves entirely out of the picture the blunt fact that all the schemes and procedures and institutions in the world don’t matter a damn if the American people have lost their moral compass.

Barack Obama seems like a decent guy who has completely lost his moral compass. Increasingly, this seems to be the case with the American people, and that’s the fundamental problem here, not this or that particular voting system or bureaucratic structure (2 senators per state as opposed to proportional population representation, etc.).

In America, Ayn Rand’s sociopathic screed Atlas Shrugged is the second hottest-selling book after the Bible. That’s the problem. Not the particular voting scheme we use in our elections. In America, a new poll shows that 41% of the American population approves of torturing terorrists, 66% of Americans approve of assassination, and 25% of American approve of using nuclear weapons (!) against terrorists. That’s the problem. Not the electoral college. In America, polls show that Americans believe Iran today is a bigger threat than was the 1980s Soviet Union (with its thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at us). That’s the problem, not the structure of the Supreme Court.

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 3:19 am

Obama’s going to do that?

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 3:30 am

Reason remarks: All this boils down to pointing out in a round about way, that the US electoral system stinks, and leaves conscientious voters stuff between a rock and a bad place. Shouldn’t the target here be the US electoral system and not the democratic party.

Permit me to demur. America’s electoral system works well, especially compared to massively dysfunctional systems like, say, Germany in the 1930s, or Russia in the 1910s, or Italy in the 1920s.

The problem is not America’s electoral system. It’s the fecklessness and moral drift and corruption of all too many American who are willing to overlook the abandonment of the rule of law and the limitless growth of corporate power and the endless expansion of a military-prison-surveillance-torture state in the name of being “realistic” and “incremental” and “pragmatic.” Ridiculing the fundamental basis of Western society in the rule of law as “purity trolling” represents such an extreme level of self-delusion that it practically qualifies as self-satire. In fact, you have to suspect that people like rootless_e and Steve LaBonne are plants designed to deliberately discredit the pro-Obama voting argument, such is the absurdity of their classic logical fallacy of “the excluded middle.”

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 3:37 am

mclaren, if your defense of the US electoral system is that it’s better than the systems that gave Europe fascism, I think you are making Reason’s point for them.

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Henry 09.29.12 at 3:52 am

faustusnotes – I don’t think you’ve got a good model of the motivation of CT posters. First, I do usually participate in comments when I can, but also have had periods of several days sucked up in Someone On the Internet Is Wrong disputes, and can’t afford that at the moment – I have a piece to write with a hard deadline for the _Nation_ next week, as well as another paper, the usual student stuff, teaching etc. Secondly and more importantly, the suggestion that we’re writing “trolling” posts is completely off key. Trolls write trollery because they enjoy outraged reactions, stuttering incoherence etc. I don’t think, by and large, we do, and sometimes get driven away by it. That seems to be what happened with dsquared, and it’s also one of the reasons why I’m not engaging any more. Like Salient, I can sometimes get pretty fucked off with people, and say things that I regret later. Although mind you, the major provocations have not come from here, where people have merely hinted I’m an idiot, which I’m basically OK with, as what has been happening at LGM, where one of the regular posters has claimed that I’m advocating the Gary Johnson option, another has said on Twitter (admittedly after I suggested that he was “irredeemable” as an argumentative partner) that he’s “glad [I am] indifferent to legalized abortion, gays in the military, enviro protections, NLRB, etc.” I don’t want to comment any more, because frankly, I don’t trust myself not to explode.

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 4:12 am

Henry, I’m sorry but I can’t tell if you’re Henry Farrell or not – I guess you are…? In that case I may have misjudged your contributions, since I thought the Henry commenting here was a different Henry (I always assume CTers are in blue). I also don’t know what LGM is and don’t follow your activity on the internet generally (I’m a blessedly sheltered soul in some ways). But that doesn’t change the nature of others’ weak engagement – Tedra basically didn’t appear on her tit post at all, which was a bit sad, and dsquared has commented here to say that he isn’t going to bother engaging with commenters on his own post because we’re all a bit thick, which is frankly not how I would have expected the CT community to be running their own blog. I mean, if you think we’re all plebs with nothing to say, why bother opening comments at all? Frankly, what dsquared did there is pretty rude and he’s entitled to his opinion and all but you guys should try and show a bit more respect to your audience.

Although I didn’t mean that “troll” in the strict sense of “troll” (and I would hope that was inferred), I think posters can be expected to guess when their posts are going to be controversial, and if you know it’s going to be (e.g. Tedra’s tit post) but you think you’ll be too busy to deal with comments, maybe you shouldn’t do the post? Or make clear from the outset that you can’t deal with comments? Otherwise it looks a bit like bear-baiting in here.

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mattski 09.29.12 at 4:14 am

Salient, that was a very graceful apology. Human beings are such strange creatures. I’m fairly sure that Steve LaBonne was one of those loudly pledging never to vote for Obama some 4-5 months ago. Go figure. (I’m with Steve on the substance of this thread but I do wish he wasn’t such a bully.)

In fact, you have to suspect that people like rootless_e and Steve LaBonne are plants designed to deliberately discredit the pro-Obama voting argument

Oh, I do suspect it. I do.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 4:14 am

Faustus notes remarks: mclaren, if your defense of the US electoral system is that it’s better than the systems that gave Europe fascism, I think you are making Reason’s point for them.

But is that really correct? It depends on how much better the U.S. electoral system is than the systems that gave Europe fascism, doesn’t it?

The U.S. electoral system has undergone tremendous socio-economic stress without giving in to overt totalitarianism, and to me that seems a huge achievement. Obama and Bush and our current cravenly bully-worshiping congress has had to resort to creeping totalitarianism, chipping away the rule of law bit by bit via the back door with stuff like the NDAA and the AUMF and the USA Patriot Act instead of simply passing a law that declares the Bill of Rights invalid, returning debt slavery, repealing the right of women and blacks to vote, and so on.

That’s doing pretty well by that yardstick. We’re even doing better than Europe’s parliamentary democracies, which are now apparently facing demands from creditors (in return for Eurozone bailouts) that their economies return to a 6-day work week with 13-hour workdays. America has gone pretty far down the road toward corporate tyranny, but we haven’t gone there yet.

I remain hopeful that Barack Obama and the Occupy movement were dress rehearsals for genuine leftist mass movements which will change the current socioeconomic landscape — if necessary, by mass civil disobedience.

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 4:18 am

well mclaren, looking at your electoral system from outside, it looks really really shit. So looking at it from outside, it doesn’s surprise me that a pro-plutocratic electoral system has produced a plutocracy. Instead of blaming ordinary Americans, I think you might be better off looking at the structural factors that facilitate the fucking up of your system. You could start with the electoral system, and then expand that to an examination of the clusterfuck that is your supreme court, and then start asking questions about your constitution more broadly.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 5:04 am

Ridiculing the fundamental basis of Western society in the rule of law as “purity trolling” represents such an extreme level of self-delusion that it practically qualifies as self-satire.

It’s no accident that you folks echo the rhetoric of the far right – one could substitute a few words here and there and reproduce a rant in defense of Randy Weaver. The rule of law is far from the fundamental basis of Western Society and certainly much more the exception than the rule in the conduct of states – especially imperial states. The theory that the US government under President Obama is abrogating some sort of high minded tradition is grotesquely counter-factual.

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GiT 09.29.12 at 5:10 am

“The Obots are dragging up these lame long-debunked canards in order to distract us from what really needs to be done: mass non-violent action on a scale sufficient to shut down America until the rule of law gets returned and corporate power gets crushed and the military-police-surveillance-torture complex gets shut down.”

Well there’s a plan to bank one’s efforts on.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 5:12 am

Fuastusnotes, could you give us more detail? Exactly what would you change, and how, that would produce (presumably) a more liberal and less corporate-fascist America?

Hint: if your answer involves a vague nostrum like “getting money out of politics,” you need to explain exactly how you’re going to do that. The devil’s in the details.

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Harold 09.29.12 at 5:17 am

“With the possible exception of Nixon, Hubert Humphrey is the purest and most disgusting example of a Political Animal in American politics today. He has been going at it hammer and tong twenty-five hours a day since the end of World War II- just like Richard Nixon, who launched his own career as a Red-baiting California congressman about the same time Hubert began making headlines as the Red-baiting Mayor of Minneapolis. They are both career anti-Communists: Nixon’s gig was financed from the start by Big Business, and Humphrey’s by Big Labor…and what both of them stand for today is the de facto triumph of a One Party System in American politics.” Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing

I don’t think it is “slandering” someone to call them unpleasant. Hunter Thompson was basically right. Hubert Humphrey was Lyndon Johnson’s bulldog in going around the country giving speeches in support of the Vietnam war. (I remember very well, as a student in 1967, picketing one of these speeches.) Early in his career, as mayor of Minneapolis, Humphrey pioneered the run-around of civil liberties and the rule of law. He frequently extended his influence where he had no power by appointing “voluntary councils of concerned citizens”, such as his Council on Foreign Relations – (perhaps modeled on political scientist Carl Friedrich’s wartime Council For Democracy that persecuted Pete Seeger), so that he could work with and get funding from sympathetic Republicans. He found it “pragmatic” to vote to override both Truman’s veto of the Taft- Hartley Act (that has crippled American unions) and the MacCarren Act (which Truman had called “the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,” a “mockery of the Bill of Rights” and a “long step toward totalitarianism”). He also embraced Lester Maddox, as mentioned before, and believe me, this did not endear him to the Civil Rights movement — what was left of it by 1968. That he became extremely unpopular was Karma, in his case.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 5:23 am

rootless_e assures us that habeas corpus and the requirement that an accused know the charges against him and the right to a jury trial prove superfluous to Western culture, a claim which the Magna Carta as well as the entire history of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence since the year 1100 contradicts.

Bizarre counterfactuals like this provide a valuable window into the minds of Obots. Presumably the next argument in favor of voting for Obama will be that we owe to the British Queen, since we’re her subjects, and what’s more, we still need Obama to defeat the Holy Roman Empire whose V3 rockets threaten our vulnerable cities.

Meanwhile, GiT snarks against mass civil disobedience: “Well there’s a plan to bank one’s efforts on.”

As opposed to voting for 4 more years of mass Occupy arrests and repression, 4 more years of endless unwinnable foreign wars, 4 more years of Obama signing off on yet another extension of the Bush tax cuts and the Patriot Act and the NDAA, 4 more years of assassination of American citizens without charging them with crimes, 4 more years of universal warrantless surveillance of every America’s emails and phone calls and bank account and credit card transactions, 4 more years of prosecution of whistleblowers, 4 more years of Get Out Of Jail Free cards for corporate crime lords, 4 more years of increased military spending while all other government spending gets frozen.

Yes, voting for that is sure to give us a liberal paradise, GiT. But don’t forget to scare us with more conservative boogey men: “If you vote for Romney, we’ll go to war with Iran!” Coming soon in the second Obama administration, you gullible dupe. America is now the land of Forever War (like Joe Haldeman’s 1979 science fiction novel) — once one foreign war winds down, another one must start. America is now at war forever, eternally, without limit. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, the UAE, Mexico, it’s all just a pretext for the endless expansion of the American military-prison-surveillance-torture state and the rich rich gravy train of infinitely increasing funding that comes with it.

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William Timberman 09.29.12 at 5:58 am

Harold @ 386

I applaud you for taking the trouble to tell a few of the more unpleasant characters commenting in this thread things that they probably ought to know, but don’t. (Insert famous Santayana quote here.) On the other hand, all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain, and that may be a good thing. Some revelations can’t — and probably shouldn’t — be taken on faith by the generations that come after. By learning them on their own, they’ll find them much more convincing, if damnably inconvenient. In any event, like it or not, it’s their show now.

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Meredith 09.29.12 at 6:12 am

The polls must be hinting at an Obama win, to judge from all the argument here.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/rebecca-solnit-liberals-leftists-explaining-things

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Glen Tomkins 09.29.12 at 6:13 am

Oh, please.

Discussions among progressives as to whether or not it is the right or prudent course to continue to support the Ds or not, seem to me much like discussions Polish nobles used to have in the 18th century about when it was right and noble to exercise their liberum veto in the Polish Diet to see the right vindicated in all its purity, versus when it was prudent to let imperfect policies by in order to let the state have any policies at all in place. In both cases, people are talking about the best way to work with an institution that has made itself irrelevant, that has dug its own grave and is probably beyond saving even if we all swore it undying and unquestioning fealty. At least each member of the Diet did have a veto in their doomed institution, which is actually more than we can say. And at least an independent Poland might have been saved by a Diet that enacted different policies, which again is probably more than is any longer possible for the Ds

Of course Ds can still win elections from time to time. Being an actual party, as the Rs are, with an agenda and long-term goals, definitely imposes strains that we mostly escape because we don’t have differences to iron out, we don’t have internal power struggles to get through. The Rs had a messy struggle this time, that ended the worst way for them possible. Their old guard lined up behind a trimmer early enough, and still has enough power within the party, that they were able to give him the nomination, but he has turned out to be a wildly incompetent trimmer, who trims incontinently in both directions at once. They’re still only down 5, but if they, as seems likely, can’t make up that deficit and lose this time, that just insures that there will be no old guard left by next cycle.

Next time they’re going to run someone who won’t trim, who won’t blow an uncertain trumpet. They’re going to run someone who will fully use the terror that that they have found to be their sole means to winning elections. Of course this will prove successful, that’s a foregone conclusion, because much, much worse than the D’s many ideological transgressions against their own natural ideological turf, is their complete unwillingness to recognize that they are at war with the Rs, a bloodless war so far to be sure, and let’s try to keep it that way, but a war in the sense that the Rs are trying their best to destroy our party, not reach any sort of accommodation with us, as the Ds are with them. The Ds while in power refuse to take the most basic measures to secure easily obtainable partisan advantages or to defend against R fearmongering attacks that seek to destroy our party’

The outstanding and probably most consequential example of feeding into, rather than trying to de-juice, R fearmongering, is our side’s concession that yes, indeed, the deficit is about to kill us all in our beds. We have probably already traded away SocSec and Medicare in this incredibly brain-dead gift we gave the other side. But I favor for its sheer undiluted illustration of how we fail to recognize we are delaing with fearmongers, an earlier and much less inherenty consequential example, the way the administration responded to the Underpants Bomber. If our side had any concept that we are in a war of competing fears, and that our side had to take every opportunity to de-juice the fears the other side feeds to gain advantage, we would have pounced on a case that shouted for exploitation in the service of getting the electorate to at least start to move away from the ridiculous fear of “global terror” inculcated by the other party for its advantage. Instead, the administration used this case that presented such utter reassurance of the complete efficacy of already existing security measures as the rationale for extending the Global War on Terror to include a Global War on Liquids. The media was even almost universally calling the guy the Underpants Bomber. What more do you need to tell you that the GWOT was ripe for a bit of reduction by ridicule?

Sure, this prediction of the imminent death of the party is almost certainly not destined to be fulfilled. Reality is always more subtle than the imaginations of the wisest of us, among whom I certianly do not number. But I offer these three policies, which, if the Ds win the trifecta, will be markers for how likely my prediction is to come true or be refuted. If the party doesn’t even tallk about doing any of them, it is doomed. If the Ds even talk about doing any of these three, I will have to retract my prediction. If they actually do all three, that will show that they have so thoroughly adopted the partisan militancy required by the times, that maybe we should look instead to the imminent demise of the other party.

The first measure is DC statehood. Two reliable votes in the Senate, one in the House, a permanent irresistable target for the other party’s outspoken racists — it would be malpractice not to do this if we get the trifecta. Forcing Puerto Rico to choose between statehood and independence, no commonwealth status allowed, would be even better if it results in statehood, but that result can’t be assured without a majority in PR, which may not be forthcoming. Puerto Rico as a state would be an ongoing irresistable target for the other side’s same racists, but in this case they would antagonize a larger demographic.

Second, take jurisdiction over campaign financing away from SCOTUS and pass a campaign finance law that shuts down giving by corporations and the wealthy. To push to change the Constitution to get rid of thr CU decision, when that is impossible, while jurisdiction restriction would just require a statute, is the same as supporting CU. If CU is left to stand, our party is committing elecotral suicide, especially at the state and local level.

Lastly, pass a law that pre-empts the states completely, leaves them no control whatsoever, over the conduct of all elections in this country, including eligibility to vote in all elections. Extend citizenship to the fullest reasonable extent, and to take effect in time for the next election. If SCOTUS finds any of this unconstitutional, take away their jurisdiction. If we can’t win every election with all those new voters, we need to stop trying.

The Ds don’t have to be ideologically pure to get my support, both vote and active campaigning. Even if there really was only a dime’s worth of difference, the issues at stake make even a dime’s worth of difference worth dying in a ditch over. But they do have to fight. I’m not so much a D as an anti-Republican, and a party that won’t fight the Rs effectively, that doesn’t want to destroy their party if possible, is worthless to me. Our side has been so little willing to fight the Rs that it’s even money on our side conceding the New Deal even if we do win this year. But I care enough about the ideological indentity of the party that I think it would be better, if the New Deal is to be dismantled, that the Rs be the ones in power doing it without any D fingerprints on the murder weapon. The plan would then be to win the next election by campaigning against the murder, and restoring the New Deal after we won.

But any talk of whatever course we choose having any sort of practical effect by way of its weakening or strengthening the Democratic Party, or getting it to be better ideologically, is self-important nonsense, and a misdirected self-importance at that. On our best day, we couldn’t do the Party near the harm that the Rs are in deadly earnest at doing it, and the Ds can’t and won’t be influenced by our pressure until the day the party, or its successor if it goes the way of the Whigs, decides to fight, because it will remain in a defensive crouch until then. When that day comes, they won’t need our urging to go way left of our fondest hopes, because all of our side’s natural fighting cudgels are out there on the left. If the party ever does choose to fight, it wins whether we support it or not. If it remains in its defensive crouch, it loses, probably goes out of existence, whether we we support it or not.

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GiT 09.29.12 at 6:34 am

“Yes, voting for that is sure to give us a liberal paradise, GiT. But don’t forget to scare us with more conservative boogey men: “If you vote for Romney, we’ll go to war with Iran!” Coming soon in the second Obama administration, you gullible dupe. “

While your ability to rapidly spin fictitious accounts of the beliefs of others with no supporting evidence is impressive (not really), your repeated bombastic abusiveness is not worthy of much response.

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Harold 09.29.12 at 7:11 am

Correction — Council on Human Relations not Foreign Relations.

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bad Jim 09.29.12 at 8:14 am

The discussion here has been strangely at odds with most of the musings about the futures of the parties. Demographics trends strongly favor Democrats, most particularly the diminution of the white majority, but perhaps more importantly the attrition of the traditionally racist, sexist and anti-communist generations. My home state, California, was for most of my life more likely to vote Republican than Democratic, but for the last couple of decades it’s been solidly blue.

God’s Own Party took the devil’s bargain in the form of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Goldwater and Nixon won the solid South, and now their party has nothing else to call its own. Where the South used to use the 3/5 rule to vote its slaves by proxy, Republicans now inflate their Senatorial and electoral counts by voting acreage in the sparser states of the Midwest.

The party is only for white people, but outside the confederate states they don’t get more than half the white voters. They have nothing but contempt for anyone else, people who aren’t white, women, gays, and pretty much the rest of the world, so they have no way to grow their numbers without the threat of a scary Other. At the moment they seem to agree that the scariest Other is their fellow citizens.

We don’t need a revolution. Half our citizens need a chance to chill out and realize that the people at the other end of town aren’t trying to steal our dreams, they are not what stands between us and Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

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GiT 09.29.12 at 9:13 am

While the slow dying off of the Republican base is nice, the views of the average non-Republican aren’t the best. There is something to Mclaren’s overwrought screeds about the retrograde standards of much of the American electorate

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bad Jim 09.29.12 at 10:19 am

As a nation, we’re addicted to warfare. Our armed forces could conceivably defeat those of the rest of the world combined. I don’t want to think about the sort of situation that would bring that contest about.

We wouldn’t have invaded Iraq had Gore been president. Humphrey would have gotten us out of Vietnam earlier than Nixon. Would we have been arming death squads in Central America had Carter or Mondale won their elections? Maybe, maybe not. The only thing you can depend on is that electing Republicans always makes things worse.

Yes! Obama is an American president with the power to bomb any place on the earth, and like every president before him he’s used that power. It ought to be a power more honored in its breach than its observance. At least the present president hasn’t started any new invasions in his first term, which is an enormous improvement over his predecessor.

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 12:37 pm

mclaren, I think that’s a tractable problem. Try implementing a compulsory non-preferential voting system, with elections held on saturday instead of tuesday. Remove the power to make voter id laws at the state level, and implement a system of government funding for parties on a dollars-for-vote gained basis, to encourage minor parties. Ditch the electoral college – hey, you could even have the president chosen by a 2/3 majority of parliament rather than a direct election. Then implement strict rules about funding parties (I know it seems really hard, but trust me, its been done elsewhere) and political advertising. Japan doesn’t permit any, Australia permits some, etc. – I’m sure you can figure something out that’s a little better than the current super pac swiftboat crap.

See, it’s not so hard. But don’t blame individuals for structural factors – which is what this whole silly debate is about doing, and why it suits a silly libertard concern troll like this conor bloke.

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Glen Tomkins 09.29.12 at 1:01 pm

bad Jim,

There’s a three stage refutation of the idea that demographic trends are going to rescue the Democratic Party:
1) demogrphics don’t matter, citizenship matters
2) citizenship doesn’t matter, who votes matters
3) who votes doesn’t matter, who counts the votes matters

The Rs get this. They’re a serious party. They have an actual thoroughgoing plan and intention to carry out that plan in respect to 1) and 2). This is especdially true if you consider that the fifty states control who gets the franchise, citizen of the US or not, and that’s most of the point of 2). 3) is a bit more dodgy, but they’re pushing the envelope on that as well.

The Ds are not a party. If we were, when we had the trifecta last time, we would have done simple things that would have insured that demographics would be destiny, that it was going to translate into a majority of votes that get counted, and we could be counted on to do these things if we get the trifecta again this November. But we certainly will not pass laws granting amnesty and immediate citizenship to millions, and preempting control of elections, incvluding eleigibility to vote, to the federal level, or giving DC statehood.

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Henry 09.29.12 at 1:14 pm

Faustusnotes – our comments are only marked in blue when it is our own posts we’re commenting on. More generally, my purely personal take on it is that I have a reasonable idea which posts are likely to provoke argument. I don’t have much of an idea which posts are likely to bring out the arseholes, or turn normally reasonable people into same. And when people are behaving like arseholes (e.g., the dismal Barry accusing me in the one breath of being deliberately dishonest, and in the next telling me that I needed to explain what I meant), I don’t feel any obligation whatsoever to get drawn in, or to respond. The alternative of closing comments down, or bashing left and right with the banhammer doesn’t seem a good one either except under truly unusual circumstances.

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Barry 09.29.12 at 1:40 pm

Henry, I feel honored.

Considering the more unpleasant commenters @ CT, I really don’t deserve this singular honor. I think that I must have hit a nerve :)

Meanwhile, I’ll emphasize this from Bad Jim:
“We wouldn’t have invaded Iraq had Gore been president. Humphrey would have gotten us out of Vietnam earlier than Nixon. Would we have been arming death squads in Central America had Carter or Mondale won their elections? Maybe, maybe not. The only thing you can depend on is that electing Republicans always makes things worse.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 1:40 pm

rootless_e 09.29.12 at 3:19 am:
‘ “How? Where does the money, the value, that the employers pay to the government, come from, if not the employees? I’m not understanding your model of labor, wages and taxation. Please explain.”
——
‘It is not a question of value, it’s a question of pay. People do not get paid the value of their labor in a capitalist system, generally they are paid much less than that. Government rules that impose costs on workers can raise effective wages. That’s why minimum wage laws work to raise the wage of the lowest income workers and why abolishing social security employer tax would not automatically shift that money to salary.’

No, it wouldn’t immediately. However, as capitalists usually work over the long run, they allocate a certain amount to labor and other costs for a given activity which they hope will produce a profit for them through the extraction of value from the labor. If the government adds a tax to the labor costs, they’re not going to take that money out of their profits, at least not for very long. Either they will reduce the effective cash proportion or the benefits, or they won’t continue the activity at all. So the worker is actually in effect paying both sides of the FICA tax (as they do every other tax, ultimately).

Minimum wage laws seem to be rapidly neutralized by inflation, which in a capitalist state is probably one of the things that make mild inflation so evidently attractive.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 1:52 pm

<blockquoteI’m fairly sure that Steve LaBonne was one of those loudly pledging never to vote for Obama some 4-5 months ago.

It was a bit longer ago than that, but you know what? I’m still no Obama fan by any stretch of the imagination- he has in more than one respect failed to live up to even modest and realistic expectations, has been totally assimilated by the national security Borg and has fucked up domestic things that are entirely within the Executive purview and hence admit of no excuse- but I looked at the insane shit going on in the Tea Party House, thought about what could happen with a Republican in the White House, sobered up, and got a fucking cue. If I can do that so can others, if they can stop listening to the soothing sound of their own voices for a minute.

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dsquared 09.29.12 at 1:52 pm

I’ve just realised, by the way, that the “altruistic” argument against the Paradox of Voting also doesn’t work. Whatever the probability of my being the decisive vote in the two-way Dem/Rep contest, I have at least as great a chance of being the decisive vote that pushes the Greens over the 5% threshold. So if I think that the benefit of having a viable third party is at least as great as the difference between R and D (and if I’m a Green voter, I probably think that the literal survival of life on earth is at stake), I should still vote third-party.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 1:54 pm

Minimum wage laws seem to be rapidly neutralized by inflation, which in a capitalist state is probably one of the things that make mild inflation so evidently attractive.

Which explains why the minimum wage, and inflation, are so popular with the plutocrats, amirite?

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 1:54 pm

bad Jim 09.29.12 at 8:14 am:
‘… We don’t need a revolution. …’

I need a revolution. Capitalist states seem to be irresistibly drawn toward war, imperialism, environmental destruction, internal tyranny, and a lot of other things which I don’t like, or so history seems to show, even in the case of capitalism’s great poster child. In the present case one may argue that slowing down the march to the edge of the abyss through the choice of lesser evils is desirable, but that’s hardly satisfactory for the long run.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 1:56 pm

Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 1:40 pm

You begin by invoking the labor theory of value, and then go on to make an essentially libertarian market argument that is plainly incorrect. In practice, social welfare taxes on business do not, in the long run, drive down wages – as shown by the examples of Sweden and other social democratic welfare states. Social Security is not a market solution to old age pensions, it is a public social welfare program that taxes employers and workers to fund a public program that could not operate in the market. Without the tax, most employers would simply pocket the difference – as shown by labor markets such as farming where there are widespread efforts to cheat workers of the social security contribution.

But what I find remarkable is the prevalence of this type of argument: one that opens with some sort of socialist fanfare and then settles down to libertarianism/neoclassical-economics. Mike Beggs attack on Graeber’s debt has this form as do the countless hysterical attacks blogs like NakedCapitalism aim at Emanuel Goldstein Tim Geithner. Many of these begin with something about plutocrats and devolve into assertions of the infallibility of market value or the horrors of fiat capital within a few paragraphs.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 2:05 pm

Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 1:54 pm:
‘ “Minimum wage laws seem to be rapidly neutralized by inflation, which in a capitalist state is probably one of the things that make mild inflation so evidently attractive.”

Which explains why the minimum wage, and inflation, are so popular with the plutocrats, amirite?’

Yes, ironically, yerite. I think plutocrats like a certain amount of inflation. If you have a whole lot of wealth and can hire financial experts, accountants, and tax lawyers you can usually deal with inflation pretty handily. It’s those who are on fixed incomes or incomes tied to labor contracts or government programs, and those with cash savings, those who do not have a lot of real estate, equities, collectibles, and durable commodities, in other words, the poor and not-too-well-off, who suffer.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 2:23 pm

I think plutocrats like a certain amount of inflation.

I think you need to hold your nose and read, say, the Wall Street Journal for a much-needed reality check.

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novakant 09.29.12 at 2:33 pm

Hmm, I don’t know, bad Jim:

Truman detonated the atomic bomb over Japan, Kennedy and Johnson got the US into Vietnam using chemical warfare and carpetbombing, Carter started the whole BS in Afghanistan, Clinton targeted civilians and infrastructure in Yugoslavia while his foreign secretary Albright claimed killing several hundred thousand Iraqis with sanctions was “worth it” …

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 2:39 pm

@rootless_e #405 — You’re still not showing me where I’m wrong. Talk about market relations is appropriate to the description of a capitalist system; it does not necessarily represent approval or support. Designating a proposition or theory as ‘libertarian’ or ‘neo-classical’ doesn’t in itself tell us whether it’s right, wrong, or middling. As a matter of political theory, I don’t think the rich usually pay taxes, because they have more power than the poor, and when they’re ostensibly taxed, they can find ways of transmitting those taxes to the less powerful. It’s not hard to see this working out in the funding of U.S. Social Security. I don’t know about Sweden, but if it has capitalists who don’t live by extracting profit from the exploitation of labor, it’s pretty unusual. Someone should investigate.

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 2:56 pm

@Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 2:23 pm #407 — I worked in the financial industry for many years (as a computer programmer, etc.) and met many people who were very wealthy or became so during the period I knew them. I never heard any of them ever complain about inflation, and some of them had clearly exploited the opportunities it afforded. One fellow I knew got several million dollars out of the real estate bubble and got away clean in ’05; pretty impressive. I suppose one might say they weren’t, strictly speaking, plutocrats, because they weren’t interested in politics and government except as entertainment. The actual plutocrats, on the other hand, may worry about inflation causing trouble among the folk, and they seem to feel duty-bound to inveigh against it publicly, whatever they do in private. After all, ordinary people seem to hate inflation, and the r.c. want to appease the folk as long as they don’t have to seriously inconvenience themselves. So you want to believe in Wall Street Journal editorials instead? I always figured they were a form of humor. Am I too cynical?

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 3:07 pm

Anarcissie, your anecdotes do not outweigh the easily documented fact that all around us, the right has been bellyaching about the supposedly imminent danger of inflation throughout the last years during which we have in fact been flirting with deflation. Plutocrats like the Koch Brothers spend enormous sums spreading the inflation alarm, to the consternation of sane economists. Higher inflation in the near term would be good for debtors and bad for creditors, and the latter have the power.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.29.12 at 3:20 pm

Steve – isn’t the simpler explanation for the inflation scare that plausibly higher inflation helps the economy and hence Obama? Do you believe that we’d see the same obsession about this under a Republican president. I’d guess no. (Though I’m sure some of the principled loonies like Ron Paul would still talk about it).

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faustusnotes 09.29.12 at 3:26 pm

I never mentioned the banhammer, Henry. I mentioned engaging, which dsquared isn’t doing at all on this thread. Why write the post if you think the commenters are too dumb or mendacious to engage?

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mattski 09.29.12 at 3:36 pm

[I] sobered up, and got a fucking clue. If I can do that so can others

Yeah, but why are you berating people for making the exact same mistake you were making? Why aren’t you leading with (overdue) humility rather than disrespect? One of the reasons I wince so hard when I read your comments is I share some of the same weaknesses, like the tendency to be a bully. It’s something people like you and I should be working on. That’s what I think.

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Henry 09.29.12 at 4:03 pm

Why write the post if you think the commenters are too dumb or mendacious to engage?

Because, as I’ve already said quite clearly, we have difficulty predicting in advance whether commenters are going to act badly. There isn’t any obligation on us to engage with trolls. Nor in reasoned conversation, when, as sometimes happens, we simply don’t have time to. And on that topic, I’ve got stuff I need to go do …

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Anarcissie 09.29.12 at 4:04 pm

The motive of the inflation scare promoted by Republicans would be, I think, to use it as a tool for ‘deficit reduction’, that is, busting Social Security and other such programs, which they don’t like because they want more money to go to the rich, etc. Permit me to doubt their sincerity; it’s like Reagan talking about a balanced budget.

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Chris Bertram 09.29.12 at 4:04 pm

“Why write the post if you think the commenters are too dumb or mendacious to engage?”

Plus: there are many readers out there who are not commenters here. We write for them too.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 4:11 pm

It would be easier to stomach the posts on how much more awful a Republican administration would be if the writers of those posts would acknowledge that the goddamn original post contains a pre-emptive reply to them, and engage with it:

Part of the case for persuading people to vote to keep the Democrats in government is that they’re so terrible at being in opposition. Specifically, their very weakness and incompetence in carrying out the business of politics is being used as an electoral asset. That’s not a cool rhetorical ju-jitsu move; it’s nightmarish.

Bush didn’t go wage war in Iraq unilaterally. He did so with the implicit support of the congressional Democrats, who on balance didn’t care enough about the immorality of war to even raise a finger concretely putting a stop to it (by unauthorizing funding, for example). We’re told a Romney administration would commit unprecedented atrocities, which is plausible only because the Democratic opposition would commit the very-much-precedented atrocity of shrugging and going along with it.

So we’re supposed to vote Democrats into a fully insulated majority in all houses because Democrats can’t be arsed to resist Republicans.

And when we do manage to get a fully insulated majority in all houses, like we did briefly earlier this decade, you still won’t see much action taken against Republican abominable foreign policies, and you’ll still see the Democrats pulling a milder and less catastrophic version of the same foreign policy travesties, not to mention they’ll offer up abominable endangerment of core domestic achievements like Medicaid, in the interest of phantasmal comity with the Republicans.

Apparently the argument goes, if a Romney administration decides now is the time to go to war with Iran, we can’t rely on the Democratic Congress to put a stop to it. If a Romney administration decides to privatize Social Security and end Medicare, we can’t rely on the Democratic Congress to put a stop to it. If a Romney administration decides to issue a tax cut for the wealthy that bankrupts what shreds of social services yet remain, we can’t rely on the Democratic Congress to put a stop to it.

There are two possibilities. One is that the allegation is false, Democratic helplessness is bullshit, and the Democrats actually will use techniques well within their power as a minority party to prevent the Romney administration from taking action. (That’s what happened in 2004-2006, with regard to Social Security.) People arguing it’s morally imperative to prevent a Romney Presidency can’t agree to this, and I’m willing to agree with them. The second possibility is that the allegation is true, and the Democratic party won’t take action to prevent the atrocities of a Republican administration, even though it would be well within their power to do so.

In which case, arguing for lesser evilism is really just arguing for evil. Notice people who feel this way don’t say “vote for a Democratic President and fuck all those cowards in the Congress, vote Green downticket.” So what are they saying, when they’re saying what they’re saying? Basically:

“Since so many Democrats are uselessly complicit in every abominable policy of a Republican, you have to vote Democrat.”

“It’s morally imperative to support people from the party who won’t put up resistance against their opponents’ policies, because we need to do everything we can to put up resistance against their opponents’ policies.”

I resent being called a three-year-old fascist for finding this line of argument painfully unsatisfactory. If I can’t rely on the opposition party to stop the worst atrocities of the other party–which is certainly something the Bush era proved to be true, I’m not disputing Democratic spinelessness–then fuck the opposition party. If, in the event of a cliff-jumping precedentedly awful Republican presidency, the only opposition I can hope for from the opposition party is just slowing down the velocity at which we jump off the cliff, then fuck the opposition party. The people saying ROMNEY BAD VOTE D are so emotionally invested in it, they can’t even let us have a few threads on CT discussing the painfully hopeless inutility of doing what they’re asking us to do.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 4:13 pm

So in reply to faustusnotes, this might not apply to every thread you have in mind, but consider: if a whole swathe of the commenters can’t be bothered to reply thoughtfully to the original post, why should the original poster feel obligated to thoughtfully reply to the commenters?

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LFC 09.29.12 at 4:15 pm

Harold @386
I’ll acknowledge that Humphrey had his faults and also that I’m not familiar with all the details of his career. He was an anti-Communist like some other ADA-style Dems, and as mayor of Minneapolis may well have engaged in red-baiting etc. I’ll take your word for that if you like (but not Hunter Thompson’s).

On the other side of the ledger, however, Humphrey was, as I said earlier, a key supporter of the civil rts plank at the ’48 convention. On Vietnam: he was Johnson’s vice-president, he really had no choice but to support the war in public and make speeches if LBJ wanted him to, though IIRC he developed misgivings about the war much earlier than he was able to reveal in public. He eventually broke with Johnson publicly in Sept 68 in his Salt Lake City speech, too late in the day. He was not a “cool” politician in the modern TV sense, had a tendency to talk too long and too excitedly. He infuriated student protesters etc not only b/c of his public support of LBJ but b/c he really didn’t know how to get on their wave length at all, in terms of how he spoke (by contrast w McCarthy, who wd quote poetry, etc.) I view Humphrey as something of a tragic figure, whose position as LBJ’s vice pres. really hurt him in more ways than one. Re embracing Lester Maddox: yes, he was running for pres. in 68, he needed the support of Southern Dems in the primaries facing challenges from Kennedy and McCarthy. Should he have embraced Maddox? No. Is it a hanging offense? Probably not.

Hunter Thompson is wrong to imply there was no diff betw Humphrey and Nixon. That’s just silly.

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temp 09.29.12 at 4:18 pm

Whatever the probability of my being the decisive vote in the two-way Dem/Rep contest, I have at least as great a chance of being the decisive vote that pushes the Greens over the 5% threshold.

This is false. The probability of pushing the Greens over 5% in the 2012 election is zero. The chance of being the decisive vote for Obama in a swing state is probably on the order of 1 in 100 million.

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LFC 09.29.12 at 4:23 pm

William Timberman @388

I rather resent your reference to me as unpleasant (I assume at any rate it’s supposed to include me, given the context) and your condescending, inaccurate assumption that I am too young or too ignorant (or both) to know much of anything. If you would perhaps take a few minutes off from throwing around quotations from Santayana, Edith Piaf and God knows who else, you might find it advantageous to exercise a little bit of interpretive — what’s the word? — charity. Otherwise some people may just stop reading your often somewhat sententious remarks.

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William Timberman 09.29.12 at 4:53 pm

LFC @ 422

Interpretive charity? There doesn’t seem to be much of that in the comments on this thread, no more from you than from anyone else. If you think Harold is slandering Humphrey, you don’t know as much about Humphrey as you think you do. If you find that judgment condescending, I can’t help you — it’s genuinely how I see things.

The problem with Cold War liberals, LBJ as well as HHH, is that they ceased being liberals as soon as they became Cold Warriors. As a 20 year old, all tricked out to be their designated cannon fodder, I didn’t see any slander in calling them what they were, and I don’t now. The similarity between LBJ and HHH’s vapors about the Worldwide Communist Conspiracy and the Obama Administration’s pretensions to being the competent administrators of the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, and the War on Civil Liberties, etc., etc., is clear enough to those who lived through the Sixties and Seventies, and the phoniness of appealing to us to vote for Obama to save the children, the puppies, and the American Way of Life is equally clear. If it isn’t clear to you, I figure there must be some reason. If it isn’t that you weren’t around at the time, you’ll just have to fill in the blanks for yourself.

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Dave 09.29.12 at 4:54 pm

So it was immoral to vote for FDR ? He interned Japanese-Americans, freely collaborated with segregationists.

What about the volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln brigade ? They enabled Stalinists after all.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 4:59 pm

It was immoral to vote for Lincoln; you should have written in Seward.

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Daryl McCullough 09.29.12 at 5:07 pm

Mclaren writes:

Daryl McCollough claims: As I said somewhere else recently, if someone has a plausible plan in which allowing Republicans to sweep into office will eventually lead to a better world, I’m all ears. But it seems to me that the effect of the principled rejection of “lesser-evildom” will most likely be that we are stuck with the greater evil.

This is the kind of gross failure in logic that typifies arguments for voting for Obama this fall.

I think you don’t really understand what “logic” is. I didn’t make a logical argument.

This formulation depends on two assumptions, both contrary to observed reality: 1) liberal voters can successfully keep Republicans out of office forever, as far as the eye can see, into the distant future and beyond. 2) The longer liberal voters keep Republicans out of office, the better the chances of restoring the rule of law and rolling back the limitless growth of corporate power and the military-police-surveillance-torture complex.
Neither assumption is even remotely credible.

I didn’t make either assumption. I didn’t say anything about “restoring the rule of law and rolling back the limitless growth of corporate power, etc.” I questioned how allowing the Republicans to win in 2012 could lead to a better outcome, however that’s defined. It would almost surely lead to a worse outcome in the period 2012 — 2016, and there is no reason to think that anything would be better in the longer term by allowing Republicans to win. That’s where I’m asking for a plausible strategy from you (or whoever). If you are making the claim that short-term pain will lead to better longer-term outcome, then make the argument. You haven’t, and it doesn’t seem at all plausible to me.

I am not making the claim that electing Obama will have long-term benefits, I’m only claiming that it will make things better in the short term and that I don’t know (and nobody seems to know) what to do in the longer term.

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peggy 09.29.12 at 5:08 pm

@Gepap #204 “politics is about POWER, not values” and “we live in a world of climate change and nuclear weapons. It’s a very risky bet to assume that the revolution will reach us before there is no public commonwealth to revolt in the first place.”

On climate change, the apocalypse is rapidly approaching. The USA will be relatively shielded, although this year’s loss of 15% of the corn crop is alarming. Migrants, militias and military forces will all be jostling for advantage. Some countries may enjoy an “Arab Spring”; others endure a Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot.

As a veteran of the 60′s, to me the issue is trying to organize people in mass to force change upon the social structure, the discourse and the government. OWS, city council politics, or neighborhood farmer’s markets- take your pick. Activist networks like Daily Kos and ACTBLUE have real electoral power by directing campaign contributions, bypassing the old line Democratic National Committee. Choosing which option is worth discussing- agonizing over one’s personal vote is self indulgent moralizing. The US is Rome, Britain painting the world red- fight strategically and on margins people!

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Daryl McCullough 09.29.12 at 5:14 pm

I really couldn’t care less to hear about how awful Democrats are. I want to hear a plausible strategy for making things better. In the short term, I know the answer: keep Republicans out of power, and things will be slightly better. There is no question in my mind about that. Longer term, I don’t know. Nobody appears to.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 5:32 pm

Hunter Thompson – who said Humphrey was a clown and Pat Caddel was a genius.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 5:32 pm

Shorter this comment: People who say If you somehow do convince a massive number of people to not vote Obama, then Romney will win do not acknowledge the plausibility of the alternative If you somehow do convince a massive number of people to not vote Obama, then Obama will change in order to win those people back, and you’ll have much the same electoral outcome with an improved political outcome. And if it is indeed correct that there’s no hope of Democrats changing their position in response to social pressure, well, that’s (1) a truly fucked up degree of learned helplessness and (2) wildly implausible given hundreds of examples to the contrary.

It’s not Obama loses, Romney wins; it’s Obama comes under fire, adjusts accordingly. And that’s painfully obvious the moment you pull back from THE ONLY POSSIBLE CHOICES ARE THE DEMOCRATS AS THEY ARE OR THE REPUBLICANS AS THEY COULD BE, SO SHUT UP AND VOTE DEM.

You know, now seems like the right time for me to break anonymity and reveal my true affiliation.

I am an Underpants Gnome. You may have heard of us. We’re infamous for our business model, which tends to take this form: Stage 1. Collect underpants. Stage 2. ? Stage 3. Profit!

What doesn’t get mentioned in that presentation is that your kind’s Roman letters and Earth question marks are actually sophisticated Gnomish-language ciphers, whose precise hue and shape communicate something slightly more sophisticated than your Earthly ink-jot question mark. In the interest of intergalactic peace, let me translate one such question mark for you:

Stage 0. This is actually the part we’re still working on. Convince lots of people to self-identify as part of an angry voter bloc willing to engage in principled nonvoting or primary challenger voting. Or, at a minimum, convince lots of people to complain vocally about the issues, even if they’re not sincerely going to engage in principled nonvoting.

Stage 1. Collect underpants. (Earth English translation: Collect data, e.g. by poll. Make the issue provoking this sudden massive unrest widely and specifically known by passing poll data along to media. They’ll be interested precisely because our Stage 0 was so successful. Even if your organization’s polls are accused of bias by opponents, you have hope of encouraging other pollsters to conduct similar research. A few thousand dollars are all you need to conduct massive polls and hire a branded research firm to launder the poll and interpret their results for you. To pay for this, sell underpants through the Jin-Gitaxian Federation’s Underpants Collectors’ Auction and Consortium, or just get some Earth donation money from ActBlue.)

Stage 2. ? (Earth English translation: Advertise an alternative that politicians can get behind in order to win the adoration, or at least the respect, of the angry voter bloc. Promote this relentlessly. Since we somehow managed in Stage 0 to get heard by a swathe of people potentially interested in this information, we should be able to maintain lines of communication to them. Since we somehow managed in Stage 0 to convince that same swathe of people to withhold their vote in protest, we should be able to convince them to accept and even celebrate the proposed alternative. Speaking of which, how the fuck are we going to accomplish Stage 0 in the first place? Better keep working on that part.)

Stage 3. Profit! (Earth English translation: A more left-inclined political regime, with respect to the issue we raised!)

There is a footnote that says “don’t make any huge moves just before an election because people need some time to receive new information and react to it. Try to have this unrest occur at least a month before the first primary.” (In Underpants Gnomish, things that look like lamps hovering over the top middle of a gigantic sign are footnotes.)

Now of course, the fact that we’re a small enough group to be negligible undercuts all of this. But the if-then statement implicit in Bernard Yomtov’s “the argument against voting for Obama becomes widely accepted, with the result that Romney wins the election” is really at the root of this disagreement.

If a substantial swathe of people become pissed and disillusioned about Obama for specific reasons we can cite, and you’re arguing that even Obama is incapable of adjusting to that, then you’re arguing for a degree of learned helplessness far beyond anything Daniel identified in the OP. You’re arguing that we have no hope of Democrats changing in response to social pressure… and then arguing this implies we have to keep our damn mouths shut and vote Democratic anyway.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 5:35 pm

Shucks, that’s what gets me automodded? Now why couldn’t auto-moderation step in and catch me back when I was being thoughtlessly vicious, instead of now when I was trying to be thoughtfully funny?

[Your comment included a link, that's what triggered the software. Plus, it was overlong. CB]

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 5:56 pm

Salient nails it when he points out that “voting for lesser evilism is just voting for evil.”

Daniel’s original post captures some of the problem by noting the paradox in claiming that we should vote for Democrats because they’re so unwilling (or unable) to resist Republican atrocities like extrajudicial murder of U.S. citizens (now adopted by a Democratic president) or extending grotesquely inequitable tax breaks for billionaires (now adopted by a Democratic president) or criminalizing non-violent political dissent and using security forces armed with military weaponry to brutalize non-violent protesters (now adopted by a Democratic president).

But Daniel’s post doesn’t go far enough. The real problem with this argument in favor of voting for the Democrats is that the lawlessness and atrocities of the R’s tends to infect the D’s. The Democrats soon wind up perpetrating the same atrocities as the R’s with a time lag. So really what happens is the voting for the lesser evil = voting for the full evil with a time lag.

The reason for this is clear. Two basic social laws:

Social law #1: Lawnessness, once accepted as the norm, tends to spread limitlessly outside the tiny domain in which it is employed.

Example: Once the authorities abandon the rule of law in one tiny little niche of society, the practice of abandoning the law tends to spread like wildfire. Israel saw this when it legalized torture of terrorists. Only terrorists were to be tortured, and then only when there was definite probitive evidence that they were terrorists, and then torture was permitted only to prevent further terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, torture soon spread throughout the entire Israeli justice system to the point where routine suspects of minor crimes were routinely getting torture. Eventually the Israeli supreme court had to step in and put a stop to it. Another excellent example of how lawlessness tends to spread: in Mexico, the Zetas were an elite anti-drug task force who were effectively above the law. They were permitted to do things outside the legal boundaries, like kidnap drug dealers without a warrant, assassinate cartel assassins, etc. Eventually the Zetas became so lawless that they crossed the line entirely and became one of the most dangerous drug cartels themselves.

When the authorities abandon the rule of law, lawless behavior spreads like wildfire until it becomes the norm. This is why Democrats adopt the same atrocities as Republicans. Once the Republicans normalize atrocities like kidnaping U.S. citizens without a warrant, Democrats also perpetrate the same atrocities because it has become a normal feature of civil society. This embolden R’s to perpetrate even worse atrocities. So the Democrats actually function as accelerants catalyzing the burning of the constitution.
Social law #2: Once an atrocity becomes accepted as normal behavior in society, worse atrocities get perpetrated without limit.

The “unthinkable” represents a boundary beyond which a society refuses to go. Once upon a time in America, torture was unthinkable. Now polls show that 41% of Americans approve of torturing suspected terrorists. At that point, the new “unthinkable” under Bush 43 became the murder of American citizens without accusing them of a crime. Now that boundary has been passed under Obama — and the new “unthinkable” has become the roundup and mass murder of American citizens without charging them with a crime. Today, that’s unimaginable… Until, in a few years, another Democratic president perpetrates that atrocity, and then the boundary will move again to even more extreme unthinkable behavior, like mass rape of suspected dissidents as punishment, or public impalement of criminals, or stripping K-12 schoolkids naked and cavity-searching them routinely.

The people who giggle and snicker “Oh, really, Obama will do those things?” don’t grasp how society works. Once some atrocity becomes normalized by being employed by people with badges and gets accepted as routine behavior, the extremes of behavior wielded by the people with badges move farther out to encompass more radically unthinkable behavior. This typically gets justified by the bully-worshipers who enable the muggers with badges as “getting tough” or “cracking down” or “getting real in our war with [fill in the blank: terror, drugs, copyright infringement, etc.]“

Here again the pro-Obama voters fail to grasp how things work. They seem to conclude “Because things have gotten horribly bad in the last 4 years, but only moderately bad, this process of abandoning the rule of law and normalizing atrocities isn’t going to get any worse.” Yes it will. History shows that when a society accepts barbarous behavior by the authorities, the barbarism gets continually worse. History shows that when a society allows atrocities and accepts them as normal behavior, the atrocities get limitlessly more savage.
So the answer to that snickering giggle is, No, of course Obama won’t round up dissidents and murder them — but the next Democratic president or the president after him (or the Democratic president after him) will. Look at your history. Once the government abandons the rule of law, it doesn’t tend to stop until you get gulags and people on trial for hooliganism and Year Zero killing grounds. Once a people accept torture as reasonable behavior by their government, they also tend to accept rape gangs and death camps and mass killings and political prisons and secret police bribing children to turn their parents in to the NKVD.

Anti-terrorist government squads above the rule of law always tend to become the worst terrorists themselves. This is where we’re headed in America, and voting for Obama merely ratifies this process. People who boast “I got a fucking clue” actually don’t have a clue, because their vote for Obama today gives the stamp of political and social legitimacy to the atrocities which their Democratic president will commit in another 4 or 8 years.

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William Timberman 09.29.12 at 6:18 pm

Darry McCullough @ 426

You want to hear a plausible strategy for making things better? There isn’t a single all-embracing one, obviously. What there is is a lot of angles, and a lot of different people who continue to work on them.

First, go ahead and vote for Obama. That’s easy enough, and if he wins, it’ll tend to demoralize the seriously vicious right-wingers, even if they hold on to the House, the Senate bumbles along as usual, and the President remains a blushing bride. In your spare time, try attacking, some of the nastier ideological and political assumptions of the status quo, and — which amounts to the same thing, more or less — figure out what we’d need to have to really make things better, and tell everyone. (I’m thinking of Bill Moyers show on ALEC, JQ’s essay in Aeon, the Skidelskys’ essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Julian Assange’s challenge to the hegemonic interpretation of geopolitical events, Glenn Greenwald’s attacks on the smug moral pretensions of the Pax Americana, Jane Mayer’s exposé of the Koch Brothers in the New Yorker, and, of course, Chomsky always and everywhere.)

Where political theater is likely to have an erosive effect on what people are so absolutely sure they know, do what OWS did in Zuccotti Park, or what the pro-labor coalition did in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Read (or write) books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall. Be a nuisance, in short. If your local Democratic Party is willing to put up with you, try jawboning them as well. One of these days, if the agitation and explanation phase starts to bear fruit, maybe a Democrat running for your state legislature might actually be bold enough to mention the situation in Gaza, gun control, or the need to increase the marginal tax rate on high incomes without caring whether or not AIPAC, American Crossroads or the NRA will try to make an example of him by dumping a couple of million into his opponent’s war chest. If you’re really desperate, maybe you can even take on your obnoxious Fox News uncle over the next Thanksgiving turkey.

Finally, learn to be patient. Be aware that events aren’t always going to be your enemy.

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Bruce Wilder 09.29.12 at 6:23 pm

Daryl McCullough: “I am not making the claim that electing Obama will have long-term benefits, I’m only claiming that it will make things better in the short term and that I don’t know (and nobody seems to know) what to do in the longer term.”

Of course, that’s a critical divide in opinion.

You are basically confessing to short-sightedness. Others, who share your sentiments, seem to subscribe to a kind of random-walk theory of political trends. Anything to avoid confronting the reality that the “long-term” has been a steep downward slope for some time, now, and, has been a steep downward slope throughout Obama’s first four years,.

If you take seriously the possibility of Romney being elected, I can perfectly understand why that might make you the voter-equivalent of a white-knuckle driver on slick ice, losing control of vehicle, because you are trying so hard to steer away from skid.

If you are more cynical, and you strongly suspect the fix is in, and Romney(‘s campaign) is trying very, very hard to lose this election — a fact readily apparent to any sentient being with his eyes open — you relax, and let yourself turn around and really assess what your candidate, Obama, has, in fact, been about for the last 4 years. Then, you get to feel really hopeless and despairing.

Obama’s “short-term” is just a series of steps downward on a really frightening long-term path, the same damn long-term path as Bush, for the most part. There have been plusses. Gay marriage. Some people have access to health insurance, that they really need, while other people (and soon, a lot of other people) get to pay for really crappy health insurance that won’t do them much good.

The occupation of Iraq ended without anyone being held to account for the epic corruption and the enormously costly loss. The military is the most respected institution in American life, after losing two enormously expensive wars, and embarking, secretly, on a bunch more little wars, which we will also lose. The global financial crisis has ended continued without anyone being held accountable for the epic corruption. (Do you detect a pattern, yet?)

There’s a lot more at stake in the long-term than gay marriage or abortion rights. There’s peak oil and climate change issues: we’re on the downslope of the industrial revolution, and instead of engineering a 1st world future for the population, we’re letting the plutocracy stampede us into poisoning the groundwater, so that they can grab another ten percentile of a soon-to-declining GDP.

Instead of panicking about the short-term, you should be panicking about the long-term.

I’m not saying that there is anything obvious you can do about the long-term, certainly nothing you can do about the long-term, in electoral terms, unless you are one the rare people, who lives in a Congressional district, where there’s a candidate, who is not a complete tool(, or local officials running, who are also, not complete tools), though even that is little more than a protest vote. But, that’s kind of the point — something you should notice and pay attention to, instead of gripping your vote for Obama and regular Dems ever tighter in your short-term panic. The electoral process is being controlled and manipulated to eliminate any meaningful role for you. You are being asked to legitimate a very bad long-term trend with your vote for Obama, but you are not being given a choice. You are being a cue about how to act, electorally, but no clue, or choice, about long-term consequences.

The consumer sovereignty theory, applied to politics, says the masses must not want a choice, if they are not being given one. The masses want to be lied to. You want to be lied to, since you believe the lies. This is not my view, but it has been offered in this comment thread.

Not many have gotten off the Obama bus, yet. Even the young OWS-types haven’t really thought things through, and are not very numerous. Lots and lots of ordinary people are acutely aware of the decline, the downward trend. A lot of those people are — shocking I know! — either Tea Party voters or non-voters. They are concerned and anxious and maybe a little angry in an unfocused way about the decline, and about the effect on their lives. They don’t know what to do, anymore than I do. They don’t know what is going on. (Lord knows, no one in our corporate Media is going to whisper even the first clue, or allow a leadership voice to emerge that might rally folks.)

After the election, after Obama extends tax cuts for the rich once again, after Obama tries once again to cut Social Security, after Obama approves the Keystone pipeline and some other environment depredations, maybe after the economic crisis drags on and the demands of the big banks for free money balloon, after implementation of the ACA begins in earnest and the subsidies for the 60% prove inadequate to prevent net real income reductions, maybe after some military disaster . . . maybe, some day real soon now, you’ll begin to think about the long-term.

The anger is coming. I think it is still a long way off — five to eight years off, maybe. If the Left doesn’t get angry and busy right now, the anger that comes will come from the Right, because the anger is coming, regardless.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 6:24 pm

It’s not Obama loses, Romney wins; it’s Obama comes under fire, adjusts accordingly.

Which is why, you know, many of us who are going to vote for him (or rather, against Romney) criticize him often and not particularly gently, as I did myself not very many comments ago. Do try to keep up.

But if enough people don’t vote or waste their votes (in crucial states at least), why yes, Romney DOES fucking win. Many many words from the holier-than-thou crowd, but so much equivocation and denial on this rather important point. Would that be an acceptable outcome to you, or wouldn’t it?

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 6:25 pm

When Daryl McCullough claimed that “As I said somewhere else recently, if someone has a plausible plan in which allowing Republicans to sweep into office will eventually lead to a better world, I’m all ears,” and I pointed out that this kind of gross failure of logic typifies the faulty arguments of pro-Obama voters, Daryl responded by claiming that he was not making a logical argument.

Leaving aside the fact that Daryl’s retort destroys itself as any kind of argument (because why should anyone pay attention to an argument whose logic does not parse? For example, if you claim “We must vote for Obama instead of Romney because Neptune is a planet” no one will be convinced because the conclusion does not follow logically from the premise), in fact Daryl was making a logical argument. The fact that he doesn’t seem to realize it seems bizarre, and disturbing — yet all too typical of Obots.

Let’s lay out Daryl’s argument: it’s a simple syllogism.
1) Minor premise: Voting against Obama will let the Republicans sweep into power
2) Major premise: If the Republicans sweep into power, things will get worse.
3) Conclusion: Therefore we most vote for Obama.

This is a logical argument, but it’s a faulty logical argument. The weak links involve at least four different logical fallacies.

Fallacy #1: Begging the question. By stating that voting against Obama and instead writing in Elizabeth Warren will swing the election to the Republicans as though it were a fact, Daryl falls into a classic logical fallacy. But he begs the question because it remains a fact that if enough people write in Elizabeth Warren, she will become president and not Obama. So it’s by no means clear that not voting for Obama will let Republicans sweep into power.
There’s a second and even more severe problem with Daryl’s logic in the first premise. Namely, that he can’t see how a Democratic loss this election cycle could lead to better social conditions down the road. One of the reasons the Republican party has become so powerful is that it’s willing to accept a loss in one election cycle in order to solidify its principles and impose discipline on its party members so as to win future election cycles. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 loss gives an excellent example. So here’s how Republicans sweeping into power will make things better: if the Democrats purge the blue dogs and conservative lite and torture-lovers from their ranks, they’ll become a more disciplined party able to field farther left candidates, which will lead to a win by far more liberal Democratic candidates in the next election cycle. The Republicans understand the power of maintaining party discipline and holding a hard line on their principles (unfortunately those principles involve torture and unprovoked wars of aggression) but the Democrats don’t.
Fallacy #2: The second premise also has serious problems. It assumes that Democrats cannot mount the kind of massive obstructionism Republicans have engaged in to shut down the government when a president Romney tries to go to war with Iran and abolish medicare and social security. The second premise also presumes that non-violent civil obedience is not an option. Neither of these assumptions seems valid.
This is the fallacy of the excluded middle. “Either we must torture all suspected criminals or society will disintegrate into lawless anarchy!” No, there’s a third alternative in the middle of the two extremes which this argument deliberately ignores. Likewise, the argument Daryl makes ignores the third alternative of massive civil disobedience to shut down society when president Romney tries to use nukes against Iran, etc. In fact this was how the Democrats ended the Vietnam war.
Fallacy #3: the logical fallacy of the non sequitur conclusion. “Therefore we must vote for Obama” doesn’t follow from either of the premises. “Therefore we must have a general strike” is equally valid; or “Therefore we must write in Elizabeth Warren on the ballot” is a better option. Or “Therefore we must grass-roots organize in all 50 states and field massively more liberal candidates in the next election cycle” is an even better option.
It’s also worth nothing that Daryl’s argument falls into the base rate fallacy and the fallacy of denying the antecedent. The base rate fallacy arises from the claim that politics is likely to continue as normal if Republicans get into power and start perpetrating massive atrocities like nuking Iran or ending social security. This is clearly and obviously not the case, the AARP audience booing Paul Ryan showed. That kind of thing simply doesn’t happen in normal politics. The Republicans are now so far into crazy-land that proposals are getting active pushback from the broad middle of the electorate, and this is likely to grow exponentially more extreme as the R’s policies grow more extreme. The probability of mass uprisings that force change in society is not the same as the probabilities assigned to other normative political actions, because in a situation that extreme, the probabilities will change radically.
The fallacy of denying the antecedent comes in when Daryl assumes that “there is no plausible plan in which Republicans sweeping into office will improve things” therefore there is a plausible plan according to which Democrats sweeping into office will improve things. (A classic case of the fallacy “If A therefore B, so if not A therefore not B.”)
It should now be clear that not only was Daryl making a logical argument, he was making a logical argument riddled from top to bottom with logical fallacies — like the arguments made by all the Obots on this forum.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 6:28 pm

If you are more cynical, and you strongly suspect the fix is in, and Romney(‘s campaign) is trying very, very hard to lose this election — a fact readily apparent to any sentient being with his eyes open

Pure tinfoil-hat crap. The only smidgen of truth in this is that potentially stronger candidates at out the primaries because they were not confident Obama was beatable. Otherwise, it’s pure dumb luck that Romney turned out to be such a shitty candidate. And even then, since 45% of the would vote for a baboon if it ran as a Republican, it would be unwise to take chances given the high stakes.

The left will get nowhere until its political thinking advances beyond early grade-school level.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 6:34 pm

Now we know Steve LaBonne must be trolling. He ventures to essay: “It’s not Obama loses, Romney wins; it’s Obama comes under fire, adjusts accordingly.”

Which is why, you know, many of us who are going to vote for him (or rather, against Romney) criticize him often and not particularly gently, as I did myself not very many comments ago. Do try to keep up.

And a lame-duck president with nothing to lose will pay attention to your criticism because…?

This is the underpants gnome theory of politics once again:

1) Vote for Obama!
2) Criticize him even though he knows you can never vote for him again because he can’t run again, and he knows he’ll spend the rest of his life wealthy and adored by the elites he’s so richly rewarded by continuing Bush’s policies.
3) (…)
4) Change to a more liberal society!

As with the underpants gnomes, there appears to be a missing link here.

Do try to keep up, Steve.

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Bruce Wilder 09.29.12 at 6:34 pm

I’ll come to your 8th grade graduation, if you invite me. But, I’m out of here, for good.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 6:40 pm

Steve LaBonne once against trots out the tired and long-debunked “crying wolf” argument. We’re on the brink of doom, this is a must-win election, all is lost if we don’t vote for [fill in name of Democrat], human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!

And even then, since 45% of the [electorate: sic] would vote for a baboon if it ran as a Republican, it would be unwise to take chances given the high stakes.

If this is really true, then all is lost for American democracy. Our democratic process has broken down if 45% of the electorate would really vote for a baboon if it ran as a Republican. In that case the logical course of action is not to try to work within a catastrophically broken political system, but rather to kick over the chessboard and start working outside the rules. Mass general strikes, civil disobedience on an epochal scale, etc.
Martin Luther King arrived at the same conclusion when he recognized that the justice system in the American was irrevocably broken for blacks. Instead of continuing to try to work within it, he kicked over the chessboard. That turned out to be a wise decision.

Obots fail to recognize that this kind of we’re-all-doomed-unless-we-vote-this-current-Democratic-candidate argument defeats itself. If it’s really</I true that American democarcy is within microns of disintegrating because the electorate is so hopelessly corrupt and decadent that they’re vote for a baboon if it ran as a Republican, then the game is already lost within conventional politics. Therefore we must move beyond conventional politics to something entirely different if we want to reform American society.

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Steve LaBonne 09.29.12 at 6:50 pm

You have to be pretty fucking privileged not to realize that the game can still get quite a lot more lost for a lot of people than it already is. And that in a nutshell is why the left has so little influence. People like mclaren remind me of the socialists derided by Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier.

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William Timberman 09.29.12 at 6:53 pm

BW, I do hope it’s only this thread that you’re bailing on. Otherwise, I’m gonna miss you the way I missed billmon (May the gods be kind, and see to it that his recent resurrection not be one of those three-days-and-then-the-ascension thingies.)

Panicking about the long-term is an awful temptation, but since I’m not gonna be around for the long-term, since I don’t believe that the Masters of the Universe have a genuine clue about what to do next, and since Change You Can Believe In tends to sneak up on far smarter people than those who snigger while they’re coming up with Obama bumper stickers, I’m not gonna panic. I’m gonna do whatever the spirit moves me to do, which for the moment is to tip my hat to you.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 7:03 pm

Bruce Wilder seems to me to make a variety of cogent points which devastate the pro-Obama assertions.
First, Bruce brings up the likelihood that Obama is a case of a good cop being offered to us as a faux choice to the Republican bad cop. Daryl McCullough angrily rejects this possibility as “pure tinfoil hat crap,” without providing any further evidence. This is argument by mere assertion.
As evidence, we can cite the radical change in the list of Obama’s donors from 2008 to 2012. Obama got most of his campaign money from individuals in 2008: today, in 2012, he’s getting most of his campaign money from the same corporate kleptocrats who fund Romney.
Another piece of evidence is that Obama has consistently done a bait-and-switch on every one of his major policies. Obama ran against Hillary by enthusing about the public option and ridiculing the mandate in health care; then as soon as he got into office, Obama announced that the public option was off the table and he adopted the mandate pre-emptively. Obama ran by proposing to shut down Guantanamo and end the military commission kangaroo court trials that were so rigged Bush’s head army proescutor at Gitmo resigned in protests as the injustice; then as soon as he got into power, Obama refused to close Gitmo my executive order (even though he could easily do so with a stroke of his pen). Obama ran by criticizing the lawless unconstitutionality of the Bush renegades; then as oon as he got into office, Obama signed off on the NDAA instead of vetoing it and he ordered the murder of U.S. citizens without even accusing ‘em of a crime and he even made speeches in which he tried to propose a revival of extraordinary rendition now renamed “preventive detention.” (An atrocity so savagely assaulted by highly visible liberals like Rachel Maddow that Obama found himself forced to retreat from that particular french kiss of the Bush adminstration’s bunghole.)
What does this pattern of behavior portend?
Is this a Democrat who is sincerely trying to oppose the Republican agenda? Or is it the bait-and-switch dance of a political point guard who fakes left, then moves right?

Even more crucially, Bruce Wilder points out that Democrats are behaving the way Democritus described barbarians in the boxing ring: “When you punch at their chin, they hold their hands near their chin, forgetting their stomachs; and when you punch at their stomachs, they hold their downs down at their gut, forgetting their chin.” (Or words to that effect; this is from memory.)

Democrats are reacting to each Republican jab in the short term without thinking of the long game here. If we are survive as a society, we must restore income inequality and restore the rule of law — otherwise our future is like Brazil, a vast mass of favelas with a population beyond the rule of law living in the shadow of a population of the superwealthy in penthouses who kill them for sport, or hire their underage daughters as hookers.

You cannot restore income inequality to pre-Gilded-Age levels by re-electing a Democratic president who has already signed off on extending the Bush tax cuts. You cannot restore the rule of law by re-election a Democratic president who has ordered the murder of American citizens without accusing them of having a committed a crime.

Even more important, Obama’s failures which no one has talked about: Obama has done nothing about global warming. Obama hasn’t lifted a finger to force Detroit to radically re-engineer its cars as the price of their government bailout. Obama hasn’t done diddly squat to end the limitless expansion of the military-police-surveillance-torture state. Obama hasn’t done jack to end the proliferation of America’s endless unwinnable wars. Quite the contrary: Obama has embraced all these insane Republican policies, and extended them, making them worse.

Liberals must make it clear to prospective Democratic candidates that business as usual is not on. It will not do to tepidly embrace Republican policies of “drill, baby, drill!” and the neocon project of eternal war everywhere in the world forever. Liberals must make it unmistakably clear that if you want to run as a Democrat, you had god damn well better say you’re going to obey the constitution and then do it, once you’re in office. Running star chamber kangaroo courts and causally ordering the murder of your own citizens because it’s Tuesday (and for no other reason) will not get you the Democratic nomination. That’s how we change things. Not by voting for more torture, more endless unwinnable wars, not by voting to turn America into East Germany with much bigger rockets and a far more expensive army.

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Jake 09.29.12 at 7:11 pm

The crazy wing of the Republican party has successfully dragged their party to the right, so changing the direction of a political party is clearly possible. From reading the news, it looks like they did this by mounting primary challenges against moderate Republican candidates in districts where even a crazy Republican had a chance of winning.

It sounds like a plausible approach – affect the behavior of Democrats by voting in elections where there are no Republicans running – but maybe there’s a flaw that makes it less effective of a plan than just not voting for Obama in November.

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LFC 09.29.12 at 7:33 pm

W. Timberman @423
the phoniness of appealing to us to vote for Obama to save the children, the puppies, and the American Way of Life
None of the comments I’ve read on this thread has made this particular appeal.

At this point I forget exactly how the 60s and 70s came up, but since the Cold War is over it’s probably best, for purposes of what’s left of this thread, to carry on the debate about that period somewhere else. To answer your implied question, I am not quite old enough to have had to worry about the draft (was in high school in ’73 when direct US involvement in Vietnam ended), but I do recall the period fairly well. (Stronger memories of e.g. the ’72 campaign than ’68, though I have some of the latter.) We have somewhat (though not totally) different perspectives, which are mostly not due, I think, to different dates of birth.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 7:33 pm

Bruce Wilder also makes some predictions which seem entirely valid. In fact, we can test the credibility of his arguments by seeing whether his predictions come true after January 2013: I think most of them will come true, and very much sooner than anyone thinks.

Wilder writes: After the election, after Obama extends tax cuts for the rich once again, after Obama tries once again to cut Social Security, after Obama approves the Keystone pipeline and some other environment depredations, maybe after the economic crisis drags on and the demands of the big banks for free money balloon, after implementation of the ACA begins in earnest and the subsidies for the 60% prove inadequate to prevent net real income reductions, maybe after some military disaster . . . maybe, some day real soon now, you’ll begin to think about the long-term.

Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts is a given. That’s easy to predict, and a no-brainer. He’ll excuse it as a plot to get some meaningless concession from the R’s [fill in the blank: another 10 weeks of unemployment insurance, restoring food stamp cuts, whatever] but in the end, Obama believes deeply as Romney does in the insane policies of Andrew Carnegie during the Great Depression. (Look up Carnegie’s proposals for ending the Great Depression, which actually made it much worse. He proposed reducing the maximum tax rate form 70% to 24%. Exactly same as the Reagan/Bush 43 tax cuts and exactly the same long-debunked economically destructive policies embraced by Obama. It’s clear that Obama is an economic royalist who has fully embraced the neoliberal spontaneous equilibrium macroeconomics policies of the University of Chicago. Policies which, as Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out, are only making the current recession worse, and which economic facts since 2009 have decisively rebutted.)

Obama will not only try to cut social security and medicare, he’ll succeed, and very soon too. Obama’s cuts will occur when he embraced the sequestration cuts but signs off on emergency legislation to exempt the U.S. military from any cuts. This will have the effect of increasing American military spending while savagely cutting social security and medicare. Obama will blame congress, but of course he will be responsible because he refuses to veto the emergency legislation exempting the military from sequestration cuts. Incidentally, news stories about this bipartisan emergency legislation are already appearings, so this is a done deal. Obama will brutally slash both medicare and society security by maneuvering within the sequesteration legislation and accepting the emergency bill that makes U.S. military spending immune to those cuts.

Obama will of course approve the Keystone pipeline and fracking. That’s uncontroversial. He’s already said he’ll do it. Mountaintop removal continues under Obama. The destruction of entire communities with the toxic tailings of mountaintop removal accelerates as we speak. This isn’t even a prediction, it’s a fact, and it will continue.

The economic crisis will clearly continue, since Obama has embraced the foolish and long-debunked economic austerity policies which are now driving Europe into an even deeper recession and shrinking the GDPs of the nations employing those failed and disastrous policies.

The demands of banks for more cash will clearly intensify, since America’s financial system is at present insolvent. Moreover, Wall Street has not been reformed, so it’s only a matter of time before an even worse financial collapse requires an even bigger bailout than 2009. We even know the trigger for the next bubble and the next global financial collapse: high-frequency trading, a gigantic financial time bomb ready to explode.
The ACA will get fully implemented by 2014 and soon thereafter it will become clear that the ACA’s lack of cost controls haven’t stopped the death spiral of costlier medical procedures requiring endless health insurance premium hikes, which will lead to fewer able to pay those premiums, which will lead to a smaller insurance pool and higher premiums, until the entire medical-industrial complex in America collapses. The state exchanges won’t pick up the slack because they’ve already been swamped. States can’t afford the deluge of payouts for people with chronic illnesses and are already going brankrupt from medicaid payouts: this will only get worse as the co-pays and premiums mandated by ACA force more and more of the middle class out of private insurance and into medicaid and the state exchanges.
The ACA was in essence a scam by the medical-industrial complex, the last frantic resort of a dying monopolistic sclerotic industry whose business model had failed completely: they could foresee the insurance death spiral, so the U.S. medical-industrial complex (instead of reforming itself) threw a hail Mary pass and bribed politicians to force all the voters to put unaffordable private health insurance whose cost was guaranteed to rise endlessly and whose premiums were consequently guaranteed to increase without limit. This was not a solution, merely a means for the U.S. medical-industrial complex to kick he can down the road for a few more years so it can extract even more rents from an increasingly impovershed population. Like the other vampire squid, America’s financial Wall Street crime lords, America’s medical-industrial complex has clamped itself to the faces of American vogters and sucked their blood so aggressively for short term gain that it fails to realize the long term death knell its policies sound for its own survival as an industry.
It’s particularly hilarious to watch the Obots scream in outrage against Bruce Wilder for his alleged “moral cowardice” — these are the selfsame people who embrace the murder of children and Red Cross aid workers by drones, the same people who complacently acquiesce to the brutalization of homeless formerly middle-class citizens for daring to peacably assemble in public and dissent, the same people who smile rhapsodically when Obama signs on extending the Bush tax cuts for billionaires and gives the Wall Street crime lords a Get Out Of Jail Free pass. As Bill Clinton remarked at the Democratic National Convention, it takes a lot of brass to criticize someone else for what you’re doing.

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LFC 09.29.12 at 7:36 pm

mclaren:
Obama hasn’t lifted a finger to force Detroit to radically re-engineer its cars as the price of their government bailout.

Maybe not radical re-engineering, but fuel efficiency standards are set to double by the middle of next decade.

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LFC 09.29.12 at 7:38 pm

Obama will of course approve the Keystone pipeline … He’s already said he’ll do it.

I must have missed that.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 7:43 pm

LFC asserts that “none of the comments I’ve read on this particular thread make that claim” (to wit, that we must vote for Obama “to save the children, the puppies, and the American Way of Life.”

Reading comprension, LFC.

It matters.

4 comments before LFC makes his counterfactual claim, Steve LaBonne makes exactly the assertion LFC tells us no one has made on this forum:

You have to be pretty fucking privileged not to realize that the game can still get quite a lot more lost for a lot of people than it already is.

Whom do you think Steve is talking about here?

Three guesses. Stats show that single mothers with children are the most impoverished group in America. Steve is telling us precisely that we must vote for Obama to save the children (granted he makes no mention of puppies, but that was a rhetorical flourish, I think we’ll all agree) and implicitly Steve and many others certainly are shrieking at us in tone of punitive hysteria that if we let Romney become president, we’re doomed, doomed, it’s all over, lava and brimstone, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria.

We just keep getting that last reel of the first Ghostbusters film over and over again from the Obots. Zuul is going to eat our souls if we don’t vote for Obama. The Stay-Puft Marshallow Man will destroy us.

The Obots have gone to the well once too many on this one. Not buying it.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.29.12 at 7:43 pm

The crazy wing of the Republican party has successfully dragged their party to the right, so changing the direction of a political party is clearly possible. From reading the news, it looks like they did this by mounting primary challenges against moderate Republican candidates in districts where even a crazy Republican had a chance of winning.
this. I think the power and ruthlessness of the Republican party is widely overstated by many people on the left, including in this thread (if you look at actual successes, Republicans have been very successful where they have unified corporate power on their side and not all that successful otherwise), but if we look at how the Republican fringes scare their politicians it’s through primaries, not in the general election. All the loonie right-wingers who care a modicum about politics voted McCain and will vote Romney, many of them holding their noses. But they scared Romney and McCain enough to get them to run much further to the right than their prior history suggests they’d have been naturally inclined to and probably further to the right than short term electoral success would have suggested.

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Substance McGravitas 09.29.12 at 7:54 pm

Whom do you think Steve is talking about here?

If you’re all hand-wringy about complicity your hand-wringiness is awfully selective. Chances are your vote means nothing so I don’t hold you to it, but if it’s a bigger deal to you then, uh, why isn’t it a bigger deal to you?

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peggy 09.29.12 at 7:58 pm

McLaren
I am so totally in favor of “mass general strikes, civil disobedience on an epochal scale” but,— show me the numbers. During the 60′s we called a student strike pretty often- but nobody came. OWS is the only mass movement of civil disobedience I’ve seen in 20 years and they’ve fizzled. Iraq and Iran motivated only tiny protest marches with a disturbing large number of familiar middle aged participants. Underpants gnome non-voting will disappear into general apathy and Republican ID requirements.

Wisconsin was a mass movement which lost its election and was only one out of fifty. To assume that such a lucky happenstance will always pop up and be more appealing than a revival of the KKK is foolish.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 8:11 pm

Substance McGravitas offers: If you’re all hand-wringy about complicity your hand-wringiness is awfully selective. Chances are your vote means nothing so I don’t hold you to it, but if it’s a bigger deal to you then, uh, why isn’t it a bigger deal to you?

Because I’m thinking of the big picture and the long term. Why aren’t you?

Peggy writes: I am so totally in favor of “mass general strikes, civil disobedience on an epochal scale” but,— show me the numbers.

Here’s a number: Mao lost 90% of his army in the Long March. He still won in the end.
Persistence, Peggy. History belongs to those who persevere. You may have called student strikes in the 60s and no one showed up — then, when someone else called another strike, only a few people showed up. And then a few more. It adds up.

One of MLK’s voting rights marchers said something striking. She mentioned that her father urged her not to go down south and march with Martin Luther King for voting rights because “They’ll kill you!” She replied to her father: “Then someone else will take my place.”

Develop that mindset, and you become undefeatable.

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Daryl McCullough 09.29.12 at 8:20 pm

I don’t need another 5000 word essay about how evil Democrats are. Please don’t print another thousand words along those lines. My question is: What is the strategy for making things better?

Short term, it seems to me that getting Democrats elected is the best approach. Longer term, we can use primaries to try to replace bad candidates by better candidates. We can work toward electoral reform (maybe changing to instant runoff or something better, like Condorcet or approval voting), to make it easier to vote for your ideal candidate without worrying about throwing the election to the worst candidate. We can hold rallies and protests and letter-writing campaigns. We can have a general strike. I don’t know. There’s lots of things that we can do longer term. I’m not sure if any of them will be effective.

We just keep getting that last reel of the first Ghostbusters film over and over again from the Obots. Zuul is going to eat our souls if we don’t vote for Obama. The Stay-Puft Marshallow Man will destroy us.

You can certainly write endless amounts of nonsense without breaking a sweat. The only thing that I have said is that almost certainly the next four years will be worse if Republicans are in power than if Democrats are in power. That’s not the difference between paradise and hell, but it’s something. If you want to sacrifice a small good in exchange for a greater good, fine–tell me what that greater good is, and how making the next 4 years worse helps it along.

If people are saying that a certain strategy will bring about a better world in the long run, but we have to make short term sacrifice, great. I want to hear about it. If people are saying that we’re screwed anyway, and the most important thing as this point is to make sure that we have clean consciences, you can count me out. I care about real-world consequences, but I don’t care about your conscience. If you think voting for the lesser evil is itself evil–I really don’t care about your moralizing, if it doesn’t actually help make the world better. And I don’t see how it does.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 8:36 pm

The vanguard without followers continues to yell. In fact, there is only one national political movement for social justice with a mass following right now – the Obama campaign.

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LFC 09.29.12 at 8:41 pm

I agree with Steve LaBonne @435.

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mclaren 09.29.12 at 8:41 pm

Having abandoned pretense that their hollow clay-footed idol Obama is anything but a good cop to Romney’s bad cop, Obots like David McCullough now request a specific strategy for making things better.

Funny. We all thought voting for Obama was supposed to do that.

But all righty, then! Now that you admit voting for Obama won’t make things better and you want some real suggestions for fixing a broken America, here goes:

1) Organize at the grassroots level to find and promote and fund-raise for and elect genuinely liberal candidates. Extreme liberal candidates. Ideally we need a few genuine leftists: people who run on platforms like confiscating the assets of everyone with more than, say, 10 million dollars and imposing a national guaranteed minimum income and a universal income cap, someone who proposes to abolish money and replace it with whuffie, someone who advocates nationalizing all banks and turning ‘em into non-profit credit unions, someone who advocates nationalizing all big pharma companies and letting the government develop drugs at zero profit, someone who proposes outlawing the AMA for restraint of trade and opening up medical schools to unlimited admissions, and so on.
Then once you’ve got some people like that running for office, real far leftists who rail against private property and want to shut down the Pentagon, you run the rest of your liberal candidates as opposition candidates who are sensible — “we only want to triple the minimum wage and reduce Pentagon spending by 80% and tax the highest incomes at 90%, we’re not the crazies who want an income cap! Vote for us as the centrist alternative!”
Obama’s grassroots e-campaign offers a good model. Make sure you choose a candidate who isn’t a bait-and-switch, though.
This won’t work by itself, so you need a massive grassroots civil disobedience campaign. All people will student loans need to burn their social security cards in public. Organize a volunteer organization that will feed and house everyone with unrepayable college debt in return for hours work for the nonprofit collective in their specialty. You’ll see mass panic when millions of kids drop out and start living in non-profit collectives after they renounce their unrepayable college debt. Organize mass campaigns to induce people to pull their money from banks and put it into credit unions. Block the halls of congress, block the access to banks, block the entrances to the Pentagon. When the jail fill up, they’ll put the protesters in stadiums, so start blocking the entrances to the stadiums. You’ll see mass panic.
Bit by bit, people in Washington will start talking about how “insane” and how “dangerous” and how “extreme” these protesters are and how they’re terrorists. That’s when you start putting up YouTube interviews showing they’re John Q. Public, your neighbor.
Then the Washington elite will order the shootings and the beatings and the tasings to clear the halls of congress. That’s when you put up the YouTube clips showing grannies getting beaten and toddlers getting tased.
Then the Washington elite will start to admit that there might be something to the demands of the protesters, though they’re wildly unreasonable and totally unrealistic. Now you start the hard push and get some of your liberal candidates elected and they start shutting things down from the inside. Massive filibusters against defense authorization bills until congress agrees to their demands to jail the Wall Street criminals.
As the hysteria and outrage gets more extreme, the security forces will overplay their hand. The spectacle of heavily armored gooned beating to death children and grannies will sicken even the most extreme conservatives. Soon the hue and cry for compromise with the extremists who demand a return to the rule of law “and other wildly unrealistic fringe lunatic demands” will grow to the point where the Washington pols can’t resist it.
So they’ll start to compromise. Then you increase your demands. You elect more liiberal candidates, they make even more extreme demands — no amnesty for torturers, full guaranteed minimum income. The Washington elite won’t grant these demands but they’ll cave a little more.
Eventually, you elect a genuinely liberal president. Now he shuts down the NDAA using a signing statement. He unilaterally shuts Gitmo and when congress refuses to pass funding, he sequesters the funds by taking them from this month’s allotment for our latest endless unwinnable war. This genuinely liberal president orders the DOJ to put the lowest priority on drug enforcement and the highest priority on wall street crimes and corporate crime. He re-tasks the DEA by executive order to go after billionaires guilty of tax evasion. He orders demobilization of our latest endless unwinnable war and places his key friends at crucial places in the Pentagon bureaucracy so when the Pentagon colonels in the E-Ring try to subvert his direct presidential orders (as Petraeus did to Obama) he finds out in advance and court martials ‘em as an example.
By executive order he restores the Fairness Doctine and shuts down Faux News and talk radio. The Republicans try to impeach him, so he goes on TV to the nation and lays out his plans for increasing the minimum wage and ending the endless wars and tells the audience “It’s up to you. If you want more of the same, don’t call your representative. If you want real change, phone congress and tell them to back off.”
Eventually you get actual meaningful change.
But you need a pincer movement where genuine extreme leftists who advocate the abolition of private property serve as a foil to the moderate lefists who merely want the public option and a guaranteed minimum income. You’re not going to get there by voting for Far Right Fringe lunatic Right Lite candidates like Barack Obama.

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GiT 09.29.12 at 8:50 pm

Hey look, Mclaren’s plans are… completely consonant with the position of all the so-called Obots, except for the single issue of voting Obama in swing states. One might suppose, then, that Mclaren is a borderline psychotic engaged in an endless tirade against his own delusions.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 8:53 pm

Eh. If you want me to keep up, give me something worth jogging along for, and give me some evidence I won’t have to put up with more of your shit.

But if enough people don’t vote or waste their votes (in crucial states at least), why yes, Romney DOES fucking win.

This is one of those true statements that you’re using to imply therefore stop even talking about the downsides of voting for Democrats on these grounds, or else I will consider it morally imperative to step into the conversation and yell at you about it until you shut up. That’s the implication that doesn’t follow.

You know when someone is bullying on the Internet? Want a good sign? Here is bullying:

But if enough people don’t vote or waste their votes (in crucial states at least), why yes, Romney DOES fucking win. Many many words from the holier-than-thou crowd, but so much equivocation and denial on this rather important point. Would that be an acceptable outcome to you, or wouldn’t it?

Gonna say Uncle, or do I have to rub your nose in my armpit some more?

You fucking know full fucking well that we’re fucking horrified by the prospect of a Romney presidency, and you fucking know full fucking well we wouldn’t want to see that happen, and you fucking know full fucking well we wouldn’t want to cause that to happen, and you fucking know full fucking well we’re avoiding engaging in any actions or behavior that we believe actually could throw the election closer to Romney (this is a very small set of things to avoid).

You already know how we feel. All you’re trying to do is get us to cry uncle. Some of us visited this thread for a discussion of the Democratic party’s learned helplessness, and how lesser-evil voting might exacerbate that problem over time. You stepped in to stop that.

Whether the Democratic party stands to ever improve, when massively voted for on lesser-evil grounds, is worth discussion. It’s not just a question of personal morality, it’s a question about social systems and how they evolve. We can all rest assured nothing we say here is going to convince a bunch of Obama supporters to sit out the election. This discussion, if you allow it to continue without bullying people out of it, will not improve Romney’s chances of election to the presidency. So you can’t use a hypothetical change in Romney’s chances of election to the presidency as a justification for why it’s morally imperative for you to step in and bully us talking about the negative.

We’re talking about a tremendous sea change in public opinion that, even if we conjecture it’s plausible that it will happen, would have to happen over months or years. There’s just not going to be some coalition of voters we’ve convinced to stay home without a hell of a lot of time for the parties to receive. That’s literally not going to happen–didn’t even happen in 2000 with Nader voters, whose percentage of the voting population was stable many months in advance. Whatever nontrivial convincing we accomplish will show up in poll data and politicians will have plenty of time to acknowledge and react to this change.

You know this. You know none of us are doing anything here to risk Obama losing to Romney. You’ve said as much. You know none of us would cheer if something did happen to cause that. But you’re constructing an absurd hypothetical in which our actions here do risk Obama losing to Romney, and then attacking us for that hypothetical outcome.

Please. Take a moment and think about why you feel compelled to do that.

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reason 09.29.12 at 9:01 pm

McClaren,
or you change to an Australian voting system of single transferable vote and compulsory voting, BOTH of which help the elected parliament to more closely reflect the population at large. (Or you could achieve the same effect by randomly appointing representatives – but that might be regarded as too radical and has some odd side-effects). Of course that doesn’t help much if the population at large is nuts, but it still better than the disfunctional democracy the US currently has, where people are elected as the worse of two evils, but policy is mostly dictated not by the wishes of the voters, but by the wishes of the contributers of electoral funds.

But even proportional systems are better, as long as the hurdle to acchieve representation is not so low that real nutters end up with the balance of power.

The great problem in the US is that a third party has no chance to grow, because voting for a third party is exactly equivalent to not voting at all. It doesn’t sway the election in the direction you vote, it sways it in the opposite direction. The way to reform the democrats is if they see the danger of a party to their left growing to eventually become a dominant force in a left-centre coalition. Otherwise logic dictates they should position themselves slightly but distinctly to the left of the republicans, who keep verging further to the right.

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Salient 09.29.12 at 9:01 pm

Not to mention, do you remember in 2010 when you bullied me into answering your question and I played along and said uncle and gave you a clear and explicit answer that you accepted with gratitude? If that’s been forgotten, why should I answer it again in 2012? How frequently do you need for all of us to answer, in order to let, say, four CT discussion threads a year be threadjack-free? We could probably get an online petition going so you could check everyone’s answer to the question in one convenient place without clogging up CT.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.29.12 at 10:02 pm

Yes, the US-style winner takes all two-party system facilitates this sort of blackmail, and this sort of campaigning, campaigning by demonizing the other party. In a good system with proportional representation you could vote for whichever party you choose, and they would likely be in the government. Your vote is never, or almost never wasted. With this system, if you live, say, in Georgia, your vote is always wasted; you’re not represented. Voter turnout in Sweden is always over 80%; and in the US it’s about 50 in presidential election years, and below 40 in between. It’s just not working. 38% turnout in 2010, with means that this congress was elected by 20% of the population.

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MPAVictoria 09.29.12 at 10:42 pm

Okay would anyone be willing to raise their hand and admit that they are actually reading the thousand word, poorly punctuated screeds that mclaren is writing? Because I checked out of his crap a bout 200 posts ago. Get your own blog.

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mattski 09.29.12 at 10:43 pm

I agree with Steve LaBonne @435.

So do I.

And, Salient, you’ve lost both your composure and your good sense. For the time being anyway. Maclaren… Less said the better.

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rf 09.29.12 at 10:52 pm

Rootless-e 329 “How many Reagan era high officials went to jail for murdering people in Central America?”

Bad Jim 395 “We wouldn’t have invaded Iraq had Gore been president. Humphrey would have gotten us out of Vietnam earlier than Nixon. Would we have been arming death squads in Central America had Carter or Mondale won their elections? Maybe, maybe not. The only thing you can depend on is that electing Republicans always makes things worse.”

Was this not F-Dorf’s point though, the left only caring about FP during Republican admins? Genuinely, is this not just using the deaths of innocents for political purposes?

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 11:00 pm

rf 09.29.12 at 10:52 pm

That was his point, but it’s still false. If I say, bone cancer is worse than breaking a leg, it’s very odd to then claim I have no objection to breaking a leg.

My failure to accept Connor F.s FP analysis does not mean I approve of US foreign policy anywhere.

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bob mcmanus 09.29.12 at 11:00 pm

Here is the way I think an honest center-left politics should work: an Obama voter spends all her time energy and bandwidth criticizing Obama from his left, and spends absolutely zero time engaging the likes of Conor Freikorps or whoever it was. The Right should be way outside the Overton window. It is not necessary, it is never necessary to defend Obama and Democrats from their enemies on the Right. They have hundreds of millions of dollars and very powerful people with media access we can’t even dream of to handle that.

I don’t care what Romney says or does, I don’t care about Ryan’s stupidities, I don’t care and McConnell. I wish they didn’t exist and I will pretend they don’t.

Now why the hell does someone who says they are to the left of Obama engage and argue with evil crazy scum? Tribalism is fun? By me, but I do know by positioning themselves between Obama and his conservative enemies, they are helping to determine the boundaries of the discourse, and I presume they like hanging around in that space.

And I do not and never will trust them to move the Democratic Party to the left. I don’t really believe they want to.

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bob mcmanus 09.29.12 at 11:04 pm

By saying Obama’s bank regulations are too friendly to bankers, you are absolutely saying everything that needs to said about the Republican Party’s bank regulations.

Nothing, because they don’t deserve any attention.

But that is absolutely not what Obama voters have done for the last four years.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 11:13 pm

Here is the way I think an honest center-left politics should work: an Obama voter spends all her time energy and bandwidth criticizing Obama from his left, and spends absolutely zero time engaging the likes of Conor Freikorps or whoever it was.

Well thanks for the tactical orders. Because attacking Obama “from the left” is sure to be both easier and more effective than actually organizing people and persuading them of a need to take action for a juster world.

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rf 09.29.12 at 11:21 pm

rootless

But you’re very selective on which parts are worth remembering.
Would it be fair to state that Obama officials, to use your word, are murdering people in the drone war? (Or is murder only something Rep admins carry out?) And this idea that Iraq 2003 exists in isolation, not the context of a post cold war ideology that encouarged military intervention and an Iraq, at the end of a Dem admin, that was the victim of a policy of sanctions and bombings, which could not be sustained. (Morally or probably politically)
It appears that foreign policy abuses are either an evil that Republicans carry out, or the result of a system beyond Dem control. That might be the problem, the left believe they’re to good and their opponents to evil

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Antoni Jaume 09.29.12 at 11:28 pm

rootless_e 09.29.12 at 11:00 pm

« rf 09.29.12 at 10:52 pm

That was his point, but it’s still false. If I say, bone cancer is worse than breaking a leg, it’s very odd to then claim I have no objection to breaking a leg. »

Of course. One can imagine to be on a platform at 7m over the ground without any other way to get down beyond jumping, and having there a gamma rays radioactive source that will induce such a cancer if one remains there.

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rootless_e 09.29.12 at 11:45 pm

rf 09.29.12 at 11:21 pm

I think both Democrats and Republicans operate within the constraints of empire in ways that are often unjust or even criminal. Currently, Republicans are in the grips of reckless and cruel people who magnify the damage – enormously. This administration has been far far better than the Bush administration, but I never expected it to abandon empire and become pacifist or isolationist. Certainly Obama never suggested he would do such a thing or would the public have stood for it. As long as the US depends on ME oil and remains the great power, it will murder people in the cause of protecting oil supplies – no matter who is in charge. However, to naive obots like me, there is a significant difference between a small number of drone attacks and the massive destruction of Bush’s shock and awe, or Romney’s hopes of both reinstating torture as a policy and attacking Iran. States are inherently amoral, at best, and way too often immoral. I don’t see what virtue there is in pretending to be shocked, like Friedsdorf, that 50 years after installing the Shah of Iran into power, the US is engaged in brutal activities in the middle east. In fact, I find his pretend shock to be grossly disingenuous and repellent.

Furthermore, if you want to morally oppose US policy in the Middle East, you owe an explanation of what the alternative policy should be. For me, some is easy: we should engage in a massive program of energy conservation, green energy development, and R&D, so that the fate of the US economy can be disengaged from the fate of the Saudi monarchy. I’m sure Friedsdorf opposes such a policy, because, in the end, he really does not give a damn about his fake principles. But I also do not have simple solutions. 100 years of imperial meddling in the Middle East has created a huge mess in which all actions or inactions are going to cause innocent people do die. For example, I am a strong opponent of the US war in Afghanistan, but do not have any illusions about what our departure will mean for weaker ethnic minorities, secularists, and women.

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rf 09.29.12 at 11:53 pm

Okay, and I accept that as a nuanced and consistent perspective. (Although I disagree on F-Dorf) I’m not sure I see that realism and consistency in left rhetoric normally, especially when the opposition are in power, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

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LFC 09.30.12 at 12:40 am

I also think Ben Alpers said some good things way upthread @28, 51, etc.

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Steve LaBonne 09.30.12 at 12:45 am

Murder is something that occurs in EVERY war. Drone warfare is quite problematic because it threatens to make war too cost-free for the population of the empire, but there’s nothing uniquely evil about it, whatsoever, compared to any other mode of warfare.

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faustusnotes 09.30.12 at 12:58 am

Henry, Chris B, Salient: maybe the reason people didn’t bother engaging with this post at the intellectual level you demand is because it is, in many substantial points, wrong? And when commenters popped up to make that point, dsquared ignored them?

cf John Quiggin’s posts, which can sometimes start out egregiously wrong, or people think they are, and he seems to be able to find time to defend them in comments (I see this a lot on his posts about war). He even hangs around long enough to clarify things or explain nuance. Not so dsquared or Tedra, whose posts attract a lot of quite straightforward corrections. In this case it is being pointed out by Americans that dsquared doesn’t understand American politics, reasons are being given, but he isn’t bothering to defend them.

This creates a bad atmosphere, it’s part of the reason the comment thread has gone to hell; it also isn’t beneficial for non-commenting readers, since they see a whole bunch of factoids being contested and don’t see a response from the person whose post they, presumably, came here to read.

Also I’ll note that some time back people started using offensive language like “Obots,” which is straight out right-wing hipster-punching, but because no one from the CT crew is even bothering to look in on the moshpit, it’s getting more and more heated.

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mclaren 09.30.12 at 1:13 am

GiT has now descended to the “mental illness” smear. Suggesting that voting for Obama is shameful and immoral is now a sign that I am “borderline psychotic.”

This proves as predictable as it is tiresome, given the Rovian/Sen. Joe McCarthy tenor of the incredibly weak tactics used by the Obots in their failed and futile effort to defend Obama’s indefensible bait-and-switch betrayals.

Less predictable — baffling, in fact — is the Obots’ failure to trot out that reliable old warhouse, the race card.

Will no one stoop to calling me a closet Klansman for refusing to vote for Obama?

Is there no one among you who will let your inner McCarthy out to play? C’mon. You know you want to…just lean over that keyboard and type something like “The n***er-hater mclaren tries and fails to cloaks his transparent lynch mob anti-black frenzy behind a phony mask of liberal pique” and so forth. This stuff is boilerplate. You can churn it out in your sleep. All you have to do is describe the murder of U.S. citizens by a sitting American president without charges or a trial as “wishing for a magic purity pony” and signing off on more Bush tax cuts for billionaires as “the noble realistic responsible thing for a sitting liberal president to do in the real world.” If you like, you can throw in some praise for Joe McCarthy as a “true American hero” and Pol Pot as a “hard-headed realistic politician we should all admire” along the way.

I’ve been accused of moral depravity for refusing to vote for a man who murders children and Red Cross workers; I’ve been accused of being borderline psychotic because I won’t enable an administration that has betrayed its base on essentially every important issue it campaigned on (other than gay rights and women’s reproductive rights — two significant but non-monetary issues which, uniquely among all the issues Obama campaigned on, do not endanger the lucre of the top 1%). Won’t someone step in and call me a modern-day Senator Bilbo to complete the trifecta and show us once and for all the complete intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Obama’s defenders?

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rf 09.30.12 at 1:29 am

“but there’s nothing uniquely evil about it, whatsoever, compared to any other mode of warfare”

Perhaps there’s not anything uniquely evil about it, but a lot of the disagreement seems to be coming from a difference in how ‘problematic’ it is. Not only in its own right in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan etc, but in the myth that surrounds it’s necessity and that feeds policies and rhetoric domestically that overwhelmingly affect one demographic.

One thing that’s been quite obvious throughout the ‘debate’ is that for a group that polices language very carefully, (and that’s not something I’m used to), there has not been close to the same opposition to caricaturing and lazy thinking when the subject is some foreign group. (This is more the case in other places than here) The fact that the primary issue raised by the article, the actual reality of the WOT, has also been the one most ignored, should give a lot of people who speak about privilege pause.

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mclaren 09.30.12 at 1:41 am

rf remarks: But you’re very selective on which parts are worth remembering.
Would it be fair to state that Obama officials, to use your word, are murdering people in the drone war?

This hugely understates the atrocities Obama is perpetrating. Every morning Obama sifts through pictures of noncombatant young boys and girls under the age of 18 and decides which ones to murder (with drone strikes).

“This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.”

Source: “Secret `Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012.

When I was growing up, if somebody sifted through pictures of young girls to decide which ones to murder, we called the FBI on him and tracked him down and arrested him and tried him and sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Now, apparently, we re-elect such people to the Oval office.

Then Obama sends the drones back after the initial strike that blew up a wedding party, to murder the Red Cross aid workers who are trying to help the mutilated screaming survivors who writhe on the ground in agony because that 12-year-old boy’s arm and both his legs have been blown off and that grandmother’s belly has been ripped open and her intestines are now trailing across 50-feet of shrapnel littered ground and that pregnant young bride has had her face shredded to hamburger and she’s trying to crawl across the bomb crater to her dead groom but she can’t because there’s no skin left on her hands.

See “U.S. drones targeting rescuers and mourners,” Glenn Greenwald, 5 February 2005.

Also see “Drone strikes: civilian casualties much higher than claimed,” 23 August 2012.

Targeting rescue aid workers for military fire is a direct violation of the first Geneva convention and a clear war crime.

” In 2010, the ACLU sued to prevent Anwar al-Awlaki from being killed. The lawsuit was dismissed by United States District Court Judge John Bates, partially on the grounds that the targeting of suspected terrorists was a “political question” that was inappropriate for a court to evaluate. “

Source: “ACLU to Obama: You Can’t Just Vaporize Americans Without Judicial Process,” Mother Jones 18 July 2012.

This is a clear and blatant violation of Marbury v Madison, 5 U.S. 137. Permit me to cite from the decision in that 1803 case, which has aptly been called the single most important case ever brought before the Supreme Court because it established the principle of judicial review over the executive branch:

In the third volume of his Commentaries, page 23, Blackstone states two cases in which a remedy is afforded by mere operation of law.

“In all other cases,” he says,

it is a general and indisputable rule that where there is a legal right, there is also a legal remedy by suit or action at law whenever that right is invaded.

And afterwards, page 109 of the same volume, he says,

I am next to consider such injuries as are cognizable by the Courts of common law. And herein I shall for the present only remark that all possible injuries whatsoever that did not fall within the exclusive cognizance of either the ecclesiastical, military, or maritime tribunals are, for that very reason, within the cognizance of the common law courts of justice, for it is a settled and invariable principle in the laws of England that every right, when withheld, must have a remedy, and every injury its proper redress.

The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.

Murdering young girls? Targeting Red Cross aid workers who are trying to rescue the wounded? Targeting wedding parties? Arguing against judicial review of the executive branch? Asserting that the president is not bound for amendment 5 of the constitution, which requires

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

This is not war. This barbarism. This is a descent into the pit.

These are the kind of acts for which Germans were sentenced to death at Nuremberg.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 2:31 am

What’s shameful, immoral, and delusional, is projecting arguments on to people they don’t make, over and over again, ad nauseum, and continuing to act as if they are making arguments they aren’t making, while they continue to not make the arguments you attribute to them.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 2:44 am

But if there’s a more accurate description of 11k+ words written against arguments no one other than yourself is presenting, well, let me know what it is.

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faustusnotes 09.30.12 at 3:01 am

mclaren, if you don’t want people trotting out the mental illness smear, don’t refer to them as “obots,” which is an offensive right-wing trope. If you really must engage in hipster-punching, you’ll find yourself in better company at the NRO.

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Alan 09.30.12 at 3:31 am

As I urged elsewhere, even if one thinks that our poor present and future offerings of candidates only is a function of when our American experiment is ultimately doomed, and given the history of the world that is rational, then the question of any given election in our time prior to that expiration date is “what is our least worst death?” And that (cf. Prof Battin) is a function of utilitarian calculation. Can any present argument at a time prior to our expiration date reasonably supersede those points? What is it about votes now (that express perhaps some legitimate moral outrage) that outweighs these considerations? I fail to see it except for self-justified perspectives that hold long-range utilitarian considerations suspect. Yet, I for one cannot see how such time- and situation-indexed moral arguments trump those. And given the reasonably horrendous long-range impact of Mitt’s (Ryan’s) economic, social (Supreme Court appointments?), and foreign policy (Bomb, Bomb, Bomb–Bomb, Bomb Iran), how can we not vote for the drone-using, Guantanamo-approving Obama given that we will postpone our expiration date by doing so? Basic issue: are votes at a given time prior to a rationally projected destruction of a society properly utilitarian or not? I choose Obama all the way. Non-utilitarian considerations are self-interestedly bogus, at least so I’d say.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.30.12 at 3:59 am

You fucking know full fucking well that we’re fucking horrified by the prospect of a Romney presidency, and you fucking know full fucking well we wouldn’t want to see that happen, and you fucking know full fucking well we wouldn’t want to cause that to happen, and you fucking know full fucking well we’re avoiding engaging in any actions or behavior that we believe actually could throw the election closer to Romney (this is a very small set of things to avoid).

to be honest, I find that puzzling. I don’t know that full well – I mean, I know that about you now, but from what I have read, it doesn’t seem clear to me that mclaren e.g. shares that opinion. (If I understand her/his longterm theory of politics correctly, electing a democrat moves the political to the right, so if anything getting Romney would be preferable).

But as long as you say that “we’re avoiding engaging in any actions or behavior that we believe actually could throw the election closer to Romney” , to be honest, I have no idea what the argument is about.
I mean – how is that different from the statement of someone from team “lesser” that “in a situation where your vote has a plausible chance to make a difference, you should really vote Obama” – which is really the whole content of most ot what team “lesser” has argued here.

There may be some exceptions, such as rootless_e’s bizarre statement that
In fact, there is only one national political movement for social justice with a mass following right now – the Obama campaign.

but I don’t think anyone else on team “lesser” here has expressed any affinity to the position that Obama’s campaign is a “national political movement for social justice” (??? I’m not even sure whether rootless is being sarcastic here, maybe I’m just not getting it).

Is your position basically: Yes, it does matter whether Obama or Romney is president, but I’m so angry at Obama & the Democrats that I don’t want to say it? Because that’s kind of how the whole “saying uncle” thing sounds. If that’s the case, I for one am perfectly fine with that.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.30.12 at 4:07 am

Not so dsquared or Tedra, whose posts attract a lot of quite straightforward corrections. In this case it is being pointed out by Americans that dsquared doesn’t understand American politics, reasons are being given, but he isn’t bothering to defend them.
I don’t see this as a trend – and my experience with Tedra’s threads, though I don’t follow them all, has been different, but I very much agree that dsquared behavior in this thread has been particularly trollish.

Creating a fantasy world without recess appointments and nuclear option and then mocking people who tell you that you don’t seem to understand US politics without ever addressing these points – raised by at least half a dozen different posters – is trolling, yes.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 4:13 am

If you want to see a large number of working class Americans of all races engaged in the political process – there is little alternative to OFA. You can make the vanguardist argument that all those people are victims of false consciousness, suckers, lacking in proper theory, whatever – and then go back to your faculty meeting or your white man affinity group or some other remnant of the left wing movements of the past. But, you could also try an experiment and knock on some doors, meet your fellow citizens.

While “the left” has been writing articles about how nobody appreciates the articles they write, for 4 years, OFA has been training grass roots organizers.

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Anarcissie 09.30.12 at 4:17 am

Alan 09.30.12 at 3:31 am:
‘… Non-utilitarian considerations are self-interestedly bogus, at least so I’d say.’

Surely casting a single vote in an election where many millions of people are voting, and which therefore has a vanishingly small chance of affecting the outcome of the election, detectable only by mathematicians, cannot be considered materially utilitarian. At least not in any of the common senses of the word I’m aware of.

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Alan 09.30.12 at 4:44 am

Anarcissie:

Except the whole point of contemporary conservative PAC politics in the US is to minimize the effect of utilitarianism by demonizing it, and thus maximize minority capitalist interests frustrated by that part of the potential electorate. They get the fact that every vote counts. Utilitarians need to get that too. Abstract calculations of impact of one’s individual vote are just a distraction that are logically irrelevant to reasoning about the impact of the whole, on which the final reasoning of GGGN is based.

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js. 09.30.12 at 4:56 am

adam.smith @483:

I don’t mean to speak for Salient, but I’d say the point is exactly what Salient says two paragraphs after what you quoted. It’s about the clearest statement of what a lot of people—me included—have been saying, or wanting to say (I’d personally drop the “just” from the second sentence):

Whether the Democratic party stands to ever improve, when massively voted for on lesser-evil grounds, is worth discussion. It’s not just a question of personal morality, it’s a question about social systems and how they evolve.

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JW Mason 09.30.12 at 5:03 am

Is your position basically: Yes, it does matter whether Obama or Romney is president, but I’m so angry at Obama & the Democrats that I don’t want to say it?

What I *think* Salient, and Dsquared & Henry, are saying, and I know I am saying, is that people on the left should vote for Obama this year, but who also think that strategically withholding support from Democrats is a legitimate and sometimes necessary electoral option for leftists, so we see not voting for Obama as a mistaken judgement of a particular case and not a fundamental error of principle. As opposed to those who think that voting for the better candidate is the only legitimate choice in elections.

Another way: If people on the left do not vote for Obama, this increases the probability of a Romney victory by some amount, which is bad. On the other hand, if people on the left refuse to vote for Obama unless there is some improvement in policy, then Obama is more likely to make those improvements, which is good. So a pure consequentialist argument cannot stop with the fact that Obama is preferable to Romney, indisputable though that is.

This is a real tradeoff; it’s not stupid or vain or irrational to want to weigh the costs and the benefits on both sides. And it doesn’t matter for this question if the left is big or small, since that affects both the benefits and the costs of our choices proportionately.

And it’s not just in presidential elections. We’re constantly faced with something that will produce the better outcome under the existing structure, vs. choices that have worse outcomes but that you need to b able to threaten. I recently happened to catch part of the segment of “Eyes on the Prize” on Chicago. They play an interview with King where he’s asked about the riots. You expect him to say something about condemning violence, that rioting is wrong, etc. But he doesn’t, there’s not a word of criticism of the rioters. What he says is, This is exactly what the city should have expected — if you don’t allow nonviolent protest you are going to get violent protest. King understood that his position as a “responsible” leader was much stronger when there was a credible threat of irresponsible action, even though that action would leave everyone — especially the people involved — worse off.

Politics is full — life is full — of situations where actually acting on anger is bad, but never getting angry is bad too.

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Ed 09.30.12 at 5:23 am

I’ve noticed that one of the arguments from what I will call the “pro-Democratic party hack” position say that if people keep on voting for the Democrats, and they keep on winning elections, the Republicans will eventually go away. The counter-argument, from what I will call the “whiney hippie lunatic fringe” position** is that this is ridiculous, eventually the pendulum will swing, some Republican will win an election, and will do so after the Democrats have left or put the ratchet well to the right.

In defense of the pro-Democratic hacks, there have been electoral systems where the opposition party had just enough support to come in second, but were regarded by a majority of voters as so far beyond the pale on the key issues of the day that a majority just kept voting for the incumbent party, regardless of its actual record. The two most notable examples of this are probably Italy and Japan during the Cold War (Christian Democrats or Liberal Democrats vs. Communists/ Socialists). Another examples are the PRI vs. various forms of the PAN for eighty years after the Mexican Revolution. The minority white electorate in South Africa stuck with the Nationals as the only guarantee of ensuring whites monopolized the votes and other benefits of citizenship, up to the point where the Nationals themselves negotiated away the system.

Of course the problem with these electoral systems is that the ruling party inevitably becomes pretty deeply corrupt, as does the rest of the country’s society. Its not a good outcome, and the situation usually resolves itself with both major parties and the rest of the system collapsing after several wasted decades.

*I’m sorry, until they can come up with a better name for themselves it will have to do. The position as I understand it is that the Republicans are so horrible that every decent citizen has a moral duty to vote for whatever hack the Democrats throw up at election time, without looking too closely at that candidate, and also to advocate that others do the same.

**OK, this one is meant ironically.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:34 am

It’s so persuasive when one is called a hack by handwringing narcissists who are apparently unable to read.

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Jake 09.30.12 at 5:50 am

js @488

People keep saying this as if they have no say in who gets to represent the Democratic party in each congressional, senatorial, gubernatorial, or whatever race. I can understand why Daniel believes this because afaik in the UK the party leadership gets the final say on who the candidates are, but in the US we have primary elections. And these elections have a long history of being co-opted by highly dedicated minorities against the wishes of party leaders, at least on the Republican side.

It may be too late this time around, but if you want to stop the drone war you find three or four Democratic reps in safe districts who voted in favor of something vaguely drone-related, tell them that if they don’t change they are going to feel the wrath of right (left?) thinking people across the nation in their next primary, and follow through. Go from there. It’s more work than just staying home in November, but it might actually influence the behavior of elected officials.

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js. 09.30.12 at 5:52 am

It’s so persuasive when one is called a hack by handwringing narcissists who are apparently unable to read.

Just wondering whether you would consider backing up “handwringing narcissists” with something as banal as evidence. Like, say, quotes!

I mean I’m not Ed, who I think you’re responding to, and s/he can speak for her- or himself. But the relentless straw-burning has gotten beyond fuckin’ tiresome.

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js. 09.30.12 at 6:05 am

Jake @491:

Yes, thanks. Also, maybe some of us think that the “primary strategy”, let’s call it, is inadequate. Also, if several of us are wishing for a place to discuss this sort of question without instantly getting shot down or strawmanned, then maybe we’ve thought through the “primary strategy” already and thought it inadequate—because, just maybe, the answers are harder than you assume, and also just maybe, we’re not all idiots that rae considering this problem for the first time. Also, several of us have made abundantly clear that we will certainly or likely or maybe vote for Obama and other Democratic candidates in roughly a month’s, so again, do please try to have less fun with the straw, tempting as it is.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 6:27 am

“The position as I understand it is that the Republicans are so horrible that every decent citizen has a moral duty to vote for whatever hack the Democrats throw up at election time, without looking too closely at that candidate, and also to advocate that others do the same.”

Where has anyone here advocated something resembling this position? I’m pretty sure that what has actually been advocated by most amounts to this: in situations where vote suppression can affect the outcome of an election (where margins are sufficiently thin), one ought to do what one can to make sure a Republican presidential candidate loses to someone meaningfully to their left, i.e. vote Obama.

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Harold 09.30.12 at 6:36 am

These same people who exhort voters to vote “morally” — are quick to give politicians a a pass for disregarding morality in order to stay in power when politicians vote expediently for, say, the Iraq war, or for the Taft-Hartley act (http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0623.html) or for a law that authorizes the FBI to take away the passports of citizens suspected of being “subversive” and/or to round them up and put them in concentration camps without a trial.

The argument against a-moral “pragmatism” is that it is a slippery slope that inevitably leads to social breakdown and chaos.

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cripes 09.30.12 at 7:20 am

A similar debate has ensued @ common dreams and elsewhere over the Rebecca Solnit “article” (more like a petulant, arrogant rant demanding that everyone else SHUT UP and…follow her?).

McClaren, Mao and others have argued this well, so I’ll ask just one question: If we don’t question and confront the depredations of a rouge imperial regime, headed by Obama, now turning against it’s own people, as well as the rest owf the world, who will?

PS: If the Obamaists continue to reflexively defend the indefensible then, yeah, you fully deserve the sobriquet “Obots” regardless of its provenance.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 8:00 am

If casting a a vote and ‘confronting the depredations of a rogue imperial regime’ were the same thing, you might have a point. But they aren’t, so you don’t.

If anyone had ‘reflexively defended the indefensible’, then you might have point. But all that’s been defended is casting votes in marginal situations. So, again, no point to be had.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.12 at 9:32 am

“But all that’s been defended is casting votes in marginal situations.”

It’s always a marginal situation. That’s the model, the strategy both parties rely on: ‘if you don’t support us this time (never mind our minor imperfections), the other party is certain to turn the country into a dreadful fascist/communist dictatorship. That’s your only choice.’ If you’re willing to submit to the blackmail, you’re stuck with it. Forever.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 9:49 am

Actually, no, it’s not always a marginal situation. It’s currently a marginal situation in, say, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and a few other states, strictly on the issue of whether or not one votes for Obama, and whether or not one thinks they should recommend others, who are in that same specific situation, should vote for Obama. The situation is limited spatially (to swing states), substantively (to strictly the issue of how one votes and councils others similarly situated to vote and who are likely to vote qua voting), and temporally (to at most the couple months leading up to the presidential election in these swing states).

It’s not a marginal situation in most of the country at this time, and all of the country most of the time. In those situations, which are the usual and typical situations, one could not care less how you vote and council others to vote.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.12 at 10:16 am

True, casting your vote for Obama in Vermont is not critical (only because of the electoral college), but that’s a minor detail. If you follow the logic, even if you live in Vermont you must do everything you can to prevent armageddon: send money, work for the campaign, rally those living in battleground states to vote for Obama. Anything less, and you may be complicit in bringing about fascism, which is all but inevitable under Romney presidency.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 10:33 am

” If you follow the logic, even if you live in Vermont you must do everything you can to prevent armageddon: send money, work for the campaign, rally those living in battleground states to vote for Obama”

Following the same “logic” (let’s call it what it is, delusional hyperbole), if you’re opposed to voting for Obama in Ohio, you should be out engaged in armed insurrection against the US government as we speak.

Fortunately, there’s no reason to “reason” in this fashion, though it seems to be quite in vogue in these threads

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.12 at 10:44 am

Not necessarily armed insurrection, could be civil disobedience, a boycott, a number of things.

But how do you explain that for a person living in Ohio voting for Obama is a duty, yet a person in Vermont is free of any obligations? That doesn’t make sense to me, it can’t be true.

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rf 09.30.12 at 11:21 am

“Following the same “logic” (let’s call it what it is, delusional hyperbole), if you’re opposed to voting for Obama in Ohio, you should be out engaged in armed insurrection against the US government as we speak.”

You accuse someone of engaging in hyperbole and then go on to say the only rational alternative to voting for Obama in Ohio is to engage in armed insurrection, before even a full stop makes an appearance. Amazing

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GiT 09.30.12 at 11:22 am

And of course civil disobedience, boycotts, strike organization, &etc are not compatible with counseling voting for Obama.

How do I explain a vote mattering in Ohio but not in Vermont? Um, quite easily. In one place, a point or two swing changes the outcome of the election. In the other place, it doesn’t.

That you see this as logically incompatible and hence analytically invalid and therefore necessarily untrue, well, that says a lot more about you than it does about anything else.

Really, I’m not sure what the purpose of high handed language about “duty” and “obligation” is. These are “oughts of counsel”. Whatever “duty” or “obligation” they entail is remarkably weak. One may be subjected to being chided by someone else. The horror.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 11:26 am

RF- Try understanding what you read. Shall I slightly rewrite my sentence? Here:

“Following one’s hyperbolic delusions, if you’re opposed to voting for Obama in Ohio, you should be out engaged in armed insurrection against the US government as we speak.”

Get it now?

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rf 09.30.12 at 11:34 am

No I don’t se you’re point at all, though that’s probably due to a problem on my end

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ciaran 09.30.12 at 11:50 am

510

GiT 09.30.12 at 12:01 pm

Ok, the claim is that the chain of reasoning “these people are advocating voting for obama, therefore they must think that one needs to be deeply involved in a GOTV campaign in a battleground state, and fully invest themselves in party politics” is parallel to the chain of reasoning “these people are advocating not voting for Obama, therefore they must think that one needs to be an insurrectionary.”

Both chains are ridiculous and completely unserious. I was presenting my chain unseriously. Unfortunately, Mao, Mclaren, cripes, &etc seem to present the original chain completely seriously, over and over again.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 12:42 pm

Also, if several of us are wishing for a place to discuss this sort of question without instantly getting shot down or strawmanned, then maybe we’ve thought through the “primary strategy” already and thought it inadequate—because, just maybe, the answers are harder than you assume, and also just maybe, we’re not all idiots that rae considering this problem for the first time.
—-

Perhaps the best venue for discussing your well-thought out and realistic critiques of that approach is not a thread started by admiring the hypocritical moralizing of a libertarian championing the cause of a political candidate in favor of child labor and racial discrimination. Just a thought?

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 1:00 pm

For the record, I am not a “lesser-evilist” – a term as meaningless as it is awkward. Electoral politics in liberal democracies is inextricably about compromise and coalition, no matter how hard one stamps ones foot. There is an argument that its not worth it to play such a morally fraught game, but that argument is rarely raised seriously – and it has its own problems. Zizek’s challenge in his LRB note is generally evaded by leftists.
http://krebscycle.tumblr.com/post/14171228736/slavoj-zizek-for-the-win

So what should, say, the US Democrats do? Stop competing for state power and withdraw to the interstices of the state, leaving state power to the Republicans and start a campaign of anarchic resistance to it?

If you chose a political path that is merely ineffectual nostalgia for the general strike, you are not choosing a principled moral stand, you are choosing to try to absolve yourself of blame.

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Afu 09.30.12 at 2:55 pm

Y’all posting in a troll thread.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.30.12 at 3:49 pm

@js @JWMason
OK, so it’s about strategically withholding support.
I know JS writes above that we should just trust that you have thought through the primary vote option, but “trust me we got that covered” isn’t really an argument, is it? And it’s not like I’m doing the trollish “dig up some stats that I could google myself in 2mins” thing here. I genuinely cannot think of a plausible scenario where strategic non-voting in the general election can be effective where primary challenges cannot be at least as – and typically more – effective. The Romney campaign is a perfect example of that: primary voters have been able to move and commit Romney so far to the right that he can’t move back sufficiently towards the center to appeal to a median voter. I don’t see how a non-voting strategy in general elections can ever move a candidate to adopt a losing position.
Since primary voters tend to be more partisan and fewer, you can make a huge difference with ~10% of the electorate (see Party, Tea). But the same group of dedicated 10% are going to be much less effective threatening to “stay away” in a regular election (even if they are able to make a credible threat of self-inflicted pain) with a center heavy electorate and a campaign finance set-up where a lot of the money is towards the center.

@Mao – the serious answer to your question/argument is in what JWMason says. Politics involves trade-offs. The cost of voting is very close to zero and voting does not take energy away from other political activity, so while there may be other reasons not to vote, the time/cost argument doesn’t really apply. Donating money and investing serious time in GOTV efforts does take time and money away from other forms of political activity, so there are very good arguments against doing that that don’t apply to voting.

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JW Mason 09.30.12 at 4:23 pm

Perhaps the best venue for discussing your well-thought out and realistic critiques of that approach is not a thread started by admiring the hypocritical moralizing of a libertarian

That was an earlier thread. This is a different one. Here, the issue is how left electoral strategy weighs the important goal of denying Republican victories in the short term with the also important goal of using the threat of withholding our support to move the Dems to the left in the longer term. It’s consequentialism on both sides.

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JW Mason 09.30.12 at 4:34 pm

I am not a “lesser-evilist” – a term as meaningless as it is awkward. Electoral politics in liberal democracies is inextricably about compromise and coalition, no matter how hard one stamps ones foot.

In any political situation, one must be prepared to compromise, and be prepared not to compromise. The hard part is figuring out where to draw the line in particular cases.

Remember the ultimatum game? There’s a sum of money to be divided. The first player proposes a division. The second player then decides if they will accept that division or refuse it; if they refuse, both players get nothing.

It’s obvious that the “rational” thing, faced with a pot of, say, $1,000, if for the first player to propose a division like “$999 for me, $1 for you,” and for the second player to accept it. After all, a dollar is still better than nothing, right? But when you get people to play the game, that’s not what happens; the person playing second will consistently refuse a division that’s too far from even. That might seem foolish, self-defeating, narcissistic; one might remind the second player that “the game is inextricably about compromise, no matter how hard one stamps one’s foot.” But while refusing to accept an uneven division in a single game is irrational, having a disposition t refuse uneven divisions in general is very rational. because it ensures that the person playing first won’t offer an uneven division in the first place.

Same idea here.

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js. 09.30.12 at 4:56 pm

the hypocritical moralizing of a libertarian championing the cause of a political candidate in favor of child labor and racial discrimination

Your sense of a fair characterization is truly fucking remarkable.

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Anarcissie 09.30.12 at 5:12 pm

Alan 09.30.12 at 4:44 am:
‘Except the whole point of contemporary conservative PAC politics in the US is to minimize the effect of utilitarianism by demonizing it, and thus maximize minority capitalist interests frustrated by that part of the potential electorate. They get the fact that every vote counts. Utilitarians need to get that too. Abstract calculations of impact of one’s individual vote are just a distraction that are logically irrelevant to reasoning about the impact of the whole, on which the final reasoning of GGGN is based.’

Could you explain that more fully? Let’s start from me, thinking about what to do politically. One thing I can do is vote, but it is obvious that there is effectively no chance that my vote will affect the outcome of a national election, and it will not affect any other vote. Every vote counts in a mathematical sense, but it does not count individually in a practical political sense. Managers of ‘conservative’ (and other) PACs are supposedly affecting votes in large aggregations, and are using hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of workers to do it. Now, if you’re suggesting that we go out and work for PACs or candidates or celebrities, that’s different. That’s a kind of activism, and indeed, the more powerful among the managers of such enterprises, theoretically casting whole cities of votes, might reasonably feel impelled to choose lesser evils. I can’t see how this applies (outside of delusions of grandeur) to the average citizens casting their individual votes, which is what this discussion has been about, at least superficially.

rootless_e 09.30.12 at 1:00 pm:
‘… If you chose a political path that is merely ineffectual nostalgia for the general strike, you are not choosing a principled moral stand, you are choosing to try to absolve yourself of blame.’

Occupy Wall Street did seem to quash the talk about cutting Social Security and Medicare last fall (although that was probably not their specific intent) whereas voting for Obama did not. If so, who is ineffectual? After the election, when you have all voted for Obama, we can reasonably suppose from previous observation that the knives and axes will be taken out and limbered up again regardless of who wins. So what’s your effectual plan?

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:18 pm

Well, if your idea of effective politics is to “quash the talk” we’re talking past each other. Electing Obama, by the way, expanded medicare and medicaid considerably. I’m sure that the recipients of e.g. medicare assistance for cancer screening would have preferred that someone talk, but they’ll have to take what they can get.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:21 pm

Your sense of a fair characterization is truly fucking remarkable.

All factual. Connor is a conservative with libertarian leanings. He proposes voting for Gary Johnson, a classic libertarian (a Republican who gets high) who has advocated repealing the voting rights and fair housing acts as well as the child labor acts in the name of freedom of contract.

The hypocritical part comes from his claimed deep sensitivity to the drone war, a war that Gary Johnson does not oppose.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:32 pm

JW Mason 09.30.12 at 4:34 pm

Certainly one can propose as a tactic that “the left” refuses to vote for candidates who do not meet a certain test. However, the defeats of Humphrey, Carter, and Gore did not result in the desired changes in the Democratic party – on the contrary they strengthened the far right and also strengthened the corporate wing of the Democratic party without producing any development of an alternative. On the other hand, the Obama victory in 2008 has precipitated significant policy wins, some big labor wins, and significant changes in public attitudes for the better. No political movement can advance without incremental wins. Steady losing does not create power.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:37 pm

JW Mason 09.30.12 at 4:34 pm

In game theory as in real life, taking a hard line only works when the other side has some penalty for not settling.

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Harold 09.30.12 at 5:51 pm

“One can propose as a tactic that ‘the left’ refuse to vote for candidates who do not meet a certain test.”

Just a reminder: voting as a block can certainly result in a disproportionate amount of influence. Not that I would advocate it … necessarily.

I am not persuaded that the defeats of Humphrey, Carter, and Gore resulted from leftists “refusing” to vote for them because they “failed to meet a certain test.”

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JW Mason 09.30.12 at 6:03 pm

Certainly one can propose as a tactic that “the left” refuses to vote for candidates who do not meet a certain test. However, the defeats of Humphrey, Carter, and Gore did not result in the desired changes in the Democratic party

If you have to act on your threat, that means it was not successful. But I reject your premise. I think there have been positive changes in the Democratic party, and I think those owe something to the fact that the Dem base has shown, to at least a small extent, that it cannot be taken for granted. I think that it’s very unlikely, for instance, that Obama would have chosen to block the Keystone pipeline or change his position on gay marriage if his team hadn’t been genuinely worried about disillusioned progressives staying home. More broadly, I think that the real progress this country has made in equal rights for African-Americans, gays and women, on environmental regulation, on civil liberties, and so on, owe a lot to the willingness of people committed to those causes to be intransigent and disruptive.

In game theory as in real life, taking a hard line only works when the other side has some penalty for not settling.

Right, but we all agree that they do. If there were no electoral cost to leftists abstaining or voting third party, no one would be talking about it.

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Anarcissie 09.30.12 at 6:16 pm

@rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:18 pm (#517) — I thought it was plain I was writing about legislative ‘talk’, that is, talk that evolves into real, concrete, material things happening like Social Security being cut. I am sorry to that the use of a little metonymy confuses. But now, with everything cleared up, can you tell us what your effectual plan is? You were deriding people for being ineffectual, so I take it you know of something better, and I’d like to know what it is. It seems like a reasonable request. Perhaps it will even be effectual.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 7:06 pm

Right, but we all agree that they do. If there were no electoral cost to leftists abstaining or voting third party, no one would be talking about it.

There are multiple “theys”. Certainly the DLC wing of the Democratic party don’t care – and there is a huge part of the establishment of Democratic/Progressive political class that prospers as well or better when the Democrats are not in office.

And the “base” of the Democratic party is not uniform either

” I think that it’s very unlikely, for instance, that Obama would have chosen to block the Keystone pipeline [...] if his team hadn’t been genuinely worried about disillusioned progressives staying home”

And in doing so he alienated the Teamsters union – certainly an important part of his base, and one that is better organized, more loyal, and better at generating votes and money than e.g. The Nation readers. The Democratic party is a coalition with disparate goals and one does not gain more power in that coalition only by threatening to bolt. You have to bring something positive be willing to make deals. When Phillip Randolph forced FDR to desegregate defense plants, he had the credibility to be able to threaten 100,000 protestors if he did not get his way, allies like Laguardia, and a history of bringing supporters to the polls. “We’re going to encourage people to stay home” is not the same kind of bargaining position. Or contrast to gay rights – your other example. The proposition of gay rights has been actively marketed to the public for 20 years and gay rights groups are active and strongly organized and the results are a huge social change so that a very large number of people who are not political and certainly not progressive consider discrimination on sexual preference to be wrong. Compare to “progressives” and the 7% of the Democratic party primary voters who supported Kucinich. No organization, no outreach, no incremental goals, no strategy.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 7:09 pm

@rootless_e 09.30.12 at 5:18 pm (#517) — I thought it was plain I was writing about legislative ‘talk’, that is, talk that evolves into real, concrete, material things happening like Social Security being cut.

What cable news reports of legislative talk is just nonsense. The facts are that, prior to OWS, the legislative actions of the Obama administration had been to greatly expand medicare and medicaid, to protect SS, and to even make the SS tax less regressive – over much opposition and despite the widespread explanations by progressive pundits that Obama was going to slash those programs as soon as he got into office.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.30.12 at 7:20 pm

Git, 506 “How do I explain a vote mattering in Ohio but not in Vermont? Um, quite easily. In one place, a point or two swing changes the outcome of the election. In the other place, it doesn’t.”

I live in NC. If I vote, I add 1 Obama vote. You live (for example) in Vermont. You could send $1000 to the campaign, to help broadcast a TV commercial in NC, that will add, perhaps, 10 Obama votes (or suppress 10 Romney votes). How come I’m the center of attention and not you?

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JW Mason 09.30.12 at 7:41 pm

“progressives” and the 7% of the Democratic party primary voters who supported Kucinich. No organization, no outreach, no incremental goals, no strategy.

Dude, you have to understand that many of us have spent lots of time working for avowedly progressive organizations that do outreach, set incremental goals, have a strategy. (Again, I was the policy director for the New York Working Families Party for over five years, just to establish my bona fides.) And yet nonetheless, we don’t accept that the idea that the fact the Dem candidate is demonstrably superior to the R is *necessarily* sufficient reason to vote for them. So when you write things like this, it’s hard not to just tune you out.

Seriously, what is the basis for that statement?

Also, this:

And in doing so he alienated the Teamsters union – certainly an important part of his base, and one that is better organized, more loyal, and better at generating votes and money than e.g. The Nation readers.

And yet he did it. Do you think he didn’t bother thinking about the votes he might gain from the left at all? Wouldn’t that be rather foolish?

I am genuinely curious: Are you saying that it’s impossible to move the Democratic Party to the left by threatening to withhold votes in presidential elections? Or are you saying it’s impossible to move the Democratic Party to the left, full stop?

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GiT 09.30.12 at 7:45 pm

Because the number of possible ways one could effectively spend $1000 on politics is vast, while the number of ways one can effectively cast a Presidential vote in Vermont is not.

Of course there are plenty of ways one can spend one’s time rather than voting. But if one is going to vote, or devote one’s time considering whether or not they, or others should vote, well, the 20 minutes or so is pretty all things considered.

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GiT 09.30.12 at 7:46 pm

pretty *minimal* all things considered.

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Salient 09.30.12 at 8:00 pm

What I *think* Salient, and Dsquared & Henry, are saying, and I know I am saying, is that people on the left should vote for Obama this year, but who also think that strategically withholding support from Democrats is a legitimate and sometimes necessary electoral option for leftists, so we see not voting for Obama as a mistaken judgement of a particular case and not a fundamental error of principle.

I would even accept a characterization as meek as “we should let ourselves talk about various conjectured consequences of strategically committing support to the Democratic party.” Even if we were to concede it’s morally imperative to vote D lockstep, it’s still reasonable to discuss the implications of this, how we anticipate the Democratic party will evolve and adjust to that support, and it’s also still reasonable to discuss historic examples of this kind of lockstep support, with plenty of space to talk without getting harassed, jeered at, dismissed, or bullied for daring to raise those points of discussion.”

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Anarcissie 09.30.12 at 8:04 pm

#527 — So the Washington Post story is a lie? I mean, I know WaPo lies, but I thought on something like this they’d play it straight.

I don’t have cable. I don’t even have a television set at the moment.

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rootless_e 09.30.12 at 8:14 pm

Dude, you have to understand that many of us have spent lots of time working for avowedly progressive organizations that do outreach, set incremental goals, have a strategy. (Again, I was the policy director for the New York Working Families Party for over five years, just to establish my bona fides.)
———
I’m sympathetic to the NYWFP, but obviously it is a very long way away from the Connor Friedsdorf theory of politics. In fact, the WFP often endorses far from progressive Democrats. If we are agreed that such tactics are often essential, we then disagree with Freidsdorf silly article and may only disagree about where the tradeoffs are in particular cases. That’s nowhere near the position advocated in the post that starts this thread – a post that dismisses such considerations as “lesser-evilism”.

“I am genuinely curious: Are you saying that it’s impossible to move the Democratic Party to the left by threatening to withhold votes in presidential elections? Or are you saying it’s impossible to move the Democratic Party to the left, full stop?”

The former (as the parties currently stand). Case in point: one of the worst crimes in US foreign policy was the Carter administrations support of religious terrorism in Afghanistan and deliberate effort to force the Soviet Union to invade. And yet, the election of Reagan was a catastrophe. Two forces pushed FDR to the left: a strong labor movement and liberal elected officials like Laguardia. Consider the NYC mayor President Obama has in place of Laguardia. Threats to not vote for the Democratic President in the absence of any mass movement and the shortage of effective left wing elected officials, are just threats to build right wing power.

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Steve LaBonne 09.30.12 at 8:15 pm

JWM, the once-promising Working Families Party is demonstrably a dismal failure since they were snookered / strongarmed into endorsing Cuomo while getting absolutely squat from him in return, plus that model is relevant anyway only in the few places that allow fusion voting. So with due respect, your experience is not only irrelevant but downright misleading, and citing it doesn’t exactly have the effect on the reader that you seem to expect.

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js. 09.30.12 at 8:21 pm

adam.smith @514:

Ok, I’m going to say this for the 15th and last time, and I am going to say it really slowly:

I. am. not. recommending. a. strategy. of. strategic. non-voting. in. this. general. election. I have in fact repeatedly noted in these threads that I changed my voter registration this past week so as to vote for Obama in a swing state!

Now, can we for fuck’s sake move past that and talk about the medium to long-term ailments of the Democratic party and what might or might not be good strategies for halting the rightward ratchet effect (among other things). And as far as the “primary strategy” goes, it’s not that I have all the answers or anything. It’s just that it seems fairly clear that capturing primaries was in fact a relatively late stage in the hard right’s takeover of the Republican party.

A lot of movement-building etc. had to go on entirely outside of party institutions before they could successfully field hard-right primary candidates, esp. at a scale to make a significant difference. Now it doesn’t seem like that sort of organizational capacity doesn’t exist on the left, at least not now. But building this sort of organizational capacity is the sort of thing we should be talking about. And if it had seemed to me like Jake or whoever had any interest in this sort of conversation, I might have elaborated, but that’s not the sense I was getting from his or her comment.

(I’m going to bet that someone is actually going to respond to this with: But we must vote for Obama!)

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Steve LaBonne 09.30.12 at 8:25 pm

But building this sort of organizational capacity is the sort of thing we should be talking about.

This I totally agree with, and if something serious along these lines comes to exist in Ohio I would like to get involved in it, particularly in a few years when I’m retired and could devote considerable time to it.

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Jake 09.30.12 at 9:26 pm

js. @ 534

Erik Loomis wrote this over at Lawyers Guns and Money, and it sounded pretty accurate. “A really transformative moment in my political thinking came when reading Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors. In this book about the rise of conservatism in the defense industry suburbs, McGirr shows how conservatives, outraged that the country had moved so far to the left during the New Deal and had not really shifted back right under Eisenhower, started taking over their local political structures. They ran for school board, county commissioner, other local offices. They volunteered at county-level Republican Party HQs. They very quickly controlled the machinery of the Republican Party on the local level.”

Maybe there should be a conversation about building local organizational capacity. It might be worth suggesting this to Henry and Daniel would rather talk about how not voting Democratic in general elections is somehow going to advance leftist causes or is otherwise the moral thing to do.

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rf 09.30.12 at 9:36 pm

GiT @ 510

Sorry, I’d gone to work before your reply. I see what you were saying, probably shouldn’t read quickly when running out. my apologies

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GiT 09.30.12 at 9:47 pm

No problem. Sorry if my “you should understand what you’re reading” was condescending. The high degree of condescension being thrown around this thread is sort of a malignant cancer.

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Harold 09.30.12 at 9:54 pm

One thing we can do right is make an all-out effort to stop education from being taken over by the right-wing corporate billionaires working in tandem with the neo-cons and the security state, as is now happening.

Kevin Baker writes in Harpers:

Right now in America, as in much of the Western world, a massive job of reconstructive surgery, of reattaching the ligaments and muscles of democracy itself, is necessary. This will take time—and to procure that time, it will probably be necessary to keep in power a little longer some of the failed politicians of the recent past, no matter how hypocritical or venal they have proved themselves to be.

So yes, go out and vote. Go vote for Barack Obama, and whatever other Democrats or progressives are running for office where you live. To vote for a Mitt Romney—to vote for the modern right anywhere in the West today—is an act of national suicide. The right is hollow to its core; it has no dreams, no vision, no plans to deal with any of the problems that confront us, only infantile fantasies of violence and consumption. But it is, at the moment, well funded, well organized, and feeling especially threatened. It is capable of anything.

We will have to build the new political parties from the dried-out husks of the old ones. We will have to raise up new political leaders from among us, instead of hoping they will emerge as if by magic. We will have to insist that we have interests, too, that our future well-being cannot simply be steamrollered by the claims of a few greedy people posing as the guardians of some amorphous society of the future. We will have to say, in terms that any ward heeler of the old political machine would understand, that if this democracy is to work, we must get what we were promised.

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 09.30.12 at 9:57 pm

Now, can we for fuck’s sake move past that and talk about the medium to long-term ailments of the Democratic party and what might or might not be good strategies for halting the rightward ratchet effect (among other things).
sure, I completely agree with that and I completely agree that “vote Obama” is going to have an absolutely minimal impact on that larger issue.

I also agree that
it doesn’t seem like that sort of organizational capacity doesn’t exist on the left, at least not now. But building this sort of organizational capacity is the sort of thing we should be talking about.

and I’d also say: and while we do that, it makes sense to spend the 20mins on voting Democrats, at least where there is a reasonable chance, because it’s going to make life a little less crabby for some people and may actually make organizing a little easier in some places because you’ll have some genuine progressive allies in a Democratic organization (think DoJ civil rights division, parts of the EPA and some other spots).
And you don’t even seem to disagree with that.

And I feel like that’s what most people on team “lesser” have been saying all along – really with the exception on rootless, (who says he isn’t on team lesser anyway), who shows an enthusiasm for the Obama administration and its achievements that I certainly don’t share and judging by statements from, e.g. Steve LaBonne and some others, they don’t share either.

So if your point is “voting Obama is not going to do a huge amount of good” – absolutely. That’s why I don’t think people on the left should spend their energy on the Obama re-election campaign (except as a networking and learning opportunity).

If your point is “as part of a long term strategy, a strengthened left should threaten to withhold votes in a general election” I disagree with that. Lets assume a quasi-utopian 20 years in the future, where the left does have enough strength o make such a thread plausible and effective. What I argue is that at the point where we do have that type of power, we can exert it more forcefully and effectively in the primaries.

Where I do think an organized and forceful interest group (left or otherwise) can use effective pressure in the general election is in withholding strong support. Since gay activists were mentioned above, that’s what they did. The threat to Obama 2012 wasn’t “we’re going to vote Romney or not show up at all” the threat (at times quite explicit) was – “don’t count on us to hold your fundraisers if you’re not going to be an effective advocate for our interests”.
As I say above, the difference here is that “strong support” is fungible – the HRC can spend their money and time on other useful things than supporting a Presidential candidate. But a vote in a Presidential election really isn’t fungible. If you’re not using it to support the lesser evil you’re throwing it away.

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rf 09.30.12 at 9:58 pm

Na it wasn’t, to be honest i was being a little purposely snarky (a bit hungover – london winter coming in – a day of nonsense ahead! etc)

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mattski 10.01.12 at 12:28 am

js, I want to support what Jake said in response to your approving cite of Salient:

Whether the Democratic party stands to ever improve, when massively voted for on lesser-evil grounds, is worth discussion. It’s not just a question of personal morality, it’s a question about social systems and how they evolve.

First, it’s a mistake and a distraction to impute motivation to others. I don’t know why other people might vote for a Democrat in a given situation. Projecting “lesser-evilism” adds nothing to our understanding. But the obvious problem with the reasoning here is it assumes that the voting booth is almost exclusively where the party is shaped. Isn’t that absurd? The political process is ongoing and ultimately local. Communities give birth to political careers.

What I have a problem with is the alienation implied by the excessive focus on what happens in the voting booth. As if there were no other outlets for our political energy. And since there are other ways to shape the process, I’m looking at my vote as a chance to apply a “progress ratchet” by preventing retrograde motion, at the very least.

Also, to those citing the mathematical insignificance of a solitary vote, the point is to develop good habits. Sitting out increases the probability that I’ll go missing when my vote might really make a difference. The bottom line in life, our habits are everything.

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chrismealy 10.01.12 at 1:46 am

Hey guys, Conor Friedersdorf is playing you. Don’t be suckers.

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js. 10.01.12 at 1:48 am

I’m “projecting” exactly nothing. For some bizarre masochistic reason, I have read every single one of these comments, and I’m simply noting the reason most consistently offered for why everyone must! must! must! vote for Obama, and is some kind of monster if they don’t. Same goes for Henry’s first post on this.

Now suddenly the people who from the very beginning have been emphasizing the importance of non-electoral politics have turned out to be ones investing the ballot box with magical powers. This would be people like Salient; also me; also Daniel Davies! The mechanics of this transubstantiation escape me. Sorry if this is a bit harsh (as it likely is), but I guess I have absolutely no idea why you are imputing the positions you are to people like me.

(And with that, I am completely and entirely done with this thread.)

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Salient 10.01.12 at 3:02 am

First, it’s a mistake and a distraction to impute motivation to others.

Okay, so, what’s your motivation for disrupting a thread about the institutional consequences of voting Democratic indefinitely?

It’s a mistake and a distraction to insist that we must talk about your hobbyhorse topic of choice, and cede all kinds of stipulations in order to not get disrupted, when that topic’s not the purpose of the original post.

What I have a problem with is the alienation implied by the excessive focus on what happens in the voting booth. As if there were no other outlets for our political energy.

I would disagree with the proposition that Henry, CB, or I place “excessive focus on what happens in the voting booth” relative to finding other ways to undermine centrism and warmongering.

But since we’re talking about problems we have, let me emphasize what I have a problem with: Every single fucking thread even tangentially about American voting or political parties on CT (and pretty much everywhere else) getting hijacked into a “morally imperative to vote D or else you’re actually supporting the right wing ADMIT IT NOW” thread. It really is about as consistently and emphatically bad, at this point, as the Israel/Palestine threads used to be before they stopped getting posted at all.

If we can’t even fucking discuss the ‘learned helplessness’ this kind of moral imperative necessarily generates, or the longer-term structural consequences of strategic voting, then ISTM the bullying/threadjacking has reached a level where it’s time to speak out against it, at least enough to hopefully make room for tangential topics like the topics of this post. Do you feel that’s reasonable?

“X has these adverse consequences” is not automatically arguing “it is morally imperative to not do X.” The original post didn’t even explicitly propose not voting for Democrats. It only identified a structural problem that doing so could cause over the medium to long term. And apparently we can’t even hope to talk about that without first pinky-swearing that yes those of us who can vote D will do so.

There were probably several people who had some interesting things to say about learned helplessness (I was hoping for some educators familiar with the phenomenon from a pedagogical perspective), but who felt put off by the threadjack and thought ‘oh got not again’ and bailed. That sucks.

Although actually, given how these threads always resolve into an agreement to pursue nonelectoral methods of changing the party and changing the political atmosphere, I suppose someone could get one of those Google Groups discussion group type thing going where we can discuss those nonelectoral on an ongoing basis, like Aaron did for Samuel Bowles’ book. Maybe that would quell the appetite for harshing on and shutting down discussions about the consequences of lesser-evil voting? I dunno what else to propose.

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faustusnotes 10.01.12 at 3:43 am

Salient, my problem with the idea of voting boycotts is perhaps more practical, and one you could answer for me. When people refuse to vote, how is the Democratic party meant to know that they are doing this for left-wing reasons? They will see themselves trounced by a popular right wing party, when their own supporters stayed home, so what’s to stop them concluding they aren’t right wing enough? Why should they assume that any voting boycott is from the left? This seems the single biggest problem with voting boycotts, which isn’t offset by increases in third party votes because the non-compulsory nature of US voting means you don’t know whether a shift in votes from the Ds to (e.g.) the Greens represents low turnout for the Ds and/or a new demographic entering the booth.

So it seems to me there is a risk with boycotting the Ds that they will see it as confirmation of their failure to be right-wing enough – especially if the boycott is not expressed through a third party vote (where htere is a third party I strongly support voting for them first, but I vote in a system with preferences so I don’t know what I’d do in your situation).

Another problem I have with the call to “build a broad movement” as an alternative to voting Obama is perhaps best shown by Labonne’s behavior here. He comes on all frothy and angry about Obama, heaps scorn on the modern Ds and the left generally, gives us a few pronouncements about “what is wrong with the modern left.” Then, in response to the suggestion that a broad movement is a good alternative to teh limitations of the ballot box, he says

if something serious along these lines comes to exist in Ohio I would like to get involved in it, particularly in a few years when I’m retired

What I see here is lots of fulminating about starting a movement, but no one willing to get down and do it. I think that’s the essence of someone’s point above that the only mass movement out there is the one behind Obama.

If you have problems with voting as a political mechanism and you think (as Labonne obviously does) that things are getting desperate and all fucked-uppedity, then your claims are kind of belied by hte fact that you don’t want to lift a finger for the alternatives until you retire, and only then if someone else does the heavy lifting first.

I know Labonne stated he’s going to vote Obama anyway, so I guess it’s not an inconsistency for him to also rant on about movements while refusing to start one. But there’s the thing – I read this call for a broad movement a lot, and I read a lot of Very Serious People refusing to do the early hard yards. In which case, it seems like voting Obama is the only real option.

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JanieM 10.01.12 at 3:58 am

It really is about as consistently and emphatically bad, at this point, as the Israel/Palestine threads used to be before they stopped getting posted at all.

Yes. I’ve been thinking this for days. And I would cross out “at this point.” It’s been like this for as long as I’ve been reading CT, which is a good long while now.

So I keep wondering: if I could foresee this train wreck, why couldn’t other people? Then I have to remind myself, maybe not everyone thinks it’s a train wreck. In fact, 548 comments suggests that some people are actually having a great time.

Tastes do differ, apparently. Maybe somewhere there are even people who can be persuaded to change their minds by being sneered at. I don’t know any, but I live a sheltered life.

*****

Unlike faustusnotes, I don’t have any expectations or frustrations about CT posters participating, or not, in comment threads. I think it’s generous of them just to bother writing posts that might trigger good conversation.

And when threads like this happen, there’s always the option of turning off the computer and going outside, but it’s still depressing. If aliens from outer space came and asked me why, on this teeming beautiful planet of ours, we’re still such a mess, I’d just hand them this thread and let them figure it out for themselves. (Not exempting myself from the indictment; I’ve just lost my temper on blogs enough times that I’ve (hopefully) learned to walk away when I get the urge.)

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JW Mason 10.01.12 at 4:39 am

I’m sympathetic to the NYWFP, but obviously it is a very long way away from the Connor Friedsdorf theory of politics. In fact, the WFP often endorses far from progressive Democrats. If we are agreed that such tactics are often essential, we then disagree with Freidsdorf silly article and may only disagree about where the tradeoffs are in particular cases. That’s nowhere near the position advocated in the post that starts this thread – a post that dismisses such considerations as “lesser-evilism”.

I agree with all but the last sentence of this paragraph. I think the argument made by DD in the post that started this thread is different from the Conor Friedersdorf argument. Daniel is not saying that it is deontologically wrong to vote for Obama. He is saying that in a consequentialist analysis of voting D, you have to consider the long-term effect on the kind of party the Dems are, and not just the short-term effect of getting this particular D rather than that particular R. But yes, if we can agree that the disagreement is really about tradeoffs in particular cases, then we will have done much better than I would have expected to in this thread.

Two forces pushed FDR to the left: a strong labor movement and liberal elected officials like Laguardia.

OK. But you don’t get a strong labor movement without people willing to risk bad outcomes in defense of a principle. A long strike is always a disaster for workers, even if they win. Yet you can’t win short strikes if you’re not prepared for long ones. So you need to have principles you’ll follow even when it makes things worse, in order to get the power to make things better.

A long teachers strike in Chicago would have been a disaster for the schools, and for the teachers (especially given that the CTU does not have a strike fund.) But would the city have settled as quickly as they did, if they didn’t think the teachers were prepared for a long strike? The Chicago teachers were only able to fight for their students because they were prepared to take action that would hurt them. The people who tell us that politics sometimes requires unpalatable compromises are right, but they should remember that it sometimes requires unpalatable toughness as well.

Now you may say, But this election isn’t like that. And I agree! I think we should all vote for Obama. But as Salient keeps saying, we need to be able to discuss the *possibility* that it might be better to strategically abstain, without being accused of narcissism, complicity with evil, etc.

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Salient 10.01.12 at 4:44 am

When people refuse to vote, how is the Democratic party meant to know that they are doing this for left-wing reasons?

Poll data.

Any such change would take a long time, years probably, and if you discover you’re effectively communicating with and persuading people, maybe the next step is to get the ear of pollsters (by hiring them if necessary, like Kos does). Then once you have the data, maybe you go to the usual places with it (sympathetic media, sympathetic lobbyists and organizations, sympathetic members of Congress in town hall type meetings, etc). If you can get the professionals’ ear, maybe you try to persuade them to devise a concrete proposal that you can get people chattering about (I am endlessly amazed at how many people have even a vague impression of what Simpson-Bowles is). If you have two-way communication with these persuaded people, maybe you try to sign them onto something more formal.

I stuck “maybe” in there because the path you actually take depends a lot on past context (how did you get these voters’ ear? how did you persuade them to draw a red line?) and future context (what resources are available to you? who, among authorities already in power, might be sympathetic to the red-line stance?)

Maybe we should only let ourselves talk about voting in 2016 or 2020 instead of 2012. But when doing personal reflection rather than advocacy, it’s only natural to ponder the very next decision you have to make, and phrase your conversation in those terms. So, since we’re contemplate what voting D does rather than actively advocating for as many people as possible, it makes sense that we’d look to the upcoming election. (I also doubt agreeing to only talk about more faraway elections would settle the threadjackers into abiding complacency, which would be the only point of accepting the agreement.)

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Salient 10.01.12 at 5:07 am

Has the distinction between personal reflection and mass advocacy gotten lost?

Even CT posts written in the form of explicit advocacy aren’t exactly, you know, ads on TV. Even with the threadjacks included, we’re still just talking amongst ourselves about what it means for us to engage in various voting practices, which reasons for those practices make sense and which are specious, and what it would mean for large numbers of people to act as we do, or as we consider doing. It’s all reflective.

That’s why it stings so damn much to be attacked for one’s comments on this: part of what we’re doing is baring how we feel to acquaintances in a public forum. And we were all traumatized, at least a little, by the Bush years and their inception, so these feelings run as deep and as hot as geothermal crevices. Getting called a three-year-old fascist for that personal an act of sharing stings substantially more than getting called a three-year-old fascist for a purely analytical comment. Even if you have deep feelings about labor unrest in China or plantations as wedding sites, they’re far less likely to be tinged with the horror that personal trauma engenders.

From that perspective, I can almost understand stuff like mclaren’s otherwise unconscionable use of ‘bleated’ upthread, as well as my own crazy outburst, and the taunts that provoked it–this topic trips triggers that run deep. How to broach the subject without triggering defensive impulses, or how to recognize and swallow those impulses before they see print, uh, I have no clue…

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Bruce Wilder 10.01.12 at 7:07 am

JW Mason: “I think we should all vote for Obama.”

Really?! Really???!? All? I hope this was a slip of the keyboard.

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faustusnotes 10.01.12 at 7:36 am

Salient, I’m not convinced poll data is sufficient. How can those results be linked to voting outcomes in a non-compulsory system?

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ralph 10.01.12 at 9:20 am

wow. Well, that was a bit of reading. I enjoy CR when I get a chance to read, which I wish were more frequently than it is. Still, this Freidersdorf “meme set” comes off as really not that interesting, because 1) Henry’s original post made no clear statement on the relationship of voting behavior to the murderous nature of the Obama government; 2) the trollish feeling that creates among any leftish person in the US, given the ethical squeeze they feel in a voting system that kills third-party political movements at a national level; and 3) the weak responses to this point.

I mean, christ, morally there’s every reason to object to Democratic torture, quiet invasion, murders, and so on, but that is separate from whether NOT voting Obama is a moral choice.

Daniel’s response doesn’t help much, although I realize it’s more of comment on Scott’s graph than anything else (see title of post). Yes, improving outcomes is really the goal, and in the US we “over-focus” on the work our voting does at the national level, where the structures really do prevent us from having the impact on policy that a parliamentary system enables to a greater degree. But, uh, what? Of COURSE we must focus on how to improve the outcomes — it is a long leap, Daniel, Henry, from those important strategic behaviors to not voting for Obama in this specific political context. A very long leap.

If, however, we have dispensed with that point, then I would respond to Daniel’s assertion (that somehow republicans are going to be able to “steamroll” democrats and he just doesn’t find that a compelling expectation) by pointing to the steady rightward and anti-progressive trend in almost every social and economic area in US national politics over the last oh, thirty years. US rightists seem to have been able to construct effective coalitions at the national level in the US to “creep” us to the right over a long period of time. And you’re writing to a large number of people who see this creep continuing more effectively WITH a republican president than with a democratic one. And they’re right, not you, although — strictly speaking — you’re not formally arguing that. But you’re certainly placing the implication on the ground in front of us like a nice little “petard” waiting for us to discover it. :-)

If your point is merely that we should be trying to figure out how to improve the real outcomes at a national political level, that’s so correct as to be beneath the usual level of intellectual rigor that we have come to expect! But, of course, we get what we pay for….

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rootless_e 10.01.12 at 1:39 pm

JW Mason 10.01.12 at 4:39 am

Ok, but if you are arguing on pragmatics, you need to actually understand the process. Statements like:
” Recall, Obama’s whole strategy was based around abandoning all other priorities such as carbon tax, an effective stimulus bill, half his nominations, most of the financial sector reforms and so forth, all to concentrate on passing health care.”

won’t get you anywhere because they are just cable news level arm waving – without the level of information one can get from e.g. David Corn’s Showdown or Gruber’s book. One thing that amazes me is that the significant wealth equalizing effect of ACA is not even something that the “left critics” try to refute. Or consider:

” So given that, how are we to suppose that President Romney would be able to push through an agenda five times as radical, including the ultimate third-rail issue of abortion? “

The sentence above is a succinct confession of ignorance. You cannot discuss tradeoffs in politics if you don’t grasp basic civics.

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Anarcissie 10.01.12 at 2:26 pm

rootless_e 10.01.12 at 1:39 pm #556:
… just cable news…
There you are about cable news again. This reminded me that you hadn’t answered my question (533) about the Washington Post’s report of Obama’s willingness to cut Social Security, to my great disappointment. I’m very interested in the issue, both as an important landmark of political culture, and for personal reasons. I admit to not having the deep knowledge of cable news you do, but it does seem to me that, just speaking in terms of basic logic, the appearance of a proposition on cable news does not in itself prove its falsity any more than it proves its truth.

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rootless_e 10.01.12 at 2:48 pm

Anarcissie 10.01.12 at 2:26 pm

I recommend you read Corn’s book and Gruber’s if you want to understand the political process. You won’t learn much from the kind of WAPO articles you cite, because the WAPO is not a neutral observer on matters of “entitlements”, but is in fact a strong proponent of cutbacks. Also, the WAPO and other establishment media are prone to the storyline of “realism setting in” to cover any issues where they advocate a right wing solution against some other proposal. They did this at the beginning of the Obama administration with Iraq, as they wrote articles explaining that President Obama was going to have to back off from his silly ideas and keep the army in Iraq. So a WAPO article, citing vague statements of unnamed sources to validate their wold view is not much to hang your hat on.

Furthermore, the tactic of making offers you know will never be accepted is not new in DC. The health care proposal of Dole during the Clinton administration contained many provisions that were and are anathema to the GOP, but was offered in a successful effort to derail Clinton’s proposal. The GOP wanted to appear reasonable and willing to compromise while actually diverting the legislative process off track. Similarly, every knowledgeable observer understands that a grand bargain in which cuts to Medicare/SS are offered if they are accompanied by major changes in the tax code to eliminate tax treats for the elites are absolutely unacceptable to the GOP.
http://krebscycle.tumblr.com/post/31058471477/why-paul-ryan-fears-simpson-bowles-and-the-grand
What’s the point of offering them (if they were offered, which we don’t know) ? Obviously to split the opposition and to decrease the credibility of the Republicans in the eyes of the media and the public. And people should remember, the Republicans actually don’t care about the debt. The debt is a proxy for racial resentment
http://krebscycle.tumblr.com/post/14744924262/the-unacceptable-naivete-of-the-liberals-dean-baker

And finally, details matter in these kind of discussions. When Obama has offered to cut Medicare, his cuts have come from bloated provider/insurer payments, not to benefits. Cuts to medicare advantage, reduction of payments that offer no benefit are not cuts to the social welfare system – and clearly that’s what the administration is interested in cutting.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/health/policy/parting-shot-at-waste-by-key-obama-health-official.html

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christian_h 10.01.12 at 4:07 pm

This still going? Will we get to 666 comments I think that would be appropriate.

560

Anarcissie 10.01.12 at 4:14 pm

558 — Somehow learning (yet again) that Mr. O is profoundly duplicitous does not assuage. I suppose it goes with the territory.

561

Jake 10.01.12 at 4:31 pm

Maybe we should only let ourselves talk about voting in 2016 or 2020 instead of 2012.

There are going to be 468 elections for members in congress in 2014. 2010 showed that non-presidential elections matter a lot, so why wait four years?

562

rootless_e 10.01.12 at 4:36 pm

Anarcissie 10.01.12 at 4:14 pm

Somehow learning that you are disappointed that President Obama knows how to negotiate does not surprise me.

563

Bruce Wilder 10.01.12 at 5:08 pm

christian_h: This still going?

I know. And, no mention of boobs, and only the most oblique allusions to that Austrian fellow. Somebody really needs to kill this thread, already.

564

rf 10.01.12 at 5:22 pm

565

Substance McGravitas 10.01.12 at 5:44 pm

Yay for dragging it out!

Unfortunately, as I’ve documented, mainstream media publications routinely write narratives of Obama’s first term as if the numerous, radical transgressions don’t even exist. And as Freddie de Boer notes, recounting his numerous efforts to raise these issues on left-wing blogs (emphasis added), “Try and insert some anti-drone sentiment into the comments. Believe me, I’ve tried. The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted. For all the talk of ‘lesser evils,’ you are far more likely to find conventional liberals defending the drone program than speaking of it as evil at all. This is the most elementary, most important point of all: there is no internal pressure for Democrats to reform …” For the blogs he discusses, this is only slight hyperbole.

Except that it’s massive hyperbole. I don’t think anyone at LGM (one reference) is on board with the drone-strikes and de Boer doesn’t provide a reference to drone cheerleading. And I wonder what he means by “internal pressure” given that he links to Tbogg, who seems to be to be somewhat outside the realm of the internal workings of the Democratic Party.

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Salient 10.01.12 at 6:08 pm

@Jake: There are going to be 468 elections for members in congress in 2014. 2010 showed that non-presidential elections matter a lot, so why wait four years?

Because I’m trying to find a way around the people who are intentionally shutting down the conversation we’re trying to have, and I’m conjecturing maybe it’s just that they don’t want us talking about the short term. The thought is, maybe if we restrict ourselves to discussing a faraway future, we won’t get bullied/threadjacked by people who are feeling panicked about 2012, or 2014, for that matter.

I was thinking about this exchange:

mclaren: Because of “lesser evilism,” Democrats are Republicans with a phase shift of 12 years.

[So, I'm thinking, agreeing to delay our topic of discussion 12 years also reverses the imperative about 'but the Rs are so much worse' because it transmutes into 'but the Ds by that point will be so much worse']

MPAVictoria, in response: Let’s make it as bad as possible as soon as possible!

[That's a pretty hostile response, but, water under the bridge. At least MPAVictoria agrees with me that what we're doing, when we vote D indefinitely, is buying ourselves some time. We're gonna see most of these same policies again a generation from now, when voting D indefinitely won't prevent their execution, because by then they'll be D policies. Not all policies, but foreign/international policy especially, as well as domestic welfare and safety-net policy.]

Given the long lists of hypothetical Republican acts we can construct on a moment’s notice, it’s obvious we know what we’re delaying–but those same lists mostly enumerate plausible Democratic acts a generation from now. (I say “mostly” because some stuff, like abortion, does seem to hold firm.) We should also wonder, what’s the price? Are we creating an even more adverse battlefield a generation from now, than the one we have today? Are we buying time for our future selves, or from our future selves?

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rf 10.01.12 at 6:25 pm

‘ I don’t think anyone at LGM (one reference) is on board with the drone-strikes’

Eh, J from Lowell!? (Unless we’re talking main posters) There’s a lot of ambivalence over there though.. and Farley all but admitted F-Dorf’s point here

“but I should note that I find “Why don’t these liberals talk more about drones like they did with Bush?” an utterly uninteresting question on both empirical and normative grounds. Bloggers and commentators aren’t neutral; they expect to prefer one candidate over the other, and will tend strategically to focus on aspects of the record that make that candidate look good rather than aspects that make that candidate look bad. “

I’ll finish of Farleys sentence to avoid being accused of cherrypicking

“What’s interesting, perhaps, is that active support for the drone program (among the larger set of civil liberties concerns) has been very restrained in the left blogosphere over the past four years; by and large (there are exceptions), pro-Obama bloggers have not convinced themselves that the drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen are positive goods to be celebrated.”

Also if you mention the whole ‘Obama tried to keep a presence in Iraq’ thing (which happens to be true) it’s short order until you’re branded a Chomsky acolyte.
There is some partisan hackery going on, just a little

568

Gepap 10.01.12 at 6:28 pm

To paraphrase Stalin, how many divisions do the moral purists in this thread have? You guys talk big online, but your actual electoral strenght is miniscule, which is why this whole debate is about what a few marginal voters can do in a close election given the US’ electoral college set-up.

And given that your side likes spending its time telling your only viable ertswhile allies how terribly unpure they are, I don’t expect your side to really muster much power any time soon.

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Salient 10.01.12 at 6:29 pm

@faustusnotes: How can those results be linked to voting outcomes in a non-compulsory system?

I do not understand what you are asking. It seems like maybe you’re envisioning this vacuum in which allofasudden a bunch of people just don’t vote, voila!

That would suck. I would be some combination of terrified and pissed off and bewildered and stunned into silence, if that happened. Duh. And there’s not a single damn person involved in this debate who’s enough of an asshole to want “oopsie! surprise! guess you didn’t see THAT coming! looksie, now there’s a Republican president! hahaha SHIT JUST GOT REAL” to happen. Except maybe bob mcmanus. (j/k, bob, we love ya.)

It would be stupid to hope for, or openly advocate for, a top secret surprise silent mass voting-withholding bloc that refused to even provide data collectors with information about what it was that made ‘em so pissed off they’re not gonna vote. Really, really, really stupid. We’re talking about building a group that’s hypothetically comparable in behavior and strategy to the ‘white evangelical’ voter bloc. Not exactly a “ok guyz letz keep our reezons fur bein upset sekret” clique, there. When the evangelicals abandon a candidate, how can those results be linked to voting outcomes in a non-compulsory system? The question makes my head hurt. I guess my response is, they are linked automatically because people who feel upset enough to withhold their vote also tend to be loudmouths about it?

But I dunno if that’s what you asked. This is frustrating. Obviously we don’t want to see a silent, inscrutable withdrawal. There’s no reason to believe that our own actions and discussions will somehow cause that kind of withdrawal. None whatsoever. Please don’t write your questions in a way that suggests otherwise–especially since you’re taking time to craft specific questions with explanatory paragraphs (much appreciated).

I mean, look, LGBTQ&A groups expressed their anger and frustration, and at the fringe we were loudly and heavily implying we might sit this one out, and… within a couple months’ time we got Obama to “evolve” on gay marriage, carrying a surprising plurality of black religious voters across the line with him. Now that is a hahaha SHIT JUST GOT REAL that I can, and do, celebrate. So, Obama didn’t actually irretrievably lose LGBTQ&A votes, because he walked over to the ‘this is acceptable’ side of the red line.

That’s a specific, concrete example of exactly the kind of electoral politics ‘red line’ voting advocates like me are wanting to see happen. I have no idea how that result can be “linked to voting outcomes in a non-compulsory system.” But the link pretty clearly exists, right? I’d welcome some thoughts on how the link operates, but don’t really feel inclined to offer a proof that it does, beyond “people who are angry enough to change their own behavior are reliably loud about it.”

570

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 6:33 pm

“That’s a pretty hostile response”
It wasn’t THAT hostile. In fact I feel that it was a damn honest portrayal of mclaren’s comment.

571

Salient 10.01.12 at 6:48 pm

Oh bull. mclaren said “There’s no point in voting Democratic today because it means you’ll get whatever insane extremist policies the Republicans are proposing, just 12 years later” and you summed it up as enthusiasm for bringing on the “insane extremist policies the Republicans are proposing” as quickly as possible.

If you feel it’s fair and nonhostile to collapse the difference between someone horrified enough by those policies that they’re afraid of seeing them in twelve years with a far smaller chance of resisting them, and someone who is so enthusiastic about those policies that they don’t want to wait 12 years for them, then… ugh. C’mon. You’re better than that.

572

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 6:54 pm

“If you feel it’s fair and nonhostile to collapse the difference between someone horrified enough by those policies that they’re afraid of seeing them in twelve years with a far smaller chance of resisting them, and someone who is so enthusiastic about those policies that they don’t want to wait 12 years for them, then… ugh. C’mon. You’re better than that.”

It is a fair and nonhostile summary of the obviously foreseeable EFFECTS of mclaren’s preferred action of not voting and allowing the republicans to regain government.

/Also just to be clear I continue to feel that many here are underestimating the good that Obama has accomplished in his first term. Is he my ideal president? No but show me a better realistic alternative.

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Salient 10.01.12 at 6:59 pm

It is a fair and nonhostile summary of the obviously foreseeable EFFECTS

No, it wasn’t a summary of effects, which would sound more like “mclaren, that’s going to lead to the bad stuff happening as soon as possible.” Your tone implied enthusiasm, and the angry sarcasm carried hostility. At least own up to what you’re doing when you lash out at somebody.

574

christian_h 10.01.12 at 7:01 pm

Bruce (563.): I tried, believe me, I tried. I brought up Stalin and Hitler hundreds of comments ago… or maybe in a previous thread I have lost track… and this thing is still going. In comment 568 (sic!) we are told, for example, that we on one side of the debate don’t matter, so there. In comment 568! This must be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on the internets.

575

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 7:02 pm

“Your tone implied enthusiasm, and the angry sarcasm carried hostility. At least own up to what you’re doing when you lash out at somebody.”
No offence Salient but I think you are dumping your own mental baggage on me. My comment was well within the bounds of this forum.

576

christian_h 10.01.12 at 7:05 pm

I should add that there is a method to the madness. Just like in Israel/Palestine threads. By making such threads so impossible and aggravating, it is assured by commenters pushing the standard position that they won’t happen again any time soon, thus precluding debate outside certain narrow parameters.

577

Substance McGravitas 10.01.12 at 7:08 pm

Eh, J from Lowell!? (Unless we’re talking main posters)

I’m talking main posters, yes. Reference has been made – by Farley also I think – to that commenter being off the ban list because he had some contributions to make but was not necessarily well-loved.

What you quote of Farley I’ll go along with in the sense that I get from it, but it reinforces the point: endorsements of the drone-strikes are few and far between. Yes, the LGM folks would prefer Obama over Romney (as would I) but I don’t think they’re committed to lying about the administration’s failings on its behalf. And I’m happy to agree with, um, everybody (?) on this thread that the drone strikes are hideous.

578

Gepap 10.01.12 at 7:16 pm

I am happy you found my comment funny christian_h. Its more than I can say for your comments: purity trolls aren’t that amusing.

Obama continues the drone program because it has widespread support. One of his promises in 2008 was shifting the focus of the “war on terror” to Afghanistan and Pakistan – and surprise, he did. Outside of places like CT crying about the evils of this campaign will get you no real support. You are more likely to get the average American voter to agree with your positions on a cost issue (ie., the financial cost to the US taxpayer) than you are over the immorality of how it is conducted. In order to build grassroot support you need ideas that will get grassroots support, yet you and the other purity trolls seem distinctly lacking in these.

So yes, it is more than valid asking how much power folks like you have, or even better yet, what plans do you have to gain any power at all, because in the real world we inhabit one needs power to get things done but again, your side hasn’t been able to post a realisitc plan to get any, not at least in the 570+ comments on this discussion.

579

christian_h 10.01.12 at 7:22 pm

Why on earth are you – for 577 comments and counting – arguing against a position that according to you has no traction whatsoever? The fact you can’t see the irony in that is, indeed, highly amusing.

As for the other nonsense: if you had any idea how political opinions are formed you’d of course know that your argument is circular. People like you support racist terror campaigns because both parties do. You just need to check polls about civil liberties issues before the 2008 elections (majority of Democratic voters were outraged) to those now (“he is keeping us safe”) to see that. It’s called “leadership”. Guess you’re saying the Republicans are right – Democrats never show any.

580

christian_h 10.01.12 at 7:27 pm

As I pointed out about a million comments ago, this “but the majority wants it!” excuse would NEVER fly with most of the commenters here – or the blogs dismissing concerns about the racist terror campaign as “narcicissm” – if the issue was, say, same-sex marriage. Never. And it’s good it never was flying, because if it did Obama would not have come out for overturning DOMA, or refused to defend it in court (see – he did some things right and I am even admitting it! Wow!). Although it’s possible I give you guys too much credit, I don’t remember what you were arguing four years ago.

581

Donald Johnson 10.01.12 at 7:32 pm

I didn’t read all the thread. Parts of it are a train wreck and parts aren’t. It’s like that in every thread on every blog I’ve ever been at where a really important topic is discussed, unless it is one of those blogs where virtually everyone is in agreement. Still, this particular topic does seem to bring out the worst in people. I’m a pretty convinced lesser of two evils voter for the near future (especially the next several weeks), but I sympathize with salient and others and would like to see a serious discussion about “learned helplessness” and what to do about it.

582

Anarcissie 10.01.12 at 7:44 pm

rootless_e 10.01.12 at 4:36 pm:
‘Somehow learning that you are disappointed that President Obama knows how to negotiate does not surprise me.’

I don’t think you have given evidence that he does know how to negotiate. In my experience, you want to avoid offering something you’re actually unwilling to give; it encourages the other party to believe they can get it. This is especially the case if you’re negotiating as a representative for, and dependent on, someone else’s interests. But this is assuming Mr. O is actually determined to protect Social Security. I don’t think he is; I think he is as duplicitous with his own followers as he is with his supposed opponents, and I am not alone in that apprehension. Vote for Mr. O and support him if it makes you happy, but look elsewhere for effective allies and activities.

583

JW Mason 10.01.12 at 7:46 pm

It is a fair and nonhostile summary of the obviously foreseeable EFFECTS of mclaren’s preferred action of not voting and allowing the republicans to regain government.

No.

The question some of us would like to discuss is, would Democratic politicians be less wiling to accept formerly Republican/conservative positions if they were more worried about losing votes on their left? And if so, how do we trade off the immediate costs of (potentially) withholding support from the Ds with the possible longer term benefits? After all, there will certainly be another Republican president sooner or later; building a left alternative to the Dems is a more realistic prospect than keeping them in office forever. Mclaren is not saying that he/she wants disaster; rather, that if your only strategy for avoiding disaster is to keep Rs out of office forever, you might want to at least consider alternatives.

Now, if we have this discussion, the answer *may* turn out to be that the costs of abstentions/third-party votes always outweigh the benefits, and that people on the left should always vote for the D candidate as long as he or she is discernibly better than the R candidate. That may be true! But we can’t even have the conversation, unless we agree that it is permissible to at least provisionally entertain the other view — that in some situations refusing to vote for a Dem could have benefits that are worth increasing the odds of a significantly worse R being elected.

In other words, if you’re being properly consequentialist about your vote, you can’t limit the consequences you look at to just the outcome of this one election. That’s why your summary of mclaren is unfair and hostile — it refuses to admit any other possible effects. You may not believe they could matter, but you should at least acknowledge that other people do.

584

JW Mason 10.01.12 at 7:48 pm

OK, and that is the last comment I will make on this thread. I really need to be doing other things….

585

Hidden Heart 10.01.12 at 8:03 pm

I’ve been thinking about that “Democrats will just do what Republicans do, 12 years later” line.

You know, if one Nader voter in 10 had spent some of the last 12 years years taking part in grassroots efforts to shift the Democratic Party to the left…it wouldn’t have ushered in utopia or anything, but it might have made some of the current depression less bad in some states if there’d been a more reliable bloc of votes in opposition to austerity, might have had some more voices for basic morality, sanity, and constitutional government in local, state, and district courts, might have had some House members willing to talk up better conduct, and so on. 5-10,000 more votes for Al Franken would have made untold difference for months on end, and for Patty Murray in 2010.

When some of us say “Vote for Obama because he’s very significantly better than Romney, but don’t make that the end of it”, that’s what we’re talking about. Simply voting in local-scale elections can make a lot of difference, and no, we don’t always know which ones will be close in advance. Helping make a campaign work while it’s still work to be done can matter even more, and doesn’t have to be anything like full-time work. And the closer you get to the start of the process, the better your chances of having any say on its long-term moral evolution.

Mclaren’s advice becomes truer and truer the more people engage with politics that way. But the rest of us don’t have to make the same kind of mistake.

586

Substance McGravitas 10.01.12 at 8:16 pm

If Republicans were expanding health-care coverage and the treatment of birth-control under insurance regimes I’m interested.

587

Gepap 10.01.12 at 8:18 pm

@christian_h: Just because something is irrelevant doesn’t mean it isn’t irritating. Its like scratching a small itch. Also, don’t pretend to know what policies I support and I don’t.

As for forming political coolitions, HA! What do you or your fellows know about that? People make their voices known electoraly, not in polls. Were any of the major Democratic candidates in 2008 actually against continuing the “War on Terror” in some form, particularly in and around Afghanistan? No. The drone campaign in Pakistan would be ongoing under a President Hillary as well, and certainly under a Presidency of any of the major Republican candidates in 2008 except Ron Paul, whose chances of becoming President have always been close to zero.

As for the issue of what the majority wants: you have not presented any plans worth a damn on how to change what the majority wants, which is what you need to do if you want to bring about real change within a democratic system. Bringing up gay marriage and DOMA doesn’t actually make your point – if anything, it undermines it. If President Obama could back away from DOMA and not defend it, it is because the majorty of Democrats and a great number of independents no longer supported continuing discrimination against gays. Mass public opinion preceeded change. And even back in 2003 when the Mass. court ruled that it was unconstitutional in the commonwealth to discrminate, gay marriage probably had more support than a campaign to end the drone campaing would have today. Feel free to go to a meeting of enrolled Democrats in any state in the Union and then argue vehemently that it is immoral to vote for Obama because of the drone campaign and see where that gets you – short answer: nowhere.

588

dbk 10.01.12 at 8:23 pm

Thanks (I think) to all who have invested the considerable time required to read and comment on this admittedly painful and disheartening thread. As a reader / infrequent commenter, I must say that I very much regret the fact that as an expatriate I cannot do grassroots work for the progressive cause. Perhaps one or more of our hosts (e.g. Professor Brighouse?) would be willing to set up an ongoing forum for discussion re: 2014 and 2016? My own inclinations would suggest that involvement in local elections (school board, county board, city comptroller or manager, etc.) must take precedence over hand-wringing about national elections for the Congressional and Executive branches of our government.

I’ve ordered Jacob Hacker’s Winner-Take-All Politics as a result of reading this discussion thread over the past several days, and look forward to achieving a better understanding of what happened to my native land over the past 30 years.

589

Salient 10.01.12 at 10:43 pm

My comment was well within the bounds of this forum.

Well, yeah, that kind of hostility and sarcasm are well within the bounds of this forum. All I’m saying is, you taunted mclaren with that provocative comment–whether you want to call it a taunt, a jeer, or a snappy comeback, it certainly was hostile. Taken literally, it imputed to mclaren something that mclaren had not literally said or expressed.

Your continued defense of the comment (which I didn’t even ask you to defend and only mentioned as an aside) does not leave me with much hope that we’ll ever get a forum in which we can discuss these topics without threadjack degeneration into VOTE D OR ELSE. I look at your response and Hidden Heart’s response, and I think “one of these comments is trying to participate in a conversation, and the other was trying to shut the conversation down.” I think that’s a fair assessment, and that it’s pretty clear which comment was which.

590

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 10:50 pm

“it certainly was hostile.”
No it was not. You do not get to dictate what is and is not hostile Salient. It was sarcastic sure, hostile no.

“Taken literally, it imputed to mclaren something that mclaren had not literally said or expressed.”
No. It was taking what he expressed to its logical conclusion. And from the look of the 10,000 plus words mclaren has since posted on this topic I am fairly certain i did not shut down his “contribution”.

591

Salient 10.01.12 at 11:25 pm

if one Nader voter in 10 had spent some of the last 12 years years taking part in grassroots efforts to shift the Democratic Party to the left

The majority Nader voters were not leftists (only 45% were liberal enough to sincerely prefer Gore to Bush, when polled on it). I regret not bringing this fact up anywhere and everywhere over the past 12 years; it’s like the actual election obliterated my memory of the crazy people who dominated the Nader rallies, who spouted some leftist things and some reactionary-rightist things and lots of incoherent things that made it obvious they were not in any meaningful sense a reliable ally of the left. I remember arguing against “it’s time to abolish the Federal Reserve’s Fiat Feudalism and go back on the gold standard” for, like, the better part of an hour, while internally trying to work out what the fuck ‘fiat feudalism’ was.

Quite a lot of leftist Nader voters *have* spent some of the last 12 years years taking part in grassroots efforts to shift the Democratic party to the left. My estimate would be we got exactly that from, like, the majority of people who were leftist, Nader-voting, and capable of contributing without sacrificing their lives (I assume you’re ok with me introducing that third characteristic, since demanding that a low-income worker with two full time jobs should participate in party-building is ludicrous; there were lots of really poor Nader supporters).

I don’t know why you think these folks mostly haven’t made that attempt. As you know, it’s super hard, nobody knows how to succeed, and the small incremental gains are mostly invisible and unknown to nonlocals. It turns out even making headway in a city council requires like fifty hours a week of work. Even when we focused exclusively on lefty education issues and we had many noteworthy allies in state legislature and local positions of power, we barely affected anything. (And then every single one of those allies got completely washed out of office not much later. We made calls for them. We gave them money. Industry supported their opponents. They lost. Things fall apart.)

Now if we could get Alan Grayson back making an ass of himself in the hallowed halls of Congress, we’d really be cookin’ — link for donations put in my name field so I can dodge automod. “If you like [our ad], then please help us put it back on the air. If you give us $45, then 300 people will see the ad.”

When some of us say “Vote for Obama because he’s very significantly better than Romney, but don’t make that the end of it”, that’s what we’re talking about.

Okay, we hear you. The problem is that this gets said thirty thousand times, with varying levels of sarcasm and hostility, flooding any discussion of any related topics. “Vote for Obama because he’s very significantly better than Romney, but please don’t try to make that the start middle and end of every single conversation thread that talks about voting in American elections.”

That preoccupation, and responses to it, eats up 14 of the first 25 comments and nearly all of the last 200. By comparison, “lesser-evilism is vulnerable to strategic behaviour” and “their very weakness and incompetence in carrying out the business of politics is being used as an electoral asset” got nearly nothing. People who started to contemplate and discuss the implications of the original post were immediately and consistently shot at and shot down by people who refused to tolerate that discussion. (You were very kind about it, but “if you know how to bring party discipline to the Senate Democrats’ rightmost 10-15, a lot of us would like to hear it” is still threadjacking, in that you’re insisting that Daniel must address the threadjack topic in order to host a discussion about the other topics he raised. “Merely believing that it should be possible” should be enough to let us have a discussion about something that does not depend upon its feasibility. We need to distinguish hosting a discussion from mass advocacy.)

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Salient 10.01.12 at 11:39 pm

“Taken literally, it imputed to mclaren something that mclaren had not literally said or expressed.”

No.

Okay, this has gone beyond ridiculous. You’re saying that, when taken literally, your comment did not impute to mclaren anything that mclaren had not literally said or expressed?

You attacked what he said. You attacked what he said through the use of an inflammatory reductio ad absurdum that you knew would set mclaren off because you knew it was not a fair representation of the feelings that mclaren expressed.

And from the look of the 10,000 plus words mclaren has since posted on this topic I am fairly certain i did not shut down his “contribution”.

Yes, you did. The two of you got into a spat back and forth that would not have otherwise happened, and mclaren got set off furious much like I did and said all kinds of obnoxious incredible things with overheated hostility that wasn’t present in mclaren’s original comment. You most certainly are the one human being that folks should consider most responsible for shutting down whatever contribution mclaren would have gone ahead and made in a less hostile atmosphere. That doesn’t necessarily imply that what you did is wrong, but it does imply you considered it morally imperative for you to attack what mclaren said.

“It was taking what he expressed to its logical conclusion” is just bullshit. There’s a logical difference between believing something is inevitable, and believing something is desirable. mclaren made a comment about inevitability, and you are trying to tell me the “logical conclusion” is desirability.

Your “shorter” summary imputed a desire to mclaren that they neither expressed nor supported, mclaren got offended and did the same thing back to you, and voila: more crap for the crap thread.

593

MPAVictoria 10.02.12 at 12:05 am

“you knew it was not a fair representation of the feelings that mclaren expressed.”
I knew/know no such thing. And it is ridiculous to say I am responsible for whatever you or mclaren decide to post or that I am responsible for creating a “hostile” atmosphere. You have been here long enough to know that my comment was completely in bounds for this forum. In fact it is not even close to the most “hostile” comment posted in this thread.

Look you are not going to convince me and I am not going to convince you so can we stop with the pearl clutching?

594

Salient 10.02.12 at 3:17 am

You have been here long enough to know that my comment was completely in bounds for this forum.

A comment can be hostile and still be “completely in bounds for this forum.” I remain angry that you’re continuing to allege your comment was friendly and encouraging instead of hostile and discouraging, because I think the very least we can offer one another at the end of hundreds of comments in the trenches is some truth and reconciliation. You sure as hell didn’t interpret mclaren’s response as friendly and encouraging, so I know you’re not just honestly blind to when you’re taking the piss on somebody. Kind of hard to trust that you won’t be vicious elsewhere if you’re protesting a very mild and very well-justified description of your comment (and less personally, kind of hard to hold out hope that future threads on the topic won’t end up in the same ditch we’re sitting in now).

Oh, and if you genuinely wanted reconciliation or silence from me, you wouldn’t have gone for one last jab with “pearl clutching.” Cute, kid.

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mattski 10.02.12 at 3:23 am

In the course of debate, an objection or ‘cross examination’ can safely be ignored if it carries no weight. So one man’s “threadjack” is another man’s point well taken.

And it won’t do, Salient, to blame mclaren’s hysteria on his interlocutors.

(fwiw, I never argued “voting D indefinitely” and I agree with JWM about the possibility of strategic voting. But the specifics–obviously–are critical.)

OK, over & out.

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js. 10.02.12 at 3:47 am

I went back and read mclaren’s first comment (@83 if anyone still cares). It’s really on point. I responded to MPAVictoria’s “let’s make it as bad etc.” comment soon after, but then gave up with MPAV, because I only seemed to be getting non-sequiters in response. More importantly, Steve Williams clearly brought out the utter bizarreness of some of the Dem-defending responses to mclaren’s point @115. He didn’t show up much afterwards, for probably obvious reasons (thinking it’s a safe assumption that “Steve Williams” is a man?).

Point being: yeah, lots of people would have probably (a) commented more, and (b) not gotten angry if the responses had been less knee-jerk, not forwarding non-sequiters or attacking straw-men, and not repeatedly hammering the drum about the moral necessity of voting for Obama—which several of the other people are or were planning to do anyway.

More than anything though: cheers to Salient and JW Mason for their patience and evident good will.

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Salient 10.02.12 at 5:32 am

And it won’t do, Salient, to blame mclaren’s hysteria on his interlocutors.

Not that I disagree in general, but certainly Shorter MPAVictoria: “I like Paul Ryan’s proposed policies…” is a response specifically provoked by Shorter mclaren- Lets make it as bad as possible as soon as possible! It uses the same formulation and the same type of unfair imputation.

But god, why am I even arguing about this, there’s nothing that can be said at this point to improve chances of a better outcome next time.

598

Daniel 10.02.12 at 9:28 am

Get a life.

599

McDuff 10.02.12 at 9:44 pm

How many of the people who voted for Gore have done anything significant to move the Democratic party to the left in the last decade?

The short term compromise would be easier to swallow if it was accompanied by any kind of agreement that this is the last time, and that the promised grass roots, primary voter strategy was going to be followed up with any kind of enthusiasm or chance of success.

600

ezra abrams 10.02.12 at 9:51 pm

for intellectuals, there seems to be a curious lack of history; A J Muste, war resistors league, E Debs,……
I mean, it is not like this sort of argument is new in any way shape or form
heck, I bet Bertrand Russell and Orwell went thru this for WWI and WWII and before that people I don’t know for the Boer War…

I just think it wierd, all the time spent on this; alot of which is self indulgence: it is easier to write 500 or 1000 or 2000 words then spend the next two or 4 years at boring meetings, trying to get the local dem party to support a more liberal candidate…

typical self indulgent yuppies
during nam people worked DAMM hard to make demos happy, and after trying to levitate the pentagon, they would take off an hour or two and get back to work while the kids partied and thought they had ended the ware

same thing at OWS last september; lotta self indulgent kids, and one kid, I shoulda talked to him, working to keep the park clean by picking up litter

601

Bernard Yomtov 10.02.12 at 9:58 pm

Jake,

There are going to be 468 elections for members in congress in 2014. 2010 showed that non-presidential elections matter a lot, so why wait four years?

468?

Regardless, there will also be who knows how many state-level legislative races. Lots of opportunity there to demonstrate voting power, either in primaries or third-party campaigns. If the idea is to draw the Democratic Party leftward then showing political strength is a good way to go about it.

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Jake 10.02.12 at 11:04 pm

435 Representatives plus 33 Senators. In 2016, senatorial class 3 will be up for election so there will be 469.

Maybe we should be trolling RedState saying that Obama is going to use drones to look in your backyard to see if you are… growing weed? Watering your lawn in violation of water conservation measures?

603

Salient 10.02.12 at 11:13 pm

Get a life.

b-b-but someone is Wrong on the Internet!

(point taken, I’m out. ‘later.)

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bob mcmanus 10.02.12 at 11:33 pm

1000!

605

GiT 10.02.12 at 11:40 pm

“How many of the people who voted for Gore have done anything significant to move the Democratic party to the left in the last decade?”

Probably, in absolute terms, more people than those who were among those that voted Green.

Having voted Democrat isn’t really an unambiguous signal for one’s actual politics. “Those who voted Democrat” probably includes a large majority of “those who pulled the Dem’s to the left,” “those who pulled dems to the right,” and “those who didn’t do shit.” The point being here that voting Democrat doesn’t imply anything significant about one’s actual political activities, outside of one’s actual political activities in the voting both.

The notion that how someone acts in a voting both is grounds for judgment on the entirety of their political activities is ridiculous. How one acts in the voting both is isn’t grounds for judgment about anything more than *how one acts in the voting booth*.

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McDuff 10.03.12 at 10:07 am

GiT, that rather raises the question. If all these people within the Democratic Party, even if we just count “reliably votes for it” as within, are working to move the party to the left, how come it is moving to the right?

It strikes me that in any conception of the problem that allows itself the luxury of a >4 year time span (something more or less trained out of American political commentary) must contain something more to bring the disillusioned left to the voting booth than republican bogeyman under the bed and a thousand years of darkness. It’s not unreasonable to say “I will vote for your guy here in 2012, but we need to consider that deal off if by 2020 your guy is even worse.” I’m not entirely sure it is incumbent on people whose position it is that they’re both parties of corporate power so any distinctions are cosmetic has a responsibility to work on something they consider to be an impossibility, ie the shifting of the Democrats into a meaningfully Left position, when it appears that actual Democrats who believe that it can be done either don’t try to do it or try and can’t.

607

rootless_e 10.03.12 at 11:45 am

how come it is moving to the right?

The Democratic Party under Obama is not to the right of the Clinton era DP.

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Anarcissie 10.03.12 at 1:42 pm

‘The Democratic Party under Obama is not to the right of the Clinton era DP.’

Different context. Certain political opportunities opened up after 2005 as a result of Bush 2′s disastrous reign. They were not used; instead, the tottering ancien regime was restored.

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politicalfootball 10.03.12 at 3:20 pm

Then why has the slippery slope side ever downwards towards totalitarianism and a return to 19th century labor practices since 1968, when Nixon was elected?

I think this cuts to the core of the misunderstanding over “lesser evilism”. In fact, lots of conservative voters despised Nixon, but for them, he was the lesser evil. His record on the environment, health care, China etc., was appalling to many of the people who voted for him, but they voted for him anyway, and history has vindicated them.

Look at the Moral Majority and its ilk. A bunch of people who had previously been too high-minded for electoral politics helped choose Reagan as president. Mind you, Reagan talked a good game, but because of Democratic obstruction and his own impulses toward moderation, he failed the conservative movement in many ways, raising taxes, doing minimal damage to entitlements, starting only tiny wars, and positioning GHW Bush as his successor. He signed the Convention Against Torture! What a disappointment he was! But the lesser evilists understood that he did about as well as he could, given the political climate of the time.

GW Bush always had stupidity going for him, but the hard right had to take it on faith that he was also crazy and had a strong authoritarian streak. I think the lesser evil types got lucky with GWB – I don’t think it was at all clear at the time that he was any crazier than his father. But the rightwingers positioned themselves to get lucky, precisely through lesser evilism. Had they been purists about rejecting Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” they would have sat out that election. Had they rejected Bush because he spoke out against “nation building,” many neoconservative accomplishments wouldn’t have happened. Even after the horror of Medicare Part D, The Right came back to support Bush for re-election.

And now, after decades of lesser evilism, the crazy right is putting up people like Missouri’s Akin, a guy who was hated by the Republican establishment and who may not win, but who is the Republican nominee, and therefore has an infinitely better chance than he would if he and his voters decided he was too pure for the GOP.

The Democratic and Republican parties are vessels; they are vehicles designed with majoritarian politics in mind. If you want to have a voice in majoritarian politics, you’ve got to form majority coalitions, and that means banding together with people whose opinions and values you don’t share, especially when the polity is as large and diverse as the one in the U.S.

Republicans get this, and it’s one reason they win.

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politicalfootball 10.04.12 at 2:49 am

Every now and then you get presented with an interesting natural experiment. Tonight, Romney threw the rich and the Tea Partiers under the bus, saying that he was not, in fact, going to cut taxes for the rich. Will he be criticized on the Right? Stay tuned …

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adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 10.04.12 at 3:05 am

I assume that’s a rhetorical question?

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Martin Bento 10.04.12 at 4:14 am

politicalfootball, actually what history has vindicated is the conservative turn away form lesser-evilism in the very next election. They got very little they wanted from Nixon – the EPA, detente, surrender in Vietnam, wage and price controls, affirmative action in its modern form. In 1976, they were faced with a very weak centrist incumbent (Ford), whose ascent to the office was questionable. He was, however, very much the lesser evil from their perspective compared to the Democratic Party of the day. The last Dem nominee was George McGovern, after all, an absolute nightmare for them, and although he lost badly, that was before Watergate became big and many other things. Kneecapping their own nominee was very dangerous. Nonetheless, they did so to try to nominate a man widely regarded as extreme and unelectable, who did indeed promote their ideas in relatively pure form, and they decided to do this before they knew the Dem nominee would be. Took it all the way to the Convention. They decided changing the conversation was more important than winning the Presidency. When the election came, Ford lost extremely narrowly. Given the margin, it is very unlikely that he would have lost without the primary challenge. The challenger was, of course, Ronald Reagan, and it was this challenge that prepared him to take the nomination on the next go. For that reason, the next election the conservatives won really counted – it enabled them to actually further their agenda.

The Tea Party showed a similar dynamic. There are very few in the Senate who could really be called tea party Senators, but the Senate does not cross them. Why? Because the tea party has proved that it will run primary challengers even if it means costing the party seats, and will show not a bit of regret over it. The likes of Sharon Angle very arguably cost the Repubs the Senate, and the Tea Party is very visibly not a bit upset over this. And it was a strategy. Many fewer primary challenges this time out. The Party got the message; no more need to punish them.

All of which is not to say that lesser-evilism is never the way to go. But the historical success of the conservative movement in taking over the Repub party does not support it as a strategy.

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MQ 10.04.12 at 4:16 am

No, because they know damn well he actually will end up cutting taxes for the rich, they will make him do it because they have that kind of clout. They own him while the left is marginalized in the Democratic party.

Also, you’ll notice that Romney actually did commit to cutting taxes for the rich, by rejecting letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

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MQ 10.04.12 at 4:16 am

613 to 610.

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mclaren 10.04.12 at 4:21 am

Having allowed the pro-Obama cultists time enough to spout their predictable and robotic (Obotic) canned arguments in favor of voting for Obama, it’s now time to debunk those arguments one by one.

Argument #1: “Romney will bring back torture!”

Example argument #1 (to pre-emptively debunk the predictable lie that “no one ever made that claim,” the standard and inevitable assertion, which seems to be the only argument ever offered by pro-Obama commenters here, that people who disagree with their provably false assertions are “debating a straw man.” In fact, since in each case the people making the “straw man argument” are themselves lying because many commenters have in fact said the things they claim were never said, the “straw man” accusation is itself the most flagrant and glaring example of debating a straw man on this forum.)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/28/us/politics/election-will-decide-future-of-interrogation-methods-for-terrorism-suspects.html?_r=1

Debunking argument #1 — Obama continued the Bush policy of torturing prisoners:
http://my.firedoglake.com/valtin/2010/05/11/icrc-confirms-existence-of-second-secret-prison-at-bagram-bbc-reports-torture/

“…As we know now, not all the black site prisons were shut down. Nor
was the torture ended. Whether it’s beatings and forced-feedings at
Guantanamo, or the kinds of torture described at Bagram, it’s obvious
that torture has not been rooted out of U.S. military-intelligence
operations. In fact, by way of the Obama administration’s recent
approval of the Bush-era Army Field Manual on interrogations, with its
infamous Appendix M, which allows for much of the kind of torture
practiced at Bagram, the White House has institutionalized a level of
torture that was introduced by the previous administration, but which
has been studied and devised over the last fifty or sixty years.”

http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/06/03/what-is-obama-doing-at-bagram-part-one-torture-and-the-black-prison/

Predicted counterclaim: “These reports are lies.”

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight. The Red Cross is lying. The Washington Post is
lying. Witnesses at congressional hearings are lying. The official
budget of the United States is a fabrication and all the secret
prisons and black sites listed therein don’t exist.

http://warincontext.org/2011/04/08/obamas-secret-prison-network/
http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2010/01/28/obamas-secret-prisons/
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006442

So much for the “Romney will bring back torture, but Obama has saved us from it” argument. It’s dead. Obama continued and by all evidence continues to this day Bush’s practice of torture. There is nothing to bring back, for the practice has never ended.

Logical fallacy #1: In addition to the factual falsities in the Obots’ argument about torture, there’s a massive internal logical contradiction. On the one hand the Obots assure us in tone of premonitory hysteria that America is poised on a fragile knife edge twixt moral depravity (torture nation! we’ll be hopelessly corrupted! America will never recover from this infamy! We’ll be stained as a nation forever!!!) and the purity of Obama’s magnificence. Yet on the other hand — often in the very same sentence — the Obots assure us that these depravities and atrocities are in fact reversible because the sacred personage of Obama was untouched by all this moral filth. If we only sink to our kness and kiss the hem of Obama’s robe, we too shall be healed like the lepers kissing Jesus’ garment, and all our sins in permitting the Bush presidency to torture innocent people will be washed clean.

Yet how can these two claims be reconciled? Either we’re poised on a moral knife edge and Romney’s actions post-election will push this nation over into a pit of moral infamy in which we lose our souls, or we can change course as a nation and recognize that we did bad things, horrible things, monstrous things, but that we won’t do them anymore. But you cannot argue both assertions at once.

Logical fallacy #2: By implying that torture represents such a horrible stain that we as a nation will never regain our souls if Romney gets elected and starts working on innocent detainees with a blow torch and a pair of pliers and some power tools, the Obots are implicitly making the assertion that America is a (capital E!) Exceptional (capital N!) Nation. We are somehow special! Other nations may torture, and have tortured in the past…but ohhhhhhh nooooooo, not Special Nation America! We are magnificent! We are gloriously unique!

This simply flies in the face of common sense. Evidence as well as logic shows that many nations have fallen into the practice of torture at one time or another. It is a common human failing. There’s nothing magical or special about Americans that makes them immune to the dark seduction of torture or genocide. American army personnel using waterboarding during the Philippine campaign of 1901, U.S. grunts in the field tortured Viet Cong with hand-cranked field radios in the 1970s, yet America overcame these depravities and refused to submerge into a moral cesspool. Why must Romney’s election submerge us hopelessly into a moral cesspool today? America is not an exceptional nation, but just another nation of fallible humans like any other, with some virtues and many faults. Many nations have on occasion committed atrocities (Australians butchered the aborigines, Brits set up debtors prisons, the French imprisoned and tortured impoverished peasants during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Spanish conducted the Grand Inquisition, the Germans murdered millions of Jews during WW II, the Russians slaughtered and imprisoned millions of their own people, the Turks killed millions of Armenians during WW I.. and so on) but they were able to overcome these barbarities. Romney’s election would be bad but it won’t be the end of America. We’ve suffered other bad leaders, fallen into other evil policies, but we can and have learned not to repeat those mistakes.

So much for the argument that “Romney will bring back torture.” Stick a fork in it. It’s done. And if you’re really so concerned about ending torture, take a leave of absence from your job and picket the School of the Americas and Raytheon corporation.

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mclaren 10.04.12 at 4:51 am

Continuing to debunk the arguments in favor of voting for Obama, we get the predictable scare tactic:

Argument #2: “If Mitt Romney gets elected, we’ll have austerity policies that turn back the clock to the 19th century!”

Example of argument #1: “REPUBLICANS FIND THEIR BRIDGE TO THE 19TH CENTURY…. The Republican majority in the Iowa House this week passed a measure declaring that they intend to ignore a federal law they don’t like. It’s unlikely to pass the state Senate, but it’s a rather striking development anyway.

“The underlying issue is called “nullification,” and it was a popular concept with conservatives before the Civil War.”

Source: Washington Monthly, Steve Benen, 3 February 2011.

“Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, as the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie points out, leaves no doubt that if elected Romney will pursue Ryan’s agenda of savage cuts to the already threadbare American safety net in order to finance upper-class tax cuts and additional defense spending that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. The Ryan choice does not merely reveal, however, Romney’s commitment to 19th-century fiscal policy. It also demonstrates Romney’s commitment to a 19th-century view of women and gays and lesbians. “

Source: “Paul Ryan, culture warrior,” Prospect.org, 11 August 2012.

Debunking argument #2: Obama has already acquiesced in turning back
the clock back to the 19th century.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-moyers/money-in-politics_b_1840173.html

“Walmart workers ask for basic rights, Walmart calls riot police”

“No one should come to work and endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250lbs with no support. Workers never know how long the work day will be- sometimes its two hours, sometimes its 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment.”

(“Extreme temperatures” here means temperatures of up to 125 degrees Farenheit inside the warehouses. Walmart routines keeps an ambulence on hand in case workers have to be taken to the hospital for heat prostration. Tell me that isn’t 19th century working conditions. And what does Obama do about all this? Nothing. He sits back and watches and does nothing at all. Obama has at his command the entire resources of the DOJ, of OSHA, of the full federal government to supervise and punish companies that abuse or dscriminate against or endanger the health of their workers. And Obama does…nothing at all.)

Debunking argument #2: Obama has already acquiesced in 70% of the cuts in Simpson-Bowles, savagely slashing the social safety net.

“We’ve Already Cut Spending By Almost All of the Bowles-Simpson Targets,” Dan Dayen, 3 October 2012, Firedoglake.com

“We’ve Actually Already Cut a Bunch of Spending,” 3 October 2012, Jared Bernstein.

“There is a strongly held view—one I’ve contributed to myself—that our dysfunctional federal government cannot accomplish anything useful on the budget front. To the contrary, they can create recessionary cliffs, i.e., they’re good at creating problems, not solutions.”

Obama’s budget to slash 100 billion from Pell Grants.

“Obama Calls for Partial Spending Freeze in State of the Union Address,” Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2011.

A freeze on every government program — except the military, which got an 8% boost. Remind me again — who is slashing the social safety net while radically increasing funding for America’s endless unwinnable wars?

Why, both candidates, of course.

Worst of all, Obama has embraced the crazy and counterproductive austerity economics of Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover’s secretary of the treasury: when you’re in a depression and the deficits are mounting, cut spending to reduce the deficit! This is demented. Economists have recognized since the 1930s that John Maynard Keynes was correct when he proved mathematically in his General Theory of 1936 that in the face of a massive balance sheet recession, cutting spending actually increases the deficit. The reason for that, of course, is that government spending in such a massive recession primes the pump to restart the economy, and without that pump-priming effect, the economy continues to sink and more people lose jobs, creating a vicious cycle of unemployment leading to decline in aggregate demand, which leads to more unemployment, which leads to further decline in aggregate demand.

Yet Barack Obama has wholeheartedly embraced this long-debunked 19th century economic delusion:

“But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I’m proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year. ” — Barack Obama, State of the Union Speech, 25 January 2011.

Economists have denounced this lunacy. Yet Obama gives every evidence of continuing to believe this 19th century economic canard that if times get tough, the government must “tighten its belt” and reduce spending.

At the same time, under Obama, imprisoning poor people for being in debt has become a growth industry. Yes, under Barack Obama’s presidency, the debtor’s prison has made a dramatic and horrifying return:

“Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors’ Prisons,” CBS Moneywatch, 23 April 2012.

“How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. `But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.’

“Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.”

So much for the fantasy that “Romney will take us back to the 19th century.” Obama is already taking us back to the 19th century. Both candidates will take us back to the 19th century. Stop pretending there’s a choice here.

This phony argument is over. Stick a fork in it: it’s done. The claim that “Romney will take us back to the austerity policies of the 19th century” is bogus because America is already hurtling backward to the 19th century under Barack Obama’s “hands off” leadership that gives a Get Out Of Jail Free pass to every possible corporate atrocity while continuing the insane and long-debunked austerity policies of Herbert Hoover.

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mclaren 10.04.12 at 5:25 am

Continuing to debunk the bogus arguments against voting for Obama, we come to the most peurile and dishonest argument of all — namely…

Argument #3: If Mitt Romney is elected, he’ll attack Iran and
destabilize the entire middle east!

Example of argument #3: “Biden claims Romney wants war with Iran and Syria,” The Political Ticker, 2 September 2012.

Debunking argument #3: Obama is already preparing to go to war with
Iran and he has already destabilized the entire middle east.

“Obama’s drift toward war with Iran,” The Atlantic Magazine, 14 June 2012.

“The most undercovered story in Washington is how President Obama, under the influence of election-year politics, is letting America drift toward war with Iran. This story is the unseen but ominous backdrop to next week’s Moscow round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. “

“Obama uses UN speech to threaten war against Iran,” 26 September 2012.

“Obama places more sanctions on Iran,” USA Today, 31 July 2012.

“Barack Obama ratchets up pressure on Iran as he tightens oil sanctions ,” The Telegraph, 30 March 2012.

“Iranian sign petition protesting hardships,” The Boston Globe, 3 October 2012.

“In the end, some 10,000 names were attached to the petition addressed to Iran’s labor minister in one of the most wide-reaching public outcries over the state of the country’s economy, which has received a double pounding from tightening Western sanctions and alleged mismanagement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government.

“The rare protest document — described this week by labor activists and others — suggests growing anxiety among Iran’s vast and potentially powerful working class as the ruling system struggles with the latest sanctions, which have targeted critical oil exports and blackballed Iran from international banking networks.”

“As Sanctions Take Effect, Iranian Economy Starts to Collapse, Fueling Unrest,” Firedoglake, 3 October 2012.

You tell me — all of you were around in 2001-2002 when the Bush maladministration was conducting the propaganda and sanction and threat runup to the Iraq invasionof 2003…isn’t this exactly the same kind of pressure and sanctions and threats and propaganda that was used to push America into an unwarranted war of aggression against Iraq in 2003?

The actual facts on the ground are that there is zero evidence of an Iranian nuclear program. None. Nada. Bupkiss. Zilch. Iran’s uranium enrichment program uses uranium which is enriched nowhere near the level required for nuclear weapons, and can only produce fuel for nuclear power plants.

Previous articles debunked claims of Iran’s alleged nuclear threat. For months, major media scoundrels regurgitated official lies.

Yet at least since 2007, America’s annual intelligence assessment found none. Media reports ignored it. Suddenly old news is new news.

Quelle surprise! It’s now headlined. More on that below, and a review of past intelligence assessments. Previous articles explained them.

Why the change? Iran faces frequent false accusations. In recent months alone, they include the fake US Saudi assassination plot, being the world’s leading sponsor of terror, targeting Israeli officials in India, Georgia and Thailand, and, of course, claims about a nonexistent nuclear weapons program. They all fail the smell test.

Defusing Iran’s nuclear issue relates directly to Washington designating Syria target one. The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Both countries are targeted for regime change.


Debunking Some Anti-Iran Agit-Prop,” 23 July 2012, ConsortiumNews.

“Debunking the Iran `Terror Plot,” Garth Porter, AntiWarNews, 5 November 2011.

“At a press conference on October 11, the Obama administration unveiled a spectacular charge against the government of Iran: The Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, right in Washington, DC, in a place where large numbers of innocent bystanders could have been killed. High-level officials of the Qods Force were said to be involved, the only question being how far up in the Iranian government the complicity went.

“The US tale of the Iranian plot was greeted with unusual skepticism on the part of Iran specialists and independent policy analysts, and even elements of the mainstream media. The critics observed that the alleged assassination scheme was not in Iran’s interest, and that it bore scant resemblance to past operations attributed to the foreign special operations branch of Iranian intelligence. “

“CNN on the Iran threat: The news network’s Pentagon reporter reasons that “Iran already has a missile that could reach the U.S,” Glenn Greenwald, salon.com, 16 July 2012.

“Glenn Greenwald Tears Apart the Propaganda Driving the Insane Push for War With Iran,” AlterNet, Joshua Holland, 5 March 2012.

“There are similarities in the run up to the Iraq war, but there is also a key difference — this time, the driving force for the push for war with Iran isn’t Washington.

“Iran is diplomatically isolated, has a weak and antiquated military relative to Israel and the United States, and its economy is being squeezed hard by international sanctions. The consensus among both American and Israeli intelligence agencies is that an attack on the country would be disastrous, and might lead to a regional nuclear arms race.”

“U.S. media takes the lead on Iran: The propaganda over The Grave Persian Threat is as cartoonish as it was when directed at Iraq in 2002,” Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, 14 February 2012.

“U.S. [spy] Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb,” James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, The New York TImes, 24 February 2012.

“Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.

“Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.”

“Russia says ‘no signs’ of nuclear weapons development in Iran: Interfax,” El Arabiya News, 6 September 2012.

Remind us again, all you pro-Obama voters…which president orchestrated a massive insane near-hysterical campaign of lies and propaganda and sanctions in preparation for a wholly unwarranted invasion of a country which had no nuclear program…?

Bush scheming to invade Iraq in 2003?

Or is it Obama scheming to invade Iran in 2013?

The answer, of course, is “both.”

The argument that “Romney will attack Iran if he becomes president!” is as phony as three-dollar bill because Barack Obama is already orchestrating a massive campaign of propaganda and sanctions against Iran eerily similar to Bush’s runup to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

That argument in favor of voting for Obama is history. Stick a fork in it: it’s done.

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mclaren 10.04.12 at 5:47 am

Proceeding apace with debunking the disingenuous, logically self-contradictory, and factually false arguments in favor of voting for Obama, we come to the “all is lost!” argument…

Argument #4: Romney will destroy America is he’s elected!

The damage will be so extensive there’ll be no coming back from this socioeconomic apocalypse.

Examples of argument #4: Youtube video: Papantonio – Romney’s vulture capitalism will destroy America

“4 Ways Romney & Ryan Would Roll Back the 20th Century: this election will decide the future of our welfare state,” Jake Blumgart, AlterNet, 31 August 2012.

There will be nothing left but ashes if Romney gets elected. A desolate moonscape wherein slink creatures formerly human, now devolved into hideous mutants.

Meanwhile, we are supposed to ignore the fact that Barack Obama explicitly ran as the guy who would heal America and roll back the horrors and grotesqueries of the Bush maladministration. Hope! Change! YES WE CAN!

Well, which is it, folks? We’ve been down this road before. We were told in tones of punitive hysteria that failing to elect mediocre-candidate rich guy John Kerry would destroy America. All was lost, lost if we refused to vote for him — and so we did vote him. But the jiggery-pokery with the Republican owned e-voting machines in Ohio resulted in an explicable Bush win in 2004.

Even more inexplicably, the country survived.

Then we were assured in even more hysterical intonations that if McCain won, all was lost! Lost! America would be sunk in war and deficits and tax cuts for the rich and goon squad riot-armored cops beating and clubbing peaceful dissenters as far as the eye could see.

So we voted for Obama, and we got…

…War and deficits and tax cuts for the rich and goon squad riot-armored cops beating and clubbing peaceful dissenters as far as the eye could see.

Now the Obots trot out another bogeyman to scare us with. And we’re old once again of the unspeakable horrors that will befall us if we fail to vote for Obama. Horrors like massive preparations for an attack on Iran, horrors like the return of debtors’ prisons in America, horrors like the savage decriminalization of peaceful dissent, horrors like the president of the United States ordering the murder of U.S. citizens without even accusing ‘em of committing a crime, horrors like Obama signing off on an extension of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires, horrors like a full commitment to the insanely counterproductive and long-debunked economic austerity policy of Herbert Hoover (when in a depression, cut spending to reduce deficits!), that we’re supposed to ignore.

What we have here is a contradictory message by the Obama supporters. On the one hand, we’re told that America is fragile and can’t come back from the kind of damage Romney will do if he gets elected. On the other hand, Obama himself continually assures us that America is dynamic and is capable of renewing itself and restoring itself. Obama himself preaches optimism and buoyant hope.

So which is it?

Which one of these self-contradictory stories are we supposed to believe?

And why are we expected to believe yet again, for the third time now, that failing to vote for the designated corporate sock puppet anti-worker pro-military-police-state Democratic candidate will result in the destruction of all we hold dear, puppy dogs and My Little Pony, Tinkerbell and Winnie the Pooh included?

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. This argument in favor of voting for Obama is toast. Stick a fork in it: it’s done.

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GiT 10.04.12 at 6:42 am

@ Martin Bento – But the “lesser evilists” here were only talking about choosing between two ordained candidates in the November election. What does pushing to the ‘far left’ in the primaries have to do with that?

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Martin Bento 10.04.12 at 6:22 pm

I think a consistent lesser-evilism has to mean that you do not vote in a such a way as to make more likely the election of a worse candidate from your perspective thana better one. Supporting Reagan against Ford certainly qualifies, as does supporting Angle.

As for not lining up in the general: Perot, then. He drew from both sides, but had more registered Republicans than Democrats, and, even if he hadn’t, if Repubs were committed to a lesser-evil strategy, they would have stayed united behind Bush, regardless of what the Democrats did. It might’ve worked, too, in the sense of keeping Bush in office. But Perot also enabled them to push the Party further right, even though Perot’s appeal was not simply right-wing. To counter Clinton, the Repubs needed a movement, an insurgency, and this rules out centrism. Enter Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America. When the Party selected a relative centrist again in 96, Perot stayed in the race, though this time he turned out to be superfluous to the outcome.

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politicalfootball 10.04.12 at 7:34 pm

Martin, we may be down to a very narrow disagreement here, or none at all. Maybe we just disagree about the definition of the term “lesser evilism,” which I am using in the context of the original post.

I certainly agree that candidacies like Angle’s or Akin’s or Reagan’s in ’76 are entirely appropriate for people who want to shape policy. However, I would characterize those candidacies as being almost entirely consistent with lesser evilism.

That said, I’m certainly compelled to acknowledge that Reagan might have cost Ford the election – that this was a real risk of his candidacy. Or that Akin could cost Republicans control of the Senate. The dividing line, in my opinion has to do with the presence of a plausible path toward having an impact on policy.

Would I have voted for a plausible progressive alternative to Obama in the Democratic primary? Yes. Am I sympathetic to people who publicly criticize Obama from the left? Absolutely. Such criticism is crucial even though it could detract from Obama’s electability.

Once you’ve tried and failed to oust Obama (or Reagan, or Carter or any of the other lesser evils), it’s wise to recognize that you’re stuck, and cut your losses. If you can’t get the more liberal/conservative/whatever half of the electorate to accept your guy, then you have to try again next time. That’s the approach that wins.

The thing I’m arguing against is the Underpants Gnome theory of political progress:
1. Support the political opponent of Obama/Kerry/Gore/Clinton in the general election.
2. ????????
3. Progress!

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politicalfootball 10.04.12 at 7:48 pm

I misstated 1 above. More properly it’s:

1. Assert neutrality between Obama/Kerry/Gore/Clinton in the general election.

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Bruce Wilder 10.04.12 at 8:35 pm

politicalfootball @ 209 : “the misunderstanding over “lesser evilism”.”

I think you may need to revisit Algebra I, because your reasoning is faulty.

If you are pro-evil, as Republicans are, then the “lesser-evil” is equivalent to half-a-loaf. Nixon was evil, but less evil than the Goldwater/Reagan wing of the Party would have preferred. So, the lesser evil. But, still more evil than Humphrey or McGovern. And, as a Republican you want evil, so you are getting something you want, but a smaller serving.

If you are anti-evil, as liberal Democrats such as my own lovely self are, then the lesser-evil is just a somewhat smaller dose of poison. Not what you want at all, but, maybe, less of what you don’t want.

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Bruce Wilder 10.04.12 at 9:12 pm

Is it realistic to imagine that you can rationalize active political support for either major Party candidate, and still tell the truth about just what a ripe, evil bastard he is?

I’m not sure, in the present configuration of our politics, that it is possible for partisans to even tell the truth about the other Party’s candidate, which is what is supposed to happen in a two-party system, with active rotation in office. I don’t see Republicans telling the truth about Obama; instead, they say he’s a Black Muslim socialist, or some such. Honestly, I don’t even see Democrats telling the truth about Romney, though it would seem to be to their advantage. Obama, in the debate last night, could have highlighted the absurdity of a man with an income of nearly $20 million, and an extensive history of tax evasion, paying a lower percentage tax rate than a minimum wage worker, arguing for a policy of reducing tax rates. I’m not holding my breath.

Both Parties and both candidates are pulling their punches, and actively avoiding the truth and avoiding a discussion of issues, challenges and options, which are vital to the future, but which neither candidate or Party want open to democratic discussion. There’s no space for discussing the need to increase Social Security benefits or lowering the retirement age. There’s no space for discussing the need to address the deficit by increasing stimulus spending on infrastructure investments that address the structural problems limiting employment recovery. There’s no space for a serious discussion or how we respond to peak oil or climate change. No one is going to discuss the implications of losing two prolonged, absurdly expensive, purposeless wars in the last decade.

The political, media, financial and (a large part of the corporate) business elites are deeply corrupt, and they are acting to avoid exposing their own corruption to democratic scutiny or the possibility of political reform. Investing a lot of energy or hope in Obama’s re-election as a remedy for that corruption is delusional.

And, not because Obama’s re-election is some slim chance. On the contrary, Obama is very likely to be re-elected, in no small part because Romney’s campaign is so absurdly self-destructive. (Obama doesn’t your help, liberal Democrats, when he has Romney’s. If Romney wants Obama re-elected this badly, nothing liberals say or do is going to have any discernible effect or influence.)

So, what is the point of supporting Obama, when it requires rationalizing or minimizing policy conduct you despise and a level of continuing corruption that may well bring the country to ruin and completely ignoring or misconstruing the most important problems and issues of the day?

Especially, when it is obvious that Obama neither needs nor wants your help, and will give your views and values exactly zero influence on policy?

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rootless_e 10.04.12 at 10:34 pm

Well, McClaren’s trenchant analysis has pretty much convinced me. Going out to burn up both my Obama sign and my copy of E.B. White.

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mclaren 10.05.12 at 4:15 am

Continuing the debunk the argument for voting for Obama, we come to…

Argument #6: “This election will be like the one in 2000 where voting for Nader threw the election to Bush!”

Example of argument #6: comment 585 on this thread by Hidden Heart:

“You know, if one Nader voter in 10 had spent some of the last 12 years years taking part in grassroots efforts to shift the Democratic Party to the left…it wouldn’t have ushered in utopia or anything, but it might have made some of the current depression less bad in some states if there’d been a more reliable bloc of votes in opposition to austerity…

Also comment 345 from this thread by Bernard Yomtov:

“It seems to me that there is a glaring inconsistency here. Those who argue that a vote for Obama is immoral are at the same time unwilling to accept that the Nader voters cost Gore the election in 2000. So they are, it looks to me, unwilling to accept responsibility for the consequences of their argument.”

(Not that it has been conclusively established that people on this thread have in fact made this argument, let’s not have more claims “you’re debating a straw man.” That claim is in fact the greatest straw man argument of all, as examples like this demonstrate.)

Debunking argument #6: First, 2012 is nothing like the year 2000. Let’s run down the reasons:

[1] 2012 is nothing like 2000 because there’s no third party candidate with the capacity to take a significant amount of the Democratic vote this year.
[2] 2012 is nothing like 2000 because in 2000, the Republican candidate successfully concealed his sociopathy and passed himself off as a moderate Republican, a so-called “compassionate conservative.” In 2012, by contrast, the Republican candidate is widely regarded as unlikeable and people remark that there’s something “off about him” (which I believe to be evidence that Romney is a high-functioning sociopath who has not managed to completely conceal his pathological lack of empathy for other human beings). More: those damning first-person testimonies by workers whose lives were wrecked by Romney’s Bain Capital offshoring and outsourcing have made is pellucidly clear what Romney’s motives and typical behavior actually are, unlike Bush in 2000 when his record as governor of Texas was thoroughly unclear and when Bush was able to spin his record as governor as alleged evidence that Bush was a moderate who would work with Democrats once elected.
[3] 2012 is nothing like 2000 because in 2000, Bush successfully lied about what policies he’d put in practice if elected — and enough people believed him to throw the election to Bush. But in 2012, Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan has given the game away. Romney is now forced to run on Ryan’s insane austerity economics scheme. Romney has lied about what policies he’ll implement if elected and he’s lied many times, but unlike Bush in 2000, Romney’s lies aren’t going over with the electorate — partly because Romney is such a poor liar, partly because of his choice of Ryan, and partly because the Democratic candidate this time is mounting a ferocious and largely successful campaign to reveal the Republican candidate’s lies to the electorate.
[4] 2012 is nothing like the year 2000 because in 2000, the electorate enjoyed a humming economy and a long period free from long-term foreign wars, so voters were feeling pretty good. They thought they had the luxury to choose wrong because after all, how much damage could a Republican do? In 2012 the electorate is trapped in a collapsing economy and America has been mired in endless unwinnable wars since 2001 and everyone is sick of it — and this time, voters know exactly how much damage a Republican president with extreme policies can do if he gets elected. We have the 8 hideous years of the Bush nightmare to remind us.
[5] 2012 is nothing like the year 2000 because in 2000, the previous Republican president was one of the most beloved in American history. Today, the previous Republican president is one of the most hated in American history. In 2000 the Republican candidate ran on Reagan’s record — today, Romney has to run away from Dubya’s record.

But wait…there’s more!

The above evidence proves conclusively that the 2012 presidential election has nothing in common with the 2000 presidential election. But even if that claim is wrong, the assertions made by pro-Obama voters still fail.

How so?

Let’s grant the affirmative even though it’s not true — let’s assume, contra reality, that the 2012 election really is like the 2000 election and let’s further assume that liberal voters who refuse to vote for Obama today would play the same role that liberal voters who refused to vote for Gore played in 2000.

The pro-Obama voter argument triumphant trumpets that liberal voters today who refuse to accept the “lesser evil” of Obama are just like the Nader voters in 2000, and therefore they refuse to accept the consequences of their heinous actions! So there! Debate over, right?

Wrong.

In fact, every Democrat owes Ralph Nader an eternal debt of gratitude. Because think it through.

If Nader hasn’t acted as a spoiler and if Gore had won in 2000, he would probably have served 2 terms. And then the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression could have been successfully blamed by the Republicans on “16 years of Democratic regulation and red tape and tax hikes!”

And what have happened then will freeze the lymph in your glands.

Then, mired in the biggest economic meltdown since 1930, the Republicans would have been able to sweep the presidency and house and senate in 2008 and they would have set about their insane policies of cutting the deficit while slashing social programs and cutting taxes on the rich. This is exactly the same policy that Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover’s secretary of the treasury, proposed in 1930, and it was a catastrophe. Unemployment skyrocketed. Industrial production collapsed. America sank even deeper in recession, worsening the Great Depression.

If Nader hasn’t run in 2000, today we’d have a Republican house and senate and president and the unemployment rate would be 25% and instead of having 25 million homeowners with underwater mortgages, we’d have 100 million homeowners foreclosed and homeless, armies of starving homeless people dying in the streets because food stamps had been eliminated and social security had been slashed and medicaid and medicare had been abolished.

So the people who refuse to accept the consequences of their decisions are in fact the pro-Obama voters.

Notice the jiu-jitsu here: the first part of this debunking shows that the pro-Obama argument here is false; and the second part of this debunking demonstrates that even if the pro-Obama argument is true, their overall claims are still false.

This is a fatal antinomy from which there is no appeal. This pro-Obama argument is so completely destroyed, there’s nothing left of it, not even elementary particles.

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mclaren 10.05.12 at 5:03 am

And continuing to debunk the failed and faulty arguments for voting for Obama, we come to…

Argument #7: personalities. “If you don’t vote for Obama, Romney will win!”
And Romney is such a clearly sociopathic and unlikeable candidate that we all shrink in horror.

Example of argument #7: GiT in comment 501 on this thread: “It’s currently a marginal situation in, say, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and a few other states, strictly on the issue of whether or not one votes for Obama, and whether or not one thinks they should recommend others, who are in that same specific situation, should vote for Obama.”

Also Bloix in comment 45: Look, the problem with not voting for the Democrats is that the Republicans are fascists who will destroy representative government and usher in an age of brutal corporatist one-party rule for generations to come. Every Republican president since Nixon has tried to subvert democracy and every time they’ve come closer to doing it.

Romney will seal the deal by appointing one or two more Mussolini-style Supreme Court justices and an Attorney General who will use the criminal law to steal elections, and who will start another war or two – Iran, and maybe a proxy war with China – to justify a domestic Reign of Terror against political opponents.

Also Harold in comment 541 who quotes Kevin Baker in Harpers magazine: “So yes, go out and vote. Go vote for Barack Obama, and whatever other Democrats or progressives are running for office where you live. To vote for a Mitt Romney—to vote for the modern right anywhere in the West today—is an act of national suicide. The right is hollow to its core; it has no dreams, no vision, no plans to deal with any of the problems that confront us, only infantile fantasies of violence and consumption.”

Once again, let’s not have the tired old “straw man” claim. Once again I have demonstrated unmistakably that these are the arguments being made here by commenters on this thread. People who claim that “you are debating a straw man” are either dishonest or dyslexic.

Debunking argument #7: The commenters have made an elementary logical fallacy, the ad hominem fallacy — they are arguing against personalities, rather than policies.

Notice that in each case the commenters cast up the horrible Mitt Romney or the hideous Republicans as the object of repugnance from which we are to recoil like vampires from a crucifix. But the real problem is not the candidate Mitt Romney or the Republican party, but the policies they propose to put into place if elected.

And Barack Obama has in most cases put into effect exactly the same policies.

In fact, you have to laugh with disgusted disbelief when commenters like Harold shriek and yammer at us of “fascists who will destroy representative government and usher in an age of brutal corporatist one-party rule for generations to come.”

Who exactly laid down the blueprint for the single most antidemocratic and treasonously unconstitutional law in American history, people? Not a Republican. A Democrat, Joe Biden — and he boasts about it with glee!

Who orders the murder of American citizens without even accusing them of a crime? Not a Republican — a Democrat, Barack Obama.

Who orders worldwide drone strikes murdering unknown numbers of innocent women and children in wedding parties time after time after time in countries America is not even at war with? Not a Republican, it’s a Democratic administration that does this.

Who sells military weaponry to local police departments to brutalize non-violent demostrators who are merely exercising their rights of peaceful dissent under the first amendment? Not a Republican administration — the Obama administration has sold LRAD military sound cannons to mayors like Rahm Emanuel to use against peaceful dissenters, destroying their hearing and causing them to fall to their knees screaming in agony while mucus runs from their ears.

Police in Chicago have spent $1m on riot-control equipment in the last few months ahead of next month’s Nato summit, which is expected to attract thousands of anti-war protesters.
Protesters from a coalition of organisations including unions, anti-war and Occupy groups are expected to descend on the city. National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the US, is providing free buses to Chicago for activists from across the country even as its own plans to demonstrate were vetoed by the city of Chicago on Tuesday.
While protesters insist demonstrations during the Nato conference – the main action is planned for Sunday 20 May – will be peaceful, police appear to be leaving nothing to chance. Records show that since it was announced the Nato conference would be held in Chicago, police have purchased improved riot gear for both officers and horses. Officers are also preparing to use the controversial long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, during the operation.

Source: “Chicago police bulk up with $1m in riot gear for ‘peaceful’ Nato summit protests,” The Guardian, 11 May 2012

The LRAD’s power lies in its ability to emit sound in narrow 30-degree “beams” as if it were traveling through a “sound tunnel,” according to the Union-Tribune. Set at 150 decibels, the sounds can reach a target as much as 1,600 feet away.
But the human threshold for pain is between 110 and 120 decibels — about the level of a jet taking off — so using the device at its maximum power could cause irreversible damage to the ears, according to the Toronto Star.
In fact, according to the U.S. National Institute on Deafness, noise above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage.
Karen Piper, a former visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University who attended the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, sued the city after allegedly sustaining permanent hearing loss when the city used their LRAD.
“The intensity of being hit at close range by a high-pitched sound blast designed to deter pirate boats and terrorists at least a quarter mile away is indescribable. The sound vibrates through you and causes pain throughout your body, not only in the ears. I thought I might die,” Piper, now an English professor at the University of Missouri, said in a press release. “It is shocking that the LRAD device is being promoted for use on American citizens and the general public.”

Source: “Chicago Police Sound Cannon: LRAD ‘Sonic Weapon’ Purchased Ahead Of NATO Protests,” Huffington Post, 15 May 2012.

Who signed into law an extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2010? Was it a Republican president? No, it was the Democratic president Barack Obama. And which president is now proposing to extend the crazy unaffordable budget-wrecking Bush tax cuts for the rich for yet another year? Barack Obama, a Democratic president.

President Obama and Mitt Romney spent Tuesday arguing over whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended for virtually everybody, or everybody. In so doing they made a pretty good case for why neither major party cares much about the government’s trillion dollar budget deficits — or about anything, for that matter, if it gets in the way of winning the election.
Truth is, the Bush tax cuts were unaffordable when they were enacted, and they are even more so today. But you won’t hear that on the campaign trail.
Source: “Bush tax cuts fight solves nothing,” USA Today op-ed, 20 July 2012.

Again and again and again, we get Barack Obama and the Democrats implementing the policies we were warned were “fascistic” and a “corporate state nightmare” under Bush.

What matters here people is not personalities, but policies.

And a vote for Barack Obama is a vote (for the most part, with tiny exceptions like gay marriage and abortion rights) to continue and extend the policies which pro-Obama voters described as “fascistic” under the Bush administration.

When both parties offer fascistic policies, the way to change policies is not to vote for one or the other party — it’s to kick over the chessboard and use mass civil disobedience.

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mclaren 10.05.12 at 5:34 am

Remember: the best way to dismiss all these hundreds of facts and all this mountain of logic is with a one-line snarky quip.

Commenters like rootless_e must ensure that the leprosy of logic and the fatal infection of facts remain strictly quarantined from this discussion.

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Martin Bento 10.05.12 at 6:01 am

Bruce, you are stipulating an objective standard for “evil”. I, and I believe politicalfootball, are considering it a function of point-oi-view. Since people’s voting behavior is determined by their points-of-view, this seems the relevant standard, particularly if you want to make strategic comparisons between both sides without jumping through linguistic hoops.

politicalfootball, the only problem I have with a “plausible path” standard is the same I have with strong consequentialism generally: it is epistemically immodest. Even the first order consequences of your actions in a field as complex as politics are hard to trace with confidence, and the first order consequences are not necessarily the most important. Suppose Reagan had won the nomination in 76. Polls suggest he would have been trounced, making it, in hindsight, less, not more, likely that he would eventually become President. The election of Reagan required the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Volcker Recession, both happening on a Democrat’s watch. So I’m sure the Fordists had a plausible argument that the Reaganites were just undermining the Party in a way that would hurt its chances, succeed or fail. In fact, in terms of the first order consequences – the consequences for that particular election – this was almost certainly correct. It was a leap of faith that paid off.

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rootless_e 10.05.12 at 11:57 am

Indeed, the leprosy of logic sounds exceptionally unappealing to me. Guilty as charged. Does the disease make your logical consequences just fall off, or does it have something to do with modus ponens, by implication, as it were?

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politicalfootball 10.05.12 at 12:36 pm

politicalfootball, the only problem I have with a “plausible path” standard is the same I have with strong consequentialism generally: it is epistemically immodest.

I’ll cop to consequentialism, and I’ll stipulate that the best laid plans plans often go astray, but I think plausibility is a suitably modest epistemic standard.

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godoggo 10.05.12 at 7:55 pm

Martin Bento : Hey I have something pedantic to say: I thought the Volcker Recession start under Reagan, no?

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Martin Bento 10.05.12 at 8:33 pm

godoggo: no. Volcker was appointed in 1979 by Carter. A double-dip (actually triple-dip) recession ensued, the first dip in 1980, followed by brief jobless recovery, and the second beginning in 1981.

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Martin Bento 10.05.12 at 8:43 pm

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godoggo 10.05.12 at 8:49 pm

OK, thanks.

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godoggo 10.05.12 at 9:01 pm

I guess unemployment would have a been chart a better than gdp, since it got worse under Reagan, which that chart doesn’t show, but you’re still right.

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