Book review – “My Turn” by Doug Henwood

by Daniel on December 2, 2015

Below, I review, in usual rather semi-detached style, the book by friend-of-the-blog Doug Henwood on Hillary Clinton’s candidature for President. A capsule summary might be: he’s against it. I’ve posted the cover image below because it’s so fantastic.

The meaning of the image is discussed in the book

My main impression on reading the book is that this is something that all Hillary supporters ought to be buying – it sets out all of the credible criticisms, without mixing them with a load of right wing dreck. One of the strongest points Doug makes is that a detailed look at her history and actions is much more relevant than any amount of wonky analysis of her policies, because the history tells you that you can’t expect the policy promises to turn out.

So we don’t have a single word about Benghazi or the suicide of Vince Foster, and Whitewater is dismissed in a couple of pages noting that it was exactly the sort of sketchy investment scheme you’d expect a well-connected rich power couple to get mixed up in from time to time if they weren’t paying attention. The separate email servers get dealt with as what they most likely were – a high-handed attempt to avoid accountability – rather than a sign of some other exciting conspiracy.

Hillary’s time on the board of Wal-Mart, on the other hand, gets pretty detailed scrutiny, as do various accounts of how things went so terribly wrong with healthcare reform under the Bill administration. And there is chapter and verse (backed up with a somewhat hair-raising selection of quotes at the back) on support for wars of all sizes and the elimination of welfare payments.

So these are the arguments that supporters need to know about; they’re largely credible criticisms of Hillary as being a selfish, arrogant politician with consistently poor judgement on important questions. These are the points which supporters need to deal with. But I get the strong feeling that most of them are not going to realise that they need to buy this book.

There’s a foreword on the subject, in which the author discusses the minor furore which blew up when his publisher pre-released the cover image to generate some publicity. In general, Doug has received dog’s abuse for going after Hillary, a lot of it coming from people who know perfectly well what a badly flawed candidate she is, not least because they said so themselves when she was running against Barack Obama. Why is this?

It’s not a hard question to answer. Hillary is the front runner and the (in my view incredibly obviously) presumptive nominee for the Democrats. Bernie Sanders has lasted longer and done better than anyone expected, but he’s very unlikely to get all that close. And so, the Presidential campaign has started, with Hillary Clinton as the candidate, roughly eighteen months before the election date. This is of course ludicrous and destructive in itself, as the book notes.

But whatever Hillary’s failings, she’s very unlikely to be as bad as whatever the Republican Party come up with. So it is, in a lot of genuine senses, very important to a lot of people that she wins. And because they want her to win, they’re not really keen on hearing a whole lot about her flaws and the things which make her such an exceptionally unlikely candidate for centre-Left Americans to feel enthusiastic about voting for.

We have had this discussion on Crooked Timber a number of times (basically whenever me or Henry says something mean about the Democrats in a broadly-defined election year). The main selling point of the Democratic Party establishment always seems to be “lesser of two evils”, reinforced by a strong dose of “nice not entirely barbaric, yet, reproductive freedom you’ve got here, shame if anything happened to it”.

The ability of the Democrats to effectively use abortion rights as a hostage to ensure co-operation from the left of their party is one of those tactics that works too well – it’s rational, so it always gets the desired result, but because of that they become too reliant on it and it weakens them elsewhere. The strategy is itself very vulnerable to the demographics of a small group of men and women. A cluster of deaths or retirements could leave a Supreme Court which was unambiguously decided, either pro or anti abortion rights. And with this crucial issue – one of massive and inescapable salience to the whole population – taken away, the case would be much less easy to make, time after time. And notoriously, of course, support which has been dragged out in this manner for a Presidential election is a mile wide and an inch deep, and turns out in much weaker numbers, if at all, for all the odd-year Congressional elections which tend to ensure that the Democratic Presidents elected can’t get their campaign commitments executed.

And that’s the conclusion of the book; that there’s got to be a better way. In many ways, Hillary Clinton is a figure from a bygone age – the politics of triangulation, the Washington Consensus, and the strategy of hanging around in the centre ground waiting for people to get bored of the other side. This was an incredibly good tactic for centrist politicians in its day, but those hegemonic days are over. Hillary is going to win, but as far as I can see she represents the last of a dying breed.

{ 213 comments }

1

Richard 12.02.15 at 6:31 pm

F’ed up the first attempt, so…

This was an incredibly good tactic for centrist politicians in its day, but those hegemonic days are over. Hillary is going to win, but as far as I can see she represents the last of a dying breed.

Saw a bit on Twitter and I might pick the book up as a result. I’m curious to hear your reasoning on this conclusion, expanded, if you fancy it.

2

Adam Hammond 12.02.15 at 6:41 pm

Can’t judge a book by its cover?

3

Bill Benzon 12.02.15 at 6:59 pm

Well, if the Donald should actually get the GOP nomination, it’ll be blond against blonde.

4

Rakesh Bhandari 12.02.15 at 7:02 pm

Can we get back to the exterminationist hatred that Trump’s false accusations could presently be stirring up?

5

Bernard Yomtov 12.02.15 at 7:20 pm

I agree with Richard @1.

It’s not clear to me why “those hegemonic days are over.”

6

politicalfootball 12.02.15 at 8:02 pm

And that’s the conclusion of the book; that there’s got to be a better way.

I suppose if you think we should read the book, you’re not going to give out spoilers, but I think all of us would like to know what that better way is – especially once Bernie is eliminated as a potential better way.

7

Russell L. Carter 12.02.15 at 8:15 pm

“Why is writing a book about some lousy politician?”

Contemplate Daniel’s commentary on financier culpability for [pick your own policy maladventure]. I’ve been a subscriber to LBO and if Doug Henwood implicitly supports Daniel’s contention, well, I’m moved a bit in that direction. TBH, I’m really already there. But still, I would be totally happy if An Example Were Made of the financiers. Next, line up those Washington Consensus Droids. The Enemy loves it when the targets are splintered, lets do some unification.

I’m not going to buy the book because I was deeply pissed off by the Clinton Presidency already by 1997 (but quite sympathetic to the impact on them personally of the stupidly disgusting Republican scandal mongering).

That said, hold your nose and do your duty, people. When I still had deep reservoirs of narcissism I voted for Nader[1], and got nothing (AZ voter, didn’t matter).

[1] Gore’s a financier now, queue howls of laughter.

8

politicalfootball 12.02.15 at 8:18 pm

AZ voter, didn’t matter

No individual’s vote mattered anywhere, including Florida.

9

DY 12.02.15 at 8:19 pm

…a detailed look at her history and actions is much more relevant than any amount of wonky analysis of her policies…

You made a good argument against this a few days ago.

10

Lord 12.02.15 at 8:32 pm

Sounds like the only interesting question raised is what post Hillary looks like? O’Malley?

11

Brett 12.02.15 at 8:36 pm

I’ll probably vote for Bernie in the primaries, not that it matters in the state I live in. As you said, the whole “pander and triangulate” strategy is reaching its limits as national elections become more about getting people sympathetic to your party to turn out at election.

You need someone who can get people excited to turn out, and with Republican control of the House making any progressive legislative agenda DOA for the time being, you need someone who will be willing to use all their presidential capabilities to help as they can. I think Bernie is more likely to do the latter than Clinton.

12

politicalfootball 12.02.15 at 8:57 pm

The ability of the Democrats to effectively use abortion rights as a hostage to ensure co-operation from the left of their party is one of those tactics that works too well

Well, abortion, women’s rights more generally, avoidance of war with Iran, avoidance of a massive invasion of Iraq and/or Syria, somewhat sensible immigration policy, preservation of Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare etc., etc.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

13

A H 12.02.15 at 8:57 pm

The american obsession with the omnibus candidate is annoying, parties matter much more than individuals. Move the party and left and a party hack like Hilary will move left too. Bernie has already accomplished much in this regard.

14

Edward 12.02.15 at 9:26 pm

When I was living in New Orleans in the late 80s and early 90s we had a slogan that I thought was fairly spot on when David Duke was running against Edwin Edwards, “Vote for the crook, it’s important.” I’m thinking that’s how I will convince myself to pull the lever for the wretched HRC when time comes. Until then, Feel the Bern.

15

reason 12.02.15 at 9:34 pm

Completely off-topic but I just read a speech by Murdoch in the Guardian. You should read the comments (trolls basically didn’t even dare to show up). http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/dec/02/rupert-murdoch-slams-liberals-america-identity-crisis

This might just put Hillary’s shortcomings in perspective. Murdoch just might be the most destructive man in history.

16

reason 12.02.15 at 9:37 pm

A H @13
Yes, I agree, but I don’t think it is unique to the US. What is not universal is that they institutionalised it, by having an elected king.

17

novakant 12.02.15 at 9:46 pm

We might actually get Clinton vs. Bush – seems unlikely at the moment but the possibility alone is beyond irony. But even if that doesn’t happen, yet Clinton wins, then we will have had 3 Bush and 3 Clinton terms (at least) in 25 years …

18

Matthew Morse 12.02.15 at 10:11 pm

This discussion seems badly incomplete if you fail to acknowledge the accusations of sexism in response to criticisms of Hillary Clinton from the left. Perhaps “minor furore” was your attempt to sidestep it, but the fact remains that the intensity of criticism that Clinton receives often appears to be driven by (possibly unintended) sexism.

To the extent that Henwood’s argument is that all Democratic candidates are insufficiently leftist, clearly people are going to disagree.

But if his argument is that Clinton is a uniquely bad Democratic candidate, ignoring the possible role of gender behind that argument does no one any favors.

19

Max Sawicky 12.02.15 at 10:34 pm

Some counter-evidence to the Bernie unelectability concern (which I share): http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/12/sanders-electability-polling.html. Author long time ago was a DLC type, not really susceptible to accusations of ultra-liberal bias.

20

Peter K. 12.02.15 at 10:49 pm

I like Henwood and will check out the book.

21

mwilbert 12.02.15 at 11:25 pm

I agree with Daniel on the following points:

1) There are a lot of reasons to be wary of HRCs judgment.
2) She is virtually certain to win the Democratic nomination for President.
3) She is vastly preferable to any plausible GOP nominee (and preferable to any conceivable GOP nominee).

I disagree on the following:

1) The singular salience of abortion rights in maintaining/energizing the Democratic coalition. The Supreme Court has issued so many narrowly decided opinions in recent years that I think there is a general sense among Dem-leaning voters that any addition to the GOP-nominated contingent would be disastrous. Also, increased partisanship in general simply makes any particular issue less important.

2) The idea that triangulation is becoming an obsolete strategy. It could be true, but I think it is too early to say. The last several GOP nominees have not been extreme relative to their party, and neither have the last several Democrats. This cycle it looks like there is a desire for more clear-cut distinctions in both parties, but usually that is tempered by a desire to win, so it is hard to tell if that will persist in the face of defeat. The future path of the GOP as a presidential party is very unclear–eventually they will probably have to move back toward the median voter, How that would happen institutionally I have no idea, but I suspect if it did happen the Democrats would have to do the same.

22

js. 12.02.15 at 11:44 pm

the politics of triangulation, the Washington Consensus, and the strategy of hanging around in the centre ground waiting for people to get bored of the other side. This was an incredibly good tactic for centrist politicians in its day, but those hegemonic days are over.

What this suggests to me is that Hillary Clinton ca. 2016 is not going to be the candidate (or President, if she does win) that Hillary Clinton ca. 1996 would have been. I mean, she’s not an idiot.

Beyond that, I am not going to read the book, (a) because I’m not a “Hillary supporter” in the requisite sense*, and (b) this seems too much an instance of the “looking into the soul of a politician” type work, which I find to be a mind-numbingly boring genre. But man, such an amazing fucking cover. I am seriously tempted to buy the book just for the cover.

*Though I do expect to vote for her in the general—and I won’t feel bad about it, much I don’t feel bad about having voted for Obama twice. (Not having straight up proto-fascists in office might be a small mercy, but it seems an important one right now.)

23

steven johnson 12.03.15 at 12:08 am

The review left me puzzled: Is Hilary a bad candidate because what she says has nothing to do with what she does? Or because she will do the terrible things she says she’ll do, like war, war, war? That seems to be a very, very basic thing to be confused about. I’m not sure you’re doing serious analysis at all if you haven’t thought that through.

Also, what serious person ever thought the Clintons and the DLC they came from was ever anything but anti-left? Or that votes for women, basic contraceptive rights and so on are somehow left?

24

bob mcmanus 12.03.15 at 12:15 am

As far as the topic goes, Yomtov above (kowaii!) asked about the end of the hegemony, and I have been thinking on that all day. Fact is, HRC or any other Democrat is extremely unlikely to be able to guarantee abortion rights in rural Texas, or fix unions in Wisconsin or Indiana, or provide health insurances exchanges in Alabama. The impotence and irrelevancy of Democrats (I won’t speak for Republicans here) and their ideology on a local level is becoming glaringly obvious. Blaming Republicans doesn’t really seem to help, and no improvement is on offer. California, Mass, wherever may be nice Dem states, but they would likely be so in any case, and local conditions and local politics are what is important in implementing the national policies. Thus, hegemony fail and centrifugal politics.

25

Cian 12.03.15 at 12:46 am

but the fact remains that the intensity of criticism that Clinton receives often appears to be driven by (possibly unintended) sexism.

Do you have any facts whatsoever to back this up?

26

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 1:04 am

Or that votes for women, basic contraceptive rights and so on are somehow left?

Hostility from the right is a tip-off there.

27

rea 12.03.15 at 1:14 am

That’s frankly a shockingly offensive cover, particularly today.

28

Murray Reiss 12.03.15 at 1:30 am

The impotence and irrelevancy of Democrats (I won’t speak for Republicans here) and their ideology on a local level is becoming glaringly obvious. A consequence of a misguided focus to the exclusion of all else on the presidency, based on a misreading/ignorance of what seem from here (Canada) to be the rather limited powers of any president in a very fractured system, based, perhaps in nostalgia for the good old days of FDR?

29

js. 12.03.15 at 1:37 am

Ok, I am curious: why is it a shockingly offensive cover? Perhaps to clarify: Is it (a) the image itself that’s shockingly offensive, (b) it’s use qua cover that’s shockingly offensive (where that cover could’ve been for a book that was resolutely pro-Clinton), or (c) it’s use by Doug Henwood that’s shockingly offensive?

I’m guessing it’s (c), but I’m not seeing why. (I mean, I don’t suppose you think this is shockingly offensive, even today.)

30

Anderson 12.03.15 at 2:13 am

“Or that votes for women, basic contraceptive rights and so on are somehow left?”

This must be written by someone without access to U.S. news coverage. (Because I’m ruling out “boorishly insincere” or “just plain stupid.”)

… And I (1) will vote for Hillary and (2) like the cover. IIRC the artist also likes Hillary.

31

Bruce Wilder 12.03.15 at 3:26 am

I vote in most elections, large and small, but I do not expect to vote for HRC. Maybe I should read the book, to convince myself that such dissent from the destructive foolishness of “lesser evil” politics is more than a frank acknowledgement of the futility of politics.

32

Plarry 12.03.15 at 5:50 am

I need a better reason to pick up the book than has been given here. HRC is one of the most scrutinized candidates in American politics; nothing that was said above is closeted. Is Henwood’s thesis that HRC didn’t learn from the health-care debacle, from the other things that have happened in her 30+-year political career? Learning is part of the job: take Obama, for example. Her 2008 campaign and tenure as SoS were quite well done, in my opinion. My own view is that her past political career has been a rather good crucible for for the job, and she will not make naive mistakes in dealing with the people across the table.

33

Rakesh Bhandari 12.03.15 at 7:15 am

Does Henwood think she is pointing that weapon at Sanders? Please. Or at Republican contenders? Or at the Democratic electorate? Or only at critics such as himself?
If not for sexism, why would a similar image of Jeb probably not sell books? Why wouldn’t “courageous” critics make such an image of Jeb?
Didn’t Henwood put Wall Street in cross-hairs on the cover of his first book, pre 9/11? How did that turn out?

34

bad Jim 12.03.15 at 8:00 am

A joke from the 90’s:

Hillary visits a fortune teller, who gazes into the crystal ball and cries out, “Prepare yourself! Your husband is going to be murdered!” Hillary leans closer and asks, “But will I be convicted?”

35

bad Jim 12.03.15 at 8:50 am

Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq more or less support Assad. Turkey assaults Assad and the Alawites and the Kurds. The U.S. is arming and cheering the Kurds and the Iraqis. France is bombing Assad; they’re with Turkey. In Yemen the Saudis are supporting the groups Iran is trying to defeat, and they’re probably supporting Salafists everywhere, including Daesh and Al Qaeda. Quite a dish of fish, as my father once described bouillabaisse.

36

bad Jim 12.03.15 at 9:09 am

The latest mass murder is in my neck of the woods, San Bernardino (an hour away) and when something like this happens you wonder who, and hope it’s not the usual suspects. My initial guess was that it was criminal, narcotraficantes or some other criminal but businesslike element, but the names now emerging (Farook, Malik) sound Middle Eastern. Oh, goody.

37

oldster 12.03.15 at 10:38 am

“the destructive foolishness of “lesser evil” politics”

Bruce, there has never been any other kind of politics. All politics is lesser-evil politics. And voting for the lesser evil is not futile. It lowers the chances of a greater evil.

Please do not sit this election out. Lives and liberties are at stake.

38

jkay 12.03.15 at 11:11 am

Hillary’s moved so far left she’s even far left of the socialist on immigration and guns. Check our her online starting speech, which even was pro-union, so all the endorsing unions have been right.

SCOTUS is actually a second Dred Scott by what it’s done, against the precedent and Constitution it, like all our courts are supposed to use. So it’s important to have Democratic Presidents so the evil Court’s majority an die and be replaced with liberals. That’s what it takes to get Citizens United and all their other Dredd Scott II malpractice reversed,

39

kidneystones 12.03.15 at 12:03 pm

Henwood linked to this report on the Clinton Foundation’s murky/illegal fundraising accounting. https://www.byline.com/project/27/article/520

I supported HRC after Edwards imploded and in the 8 years since I’ve learned there’s simply no lie she’s unwilling to tell. I realize that CT employs special evidence rules when evaluating Republicans (as in none at all), but I’m no member of this tribe.

I’m quite willing to believe that any number of good people could do a capable job of executing the responsibilities of the Oval Office, especially based on the performance of the current occupant and his predecessor. Not all of these individuals are on team blue, and I can think of 5 in the GOP field (some already out) who could do just as well, if not better, than HRC. I realize that writing 2 autobiographies works for some people, but to my mind Romney has superior skills. Would he have done a better job? That’s a different question.

I realize for some, however, that default anti-Republican bigotry is absolutely sacrosanct.

40

Barry 12.03.15 at 12:25 pm

41

philofra 12.03.15 at 12:36 pm

I’m for Hillary!

42

Barry 12.03.15 at 12:37 pm

Daniel: “We have had this discussion on Crooked Timber a number of times (basically whenever me or Henry says something mean about the Democrats in a broadly-defined election year). The main selling point of the Democratic Party establishment always seems to be “lesser of two evils”, reinforced by a strong dose of “nice not entirely barbaric, yet, reproductive freedom you’ve got here, shame if anything happened to it”.”

That would be a very, very acceptable argument in the minds of Nader supporters in 2000.

And it was BS even back then. For the past 15 years, the GOP has worked very, very hard to demonstrate just how bad that argument is.

43

Robespierre 12.03.15 at 12:48 pm

#41:

Depending on how much one cares about pressing environmental destruction, cowboy use of American bombs abroad, and the kind of damage that corporate whores or religious nuts can cause at home, in order of likely human suffering caused.

Personally, my preferences are: Sanders, Clinton, an empty suit, any Republican.

44

Anderson 12.03.15 at 1:07 pm

41: “murky/illegal.” Well, I’m convinced!

45

The Raven 12.03.15 at 1:56 pm

I think Doug Henwood is bucking for the People’s Front of Judea book award, myself. The award consists of a small statue of wedge splitting a log.

So, all right then, banker Daniel. Write about the possibility that President Cruz means what he says and will attempt to return the USA to the gold standard, reducing the Federal income to a flat 10%.

46

dsquared 12.03.15 at 2:07 pm

So, all right then, banker Daniel

FOTVMGB

47

Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq. 12.03.15 at 2:15 pm

You’re actually Niall Ferguson and I claim my five pounds.

48

Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq. 12.03.15 at 2:17 pm

Bollocked up the HTML

The ability of the Democrats to effectively use abortion rights as a hostage to ensure co-operation from the left of their party is one of those tactics that works too well

You’re actually Niall Ferguson and I claim my five pounds.

49

Bloix 12.03.15 at 2:28 pm

50

Sherparick 12.03.15 at 2:53 pm

I could quote Scott Lemieux ‘s review of your review from LG&M, but really it appears you Daniel and Doug live in a different country then I do. In the country I live in, Donald Trump is likely to to over 60% of the white vote and drive white turn out to record levels in the 2016 election. So the lesser of two evil arguments is a a pretty strong one for me.

http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2015/12/if-old-white-men-vote-trump-topping.html

First, I think there are serious arguments to be made hawkishness of Hilary’s foreign policy, but given the nationalist populist militarist mood in the country, that is not a negative for most Americans who vote, but a positive over what they perceive, wrongly, as Obama’s “weakness” (and of course Obama has been droning and bombing “shit” out of Muslims and Arabs from Hindu Kush to the Gulf of Aden and the whole Euphrates valley).

And just as George Bush showed that was more than a dime’s worth a distance between himself and Al Gore, a President Trump/Rubio/Cruz/Christie will quickly show the Grand Canyon that exists between a Republican presidency and a Hilary Presidency.

Also, as a man, it is very interesting that both you and Doug, both men, don’t think the way you hand wave reproductive rights for women in the second to last paragraph makes me wonder about the reasons for passion about your Hilary animus. How much is it about a woman being President that even liberal, progressive men, find challenging?

51

politicalfootball 12.03.15 at 2:54 pm

I’m not familiar with Henwood, and followed the LGM link to his piece in Harper’s about Democrats like Hillary and Obama.

Here’s how it starts:

How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” Sarah Palin asked American voters in a taunting 2010 speech. The answer: Not so well. We avoided a full-blown depression, but …

I read a little further, but how can someone be taken seriously who regards avoiding a full-blown Depression as an afterthought – a bit of trivia.

My life was thrown into a lot of turmoil by the recession, and I am deeply grateful to Obama and the Democrats for taking steps – over the near-unanimous objection of their political opponents – to lessen the impact.

Fuck Henwood. Fuck him sideways with a 2×4. What right does he have to yadda yadda the livelihoods of millions of people in order to gratify his own sanctimony?

52

oldster 12.03.15 at 3:00 pm

“Fuck Henwood. Fuck him sideways with a 2×4. What right does he have to yadda yadda the livelihoods of millions of people in order to gratify his own sanctimony?”

Agreed. I had not realized that so many on the CT editorial board would share the desire to gratify a similar sanctimony.

53

Bloix 12.03.15 at 3:14 pm

One would think that given a choice between
(a) a political party that dominated by people entirely out of touch with reality who are hell-bent on imposing a fascistic one-party permanent governance on us by means of disenfranchisement of voters, control of the media, racism in rhetoric and practice, and the criminal justice system, and which seems committed to the impoverishment of ordinary Americans, the destruction of the economy, and endless war everywhere in the world, and
(b) a political party run by moderately intelligent people who, within the bounds of an electoral system and the rule of law, favor the rich and are somewhat feckless in their conduct of foreign policy,
every sane person would be lining up at the polls at 5 a.m. to vote for every possible candidate running on the (b) ticket.

54

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 3:39 pm

I supported HRC after Edwards imploded and in the 8 years since I’ve learned there’s simply no lie she’s unwilling to tell.

Okay, and then…

Not all of these individuals are on team blue, and I can think of 5 in the GOP field (some already out) who could do just as well, if not better, than HRC.

All right, you have a Republican party platform that’s top-to-bottom lie, and still multiple Republicans are more honest than HRC.

Which current Republican candidate will be more John Edwards-like than HRC?

55

steven johnson 12.03.15 at 3:56 pm

“Hostility from the right is a tip-off there.” @27

You’re saying not right=left. I’m a great believer in the greatest simplicity possible, but this doesn’t work. “The left” is a portion of the entire political spectrum, a spectrum that isn’t even defined by a single aspect. A laissez faire liberal may be to the left of a monarchist, but that doesn’t put them on the left. Single member seats and Duvergers’s law don’t define left and right. The left has been exiled to the fringes of US politics since the glory days of McCarthyism. At this point I’m beginning to think that arbitrarily renaming one centrist or moderate position after another as left is aimed at continuing McCarthy’s regime, a way of pretending the whole political sphere isn’t still forcibly purges of the left.

“This must be written by someone without access to U.S. news coverage.”@31

Well God knows the US media wouldn’t mislabel perfectly sensible moderate or centrist politics as left wing, and crazy reactionary, even cryptofascist ones as respectable conservatism.

Yes, that’s sarcasm.

56

Garrulous 12.03.15 at 4:09 pm

Am I the only one who can’t guess more than the first two in “FOTVMGB”? Any suggestions?

57

geo 12.03.15 at 4:18 pm

Barry, football, oldster, Bloix:

On issues of progressive taxation, full employment, environmental protection, financial regulation, collective bargaining, health care, free trade, Social Security funding, electoral and campaign finance reform, and many others, the American public is, according to at least some polling data, considerably to the left of the Democratic Party and has been for decades. Can you at least acknowledge this and suggest a strategy that will move American electoral politics leftward?

58

L2P 12.03.15 at 4:19 pm

@38 “there has never been any other kind of politics”

For one obvious counterexample, check out “heightening the contradictions”.

“Heightening the contradictions” is a revolutionary strategy, not a political strategy. Maybe you’re the sort of person who thinks Leninist revolution is politics?

59

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 4:19 pm

I’m a great believer in the greatest simplicity possible

Nope.

The left has been exiled to the fringes of US politics since the glory days of McCarthyism.

That’s why there was never a Great Society I guess.

60

oldster 12.03.15 at 4:22 pm

“Can you at least acknowledge this and suggest a strategy that will move American electoral politics leftward?”

Yes: doing everything possible to keep Republicans out of office.

61

L2P 12.03.15 at 4:31 pm

I’m thinking Daniel Davies is imaginary. Right? It’s the only answer to the riddle of this post, isn’t it?

He’s obviously a character created by the Democratic party solely to put out arguments so silly, and to defend positions so evil, that they will singlehandly shame and embarass anyone who was even tempted to pull a Nader vote in the 2016 elections. I mean, an investment banker complaining that Clinton was once on the board of Walmart? A man (of course, a man) saying that reproduction rights should’t matter as much as something like slightly higher taxes on the rich? A Welshman handwaving away the Supreme Fricking Court as if it doesn’t matter, really, for anything except abortion rights?

And c’mon. ANYONE implying that there isn’t “an inch worth of difference between Clinton and, say, Cruz on any economic issues? Only an imaginary character could say something like that. The millions of people who would really, really like to keep their health care instead of dying beg to differ. As would the thousands killed by guns every year, or the thousands denied the right to vote, or anybody who likes clean water and air, or the uncounted horde who don’t much care for corporate money running our elections, or . . . Well, a Welshman is a really good try at a character who could think that the Supreme Court isn’t THE issue when American politics are polarized.

This can only be some sort of operation to show potential third-party voters on the left just exactly how foolish they would be to vote for anyone except Clinton in the general…

62

L2P 12.03.15 at 4:34 pm

“Can you at least acknowledge this and suggest a strategy that will move American electoral politics leftward?”

It’s not rocket science. Pay attention to local politics, push for leftist candidates (like Sanders) in the primaries, and vote early and often for any goddamn Democrat you can.

63

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 4:39 pm

Feminist issues have been purged from the left because, you know, silly ladies.

64

Barry 12.03.15 at 4:59 pm

Bruce Wilder 12.03.15 at 3:26 am
“I vote in most elections, large and small, but I do not expect to vote for HRC. Maybe I should read the book, to convince myself that such dissent from the destructive foolishness of “lesser evil” politics is more than a frank acknowledgement of the futility of politics.”

After Bush then Obama, your last few words are rather lacking in contact with reality.

65

steven johnson 12.03.15 at 5:03 pm

“That’s why there was never a Great Society I guess.” @62

Making it law that an ethnic minority be discriminated against is the kind of thing fascists do. It takes real work to be to the right of fascists. Nonetheless, manhood suffrage etc. is just basic democratic ideology. It’s only shared with the left. What is left is not just removing legal impediments, but remaking society so that the damage from slavery and racism isn’t perpetuated by supposedly non-racist market forces etc. Or if that’s too complicated, the Black Panthers were left, for good and ill.

As for welfare and social insurance, no, they aren’t essentially left. That is exactly why Bismarck and Johnson could endorse them. Left is taking the bourgeoisie’s capital away from them, then arranging production for use and the abolition of classes.

By this point I’m starting to think that you believe that the Great Society crusade against Communism, including a contretemps called the Vietnam War, is left because it was anti-totalitarian. This is manifestly anti-left. Yet, it is still true that the Johnson administration was not right wing. Your effort to categorize left and right as simple polarities just doesn’t work.

66

Barry 12.03.15 at 5:04 pm

geo 12.03.15 at 4:18 pm
“Barry, football, oldster, Bloix:

On issues of progressive taxation, full employment, environmental protection, financial regulation, collective bargaining, health care, free trade, Social Security funding, electoral and campaign finance reform, and many others, the American public is, according to at least some polling data, considerably to the left of the Democratic Party and has been for decades. Can you at least acknowledge this and suggest a strategy that will move American electoral politics leftward?”

I was going to write a long answer, but I’m tired of having to explain high school civics and The Real World to people who should know better.

67

geo 12.03.15 at 5:23 pm

Barry: I’m tired of having to explain high school civics and The Real World to people who should know better

I seem to remember from high-school civics that democracy means majority rule, that legislators respond substantively (rather than merely verbally) to the concerns of their constituents, that all citizens have an effective right to be heard, etc, etc. None of these things have been remotely true for roughly a century in the United States. Do you think your high-school civics class accurately described contemporary American politics?

L2P: Pay attention to local politics, push for leftist candidates (like Sanders) in the primaries, and vote early and often for any goddamn Democrat you can.

The first and second are good ideas, but the third — unconditional support for the Democrats — means that party leaders will continue to take your vote for granted and respond instead to the concerns of people who demand some return for their support, i.e., donors. We know where that leads, don’t we?

68

politicalfootball 12.03.15 at 5:29 pm

Can you at least acknowledge this and suggest a strategy that will move American electoral politics leftward?

Of course I can, and any time these conversations come up, I inevitably do. The real question is: Why do Daniel or Henwood or you not feel obligated to answer this question.

Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Ted Cruz, etc. etc. all had answers to this question: Take over the machinery of the political party most sympathetic to your views. Ralph Nader et al had a different answer. The problem with Nader’s answer is it was stupid.

Granted, if your not willing to count the wars we’ve avoided and the Great Depression that didn’t happen, then liberals haven’t gotten much out of this strategy. The record of the Nader types speaks for itself.

69

JimV 12.03.15 at 5:38 pm

My first chance to vote was Nixon vs. Humphrey (1968). I didn’t like either one of them and didn’t vote. In hindsight, I wish now I had. I agree that it is hard sometimes to decide which of two snake-oil salespersons is the lesser evil and support that one, but politicians tend to concentrate their efforts on those who vote, rather than trying to appeal to those who don’t vote, it seems to me. At least, that hypothesis could explain some of the degeneration I’ve seen in USA campaigns.

If so, something like the Australian system could help, such as a tax reward for those who vote, or penalty for those who don’t.

I won’t be buying the book. Those kind of books don’t meet my standard: will I be making use of its information, or want to be reading it again ten years from now (assuming I have another ten years – better make that five). I have already formed my own somewhat negative assessment of HRC, which is that there are probably thousands of people who could do the job of President better, but she is mostly likely going to be the lesser of two evils in the election. (Thanks for the review, anyway.)

70

Tyrone Slothrop 12.03.15 at 5:41 pm

@59: My (uneducated) guess for the vaguely latinate-appearing acronym FOTVMGB? First one to vilify me gets banned

71

Sebastian H 12.03.15 at 5:42 pm

I would say the fact that we have to go in for Hillary is a great example of why we shouldn’t want one party to be nominating such loons that we can’t ever consider voting for them. Clinton represents a huge proportion of everything progressives hate about politics. She is a warmonger, she is deeply enmeshed with rich bankster interests, she is an advocate for crony capitalism and feeds deeply from its trough, she has a strong authoritarian side, and she has repeatedly shown that she can’t be trusted to stick to what she says when she says nicer sounding things on any of those issues.

But, we have reached a state where Republicans are seriously considering Trump. Of course in comparison to that we will probably feel compelled to vote for her. I don’t mind being realistic about that. But I mind the pretense that she really isn’t those things. She is, and papering over it won’t help us escape the problem of having to vote for people like her every time.

72

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 5:47 pm

Fire Ocelots Through Very Mushy Green Beans

73

oldster 12.03.15 at 6:16 pm

Thanks very much good bye.

Is my guess.

74

The Temporary Name 12.03.15 at 6:19 pm

Fudge Ought To Vary Mildly, Good Buddy

75

harry b 12.03.15 at 6:20 pm

AS so often with Daniel’s posts, I wonder whether I read the same post as the commentators who are so hostile to him. In the post he endorses lesser-evilism ( the sense that he thinks there are very good reasons to vote for the lesser evil; his only crime is just leaving open that there might also be reasons not to); he is clear that Hillary will, definitely, be the lesser evil; he endorses abortion rights — he just points out that using it as the single overwhelmingly compelling reason to vote Democrat, which works for a rational person right now, might suddenly not work in a not-too-distant future AND, more importantly, leaves Democrats without strong arguments to GOTV in the off-years when they, if they had a richer, deeper, set of reasons to animate voters, they would be able to pick up seats in Congress that would enable their party to do more — including more to protect reproductive rights if that were what they really cared about — than just appoint/veto Supreme Court Justices.

Anyway, that’s what I read.

76

geo 12.03.15 at 6:42 pm

football @72: Goldwater, Reagan, Gingrich, and Cruz were all backed by vast financial and organizational resources. (The case of McGovern — which, you may remember, generated the DLC backlash that returned the Democratic Party to elite control — is more complicated and is recounted in Thomas Frank’s forthcoming Listen, Liberal!.) When I asked you et al for a strategy, I assumed you knew something about how control of the two political parties was gained and maintained and would offer an answer that took that knowledge into account.

Ralph Nader et al had a different answer

Which he explained at great length in Crashing the Party (2001), in case anyone is interested.

FWIW, I agree completely with Sebastian @75 and harry @79.

77

Bruce Wilder 12.03.15 at 6:42 pm

Republicans are seriously considering Trump

Are they? It sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I’m still wondering who decided to have an extended Republican Presidential nominating pre-show, run like a reality teevee show, in a non-election year.

As an erstwhile Democrat, I am supposed to accept being herded into voting for the candidate, because the Republican Clown Show is supposed to be so frightening. And, I guess I agree it is frightening. But, shouldn’t we be asking who stages it? who it serves? Not volunteering. Not hysterically insisting that life as a political eunuch pledging fidelity to the Goldwater Gal is somehow the only urgently meaningful political activity.

The key sentence from the OP: And that’s the conclusion of the book; that there’s got to be a better way.

To make a better way possible, we somehow have to extricate ourselves from the trap of the manipulated nonsense that is American politics.

78

Bloix 12.03.15 at 6:51 pm

#81 – “somehow the only urgently meaningful political activity”

Nobody is telling you it’s the only meaningful activity. It’s the minimal necessary activity. Do all that you can do, all you want to do. Then vote for the Democrat. If you don’t vote for the Democrat, you’re casting half a vote for the fascist. You’re not sending a message, you’re not teaching a lesson, you’re helping to put people into power who get pleasure out of punching people like you in the face.

79

oldster 12.03.15 at 6:59 pm

I’m pretty sure that the acronym FOTVMGB does *not* stand for:

“If annoying people is what you’re trying to do, then you can hardly complain when annoying people is what you actually do. In general, contrarians ought to have thick skins, because their entire raison d’etre is the giving of intellectual offence to others. So don’t whine, for heaven’s sake.”

80

oldster 12.03.15 at 7:02 pm

there’s got to be a better way.

Yup. I agree with that. And I agree with Bloix’s response to it.

All of the better ways start with voting for the Democrats in the next election. None of them involve sitting it out or voting for the Republicans.

And then the better ways go on and get more complicated and more laborious after that. Please pursue them! Please seek better ways! Remember to start on them by voting for the Democrat!

81

geo 12.03.15 at 7:10 pm

oldster: the better ways go on and get more complicated and more laborious after that. Please pursue them! Please seek better ways! Remember to start on them by voting for the Democrat!

Virtually everyone on CT (plus Henwood) who lives in a contested state will vote for the Democrat, as I suspect you already know. As for the better ways, I’ll bet that many or most people who take your advice and start on them will find themselves working with one or another citizen or research organization founded or inspired by Ralph Nader.

82

L2P 12.03.15 at 8:56 pm

“It’s a political strategy, with the aim to hasten revolution. So, yes, it’s a revolutionary political strategy — as opposed to evolutionary political strategy, or, in this case (‘the lesser of two evils’ all the time) it should probably be called devolutionary strategy — but it’s still a political strategy.”

Not really. It’s a political strategy in the Clausewitzian “War is politics by other means” sense, but that’s not what most people mean by “politics.” If you want to say “my strategy is to kill everyone who won’t give what I want,” then I guess you’re TECHNICALLY using a political strategy, but few would agree with you.

The OP would, I guess…

83

Bruce Wilder 12.03.15 at 9:31 pm

Bloix: If you don’t vote for the Democrat, you’re casting half a vote for the fascist. You’re not sending a message, you’re not teaching a lesson, you’re helping to put people into power who get pleasure out of punching people like you in the face.

As far as I can tell, the Democrat in the case of Clinton as in the case of Obama is, also, “the fascist”, that is to say, an authoritarian who will represent the interests of powerful business corporations and the superwealthy pretty much exclusively. Obama got in with large majorities for his Party in Congress and continued the policies of the Bush Administration in regard to the financial and economic crisis, the surveillance state, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan. He couldn’t find anyone to prosecute in the largest financial crisis in 70 years or in a lawless surveillance state guilty of torture and other war crimes, . . . except whistleblowers.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure you would have all kinds of nonsensical, pre-programmed replies. And, that’s by design — not my design or your design, but it’s a design, and it is tied to being convinced that whatever else, you absolutely, positively have to vote for the Democrat or the sky will fall.

You say, this is the political minimum: whatever else you think or do, you have to vote for the Democrat. And, I say that, if you do that reflexively — commit yourself to voting for the Democrat without critical reflection, without discretion — you have pretty much excluded or neutered everything else. Psychologically, cognitive dissonance means that your partisanship will distort your views. And, in game theory terms, your candidate owns you.

I readily admit that my position has little enough to recommend it. I have no political power. I cannot create a viable political strategy. I am a follower, a numerically insignificant voter. All I can do is make myself available for a better politics, by keeping my critical awareness unclouded by a futile, manipulated partisanship. I can step out of the herd, when I see it headed for what I regard as the wrong pen. It is depressing to realize that democracy has been eclipsed by a bought-and-paid-for, made-for-the-internet-and-tv politics of spokesmodel politicians spouting focus-grouped slogans with the aim of stampeding cattle and sheep, who aren’t paying much attention and wandering aimlessly on their own, but that’s the truth.

I can have the sad truth or the angry, desperate illusion; I choose the sad truth, and with it, awareness of my own powerlessness in this destructive, degenerative era. I don’t even get to feel superior — it’s a raw deal even by the low standards of narcissistic news junkie spectator sport politics.

I voted for Obama in 2008, was disappointed in the policy results (and in the partisan leadership as well — the 2010 midterms were catastrophic for the Democrats and Obama’s leadership played an important part, if you are interested at all in the Inside Baseball of politics), and (living in a solidly blue state admittedly) voted for the Green (who seemed like a pretty intelligent, reasoned, sincerely caring person not incidentally) in 2012.

I would argue that my move was the potentially powerful one for a highly dissatisfied leftish voter in my circumstances; a couple of million could have done that, and Obama would still carry the State, but a signal of dissent from the Left and of political potential would have been sent. Voting for the Neoliberal-in-Chief, at the margin, was a declaration of powerlessness that I didn’t make, but 98+% of arguably Democratic-leaning voters making it to the polls in California followed your sage advice. And, what did it get them? They put the fascist back in, without registering any note of dissatisfaction with his conduct. If you really are satisfied with Obama, that’s your right, I suppose, but you don’t get to insist that I have to act as if I am satisfied by the same abysmally low standards you are.

I guess some people thought 2012 was a knife-edge election, and it was “close” but, according to analyst-observers like Nate Silver, never really much in doubt despite the apparently small popular vote margin. Romney was a gaffe-prone candidate unpopular within his own Party; a tax-dodging, vampire capitalist from a cult religion, he had readily exploited vulnerabilities, which the Obama campaign very skillfully manipulated with professionally admirable precision to produce a minimal margin of victory. Why did he want a minimal margin? To protect his ability to continue to deliver on his neoliberal agenda for his backers in the finance sector and among the wealthy, I think, he preferred not to make any but the absolutely most minimal populist appeals.

I fully expect 2016, Clinton v [Republican Clown], will be a repeat of 2012. Clinton is a clumsier, more graceless candidate than Obama, and this scam has been run many times already. Being a Clinton, from the 1990s, may well mean that her political stance will be read by the Media, or even played by her, as Third Way triangulation rather than as Obama’s neoliberal shell game redux.

Against a Republican Clown, nominated for his (it will be a “he” — of that we can be certain, I think) unelectability, Clinton can try to win any campaign contest by calibrated populism squarely aimed at the Republican’s vulnerabilities (his corruption, for example, or his tender concern for billionaires), but unlike Obama and unlike the Big Dog, Mrs. Clinton is not a perfect conduit for populist appeals, positive or negative. Her arrogance shows.

The Democratic Party will be transformed by the 2016 election and Clinton’s candidacy. The Democratic Party has been resisting a generational transition, despite the youthful Obama’s advent, and Clinton and Bernie remind us of that. The Dems will have new leaders at the top in Congress in 2017, after what has been a long delay. Populism has been so thoroughly deprecated during Obama’s years, it won’t be available as a credible option after Clinton, it won’t make sense anymore as part of the default Democratic Party identity. She is truly the last of the breed, as the OP put it, but that attaches to the whole of the Democratic Party identity as a party of the People, which Obama has been cashing out in retail sales thru his whole Administration. It is a statement about the Party, I suspect, as well as the candidate.

Clinton will almost certainly be a one-term President left holding the bag in whatever crises are visited upon the country, and the Democratic Party, excluded from the Congress and most of the State governorships, as well as those parts of conservative Democratic Administrations like Defense and the Surveillance State apparatus, commonly reserved to Republicans, may well wither and die. All because Bloix insisted that job 1 was voting for the Democratic Presidential candidate.

The sky will fall, after a brief pause, while we hear a message from the sponsors.

84

js. 12.03.15 at 9:43 pm

The first and second are good ideas, but the third — unconditional support for the Democrats — means that party leaders will continue to take your vote for granted and respond instead to the concerns of people who demand some return for their support

This is an important point, and most of the standard responses tend to be non-sequiturs. It would be nice if we could have a semi-sane conversation about this without immediately descending into absurd flame wars. But this is the US, so we can’t have nice things.

85

Lee A. Arnold 12.03.15 at 10:03 pm

Welllllllll the next President will be nominating Supreme Court judges, and Republicans brought us a Supreme Court that decided Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and gutted the Voting Rights Act; the Republican President George W. Bush invaded Iraq thus paving the way for ISIS; and if a Republican is the next President he will have a good shot at ending Obamacare, which allows states to form single payers in 2017. And God knows what other damage Congress will try to do to the poor and minorities…. So I’d say the lesser of two evils may be considerably lesser!

86

Cian 12.03.15 at 10:06 pm

I haven’t actually seen a good argument in favour of Hillary on this entire thread. The ‘strongest’ argument seems to assert that one’s opponents are sexist because Hillary is a woman (two words – Elizabeth Warren). Last time I saw that argument was when Sarah Palin was McCain’s running mate. Time hasn’t improved it.

The rest of it seems to be either attempts at attacking the messenger (Henwood is good friends with Adolph Reed and has been covering these issues for years, so he’s probably got a better handle on these issues than most), or just rants about the infantilism of people who disagree with them.

Hillary is a woman with a long political history, and in that time she’s done things. If you’re on the left, and you pay attention, you will hate many of those things. Welfare reform – gotta admit not in favour of condemning huge numbers of children to poverty and hunger. Honduras coup – honestly, not a fan. Tight relationships with Wall Street – can’t say I’m in favour. Candidates who receive many millions in speaking fees from Wall Street (and others) – can’t say I really trust them. Candidates instrumental in shaping the corporate friendly Democratic party, and the DLC – well at least we know where they stand politically.

Or you could just criticise her for her remarkably poor judgement. Hiding her email server? Really? Did she learn nothing from the last set of scandals? Do we need to be distracted for another 8 years by the inevitable scandals from the Clinton Foundation?

And yes, it’s probably going to be a choice between the TERRIBLE Hillary, and the truly terrifying Republican who wins. This is a terrible situation. This is like the choice between Sarkozy and Le Pen. Clearly you’re going to drag yourself to the voting booth.

87

Ronan(rf) 12.03.15 at 10:28 pm

The small act of voting against your material interests and tribal obligations is a wonderful and profound gesture. Whatever happened to wild, cheerful fecklessness ?I fear the diosece has a new bishop

88

Bloix 12.03.15 at 10:30 pm

#91- one will do an okay job given the standards we are accustomed to. The other will PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE UNTIL THE BLOOD RUNS FROM YOUR EYES. There are some crazy people who think this is not a significant difference. As for me, on election day I will run to the voting booth as fast as I fucking can.

89

chomko 12.03.15 at 10:46 pm

I like a lot of Dan’s writing, and would be genuinely interested in reading a “dsquared-who-analyzes-institutional-constraints-affecting-Eurozone-political-economy” takedown of the rather more slapdash “dsquared-who-writes-about-the-US-electoral-system-very-occasionally.”

90

Dots 12.03.15 at 11:23 pm

economics – the 90s were not bad
war – Hillary is wacko but constrained by Russia and China and US weakness in the areas where she could do the most damage
culture – veto

seems ok, to me

Henwood was anti-QE. the intellectual left sucks. the Dems aren’t as bad as the intellectual left, but our coalition includes ethnic bases that r weak 3/4 years

Obama has been disastrous for the Democratic party, from an instrumental point of view. we paid enormous political prices for small, uncertain utility gains that were probably procyclical, to boot, in the midst of wars and the Great Recession. still, I’m a Democrat and I would vote for him again. I will vote for Bernie because his stupid economics can’t win and I will vote for Hillary because she is maybe less likely to burn the far abroad

91

Bruce B. 12.03.15 at 11:45 pm

For me it’s simple. I want there to be as little death and misery as possible. US national elections are about triage: who will inflict less death and misery on the world? There is a clear-cut answer to that, as there has been for several elections now, and it’s always the same: whoever the Democratic Party nominates.

I’d like the Democratic nominee to be better. I’m doing my little part to help make it so via donations. But there will be a president elected next November, who likely won’t be my preferred candidate of those available, and the Democratic nominee will still kill and hurt fewer people than the Republican would. I will therefore vote for him or her, and for Democrats in other offices, because too many people who matter to me – starting with myself – are on the Republican list as good targets for suffering and death.

If I had to run a gauntlet and choose the person who will kill me versus the person who will break my limbs, I’ll go with the limb-breaker, on the same principle. And I don’t see that as exclusive of then seeing about what to do so that fewer people have to run that kind of gauntlet.

92

Bruce Wilder 12.03.15 at 11:54 pm

Bloix @ 93: one will do an okay job given the standards we are accustomed to. The other will PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE UNTIL THE BLOOD RUNS FROM YOUR EYES.

Bruce B.:There is a clear-cut answer to that, as there has been for several elections now, and it’s always the same: whoever the Democratic Party nominates. . . . If I had to run a gauntlet and choose the person who will kill me versus the person who will break my limbs, I’ll go with the limb-breaker, on the same principle. And I don’t see that as exclusive of then seeing about what to do so that fewer people have to run that kind of gauntlet.

And, I thought I was grim.

93

Bernard Yomtov 12.03.15 at 11:55 pm

And that’s the conclusion of the book; that there’s got to be a better way.

Does Henwood offer any ideas as to what that better way might be?

94

Pat 12.04.15 at 12:15 am

And that’s the conclusion of the book; that there’s got to be a better way.

While this is emotionally appealing, it’s worth noting that logically, it doesn’t at all follow. It is entirely possible we are in fact doomed.

95

The Temporary Name 12.04.15 at 12:24 am

It is entirely possible we are in fact doomed.

There’s always waiting for the right cases to come before a supreme court of other-than-maniacs and hahaha constitutional reform.

96

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 1:28 am

Bruce Wilder: It’s really practical for me. I move in a social circle with a lot of LGBT people, a lot of poor people, a lot of disabled people, and a fair number of people of color – many of us in more than one of those groups. President Clinton would not make a high priority out of killing or immiserating many of us, even though there’s a lot she could do to make our lives better but probably won’t. But all the Republican candidates are committed to things that will kill and immiserate us, sometimes as their primary goal, sometimes as a desirable externality. Too many people I know are anywhere from days to months away from a lousy death.

Would I like someone who would do more? Sure. But it’s not like Clinton’s going to set out to repeal the Medicaid expansion, the single biggest contributor to so many of my friends still being with us. She’s unlikely to staff and fund a bunch of agencies the way they need, but she’s also not going to go around mass-closing VA facilities or fighting to unfund Planned Parenthood (or, if the likely veto gets overridden, keep it unfunded), or cut off mental health funding for LGBT people, or seek to bar legal action for discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc….a lot of very practical things for some of us.

Pat: While this is emotionally appealing, it’s worth noting that logically, it doesn’t at all follow. It is entirely possible we are in fact doomed. This is my best appraisal of the rest of the century and the next couple, given what we haven’t done on climate change. But I keep acting as if there’s room to do better, because I don’t feel compelled to commit suicide just yet and I could be wrong…and if I am, it will be in part because a lot of people did things I didn’t expect, and I’d like to be in on that action.

97

js. 12.04.15 at 1:38 am

Cian @91:

I think the best argument for Clinton is that given by A H @13. I suggested something similar @23. It seems rather obvious to me, but clearly I am in a tiny minority.

98

js. 12.04.15 at 1:39 am

A H @14, sorry.

99

Chris E 12.04.15 at 1:39 am

“Fuck Henwood. Fuck him sideways with a 2×4. What right does he have to yadda yadda the livelihoods of millions of people in order to gratify his own sanctimony?”

I suspect the point he was making was more along the lines of; whilst we may have technically avoided a depression the outlook for many people has remained bleak and unrelentingly grim.

100

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 1:43 am

Chris E: Certainly true. How spewing a bunch of fucking bullshit about the advantages of going ahead and letting the Republicans have it next time around might help is, um, not clear to me, let’s say.

101

The Raven 12.04.15 at 2:34 am

Hey, there are advantages to being a large black bird; one can fly away and come back.

As far as I can tell, Cruz really does believe that’s the best thing to do. Cruz really believes in his crazy right-wing Christianity. Then there’s Trump, still the front-runner, who having turned a large fortune into a small fortune (four bankruptcies!), is now making a project of running the country like one of his businesses.

I looked at that cover and thought, “What is a right wing book doing in CT?” They’re really big on making Clinton look ugly, and it’s sexist, stupid, and effective. But the book turned out to be part of the circular firing squad of the left. I’ve done my time criticizing Hillary Clinton. So has Bernie Sanders. But Sanders has been careful not to attack her. In fact, he’s defended her a couple of times in the televised debates. I think we had better look at the opposition and follow Sanders model.

102

The Raven 12.04.15 at 2:49 am

It also occurs to me that, if we could get Hillary Clinton on our side, even a bit, she might just be tough enough to take on the people who are destroying the USA. I love Sanders’ vision, and he is a skillful politician, but the wheels are coming off US democracy. Perhaps, after all, we need General Clinton.

103

The Raven 12.04.15 at 3:01 am

and … just possibly I am working this out as I go … just possibly Hillary Clinton’s feminism will come into conflict with her corporatism, or could be brought into conflict with it.

104

js. 12.04.15 at 3:07 am

As I’ve already said, I plan on voting for Clinton (assuming she’s the Dem candidate in the general). Also too though, I plan on smoking a cigarette shortly after finishing this comment. Now suppose that I were trying to quit—I’m not, because quitting is for losers, but let’s say, purely hypothetically, that I’m trying to quit. I would experience significant-to-acute physical discomfort—for hours and days (I know, because in the past, briefly, I’ve flirted with being a loser). If, in the middle of this significant-to-acute discomfort, I were to evaluate the costs vs. benefits of smoking one single cigarette, I think it’s fair to say that it would be perfectly rational for me to smoke that one single cigarette. Because whatever harm one single cigarette would do (esp. when I’ve already smoked hundreds of thousands in my life) would be far outweighed by the immediate and acute relief it would bring me. Of course, the same argument holds for every single cigarette.

All I’m saying is: it does one no favor to pretend that there’s no argument on the other side.

105

Jason McCullough 12.04.15 at 3:21 am

“The ability of the Democrats to effectively use abortion rights as a hostage to ensure co-operation from the left of their party is one of those tactics that works too well – it’s rational, so it always gets the desired result, but because of that they become too reliant on it and it weakens them elsewhere. The strategy is itself very vulnerable to the demographics of a small group of men and women. A cluster of deaths or retirements could leave a Supreme Court which was unambiguously decided, either pro or anti abortion rights. And with this crucial issue – one of massive and inescapable salience to the whole population – taken away, the case would be much less easy to make, time after time. And notoriously, of course, support which has been dragged out in this manner for a Presidential election is a mile wide and an inch deep, and turns out in much weaker numbers, if at all, for all the odd-year Congressional elections which tend to ensure that the Democratic Presidents elected can’t get their campaign commitments executed.”

As interesting as the rest is, I don’t follow how abortion is a major driver of Democratic votes or money, even if you create specific elite slices of the electorate. Abortion never gets above single digits in priority polling:
http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm

It’s below just about everything else in the priorities of primary voters:
http://www.people-press.org/2015/10/02/contrasting-partisan-perspectives-on-campaign-2016/

It has a small set of hyper-focused voters in both parties, but there’s nowhere near enough of them to really influence anything.

As to Clinton, as long as I’ve been paying attention to US politics the narrative on the left goes like this:
* The centrist, likely to win candidate is kind of appalling to liberals.
* The liberals bitch and moan about it.
* The liberals advocate do nothing that could plausibly change this, and reject suggested alternatives that could cough up the votes – unionism, populism, social conservatism – out of hand.

I am one of those liberals, but I recognize the median elite liberal position in the US is basically socially liberal, technocratic, economic slightly right of center, definitively anti-union view. I basically see no way this can ever generate noticeably above 50% of the general election, much less build a mass movement for the primaries.

106

harry b 12.04.15 at 3:24 am

I keep reading the hostility to Daniel’s post, then re-reading the post, and wondering what the people who are hostile to it read, or what drug they are taking. Bizarre. I’m done with it. I’ll vote for Hillary when if comes to it, I absolutely promise. I might give her money I’ll even vote with some enthusiasm, because some people very close to her will have fantastic recommendations for personnel that I know would be absolutely brilliant for policy areas I know about. Why must I, in addition, pretend she’s better than she, in fact, is?

107

The Raven 12.04.15 at 4:04 am

Harry B@109: But need we make her to be worse than she is, either? This book is likely to be taken up by the Republicans and used against Clinton, should she become the Democratic nominee. I am not at all convinced of a Democratic victory in this election and would prefer not to participate in a loss, especially with so much at stake.

108

LFC 12.04.15 at 4:06 am

Bruce Wilder @87 continues his inaccurate characterization of Obama as having continued GW Bush’s foreign policy and domestic policies unchanged. Obama has been far, far from perfect, and *aspects* of his policies resemble Bush’s, but the total picture is different. In the area of environmental regulation, it’s night and day. Civil rights and voting rights, pretty much ditto. Obama kept his campaign promise to withdraw all U.S. active combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, drawing severe, continuing criticism from Republicans who claimed he didn’t work hard enough to get a status-of-forces agreement enabling a sizable contingent of US troops to stay, even though it was quite clear the Iraqi govt at the time had no interest in that. Obama has cut the number of prisoners in Guantanamo to a bit over 100 (iirc) and wd have closed it had not Congress blocked relocation of any prisoners to US facilities. Also, the opening to Cuba and the Iran nuclear deal. Those are all things a Republican prob. would not have done. (OTOH I certainly acknowledge that Obama has continued some bad aspects of US foreign policy, some of which I had no illusions that he wd fundamentally change.)

Bruce says he voted for Obama in ’08 and was disappointed in the resulting policies. I understand that (to some extent), but not his wholesale denunciation. It’s as if BW has erased the distinction between “disappointing” and “terrible.”

Re Clinton: not my preferred candidate, but Sanders (and O’Malley to some extent also) means she’s had to run so far a bit more to the left on certain issues than she otherwise wd have. The general election will present a fairly stark choice, as the entire Republican party has moved ever more rightward, quickly approaching the zone of utterly crazy.

109

Dr. Hilarius 12.04.15 at 4:09 am

I’m late to this party, as usual, but a few thoughts anyway: I don’t need Henwood’s book to know about HRC’s faults. Anyone who has followed US politics knows them.

The Clintons owe a great debt to the far right’s vilification of them. “Fox News says we’re Communists so we can’t be neocon warmongers, can we?” The very real war on reproductive rights and women in general produces reflexive support for HRC.

Ironically, HRC’s greatest virtue is her naked opportunism. She leads from behind, waiting for sufficient public consensus to adopt a new position. Given sufficient public pressure she will drift to center (not left, not in the time left in this universe). That’s what Sanders is doing, pushing the Overton window and showing Clinton she can, must, move back to the radical politics of FDR. Triangulation doesn’t always have to be to the right.

As earlier posters have pointed out, the descent of the Republican party into a mass of incoherent grifters and lunatics enables the Democratic national leadership to take the votes of sane people for granted. It’s a small thing but today I unsubscribed from the DCCC email list, telling them that I’m tired of scare mongering about a possible Republican presidency as the sole reason for voting Democratic. And no money from me.

But if HRC is nominated, I will vote for her. In the past I figured that the nation could always survive a bad administration for four years and recover. With climate change and environmental degradation reaching the point of no easy return I’m no longer of that opinion. There is a difference between lesser evil and catastrophe.

110

js. 12.04.15 at 4:23 am

I agree with harry b. While I can find things to criticize in dsquared’s post (e.g. I think the singular focus on abortion rights is misplaced), I’d think the main point re long term effects should be well taken. I mean, I really don’t see the point of circling the wagons, esp. on a CT thread, for fucks sake.

(Also, the fact that DD is or was an investment banker is seriously fucking irrelevant.)

111

Cian 12.04.15 at 4:43 am

The lesser evil argument only works if people treat the lesser evil as, well, evil when they’re in office. If on the other hand you make excuses for them (11th dimensional chess), or ignore the stuff that they do. Well it turns out that a lesser evil Democrat can pull off all kinds of stuff that Republicans can’t. Such as, I dunno, a vicious welfare bill that is responsible for condemning huge numbers of kids to brutal poverty. Or a financial deregulation bill that helps trigger the worst financial crash in 70 years. Or grand bargains to gut, I mean ‘reform’, social security.

112

Tom 12.04.15 at 4:47 am

Daniel, it is not just abortion rights:

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/262071-senate-approves-bill-repealing-much-of-obamacare

We have HRC who would not dismantle Obamacare and any republican who would. I do not know how one can characterize choosing HRC as the lesser of two evils. Maybe here many are mainly focused on HRC’s foreign policies: if so, fair enough.

I am perfectly fine discussing HRC’s many flaws and discuss how we can work to have a better candidate in 4 or at least 8 years. But if someone feels not obliged to vote her (as linked in your OP), then I beg to differ as Nader’s specter still looms large. It will take decades to recover from the damage GWB has brought to this country and the world.

113

Cian 12.04.15 at 4:57 am

@js – I didn’t read those as arguments in favour of Hillary, but just the Democrats in general. Which is fine, though given nobody much is arguing otherwise their relevance seems questionable.

The only one of those arguments that really works for Hillary is that she’s not a fascist. This is true – but if that’s the best argument for her, then we’re in serious trouble.

For reasons that other people have argued on this thread, I think Hillary could be pushed in a more progressive direction. It would take work, heavy pressure and unpopular activism of the kind used by the Immigration/Environmental and LBGT activists. It’s definitely much easier to push a Democrat politician than a Republican one. But that will only happen if people are honest about what Hillary is, what she stands for and what her politics are. Otherwise we’ll get 4-8 years of empty promises, combined with further ‘necessary’ reforms, grand bargains and other betrayals. Or if we’re really lucky she’ll start a war with Russia/China/Iran.

114

js. 12.04.15 at 5:08 am

I didn’t read those as arguments in favour of Hillary, but just the Democrats in general.

Yeah, I suppose I was being a little tongue-in-cheek. But I do honestly think that the Democratic party, and its base of support, is in a place today where even a H. Clinton presidency wouldn’t be nearly as bad as her husband’s was two decades ago. (I mean, dude made a point of taking a break from his campaign to go and personally kill a mentally disabled black man; anything like that is inconceivable this election season.) And that’s even leaving aside the proto-fascists on the other side.

115

adam.smith 12.04.15 at 5:46 am

I think the reason that people get upset at posts like Daniel’s here boils down to the distinction between team “lesser” and team “evil” that we’ve had in previous such threads.

Team lesser, most purely exemplified here by Bloix in #93, is angry that team evil doesn’t seem to be acknowledging that Republican presidents are hugely, dramatically worse than Democratic ones. And I’ll say that Daniel reducing this to abortion rights in his OP didn’t exactly help here.

Team evil is angry that team lesser doesn’t acknowledge that lesser evil is still evil. That’d e.g. be Cian in #114.
I’m personally not convinced by this–I think team evil is conflating genuine Democratic partisans (of which there are many in the general population but not that many on CT) with lesser evil types (which are much more common on CT than in the general population).

The final point is strategy, and like js. I think it’s the most interesting one. To recap:

unconditional support for the Democrats — means that party leaders will continue to take your vote for granted and respond instead to the concerns of people who demand some return for their support

I don’t find that argument compelling. The logic of L2D’s proposal at #65 is that the pressure happens at the primary stage. The argument seems to be “well, I couldn’t even convince a majority of democrats of our views, but now you have to make concessions to us so we’ll vote for you”. I don’t think that works, and I think it hugely overstates the numerical strength of a genuine left (as opposed to liberals) in the US.

116

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 6:50 am

Harry B: In my case, at least, it’s that I worry a lot about things that tend to encourage and reward voter detachment on the left. We’ve done that, and got untold death and misery about it. This time around it’s more personal, in that a Republican president and congress would be a guaranteed death sentence for a bunch of people I know and a good chance of one for others. (What’s the longevity prospects for a 50-year-old with diabetes and porphyria, without SSI and Medicaid? Not good, I do believe.)

In this context, I need people not to feel like maybe they can deign to bother with Clinton, perhaps, if the rest of us coddle them enough. I need more people to feel an obligation to vote for whoever comes out on top in the Democratic primary (unless something altogether unpredictable happens), just as I’d like them to feel it worth their while to turn out in the primaries and take part in partisan affairs between elections, for more and better triage. I wish not to be thrown on the chopping block so that puffed-up twits can feel good about their disengagement.

And yes, I say that realizing that Clinton is firmly welded into the global financial sector Davies wants us to believe is so blameless, and into the national security state apparatus that will give us more pointless death and misery via warmaking. Triage remains real even so.

If critiques of Clinton ended more often in pointers to what to do right now to improve the state of Democratic affairs – and there are things to do – rather than in smirks about not bothering with all the nastiness, I’d be much less hostile.

117

robotslave 12.04.15 at 10:06 am

Daniel, if you honestly think that a reliable Supreme Court majority opposing abortion rights would produce an American political landscape in which the issue were “taken away,” as you put it, then you have absolutely no business writing about American politics.

118

Barry 12.04.15 at 12:49 pm

harry b :
“AS so often with Daniel’s posts, I wonder whether I read the same post as the commentators who are so hostile to him. In the post he endorses lesser-evilism ( the sense that he thinks there are very good reasons to vote for the lesser evil; his only crime is just leaving open that there might also be reasons not to); he is clear that Hillary will, definitely, be the lesser evil; he endorses abortion rights — he just points out that using it as the single overwhelmingly compelling reason to vote Democrat, which works for a rational person right now, might suddenly not work in a not-too-distant future AND, more importantly, leaves Democrats without strong arguments to GOTV in the off-years when they, if they had a richer, deeper, set of reasons to animate voters, they would be able to pick up seats in Congress that would enable their party to do more — including more to protect reproductive rights if that were what they really cared about — than just appoint/veto Supreme Court Justices.

Anyway, that’s what I read.”

You read poorly, I believe, is ace the list of reasons to vote Democratic is very long ,and gets longer every day. Those reasons have been covered above, and would be obvious to anybody keeping up with US politics even a little bit.

119

dsquared 12.04.15 at 1:40 pm

120: Of course the issue wouldn’t be taken away, far from it. But what would be “taken away” would be the trump card of the Democratic Party leadership that allows them to get votes from people who disagree with them on most other issues. Instead, you’d have to have a broad-based, focused and energetic campaign aimed at getting legislation passed. That would look more or less totally unlike the DLC strategy that did so well in the 90s

120

Trader Joe 12.04.15 at 1:44 pm

I’m wondering if, from a liberal democrat perspective, the better strategy isn’t to lose a battle in order to get the chance to win the war.

Maybe 4 years of Trump or Cruz, as appalling at that would be, would be worth the opportunity to get a Bernie (or better) for 8 years + both houses for a fair chunk of that time.

A Clinton win in ’16 will not set up a win in congress anytime soon, so we’ll we left with either 4 or 8 years of what we’ve seen the last 6 – constant bickering and no real policy being enacted.

Perhaps the better way is to let the clowns have their day and then spend the following 8 years A) undoing it and B) having the majority to do what’s necessary and neeeded.

Just a thought. I’m very much not an HRC fan for the multitude of reasons cited.

121

Plarry 12.04.15 at 1:57 pm

#123 – We label those thoughts “Nader 2000”

122

Bruce Wilder 12.04.15 at 2:47 pm

“Nader 2000”? Obama 2008.

123

que_es 12.04.15 at 3:22 pm

Bruce Wilder at 87: Well put Sir. It’s a classic, methinks.

124

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 4:17 pm

Trader Joe: I am not prepared to offer my own life, or that of anyone I care about, for the chance that ours and other deaths would perhaps motivate people to vote more liberally next time around. If you wish to volunteer your own death, you are welcome to, but we are not available as tokens for others’ thought experiments.

If we could somehow magically remove abortion as an issue, the next in line would presumably be the ACA, including Medicaid expansion. Anyone who wants to try explaining how that would be improved – or simply wouldn’t degrade massively – under Republican control can try, I guess.

125

Bernard Yomtov 12.04.15 at 4:44 pm

I’m wondering if, from a liberal democrat perspective, the better strategy isn’t to lose a battle in order to get the chance to win the war.

The only sure thing about losing a battle to win a war is that you lose the battle.

An entrenched Republican party, controlling the White House and Congress, is going to do inestimable damage. If you don’t believe me take a look at the candidates proposed policies.

Here, I’ll get you started.

And what makes you think the war will be won? Because the results will be so horrible the voters will throw the rascals out wholesale? I doubt it. Massive amounts of money, the likely disenfranchisement, one way or another, of lots of voters, gerrymandering, etc. means you will have inflicted a lot of misery so you can have an odds-against fight in 2020.

Is that really worth the repeal of Obamacare, an end to US efforts to anything about climate change, the establishment of a tax-free hereditary aristocracy, an end to any effort to deal sensibly with Iran, among other foreign policy stupidities, and so on?

If you are interested in deep subtle long-run strategies how about:

Elect Clinton.
Push her to do some of the things you’d like to see.
Use that success to gain support for a candidate you like better.
Meanwhile, work at the local and state level to promote candidates you like.

126

Bloix 12.04.15 at 4:50 pm

#87, #127 – “As far as I can tell, the Democrat in the case of Clinton as in the case of Obama is, also, “the fascist”, that is to say, an authoritarian who will represent the interests of powerful business corporations and the superwealthy pretty much exclusively.”

Look, the Republican Party goal is a one-party state in perpetuity. The only reason Bush/Cheney weren’t able to manage it was that one old person with cancer on the Supreme Court didn’t die, George Allen said “macaca” and the Republicans failed to take the Senate by one seat (God bless Jim Webb!), and Katrina hit New Orleans and not, say, Tallahassee. That is hell of a lot of luck.

But they did show us what they wanted to do. They wanted to hold American citizens without habeas corpus and try them in secret military tribunals (Jose Padilla, remember him?), they wanted to be able to execute people tried by those tribunals (they were building execution chambers at Guantanamo), they wanted to turn federal prosecutors into tools for imprisoning political adversaries (they tried in New Mexico and were more successful in Georgia), they wanted to authorize full Orwellian surveillance on all Americans all the time (remember the late-night scene at the hospital bed of AG John Ashcroft?)

These were roll-outs. If they had worked, they would be in your neighborhood by now. People you know would be disappearing. Politicians you support would find themselves arrested by SWAT teams and dumped incommunicado into Supermax cells.

The goal was to introduce perpetual one-party rule by unifying party, corporate support, the judiciary, and the administrative state. This has been done before, and it works! And it doesn’t require a charismatic leader – it can have a rotating executive, as in Mexico for more than 70 years under the PRI, so long as the party has a lock on the levers of the administrative state and the judiciary. So the goal was perfectly achievable, and wouldn’t have required a single Constitutional amendment.

They failed. Thank God, or the Spaghetti Monster, or whoever – it was a close-run thing and we were very lucky. But they haven’t given up or gone away, and they are waiting for the chance to try again.

Anyone who says that we can lose a battle to win the war is delusional. The battle is the war: let a Cruz or a Trump take the presidency with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, and the war is lost for our lifetimes.

127

geo 12.04.15 at 5:10 pm

Barry @121: the list of reasons to vote Democratic is very long

Please try to get through your head that 1) everyone here is as well acquainted with those reasons as you, Bruce B, Bloix, oldster, football, et al; and 2) virtually everyone here who lives in a contested state will vote for the Democrat in the general election.

The problem the rest of us are trying to address is inadvertently identified by adam.smith @118 when he writes that those of us to the left of Hillary Clinton “couldn’t even convince a majority of democrats of our views.” In fact, a majority of Democrats do agree more with our views of (as I put it @60) “progressive taxation, full employment, environmental protection, financial regulation, collective bargaining, health care, free trade, Social Security funding, electoral and campaign finance reform, and many others,” than with Hillary Clinton’s and the party leaders’ views, and have done so right through the Bill Clinton and Obama administrations. And despite occasional assurances that they feel our pain, we’ve been largely ignored, taken for granted, and told we have no place else to go. We would like to figure out some way of changing this without resorting to a disastrous “the worse, the better” strategy that, as Bruce B eloquently points out, would subject many helpless people to much needless suffering. Can you help?

128

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 5:19 pm

What Bernard and Bloix said.

Those of us who had any moments of wondering whether Bush Jr. might actually find some damn excuse for suspending elections missed the point. They don’t have to do that, when they can simply stack the elections their way – mass disenfranchisement, registration “errors”, riggable voting machines, judges willing to provide whatever rulings it takes to patch gaps, and a compliant media all along the way. As with their hollowing-out of women’s health care rights in practice, it’s efficient, since they can continue to rail against the letter of the law while rendering it meaningless.

129

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 5:20 pm

Geo: What it takes, as I understand it, is people prepared to invest a couple of decades in party politics at local and state level. That’s it. Get the smaller-scale institutions running your way, and use it as leverage for the larger scales.

130

anon 12.04.15 at 5:26 pm

I don’t get the Bernie voter / Nader voter comparisons.

Nader’s pet issues were pro-environment and anti-military industrial complex. In other words, he was a candidate for the affluent liberal upper middle class.

Bernie’s issue is economic inequality. Unlike Nader, he’s a candidate for the working and lower middle class. And unlike Nader he’s much more moderate on affluent liberal pet issues like guns and and the military, which makes him much more attractive to swing voters.

On those grounds alone, Bernie’s both a much more viable candidate and just a better candidate, period. Making college free and increasing taxation on the rich are possible. Preventing environmental disaster and dramatically cutting military spending are, no matter how urgent and desirable, just not going to happen.

If Hillary goes to the general, I’ll vote for her. But just as the Nader voters now have blood on their hands, anyone supporting Hillary before the primary will have a lot of blood on their hands.

131

geo 12.04.15 at 5:39 pm

Bruce B: What it takes … is people prepared to invest a couple of decades in party politics at local and state level.

Yes, that would do it all right. All we need to transform America into an effective democracy is several million determined, well-informed, cooperative volunteers with sufficient leisure, energy, financial resources, organizational skills, and professional/scientific expertise to wage a decades-long battle against an entrenched plutocracy and its army of trained and indoctrinated democracy-saboteurs.

As you rightly say: “That’s it.”

132

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 5:58 pm

I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. That is it. It’s what made the Republican Party the way it is: a whole lot of dedicated people spending a whole lot of time on it. It’ll be harder for the liberal equivalent since we have fewer plutocrats on our side, and the institutional barriers they’ve been throwing up to protect themselves. But I don’t know of any alternative. It’s why Act Blue is on the list of folks I donate to each year.

133

JanieM 12.04.15 at 6:10 pm

@geo — I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic. Did you expect someone to come up with a magic solution, or are you just expressing pessimism about the reality?

134

Bloix 12.04.15 at 6:24 pm

“and told we have no place else to go.”

But you DO have no place else to go. We do not live in the End Times, we just live in history. Stop expecting politics to bring justice and happiness. If they don’t kill you and your children you’re doing great. Everything else is progress.

135

Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 6:36 pm

Or, from another angle…of course you’ve got other places to go. It’s just that they all involve inflicting more death and misery on others.

Not enough money goes into researching proximate causes of cancer, thanks in part to corporate involvement in cancer treatment funding – there are various overt and sometimes covert pressures away from work that would make the corporate sponsors look bad. This is undesirable. But a fix for it shouldn’t include shutting down Ronald McDonald House or St. Jude’s. Same kind of deal with US politics.

136

Cian 12.04.15 at 6:37 pm

127: If we could somehow magically remove abortion as an issue, the next in line would presumably be the ACA, including Medicaid expansion. Anyone who wants to try explaining how that would be improved – or simply wouldn’t degrade massively – under Republican control can try, I guess.

It won’t because hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance companies are broadly in favour of it. As is evidenced by the fact that Republican suggestions to ‘replace’ it are really just tinkering around the edges.

I think Daniel was too easy on the abortion issue. Abortion is a classic example of how Democratic activist arrogance. Currently the right to an abortion is disappearing at a local level in red states. Why is it disappearing? Because anti-abortionist activists organized at a local level, built national coalitions and did all the other stuff that apparently doesn’t count as ‘real politics’. Meanwhile Democrats relied upon the supreme court, voting for Democrats and that’s, um, pretty much it. The strategy isn’t working – and that’s apparently the strongest argument for voting for the Democrats.

137

geo 12.04.15 at 7:42 pm

Janie: Yes, I’m afraid I was being a bit sarcastic. We all know that, as Bruce B pointed out (just a touch glibly, I thought), it will take a large-scale popular mobilization to democratize American politics in the face of enormous structural and institutional obstacles. Just saying so again doesn’t help much. Nor does pointing to the Tea Party, which had reservoirs of religious fanaticism to draw on and, more important, posed few fundamental challenges to privileged institutions and individuals. The question for lesser-evilists (for all of us, though they seem less acutely aware of it) is how to arouse even more widespread and determined democratic passions, so that we’re not stuck with the lesser evil indefinitely. Once those passions are aroused, they will obviously begin with “party politics at the local and state level.”

138

Suzanne 12.04.15 at 7:42 pm

112: “Ironically, HRC’s greatest virtue is her naked opportunism. She leads from behind, waiting for sufficient public consensus to adopt a new position.”

I have my problems with the lady, chief among them being the fact that she never seems to have met a war she didn’t like, but this is silly. The Clintons were out front on health care reform. They made mistakes, but the temper of the times was different then and the opposition even more fierce, and Hillary was the lightning rod. She was more out front on controversial political issues than any other First Lady not named Eleanor Roosevelt and was vilified accordingly.

“Whitewater is dismissed in a couple of pages noting that it was exactly the sort of sketchy investment scheme you’d expect a well-connected rich power couple to get mixed up in from time to time if they weren’t paying attention.”

The Clintons were financially comfortable enough during Bill’s spell in office, but not rich pre-White House, or in the White House, for that matter. (For internal Arkansan political reasons the family had to forgo a swimming pool. Not exactly the lush life.) Had they really been a rich power couple, a small-potatoes venture like Whitewater would probably have never held any interest. Of course, times have changed, as Chelsea’s modest wedding demonstrated.

139

Trader Joe 12.04.15 at 8:24 pm

Bloix and Bruce B.

I’m in agreement with you and I support your objectives – but re-read your posts you sound just like the Fox News crazies saying if X, then its nothing but dead widows and orphans as far as the eye can see.

If your concern is that the Republican objective is to gut abortion rights, eliminate ACA and all the other mayhem you suggested – how is HRC getting you closer to preventing that….they are doing it 32 states where they have governorships, many of which they’ve held for 10 years or longer (and not just in notoriously red states).

The standard playbook is to cry and complain about gerrymandeing and that’s true, but it does nothing to stop the fact that the enemy if fortifying strongholds in growing states while the democratic base continues to move away from CA, IL, NY and NJ. HRC isn’t going to stop that.

The point, as geo and some have suggested, is something which gets the Liberal base to only “settle” for candidates that do what WE want. The republican’s aren’t “settling” in their candidate list – they are choosing among candidates that are quite reflective of their beliefs…..why should we have get anything less.

P.S. my post @123 was, I thought, obviously defeatest. If one thought I was really suggesting lets rally to the cause of electing Trump so we’d surely get Warren in ’20 than I appologize for the inadequacies of my prose. Poison creates convulsions or death – its the dosage not the reaction that decides.

140

politicalfootball 12.04.15 at 8:53 pm

I suspect the point he was making was more along the lines of; whilst we may have technically avoided a depression the outlook for many people has remained bleak and unrelentingly grim.

Maybe, but I don’t think Henwood is as stupid as you make him out to be.

The Depression that Obama and the Democrats avoided was in no sense “technical,” nor does Henwood say or imply that it was.

141

Anderson 12.04.15 at 8:54 pm

“how is HRC getting you closer to preventing that”

We have this thing called the Supreme Court of the United States. The next president is likely to replace 2 or 3 justices at minimum.

2016 will decide the makeup of the Court for the rest of my life, very likely. I’d rather a Republican weren’t making those nominations. YMMV.

142

Trader Joe 12.04.15 at 9:11 pm

@144
I’ve heard of it. How’d that work for the republicans when they wanted ACA dumped – twice? Perhaps the advantage is not so large as you imagine.

If republicans continue to control both houses she’s not going to be able to nominate the sort of justice that you’d really want on your Supreme Court, unless I missed it, even the great executive orderer couldn’t get around that approval.

143

politicalfootball 12.04.15 at 9:20 pm

The question for lesser-evilists (for all of us, though they seem less acutely aware of it) is how to arouse even more widespread and determined democratic passions, so that we’re not stuck with the lesser evil indefinitely.

I’m puzzled why you call lesser-evilists “they,” given that in 85 you seemingly endorsed lesser evilism yourself.

144

The Raven 12.04.15 at 9:28 pm

Trader Joe@123: “I’m wondering if, from a liberal democrat perspective, the better strategy isn’t to lose a battle in order to get the chance to win the war.”

We’ve been making strategic retreats since 1980. We have never made up the lost ground. I think strategic retreats mostly don’t work in US mass democratic politics.

145

Bernard Yomtov 12.04.15 at 9:42 pm

Trader Joe,

If your concern is that the Republican objective is to gut abortion rights, eliminate ACA and all the other mayhem you suggested – how is HRC getting you closer to preventing that….they are doing it 32 states where they have governorships,

With respect to ACA, all the governors can do is refuse to expand Medicaid. That’s a lot, of course, and it’s pretty nasty, but they can’t actually stop the rest. A repeal would do that.

As for abortion, this is an ongoing battle in the states, but the Supreme Court will weigh in. You probably know that there is a case about the Texas restrictions on its way now. There will be more.

Besides, it is no certainty that the Republicans will continue to hold the Senate after 2016. And even if they do I’d rather have Clinton submitting nominees than Cruz.

146

Scott Lemieux 12.04.15 at 9:49 pm

Currently the right to an abortion is disappearing at a local level in red states. Why is it disappearing? Because anti-abortionist activists organized at a local level, built national coalitions and did all the other stuff that apparently doesn’t count as ‘real politics’. Meanwhile Democrats relied upon the supreme court, voting for Democrats and that’s, um, pretty much it.

Using abortion as an example of the irrelevance of electoral politics is bizarre. Anti-abortion activism only works in jurisdictions controlled by Republicans. And these regulations are constitutional because Republicans have won presidential elections. The idea that there’s some magic strategy that could stop Texas and Alabama and Mississippi Republicans from doing everything they can to stop abortion is delusional.

Pro-choice groups are in fact among the *best* organized of progressive constituencies in the U.S.. Particularly since Casey, the argument that they’ve been complacent is just pure bullshit. (It’s not a coincidence that reproductive freedom was one issue Bill Clinton never sold out on. Would that supporters of the poor had similar clout.) But there’s no magic activist tactic that can make Republicans support reproductive rights in 2015. I don’t think anybody would claim that LBGT groups are poorly organized, but if Anthony Kennedy supported LBGT rights on the same level he supports reproductive freedom, same-sex marriage would be banned in the same states that are passing more abortion restrictions for the foreseeable future.

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politicalfootball 12.04.15 at 10:05 pm

Geo tells us that Democratic officials don’t have the same values as Democratic voters, but that doesn’t seem to be actually true.

Ninety percent of Senate Democrats favored a more liberal Obamacare, for instance. And every single Democratic vote on the Supreme Court was in favor of a more liberal Obamacare than we actually got.

That’s true on issue after issue. There are certainly systemic problems with small-d democratic politics in the United States, but the Democratic Party is a bright spot in that – it’s better than every other major institutional aspect of politics (if you define “more democratic” as “better.”)

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Bruce B. 12.04.15 at 10:10 pm

Trader Joe: I like not feeling alarmed, when there’s justification for it. If there’s a way to think about the consequences of saying “fuck Hillary, I’m sitting this one out, and I want others to do the same” that doesn’t lead to a lot of death and misery that wouldn’t otherwise happen, and that is anchored in evidence at hand, I’m up for it. So far, haven’t seen any. It keeps turning out to be that people like Scott are disassembling. So I’m stuck with the dread.

(It happens that one of my friends had to resort to GoFundMe for dental work last week. She got the money she needed. But fuck the state she lives in for making it necessary.)

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Cian 12.04.15 at 10:14 pm

Using abortion as an example of the irrelevance of electoral politics is bizarre.

Actually I was using it as an example of why focusing on presidential elections is failing. So perhaps you could be a little less patronizing.

I live in a red state. The fight is about access to contraception and sex education (as well as access to healthcare, nutrients and fucking housing). If you’re middle class you currently have access to abortion (though you’re probably going to want to keep quiet about it, and might lose your doctor), though the clinics are struggling. If you’re poor it’s a geographical lottery – assuming you even know about your options.

Sure, a slow defeat is better than a quick defeat. But the direction is the same. The strategy, such as it is, is not working.

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Cian 12.04.15 at 10:16 pm

149: I don’t think anybody would claim that LBGT groups are poorly organized

If LBGT groups were not strongly organized, and did not put pressure on ALL politicians regardless of party, they would not have realized any of their recent victories.

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Cian 12.04.15 at 10:19 pm

150: Actually all that tells us is that Democrat senators are to the left of Obama.

There’s very good data that shows Democrat politicians are to the right of the country, let alone Democrat voters. The key divide, that Democrat voters seem to ignore, is that wealthy Democrats do not share the values of ordinary Democrats. And that seems to be who Democrat politicians mostly represent.

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Lee A. Arnold 12.04.15 at 10:32 pm

The Democrats have a good chance to regain the Senate, due to the math.

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Bruce Wilder 12.04.15 at 10:38 pm

Lee A Arnold @ 155

Yes, it will be an interesting indicator of Party weakness, if they fail.

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ZedBlank 12.04.15 at 10:48 pm

@ Anon 133: Nader’s 15 minutes on the national stage was a bit before my political coming-of-age, so I’ll have to defer to your assessment that his primary issues during that election were environment and military industrial complex.

However –

I have followed Nader’s career somewhat since then, and I find the idea that he is generally most favored, and most concerned with, the “affluent liberal upper middle class” crazy. Perhaps that was who voted for him in 2000, and the difference is historical, but since the beginning, policy-wise, he’s been, whether successfully or not, concentrated on democratic issues in the basic, small-d sense, not in some kind of sop to the kind of liberals who give generous checks to Obama (and HRC.)

Also, if you are correct that –
“Preventing environmental disaster and dramatically cutting military spending are, no matter how urgent and desirable, just not going to happen.” – then we might as well fold the tent and have some cyanide with our Kool Aid right now, because nature will in short order abort pretty much all of us no matter what the Supreme Court says. Hey – I didn’t start the apocalyptic talk, but if we’re going there, we ought to be clear as day about what’s existential and what’s not.

Just to be clear – I’m all for supporting Bernie, and I admit that the chances for meaningful environmental reform are very, very daunting. But that’s all the more reason not to abandon them. Moreover, the recent (successful) struggle around Keystone, and the mounting momentum of FF divestment, have been signal issues of actual progressive change that would seem to argue against such defeatism.

Finally, not to go down this tired route, but the whole “Nader has blood on his hands” has been pretty roundly disproved, see here:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/06/1260721/-The-Nader-Myth#

Hat tip to geo, who first brought this to my attention (possibly on this blog, I can’t remember where.)

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Lee A. Arnold 12.04.15 at 11:15 pm

With today’s news that the San Berdoo shooters were ISIS, this is now a war election, and even Bernie will be on board.

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geo 12.04.15 at 11:23 pm

anon@133: [Nader] was a candidate for the affluent liberal upper middle class

From the 2000 Green Party Platform, part 2, section E (see also sections C and D):

2. The concepts of ECONOMIC AND WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY must be expanded in management-labor negotiations because the decisions a company makes affects its employees, its consumers, and the surrounding communities. In order to protect the legitimate interests of these various constituencies, as well as the natural environment, people in each of these groups must be empowered to participate in economic decision-making.
3. There should be no compromise of basic WORKER RIGHTS.
4. We support a fair MINIMUM WAGE, which, adjusted for inflation, is still well below the purchasing power it had throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
5. We endorse federal legislation to address problems associated with large plant closings; WORKPLACE SAFETY and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reform; and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) reform.
6. We particularly support substantive reforms toward “workplace democracy” in large corporations, especially reform that impacts socially and environmentally irresponsible big business.
7. We endorse legal rights to organize and join unions with democratically elected leadership.
8. We encourage the use of mediation as a tool for resolving disputes in the workplace.
9. We support the right to strike without being “permanently replaced.”
10. We support employee stock ownership plans (ESOP’s) with functioning, democratic structures; and cooperative ownership and management.
11. In the PUBLIC SECTOR, Greens are concerned with an employee’s right to join a union, and with associated COLLECTIVE BARGAINING rights.

See also sections VI and VII of Nader’s In Pursuit of Justice: Collected Writings, 2000-2003.

football @150: I don’t have citations and am too lazy (I mean, busy) too look for them just now, but at least some polling data I’ve seen shows that Democratic voters are to the left of Democratic officeholders and party leaders on the issues I mentioned: “progressive taxation, full employment, environmental protection, financial regulation, collective bargaining, health care, free trade, Social Security funding, electoral and campaign finance reform, and many others.”

football @146: Yes, I’m a lesser-evilist, in the sense that I’ll vote for the less evil candidate (almost always a Democrat) when my vote makes any difference (almost never, thanks to our irrational electoral system). But as this thread has evolved, there seems to be some disagreement over priorities: how much to emphasize avoiding the greater evil in the short/medium term vs. how much to emphasize attaining the greater good in the long term. We seem to have decided to call the former group “lesser-evilists” and the latter group “doctrinaire fools,” “useful idiots,” etc.

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Bloix 12.05.15 at 2:03 am

“If your concern is that the Republican objective is to gut abortion rights, eliminate ACA…”

No, you don’t get it. This is not about a roll-back of specific advances, and it’s not about “lesser evils.”

Look, I was born into a country without abortion rights, and that was not a good thing. When I started school, schools were still segregated. When I first looked for work, jobs were advertised separately in the paper for Men and for Women. Gay people went to prison. There was no access to health care for the elderly or the poor, no environmental protection worth mentioning, no right to a Miranda warning if you were arrested, and no right to a paid lawyer if you couldn’t afford one.

These things were bad. But the country was more or less free for most people most of the time, and it was a country that had the ability to become a better country. And even if every one of these things were rolled back tomorrow and the economy were smashed back to the level of Argentina, most people would still be able to live a reasonably free life and could work to get them back.

That’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about Cruz or Trump as president with Republican control of the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court.

We’re talking about a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

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Bernard Yomtov 12.05.15 at 2:27 am

That’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about Cruz or Trump as president with Republican control of the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court.

We’re talking about a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Correct but inadequate. We are also talking about devastating places that are most severely affected by climate change. We are talking about the creation of an aristocracy that rules the country. (No estate tax, no tax on capital gains, interest, or dividends, unlimited campaign contributions).

We face a nightmare. Yet, from their heights, there are those – soi-disant strategic geniuses – who tell us not to use what is at hand to fight it, but rather to play some sort of long game, and that all will be well in the end.

I don’t buy it.

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js. 12.05.15 at 2:42 am

Strangely, as someone who’s always and reliably voted the Democratic slate, these threads make me doubt myself. I do seriously wonder why the Voting Democratic Is A Moral Duty camp always adopt the strategy that they have in this thread, and why they think it would help against the sort of people they presumably hope to engage on a CT thread. (I’m actually serious; responses would be welcome, esp. ones that lower the heat and let in a bit more of the light.)

To reiterate: there is a possible problem whereby a course of action that is perfectly rational in each of its instances, when iterated over a medium to long term, can produce outcomes that are worse than what could have been achieved had a different course of action been pursued. I’m not even saying this is true as it applies to voting Democratic. But it seems to me obvious that it is possibly true. (If it’s not even possibly true, then you have to square that with descriptions of the Dems as the lesser evil, rather than, I don’t know, actually good.)

But what you get is an utter refusal to even acknowledge that this is a possible problem. So I am curious: do people just not get what problem or question is being mooted? Is it so important to present a unified front with the lesser evil that it’s not even okay to acknowledge potential problems? Really, what is it?

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js. 12.05.15 at 2:50 am

FWIW, I think adam.smith @120 is perhaps right, but this is actually a question where I don’t have totally settled views. And again, a CT thread seems like a good place where one might have a reasonably intelligent conversation about this—but of course, we can’t have nice things.

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kidneystones 12.05.15 at 3:14 am

The greatest crime in the history of all mankind – 1984, only for real and forever. Except, of course, that we’re well past 1984 and it’s now 2015. What’s happened?

Despite Republicans controlling the WH for pretty much all of the three decades following 1984 and for large parts of the three decades before murder and violent crime rates have dropped. Fewer wars have been fought, the air and water in many parts of America are cleaner, and infant mortality rates have dropped.

Having survived the Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II presidencies I can’t quite buy into the idea that a Republican like Mitt Romney and others represent the coming of the anti-Christ and full-on end-times – a boot stamping on a human face forever.

You’re joking, right?

Orwell was talking specifically about a totalitarianism explicitly alien to capitalism and even Empire. He’d be the first to spit in the face of this kind of farcical nonsense and naked bigotry. Orwell as most here should know was no friend of the upper-class and wore no rose-colored spectacles of the sort I normally sport.

Above all, Orwell was an virulent enemy of lies – especially lies told in the service of some ‘higher moral purpose’ and lies told by bigots to justify hatred and bigotry of the ‘all Republicans are sociopaths’ variety, lies told to demonize a large section of an electorate very much committed to defending the rights of people here to spread this wonderful, unique, utterly moral, and blemish-free form of hatred, bigotry, and fear.

Like it or not, we’ve all got a lot more in common than some would like to insist. My conservative relatives are not spawn of the devil. Nor is the loopy couple who decided to celebrate the holidays and their ‘religion’ by shooting up a party and acting-out some horrific homicidal fantasy complete with GO-cameras so they could post their lunacy for others to gawp at, and perhaps imitate. Did I mention that some people are nuts?

Certainly some are. But the folks cheering on the bombing of brown people in Britain at the moment fall into both political camps. Being Labour didn’t/hasn’t prevented huge swaths of the populace, including some CT principals, from demonstrating less forethought than a hamster. Let’s leave out the ‘moral courage’ fictions, they’re simply too obscene.

Farage is the current bogey-figure for Brits as Trump is for Americans. Which other Republican candidate has described the invasion of Iraq, that Labour supported and helped launch, lest we forget, in such harsh critical terms? What does it say about the Labour party in many cases, when Farage has been the loudest voice arguing against all future British military actions? Cause if Labour and Hillary are right and all figures on the right are wrong, I’m not seeing it. But then I wouldn’t would I?

We’re not anywhere near 1984, but we can find plenty of the folks Orwell warned us about here and there. All we have to do is listen.

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Bruce B. 12.05.15 at 4:42 am

Kidneystones: Part of the problem a bunch of us have is how a lot of things have gotten worse despite all the improvements in objective circumstances. The incarceration regime, to pick just one big obvious example. There should be fewer people in jail, and so damn many of them shouldn’t be black, and having been in jail shouldn’t be such a life-blighting thing, and so forth and so on. Crime is down, fewer police officers are dying, but they’re terrified of all of us and killing more of us. It’s that kind of gap that looms large in a lot of our thoughts (and the actual lives of a bunch of us).

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adam.smith 12.05.15 at 5:20 am

There’s very good data that shows Democrat politicians are to the right of the country, let alone Democrat voters.

I’m actually curious about that — do you have a link (I’m only curious if this actually good data and not a couple of cherry-picked polls, though.)

The question for lesser-evilists (for all of us, though they seem less acutely aware of it) is how to arouse even more widespread and determined democratic passions

just to repeat what others have said: local, radical politics. A lot of my friends are involved in the broadly defined black lives matter protests in Chicago that have successfully gotten the police chief fired, blocked Black Friday shopping on the Magnificent Mile and are, in the process, also building a movement and trying to build institutions (broadly defined) to sustain such a movement. None of these people is terribly interested in Democratic party politics, (though some were fairly excited about trying to get Rahm unelected in the Democratic primary). That’s where I look for democratic passion. Where I don’t look is among people who think strategic non-voting in a general elections will play any meaningful role in creating change.

I don’t get the Bernie voter / Nader voter comparisons.

I don’t either, but I also don’t see anyone making them?

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Bruce B. 12.05.15 at 5:40 am

Adam.Smith: I just want to admire this: That’s where I look for democratic passion. Where I don’t look is among people who think strategic non-voting in a general elections will play any meaningful role in creating change. Here lies one whose words were writ in acid. :)

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Bruce Wilder 12.05.15 at 6:33 am

LFC @ 113: Bruce Wilder @87 continues his inaccurate characterization of Obama as having continued GW Bush’s foreign policy and domestic policies unchanged.

I suppose I could hope for a more generous interlocutor — perhaps one, who would choose to interpret what I wrote as something intended to be other than absurd. But, alas.

You make the point that Obama has whittled down the number detained at Guantanamo. Guantanamo isn’t normally one of my examples, but I will give it a go.

You don’t seem to have noticed how Obama has avoided challenging the legitimacy of the policies that created the Camp. Yes, his plan to close the Camp was blocked in Congress. But, consider how Obama’s plan just confirmed and extended the questionable legality of arbitrarily imprisoning these men, with a plan to transfer them from a(n ersatz) prisoner of war camp to scattered SuperMax sites, to be housed as criminals under conditions just as abusive and probably more obscure, pretty much shedding what little is left of either the Constitution or relevant international law.

Of course, if he did things to draw public attention to just how far from the “worst of the worst” most of these men were, he would be drawing attention to just how poor is the performance record of the intelligence services in identifying the “worst of the worst”. So, when he’s sitting back on Drone Tuesday, choosing who should be murdered, he might have to consider that most of the victims of his violence are likely to be unidentified bystanders. Can’t have that.

A key example I gave @ 87 was the failure to prosecute either crimes underlying the financial crisis or crimes in the intelligence services. The failure to prosecute criminally in the aftermath of the GFC of 2008 is stark. Like the steady build up of the surveillance state, under holdovers from the previous Administration, it goes directly to that boot stomping on a human face forever. Only the fascist, in this case, is Obama, elected as the lesser evil.

There are differences between the Republican and the Democrat, but exaggerating those differences for partisan purposes and pretending that strategic voting for the Democrat is accomplishing anything is the real absurdity. Very few people, in any election, are in a position to vote strategically with any discernible effect — sure, once in a while the dogcatcher is electing by a half-dozen votes, and that will get lots of attention in the feckless Media, but that’s not reality.

We are not going to change anything deliberately, unless we can see what’s happening now. We are not going to be able to choose Bernie Sanders, because Clinton won the Money Primary, and Bernie isn’t going to move Clinton more than the tiniest smidge to the Left, because Clinton knows perfectly well that it is Money’s votes that really count.

Yes, that’s a pessimistic outlook that admits powerlessness. But, investing in partisan hysterics and insisting that trying harder in a broken system isn’t working.

The surveillance state and the neoliberal new feudalism are being built by both Parties.

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js. 12.05.15 at 8:36 am

Where I don’t look is [for passion] among people who think strategic non-voting in a general elections will play any meaningful role in creating change.

Which makes sense. But speaking for myself, I’m not that interested in questions of passion per se. And even beyond that, “strategic non-voting” on an individual level seems more like idiocy than strategy (though obviously this cuts both ways, which is one reason I’m not in the voting-dem-is-a-moral-duty camp).

That said, there are genuinely important questions in this area. For example, should unions expend significant resources for GOTV efforts on behalf of Democrats? Should NARAL? Should either or both of those organizations (and others like them) reliably endorse Dem candidates? Should they expend resources on electoral politics, esp. on the nat’l level, at all? As I understand Strong Lesser-Evilism (or call it the Scott Lemieux position), the answer to all of these questions is pretty much yes. (Maybe I’m wrong, I’d be happy to be corrected.) But that’s not obvious to me at all. In fact, I do think that there’s a very real possibility that that sort of expenditure of resources is counter-productive over the medium term. But it seems like this is not the sort of thing one is even supposed to bring up.

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Metatone 12.05.15 at 8:38 am

It’s many years since I lived in the USA (I’m not a US citizen.)
Oddly enough, I was there during the Clinton years.

As an outsider, I’d urge more attention on the latter question the OP raises and elaborated on by geo. How is it that the D party is winning presidential elections, but repeatedly losing (and indeed in many places it’s getting worse) in mid-terms and state elections?

Because eventually, if the pattern continues, the R camp will win a Presidential election and be in a very powerful situation, with power in every sphere.

What will it take to reverse this? Some of it is local movements. I’d particularly note, some of it is finding the funding somehow to compete. The right have the plutocrats, but passion alone isn’t a match – funding for local politics is needed.

That last is an area where the national touches on the local. Finally, it would really help if the D’s could follow through on the Obama period and come up with some more positive reasons (not defending existing programs) for people to vote for them. Like it or not, there’s a power to the R’s fervent diagnoses of why America is no longer great. It’s not enough to argue that “well, actually America is doing ok – and with a bit better management could be doing even better.”

Somewhere there has to be some kind of thing to sign up to. Where I credit Obama (and indeed Clinton) is that part of how Presidential elections were won was a focus on a promised land of health reform. (And also we shouldn’t ignore successes in improving the legal position of the gay community.) But now, Obamacare, imperfect as may be, exists. Between various rulings and the polling, it would seem “gay marriage” is on the way.

So there needs to be something new. The fear is that Clinton is now part of a machine that doesn’t see that necessity. (Although, again, as someone far from the action, I think she deserves credit for seeing the potential of the healthcare issue in the first place.)

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Bruce B. 12.05.15 at 5:14 pm

js: my feeling is that “reliably” endorsing is just what unions, NARAL, etc. should do, with a really nitpicking definition of “reliably”. :) They should draw lines and refuse to support some candidates, and do it often enough to make it clear that their support is something that needs attention.

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anon 12.05.15 at 5:36 pm

geo @161,
My memory is fuzzy, but I thought his *campaign* was all about military and environment–i.e., he was primarily being *marketed to* affluent liberals. My many affluent liberal (a.k.a. academic) friends and acquaintances who supported him mainly praised him for those positions. And that’s the relevant issue here, not his platform: was he a viable candidate if he was mainly marketed to a subset of the left?

ZedBlank @159,
“he’s been, whether successfully or not, concentrated on democratic issues in the basic, small-d sense, not in some kind of sop to the kind of liberals who give generous checks to Obama (and HRC.)”

See my reply to geo on the issues vs campaign/marketing distinction.

I should also clarify that by “affluent liberals” I mean what counts as affluence to members of the working and lower middle classes: e.g., it includes lefty academics and left leaning members of the professional and managerial classes, people who claim to be middle class, but actually belong to the top 10-30%. I do not mean the big check donors to Obama and HRC–those are people who affluent liberals in my sense of the term would misleadingly call “affluent,” so they can pretend to be less privileged in comparison. The American scale of wealth and class is heavily skewed.

“Also, if you are correct that – ‘Preventing environmental disaster and dramatically cutting military spending are, no matter how urgent and desirable, just not going to happen.’ – then we might as well fold the tent and have some cyanide with our Kool Aid right now.”

Yes and no. Environmental disaster is going to happen, but we have the option of making it more less worse or less less worse. But the latter is going to require substantial measures beyond what any candidate is running on, so if it happens it will be by joint international efforts or by force of circumstance when the first really major effects start rolling in. No individual democratic president will force it or, if they try, achieve it. I’m not abandoning environmental reforms, just the token ones.

“Finally, not to go down this tired route, but the whole “Nader has blood on his hands” has been pretty roundly disproved, see here:”

I don’t put much stock in counterfactual polling. What people say they would have done is rarely what they would have done, especially since if the race and choices had been different, their entire framework of choosing would have been different.

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Cranky Observer 12.05.15 at 5:38 pm

= = = As an outsider, I’d urge more attention on the latter question the OP raises and elaborated on by geo. How is it that the D party is winning presidential elections, but repeatedly losing (and indeed in many places it’s getting worse) in mid-terms and state elections? = = =

Others have commented on the off-year election situation, but the state election phenomenon is fairly simple. US State government structures were set up when the population splits in states and territories ready for statehood ranged from 80-20 rural-urban to at most 50-50 rural-urban, and were specifically designed to protect the rural population (or interests if you prefer) from the concentrated wealth and political power of the urban centers. Today the population split can be calculated at anywhere from 20-80 rural-urban to 5-95 depending on exactly where you draw the line between exurban and rural, yet the government structure gives the 20% at least equal political weight to the 80%. Add in that some-to-much of the exurban population tends Republican and the need to occasionally sweep corrupt Democrats out of office (Illinois provides good examples with solid Democratic majorities returning Republican governors quite often) and you have the recipe for today’s situation in the states. A little spicing of racism and hatred of the hammock-swinging welfare-abusing thugs that cuts across several political divides rounds out the formula.

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anon 12.05.15 at 5:51 pm

“Today the population split can be calculated at anywhere from 20-80 rural-urban to 5-95 depending on exactly where you draw the line between exurban and rural, yet the government structure gives the 20% at least equal political weight to the 80%.”

An interesting point, but I think it raises a problem–that urban and rural America are so segregated spatially, economically, and culturally that they’re almost separate countries. My affluent liberal, a.k.a. academic, friends mostly have almost no experience, knowledge, or understanding of what life is like for middle class Americans in huge geographical swaths of the country. If they find themselves in contact with it, they’re like Mr. Burns riding the bus.

In some sense, when you have two separate countries with little knowledge or experience of each other, but one is geographically the majority, it’s not so surprising that 20% has more say. It’s not even obviously wrong.

I know it’s weird, but when I see liberals’ tendency to only count the urban proletariat as worthy of their time and attention, not only ignoring the rural working class and poor but usually demonizing and vilifying them, I can’t help but think of the Bolsheviks’ disastrous attitudes toward the peasantry.

Again, Bernie is distinctive in that his campaign is marketed toward the real working and middle classes that cross two the cultures/sub-nations. Another reason, of course, the democratic establishment, that exists to help people like you and me, not the Wrong Kind of Poor People, won’t allow him.

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Cranky Observer 12.05.15 at 6:09 pm

= = = I know it’s weird, but when I see liberals’ tendency to only count the urban proletariat as worthy of their time and attention, not only ignoring the rural working class and poor but usually demonizing and vilifying them, I can’t help but think of the Bolsheviks’ disastrous attitudes toward the peasantry = = =

Can’t say I’ve really observed that myself, but it is a big country and the world of “liberals” is said to be vast and nefarious by such reliable observers as Mr. Limbaugh so I’m probably misinformed.

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The Temporary Name 12.05.15 at 6:42 pm

Less populous states with a lot of agricultural land still get two senators each.

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Stephen 12.05.15 at 7:09 pm

anon@176: “when I see liberals … ignoring the rural working class and poor but usually demonizing and vilifying them, I can’t help but think of the Bolsheviks’ disastrous attitudes toward the peasantry”.

Disastrous, intensely so, for the peasantry. For the Bolsheviks, in the medium to fairly long term, not disastrous at all. You think US liberals are not intelligent enough to have realised that?

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oldster 12.05.15 at 7:40 pm

when “one is geographically the majority, it’s not so surprising that 20% has more say. It’s not even obviously wrong.”

It’s not obviously wrong for 20% of the population to have more say than the other 80%, provided that they live in a larger geographical area? Very intriguing theory of democratic legitimacy you’ve got there!

Now I understand what Jefferson meant by saying that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the square footage. That had previously puzzled me. A new slogan for the franchise: one acre, one vote!

As for the “demonizing and vilifying,” count me with Cranky. I hear some condescending and false-consciousness-attributing, but not a lot of demonizing and vilifying in my corner of the liberal ghetto. Rural Americans are just as much the victims of the 0.01% as the rest of us are.

Not that people like being condescended to much more than they like being demonized and vilified–cf. Obama’s 2007 “clinging to their guns and bible” gaffe. So the condescending may be as politically ineffective as vilifying. But it certainly is not about to lead to liberals treating them like the kulaks.

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Anon 12.05.15 at 8:04 pm

“Very intriguing theory of democratic legitimacy you’ve got there!”

As a Marxist, no, I’m not interested in “democratic legitimacy” as you probably mean it. Where power is distributed by class, one man one vote isn’t truly democratic; dictatorship of the proletariat is.

And since urban areas and coastal states are predominantly (with the exception of the rogue state of Texas) the homes of capitalism and the ruling class and its petite bourgeois lackeys, no, I’m not morally outraged that they’re not equally represented.

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Cranky Observer 12.05.15 at 8:07 pm

Ezra Klein’s interview with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack is interesting. Note how Vilsack bobs and weaves around the question of whether rural dwellers are inherently morally superior to urban dwellers.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/03/vilsack_i_took_it_as_a_slam_on.html

No condescension there! (on the part of the Vilsack and his line of argumentation that is).

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William Berry 12.06.15 at 4:34 pm

Anon @181: “And since urban areas and coastal states are predominantly (with the exception of the rogue state of Texas) the homes of capitalism and the ruling class and its petite bourgeois lackeys . . .”

Thanks for bringing us up to date on the status of Texas (and other low-pop-density, over-represented red states throughout the Communist West) as the bastion of revolutionary vanguardism in the United States!

No, actually: thanks for so succinctly revealing, if we didn’t know it already, that you are a complete whack-a-loon, and can safely be ignored from now on.

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anon 12.06.15 at 4:54 pm

William Berry, you’re probably right. I must be a whack job, because I’m going to respond to you like a decent human being, which is surely a waste of time and possibly a category mistake.

If you read that quote carefully, you’ll realize the point is that Texas is one of the few flyer over red states with real wealth and power.

I.e., it’s the rare case where the affluent left is right to vilify middle America. Lots of 1%ers in Texas. Kansas, not so much. Dallas is a capital of capitalism to match NY, SF, or Chicago. Omaha, no so much. Nor did I suggest any states, much less rural states, are “bastions of revolutionary vanguardism.”

I suggested they are economically, educationally, and culturally advantaged, making them key victims, not causes, of capitalism. While affluent liberal cities and states are centers of capital, making them key collaborators, not real enemies of capitalism.

Rural states are bastions of reactionary right wing politics precisely because they are principal victims of capital. That’s how shit works, if you hadn’t notice: you victimize people, then to prevent them from killing you, you tell them someone else–immigrants, minorities, gay people–is at fault for the misery you caused.

On the other hand, you know how the affluent liberal with all the right opinions shit works, don’t you? Make someone the indirect beneficiary of oppression, hide that fact from them, then give them comfort, education, and culture. Surprise, they’re full of good-hearted fellow feeling for others!

So, beyond the quote you misled, would you like to explain what else you find “whack-a-loon”? I’m not saying you’re wrong. I might be crazy, but you’re doing a pretty lousy job of convincing me.

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Bruce B. 12.06.15 at 4:55 pm

William: How dare you doubt the proletarian and/or cottage industry status of folks like Sprint (largest civilian employer in Kansas, #2 overall largest employer behind Fort Riley), Walmart (largest employer in Missouri), FedEx (largest employer in Tennessee), and Shaw Industries (largest employer in South Dakota)? Surely it must be obvious to you that they are even as we speak busily resisting the machinations of capitalism in general, the ruling class, and their petite bourgeoise lackeys!

181

Val 12.06.15 at 9:10 pm

As a non-American reading about American politics and as a woman reading a site dominated by men, I sometimes shake my head at CT and think ‘this is fucking bizarre’. But this post is beyond fucking bizarre.

I mean just for one thing – a front page cover of a female candidate holding a gun, when she is currently being criticised for speaking in favour of gun control http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/04/politics/hillary-clinton-guns-terror/

Please don’t feel you have to inform me that Hilary Clinton has been excessively pro- war at times, that she is a compromise candidate – I am quite happy to accept that. But to use a photograph of a pro-gun control female candidate holding a gun apparently pointed straight at the reader – I mean I’m reading this on my iPhone and all, but I think that’s what I saw up there – that is the biggest piece of sexist projectionist bullshit that I have seen in a long long time.

Do you guys* have even any idea of how much gun related violence is actually perpetrated by women vs men? Any? Even the vaguest idea? Because if so you should be condemning that photo for the lying bullshit it is. But expecting men to recognise sexism seems a vain hope, at least in these parts.

* I realise that not everyone here is a man, and not everyone here supports the use of that dishonest image. But an awful lot seem to either support it or not even begin to see what’s wrong with it.

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oldster 12.06.15 at 9:52 pm

I share your reaction, Val. But I think a lot of the people involved in this discussion have read this:

http://www.ibtimes.com/critics-attack-disgusting-anti-hillary-book-cover-artist-supports-sexy-clinton-2163450

or versions of it. In my case, it does not leave me any less disgusted, but it complicates the story enough that I thought it not worth focusing the conversation on this topic.

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Lynne 12.06.15 at 10:07 pm

@186, 187. This is interesting. Honestly, I didn’t think too much about the painting, which I saw as a rather typical American way of making someone seem tough.

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bob mcmanus 12.06.15 at 10:38 pm

Do you guys* have even any idea of how much gun related violence is actually perpetrated by women vs men? Any? Even the vaguest idea?

Is “not nearly enough” the right answer?

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LFC 12.06.15 at 11:32 pm

Bruce Wilder @170
You don’t seem to have noticed how Obama has avoided challenging the legitimacy of the policies that created the Camp. Yes, his plan to close the Camp was blocked in Congress. But, consider how Obama’s plan just confirmed and extended the questionable legality of arbitrarily imprisoning these men, with a plan to transfer them from a(n ersatz) prisoner of war camp to scattered SuperMax sites, to be housed as criminals under conditions just as abusive and probably more obscure, pretty much shredding what little is left of either the Constitution or relevant international law.

I acknowledge that Obama could have challenged the underlying policies more directly. Worth pointing out that, though, that those released from Gitmo so far have been, afaik, either repatriated to their home countries or sent to third countries, and the small number of the latter willing to accept Gitmo detainees has been another factor in slowing/preventing its closure.

investing in partisan hysterics

I’m not invested in ‘partisan hysterics’. Like you, I live in a reliably Democratic state (in presidential elections esp.). I voted for Nader in 2000 mostly b.c I knew Gore would carry the state where I live (which he did). Had I lived in Florida or another close ‘swing’ state, I would have voted for Gore. I generally do vote for the Dem. candidate, and I consider myself therefore some kind of qualified, not uncritical partisan — not a rabid one. Since you live in CA, which HRC or whoever the Dem nominee is will certainly carry, whether you (BW) vote for her or not is not a matter of concern to me. For better or worse, what counts is still the electoral college, not the popular vote totals.

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LFC 12.06.15 at 11:59 pm

anon @184
Rural states are bastions of reactionary right wing politics precisely because they are principal victims of capital. That’s how shit works, if you hadn’t notice: you victimize people, then to prevent them from killing you, you tell them someone else–immigrants, minorities, gay people–is at fault for the misery you caused.

On the other hand, you know how the affluent liberal with all the right opinions shit works, don’t you? Make someone the indirect beneficiary of oppression, hide that fact from them, then give them comfort, education, and culture. Surprise, they’re full of good-hearted fellow feeling for others!

I lived for a year (a long-ish time ago) in a small town in southern W. Virginia. Was an economically depressed part of the country; still is. At that time, iirc, Robert Byrd was still in the Senate, had been for decades. He excelled in getting money for his home state, though the stuff the money went into didn’t seem to lift the overall standard of living all that much, afaict. Byrd was not a progressive, but he wasn’t exactly a reactionary either; for ex., as a younger legislator I believe he had voted vs. civil rights bills, but then over the years had changed his mind on that issue. His overriding concern was bringing federal money and pork-barrel projects to his state.

I think it’s only in the past 15 or 20 years or so that W. Virginia has become a ‘red’, i.e. Republican, state. Moreover, some states are Republican in sizable part for ‘cultural’ reasons, which reasons are also often connected to racial diversity or lack thereof — and anon’s comment doesn’t really take this into account.

Fact is, there are not that many, in anon’s terms, “real enemies of capitalism” to be found in the U.S., whether you’re in an upscale bistro in Manhattan or a chain restaurant in Beckley, W.V. Other attitudes may be different, but the attitude to ‘capitalism’ is not going to vary that much. True, one noticeable change is that the word “socialism” is not scaring people in the U.S., esp. young people, as much as it might have even ten years ago. But w/r/t anon’s dictatorship of the proletariat, not many people are ready to sign up for it, regardless of where they live.

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bob mcmanus 12.07.15 at 12:06 am

I generally do vote for the Dem. candidate

Generally? I have voted straight ticket since 1972, and want that on my gravestone.

186: Do you guys* have even any idea of how much gun related violence is actually perpetrated by women vs men? Any? Even the vaguest idea?

Golly, this raises such interesting questions, especially since allowing women into combat roles is a hot topic in America.

1) I think you have outed your essentialism, that you believe women are intrinsically, “naturally” less violent than men, in which case you might disapprove of allowing women into combat roles.

This is not my belief at all, as you know.

2) If it is patriarchal oppression that makes women less violent then the picture is radically feminist and liberating like Mad Max Fury Road this summer. This is my position, and spend much of my entertainment time watching young women shoot and slice and dice people, the vast majority of carnage inflicted by women on men. I can’t get enough of it.

3) I guess it could be that the patriarchy both makes men violent and women passive, so we still go back to 1) and keeping women from combat, and I have to ask if after the Revolution and all violence has disappeared will feminism also cure my warts?

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LFC 12.07.15 at 12:13 am

I have voted straight ticket since 1972

interesting. I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed that.

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bob mcmanus 12.07.15 at 12:17 am

I suppose there is some kind of anti-universalism that could be used here, that although most women are peaceable, some women are capable of killing, and we should not discriminate on the basis of gender. That “most/some” distinction could be dangerous on the battlefield.

But as I have said, I don’t believe it, I believe that it is only the patriarchy that keeps women from shooting their men and shooting up daycare centers (well, and whatever universal morality not derived from patriarchy). As we saw this week in San Bernardino.

Now if only women would use their liberation in the cause of liberation.

190

js. 12.07.15 at 1:32 am

Re: The Cover.

It’s just a really pulpy cover—I like that sort of thing, I can see how other people don’t. (I also spent my teenage years in the ’90s, so maybe irony comes a little too naturally to me.) I first saw the cover in a tweet by James Fallows, and without knowing that the cover was for Henwood’s book, my first thought was: this would make a great poster for a Melville film. And anything that would make a great poster for a Melville film is A-OK by me. Nothing that I’ve learnt since, that it’s the Henwood cover, that the artist is resolutely pro-Clinton, etc., has changed my mind. I don’t see why it should.

(Also, Fury Road is excellent.)

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js. 12.07.15 at 1:35 am

I first saw the cover in a tweet by James Fallows, and without knowing that the cover was for Henwood’s book…

I mean: I first saw the image…, and without knowing that the image was the cover for etc.

192

engels 12.07.15 at 1:40 am

Do you guys* have even any idea of how much gun related violence is actually perpetrated by women vs men?

Do you have any idea how much more responsibility for aggression, violence, injury and murder carried out by guns, bombs, tanks, drones, missiles, chokeholds, batons, pepper sprays, … Hillary Clinton has as US Secretary of State than 99% of ordinary people – women and men – on the planet?

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Val 12.07.15 at 2:29 am

Oldster @ 187
Thanks for the info, very interesting. So the image actually started as sort of a gay female artist’s sexual fantasy Hilary?

Have you ever heard the line ‘I can’t believe I can’t believe I can’t believe it’s not butter’ from the old British TV show in which Dawn French played a vicar? Cos unfortunately I’m now in a similar position where having started out claiming that all this is beyond fucking bizarre, I now find it’s beyond beyond fucking bizarre. Oh well ..

194

bob mcmanus 12.07.15 at 3:02 am

197: What I have seen is that some kinds of feminists want (want us?) to believe women are naturally non-violent (so very nice!) so want to eliminate the threat of inter-personal violence by using a state they think they can, if only eventually, manage and control. State = Law = The Father = Patriarchy.

So they think they can look the other way on war as long as the State protects them personally and protects them from the ugliness of fighting.

It, liberalism, won’t work for workers and won’t work for women. The threat of violence, or other forms of extreme social disruption, is absolutely required for labor and other social movements to achieve any kind of broad-based social success, although individuals, by carefully performing patriarchal roles of obedience, compliance, and neediness can make personal opportunistic gains.

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oldster 12.07.15 at 3:06 am

Some of the bizarreness may be the simple first-order bizarreness you initially diagnosed. The artist may believe that her painting “comes from a place of love,” but no artist controls where their work goes after that. Lots of people will embrace this cover as an expression of their own misogynistic loathing of HRC. Maybe even some on this thread.

Particular uses of an image can be wrong and dishonest, no matter how the image originated. (Though I’m sure that dsquared himself knew the backstory, and used it simply because it is the cover of the book he was reviewing.)

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bob mcmanus 12.07.15 at 3:49 am

The radical left has never favored gun control.

Bourgeois liberals (and Stalinists) almost define themselves as relishing the State as having Weber’s monopoly of violence, because they believe they can manipulate the Father.

HRC brandishing a pistol is ugly. HRC brandishing an air force is a feminist triumph.

Obama using the Oval Office for the first time in five years was not trivial. There will be more and bigger war.

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js. 12.07.15 at 3:58 am

Lots of people will embrace this cover as an expression of their own misogynistic loathing of HRC. Maybe even some on this thread.

OK, look. As far as I can tell, I am the only person in this thread who has defended the cover and expressed a liking for it. (It’s seriously awesome.) If you think this is an expression of my “misogynistic loathing for HRC”, I am genuinely curious why. As it happens, I like Clinton more than almost any left-winger I know—I am about a million times more sympathetic to this Michelle Goldberg piece than to anything Henwood has said or would say about Clinton. And yes, Henwood’s obsession with Clinton—and it does seem that—has several of the classic hallmarks of misogyny. None of that changes the fact that that’s at least one of the top five covers of 2015.

(I was going to mention that dsquared used the cover “because it’s so fantastic,” but I expect you saw that already.)

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oldster 12.07.15 at 4:13 am

Sorry, js, I can see why you took offense. I did not say that anyone who embraces the cover must do so for misogynistic reasons, I said that lots will embrace it for those reasons. And that’s compatible with others embracing it for other reasons, e.g. you.

You made your reasons clear up above: you are young, and you have bad taste. Those are different offenses than the offense of misogyny. At least one of them is eminently curable.

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Helen 12.07.15 at 4:25 am

Feminist criticism of the toxic masculinity that results in mass shootings and other violent crimes is NOT the same thing as saying “welp, to achieve equality we must emulate this.”
That’s the kind of stupid argument we used to hear in the 1970s. I had hoped people had moved on somewhat, what with the improved ability to read actual feminists’ ideas with the advent of blogs and social media.
My objection to the book cover is separate from any feminist unpacking of the image. I simply feel it is such a horrible way to market ones’ book given the carnage of intimate partner homicide and mass shootings in the US. It must be a terrible slap in the face to the parents, friends and other loved ones of your many shooting victims to see that on the bookshop displays.

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LFC 12.07.15 at 4:27 am

@bob mcmanus
Obama using the Oval Office for the first time in five years was not trivial. There will be more and bigger war.

I’m not going to worry about trying to figure out your politics, bob. Upthread you said (unless you were joking) that you’ve voted straight Democratic ticket since 1972 and want that on your gravestone. How that sits with your commitment to revolution I’m not sure. Whatever.

But this remark about the Oval Office speech tonight — did you actually *listen* to the fu*king speech?? I heard the whole thing.

The speech made crystal clear that there is going to be NO introduction of U.S. ground forces in any sizable numbers to fight another ground war in the region as long as Obama is in office, b.c among other things that is what, as he said, ISIS wants. He referred to ‘intensifying’ (or he might have just said “continuing”) air strikes but frankly I’m not sure it’s clear they can be intensified; more carefully directed, perhaps, hence the 200 special ops forces going to Iraq.

There is very little if anything in the speech that says “more and bigger” war. Rather the emphasis was on ‘smarter’ not ‘bigger’ and on not reacting in ways, e.g. demonizing all Muslims, that play into ISIS’s hands. There were some references to tightening screening of people who arrive w visas of the sort the female shooter in S. Bernardino had, etc. But really, there is virtually nothing in that speech that says “more and bigger.” (I haven’t read the transcript but that’s my distinct recollection from hearing it a couple of hours ago.)

So I don’t know what the **** you were listening to, but it wasn’t the speech I heard.

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LFC 12.07.15 at 4:37 am

P.s. Not to say I think the speech was perfect — e.g., the part about a possible cease-fire in Syria so that everyone can focus on ISIS just doesn’t seem v. realistic. But there’s no tremendous harm in floating the possibility, which is supposedly under some sort of discussion in Vienna or wherever these talks are being held. I wd tend to doubt it’s the cards however.

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LFC 12.07.15 at 4:38 am

in the cards

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geo 12.07.15 at 4:43 am

bob @199: The threat of violence, or other forms of extreme social disruption, is absolutely required for labor and other social movements to achieve any kind of broad-based social success

Extreme social disruption, yes; violence, no. That’s the lesson of Gene Sharp’s writings. He’s as serious about revolution as you are, bm, and has read and thought a whole lot more about strategy.

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LFC 12.07.15 at 4:48 am

@geo
He [Sharp]’s as serious about revolution as you are, bm

bob mcmanus is so serious about revolution that he wants the fact that he’s voted straight Democratic ticket in every year since 1972 to be chiseled on his gravestone (see @192). Presumably along with some more revolutionary inscription.

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js. 12.07.15 at 5:00 am

If this is bad taste, I’ll have no other kind.

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harry b 12.07.15 at 5:23 am

oldster — wait! WHICH one is curable?

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oldster 12.07.15 at 5:27 am

Wait till you’re my age, harry, and you will have your answer.

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bob mcmanus 12.07.15 at 6:01 am

bob mcmanus is so serious about revolution that he wants the fact that he’s voted straight Democratic ticket in every year since 1972 to be chiseled on his gravestone

It’s not about liking Democrats, and writing in the proverbial yellow dog would feel like a quixotic gesture.

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ZM 12.07.15 at 6:08 am

“Extreme social disruption, yes; violence, no. That’s the lesson of Gene Sharp’s writings. “

Last year at a climate change conference I saw Jamila Raqib give a great talk; she works with Gene Sharp as the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution.

I think it is interesting that the type of violence Hillary Clinton has been (and will be if elected President) responsible for is not actually of the kind depicted on the cover. She is much higher in the hierarchy than that.

The topic of gender and violence is covered a bit in the Sherry B Ortner essay “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?”, where she cites de Beauvoir on the woman’s body as being closer to nature due to it being made of a greater proportion of reproductive functions, seeing this as a physical reason for women in most cultures being positioned in the domestic sphere, while men with fewer reproductive functions are positioned in the inter-familial public sphere (with some cross over in various cultures and spaces).

Ortner looks at the sort of male violence that is celebrated, and argues that it is celebrated not in fact because men are “naturally” more violent than women — but because the type of violence that is most celebrated is of a kind that transcends nature, being both social and technological, which marks it as an object of culture rather than nature.

The image of Hillary Clinton with the gun is given without any context, but the violence in the image is certainly not the sort of violence that Hilary is responsible for, which in reality is a sort of violence with an enormous social and technological structure underpinning it, with the roles of Secretary of State and President at the apex.

I find it somewhat disquieting that in the case of Hilary Clinton, rather than her gender difference changing the structure towards being less violent, she has had to perform a role that is almost dictated by the larger structure even as she has taken leadership roles in it.

But on the other hand I think of the pictures of people in the White House watching the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, and she was the one in the room with her hand over her mouth.

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b9n10nt 12.07.15 at 6:09 am

Helen: “It must be a terrible slap in the face to the parents, friends and other loved ones of your many shooting victims to see that on the bookshop displays.”

…or perhaps people having authentic unmediated experiences such as acute grief quite naturally will regard mere images as trifles. If I were grieving from such a loss, I’d imagine being narcissistically offended by and alienated from the fact that people were trying to accomplish anything in the market place (such as sell a book) At A Time Like This.

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adam.smith 12.07.15 at 6:15 am

FWIW, js. — while I don’t quite share you enthusiasm, I’m with you. I think it’s a very good cover and I also think Clinton is among the better nationally relevant Democratic politicians (which is intended as faint praise, to be clear).

Contra oldster (and I suspect with you), I’d argue that some folks’ harsh reactions against the cover is rooted in their ignorance of large swaths of pop culture ;).

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oldster 12.07.15 at 6:23 am

No, no, adam–we’re not in any genuine disagreement at all.

You call it familiarity with swaths of pop culture. I call it bad taste. Let’s not dispute about labels.

More seriously–I don’t think Val’s reaction or Helen’s reaction should be dismissed as philistinism. There are deeper issues at play in their complaints.

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Raven on the Hill 12.08.15 at 8:10 pm

adam, oldster, val, Helen it looks just like the conservative caricatures of Hillary Clinton.

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