Yemen again

by John Quiggin on April 6, 2011

The news from Yemen is grimly familiar – more protestors shot by President Saleh’s security forces and plainclothes thugs. But now the US government has shifted position, letting it be known in various ways that it’s time for Saleh to go. Their hope now is that a replacement will allow the operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to continue as before. A few thoughts about this.

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The base and the superstructure

by John Quiggin on April 6, 2011

Glenn Greenwald looks at the dilemma faced by the Democratic base, and by much of the left globally. He doesn’t offer any answers, and I don’t have many either. The Republicans are getting scarier and crazier, so much so that any repeat of a Nader-style strategy is unthinkable. On the other hand, the fact that the base has nowhere to go, and can’t even justify abstention means that Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership can and do kick them (or, thinking more globally, us) with impunity.

In some sense, it was ever thus, and the problem is not specific to the left – the Republican base spent years complaining about RINOs in much the same terms. Given a spectrum of opinion, the outcome is likely to be close to the median (calculated with respect to the weight given to particular people’s opinions which commonly won’t be uniform). Those far from the median face a choice which inevitably presents itself, to some extent, as one between lesser and greater evils.

The frustration felt on the left at present is (at least at my case) associated with a feeling that we should be doing a lot better. The case for market liberalism is in ruins after the Global Financial Crisis and it’s obvious that the reconstruction of the system has changed nothing, leaving the bankers unscathed and putting all the burden onto ordinary people. Left positions on lots of specific issues have much more public support than is evident from their political representation. The right screwed up massively over Iraq, is delusional on climate change and so on. And Obama won office easily running hard against Bush’s abuses on civil liberties and for a decent health care plan.

Similar points could be made about the situation in Australia, where the Labor government has essentially adopted the positions of its conservative predecessor (confusingly called the Liberal Party) while the Liberals have moved into the crazier reaches of the right. Over the fold, my own reaction to a recent speech by our Prime Minister Julia Gillard, which illustrates this very well (non-Oz readers may need to Google specific names, but a lot of the themes should be familiar).

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