Saturday, September 29, 2012

you're either with us or against us

Liberals are an interesting species.

The time has come again for the liberals to attack those on their left. Such things are cyclical, like the coming of the cicadas. This is interesting timing because the liberals I know and read are very, very confident that Obama is running away with the election. And this itself is interesting, as the typical justification of the rampant redbaiting and Peter Beinart-style calls for purges of the unfaithful is that we're in a trench war, here, people, and Charlie is everywhere, and so if the Democrats were to nominate Zell Miller your job would be to shut the fuck up and support him as he destroyed everything we believe in, because it's a two party system. But, now, see, because they think that their guy is winning, it's also not the right time because... well. You know. It's never the time. They are, in every sense, kept people, owned by a party and its leader, and they have given away every part of themselves that is capable of critical thought.

I don't know how else it say it, considering I've said it a thousand times. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. I want it so bad I don't know how to act or what to do. I want it so bad I can't sit still or sleep at night. I want it with everything I have that's capable of want. And I know that this is the kind of talk that invites pure contempt from those like Tbogg, who have only the idiom of sarcasm and derision and cannot imagine straightforward moral sentiment. But that's the truth. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. And the innocent people we kill the most, these days, are Muslim. And the policy of the Obama administration has expanded the zone in which we kill innocent Muslims, they have shown no interest in stopping killing innocent Muslims, and in fact their campaign constantly brags about the drone program which kills innocent Muslims. That's just true. All of it is just true. Obama is directly responsible for the expansion of hostilities against Muslims targets which result in the death of people who have taken no violent action against the United States. Voting for him cannot, does not, and will not challenge that reality.

So what do you want me to do? Break bread with the establishment liberals, try to reason with them, bring these ideas into the discussion? I've tried. Many have tried. Check a Tbogg comment thread. See what happens to people who criticize the drone program. Try a Balloon Juice thread. Try and insert some anti-drone sentiment into the comments. Believe me, I've tried. The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted. For all the talk of "lesser evils," you are far more likely to find conventional liberals defending the drone program than speaking of it as evil at all.

This is the most elementary, most important point of all: there is no internal pressure for Democrats to reform, precisely because of people like Tbogg and the crew at LGM. Defenders of Obama lay down lines you can't cross in every direction, shrinking the bounds of the responsible or the fair or the mature or the realistic or the pragmatic or the strategic... And then you look up and there is nothing for you to do. You become Paul Begala or you are a traitor. What would Tbogg tell me to do, if he actually stopped building a monument to his own sarcasm and cleverness, if he stepped outside of his meticulously curated temple of snark and flippancy, and if he actually considered the question of what to do if you want America to stop killing children? He'd say to grow up. He has no other arrow in his quiver.

So what else, if liberals themselves refuse to discuss anything? Wait for the "appropriate time"? It is never the right time for supporters of Obama. Now that it is the general election, some people say "you should have primaried him!" Well, back in primary season, the idea of primarying him was seen as the ultimate in unserious posturing. After the election? Do you honestly believe that most Balloon Juice commenters will allow criticism of Obama after the election, if he wins? Do you believe Tbogg will countenance such a thing? The crew at Lawyers Guns and Money? Adam Serwer? Of course not. These positions are simply off limits, in ways that a whole host of positions that conservatives hold are not.

It's a funny thing, this division into two parties that supposedly divide the world's "legitimate" opinions between them. Many of the commenters at Balloon Juice think that they hate Republicans more than anything. But their behavior suggests that they hate Glenn Greenwald more. Tbogg might say that he hates conservatives more than anyone. But he sure hates Yves Smith more. That's what his behavior tells you. That's what his rhetoric tells you. People who say they hate conservatives start to sound like them at the merest hint of criticism.

For a brief moment in the height of the Bush hysteria, conventional liberals of the Tbogg variety knew what it was like to be one of us-- to be reflexively dismissed from the conversation, to be asked to take loyalty oaths and purity tests, to be subject to redbaiting and McCarthyism, to constantly hear dark talk of culls and purges from within. I mean they literally say, these days, "you're either with us or against us," talk that they themselves rightly ridiculed as the language of fascism not five years ago. Back then, they correctly perceived that these kind of tactics are inherently illiberal, totally contrary to the spirit of free inquiry and skepticism that is the deep structure of democracy and liberal society. They knew, then, that blind adherence to parties and leaders was a moral and intellectual failure. They knew, then, that bullying groupthink and categorical exclusions and affinity pledges and threats were each and all ugly, unfortunate, and totally antithetical to the more equitable and just world they seek to build. And then, they forgot. And it makes people crazy in a truly frightening way; it takes reasonable, progressive people like DougJ and turns them into Manichean monsters.

Not that this will help them win. They're Democrats, after all; they lose more than their share and then they making winning a kind of losing. It looks like Obama is going to win, and this will occasion another orgy of liberal self-congratulation and overconfidence. And then they will find that on issue after issue, they lose. They will lose on what the wonks consider "the serious issues," the policy issues, the votes in Congress. But they will also lose in their broader goals of making the world a more just, equitable, and peaceful place, for the simple fact that they will mercilessly attack anyone who demands justice, equality, or peace. They will never ask themselves  if their own behavior is in part to blame, the way that they make the logical extension of their own ideas into a matter of shame far worse than the revanchist conservatism they say they hate. This is the privilege of the people who anoint themselves the arbiters of responsible liberalism.

You know how the rest goes. I'm always a little bit charmed by the commenters who pop up to berate me on this stuff, to tell me that, for example, pacifism is juvenile and that I should feel shame for what I believe in. They have to believe that contempt has an inexhaustible ability to change minds; I have heard it, after all, for the entirety of my adult life. And it will continue. I used to wonder, quite often, why people like Serwer or Spencer Ackerman or Tbogg or the endless host of centrist Democrats are so endlessly enthusiastic in their hippie punching, why their passion for it is so clearly superior to their passion for fighting Republicans. I don't, anymore. They defend our brutal and murderous system for the same reason that everyone does, because it is their system, and they have grown up into an ecology of propaganda that conditions them to justify it. But they also espouse a political doctrine that insists that human beings deserve equal dignity and an equal right to life. So those that highlight the contradiction in their support for the establishment and their liberal convictions are more dangerous than those who simply oppose those convictions.

Like I said: you know what my comments section will be like. But past all of the insults and the equivocations and the distortions and the focus on the personal failings of those who point the violence out, there remains dead innocent people who wouldn't be dead if it weren't for Obama and his policy. And nobody-- not Rebecca Solnit, not Tbogg, not Robert Farley or Adam Serwer or John Cole or anybody-- can tell me a single fucking thing to do about it.

Update:  A commenter asks:
 How do you respond to this, from a LG&M post?:
"More centrally, though, the Friedersdorf-on-drones/youthful djw-on-welfare reform mentality on the purpose of voting is based on an indefensibly narcissistic account of democracy. The moral purpose of democracy is not to keep my hands clean and feel good about myself, no matter how much politicians and other demagogues claim otherwise. The moral purpose of democracy is the reduction of abusive power in the world. Unfortunately there’s a lot of it, and democracy’s pretty clearly an insufficient tool to address it, but that’s no reason not to use the tool, when and where you can."

Like so: that's a bullshit definition of democracy's purpose; that this is the purpose of democracy is pure assertion, with no attempt whatsoever to defend it; even if I were to accept that definition of democracy's purpose, I don't believe that in fact voting for Obama would achieve what that dude is claiming it would achieve-- he advances no argument whatsoever to prove that voting for Obama would, in fact, reduce abusive power-- and that in fact is exactly Conor's argument; and finally the conflation of not voting for Obama with giving up the tool of democracy is question begging of the most absurd order. It's an empty piece, one that, as with most hippie punching, depends far more on posture and pose than on actual argument. The stance of haughty, disgusted superiority is meant to stand in for actual argument. (Calling an argument about the moral status of dead children "narcissistic," for example, is a perfect example of changing the subject to the virtues of the people arguing and refusing to countenance the actual content at hand.)

123 comments:

JM said...

I feel your pain. I just keep my head down and put confidence in my third party vote.

Tim Donaghy said...

Both the liberals and the lefties are right here. We need to engage the political sphere on a number of levels, and to focus on only one means that we're not doing everything we can for a more just and peaceful world. We need to push for radical change at the local level *and* work for modest change at the national level.

The liberals are right that national politics matters. I used to say things like "Gore is no different than Bush." Boy was I wrong. Among other things: the occupation of Iraq, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Obama will be quite a bit better than Romney on a number of issues that matter. And if nothing else, we won't be playing defense.

But the lefties are right too. We need to find ways of shifting the Dems to the left and making their voices heard in the party. Erik Loomis said something the other day about party levers being fairly easy to take over at the grassroots, and how maybe we should do something about that.

I don't see voting for Obama and wishing him robust Congressional majorities as anyway contradicting the push for more radical change in other venues.

Charles said...

Freddie,

Pretty much spot on.

I was thinking about this last week with regard to the Crooked Timber posts about not voting Democratic. The comments sections were full of invective about how not voting for Obama is morally equivalent to killing children and eating the poor -- from people who think of themselves as leftists. I can't really do justice to the sense of cognitive dissonance this induced.

But really, it shouldn't. 'Liberals' in the U.S. aren't liberals, and there is no 'Left' in the sense of a real political movement (and there hasn't been for a very long time). Left and liberal are labels that tell us about what people think they're committed to, most specifically in relation to the positions of so-called conservatives. But the commitments are completely hypothetical. Which is to say, they aren't commitments. Just dreams about what the world ought to look like if it weren't the actual real world we live in -- the one in which we're totally obligated to support the center-right imperialist who matches our self-image better than his hard-right imperialist opponent.

So to be honest, there isn't a fucking thing you can do about it. Just hold your head high, don't apologize for what you believe, and build what you can in your own backyard. Right now that's all that's possible. Maybe the next financial crisis will change that.

--Charles

paul h. said...

I'm convinced that a viable third party may be the only way out of this.

CK MacLeod said...

As long as there is a War on Terror under whatever name or under no name at all - but duly authorized by near-unanimous act of Congress, and essentially obligating this or any president to take in his or her judgment "necessary and appropriate" measures to "prevent future terrorist attacks" on the US - the only question will be a choice of tactics by those empowered to make the choice. If you want America to "stop killing children" then you need to get off the fixation on a technology and a tactic, or on a politician or election, and try to convince your fellow citizens to withdraw or at least to re-examine that authorization. If, on the other hand, your problem is with the tactic, not the war, or you intuit that the broad public supports an indefinite authorization for militarized force against potential terror, then you need to explain why some other tactic would be better - lead to less "killing of children" according to a criticizable military rationale. Neither alternative is easy, and war or drone opponents - not necessarily the same thing - are also unlikely to get very far at all, or about as far as they have gotten (not very), on the basis of an assumption of their own total and unquestionable moral superiority to the vast majority of the people they are trying to persuade. They have to be prepared to meet arguments in good faith, and possibly to lose the argument over and over again. There may be other risks and consequences, but everything else, if not authentic revolutionism that disdains liberal democratic presumptions, is emotionalism or, possibly even worse, trivial conflict with bloggers that only other bloggers care about.

Jesse said...

Wow, there's almost no content here. I should let it go, but I just want to express an iota of frustration that you've seriously mischaracterized the views of at least two of your imagined interlocutors. Not spending as much time in the blogosphere as you do, I was tempted to take your paragraphs on comment threads and the like at face value, but eventually the cavalcade of "they"s wore me down enough to want to check your sources. Put frankly, you don't engage with Solnit's or DJW's arguments at all. You construct a number of strawman that either misconstrue or ignore their positions. Of course you are free to disagree with them or call them as evil as you like, but it'd be more enlightening for both your readers and yourself to consider what it is they are actually saying. Because if you did, you'd see that they've not only anticipated many of your arguments, but that they share your beliefs and concerns. And to call Solnit, for one, a "liberal" or a "Democrat" demonstrates either ignorance or deliberate mischaracterization. (Solnit's piece is not about defending Obama but is instead largely directed at a kind of rhetorical strategy- one I'll note is very common to young white males and which I think we see here.)

I wonder if you might agree with me that it'd be interesting for your blog to grapple with a few questions that could help someone like me come around to what I understand your position to be:
1 - What do you make of the fact that your column is very similar to the piece in the Atlantic from libertarian Conor Friedersdor?

2 - How do you respond to this, from a LG&M post?:
"More centrally, though, the Friedersdorf-on-drones/youthful djw-on-welfare reform mentality on the purpose of voting is based on an indefensibly narcissistic account of democracy. The moral purpose of democracy is not to keep my hands clean and feel good about myself, no matter how much politicians and other demagogues claim otherwise. The moral purpose of democracy is the reduction of abusive power in the world. Unfortunately there’s a lot of it, and democracy’s pretty clearly an insufficient tool to address it, but that’s no reason not to use the tool, when and where you can."

I also wonder, to downplay the centrality of voting or electoral politics, what kinds of daily life things you might do to try to mitigate these atrocities being committed in our names. I know folks who practice tax avoidance. I got rid of my care, since oil dependency contributes a lot to our Mideast policy. What else can we do?

Charles said...

Jesse,

The 'clean hands' argument is so disingenuous as to be Orwellian. The point isn't whether or not my hands are clean. The point is that granting or withholding my vote is a political act that grants legitimacy to, or withholds legitimacy from, whatever government is elected. That is a real choice with political consequences.

Look at it this way: if only 10% of eligible voters actually cast ballots, the elected government would have a serious problem of legitimacy and credibility. Your choice to vote is a political choice that moves us away from that scenario. It is a choice to add your political power to legitimate whatever policies that government enacts. So the choice to vote (or not) is not just a binary choice between whichever candidates are on the menu this year. It's a choice that puts your political power somewhere, behind someone(s), or not. It is what gives your government the power to do the horrible things it does. It is one more way in which you choose for those things to be done.

At most, 'clean hands' functions as a canary. If you feel dirty when you leave the voting booth, maybe it's time to ask yourself whether or not your government is doing things so heinous that the world would be better off if it had less political legitimacy. If that's the case, please consider not voting next time.

Also: if I found myself seriously making the argument that following one's conscience is childish and narcissistic and irresponsible and really just about feeling righteous, I'd have to ask myself when I'd gone so horribly wrong. How does anyone get so twisted up as to argue that the only way to be moral is to ignore one's moral compass?

--Charles

Freddie said...

I agree 100% with Tim Donaghy. I have never-- never in my life-- used the "they're all the same" line. They aren't all the same and the distinctions matter. The fact that they are different and that they matter does not mean that you must excuse the better side. Not complicated.

If you want America to "stop killing children" then you need to get off the fixation on a technology and a tactic, or on a politician or election, and try to convince your fellow citizens to withdraw or at least to re-examine that authorization.

I'm trying. This is precisely what people like Rebecca Solnit are forbidding.

Wow, there's almost no content here

Then why post a several hundred word comment?

one I'll note is very common to young white males and which I think we see here

This, of course, is also a very common rhetorical tactic, and also one very common to young white males, and a profoundly empty one. You are aware, of course, that this contains no content at all, so you don't express it as an actual argument. You slide it in as a weaselly dodge. Look: I am asking you to consider the moral status of dead Pakistani children, killed by your government. My status as a young white male is totally irrelevant to that question. Almost no one-- almost no one in the whole world-- has less privilege than poor Muslim children. So if you insist on playing the undergraduate game of find the privilege, why don't you start there?

What do you make of the fact that your column is very similar to the piece in the Atlantic from libertarian Conor Friedersdor?

I make of it the plain reality that educated human beings believe many similar things. I also agree with Conor Friedersdorf that water is wet, that the earth orbits the moon, and that black people should be allowed to vote. I agree with Conor in many deeper senses, too: unlike your average Democrat, I believe that foreign Muslims are humans whose lives are deserving of equal dignity and equal protection as their non-Muslim American counterpart. I am joined in this belief by people like Daniel Larison, a paleoconservative, or IOZ, an anarchist, or Will Wilkinson, a libertarian.

I answered your question from LGM in an update.

Finally, Jesse: you have posted several hundred words without once indicating that you have devoted even

Rob said...

CK MacLeod is right:"As long as there is a War on Terror under whatever name or under no name at all ... the only question will be a choice of tactics by those empowered to make the choice."
That is, if you don't renounce the "war on terror" and the AUMF and all the attendant legal authorizations which permit such activity, it really doesn't matter who is up in front making speeches as long as the mechanisms for continuing such activity rest in place.

I agree with the sentiments expressed in this post, and you're spot on to note the hypocrisy of such "liberals" (which apparently has basically just come to mean "Democrat") but to pretend that simply voting another party or president into office will radically alter American foreign policy - which has mostly always been a bi-partisan affair - is a little naïve. The fact is that there are massive beaurocracies in place which benefit from the current policies, and such things have a tendency to self-perpetuate, even if the original reason for their creation no longer exists. Look at NATO, for example, or the CIA, or the massive amounts of capital funneled into federal agencies like the FBI, the JTTFs and the DHS after 9/11.

The fact that the Pentagon is the largest employer on the planet (look it up) should tell you something as well. The US after WWII basically structured its economy around military spending, which has always been a euphemism for sustaining high-tech industry. If the entire economy isn't somewhat restructured and funding directed away from the large corporations making up the high-tech/military sector, there's no reason to believe any of this will be radically altered by voting in a Jill Stein, or a Gary Johnson (although that would certainly be preferable, no doubt).

The simple fact is, though the president is responsible for expanding the secret wars (radical expansion of JSOC activities over the globe under Obama, for example), most Americans simply don't pay attention to foreign policy that much, and are content to concentrate on their families and careers, which leaves little time over for examining these issues. These are the people who need to be convinced, not the party loyalists and other elites (who have made up their minds already, or who are dependent upon continuing the status quo).

Also, the idea of witholding one's vote as a form of protest, or sanction, is a laudable position if it expresses one's intimate convictions (if no one on the ballots truly represents your points of view) - however, it's a mistake to think that it will fundamentally affect the views of those crafting policy. The fact is, they don't really care if nobody votes as long as they can continue along the same path. Such voter apathy is only a message saying "keep doing what you're doing, I won't stop you", unless it's coupled with some kind of grassroots political action actively countering present policy and propaganda.

Briefly, I agree with you on the blatant mindlessness of the Democratic partisans and loyalists, but I think the problems are a little deeper and more structural than that.

Freddie said...

Agree with you and CK MacLeod.

Freddie said...

It occurs to me: Democrats now use Republicans as a threat that justifies all manner of bad behavior in exactly the way Republicans used Al Qaeda.

JdB said...

What do you make of the fact that your column is very similar to the piece in the Atlantic from libertarian Conor Friedersdor?

I think this is my favorite comment of all time. Absolutely amazing.

Philboid Studge said...

Try a Balloon Juice thread. Try and insert some anti-drone sentiment into the comments. Believe me, I've tried. The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted.

This isn't true, Freddie. I know because I'm mostly with you on this issue. You can say most commenters (and front-pagers) at BJ are flag-waving for Team Blue, but there's still plenty of dissent to the party line.

Tim Donaghy said...

@Rob

"Also, the idea of witholding one's vote as a form of protest, or sanction, is a laudable position if it expresses one's intimate convictions (if no one on the ballots truly represents your points of view) - however, it's a mistake to think that it will fundamentally affect the views of those crafting policy."

Yes, this!

The problem I think is that a lot (most?) people don't have an activist frame for politics, and don't have time/energy to devote to national politics beyond the every-4-years voting ritual. But the truth is that there are a lot of things that are way more effective than voting that can be done.

Matthew said...

I think you've systematically misunderstood the LGM/Solnit argument here(I don't read TBogg, so I don't know about him). The argument from the LGM crowd goes like this:
1.President Obama, while bad on many issues, would be better on every issue, including the murder of innocent Muslims, than Mitt Romney.
2. Not voting for Obama will increase the likelihood that Romney becomes president, which will make the world less just, equitable, and peaceful (including even more dead Muslims), so
3. You should vote for Obama

There are arguments to be made against this, but instead you decide to attack them for something they didn't say: That "discussing" drones was unacceptable. I read every LGM and CT post on this issue, plus a significant portion of the comment threads, and I didn't see anyone express such a sentiment. This isn't about discussing anything, it's about voting, and I would like you to explain the exact mechanism by which refusing to vote for Obama helps those poor Muslims currently dwelling in the shadows of American drones.

Anonymous said...

Excellent.

It is never the right time for supporters of Obama. Now that it is the general election, some people say "you should have primaried him!"

It was the same argument during the '08 election when we did have a primary challenger. Remember FISA? Not that the challenger didn't need the same kind of strong arm push-back.

Tim Donaghy writes, The problem I think is that a lot (most?) people don't have an activist frame for politics, and don't have time/energy...

Well, that may be true of Democratic voters, but it's not been true of Republican voters (see: Tea Party). I'm going to go a little deeper, maybe, and note that Republican voters seem to have no problem with the idea of mounting a credible threat. They make the time and have the energy to pursue it. And, imo, right now, it's the credible threat of a large number of otherwise Democratic voters not voting for the Democrat that sends the party faithful into paroxysms of Oh, grow the fuck up!

And, yeah, Philboid Studge, there is dissent in the threads of Balloon Juice and LGM - I've been there - and as long as that dissent is softly and self-deprecatingly peddled, the dissenter only faces mild opprobrium. If you're passionate, you'd be well advised to go fully armored.

TBogg is a more interesting case to me. All that snark, sarcasm, and contempt says something to me about TBogg's need for certainty. Maybe even a certainty he isn't sure he has. Kind of falls into the category of, The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

~ bystander

Jay Ackroyd (@jayackroyd) said...

Philboid Studge

Balloon Juice is populated with commenters and front pagers who are deeply committed to Obama and the New Democrats. The reason I comment there (and get vilified) is because I think their commitment to the President and his ideology is misplaced--and that they're not aware of that ideological commitment. If they knew they were making a commitment to the dismantling of the New Deal, they would be opposed to that position. But they see themselves faced by a bat shit crazy GOP opposed to a not bat shit crazy Democratic party. And they think it is incredibly naive, not to put too fine a point on it, and stupid to not support the not bat shit crazy people.

Saying that the not bat shit crazy people are engaging in evil acts creates a level of cognitive dissonance that impedes conversation. So they revert to "Look, they're bat shit crazy! What's wrong with you?"

And they don't see that murdering and terrorizing people is a problem. And you can see that in any BJ thread on this issue--"Sure it's bad he's killing children, but on 95% of the issues, we agree so, duhhhh. STFU."

minutebol said...

I was one of those dissuaded from voting for Nader because “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush”. Well, guess what? bush “won” anyway and it was not because more people voted for him.
The lesson? Anything you do out of fear is cheating the process it is supposed to address, especially voting.
I voted for Obama in 2008, because it was the obvious thing to do, comparing him to McCain. This time around, it isn’t as obvious for me, based simply on the fact that I cannot vote for a man who sees nothing wrong with ordering the killing of an American citizen without due process, when I was one of those who was horrified when Bush started the march towards this. Voting for Romney is certainly not an option.

The best favor we can do ourselves and our children is to refuse to participate in this kidnapping of our democracy by these 2 parties, whose intent each, is less to govern successfully, but more to stop the other from governing.

Change only happens when people are galvanized in reaction to some pressure. Since we generally like Obama and support him, and since we see him as, to some extent, speaking for us, we do give him a pass about things we would be raging about coming from anyone across the aisle. Mitt Romney as president may thus be better for the US than Obama, not because Romney would be a better president, far from it, but because the dissenting forces to his presidency might then be galvanized enough to push back and pressure for changes, and not relent until those happen for good.

Jay Ackroyd (@jayackroyd) said...

minutebol (I've met Manut Bol, btw. I speak some Dinka, so it was interesting.)


I had a discussion with Brad DeLong a year or so ago, where I argued that McCain would have been forced, politically, to pursue a more aggressive program of stimulus than Obama has been. It's really, IMO, not clear that a Romney seeking a second term would be worse than a term limited Obama. We know that state terror is part of the regime, and that he was willing to dismantle the New Deal before the election. After the election? I shudder to think.

Anonymous said...

OK. You want your country to stop killing innocents.

Realize that there's been approximately zero time where the United States has ever not been killing innocents. Wars against the original inhabitants of this continent, slavery, wars of empire, and so on. Even the "good wars" (World War II)? Killing innocents in firebombing.

If voting for the lesser of two evils is consent... so is paying taxes. So are using the laws of this country that are soaked in blood. So is using a passport. So is being part of the polity.

You have choices- you could easily emigrate. The fact that you don't... well, that implies that like someone who holds their nose and votes for the more competent management of the American imperium (with less but still too many dead Muslims), you have weighed the consequences, the various sides, and have come to an accommodation that is not ideal but is one you can live with today, while you do what you can to change things for the better. And that is your right as a human, just as it's you're right as a human to vote for who you please.

Jay Ackroyd (@jayackroyd) said...

You have choices- you could easily emigrate. The fact that you don't... well, that implies that like someone who holds their nose

Actually, the emigration option is far from easy. But let that go. What's your point here? I get the hollering at the naive idiots who don't understand that the perfect has nothing to do with the good, but you're saying that Americans who are opposed to state terror should do what?

BugMeNot said...

1) Liberals are not necessarily non-interventionalists. There is a vein of martyr-complex whinging throughout your writing over the fact that some of your fellow liberals actually disagree with you and your priorities. Get over it.

2) To claim that the President has *expanded* combat against the Moslem world is a flat-out Fox News style lie. He has contracted it significantly from Bush's misadventures. Such a blatant and ridiculous exaggeration should be beneath you.

balconesfault said...

"Try and insert some anti-drone sentiment into the comments. Believe me, I've tried. The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted."

Are your comments at Balloon-Juice deleted?

No? Then you clearly have a very strange idea of what "permitted" means.

You think being criticized or ignored means "not permitted"? Alright then. Thanks for your valuable opinions.

eyelessgame said...

I wanted to post a snarky comment like "Hey, this is a great idea - Obamney and Romama are pretty much the same... I know! Let's vote for a third party - that'll fix the country. Is Ralph Nader running again?"

But what you write is deeply felt and authentic, and I don't feel it deserves just a snarky response like that.

But the serious message behind that snarky response is the one I still want to convey. What, exactly, is the alternative scenario to an Obama reelection that makes things better? Stipulated that drone strikes are awful and unconscionable. What is the best, most effective, way to stop them from continuing?

Anonymous said...

In basic sympathy, though I will be voting for Obama. I had my own experience with this. Throughout the 90s and 00s I criticized illiberal economic policy. When Obama's policies began to stink (the initial stimulus and budget were pretty good change), I got attacked for some tweets by self-proclaimed liberals. Some dude said, "He used to be a pretty good economist, what happened." Of course I was espousing the same view as always. -- 'MaxSpeak'

Irony Abounds said...

Yeah, I would like our country to stop killing innocent victims. I would also like Muslim extremists to stop killing innocent victims as well. There are Muslim extremists, and I believe our country, as well as other countries, should take steps to stop them. As in any conflict there is collateral damage. War sucks, lethal conflicts suck. Collateral damage sucks. But unless you have a magic wand that will (a) stop the terrorists, or (b) provide your country with a magic weapon that only kills the bad guys, there will be innocent victims killed.

There may be better methods, and I'm all for looking at all the options, but until the terrorists stop their terror, they are the ones most responsible.

Jesse said...

Commenter Matthew made my overall point a lot more clearly and succinctly than I did, namely that your post completely fails to engage with the real argument being made by Solnit and LG&M folks. As he says, you're free to disagree with them and offer a counter-argument, but this piece reads like boxing a shadow. This is what I mean when I say it's devoid of content

Charles said...

" Jesse,

The 'clean hands' argument is so disingenuous as to be Orwellian. The point isn't whether or not my hands are clean. The point is that granting or withholding my vote is a political act that grants legitimacy to, or withholds legitimacy from, whatever government is elected. That is a real choice with political consequences."

But my point, one which Anonymous beats me to, is that "legitimacy" is an abstract concept. Why does voting have the special status of granting "legitimacy"? Not all the tanks and guns? Not paying taxes? Not obeying laws? Driving on public streets? Enjoying our uniquely cheap oil and gas? Enjoying public schooling? Using the US dollar? Anonymous is right that there are ways you could really opt out, but you choose not to. And what of the fact that we're all typing on computers that doubtless were made under terrible labor conditions, spilling toxins into the air, and perhaps even enriching vicious militias? Situating voting as the sine qua non site of "legitimacy" seems to let a lot of other behavior off the hook. I actually don't think it's an exaggeration to say that more people have suffered getting my laptop, iphone, clothes, and gas to me than have suffered under the US drone program. How do we deal with that?

"Also: if I found myself seriously making the argument that following one's conscience is childish and narcissistic and irresponsible and really just about feeling righteous, I'd have to ask myself when I'd gone so horribly wrong. How does anyone get so twisted up as to argue that the only way to be moral is to ignore one's moral compass?"

No, the argument is that not being able to make pragmatic compromises to make the world less evil in order to bellow on the internet is not really an act of "conscience."

"Look at it this way: if only 10% of eligible voters actually cast ballots, the elected government would have a serious problem of legitimacy and credibility. Your choice to vote is a political choice that moves us away from that scenario. "

And yet, the US already has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the developed world. What are we to make of that?


Jesse said...

Blogger Freddie said...

"Then why post a several hundred word comment?"

Was genuinely curious and interested in how you might approach the actual counter-arguments.

"one I'll note is very common to young white males and which I think we see here

This, of course, is also a very common rhetorical tactic, and also one very common to young white males, and a profoundly empty one. You are aware, of course, that this contains no content at all, so you don't express it as an actual argument. You slide it in as a weaselly dodge. Look: I am asking you to consider the moral status of dead Pakistani children, killed by your government. My status as a young white male is totally irrelevant to that question. Almost no one-- almost no one in the whole world-- has less privilege than poor Muslim children. So if you insist on playing the undergraduate game of find the privilege, why don't you start there?"

Look, we can go around and around! Your update attacks BG&M for doing almost precisely what you're doing! Let's get off our fucking high-horses all around and discuss. I have considered "the moral status of dead Pakistani children." Of course I don't agree with our country's drone policy, and of course I care deeply about the murder of "innocents" (in fact, I care deeply about the killing of even the "guilty" - I didn't particularly revel in OBL's death either). That's part of why your post was so irritating - it presumes that the only reason for countenancing a vote for Obama is because one is a loyal democrat who doesn't question a single one of his policies. That's poppycock. Of course I care about the children -and adults- that are being murdered with our tax dollars. But what I'd like to see is a plan for ending that that's more than, "stay home November 6." Because I really hope you and all the commenters are smart enough to realize that just won't do it.

Further, Solnit's piece was a lengthy argument on the wisdom of certain rhetorical strategies. Not because she wants to prove better or calmer than you, Freddie, or because she cares less about the issues, but because she thinks this will actually make it easier to build coalitions and *convince people of our arguments* over time. It's a profoundly practical discussion of why internet crankery is simply not enough.

"Finally, Jesse: you have posted several hundred words without once indicating that you have devoted even"

Your comment was cut off.

Casual Observer said...

Thanks for the post and for the commentary. I'm going to state the obvious and suggest that, for those liberals who feel they are being attacked by their own (i.e. those who share views somewhat but are dedicated to Democratic Party), one act that may resolve this somewhat--lessen the sting of such attacks-- is to leave the Democratic Party. Go Independent, go Green, whatever path seems most appropriate to you.

Kristin said...

So, just to be clear, it's not that purity tests are, in general, unacceptable. For example, your purity test is fine.

Am I doing it right?

trizzlor said...

Cripes, this isn't rocket surgery. One school of thought is that you can incrementally move policy into your desired direction by voting for the candidate who most closely represents your views. The other says you can do it by withholding your vote from any candidate until one of them matches your policy desires exactly. Since you're both trying to achieve the same ends it's awfully petty to claim one strategy is morally superior to another. It mostly reads like a post-fact moralist justification for an individual tactical preference (and it reads the same exact way coming from TBogg as well).

However, we can look back through history and see which strategy has been more successful, and I have a hard time remembering any instances where vote-witholding moved a party into the preferred direction rather than away from it.

Dave said...

you claim your issue with drones is "the dead children," but you're determined that your enemy is liberals. i call bullshit.

parsiimon said...

Freddie, I'm with Matthew upthread. I think you've mischaracterized LGM in particular.

You ask in the OP, for example, "Do you honestly believe that most Balloon Juice commenters will allow criticism of Obama after the election, if he wins? Do you believe Tbogg will countenance such a thing? The crew at Lawyers Guns and Money?"

I can't speak to Balloon Juice or TBogg (don't read him), but LGM certainly allows, and frequently offers, criticism of Obama administration policies.

That said, there's a good reason the vote-for-the-lesser-evil issue comes up every election cycle: it's an important debate.

parsiimon said...

Having just read the linked TBogg post: ignore him, babe. He's not representative of the wider discussion.

Susan of Texas said...

We need to do at least two things--continue to tell the truth and live by our moral code, and give people something to do. People will not act against authority alone. We need an organization for them to join and a purpose to motivate them.

Working from within does not work. We need to grow strong and the followers will follow. In Meet John Doe local chapters were set up to look for what needed to be done in each community and people volunteered to help anyone in need. The right has churches and tea parties. We must do something as well, even if it is merely virtual.

We need to ask people who have donated to the Party to write a letter saying they will not donate until (name your goal) is done. Same with churches and corporations. We need to volunteer at food banks and hospitals and schools in the name of our organization.

Protests are no longer feasible due to the police state. We need to live our ideals in everything we do.

By our fruits will you know us.

Joey Giraud said...

"Try and insert some anti-drone sentiment into the comments. Believe me, I've tried. The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted."

Are your comments at Balloon-Juice deleted?


That's not the issue. It's that such comments receive a lot of red-hot personal attacks such as "f*** you" and worse.

It's not that the Juicers are Obots, it's because a lot of them buy into the notion that America really is threatened by Muslim fanatics and something must be done to protect us, even if it means the deaths of innocents. Too bad about that.

DPS said...

I just like it that a post protesting demonization and marginalization contains the following sentence:

And it makes people crazy in a truly frightening way; it takes reasonable, progressive people like DougJ and turns them into Manichean monsters.

Libby Spencer said...

I get what you're saying. I want my country to stop killing innocent people too. I want my government to stop doing a lot of destructive stuff. But there is empirical evidence that can't be denied. It clearly shows one side does it more than the other. One side will never listen. So if you don't do anything to stop the side that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people (instead of hundreds) from regaining power, then the blood of those innocents is on your hands too. It just is.


I see this long post that tells me what perfect outcomes you want, but I don't see is what ARE you doing to get there besides bitching on the internet? And please don't tell you you're punishing the lesser evil side by with holding your vote, because all that does in reality is give the more evil party the implicit consent to do whatever they want.

You want a third party challenge, then you have to commit to working every single day for years to build one that presents a viable challenge. And you need to accept that you sometimes have to make trade offs. Take small progress over grand changes. And even that you might not live long enough to see the results of your work.

Susan of Texas said...

Is it or is it not true that people refused to pressure Obama and their Party? That one fact is being glossed over so people can pretend that they are making the moral, correct choice. If everyone voted for Obama while pushing the party leftward we would not be in this fix.

Instead they make excuses for why they must vote for Obama and then do nothing. Occupy was a good start but it was largely squelched by the police state. We all need to find more ways to apply pressure but if we don't use the force of numbers we will get nowhere.

Nobody would pressure Obama. It was always the wrong time. They won't do it now, they wouldn't do it in the past and they surely will not do it when Obama has his second term and legacy already established.

Anonymous said...

redsitedI am with you. Never apologize for being a pacifist. I've been one since the 60's. You make a lot of good points. This last election cycle I got involved with my local Dem party because I feel strongly about healthcare reform. That group also consists of Progressives and Independents who have no political power in a two party system. I think that's interesting. I can tell you that many people there are pretty honest about their disappointment in how Obama handled the wars in the Middle East. During the convention speech no one applauded when Biden mentioned that Bin Laden was dead. Then I watched a Senate debate on Saturday in which Tommy Thompson-Wisconsin Republican running against Tammy Baldwin- who refers to the Prime minister of Iran as "mentally impaired" and starts rattling those sabres to protect "our" oil interests. Same old story. So to me, what it comes down to is supporting the person who is likely to do the least damage-yet that's never a guarantee either. Kennedy and LBJ were all about "peace" and that wasn't happening. The truly pacifist candidates-some Republicans- were rejected by the voters. I didn't understand it then and I don't now. Keep fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

uredico 27

Anonymous said...

"This isn't true, Freddie. I know because I'm mostly with you on this issue. You can say most commenters (and front-pagers) at BJ are flag-waving for Team Blue, but there's still plenty of dissent to the party line."

hmmm. Never seen your comments there. The posse at BJ is quite active for moderates who love to shoot the shit, and compete for 'most clever' comment. That is all.

Ben Franklin

Conor said...

I obviously agree with a lot of this. I'd just say that I don't think Adam Serwer belongs on the list of folks you're criticizing. I am not familiar with every argument he's had on this subject, but he's one of a very few people in left-leaning media, or any media, for that matter, that regularly, critically reports on the Obama Administration's national security policy and civil liberties violations – and he does so despite the fact that he is invested in the electoral prospects of the Democratic coalition. Adam and I have different takes on how much it makes sense to work for the advancement of a party, but I don't think his view ever diminishes the integrity of his work on drones, spying, war, etc.

Anonymous said...

'Look at it this way: if only 10% of eligible voters actually cast ballots, the elected government would have a serious problem of legitimacy and credibility.'

Serious problem for whom? Serious problem with what practical ramifications? Sorry but I just don't understand at all what point you are trying to make. There is only one sensible finding to be inferred from mass failure to vote, and that is that most people are equally satisfied with the programs of both parties and don't care which one wins.

If you are not satisfied with the policies of either party then the only rational choice is to support a third one, if you are genuinely committed to democratic processes. Third parties have quite a record of success in many countries outside the USA, but they require sustained effort and take many years to gain true political influence. A good starting point would be a coherent position and ideology of America's role in the world and its proper relationships with Middle Eastern countries, instead of emotional 'stop killing the innocents!' posturing.

Anonymous said...

Conor wrote: "I obviously agree with a lot of this. I'd just say that I don't think Adam Serwer belongs on the list of folks you're criticizing."

Ditto. This article is terrific, but I wouldn't put Serwer in the LGM, BJ camp. Tried to say that last nite -- when I also linked here from Greenwald's comment section at the Grauniad.

--Mona--

Warren Jason Street said...

"...and so if the Democrats were to nominate Zell Miller your job would be to shut the fuck up and support him as he destroyed everything we believe in, because it's a two party system"

That's an interesting piece of concern trolling. Democrats are united, organized, and winning so there must be something to attack, right? And why not bring up Zell Miller and run with that and see if it sticks to the wall, right?

The number of people who are going to take their fee-fees and put them in their cuddle pillow and not vote for Obama is fairly insignificant compared to the number of people who are going to be motivated to vote against the Republicans and their policies.

But, by all means. Continue to focus on the handful of people who have to let it be known that they are purity trolls and concern trolls and use various media platforms to be heard expressing their singular ability to base their vote on something Obama did to make them mad.

Son_et_lumiere said...

I like how all the comments turned out with the exact same arguments you demolished in your post Freddie :D

Great article, as usual you say what i'm thinking far more eloquently than I could. I don't know whether i'm more horrified by the constant violence done to the people of the Middle East by our governments, or the fact that no-one really seems to give the slightest fuck about it.

Were I in your shoes, I don't know what I would do, where I would put my vote or where I wouldn't. I could not in good conscience vote for Obama. It's pretty easy nowadays with the internet to see behind the rhetoric, see behind the speeches and go direct to the source and see what is actually happening in the world. Yet so few people bother to, it's incredible.

Democracy is a joke.

Gadfly said...

This Green voter agrees indeed with this post.

Greg Sanders said...

The result is total, immediate, and angry dismissal. Always. These ideas are not permitted. For all the talk of "lesser evils," you are far more likely to find conventional liberals defending the drone program than speaking of it as evil at all.

I believe Kevin Drum qualifies as a conventional liberal. He's covering this:

There's no question that fighting a counterinsurgency is hard. And it's fundamentally different from fighting a conventional war because it's difficult to separate militants from civilians — something that insurgents explicitly count on. But even if you accept drone strikes as a legitimate part of counterinsurgency, and even if you accept that civilian casualties are an inevitable part of that, "double tap" strikes are simply heinous. They're also far more likely to turn the indigenous population against you, which makes them counterproductive as well as immoral. After all, it's not as if top al-Qaeda leaders are the ones likely to be conducting rescue operations. At best, you might get a few foot soldiers but nothing more.

Similarly, admittedly not recently, Charli Carpenter has done good posts at LGM, notably including this one on how some reports might be underestimating the ratio of civilian to militant casaulties.

So I am in agreement with the LGM crew that on tactical grounds that voting for the lesser of two evils is important. Vote boycotts are a fairly common tool, but they are also a rather ineffective one based on all the examples I've seen. I'd note that right now 30 states are running active voter surpression drives via "voter ID" requirements. They don't seem to fear low turn out in the slightest.

However, I think at the same time, now is a tactically-wise time to critize. You are of course quite correct that it's not like you'll be listened to more after the elction. Now is a perfectly valid time to call on people to make their labor and/or their money conditional on their values. I personally am trying to shifting political donations from the straight party orgs to groups like the PCCC which is still mainstream liberal but is at least trying to pull things away from the center left.

I think you may be overly despairing as to the liberals. I already tend to share Kevin Drum every time he posts on this issue. So while I agree with the LGM crew that not voting in contested states is a terrible idea on strategic grounds, I'm happy to speak up for the value of criticism. I don't know if that helps, but it's what I've got.

Freddie said...

http://lhote.blogspot.com/2012/10/arts-of-possible.html?m=1

Patrick Adkins said...

My friend, As a former Democratic Party voter. I commend you. Anyone who stands up to the establishment in the blogosphere and the Democratic Party is worthy of a kudo or two.

Keep it up, speak your truth and don't let the bastards get ya down.

signed,

-Charles Patrick Adkins
Owner
Thoughtsandrantings.com
politicalbyline.com
Former Owner:
thepopulistblog.com - A left of center blog

Anonymous said...

Er, not all liberals are folks who post at TBogg and Balloonjuice or whereever. Lots of these commenters are not really even "liberals" at all. The main thing they are, the one thing that unites them, is that they are partisan Democrats. But even that doesn't quite nail it down. They are a particular kind of partisan Democrat, namely the kind that backs Obama on the Internet from citicisms (they would call them "attacks") from all and sundry, and regardless of source. From the 2008 primary season, when Hillary Clinton supporters met their wrath and were driven from site to site, to the current day, they simply will not tolerate any real criticism of Obama. At most, they will allow that, while perhaps Obama is not quite double plus perfect good on some subject, that that cannot POSSIBLY be reason enough not to vote for him.

That's who these folks are. Plenty of liberals feel exactly the same way you do, about the drones and much else besides. Some of them will go ahead and vote for Obama anyway, as the percieved lesser of two evils, some won't. Both they won't crticize you for not doing so, much less mock you for it.

Finally, and here I, sadly, agree with the Balloonjuicers, et al, but please man, don't set yourself up this way. You are not the end all and be all when it comes to moral feeling and, ahem, this is the Internet, so don't cry if people mock you. Everyone and everything under the sun gets mocked on the Internet, and, me personally, I think that's a good thing. It's what separates the Internet from the unrelieved unctious sanctimony of traditional media ("...and of course our thoughts and prayers go out to all of our wonderful troops and their families....").

Anonymous said...

I am an American and a liberal hating leftie and someone with a Muslim name. We have to agitate for our beliefs and bring about change through peaceful but insistent persuasion. Anything less is immoral or amoral. This is the best argument I can make to put an end to our imperialism.

JTR said...

"Plenty of liberals feel exactly the same way you do"

Heh. A solid 95% of the commentary the past couple days from self-described liberals points to Freddie's, rather than your own, conclusion about the true level of "concern" about civil liberties.

Anonymous said...

Underneath the comment, it said to please prove you're not a robot, why are you trying to keep Mitt Romney out of this discussion Freddie?

Freddie, why do you let your emotions get ahead of your reason so often? It's been a decade, and you've fundamentally had very little influence and lots of links and posts that get ignored precisely because you do not make sound arguments and frequently engage in the muddling you accuse others of doing. You're contributing to the signal to noise ratio on the Internet when you write unthoughtful crap like this.

The reason you're widely accepted by the McMegans, Conors, and other internet bloviators of the world that say a lot and do very little is because they know you're part of their class where anything can be discussed infinitely, but very few good concrete solutions are ever created. There's no need to ever be factually right to this class of pundit. There's just a need for their egos to be validated.

You are very very well known in the political blogosphere Freddie and to claim that people don't listen to you is nothing different from when you used to get linked by other big bloggers who dismissed you, BUT STILL LINKED TO YOU.

There's only thing in common here and I'm sure you can figure out what it is.

Paul Sherrard said...

Thank you for this post; thank you for taking on the assholes at Balloon Juice and LGM; thank you for standing up for what matters.

El Tiburon said...

First of all, who the hell are you and why have I not heard of you before?

Great post. As a branded Firebagger and general Enemy of the State at BJ, your words rang true. (Although I have to say I immensely like and respect most of the work of the front pagers over there and feel we are all on the same team.)

Mention Glenn Greenwald at BJ you better duck as the shit will come flying.

Anonymous said...

Let me summarize in two sentences:

The vast majority, in fact nearly all, of the left of center pundits don't much give a shit about the killing of innocents as long as the guy doing the killing is a Democrat. And Glenn Greenwald may be the only principled pundit in these Unite States.

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

tdraicer:

Well I consider myself an FDR sort of liberal but I'm also someone who spotted Obama for what he was in 2004 (when my wife and I both said, after listening to his keynote, "Better hope he never gets to be President") and refused to vote for him in 2008.

What Obama really reprsents imo is the triumph of Identity Politics where over the last few decades "minority" became shorthand for "liberal", and too many voters who would oppose Obama if he was white can't bring themselves to do so as long as 90+% of black voters continue to embrace him (inverting MLK's dream of character over skin color). I don't see a Hillary Clinton, never mind Zell Miller, getting the free ride from "progressives" Obama has had the last four years.

Unknown said...

12Translation of anonymous from Oct 1, 8:38am:

"Freddie, you are pointless you are just like all the other pointless people but even more pointless nobody listens to you, yet they all still read you how pointless! And you aren't even talking about the other guy!"

"There's only [one?] thing in common here and I'm sure you can figure out what it is."

Yes, I can! It's your smirk! (nudgenudge) Am I right? Huh? But I can't figure out your pointless need to write about nothing for noone to noone without reason.

Maybe you could explicate further on that. Nah, what would be the point?
.....

Thanks for the solid post, Freddie.

Pathman said...

Bravo! This is an eloquent destruction of the bullshit.
The other piece of course is that there will be cuts made to social security and medicare no matter who gets elected. But "our team" will be the one's doing it so that makes it...OK? It's nice to see that they are going to sacrifice the old and poor to satisfy the corporate scumbags that own this government. Way to go team blue!

Anonymous said...

"JdB said...
What do you make of the fact that your column is very similar to the piece in the Atlantic from libertarian Conor Friedersdor?"

Hahahaha. I'm a Communalist/libertarian socialist so this made me laugh. This typifies the guilt by association we've seen practiced by Republicans and Democrats alike. With Republicans, it was to paint the God Emperor as an Other by implying he's either a Muslim or foreign-born. With Democrats, it's claiming any association outside of their right-center political spectrum is evil itself. A Naderite will always be a villain, no matter the actual facts of that election and the moral authority of people to vote outside of the two party system.

You can't do anything other than what you're doing right now. Our friends, the bloodthirsty Dems--who now do the NeoCon's work by talking up terrorism like it's the new communism--will only be convinced that their wrong with disruptive movements and opinions that they'll fight until it just becomes self-evident (a paraphrase of a much better quote on truth comes to mind).

Those people who are disruptive should become experts at making LOCAL polities that have strength, thus creating a counter power to the state. Although I think Occupy tried and failed at this, largely because of it's flawed consensus-based, one-veto system, it was a damned good start. Convince libertarians and anarchists that a government with real equal power* is a good thing and you may have a revolution.

*BTW, I loved that LGM kept preaching about democracy as if it's what is practiced in this country.

Weldon Berger said...

@Libby Spencer, the "go forth and build a third party" sentiment is valid, but also you have to expect that people involved in building a third party will actually vote for their own candidates and encourage others to do so too.

More to the point, though, Democrats who decry third-party voting while claiming to support the positions that third-party platforms proffer -- pro-civil liberties, pro-economic and social justice, say -- have at least as much of an obligation to support the process of building those parties as third-party voters have to consider the "lesser of two evils/grow the fuck up" argument. Typically, though, at least in my experience, they exclude consideration of alternatives in favor of thinking of themselves as the thin line between democracy and barbarism.

"I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Muslim children and you curse the drones. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Obama's election, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me pulling that "D" lever. You need me pulling that "D" lever."

Cheers ...

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm voting for this guy.

http://obomney2012.com/

Barritt Obomney -- The Elite Choice in 2012!

rbottoms said...

Having posted at Balloon-Juice as far back in the day when John was a wingnut who once told me to go **** myself, until now, one thing can tell you is people don't get censored for criticizing Obama.

You may be called stupid for expressing nitwit idea like "they're all the same", you may be dismissed as silly for equating drone strikes with a trillion dollar debacle that killed 1000,000 Iraqi's, 5,000+ troops, and the maiming of 50,0000 more.

But you get to expression you opinion. Just expect to be ridiculed for it.

The Republicans are terrible by any measure on just about every single issue the progressives stand for. As a black man I would no sooner vote for the GOP than the Klan.

That's not to say every Republican is a racist teabagger, anti-abortion, anti-science, gay bashing nut who believes Obama is a commie traitor born in Kenya, why just 33% of them are. So it would be fair to tar the rest of the party with these insane conspiracy nut jobs.

It is fair to say that 33% runs the party, sets the agenda and is why even the "moderate" Republican feels obligated to spew crazy to get elected.

The reality is in 2012 the President Elect of the United States of America is either going to be a Democrat or a Republican.

Period.

You go build your third party fantasy if you want, but for those of us with gay family members or brown skin, we are going to vote as if who we vote for matters today.

rbottoms said...

Sorry no edit button, previous post should say:

- But you get to express you opinion. Just expect to be ridiculed for it.

- So it would not be fair to tar the rest of the party with these insane conspiracy nut jobs.

Anonymous said...

"we are going to vote as if who we vote for matters"

And that is why you fail.

Anonymous said...

Democratic voter for 36 years here. No longer. I'll be voting for Jill Stein, the current Democratic Party has become too ideologically right wing for me to support any longer. I still feel dirty for voting for Obama even nearly four years later with his drone bombings, open sneering contempt for the Bill of Rights, complicity in torture, war crimes,the largest financial fraud in human history and seeming eagerness to put the axe to earned entitlements. I didn't leave the Democratic Party; it left me.

rbottoms said...

Obama kicking Willard's butt, defeating $1,000,000,000 in corporate carpet bombing so he can keep the Supreme Court from becoming a complete Right Wing rubber stamp to overturn Roe vs. Wade?

Nothing but win.

Vote for Willard or even better, stay home.

And when your water is poisoned because of frackking, a relative is buried alive mining coal, or some one else's son (not yours of course) dies in Iran, please listen for the strains of the world's tiniest violin as you pour out your sorrows.

Weldon Berger said...

@rbottoms ... You do know that the Obama administration are pretty much down with fracking, right? and with "clean" coal? and that the Obama administration launched a cyber-attack on Iran that by Pentagon standards amounted to an act of war? and that the administration continue to mischaracterize Iran's nuclear program in such a manner as to make war appear an acceptable option?

Vote how you vote, but at least understand what you're voting for.

rbottoms said...

>Vote how you vote, but at least understand what you're voting for.

A Democrat who has to compromise to get things like health care passed?

A Democrat who now has gays serving openly in the military and supports gay marriage?

You mean that guy?

Yeah, I kinda like that guy.

He talks about "clean coal", because he'd like people in coal states to vote for him. OMFG, a politician pandering, bring me the smelling salts. And when I recover, I'll also know that Obama is working to pump millions into alternative energy.

Vote for Willard or stay home, you still get the frakking, plus zeroed out wind & solar, drilling in the Artic, and war with Iran.

Gee, it's such a hard choice.

Anonymous said...

"And when your water is poisoned because of frackking, a relative is buried alive mining coal, or some one else's son (not yours of course) dies in Iran, please listen for the strains of the world's tiniest violin as you pour out your sorrows."

Lulz. When all else fails, the simplistic refrain "Fear! Fear!" is always there. Pay no attention to Obama's endorsement of all of this shit, plus his tepid commitment to anything you claim to care about.

rbottoms said...

Thank you "Anonymous" for you concern trolling.

Back on planet Earth, we're concerned with kicking the Republican's a** and keeping the Supreme Court from extinguishing what little gains we've been able to make.

There are two binary choices in this election that really matter. Adults know that there are times when you have to make choose:

Do you want to preserve Rove vs. Wade or not?

Do you want war with Iran or not.

Choose.

Your concerns have been duly noted.

Weldon Berger said...

@rbottoms ... I'm neither voting for Willard nor staying home.

It's funny you should mention coal miners. Back in the 1970s I had the opportunity to spend quite a lot of time with some UMW folk in Indiana and Kentcky. Most of them had two overriding concerns: better working conditions and a future in which their children didn't have to go underground. That would be a great way to pander to the miners: tell them you have their back in the here and now and you mean to replace their industry with better ones for their kids. Because they're not actually stupid and they don't need to be lied to.

rbottoms said...

>That would be a great way to pander
>to the miners: tell them you have
>their back in the here and now and
>you mean to replace their industry
>with better ones for their kids.

Is that the Ultimates universe or Earth 616? Because on the planet I live on coal miners ant to hear they will get to keep digging for coal.

So Obama panders and says, yes you will because there's this thing called clean coal. Miners rejoice.

Obama gets re-elected and he goes about creating the industry that their kids will work in instead of digging for coal.

In your version of reality, the GOP runs his comments on a loop 24 hours a day for three months and he loses.

I am grown up enough to know that closing Guantanamo was a goal, one that could only be accomplished with GOP support along with Democrat Blue Dogs, didn't happen.

Disappointed, but not in the least a reason that Obama has failed me.

It's a driver to elect more non-Blue Dog Democrats so Obama can close the damn place down.

quixote said...

I'm here via David Dayen's link, and I haven't read all the comments yet. I just wanted to say how restful it is to read someone who understands, someone against whom I'm not quietly shouting "NO!" all the time.

The big difference in Bush v. Gore: On one side a hawkish war-service-dodger who laughed at people on death row. On the other a rather dorky policy wonk with some actual ideas. In that case there really was a choice that's less bad.

Now: A president who tortures, kills without trial, and thinks that's good. On the other side: a wannabe torturer and extrajudicial killer who thinks that's good. In this case, there are only distinctions without a difference.

It's amazing that for so many people, right and wrong isn't even on the map. They might as well not know which way is up.

jcapan said...

Spot on Freddie.

"They defend our brutal and murderous system for the same reason that everyone does, because it is their system, and they have grown up into an ecology of propaganda that conditions them to justify it."

As anyone who's read, Chomsky, yes, a 1000 times yes, but I'd add that while Guardian Glenn and Atlantic Conor may be exceptions, most of these courtiers regurgitate prop b/c they feel it's the best way to cozy up to power and find gainful employment in Versailles.

Anonymous said...

"Heh. A solid 95% of the commentary the past couple days from self-described liberals points to Freddie's, rather than your own, conclusion about the true level of "concern" about civil liberties."

Proving my point. Folks who post on the Internet are not necessarily representative, or did that not ever occur to you? Fanatical Obama supporters are among the most prolific of Internet commenters. And, of course, they were alerted to the presence of this post by the critiques of it on their favorite websites (Ballonjuice, etc) and by its mention on aggregator Memorandum website. They may call themselves "Liberals" and some of them undoubtedly are. But many of them are not, and, as I said, what really unites them is their devotion to Obama. They don't represent liberal opinion generally.

Michael Petro said...

TBogg's starting to feel the pain (of course my stating this here with the possibility of him reading it may contribute to his retrenchment*), but he has responded to your post with this characteristically strawman-soaked snark today:

It is probably best that I said I would lay off the hippie punching because, much to my surprise, I have discovered that I apparently have become A Very Influential Person who, from my little beach cottage, have single-handedly (well, with some help from the “Manichean monsters” at Balloon Juicer and the elitist academics at LG&M) kept the drone program going strong and flying high. Additionally I have also successfully CRUSHED the 1st Amendment rights of all liberals with a moral conscience (or as we smug folks like to call them: “patchouli-soaked apostates”) leaving them butthurt in my wake, while giving “conventional liberals” cover to not have to live in eternal existential despair where the food tastes of ashes and in such small portions.

In other words, just like Rush Limbaugh he is "just a clown" (so he must really be crying inside), and nothing he says matters and should not be taken seriously.

(*I, on the other hand, feel that my writing should be taken seriously, even if I am a lowly nobody. It's just the responsibility of the pen. And if one wishes to engage in humor and snark in this endeavor, this does not absolve one of the points being made by that humor. One should at least pretend that one is not a lowly nobody, because you can never really know.)

demz.taters said...

To the "anonymous" who proclaims to be an "FDR sort of liberal" - how can any principled liberal support anything that he did when he rounded up and imprisoned Japanese Americans and firebombed civilians during World War II?

Anonymous said...

" I want my country to stop killing innocent people"

Then you want our country to stop engaging in war. Any war for any reason.

gerry said...

Thanks for this post. It must be the approaching election but I have been rather shocked at the stridence of Lemieux, DougJ and others to dissent on party line support. With the fear of a Republican victory they seem paralyzed, like a monkey with it's hand in a trap, clutching a morsel while it's doom approaches. Your description of that approach as tragically "loser" seems spot on. ( I would recommend that "Metrosexual Manichean Monster DougJ" would try on the moniker,"Tragic Loser DougJ".)

It's rather sad to see intelligent, well-intentioned people tear into like-minded folks because of this issue. I have never heard the excoriation of Bush voters that matches the insults to Nader voters. The arguments are always about the tactical issues, but how can we get out of the long, slow slide toward fascism that we are seeing with the 2 main party candidates? I don't hear any pragmatic suggestions there. Unless you vote for, or otherwise support someone outside the gamut of the 2 parties, there is no choice but to be dragged, faster or slower, in the wrong direction.

rbottoms said...

>With the fear of a Republican victory they seem paralyzed, like a monkey with it's hand in a trap, clutching a morsel while it's doom approaches.

Actually, we're just looking forward to kicking the GOP square in the nuts as they deserve.

Anonymous said...

rbottoms: Look up concern trolling. I like how so certain wrong people can be.

Do I want war with Iran? Do I have a choice? No. Your savior will do that too, no matter the posturing he's doing now. Roe V. Wade, although already problematic from a constitutional perspective, doesn't matter if the "liberal" administration undermines reproductive rights in it's "signature" health insurance bailout law, amongst other things. On planet earth that's what fucking happened.

Jesse said...

"They defend our brutal and murderous system for the same reason that everyone does, because it is their system, and they have grown up into an ecology of propaganda that conditions them to justify it."

As anyone who's read, Chomsky, yes, a 1000 times yes, but I'd add that while Guardian Glenn and Atlantic Conor may be exceptions, most of these courtiers regurgitate prop b/c they feel it's the best way to cozy up to power and find gainful employment in Versailles."

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/01/noam-chomsky-if-i-were-in-a-swing-state-id-vote-for-obama/

Anonymous said...

"So what do you want me to do? Break bread with the establishment liberals, try to reason with them, bring these ideas into the discussion? I've tried. Many have tried."

Well, I think it is good you and others like you have tried. Your arguements HAVE CHANGED MY MIND on a number of issues. FACTS matter. Oh, I tend to be libertarian, so I don't think we should have stayed there (Afghanistan) more than 2 weeks. But the drones - yeah, your right - counter productive and EVIL. We can't say that if someone was killed by a drone they must have been a terrorist - elsewise we wouldn't have droned them.

rbottoms said...

>As anyone who's read, Chomsky

The reason Occupy failed is because too many of them were reading Chomsky and not enough of them were studying the tactics the Christian Right used to over the course of forty years put their people in positions of power from dog catcher to governor.

In the age of direct to the citizen communication afforded by the Internet you may have to accept the reason no one cares about Gary Johnson is he hasn't been saying anything people want to hear using the tools available to him to say it.

Take your toys and go home, the rest of us will work to get people elected in the two actual parties that matter.

A little over a year ago the %99 movement stood chance of forming a coalition that mattered, but chose instead to engage in Chomsky flavored, leaderless, objective-less complaining, instead of building a political movement.

Some privileged white folks are all butt hurt and are now going to stay home because President Obama is acting like a politician who knows he has to get re-elected.

Good, that makes it easier when we beat Willard to actually govern.


jcapan said...

Jesse, I mentioned the Chomster in response to FD's ecology of propaganda. The "anarchist's" commitment to swing-state voting is nothing new.

"A little over a year ago the %99 movement stood chance of forming a coalition that mattered, but chose instead to engage in Chomsky flavored, leaderless, objective-less complaining, instead of building a political movement."

I happen to agree. But in reading over your comments it seems that anything less than servility to team D wouldn't have satisfied you. If they'd come out for the Greens or formed their own party, would you have taken them seriously? Or would that have been playing with toys as well? And what the fuck does race have to do with anything you blinkered jackass--have you ever heard of the Black Agenda Report et al.

ouchosparks said...

The Democratic party has been hijacked by Capital. Hence it's embrace of neoliberal policy, endless war, austerity. Hence the rank betrayal of Labor, workers, families. Those who identify with such views can properly consider themselves "liberal" (a capitalist imperialist who recognizes the utility of modest social welfare programs and government interventions on behalf of property and privilege). Leftists committed to electoral politics need to stage a counter-coup. Impossible you say? Not enough money? Well, consider this: the value of monetary units decreases every day. And, there is strength in numbers, and Obama's 2d term austerity programs will harm so many Americans that recruiting foot soldiers for that coup will not be that hard.

Anonymous said...

But, it's not only "blind adherence to parties and leaders" that represents "a moral and intellectual failure," it's blind adherence to IDEOLOGY, a framework by which or lens through which the answers to difficult questions are rendered immediately known and knowable - all that it requires is the suspension of one's inherent ability to reason and to think. The rigidity (and flexibility) of ideology renders its adherents instantly and simultaneously superiors in terms of morality regardless the axis or pole on which one places him/herself.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts here for what they're worth:

It seems to me that voting in elections in a non-strategic manner (i.e. casting a vote with no consideration of the likely outcomes given the real circumstances of the election) is the absolute bare-minimum that one can do and still consider herself a political agent in any meaningful sense. If the central dilemma you face in considering your moral role as a citizen is how to cast your vote for president, then you're barely relevant to the process that actually produces political change and you're certainly in no position of moral high ground. You may as well give it rest.

Beyond that, being a responsible, engaged adult in the real world means occasionally having to make morally-ambiguous choices. Real problems in a complex world simply don't always lend themselves to tidy bumper-sticker-slogan solutions. If you can't handle or grasp that, then you're not going to be very effective in accomplishing any real change or progress, whatever your tactics.

rbottoms said...

> But in reading over your comments it seems that anything less than servility to team D wouldn't have satisfied you.

I am a Yellow Dog Democrat, so?

Doesn't mean you have to be. I would sooner eat glass washed down with gasoline before ever voting Republican for anything.

If Jesus Christ was running on the GOP ticket against Satan, the best I could manage is to abstain.

The Republican party is an irreparably racist, anti-science, anti-woman, anti-gay insane organization. The Democrats can still be repaired.

At this time, in this election, voting for Willard, Johnson, or staying home are stupid choices.

Either you protect Roe, and head off war with Iran or you don't.

You may then take the next four years working to replace the term limited Obama with someone more acceptable.

However, if you are realistic, you'll do what the Christian Coalition did and start planning on a 30 year timeline to get to where you want to.

pietro said...

great post. i'm with you. Let the victors come after us.

bmcmolo said...

Excellent post - and THANK YOU for writing it!

Also, this comment is so spot-on I hope it becomes an internet meme:

"Democrats now use Republicans as a threat that justifies all manner of bad behavior in exactly the way Republicans used Al Qaeda. "

Leo Godin said...

I think it's time to stop talking about liberals and conservatives. Real liberals wouldn't support the current Democratic party, just as real conservatives wouldn't support the current Republican party.

These are Democrats you're talking about, not liberals. What you're seeing here is similar to what happened with the Tea Party, although to a lesser extent.

When the Tea Party started out, it was a libertarian movement. Agree with it or not, it was anti-establishment. However, it quickly got taken over by Republicans, and became what it is today, a Republican mouthpiece. Essentially, If Obama is for it, we're against it, and small government except for security, liberty, never-ending wars, drones, and corporate welfare etc... etc... etc...

Liberal blogs seem to have gone the same way. If Obama is for it, we're for it.

In both cases, these influences could have helped keep the two parties in check, but failed miserably. It's a sad state of affairs.

rbottoms said...

Yes.

And as the GOP spends the remaining five weeks shouting n****r, n****r, n*****r with their outright racist DVD's, and feigned shock that black folks were still mad about Katrina in 2007, remember both parties are exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

Tbogg's a conservative, and not worth your (or anyone's) time.

Anonymous said...

>To the "anonymous" who proclaims to be an "FDR sort of liberal" - how can any principled liberal support anything that he did when he rounded up and imprisoned Japanese Americans and firebombed civilians during World War II?

tdraicer:

Because I recognize that preventing complete national collapse in the 1930s and the defeat of the Axis (to which that bombing contributed btw, ultimately saving lives) vastly outweighs FDR's undoubted flaws and mistakes.

Ian Alexander said...

This is exactly how I feel about liberal politics these days. Thank you for writing this.

L. Paul Strait said...

I can sort of understand where the people who are planning on voting for Obama are coming from, even while disagreeing. But what I don't understand, what I can't understand, is how these people can be *enthusiastic* about their support for Obama. By and large, they seem *happy* about him on the whole, and feel good about re-electing him. They don't act like it crushes their soul but its the only thing that can be done in the face of a possible President Romney. And I find that sickening.

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