Saturday, April 9, 2011

it only takes one reason

I am not looking forward to the next election cycle. I mean, I think everybody hates election exhaustion. But this will be an exceptionally trying time for anyone who believes that America should have better alternatives than a center-right party and a right-right party.  The "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists" certainty of those who insist that anyone on the left has to vote for Obama is already getting ginned up.

(You've got to hand it Balloon Juice: no other blog in history has been so adept at perfectly defining bullshit and how it operates, and then turning around and engaging in precisely that kind of bullshit. A fun game you can play with Balloon Juice is to go through its wonderful lexicon, then turn to the posts on the front page and see how many of them are guilty of the sins the lexicon identifies.)

The Balloon Juice crew has been holding Andrew Sullivan's feet to the fire over the absurd Ryan budget, which is important, but holy moly. I would give that a good fisking but honestly it's all too wearying. Suffice is to say that this kind of discourse-politicing argument is going to become increasingly commonplace, until "YOU MUST VOTE FOR OBAMA" will become a mantra in the progressive blogosphere. Get used to it.

I'm sure I'll articulate why I can't support Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012 at great length in the future. In the meantime, at this particular moment, I'll just express one argument that by itself is sufficient for me to walk away from Hope and Change. I went to see Glenn Greenwald speak this past week, which was excellent. And in his discussion I had a moment of simple awe, as I remembered, and then finally really wrapped my head around, the fact that the Obama administration has asserted its right to murder American citizens with absolutely no due process or review of law at all. I mean, really think about that, for a little. What civil liberties can really remain at all, if the government retains the right to kill you at its whim? None of the rights enumerated in our constitution matter one bit if the government can simply murder you without cause or review. The police need a warrant to search my glove compartment if it's locked; the executive can send an agent to put a bullet in the back of my head completely with impunity.

This is a decision made and announced by fiat by the Obama administration. As Congress has abandoned any interest at all in protecting civil liberties, those issues are especially damning to the President. For that reason alone-- not even just civil liberties, but that one issue, the assertion of a universal and unchecked right to assassination-- I would never support the Obama candidacy. That alone, for me, is enough.

Update: It's been credibly argued to me in a back and forth with an emailer that it's stupid and counterproductive of me to talk about Balloon Juice as a whole when I'm responding to a post by a particular member. (She was much more polite than that, but that was her point.) So I apologize for that.


Chris_ said...

The fact Tea Partiers get up in arms about tax money going to poor people rather than executive powers stuff should make it clear their whole liberty schtick is total and complete BS.

I hate to open up the same old debate, but... here goes: I remember a lot of folks sitting out the 2000 election and then we got a whole lot worse president because of it. Refusing to vote for the least worst candidate is scary when the worst candidate is likely to be infinitely scarier. It's a sad part of American politics, but it's one that's changed by getting folks convinced of electoral reform and making our institutions more majoritarian. George W. didn't care that lots of lefties thought Gore was bad; Pres. Bachmann won't either.

Freddie said...

Forgive me for answering a question with a question, but-- what is the endpoint of that thinking? Consider how far it can take you.

Aidan said...

I can certainly think of what the endpoint of convincing liberals not to support the Democratic Party is, and I don't think it's going to be the scenario you envision. Trying to get Democrats to tailor their appeal to a tiny, electorally insignificant fraction of the voting population is a recipe for a Republican stranglehold.

Looking at the current high profile members of the Democratic Party, I can't think of many that I see eye to eye with more than Nancy Pelosi. I think she was a terrific speaker and I think the legislation produced in the House in the 111th Congress was vastly better than the final product that went through the Senate. I think that Nancy Pelosi's platform is a good platform. She's also the most unpopular Congressional leader ever. 58% of the country views her unfavorably, 47% very unfavorably. If the entire party was made of Nancy Pelosis, I think the legislative agenda would be better but the outcomes would be far worse, and it would unquestionable be a good thing for the Republican Party. Liberal purism just does not hold a significant enough appeal to the majority of the country. The Democratic Party has to deal with that unfortunate reality, or we'll go back to the McGovern/Carter/Mondale/Dukakis days.

Freddie said...

You've misunderstood my question.

And, by the way-- that attitude is why we lose.

paul h. said...

America is a pretty conservative country, for better or worse; unless we move to a parliamentary system, there's really no point to try to like 'reform' the Democratic party into something that only reflects 10% of the electorate.

Anyway I'm interested in what you thought of Greenwald as a speaker ... I sincerely feel like he's the worst blogger on earth in terms of actual writing ability, but his TV/lecture appearances seem somewhat better.

Aidan said...

The endpoint of Anwar al-Awlaki is that people who recruit terrorists, who train terrorists, who motivate potential terrorists, who have been linked to at least four attempts to murder American civilians, who present a vital threat to national security can be assassinated. Nothing gives the indication that the government is claiming the right to assassinate any citizen for any reason at any time.

As for my larger point, that fact that you're in this much of a minority among SELF-IDENTIFYING LIBERALS should give an indication of the viability of applying your ideal vision of the Democratic Party to a national agenda. "That attitude" is not why we lose - we lose when we mistake the degree to which the median voter agrees with us, when we mistake the correctness of much of the liberal agenda for a nationally appealing agenda, when we try to focus on satisfying the small fraction of the voting population who identify as liberals and not independent voters, Midwesterners, swing-state voters.

It would be a mistake to unlearn the lessons of the pre-Clinton Democratic Party.

Freddie said...

It would be an ethical mistake to stand for nothing and compromise my way to positions I abhor. If you're saying that I have to choose between principles and popularity, well. No problem.

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

But what else can a progressive do? I hate to say it, but it seems unlikely that anybody who actually agrees with you on that issue will have a chance at the Presidency.

Are there any issues on which you think the Republican candidate will be "better" than Obama? Is Obama in *any* way better than a Republican? If not, what else can you do but try to inch the country "leftward"?

I honestly don't know the answer; nor can I really even guess.

Freddie said...

All I can do: push. Push push push.

I'll never get what I want, I understand that. So I just push.

seabe said...

I take the idea of supporting the Democratic candidate, regardless. However, I think primary challenges are the only way for the left to assert power. It's the only option. You can't start another party; you can't build the Green Party, at least not in the context that they think we should do it (they're only concerned with national politics...politics needs to build a local base and spread, not top-down).

I also disagree with Aidan. I don't believe we should keep supporting moderates for the sake of winning; especially not in the Congress. If we're in California, Feinstein should be primaried. Mark Warner should be primaried. I'd rather lose a few seats and send the message in THIS manner, rather than sitting it out. When we sit out, the Republicans win, and the party leaders take that to mean they weren't conservative enough. When we actively engage in primaries to get a more liberal candidate, they get the hint that they're not representing their party.

A key difference between the two parties: Republicans actively pushed their party to the right by doing this. Liberals responded by voting 3rd party or sitting it out. One party was right, the other was wrong, and all of America is paying the price for it.

Aidan said...

It's not just about a popularity contest. Principles start to seem less appealing when you're doomed to a permanent minority. I won't just be voting for Barack Obama in 2012 to deny Republicans a political victory, it's because I think there isn't a metric by which the country won't be worse off with a Republican in the White House.

Aidan said...

I guess the difference between me and Seabe (and Freddie) is that I don't think that a Democratic Party which is a perfect mirror of my political views in every race in the country would be, on the whole, a net-positive for liberalism or the country. I accept the fact that I'm in the minority on certain things, and even if I think the majority is wrong or overly compromising, I think there is a larger picture at stake.

matoko.kusanagi said...

wallah freddie.
I have shame for you.
Who ever would have thought in the old days of Culture 11 that this would happen?
I never thought i'd be ashamed of you.
It is shameful that 25% of america preschoolers live below the poverty line.
It is shameful that America spends 3 billion dollars a month to commit atrocities and make more Taliban in A-stan and Iraq on a failed missionary effort that can never work.
It is shameful that Sully pimps Ryans “plan” as courageous…its a pack of anti-empirical garbage.
And those horrible people are the enemies of humanity and they are purely evil.
But y’all just go wander in EDK's Free Market Fantasy Forest with the glibertarian teddy bears and “liberal-tarian” unicorns.
I’m sure the innovation of the market will yet save us all.

matoko_chan said...

quitter. said...

I'm not exactly following your comment about BJ and Sullivan, Freddie.

Are you saying that they've overdone it and their criticism is resembling -- or will soon become -- a kind of enforcement of rhetorical uniformity among anyone who isn't currently pro-GOP?

scott said...

I followed the point. We have a choice. We can obey the increasingly shrill commands of people like the BJ crowd who insist that we still our disagreements and clap harder, or we can tell the powers that be that what they're doing isn't good enough. How do you think the conservatives got from people laughing at them fifty years ago to where they are today? They pushed and pushed and, if need be, punished their own guys if they didn't get what they wanted. As Americans, we pride ourselves on being hard-headed and pragmatic, but Dem voters strike me as the softest touch in the world. Politics is a transactional business, and it should be viewed that way, with a couple of overriding questions - what am I supposed to get if I vote for you, and will you commit to fighting for that? If the answers to those questions aren't satisfactory, then only suckers continue to pony up their support without getting anything back. Conservatives learned that a long time ago, to their profit. Why shouldn't we?

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...


I don't think that's how Conservatives got where they are. I think it was more that Southern Democrats got mad about the Civil Rights act and middle-class people thought that the anti- Vietnam war protesters were weirdos, and thus they started voting for the people who weren't like them.

In other words, the Democrats base fell apart, and just went by default to the Republicans.

But, that's just my guess. said...

What does that have to do with criticizing andrew sullivan for supporting ryan's "plan"?

Those seem like separate points.

edwin said...

Forgive me for answering a question with a question, but-- what is the endpoint of that thinking? Consider how far it can take you.

Don't think that question can be faced - let alone understood.

Here's something to consider. The anarchist boycott of the Spanish elections resulted in a right wing government and indirectly in Franco.

I think that the correct expression is - you are screwed - and so is the Democratic Party. I don't know how the Democratic Party can survive this ever rightward march into overt fascism. At some point the base will rebel and stop voting for it.


There has been a bit of talk about the wonders of Parliamentary Democracy. I think that a bit of studying is in order before one touts its joys.

I live in a country where we have a parliamentary system based on first past the post. Lets just say that sometimes i think that yes it is better than the US system in the same way that the Democratic party is better than the Republican party.

Jack Crow said...

Electoralism can only buttress teh system we have. Voting cannot negate or counter the influence of money, the capture of regulatory agencies, or the permanent hierarchies in the departments, the military and the various state and federal bureaucracies.

If you want to be taken seriously, you have to change the field of contest. You have to engage in conflict on ground of your own choosing.

The ballot box - like the criminal justice system - is their territory.

And they aren't afraid of the people who participate in its illusions and delusions of efficacy.

Freddie said...

Sure, they're separate points, articulated in one post.

Matoko I have no earthly idea what you are criticizing me for. You appear to be mad that I'm not a)opposing Libya or b)responding to Wisconsin, when in fact I have done almost nothing but that for months. You're speaking as if I've changed my opinions since "the Culture11 days," but that simply isn't true. So I don't know what to tell you.

Anonymous said...

@#1, Chris: Back to Gore v. Bush again? That's old ground. But here's some facts for you: Tens of thousands of self identified Democrats in Florida voted for Bush; an order of magnitude greater number of Democrats didn't even bother to vote at all. But it's all the fault of a few Nader voters? That is pure bunk.

But for the sheer sake of argument, let us concede your point. Any rational analysis of politics would posit that such a "valuable" constituency would have some influence. Well that constituency has precisely zero influence. Go figure.

As long as you give your vote away for free, you will be a doormat.

Aidan said...

Keep in mind that by 2016, Antonin Scalia will be 80, Anthony Kennedy will be 80, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, and Stephen Breyer will be 77. We could very well see more than one vacancy during the next presidential term. Personally, I'd rather see a replacement in the mold of Sotomayor/Kagan rather than Roberts/Alito.

SDL said...

I won't really address the "not voting for Obama" issue until you articulate it at greater length. You might even convince me, but it's unlikely.

But let me address the issue of Greenwald: I really don't know at this point what to think of him. On the one hand, he seems to me to be a consistent voice against torture, cruelty, and rights abuses. I agree with him on the moral bases of these issues. But there also seems to be a kind of... well, not slippery slope exactly. But extremity to his vision. It's as if we're on the verge of death squads roaming the countryside.

This is where my ambivalence comes in: History *has* told us that the government always abuses its power (cf. J. Edgar Hoover). But that same history has not produced a fascist state in America(yet).

I suppose what bothers me about your position is its absolutism. Yes, this issue is crucially important. Yes, this kind of power is an assault on decency and freedom. But are there really no differences between how Barack Obama and, say, Sarah Palin would use this power?

Maybe I'm wrong in asking that question--I haven't read Greenwald much of late, and he may have had compelling evidence in his talk. If so, I need to know what that is.

Michael said...

Curious whether Glenn telegraphed his decision respecting 2012. He of course, foresaw much of what you mention around civil liberties that is wrong with Obama, but endorsed him against McCain to the extent of saying that it was extremely important that Obama win (because it was the only outcome that would prevent a McCain presidency) nevertheless on completely separate grounds (abortion and other matters IIRC). Did Glenn issue a clear statement that he will not take a similar position when it comes to the general this year?

Michael said...

...err, next year?

Richard Bottoms said...

Are you insane? The GOP is content to let birther spouting idiots like Trump be their champion and mean old Obama's so disheartening that you can't vote for him?

Republicans stand ready to rip away abortion, Medicare, Social Security, and pile even more tax breaks on for the wealthy, but you can't bring yourself to support the party fighting it.

Principled, courageous, and just plain dumb.

Only a dreamer expected a liberal messiah to rise up after the 2008 election, and in case you hadn't noticed so of you fellow progressives who fell out of love with Obama put the GOP in charge of the House eliminating what little support Obama had to begin with.

As a black man I can't afford the liberal fantasy of Barrack Obama charging up the hill singing "Joe Hill". I'll settle for someone who isn't actively trying to destroy the social safety net that's left.

All I know is you'll whine and cry if the GOP takes the White House about how bad it all is.

Michelle said...

I guess I'll wait until you post your reasons for not supporting Obama in 2012 to respond. Or I won't bother, more likely. Taking on these kinds of arguments always feels like arguing over the existence of God, impossible to even agree on the terrain of debate. I believe the only way a person gets to the decision you indicate you've already made is to meet some a prior emotional need. In other words, it feels good to declare such an inane choice, take a side for once and for all and for all the world to see. Now I am sure you would not take kindly to such a view. I can understand how it would seem condescending. This is the reason I try to avoid arguments about both third party voting and religion. But the fact that you are announcing a decision about 2012 today, for who knows what reason, really ought to give you pause.

With respect to the narrower topic. I hope that you will read this judicial opinion - - and not just rely on Greenwald. I'll admit that I stopped listening to Greenwald some time back when I caught him more than once flat out misrepresenting facts in reprehensible fashion on his blog. My sense is that he does this with some frequency and rarely if ever goes back to correct the record. He is a conclusions first, facts last kind of a guy, and find that I just don't have the patience for that anymore.

I have not yet read the whole opinion, BTW. I'll try to do it today. I wonder if you read it, what you would take away from it.

Sirkowski said...

This is silly. Please stop being silly.

Death Panel Truck said...

"All I know is you'll whine and cry if the GOP takes the White House about how bad it all is."

Exactly. And they'll never for a moment consider their own complicity in handing over the country to the loony right wing. Instead, they'll sit in a circle jerk and praise each other for their ideological purity.

Hey Freddie - sit out the 2012 election. And don't forget to welcome your new Republican overlords.

Anonymous said...


There are some ex-friends in Florida whose heads I'd still like to stuff in a toilet bowl even after 11 years since their "principled vote".

As a Latino male, I don't have the luxury of not voting against those who'd like to force me and my family out of "their country" even though we are citizens too...

Mrs. Polly said...

But Anonymous, don't you see? What happens to you as a Latino, what happens to women and people of color, isn't nearly as important as this here principled fellow's righteousness. Alerting him to the likelihood that a TeaGOP presidency would result in disaster for fragile people already on the edge is intimidation of the worst, shrillest sort--why are Balloon Juicers so shrill?

Your well-being isn't nearly important as sending a message to the Democrats. Maybe in another eight years, when the Dems next get a chance to send in some poor schmoe to try, say, getting our troops out of the Republic of Georgia, Iran,Libya, Syria, and Venezuela, Freddie's message will ring loud and clear. This isn't about you; it's about Glenn Greenwald's dissatisfaction, because civil liberties under a President Huckabee would be so much better.

rootless_e said...

Just to start Fred, Glenn Greenwalds discussions of the Government's position on the Al-Awaqi case are not close to being true.

rootless_e said...

The second point is that left wing purists who don't know any history are doomed to repeat Ernst Thallman's error.