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?:
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
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.)