Saturday, October 6, 2012

predictions and hypotheticals

Via Glenn Greenwald, here's a comment where Markos makes the simple point that his blog (and in the larger perspective, the phenomenon of liberal blogs as meaningful and powerful) was founded on criticizing Democrats and pushing them towards the left. One of the funny things about the current attack on left-wing critics of Obama is that left-wing criticism of Hilary went a long way towards establishing legitimacy for Obama's candidacy, back when he suffered from a "you can't be serious" problem.

It's the first reply to kos's comment, though, that I want to focus on, because I've heard it a hundred times before: yes, we should criticize Obama, but not now. Not during an election season.

First of all, I think that attitude demonstrates the low priority that people give the issue of our military conduct in the Muslim world. Second, it's rather unhelpful to say "if you really care about this issue, you should raise it at exactly the time when expressing it will have the least effect." Yes, American elections are a shitshow of epic proportions. But they are the time when government is most responsive to its citizens. (This is slight praise, in context.) If you really care about a political principle, refusing to speak of it in election time is lunacy. Telling people that this issue is not worth talking about during election time essentially begs the question; it assumes the unimportance of the issue, exactly what we're arguing about.

Most of all, though, this argument would be a lot more compelling if I hadn't just lived through the past four years. I and others have criticized Obama (on drones, on medical marijuana policy, on education, a lot of issues) for a long time. I was criticizing him a year ago and a year before that. And every time, no matter what, it was never the time. Not during the health care fight! Not during the budget fight! Not right before midterm elections! Not right after midterm elections; we just got creamed, we need to rally together! The time was never, ever right. And so it will be with this election. My prediction is that if Obama is reelected, there will be no greater space for criticism from his left. The liberal blogs that are so aggressively defending his every move won't stop because the election is over. And we won't see any invigorated push from conventional progressives against our inexcusable conduct in the greater Middle East.

*****
As a way of exploring the logical consequences of lesser evilism, I asked the other day whether people would vote for Zell Miller if he was the Democratic presidential candidate. Some people complained that this is an illegitimate reductio. That actually isn't the reductio at all; taking this thinking to its logical conclusion gets you the kind of society where the candidates are all chosen by the ruling military junta. But okay, you want a more plausible candidate: Joe Lieberman. If you think that's absurd, remember that 8 years ago he was a major primary candidate for one of our two political parties. You don't have to imagine, like, Earth Prime to envision a Lieberman candidacy.

So the question is not merely whether I'd be obligated to support Lieberman, as I supposedly am obligated to support Obama. The question is whether criticism of Presidential Candidate Lieberman would be as insistently marginalized as it is now with President Obama. I think the answer has to be yes, according to the lesser evil binarism that is so popular right now. As long as you've identified the better choice, even if it's only marginally closer to your values than the partisan alternative, you're stuck. You've got to suck it up and shut up. Even if it's a betrayal of things that you deeply believe in.

*****
And, god, how bleak. What a terrible depressing vision of human political organization.

What I am looking for from people who take a hard, pro-Obama line, I guess, is a coherent theory of democracy. Because when I hear people insisting that everyone has got to get on board and let go of their unpopular criticisms, I wonder how they think long term change happens, how political evolution happens. Part of what's frustrating is that people are so inconsistent in how they say we should proceed. Some say that the important thing is to engage in the process, so you should vote for a third party candidate. But many say that voting for a third party is to throw your vote away. Some say that the place to challenge Democrats to be more liberal (and less militaristic) is through the primary process, but again, during primary season, I read in many places that primarying Obama would be the height of left-wing absurdity. Many just speak vaguely of organizing and agitating, never being exactly clear what kinds of agitating are permitted, or why this theoretical kind is allowed but the kind undertaken by prominent critics Obama is not.

From 2002 through 2008, American liberals waged a campaign of resistance and criticism against American aggression in the Muslims world. And for good reason: our conduct since 9/11 has been a profound injustice, involving collective punishment, violation of international laws and egalitarian ethics, and the dehumanization of over a billion people. In response, an apparatus of refusal was created-- blogs and documentaries and books and organizations and ideas. This apparatus has proven to be insufficient. But the attempt has meant everything; it has changed the landscape and expanded the boundaries of the possible. Just a few short years ago, this paragraph would be entirely uncontroversial on almost any liberal blog. I'm sorry to say that this appears to have changed.

The Democrats are my preferred political party, warts and all, and I have been a registered Democrat since I have been legally eligible. But I refuse to be held hostage by narrow partisan need, and I sincerely believe that both the moral interests of America and the long term political interests of the Democratic party are served by presenting an alternative to Republican militarism and anti-Muslim aggression. The only way to create that alternative is to press for it, vigorously and without apology. If Democrats prove unwilling to be moved, then the criticism will have to function as the endorsement of another way, of a politics without a party.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

So ya gonna vote for President Obama, or what? ;-) -K.

Anonymous said...

Still, I am on a Balloon Juice, TBogg rant.

I feel certain there will be no correct time to crtique Obama. After the Election, the emphasis would switch to giving him Congressional air for legislative triumphs.

Then there is the near-permanant proscription against 'appearing' racist. Many have wondered what became of the moderates. They thrive at putative liberal blogs.

Obama will be a lame-duck, as well. He can't be expected to do more, in their opinion. The angry black man must stay indoors.

Ben Franklin

trizzlor said...

You had to go nutpicking at Kos to keep the pity party going? None of specific bloggers you have been debating with (Ballon Juice, LGM, TBogg, etc.) have urged you to stop criticizing Obama or argued that now is the wrong time. The statement "if you really care about this issue, you should raise it at exactly the time when expressing it will have the least effect." has never been uttered by any of those people, which is why you had to trawl comments to draw it out. Their criticism was of your proposed solution, which is to abstain from the democratic process or vote third party. The fact that you've spent multiple posts explicitly dancing around that issue is telling.

Anonymous said...

trizzlor said...
"You had to go nutpicking at Kos"

I note one of your fav expressions is 'libtard' unmasking you rather deftly.

Ben Franklin

JK said...

I don't know anything about "trizzlor" or his favorite expressions, but his comment is 100% right-on. There have been a lot of objections to the last few posts posed in comments that are thoughtful, sympathetic, and strategic. None have been responded to.

Anonymous said...

10 paragraphs, divided into three sections, to say "The supporters of the party in power support the decisions and policies of the party in power."

parsimon said...

Freddie, I hear you, and the structure of this argument is as old as the hills.

I honestly don't understand why you think that LGM (e.g.) refuses to criticize Obama, while still feeling the need to vote for him. One can do both of those things. Many people do.

trizzlor said...

Franklin I seriously have no idea what you're talking about and I will not have my anonymous on-line persona sullied! I will not stand for it. I tried google and the only examples I could find was sarcastically referring to myself in conservative circles. But thanks anyway for the thoughtful response.

Dan Miller said...

Freddie, if you're looking for a theory of how change happens, here are a few thoughts:

--It happens from the inside of a party, not from outsiders pissing in. If you want influence, people have to listen to you, and they don't tend to listen to those whom they see as opponents

--It happens slowly. Odds are, the Democratic nominee for president in 2032 is an adjunct professor or a state representative or a campaign worker right now. It's a lot easier to influence those people than it is to influence a high-level politician

--It happens at lower levels. Presidential elections are so large and ponderous that any one individual can't really hope to influence them, unless they're much more influential than you or I. Sheldon Adelson or David Axelrod could hope to see some concrete result from their activity, but they're exceptional and most people aren't in that position. On the other hand, it would be very feasible for you or I to become the county chair of a local party and choose candidates for mayor who agree with us (thus seeding the ground for future improvement; see my second point).

Freddie said...

10 paragraphs, divided into three sections, to say "The supporters of the party in power support the decisions and policies of the party in power."

That's not all that I said, and if that's the definition of how a political part works, that's incredibly creepy.

Matthew said...

Your argument is getting gradually more reasonable with each post, which is good, I suppose.
There's probably not much point in repeating this yet another time,but the people on the other of this argument (those I'm familiar with, anyway) have explained their theory of democracy in detail. Erik Loomis has a post at LGM going into detail about the best way to change a political party, for example. You're ideas on this front, on the other hand, seem to consist of blogging and abstention/third party voting, both perfectly fine ideas, but ones that LGM and Solnit criticized--as methods for accomplishing political change-- at length. You don't seem able or willing to understand that these people (maybe not all of them, but certainly LGM and Solnit) share your goals but disagree with your methods. You may think they're wrong (I think Solnit is), but your response has been to attack their motives, not their arguments. The strawman you're attacking has gotten progressively more real, but it's still pretty straw-filled.

Anonymous said...

if that's the definition of how a political party works, that's incredibly creepy.

Here's what I don't get. You're a grad student, a teacher, a political activist, yet you write like you've never read a sentence of history. You present yourself like you have no idea how people really think or behave, how they have always thought and behaved.

Democracy isn't a philosophy. Democracy is a mechanism which allows people to vote for one or another of a limited set of options. And when you allow people to vote, they will vote for evil stuff, for several reasons. To begin with, while individual human beings may be perfectly nice one-on-one, humans in large groups are easily frightened, so anything that's perceived as threatening to the security of the herd will be rejected. But there's also the fact that most people treat voting like a blood sport - they pick a team, and support that team no matter what, because the worst thing in the world would be for the other team to succeed. Democrats vs Republicans is no different than Yankees vs Red Sox to most voters. They choose a team, and they will never not support that team, because it's zero-sum: If their team loses, the other team wins, and that can't be allowed to happen.

Bear in mind, I don't say this as an elitist - the leaders of political parties are just as dumb, and much more evil, than the voters they corral and herd. Because seriously - you've got to be a sociopathic narcissist to want to run for public office at all. These people are scum, and they should all be hunted and driven into the wilderness to live on tree bark and insects.

To sum up, if you're expecting good things from human beings in a group, you're destined for a long life of repeated disappointment.

Freddie said...

You're ideas on this front, on the other hand, seem to consist of blogging and abstention/third party voting, both perfectly fine ideas,

I have been involved in direct local activism for my entire adult life. It is outside of the scope of this blog.

Now, the fact that you believe that you can assume everything about me is a product of exactly the reason that I don't engage with a lot of what comes my way: because it comes prepackaged in an idiom of condescension and superiority. And this idiom is expressed not because of the content of my opinions or of their expression but because they stem from straightforward moral convictions about the world. You and many others have been convinced that the LGM crowd is inherently more serious because it is expressed in the manner of the establishment. The discourse of the establishment, because it is predicated on maintaining the professional and social commitments of its participants, shuns direct moral discourse. So you get your Robert Farleys and your Scott Lemieuxs, who occasionally express opinions that are like my own. But they code them in the language of the establishment-- worshipful of power and disdainful of efforts to undermine it. That makes you take them seriously. I refuse to engage in that language and so you refuse to take me seriously. Which is okay: I do not want to be taken seriously in that way. It is not a currency I could ever desire.

I mean, dude-- your comments have the general attitude of a harried but patient professor, patiently explaining to some wide-eyed undergraduate. I'm a grown ass man. Do you really think that I'm unaware of how I could encode my arguments in order to be taken seriously by the Very Serious, patiently explaining, establishment liberals? I don't want it.

My purpose here is not just to express my opinions. My purpose is to demonstrate that there are other ways in which to express opinions, and that the official style of blogging inherently privileges certain types of inquiry and forbids others. That's precisely why LGM is such a hive of discourse policing. I mean, I just published this post: http://lhote.blogspot.com/2012/09/blogic-and-ways-of-wonk.html And I meant it.

I hear what you are saying every day. And I know exactly how you're going to respond. And I'm not picking on you, because as far as these things go you've been very nice about it. What bothers me is the persistence of the belief that I can't possibly be aware of all of this. I have done this for five years now. Everything I'm doing here is an informed choice.

It appears that the hardest thing in the world for people to grasp is the idea "I don't want your approval."

Freddie said...

tl;dr: I don't encode my arguments in the conventional style because I find that style inimical to a discourse of genuine change, and while people can (and constantly do) criticize me for any and all of the choices contained in that, I wish they would acknowledge them as choices.

Paul Sherrard said...

One of the front pagers at Balloon Juice "responded" to you with a post about how voting for Nader in Florida was the single worst -- as in, the most culpable, the ethically worst -- thing she's ever done in her life.

There are several reasons this is an amazing thing to say. First of all, it locates morality entirely in results and not at all in intentions. Second, it blames voters, and voters alone, for the 2000 scenario: the Democratic Party bears no responsibility for the betrayals that led voters to abandon it. Third, it places a massive emphasis on the idea that Bush's policies were a catastrophe, in the very act of excusing Obama for embracing and furthering those policies. Fourth, the writer feels a weight of responsibility for the acts of a president whom she did not vote for, but not for Obama's acts.

Most interesting to me, though, is that she writes as if her vote alone would have elected Gore, when even going by the mere numbers, nearly 2,000 other Floridians would have had to change their votes too. Yet this vote of hers, which literally would not have changed anything if it were different, wracks her with incomparable guilt to this day. This shows that she appraises her action in catagorical terms; she applies some form of the Kantian test to it. In other words, she does now exactly what every sincere third-party voter has always done. And, amazingly, the moral to her is that she must always vote Democrat from now on.

Anonymous said...

I don't encode my arguments in the conventional style because I find that style inimical to a discourse of genuine change, and while people can (and constantly do) criticize me for any and all of the choices contained in that, I wish they would acknowledge them as choices.

I totally get this. I think you're making entirely the wrong choices, and I think you're making them based on a fatally flawed view of a) the political process and b) human nature. My worldview boils down to this: It's not that "the system is corrupt"; it's that corruption is the system. If you want to do something that will benefit a large number of people, find a way for it also to benefit one sociopathic billionaire, and convince him of its efficacy and profit potential.

(N.B.: I am the same person who made these comments: October 6, 2012 6:32 PM; October 7, 2012 9:20 AM.)

Susan of Texas said...

As we can see here, the idea of rejecting authority and living outside the boundaries of a group is unimaginable. It is taken for granted that we must have a leader, leaders are superior to followers, and followers must support and obey their leaders.

Refusal to obey authority, refusal to come to heel when chastized by those who police the borders of the group, refusal to submit to the norms of the group--these are all impossibilities; they cannot exist so they will not exist. Chaos surely would result from the breaking down of the authority's order.

These people will never criticize their leader. To criticize him is to undermine his authority and risk losing the emotional support that comes from belonging to a group.

Matthew said...

All right, let's have some moral discourse!
First, far be it from me to downplay or undervalue your activism, which is great and which I did not mean to suggest doesn't exist.
Second, I could point out that for someone who hates condescension and superiority, you do have a habit of accusing all your opponents of basically being unconscious authoritarians who can't help but worship power, which is pretty condescending and superior itself. I could, and I guess I just did, but please let's not get into a fight about who's more condescending.
Anyway, I think it's unfair to suggest that I don't take you seriously, since I've now posted four blog comments in my life and they're all on your blog. I don't think LGM is more serious than you, but on this subject I think they're more correct.
I'm agnostic on what mode of internet communication is best for pursuing genuine change, but these different discourses aren't incommensurable; it is possible to address arguments made in one using the other. So let's see if I can surprise you:
Is it acceptable, morally speaking, to endorse/support/vote for (not the same, but I'll follow you in conflating them)a "less evil" candidate whose views profoundly contradict one's deeply held beliefs? This is probably at the root of our disagreement, because I think that question is flawed. What is moral is what will make the world a better place, and under a scenario--admittedly unlikely--where my vote matters, it seems to me that the world would be better if I vote for Obama than if I don't. So would I have grudgingly supported Lieberman against Bush in 2004, yes, I would have. However, please note that Lieberman lost the primary, and was never really all that serious a contender, precisely because of opposition from liberals. That's how it should work: you use the primary process to make the Democratic Party look more like you want it to (This is obviously not the be all and end all of political work, though). But this process takes time, and it isn't going to work if you give up on the Democrats somewhere in the middle of it. I've fallen out of your idiom, though, so let me put it this way:

In your writing about education, which is excellent by the way, you often emphasize the fact that there is no quick fix, no simple way to magically make everything perfect, that progress if it's going to happen will be of necessity gradual, and that we might have to accept that there are some problems we just can't solve. I have a similar attitude about politics: Things suck, and what I can do about it, if anything, is small and requires me to support people who are reprehensible, but if that's the best option, then I have to take it. Yes, have to. I feel it's my moral obligation to take actions which will improve the world, even if the only feasible ones aren't very good. There's no magic fix to politics any more than education ("a politics without party"? What does that mean?),and if that's a depressing view of political organization, so be it.

P.S. My thoughts about this are largely drawn from Michael Harrington, and are shared by In These Times and as far as I can tell Bhaskar Sunkara,so I guess the DSA, ITT, and Jacobin are all "Very Serious, establishment liberal" organizations.

Matthew said...

One more thing:
To Paul Sherrard,
One of the big underlying differences here is that I and most of the people on my side do think that morality lies in results rather than intentions,and Freddie and the others apparently don't. I thought about addressing this consequentialist/deontoligist divide more explicitly in my comment directly above, but it was already pretty long. Maybe later.
To Susan of Texas(so two more things, I guess),
I assume you don't read any of these people, because plenty of them criticize the President and other Democrats all the time.

Susan of Texas said...

I read Balloon Juice and LGM every day, and frequently read the commenters as well. They don't criticize, they discuss. And their conclusion is always the same: operate within the group's permitted parameters for the good of the authority.

In one article LGM explains that voting for a third party won't help because another candidate might not advance left-liberal goals or be a third evil. The author dismisses left-liberal ideas as unpopular (not of the group) and says their or other alternate candidates could not change public opinion anyway. He discusses criticisms of left-liberalism to dismiss them.

They also discuss the debate, saying that Obama was fine, or awful, but either way say it doesn't matter.

Another post discusses Obama's Grand Bargain, avoiding the fact that Obama is in favor, saying it can't be enforced anyway.

They wrote a post exculping Obama for inaction, with the ususal excuse that he is powerless.

And that takes us back to the vociferous arguments that stated there was only one option possible; vote for Obama.

JK said...

Goodness, Matthew! You are doing good, serious work here! I just hope you haven't expended too much time or energy on it, as I can only imagine how it will be dismissed or ignored, but excellent comments all around, and I appreciate your mentioning all the people outside the mainstream liberal establishment supporting voting Dem.

Matthew said...

See, that is a good example of what Rebecca Solnit's post was about: this kind of leftier-than-thou purist insistence on tearing down anyone willing to engage in the political system as it exists is not helping the cause. I could enumerate the ways in which your reading of LGM is unfair, wrong, or just kind of strange(do you disagree that left-liberal ideas are unpopular?), but what would be the point? You'll just dismiss me as a group-obsessed leader-worshipping conformist authoritarian, which you'll likely do regardless.
The tendency to inflate strategic differences into moral ones is very harmful to the left, I think.

Matthew said...

Last comment obviously in reference to Susan of Texas, not JK (Thanks, JK!)
Also, this commenting thing is a bit addicting. I'm not sure whether I should be concerned or not.

Susan of Texas said...

Please do refute my argument. If you have evidence to the contrary that will negate the premise--left blogs have discouraged dissent and supported their leader despite his lack of liberal values, which supposedly is what bind us together. Since you do not present an argument and do not realize we are not here to "further the cause," that is, further the career of Obama, however, you are right that we would not get far.

Because--and this is something authoritarians find hard to understand--we should not be fighting to support our leader, we should be supporting our own values. No matter how hard it is, how long it takes, or how many people we have to fight.

Nathan Wright said...

What stuns me about the Matthews of the world is their utter, abject myopia. They can't imagine any future course of events other than a linear projection of what they imagine to be the current trends, out to infinity. If the corporate media tells them there are only two candidates, well then, that's how it is, always was, and always will be; on the sixth day, God created the Robomney as the presidential debate, right?

So, humanity's deepest moral impulse, the source of all real historical change -- the universal yearning for justice and truth -- is shunted aside in favor of the fierce urgency of electing whatever bitchclown is being shoved down our throats by the oligarchy.

Anonymous said...

They can't imagine any future course of events other than a linear projection of what they imagine to be the current trends, out to infinity.

I've never seen it summed up with such precision.

Freddie, pardon the randomness, but I know you're an MMA fan and I was wondering if you listen to Rogan's podcast, and if so, what do you think about what he's doing? Sometimes I get the feeling that he's on the forefront of some kind of strange, new Silent Majority. I also listened to Art Bell as a teenager and was convinced that aliens were going to land any day, so my discernment regarding these things is sketchy to say the least.

Perhaps I'm simply fascinated by the peace-loving, psychedelic, alpha male demographic, something I didn't even realize existed.

Bob Natas said...

While I think that our host's heart is in the right place, I'm not convinced that voting D, voting Other, or not voting matters too much at this point; not in the "dimes worth of difference" sense, though. The whole "Ralph Nader, history's greatest monster because BUSH!" is an idea that I wrestled with for a bit; I came to a different conclusion than did the Balloon Juice front pager; rather than Bush being an aberration, what if Bush was the "apotheosis of the American presidency" (which isn't my phrasing, but I wish it was).

Matthew said...

"the Matthews of the world"
Such as Bhaskar Sunkara and Noam Chomsky? I'll take that as a compliment.
I'm not sure I understand the rest of your post. I can imagine all kinds of futures, but I do think that a linear projection of current trends is the most likely future. Do you disagree? I don't think that's a good thing, but an understanding of how politics actually works and a willingness to engage in that admittedly imperfect sytem seem to me to be prerequisites of changing it.
Susan of Texas,
I'm in serious danger of letting my newly constructed patient-but-harried online persona collapse into harried-and-irritable, but let's have a go:

"LGM explains that voting for a third party won't help because another candidate might not advance left-liberal goals or be a third evil"
This was in reference to Gary Johnson, about which it is true.

"The author dismisses left-liberal ideas as unpopular (not of the group) and says their or other alternate candidates could not change public opinion anyway"

First of all, the author (it's Lemieux,I think) agrees with left-liberal ideas, so they are of the group. However, with the American public, left-liberal ideas (especially about foreign policy) are pretty unpopular. If you don't think that's true, well, I wish I lived in your alternate universe*. The last point about whether candidates can change public opinion is a bit more complicated, and I'm not sure what I think about it, but it is an honest point of view with evidence to back it up.

"They also discuss the debate, saying that Obama was fine, or awful, but either way say it doesn't matter."
However you think he did, the evidence shows that debates rarely have a significant impact on election outcomes, so in that sense it doesn't really matter.

"They wrote a post exculping Obama for inaction, with the ususal excuse that he is powerless."

They weren't exculping, and they weren't saying Obama is powerless, but it is both true and, I think, good that the President is a constrained actor in our system, and there are many other actors with whom he has to negotiate. Not everything that happens in our political system can be laid at his feet. (Drones are largely an exception to this, of course, which they always acknowledge.)

One final note: The main substance of Freddie's complaints over these last few posts has been about discourse policing, where anyone who expresses opinions outside the acceptable discourse is subject to personal attacks and angry dismissals. I think this comment thread has demonstrated that this phenomenon is not restricted to mainstream liberal blogs. Freddie hasn't done this, but to Susan and Nathan Wright I would just say: hypocrisy alert!

*See, that was irritable. I did warn you.

Susan of Texas said...

I appreciate the warning regarding your mental state, Matthew, but I shall endeavor to survive the debilitating emotional threat of your irritibility.

However your response was most measured, considered and pleasant, in that it expressed harmonic agreement with the LGM posts. Most unfortunately, however, it did not address the matter in question, namely, the uncritical support of such sites as LGM for Obama.

As for Obama's use of drone, the crew at LGM finds that reprehensible, but not reprehensible enough to do anything about it. While their criticism of this practice is admirable, it has all the weight of a mother who murmers to her child that Johnny reallly mustn't tease the dog, while letting that child toss the animal into the path of an oncoming car. Such sentiments are admirable but impotent.

Paul Sherrard said...

"One of the big underlying differences here is that I and most of the people on my side do think that morality lies in results rather than intentions"

For the record (and I can't speak for Freddie), the operative word in what I said was "entirely"; i.e. morality doesn't lie entirely in results. I.e., without committing myself to a strictly deontological position, I believe intentions matter. I think this is a pretty basic, traditional and widespread belief. Old sayings attribute a moral component to intention: "it's the thought that counts"; "virtue is its own reward"; etc. It informs our laws. We punish people for intended but unconsummated immorality: attempted murder is a felony; the FBI arrests its home-grown terror cells while of course never allowing them to do actual harm, etc. In short I doubt that "most people on your side" are strict consequentialists.

Paul Sherrard said...

And by the way, Matthew,

"this kind of leftier-than-thou purist insistence on tearing down anyone willing to engage in the political system as it exists is not helping the cause."

OK, who does this? This "tearing down"? Certainly not Freddie. It's done to him constantly, though. He gives his reasons for not voting: he gets torn down; he tries to start a discussion; he gets torn down. At that point he may fight back, but I haven't seen him (or Glenn Greenwald, btw) ever simply rip into anyone else for being "unorthodox," for not being "pure," or whatever. (I regularly see them accused of it, though.)

Matthew said...

To Paul,
Loomis and the others at LGM couched their arguments for voting for the President in pretty explicitly consequentialist terms. They may not be consequentialist about other things, and you're right that they're probably not about everything, but they seem pretty strictly consequentialist about voting.

The thing about tearing people down was a response to Susan calling the LGM/Balloon Juice crowd authoritarians. I said in a different comment, I think, that Freddie doesn't do that, so you're right on that score too.

And to Susan,
What I was trying to get across was that they're attitude is not one of "uncritical support". It's more like critical support; they criticize, but in the end their view is that on balance he is more good than bad, given the circumstances, and is certainly better than the feasible alternatives. Whether you agree or not, it's a reasoned position; they're not mindless authoritarians.

And finally, now that the Columbus Day weekend is over, I probably will no longer have the time/will to pontificate for hundreds of words in a comment thread. I just want to say that this was much more fun than I was expecting,and that I really admire and respect you, Freddie, so keep up the good work.

JK said...

Matthew for president.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again. One commenter on DKOS said "we" should not criticize him during an election season. One commenter. One person. And that in response to the blog founder who said that criticizing Democrats, making them "better," and pushing them to the left WAS important.

Yes, yes, we get it. There are folks out there who don't care about anything else than electing Democrats. Yes, those folks will call any liberal or other "natural" Demcocrat who even contemplates voting third party or not at all a traitor, an enabler of Republicans, etc, etc.

And, yes, a more widely shared, but by no means universal view of "important" bloggers is that voting for the lesser of two evils is morally preferable than either casting a "protest" vote or not voting. And, yes, there is a consequentalist argument for that point of view. Just as there is more of Kantian argument for the opposite opinion.

As I mentioned to you previously, this conundrum is as old as the 1948 presidential election, if not older. Why do you think you have stumbled upon something new or even noteworthy? And what is it that you are looking for, exactly? "Permission" from the head honchos at Balloon Juice, LGM, etc to vote third party or not at all? Or from some random nobody/commenter on DKOS? Some folks passionately disagree with your approach (some for good reasons and some for bad), and, no, if you ask them, they won't give you their permission. But why do you need it? Do what you think is right, and present your arguments for that position. But don't come off all hurt and disappointed if not everyone agrees with it.

As another commenter implied, you can't really be this naive. The rest of your blog posts show that you are intelligent and experienced. That being the case, why do insist on coming off as some sort of babe in the woods? Again, some folks who disagree with you will argue with you respectfully and seriously. But there are mean people out there too. Some of them are partisan Democrats/Obama supporters. Some of them will say nasty things to folks who espouse what you are espousing. Others of them will be dismissive.

Yeah, and? Again, what is you want? For someone to magically make all the mean people go away?

Anonymous said...

"Part of what's frustrating is that people are so inconsistent in how they say we should proceed. Some say that the important thing is to engage in the process, so you should vote for a third party candidate. But many say that voting for a third party is to throw your vote away. Some say that the place to challenge Democrats to be more liberal (and less militaristic) is through the primary process, but again, during primary season, I read in many places that primarying Obama would be the height of left-wing absurdity. Many just speak vaguely of organizing and agitating, never being exactly clear what kinds of agitating are permitted, or why this theoretical kind is allowed but the kind undertaken by prominent critics Obama is not."

Er, "people" are inconsistent? What does that mean? Does any particular person say these inconsistent things? If not, then where is the inconsistency?

Different folks have different degrees of commitment to the two party system. Some are of the opinion that no criticism of Democrats is allowed. Straight ticket, party line, all the way down. Others are like you, who would like to vote Democrat, but feel that many of the Democratic candidates are simply unacceptable. And there are folks in between, who want to work within the party to produce better and more liberal Democrats, but will vote for the Democrat come hell or high water in the general. And, among even that last sub group, there are some who support primarying insufficiently liberal Democratic office holder, like Obama, and some who don't.

Why would you expect all of these different people, with different views, to be "consistent?" Are only you alllowed to have an individual, idiosyncratic, nuanced position, while everyone who supports more of a party line approach than you do must be in lockstep agreement?

Anonymous said...

"He gives his reasons for not voting: he gets torn down; he tries to start a discussion; he gets torn down."

SOME people "tear him down." Others give their reasons for disagreeing with him. What does he expect, for everyone on the internet to be civil, respectful, reasonable, etc? Why would he be uniformly treated that way, or his position, when no one else, and no other position, is treated that way on line?

Susan of Texas said...

I prefer the posters who simply say they don't care what the US does as long as they themselves are okay over the posters who attempt, more in sorrow than anger, to show Freddie that nobody can do anything ever, or the angry posters who try to get Freddie to take back everything he said about our abusive government. At least the selfish ones are honest.

Paul Sherrard said...

"SOME people 'tear him down.' Others give their reasons for disagreeing with him. What does he expect, for everyone on the internet to be civil, respectful, reasonable, etc?"

I'll civilly and respectfully suggest you've strayed from the point. Freddie was pushing the primacy, not of agreeing with his arguments, but of paying attention to & talking about U.S.-sponsored violent aggression. The overwhelming response, polite or rude, was "we prefer to confine such discussion to the Greenwald/Chomsky/Goodman ghetto & pretend it doesn't exist unless a Republican holds executive office."

In other words Mistermix may have been relatively civil to Freddie for a couple of posts, but the important thing was to answer him (dealing with the actual issues he raised as quickly & obliquely as possible), drop it, move on, and get back to spinning Buzzfeed's latest spin on the Romney camp's latest spin, the GOP's obsession with voter fraud that doesn't really exist, how Obama's debate performance was actually pretty good and probably won't affect the election anyway, and all the other preoccupations that really matter for America.

Anonymous said...

"I'll civilly and respectfully suggest you've strayed from the point. Freddie was pushing the primacy, not of agreeing with his arguments, but of paying attention to & talking about U.S.-sponsored violent aggression."

Right, and plenty of people DO pay attention to and talk about US aggression. Some don't or won't. Yeah, and?

"The overwhelming response, polite or rude, was 'we prefer to confine such discussion to the Greenwald/Chomsky/Goodman ghetto & pretend it doesn't exist unless a Republican holds executive office.'"

The "overwhelming" response of who? Of people on what is in the larger picture an obscure web site? And, at that, a web site dedicated to partisan politics.

"In other words Mistermix may have been relatively civil to Freddie for a couple of posts, but the important thing was to answer him (dealing with the actual issues he raised as quickly & obliquely as possible), drop it, move on, and get back to spinning Buzzfeed's latest spin on the Romney camp's latest spin...."

And who does "Mistermix" speak for or represent? Mistermix, whoever he is, is, if he in fact did what you say he did, obviously more concerned about partisan politcs than ending the US Imperium. Again, yeah and?

Is this so hard to understand? Some folks only care about whether their "side" is "winning." Other folks do care about other things, like ending US aggression, but still think it is important that what they see as the better of two not very good sides win. And other folks still, like Freddie (and myself, by the way) don't care all that much about either side or which one wins but care more about other things. Lots of folks in the first group, the group that only cares about having its side win, will use issues like US aggression instrumentaly. They will complain about it when the other side does it, but not when their side does. Folks in the second group, the group that actually does care about it but also care about winning, will be less vocal, less open to protest, etc, when their side is doing it. That's the way it has always been.

That doesn't mean, per Susan, that there is "nobody can do anything about it" ever. But it does mean that not everyone is going to be enthusiastic about hearing these arguments. Why would anyone expect anything different? Politics as a blood or spectator sport has been around a long time. The "tribal" aspect, the us against them mentality, of it is not simply going to vanish, merely because you have a cogent argument that "our" side is doing bad things too. Same with the lesser of two evils, consequentalist view of politics. I don't see why Freddie, or anyone else, should be hurt and dismayed when he comes across these views. Particularly when he goes to web sites dedicated to them.

Susan of Texas said...

"That's the way it has always been" = "nobody can do anything ever."

Anonymous said...

To Susan:

Um, no. "It had always been" the case that men enslaved one another, and that women had few or no rights. But that has changed.

People can do something. And things do change. Just don't expect that there will be no resistance. Nor that some folks won't resist using tactics that are not civil or respectful, and that are disingenuous or dismissive.

You think William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass were always treated fairly? Or the suffragettes? Or Martin Luther King? Or Gandhi? Or the folks who made up the movements they led? No one disrespected/dismissed them?

Susan of Texas said...

I think everyone realizes that when one criticizes the leader of one's party, there will be resistance from his followers. That's not the issue. The issue is why there is resistance and what can be done about it.

Paul Sherrard said...

"I don't see why Freddie, or anyone else, should be hurt and dismayed when he comes across these views. Particularly when he goes to web sites dedicated to them."

What's dismaying is ongoing U.S. aggression and unchecked executive power.

In light of this, the fact that nobody's yet figured out how to make a successful appeal to the consciences of mainstream liberals is frustrating.

You're probably right that expressing one's frustration with said mainstream liberals is, from a strategic standpoint, futile. Yeah and?

Anonymous said...

Susan:

"I think everyone realizes that when one criticizes the leader of one's party, there will be resistance from his followers."

Yet Freddie seems surprized by it.

"That's not the issue."

No? It seems to be Freddie's issue.

"The issue is why there is resistance and what can be done about it."

Exactly. And I, and others, have given some plausible explanations (politics as spectator sport/"tribalism." lesser of two evil theory, etc) for that resistance. Yet Freddie doesn't seem to want to acknowledge them, and still seems to be at astonished/dismayed stage. And has presented no ideas in terms of what can be done about the resistance.

Paul:

"What's dismaying is ongoing U.S. aggression and unchecked executive power."

Agreed.

"In light of this, the fact that nobody's yet figured out how to make a successful appeal to the consciences of mainstream liberals is frustrating."

Yes, it is.

"You're probably right that expressing one's frustration with said mainstream liberals is, from a strategic standpoint, futile."

That's my point. Merely saying "I'm frustrated" doesn't advance the ball.

We're all frustrated. I've been frustrated since the Democrats gave up their anti war credentials which were so hard earned in the late 60's and early 70's. And I've grown more and more frustrated as even so called liberal Democrats have bought into, on an increasing basis every year, what used to be the opposition's exclusive infatuation with the military and military solutions.

"Yeah and"

And that's why I find post after post merely saying "I'm frustated" to be frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Americans Are More Pro-Torture Now than They Were Under Bush

Congrats, Obama: after four years of you, lots of liberals have come around on the idea of torture. Now that's progress.

http://gawker.com/5948633/americans-are-more-pro+torture-now-than-they-were-under-bush