Sunday, November 4, 2012

drones and election 2012



I would never ever ever ever ever vote for Gary Johnson, being a socialist and all. But I do have to point out that if you're trying to justify the morality of a program by comparing it to the morality of another immoral program, something has probably gone amiss in your reasoning. I understand that Blumenthal is critiquing Conor's position particularly, but I find this so common in this debate, the bizarre rhetorical jiu jitsu people have to engage in to get to support of Obama against drone criticism. (Which isn't support of the drone program, as my commenters rightly remind me-- but then, we're getting into the jiu jitsu a bit again.) I think that part of the reason that this debate is waged so angrily by people who defend Obama against critics of drones is because they recognize the weird tensions in their own stance. Never have I been attacked so vociferously for my arguments by people who themselves acknowledge the correctness of those arguments.

We've had this debate endlessly around here, and I know my more critical commenters are just as frustrated by what they see as my lack of responsiveness on the drone issue as I am in what I see as theirs. (Pardon my syntax.) I do think that there's one issue here that should be getting more attention: the unusual degree to which the drone issue is chosen by the Obama administration. I know many of my fellow lefties were frustrated by the health care fight and unsatisfied with PPACA. The same goes for me; there are many things I wish they had done differently, tactically. But I recognize an issue like health care as a situation where the Democrats are seriously constrained by the need to pass legislation through a hostile Congress. There's only so much they can do. That doesn't mean that you abandon principle or accept every choice, but you spread responsibility.

But the drone issue is not that way. It's a secret program with no Congressional mandate at all. It's not a matter of troop commitment and doesn't have that much play in the popular political consciousness. I imagine only the most high information voters know about the program at all. And as Commander in Chief of the military, Obama could simply shutter the program. (I mean, they haven't even officially acknowledged the program, aside from bragging about it and joking about it, as bizarre as that sounds.) Sure, some Bill Kristol types would complain. But it's not nearly as high profile or high risk as Afghanistan, and in an election dominated by the economy, I seriously doubt it would make a big difference either way. The drone issue is special because it is both so heinous and so irrefutably a matter of Obama's personal responsibility.

Of course, the reason the program continues is simply because the administration really believe the drones to be doing some good, above the costs in innocent blood. I find that both immoral and flatly wrong, given the fact that terrorism is a very minor threat to the United States, that it's clear that we frequently send drones without being entirely clear who we're targeting, that drones are precisely the kind of issue that stokes anti-American hatred and makes more terrorists, and that in general the drones represent the failed, revenge-minded mentality that we simply cannot shake since 9/11. The interesting part, as someone who keeps getting flogged in these debates, is that almost all of the people who are now arguing in support of Obama made those same arguments a few years ago-- and many do now. Anyway, I guess we all know where we stand.

The election is a few days away. I'll be going to the polls on Tuesday in a state where my vote is unlikely to make much difference in the Presidential election, but vote I shall. In the Senate race between Joe Donnelly and Richard Mourdock, you've got a really interesting test cast for the lesser evil/anti-vote crowd. As I mentioned once, abortion is the issue most often invoked as a reason to support Obama at all costs. Here, you've got yet another Republican cretin saying horrid things about abortion, in this case claiming that women getting pregnant from rape are part of God's plan. The problem is that his opponent, Donnelly, is also anti-abortion. Last year he received a 20% from NARAL as a Congressman; every year before that, he got a 0%. He's consistently received high marks from the National Right to Life Committee.

So: as a pro-choice zealot who favors unrestricted access to abortion for all women, what do I do? I think most people will tell you that I need to vote for Donnelly, an anti-abortion guy, and do so specifically to support abortion rights. And I probably will. But if it's the case that the lesser evil position requires me to vote for a pro-life candidate because I am pro-choice, it might be time for us all to take a breath and think this through. I really would like it if the legions of lesser evilists would look a little more deeply into their political ideas and maybe reassess a few things. The lesser evil mentality is quite strange in that it acknowledges itself as a deeply imperfect and unfortunate stance and yet is expressed with absolute and unwavering conviction. I hear the lesser evil argument all the time. I very, very rarely hear it expressed in a qualified or restrained way. Instead it is usually expressed as though no one of any intelligence or character at all could ever oppose it.

If the people who advocate supporting candidates who don't really represent your views are serious when they acknowledge that it's an imperfect way to operate, I wish they would demonstrate their commitment to changing that imperfection. I've heard it a thousand times-- it's an imperfect world! the system is violent! we're constrained by reality!-- and okay, fine. Then please show your support for the good-enough politicians in an bad system, but also work hard to improve that system. That acknowledgment shouldn't be a hand wave. The system is so flawed in large part because principled people are so willing to compromise about those flaws. If you believe you're supporting the better of two bad choices, fine, but then work to make the choices better in the future. If you want a model, look at Digby. I don't agree with her about everything, but she proves that you can support Democratic candidates and relentlessly push the Democrats to be better and do it without once calling for the public execution of Glenn Greenwald. A Democrat and a leftist and liberal about political differences-- it's not impossible.

We control our politics, it's a human system, so every argument based on how the system is flawed is ultimately an abdication of personal responsibility.

57 comments:

tonycpsu said...

I agree with most of what you've said here, but I still think both Donnelly and Obama are worth voting for on best available choice/lesser of two evils grounds.

The template for Joe Donnelly is Bob Casey, my state's Democratic senator. Bob Casey is pro-life, but when you get into the Senate, you sometimes have to suck it up and vote with the team. His NARAL rating has been all over the map -- bouncing around from 65% in 2007 to 25% in 2009 to 100% the last two years. My guess is this is what you can expect from a guy like Donnelly. As a freshman Democratic senator, he knows that if he ends up casting deciding votes against reproductive freedom in the Senate, his career path is limited. So he'll take some for the team when it's needed, and vote his conscience when his votes don't matter.

You think Murdock has a chance of even a 25% NARAL rating, much less two consecutive years of a 100% rating the way Bob Casey has been? There are also the myriad other issues on which Donnelly will be better than Mourdock that should make this an easy call for a pro-choice lefty.

As for Obama and the drone wars / indefinite detention issues, yes, he has the power to end these policies, and his failure to do so is despicable. But the alternative is not Gary Johnson, it's Mitt Romney. If you can make a credible case that Mitt Romney will scale back drone wars and indefinite detention, then by all means do so, but the idea that voting Gary Johnson will somehow send a message to Obama that he needs to mothball the drone program and release detainees is laughable.

I understand there's some psychological value in voting against Obama / for NotObama so that you're not expressing approval for Obama's bad policies, but the net effect is just opening the door for someone else who will continue the same policies. It won't really matter in Indiana, but swing staters who take your advice (and Friedersdorf's) are not actually doing anything to stop the policies they detest, and if they're actually lefties (Friedersdorf isn't -- he's just concern trolling) they're setting other important progressive causes back with their protest vote.

Freddie said...

I don't disagree. But I cannot get outside of the conundrum that voting for the lesser evil perpetuates the dynamic that forces us to choose between evils. I have a hard time envisioning how we escape the trap of limited choices if we're forever getting on board with one of the choices in the short term. That's why I'm asking lesser evilists to dedicate themselves to changing these dynamics even if they are also dedicated to pushing for Obama now. Especially if, actually.

tonycpsu said...

You're correct that it's not enough to just say "I did my job by voting for the lesser evil" and then wait until the next election. The strategic vote is not sufficient, but I do think it's necessary. This Digby post does a great job explaining the winning playbook -- elect the most progressive candidate (ProTip: it's probably a Democrat!), work hard for more and better progressives, and push for fundamental changes to the system that would allow for better choices (electoral reform, etc.)

I commend you for your focus on not letting disappointing Democrats off the hook once the election's over, but there seems to be a growing movement on the left that suggests that voting *against* Obama is necessary for progressive change, and I think that's a dangerous precedent.

matt said...

"...but also work hard to improve that system."

Absolutely. My (and maybe others') problem with protest voting and such is that I don't see any plausible theory of how it will "improve the system" in this very particular instance-- that is, produce better political outcomes.

"I wish they would demonstrate their commitment to changing that imperfection."

Careful now. Do you mean by this, rid the system of imperfection? That is, work to make sure lesser-evilism will not be required? I think this goal is deeply incompatible with the logic of democracy. I am sure that, were I around, every vote of mine since the founding (including a vote to ratify the Constitution) would have been lesser-evilism. I am sure that every vote I ever will cast will be the same way. This is a systematic imperfection not in the sense of an ethical failing, but in the sense of a permanent, defining limitation.

tonycpsu said...

Oh, and expanding on "what Digby said" a bit to answer your questions about what lesser-evilists can do -- I think primary challenges are an important part of the game plan. Look at how the Tea Party has pushed Republicans to be more wingnutty. On the other hand, you do have to choose your battles, or you end with the Christine O'Donnell / Mike Castle primary situation.

I think the analog for this on the left (in the absence of some fundamental change that breaks down the two party system) is to get true progressives into safe seats and the "best available nominal Democrat" in the more risky seats. I donated more to Elizabeth Warren than Obama this year because I thought getting a true fire-in-the-belly liberal in a Senate seat where she won't have to "pivot" to the center to keep her job was extremely important. Keeping Claire MacCaskill in Missouri isn't as important to me, but she might be the 60th vote for something important or the 40th vote against something important, and a Warren type couldn't win in Missouri, so you take what you can get.

Sandy Thompson said...

I think the discussion of ‘lesser-evilism’ is missing its dynamic, historical element, and I’d like to try to introduce my version of it.

It’s this: why do the evils keep getting eviler?

We will always have imperfect choices, as matt said. And I like tonycpsu’s points, including the priority he puts on Warren (I also sent bux to her, among a few others, outside my state, and I’m about to head out to canvass for a good pro-environment, green energy governor candidate). But we need to take a serious look at the following dynamic:
In cycle N, we vote for someone with evil+6 as opposed to evil+10. Fine, maybe we win, maybe not. But in cycle N+1, why do we find ourselves confronted with a choice between evil+9 and evil+12? And in the following cycle, it’s evil+11 vs. evil +15. We wind up HAVING to vote for somebody MORE evil than the one we rejected a few cycles ago, just because his/her opponent is more evil still.

I think we make progress happen in big, dramatic, strenuous bursts (Pogressive Era, CIO, civil rights, antiwar). Once we get some victories, we settle back into normal life and evil goes to work under the radar, emerging to take down targets of opportunity as they develop. As long as it is unchallenged, it keeps undoing our achievements and exploiting the inevitable changes in economy and technology to its own ends.

I won’t bother trying to lecture a bunch of socialists about how this is class struggle, capital at work, etc. But I do think we ought to at least acknowledge that ‘lesser-evilism’ is a loser over time, a form of slow suicide the way bread & water is slow starvation.

So what to do? What we’ve always done. All the progress in our history has come from working outside the parties and forcing them to adjust.

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander quoted from Manning Marable’s Race, Reform, and Rebellion as follows: “Between autumn 1961 and the spring of 1963, twenty thousand men, women, and children had been arrested. In 1963 alone, another fifteen thousand were imprisoned, and one thousand desegregation protests occurred across the region, in more than one hundred cities.” THAT’s what it takes. And all that action took years and years of patient building, organizing, and education.

So screw the parties. The election is like the last lap of a mile race; if you haven’t been at work for the first three laps, your choices on the last one are not very good.


tonycpsu said...

You make some excellent points, Sandy. To me, the best response from a bang-for-the-buck perspective is to push hard for some sort of preferential voting system. In your example, when we get to Evil +11 and Evil +15, the presence of a preferential voting system offers would-be anti-evil voters to vote for an Evil -1 candidate without gambling that the Evil +15 guy wins. Heck, maybe an Evil -15 candidate can beat them both (assuming the electorate itself hasn't gotten more evil with the candidates -- that's more of a sociological than political debate, though.)

I do not think lesser-evilism is necessary a loser over time. Past performance is not indicative of future results, and there's a reason MLKJ said the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice. We will see some of the Tea Partiers getting their just deserts on Tuesday, as their favorability has gone into the toilet. People are starting to feel the benefits of the flawed but important PPACA. Gays can serve openly in the military. Etc. If you zoom out a bit from the daily skirmishes, I think the long-term trend is in the right direction, but things like preferential voting, limiting corporate election spending, etc. could make the arc bend faster.

Freddie said...

Great comments in here. I'm digesting.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

But the drone issue is not that way.

And letting all the banksters and Bush-era criminals go free is another.

Would Janet Reno have done this?

Yet it is what President Obama picked Eric Holder to do.

So I challenge the 'lesser evil' crowd on this, and the idea that history isn't arcing away from justice...with the critical push coming from President Drone Strike and his pack of right-wingers.
~

tonycpsu said...

Just as the choice for President is between Obama and Romney, not Obama and Gary Johnson, the choice for AG is between Eric Holder and whatever Wall Street-friendly lackey Romney appoints -- probably Richard Wiley -- not Eric Holder and Janet Reno.

To paraphrase Rick Pitino, "Janet Reno isn't walking through that door."

Joseph said...

"As bad as you think things are now, it means implicitly supporting the election of someone who would make them appreciably worse. It's sophistry to pretend otherwise."

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/11/obama-bad-civil-liberties-romney-would-be-much-worse

Kevin Drum is criticizing civil libertarians for daring to suggest that you might want to withhold your vote from Mr. Hope and Change if civil liberties are important to you. The other guy is worse, so if you don't vote for Obama, and Obama loses by one vote, then therefore its your fault that Romney won and whatever Romney does on civil liberties that is RELATIVELY worse than what Obama would have done is your fault.

I find this type of logic grotesque and contrary to a functioning democracy, whether its a conservative or liberal making the argument. The only thing a politician fears is losing an election. The power a voter has over them is to give or withhold a vote. You can only effectively agitate for change in our system if you make a politician fear that he may lose the next election. When someone says, I must vote for X candidate because Y candidate is worse, you remove all the power you had on influencing candidate X's views and policies.

To illustrate the logical absurdity and moral obscenity of this logic, consider the following scenario:

Chairman Mao and Adolf Hitler are alive and running for the U.S Presidential election. Each dictator has gotten the nomination from one of the two major parties. Some civil libertarians object. They point out that both candidates records on civil liberties is atrocious. To which the party who supports Hitler says:

"Look we know Hitler has done some bad things and implemented some bad policies that have killed many people. However, if Mao is elected he'll be even worse. Consequently, you need to vote for Hitler else all the things that Mao does, which would be worse than Hitler, will be on your head.

So don't even think about not voting or voting for a third party candidate. You need to support Hitler cause relatively speaking he's less awful than Mao."

And of course, supporters of Mao, say the same thing about Hitler when talking to detractors in their own party.

P.S If you are tempted to bust out the "How dare you compare Obama or Romney to mass murdering dictators", please review this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

Freddie said...

If you just want to avoid the reference to Hitler, consider countries where the ruling junta rolls out different functionaries of the same oligarchy in elections. Or consider a black man voting (or trying to) in the south in the early part of the 20th century, choosing between two politicians who both supported segregation. Are they morally obligated to vote, if on any basis whatsoever, one of the politicians is worse?

tongorad said...

I found this comment by the poster nixonclinbushbama at FDL to be spot on:

"Democrats are not, repeat not, the lesser of two evils. Democrats are the greater of the two evils.

Republicans can spread Republican ideas only so far, at most to 50% of the population–and that is being generous.

When Democrats join in the effort, however, they spread Republican ideas to almost 100% of the population. And they deprive voters of any significant choice.

Depriving us of choice and making sure that Republican ideas the only ones on the table is the greater of two evils."

The above comment was to the blog entry "Political Centrism Is a Hoax," by Leighton Woodhouse, which is another good read.

During the dark days of Bush II, I can't imagine any liberal/progressive would imagine that the next Democratic President after Bush would lead the charge to expand the War on Terror, remove the rule of law and the right to trial by jury, cut Social Security, privatize public education, ignore global warming etc.
And we're supposed to be scared of Romney?

tongorad said...

Ooops, I forgot to provide a link to the FDL article I mentioned:
Political Centrism Is a Hoax
http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/11/03/centrism/

tonycpsu said...

Joseph: I think argumentum ad absurdum is a horrible way to prove a point, but I'll bite. By the time someone on the Hitler/Mao scale of evil has won the endorsement of one of the parties, let alone two of them, we're supposed to have already set our bloody revolution plans into action. I mean that seriously. If you are really of the mind that Obama's civil liberties record is anywhere in the same ballpark as those guys, or even nearly as bad as some of the other presidents we've had (off the top of my head: a century of slavery, Jackson's Native American resettlement, Japanese-American internment...) then you should be storing food and ammunition and preparing to end the reign of terror by force instead of worrying about what the Democrats are doing.

Freddie: Nobody's morally obligated to vote, period. If you don't like either, don't vote. The problem I have is when leftier-than-thou types claim not only that withholding their Obama vote is the right thing to do for their conscience, but it's also the right thing to do to advance progressive causes. This ignores the (many) issues on which Obama will govern more progressively than Romney, or assumes the existence of some number of issues on which Romney will govern more progressively than Obama, or relies on some heighten the contradictions "we must destroy progressivism to save it" type of logic that has never worked.

The Tea partiers got one thing right: when you think your party has lost its way, you take to the streets and beat the shit out of them in the primaries. Occupy's decision to not use the machinery of electoral politics to elect more and better Democrats will be looked back on as one of the bigger missed opportunities for progressive change in the last 100 years. That's how you make progressive change happen.

tonycpsu said...

tonograd, up-is-down pretzel logic like that is why I can't stomach reading FDL proper anymore. Republican ideas travel to far more than 50% of the population, and certainly farther than Democratic ideas do.

Fox News is the #1 cable news network, and Rush Limbaugh is the #1 talk radio host. Washington is "wired for Republicans" as Josh Marshall put it -- Politico is considered "centrist", MSNBC is considered "lefty" despite three hours of Morning Joe, etc. Read Media Matters to see how many more conservatives get book on the Sunday talk shows than liberals. The idea that Democrats will reach a larger audience with Republican ideas than Republicans will is simply not factual.

I know the FDL crowd is straining to paint Democrats as the real enemy, but inventing the fiction of a Democrat-controlled conventional wisdom is really audacious, and horribly, horribly wrong.

Nony said...

I’d argue that the case Matt Stoller’s just made is the far more compelling one, at least going FWD after the dust settles from this election.

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/27/the_progressive_case_against_obama/

Why? B/C the economic argument is the one that Americans will most widely respond to. B/C the folks we need to build a new coalition to challenge the corporate state care a lot more about how mercilessly class warfare has been waged against them by elites, facilitated by both parties, than they do about the drone program. I agree with Conor and Freddie a 100%--these issues are reason alone not to vote for Obama. But long term Stoller’s making the more potent case for fundamental change. Not if he could just tie in the costs of our batshit insane foreign policy that might make our global nuttery more relevant to the masses here at home.

tonycpsu said...

Nony: Your logic seems to be:

Step 1. Cast a vote that increases the chance that Mitt Romney will win.
Step 2. ???
Step 3. End of the corporate state???

Please tell me what Step 2 is. Obama's been too kind to the banksters, but he did sign Dodd-Frank, which isn't as strong as it ought to be, but is far stronger than anything Mitt Romney would ever sign. I have many of the same complaints you do about Obama's performance, but I see no way to get from "vote against the more progressive candidate" to "better progressive outcomes."

You and Matt Stoller can vote or not vote for whoever you want, but please don't tell me you're doing progressive moment a favor by doing so.

Nony said...

Tony: Your logic seems to be:

Step 1. Cast a vote that increases the chance that Barack Obama will win.
Step 2. ???
Step 3. End of the corporate state???

Please tell me what Step 2 is. Cuz I’ve got to say that the economic-apocalypse express seems to be approaching either way, not to mention its kissing cousin, biosphere collapse. Not that “Clean-Coal” Obama has anything to say about that.
Whoever wins on Tuesday, there’ll be nary a fucking hint of progressive napalm in the air come Wednesday morning. Worse yet, the ostriches who pull their heads out every 4 yrs. will roll back over after a likely Obama win, thinking the messiah will continue applying “liberal” bandages to our hemorrhaging body politic.

cwk said...

Then please show your support for the good-enough politicians in an bad system, but also work hard to improve that system.

What makes you think we aren't?

If you're in Indiana now, then I'd recommend one of Indiana's better political bloggers, Doug Masson, on this very topic.

Freddie said...

What makes you think we aren't?

With the important caveat that I'm not talking about you, in particular, of course-- experience. Long experience.

tonycpsu said...

You and I both know that "clean coal" is election-year marketing-speak, invoked only because my home state of Pennsylvania is close. Every candidate since the dawn of time has played these rhetorical games during campaigns. If you want to stop being lied to by politicians, don't listen to any politicians.

I think your anger on financial/environmental issues is misplaced. Unravelling the corporate state and saving the environment have more to do with the Senate than it does with who's in the Oval Office. The Senate is where progressive legislation goes to die. Eliminating the filibuster and getting better Democrats into the Senate is how we roll back Wall Street's grip on America. Getting Elizabeth Warren into the Senate will be a big step -- she can be a legislative leader on these issues for a decade or two. And, yes, Obama will be much more likely to sign legislation curtailing Wall Street's excesses than Romney would be, but the legislation has to get there first, and it won't without better Democrats in the Senate.

Show me the financial reform or cap and trade bill that Obama's vetoed, and imagine how many Romney would veto if elected. But, again, those bills aren't arriving on the desk in the first place because of our broken House of Lords.

Greg Sanders said...

Good post.

Do you have any favored candidate scorecards for civil liberty/peace issues? The ACLU does scorecards that would help with incumbents but I don't think they do challengers. I tend to favor the PCC for liberal candidates although they're more domestically focused.

JK said...

I agree very strongly with just about everything tonycpsu said. Excellent comments!

The problem with all this mishigas about not voting, or not voting for Obama, is that it papers over the fact that a) your vote doesn't matter and b) the left is losing. Realistically, your vote only matters in a few states, so all this talk is a monumental distraction that paradoxically serves to accord MORE attention to the quadrennial blah blah. Meanwhile, nobody pays attention other years, and low turnout leads to the election of truly horrible assholes like my state's (PA) governor. There's no drones or other foreign policy to muddle things there - just a guy that has relentlessly cut the social safety nut and doled out tax favors to his big business pals. But the only thing the left has to say to that is, "Obama didn't close Guantanamo!"

Lefty ideas just aren't popular. And that's the greatest challenge. We have to get off our high horses, get over the fact that we have the moral high ground, and actually argue for our positions. And that's not done with grousing, with finger-pointing, with bitterness. That's done by constructing a compelling and appealing narrative of the changes we want to see. It's not enough to poop on Obama, because the major-party candidate, *by definition*, has to appeal to white middle-class jerk-offs in Ohio. He or she *has* to appeal to the money people. That's they way our system works. And as long as we're griping about Obama being a sellout or whatever, we're not talking about changing that system, or spreading our ideas. Even if every single sympathetic person in America lodged a protest vote for Jill Stein or for nobody, we'd still have NO effect the major parties. I can't wait until Wednesday when we can stop fucking talking about this.

Freddie said...

But you see, JK, you are the reason we will never have positive change. And people like you will pop up over and over and over again, attack the people who want to improve our conditions, and generally contribute to the problem. What on earth makes you think that the problem is that we are on a moral high horse? Who could ever imagine that the conservatives aren't the voice of the moral high horse? And not only does that not hurt them, it is, in fact, one of the keys to their success. They unapologetically express their moral preference, and it works.

Guess what: killing innocent people is a big fucking deal. It is not a niche issue. If you don't care about it, say so. But I have had enough of people saying that they care and then doing everything possible to sideline or marginalize those issues.

tonycpsu said...

Freddie, I don't see anything in JK's post that's dismissive of concerns over drone warfare. He was making a positive statement about the public's disinterest in drone wars and indefinite detention, not a normative statement about whether they're right to not care about these things. Of course these issues are important, but would-be Obama voters who vote Stein or Johnson are simply changing who will be in charge of the drone program, not taking any action that will stop it or even lead to increased scrutiny / oversight of it. This viewpoint also requires virtually ignoring the other important issues (the economy, equal pay for women, access to contraception, LGBT rights, etc.) on which Romney would be worse. "The drone wars must be stopped" and "we cannot allow the many significant accomplishments of the Obama administration to be rolled back" are not mutually-exclusive statements.

I don't see anyone in these comments trying to sideline/marginalize people who care about stopping Obama's foreign policy abuses. What I see is an effort to push back against the mistaken notion that voting against Obama (or for NotObama) is a step toward that goal. It might soothe peoples' consciences, but in terms of actually advancing the causes they claim to care about, it will do nothing positive, and perhaps make things worse.

Lesser of two evils is not a theory, it's an iron law of a first-past-the-post political system.

Freddie said...

But that insistence is itself a reason why nothing will change. When people keep saying "this is the way politics is," they are refusing to acknowledge that politics is that way because people like themselves say "this is the way politics is." They act like they are not the problem. But they directly are the problem. Everyone who refers to political dynamics creates those political dynamics.

tonycpsu said...

So a Stein/Johnson vote changes the system how, exactly? Changing our electoral system so it can accommodate a true lefty challenger is not mutually exclusive with voting for the best available candidate in the two-party FPTP system we have. You act as if anyone who votes for Obama is endorsing and supporting the broken system, when all we're trying to do is preserve the very real gains this very flawed Democrat has brought us.

Freddie said...

You recognize my point, though, right? The fact that these things are politically impossible is precisely because you concede that they are politically impossible. There is not some monolith called politics that is beyond human control. The perception that the politics are what they are is why politics are what they are.

tonycpsu said...

Yes, I get your point, but on the scorecard, voting for Obama and then working to change the system beats the snot out of voting for someone else and then working to change the system. Voting for the best option in our broken system need not take away from the desire to change the system for the better as you and many others seem to suggest.

JK said...

Not much time here (I'm on my phone, being made to canvass outside in the cold all day for Obama, as part of my job working for a union).

So quickly: you've over-extrapolated from a comment to a ludicrous degree.

You don't know shit about me.

There can be more than one horse.

I fear that your thought that I'm "the reason we will never have positive change" proves my point exactly.

Enjoy your blog.

Jk said...

Ps duh that was to Freddie. Pps can't wait for the reply that I've revealed my true colors as an asshole who doesn't care about anything as much as Freddie and also obviously this is all just a roundabout way of defending my love of killing kids with drones.

tonycpsu said...

See, this is my problem with the state of the debate in the leftosphere these days. Voters like JK are not the enemy, nor are Scott Lemieux, John Cole, or TBogg.

Just because someone isn't withholding their vote from Obama because of the drone/indefinite detention programs doesn't mean they favor these programs. I think these issues are such horrible violations of the trust we place in our elected leaders that many people lose perspective on who the real enemy is, and the tendency is to let the emotion of the issue lead to logic like "Obama runs the drone program, voter X is voting for Obama, therefore voter X approves of the drone program." That's not how it is, and I think this internecine fighting over tactics when we agree on the issues is bad for the cause long-term.

Jk said...

Exactly. Thanks!

Freddie said...

People like Tbogg and Scott Lemieux have been calling for culls of the left for my entire adult lifetime. I've never written anyone out of the movement; I've never tried to shut anyone up; I've never said that we need to destroy their wing of the movement. Those things have been a constant from mainstream liberals against the left, in recent history and distant history.

You want to talk about bad behavior? About "internecine fighting?" Within the past month, commenters from a prominent blog tried to band together to email professors in my department about my sinful, sinful criticism of Obama. My hate mail would absolutely turn your stomach. Do you know the things they say about Glenn Greenwald? My grandfather was blacklisted because he was a pacifist. It ruined his career and his life. That's bad behavior. Me telling you that I think you're wrong? Not bad behavior.

You guys are unbelievable. You want to stop internecine fighting, go after the people who are trying to cut me and people like me out of the conversation. And JK: this is a big boy forum. I am accused daily of being unserious, self-defeating, self-righteous, racist, misogynist.... If you can't take a tough argument, by all means, get out.

JK said...

If only you had an argument. My objection is to your tilting against strawman bearing no resemblance to anything I've said. That and your highly selective willingness to engage in only certain of my comments. But don't worry, I'll leave you alone.

Freddie said...

Au revoir, man.

The funny thing about my trolls is that they always imagine they're the first ones. I've been doing this a long time.

tonycpsu said...


People like Tbogg and Scott Lemieux have been calling for culls of the left for my entire adult lifetime.


Culls? Really?

[citation needed]

I read both of them regularly and I've seen nothing of the sort. Are you talking specifically about those guys or just "people like" them? That's sort of an incendiary thing to throw around without being specific about who we're talking about here.

With respect to the back-channel threats and intimidation you're getting from idiot commenters, that is obviously not at all cool. Are you implying that the bloggers in question put them up to it or somehow fanned the flames? I really haven't seen that anywhere I read on a regular basis.

I think people like Matt Stoller cut themselves out of the conversation by having weak arguments. If there's a massive effort to cut Freddie de Boer out of the conversation, I haven't seen it.

Freddie said...

The most central, common, and consistent experience of being a leftist in American in the early 21st century is attempts by liberals to silence, marginalize, and ridicule them. It has become as existential a quality of American liberalism as support for the welfare state or abortion.

tonycpsu said...

If you're talking about hippie-punching from Clinton/Harold Ford types, then, yeah. But these days? Who are the hippie-punchers? TBogg makes some jokes. Lemieux uses sarcasm, but his points about the uselessness of third party protest votes are correct. Who's silencing you, Freddie? Aren't you still a front-pager on Balloon Juice O-Bot central?

Jk said...

Yes, Freddie. Everyone who wants the same things as you but sincerely disagrees on tactics is a troll. It's like you're trying to prove my points for me.

Nony said...

While I happen to agree with Freddie generally, this is a great comment by JK:

"Lefty ideas just aren't popular. And that's the greatest challenge. We have to get off our high horses, get over the fact that we have the moral high ground, and actually argue for our positions. And that's not done with grousing, with finger-pointing, with bitterness. That's done by constructing a compelling and appealing narrative of the changes we want to see. It's not enough to poop on Obama, because the major-party candidate, *by definition*, has to appeal to white middle-class jerk-offs in Ohio. He or she *has* to appeal to the money people. That's they way our system works. And as long as we're griping about Obama being a sellout or whatever, we're not talking about changing that system, or spreading our ideas. Even if every single sympathetic person in America lodged a protest vote for Jill Stein or for nobody, we'd still have NO effect the major parties. I can't wait until Wednesday when we can stop fucking talking about this."

Espec. that last line. We need to stop talking about elections where authentic radical change, required years ago, is impossible. And whatever candidate you're voting for or not at all is of secondary concern and shouldn't distract from the common cause required as we approach even worse crises in the future.

JK is spot-on when he says we need to craft a compelling counternarrative that will begin to appeal to 10s of millions of non-voters who might be receptive to a different gospel. The shit the major parties espouse, the really nasty shit that is churned out by our corporate media, the money that's thrown to assure AOTA are formidable adversaries, but the worst barrier to lefty progress is our closed discursive loop. We talk to one another. The entire range of our discussion runs from lefty to neoliberal and if you're particularly masochistic maybe you also participate in tribal flame wars between the two major parties. Either way, all these positions are virtually locked in place and no minds are changed. Freddie you have great ideas but do you talk to anyone outside academy or on blogs populated almost exclusively by the same cross section of America.

This is what the left once did:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEMIvDEFy4

I'm not denying that the dem party as dominated by the DLC/New Dem Network hasn't marginalized the left or abandoned everything authentic liberals once stood for. But if we're going to have any success we need to stop talking to them as if we're going to change their minds and learn how to reach the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation directly. Whether we're advocating for a ground up 3rd party or a retaking of the dem party from its corporate patrons. This would require talking to people less educated than us, people hostile to our ideas, but in the end whether you call them jerk offs or not, if you bring them an authentic message of social and economic justice delivered with respect for who and where they are and you'd be surprised at how the message resonates. Where have they heard such a narrative before? Since LBJ? Not from our national politicians, not from the media and since these entities are no longer capable of delivering such a message...

My only window for commenting before the kid wakes up--sorry no time to edit this down.

Dan said...

Nobody's morally obligated to vote, period. If you don't like either, don't vote. The problem I have is when leftier-than-thou types claim not only that withholding their Obama vote is the right thing to do for their conscience, but it's also the right thing to do to advance progressive causes.

Judging from the level of support for mandatory voting in certain lefty commenting sections, I'm not sure even a plurality of Freddie's opponents actually agree with you on this one.

dporpentine said...

Why oh why do people on the *left* wonder aloud about whether they should or should not vote for Gary Johnson? (I know you dismiss the possibility of your doing so out of hand. But why even bother answering such a question?) There are two excellent left-wing third-party candidates. And yet the left dances to the tune dictated by a straight-up Libertarian (Conor Friedersdorf) and someone with strong Libertarian leanings (Glenn Greenwald). It's bizarre.

dporpentine said...

Adding: Gary Johnson wants to *privatize roads*. As public policy, that's purely psychotic. Anyone who's spent so much as a second contemplating voting for him is . . .
I can only complete that sentence by violating the "don't be a jerk" policy, so I won't.

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