Many checks have been written, lately.
There are a few people out there who both associate themselves with liberalism (or progressivism, if you prefer the weasel term) and who assert the actual legitimacy and morality of the drone program. To them, well, vaya con dios. We aren't likely to be able to talk about much of value. But most people on the broad left are defending Obama in spite of the drone program, insisting that you must (and almost all of them say we must) vote for Obama even though they disagree with this drone program. Yes, the drone program is a terrible mistake. But still, you must vote for Obama. Before the election is not the time. The years to come will be the right time. Congressional elections will be the right time. Not now, but later. Wait. Bide your time.
These caveats are a remarkably cheap currency, like promises to tip the bartender at a wedding later on in the night. But they do make them, and they are worth listening to. For months, now, I've been told that the time to address drones (and medical marijuana, and Afghanistan, and civil liberties, and Wall Street, and Guantanamo, and relief for home owners...) will come after the election. I've read these promises in comments and emails and in blogs and in tweets. I hope the promises are real and the intentions are true. Because if they aren't, and 2016 comes around and nothings changed, and the people saying that the time will come haven't worked to improve the system they constantly call imperfect-- well, then their hypocrisy and shiftlessness will be monumental.
So take this post by Erik Loomis. It's indicative of what LGM has become: it operates almost exclusively through assertions of bad faith and ad hominem, it focuses on the supposed failings of the left rather than on what the left is arguing, and it complains of sanctimony in the most sanctimonious style possible. He then, incredibly, turns around and complains of Matt Stoller's refusal to engage intellectually. (Hey Erik: saying that people criticize Obama just to be leftier-than-thou-- nice intellectual engagement!) There's also this nugget: "Those who are calling for a 3rd party run today have no interest in
party building, just as Nader didn’t in 2000. They are angry at Obama
and want to shove it in the Democrats’ faces by throwing the election to
Romney." In fact, I know people who have worked tirelessly to build a real third party literally for decades. But luckily, mind reader Erik Loomis is here! He knows their true hearts. It's kind of fun, when you can do that. Well let me read some minds of my own: the LGM crew opposes any and all complaints against the drone program because they don't give a shit about dead children in Pakistan. I mean, hey, since Loomis just knows these things about other people, so do I.
I do believe that this complaint against self-righteousness and sanctimony is the most self-righteous and sanctimonious thing I've ever read.
But Loomis assures us-- change is coming. He writes, "it comes through the hard work of organizing our communities to demand
change. Eventually legal and political changes are necessary–but only
after people are organized to demand them. Look at the major movements
in the last century. The labor movement, African-American civil rights,
the women’s movement, gay rights movement. Each of these movements spent
decades (or a century) organizing for change. For each of them, there
was a moment when it all came together and they could demand
transformations of federal and state law, which for gay rights is
happening right now."
You'll note that people expressing their conscience in a bid to change minds and expand the realm of the possible don't count. They lack the purity that Erik Loomis demands.
Maybe things will change. Maybe all of the many defenders of Obama and his adventures in the Muslim world will actually do the things they claim they will do in the coming years. Maybe they'll organize for left-wing causes. Maybe they'll support radicals in primary campaigns. Maybe they'll pressure the Democrats to offer real alternatives, on foreign policy and on the drug war and on civil liberties.... Maybe Erik Loomis will have himself a 2013, you know? Maybe he'll match that outsized self-regard, that perfectly sanded lockbox of political and ideological and moral certainty, to an equally outsized left-wing project. Maybe all of them will actually attempt to do the things they are now saying they will do.
But I bet the large majority of them won't.
I bet that Balloon Juice will continue to be filled with absolutely unfettered, uncritical, ultra-aggressive support of Obama. I bet Tbogg will continue to treat the murder of innocent people as some sort of fringe nut issue, something worth mocking people for even caring about. I bet Kevin Drum will continue to express open-mouthed contempt for anyone who dares not support any given Democrat. And I bet Lawyers Guns and Money will continue being what it has become, which is one of the most spiteful and consistent hippie-punching blogs there is, a collaboration of people whose disdain for the left rivals that of 2003-era Slate or TNR. I bet Loomis and Lemieux and Farley will continue to demonstrate greater contempt for Glenn Greenwald than they can muster for David Frum.
I bet that prominent liberals will not bring pressure to bear on the Democrats or the Obama administration about drones or other issues. I bet, in fact, that they will work just as hard to marginalize criticism about these issues as they are right now. I bet that these same liberals will dismiss progressive primary challengers as unrealistic or unserious. I bet these same liberals will declare that we can't criticize the president now because X vote is coming up. I bet that in 2016, when Hilary Clinton or whoever is the Democratic nominees, we will be having the identical conversation that we're having now, and that once again, the Erik Loomises of the world will tell us to shut up and grow up. I bet they will again claim that this is not the time, that we have to wait, that we are worse than the Republicans, that dead Muslims are a fringe issue.... And all along the way, innocent people will pay with their lives for our broken system.
And they'll do it until the Democrats inevitably lose the presidency, in 2016 or 2020 or 2024. And when they do, and the infrastructure and legal justification for a system of assassination that has literally no accountability or review whatsoever is handed to the Republicans, suddenly, they will rediscover their sense of horror.
So the question is: what will Erik Loomis's 2013 be like? Will he beat the bushes for progressive congressional candidates? Will he excoriate the Obama administration for its lapses on his blog? Will he find the courage to do all the things he so pedantically and self-seriously insists other people do? Will he balance his contempt for those who want change from outside of the system with furious effort to achieve change within the system?
You know, I kind of doubt it. He can always prove me wrong. But I'll be watching, and waiting.