Monday, November 5, 2012

Erik Loomis's 2013

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.


Tim Donaghy said...

I'll just say what is driving my desire to vote for Obama despite all his flaws. The ban on pre-existing conditions in Obamacare and insurance coverage for 30 million uninsured. Romney has said pretty clearly that he'll repeal it and I believe him. It's kind of a big deal for me, both as a matter of principle and personally.

I really don't mean to put words in your mouth, but it seems like you're saying that the drone program trumps all the other issues at stake in the election. Apologies if that's not what you mean, the discussion has been a little meta. But I'm not willing to dump all the activism and work that went into HCR.

I think the drone program sucks. Thank you for speaking up about it. I hope you continue to do so.

tonycpsu said...

Freddie, you simultaneously underrate the value of Obama's accomplishments (see Tim Donaghy above for just one example) and underestimate the downside risk of four years of Romney/Ryan, a GOP house, and a barely-there Democratic Senate (with several of those years probably having one or two more Alito/Scalia style SCOTUS judges.) Not only do many of Obama's real, tangible accomplishments get wiped away, but say goodbye to even the small amount of regulation and transparency Dodd-Frank gives us. All for what? What's your end game? Pushing current Democrats to the left? Getting rid of them in favor of a third party? I know a lot more about what you're against (mainly your blogging fenemies) and not nearly enough about what you see as the beneficial result of lefties voting en masse against Obama.

I do feel like your heart is in the right place, but there are real consequences to letting "far worse" take over for "very bad" (in your estimation) or "not good enough" (in my estimation) and there's a point at which you're part of the problem and not the solution.

Freddie said...

Maybe so, Tony, maybe so.

Scott Lemieux said...

it operates almost exclusively through assertions of bad faith

Um, no. Actually, when Stoller argues that there's no difference between Sotomayor and Alito, or Sirota argues that Romney might well appoint another Warren or Stevens, sadly, I don't think they're lying about what they think. Accusing them of bad faith, given the quality of their arguments, would be charitable.

and ad hominem

Not actually the case, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to defend anything Stoller argues on the merits either.

Anonymous said...

I bet that you can fuck yourself.

Mr. No Account said...

"Maybe so?" No, certainly! Certainly, Freddie, you are "part of the problem". That problem being a broken system in which purported liberals devise monstrous policies that throw human rights out the window. So naturally, writing a blog post criticizing this problem, part of the problem. Because!

It's a crime. I look at what you're doing to us and I weep. Oh, woe is our republic for having parts-of-problems like you. Why can't you be a liberal concern troll like everyone else. Can't let a few (thousand) ripped-up brown people in Not-LGMstan get in the way of Obamacare. Think of the children! (The ones on Obama commercials, not those 4-yr-olds Joe Klein wants to kill.)

Scott Lemieux said...

Also, on this:

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.

1)The time to address drones is anytime.

2)If you mean that the only way in which drones can be addressed is by "withdrawing support from Obama," this is first of all a non-sequitur because withdrawing support from Obama will do nothing to stop the attacks (it will either be entirely ineffectual or make them worse by throwing the election to Romney.)

3)You seem to believe that ignoring the many other human rights issues at stake in the election -- access to health care, access to social services, gender equity, LBGT equity etc. etc. etc. -- in fact makes you a better leftist than people who actually believe some weight should be placed on these issues when determining one's electoral support. Alas, you're very much mistaken.

Mr. No Account said...

Scott Lemieux, quote us where Matt Stoller said there was no difference between Alito and Sotomayor.

You can't, because he didn't.

Thanks for proving Freddie's point about bad faith.

The good ol' days on Tapped seem so long ago...

Dan said...

Will he excoriate the Obama administration for its lapses on his blog?

If it affects Labor Unions than I'm sure he will. If it has to do with literally any other far left pet issue, the ones he has treated with open contempt since he started blogging, than I kind of doubt it.

Dave said...

"I bet that Balloon Juice will continue to be filled with absolutely unfettered, uncritical, ultra-aggressive support of Obama."

Yeah....except for all those times the guy who actually owns the site excoriates Obama about the drone program.

Jesus...if you can't see the importance of keeping Romney out of the White House, and how qualitatively better Obama is for this country than Romney - despite the drone program - then you need help. Because being the purest in the land doesn't mean dick if the country is going to shit with the GOP in charge.

IM said...

The argument from Stoller about the Supreme Court was uttermost nonsense. He did indeed argue that there is no difference between Alito and Sotomayor.

And that is at best ignorance of an level scarcely believable of somebody once working on capitol hill. And at worst bad faith.

And it is quite telling that Freddie and his friends are neither able or willing to defend Stoller on the merits, instead retreating into vague generalities.

Retief said...

If fewer brown children killed by drones is our paramount concern, and the only possible outcomes of this election are President Romney or President Obama, then the only question to ask is which of those two will give us fewer drone-killed brown children.

If one is proposing to choose the electoral course that results in more brown children being killed by drones then, clearly, reducing the numbers of children killed by drones is not one's ultimate concern.

Anonymous said...

The only plausible reason I've seen to vote for Obama:

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for Obama because the lesser of two evils means less evil, as Chomsky said.

But I agree with much of what you said here. The problem with this post is that it contains some inaccuracies, like the crack at Balloon Juice. As someone else pointed out, John Cole generally agrees with Greenwald on the drone issue. There are others at that blog who probably deserve your scorn, but not Cole himself. In fact, his commenters sometimes attack him when he agrees with Glenn.

But the overall thrust of this post seems valid to me--way too many Democrats only care about civil and human rights violations if they can be blamed on Republicans.


Anonymous said...

Obama's policy of Drill Baby Drill raised to the power of Frack, Baby Frack is not enough. His refusal to let his Justice department even investigate the crimes which lead to the Crash of 08 is not enough. His extension of vast tax breaks for the rich funded by program cuts for the poor are not enough. His coordination of the brutally violent repression of political speech in the Occupations is not enough. His extension of USA Patriot is not enough. His claim of the right to indefinitely detain you without charges or counsel *or even letting your family know the government has taken you* is not enough. His unconstitutional electronic spying on you is not enough. His use of archaic anti-espionage law to prevent the Open Government he campaigned on is not enough. His making the Too Big To Fail banks bigger and hence more powerful is not enough. His illegal acts of war-by-drone, which kill innocents in a half dozen countries is not enough. His authorization of up to 30,000 surveillance drones in domestic airspace is not enough. Indeed his execution of American citizens without trial nor even any attempt to apprehend them for trial is not enough.

My question for you is straightforward. I would be grateful for a straightforward reply.

If all of the above is not bad enough that you will vote against it, what would this President have to do before you would finally draw a line and say: "Sure I voted in favor of disappearing of dissidents and extrajudicial killing of citizens, and a dozen other horrors, but *this* I will not vote in favor of!"?

Anonymous said...

Without having read any of the preceding comments...

Freddie makes the observation:

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.

This plea that Now is not the time is utter horseshit. We've already been here. This is the same plea that was foisted on nominal Democrats before Obama was elected for his first term. It's laughable on its face. I recall this song and dance altogether too well, and it's being sung to the same damn tune. You'd think in the interest of keeping it fresh they'd change the melody even if the lyrics were exactly the same.

If Not Now, When?; October 20, 2008


Mr. No Account said...


Again, Stoller never said there was no difference between Alito and Sotomayor. Like Scott Lemieux, you simply assert that as if it were true, with no supporting evidence.

The BS is getting desperate now.

Mr. No Account said...


Maybe you're presenting yourself too narrow a choice. Given that both Obama and Romney would kill brown children, maybe there are other options. For instance, stop supporting politicians who stand for such a heinous policy. Make it clear that respect for human rights is a necessity for your political support, and give it to pols who earn it. Every bit can help build momentum for broader change.

Jk said...

So this blog is just the same post over and over again now? Are you a Republican yet? You have the angry, paranoid white male who refuses to engage his opponents' actual arguments part down pat.

Now THAT was trolling!

Anonymous said...

No, what Stoller asserted was that because Sotomayor as a circuit court judge had to apply existing case law instead of getting to overrule Supreme Court precedent, that she wouldn't vote to uphold Roe.

Which is just plain fucking stupid.

Mick said...

From the Loomis article, "You can certainly make the argument that every single president of the United States has been fundamentally evil and has done terrible things. It’s not a hard argument to make. It’s also an intellectually cheap argument to make."

Where do you even start with such a statement?

Anyway, I thought I sensed a familiar tone in his article and clicked to learn a little more about Mr. Loomis. Surprise, surprise. BA History, MA History, PhD History. University history departments in the US tend to revere and mythologize the American experiment so much so that it would leave your average Mitt rally attendee thinking it a little overdone. There is nothing too awful in the past that could throw into doubt the fundamental worth and desirability of the US (as an idea). Behind all the horrors is an unwavering pride. So too with Obama voters, no bad act can undue the promise he represents.

Furthermore, I'm quite tired of the Loomis et al position of thinking they are absolved of the violence because they work for change through the appropriate channels and at the appropriate times (whatever/whenever the hell those are). Go to your average DNC meeting and start making noise about drawing down the empire or dismantling corporations that harm the environment. See how far that gets you.

Erik Loomis said...


I'm going to assume you have never read my other posts on LGM or you would have seen the dozens of posts slamming on Obama in the past year.

Frankly, your post and characterization of my argument is a pretty stark misrepresentation of what I have been about.

If this makes it more clear to you--Fuck Obama. This is not about him. He sucks on 100 issues. This is about collective values and understand what the vote actually does and does not do and what electoral politics does and does not do. It's about the historical trajectory of change and how change occurs and does not occur in this country's political system.

Anonymous said...

Re: Drones

The only 3 presidents that amounted to shit over the last century, the Roosevelts and LBJ, all waged war in ways that make Obama look like Aung San Suu Kyi. The far more compelling reason to withhold your consent is economic—likewise, it’s the more potent and damaging blow to the president’s support, now and after the election.

But at least the aforementioned warmongers in chief did a lot of great shit for the nation, achievements lasting generations. Obama’s stance vis a vis entrenched power is exactly the opposite of their example and thus these dead presidents’ legacies are under threat. He has no interest whatsoever in fighting them on our behalf. Again, if you have a genuine interest in reaching people and building a movement (either way that should start Wed) for the love of Christ stop talking about drones killing, what, hundreds!?

JFC man, a million Iraqis dead, god knows how many Vietnamese or Japanese in our halcyon days—Americans simply don’t give a rat’s arse about dead poor people overseas. You’re not going to reach them on conscience. And more to the pt. you’re not going to reach them at all if your laser like focus is ltd. to A-list bloggers you rightfully hold in contempt, a feeling that’s obviously mutual. Do you think anyone is persuaded by this back and forth cock jousting. The best thing you can hope for is that you create a more just society and as a fortuitous consequence it’s less likely to rape the environment and murder the innocent.

BugMeNot said...

Rather than argue your silly purism points, I'll simply mention that you are a total chickenshit to misrepresent the Balloon Juice crowd here, when you are quite capable of writing an article there. John Cole "gave you the keys to the place," as he puts it, so you could have lied about them to their collective face. Instead, you decide to dishonestly ignore all the criticisms they've made about the President, including about your pet drone issue even, over here where you don't have to face them directly.

You are a lying little chickenshit.

Anonymous said...

There is a time and a place for criticizing the President. The time is now. The place is here.


Karl said...

Republicans have an ironclad rule: No baby killers in our party.

We need the same rules. No vulture capitalists, no war profiteers, no job killers. You so much as think about voting against a minimum wage increase and you get primaried with the corpse of Howard Zinn.

There will be a Republican president. Soon. Maybe not 2012 or 2016, but soon. And every time the Democratic President moves rightward, so do the Republicans. Democrats need to fear liberals the way Republicans fear teabaggers.

And that means we can't vote for them if they are not serving our interests. Don't give me this shit about a Romney or McCain or Jeb Bush presidency being so much worse. They are ALWAYS worse? How do we make the Democrats better? How do we get Rahm Emmanuel and Rob Rubin and Larry Summers and Tim Geitner and Michelle Rhee running out of town for fear of being tarred and feathered?

You stop voting for the people who rely on them. Yeah, it's going to cost you an election or two. And a presidency. But you know what? I want prison reform, and abortion on demand. I want all American military involvement in the middle east over with. Fuck single payer, I want a national health service. Move the fucking overton window already. Because every time you reward democrats for moving right, they'll do it again.

Alexios said...

While you, BugMeNot, are clearly of earnest, honorable, and manly character, exemplified by your dignified & courageous ad hominem attack (under cover of anonymous blog commenting, no less). I wonder if you care that the vitrol you spew undermines the legitimacy of any points you purport to make. It is as depressing as it is unseemly that your puerile rant deigns to be an assault on virtue, whilst embodying the very lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Anyone serious about the choice before us has to grapple with the results of voting for Nader in 2000.

I don't what the way forward is for progressives in this comically bad environment, but we have to talk about the consequences of a Romney win. We have to talk about the big, huge, ginormous real world data point that we do have: Bush vs Gore 2000.

There again we had protest votes against a trigger-happy, Wall-Street-friendly Democratic incumbent... and well here we are today, surveying the wreckage twelve years later.

My tentative answer is hold your nose and vote for Obama, then work tirelessly against the Democratic Party "moderates" from within.

I'm open to other ways forward, but please reckon with the consequences of the Bush win in 2000 ("both candidates are bought and paid for, what's the difference!").

Anonymous said...

October 31, 2010
Democratic Blame Calculus
By: John Caruso

It's come to my attention that on this 10th anniversary of the 2000 election, there are some people out there who feel confusion and uncertainty regarding who exactly was responsible for Al Gore's loss. So as a public service I thought it would be helpful to write up the set of heuristics used by Democrats and other fault-laying liberals to assign blame—the Democratic Blame Calculus (DBC), as I call it. I've organized the DBC into the hierarchical classes below, ranked based on the relative frequency and severity with which the designated groups or individuals are targeted by right-thinking Democrats for searing castigation for their transgressions against Al Gore's presidential prospects. Let's take a look, shall we?


1) Ralph Nader
2) The 2.9 million people who voted for Ralph Nader


1) The Supreme Court
2) George Bush
3) Katherine Harris (may be removed from this class in the future due to increasing obscurity)


1) Al Gore


1) Bill Clinton
2) Joe Lieberman
3) The Democratic Party


1) ~200,000 Democrats in Florida who voted for George Bush
2) Millions of Democrats throughout the nation who voted for George Bush
3) ~1 million Democrats who didn't vote at all in Florida
4) Republican voters in general
5) People who voted for any of the seven other political parties in Florida whose totals exceeded the 543-vote difference between Gore and Bush
6) The entire non-voting American public

Justin Wade said...

"It’s not a hard argument to make. It’s also an intellectually cheap argument to make."

Only intellectually expensive arguments are valid in this parlor game! Ante up or get along now. Semantics are vanities...