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Revolution? Pass the popcorn...
February 21, 2011 5:55 AM   Subscribe

What if the egyptian protesters were democrats? "In short, if the Egyptian protesters were Democrats, they would have undertaken no revolution. The Democratic Party represents the pervasiveness of elite corporate power; its liberal supporters represent the appropriation of oppositional politics into the neoliberal economies of electoral hegemony; the Egyptian protesters represent a determined, collective will to social justice and legitimate freedom. If those protesters were American liberals, they would have sided with the state while professing support for the people."
posted by Duug (106 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
And if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass a' hoppin'.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:07 AM on February 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


To challenge bad politicians by electing more bad politicians is not serious political thinking

Hear, hear.

It has been painful to watch the Democratic and labor leadership trying to figure out what to do with the situation in Madison. They agreed to all of Walker's financial demands—holding out only for the preservation of collective bargaining rights—after they had the state capitol under fucking occupation, after the Democratic state senators were in hiding to prevent a quorum, after Walker was more or less in hiding because he had no idea what the hell to do. They were winning, and their response was to try to figure out what concessions they could make! It is madness. That wasn't the time to be making concessions, that was the time to say, "oh yeah, and also, we want a pony, motherfuckers."

I understand what they're trying to do— they want to show that they're not the bad guys. They want to act reasonable. But they are not dealing with reasonable people and, moreover, nobody is ever going to be impressed by your ability to mimic the rhetoric of the other side, guys. As Harry Truman said, if the only choice you give people is between a fake Republican and a real one, they'll pick the real one every time.

The (handmade) signs in Madison are calling for Walker to resign, the crowd is demanding more every day, but the union leadership and the party leadership are tripping over themselves in their rush to reduce their demands. Walker would love nothing more than to give them some bullshit symbolic concession that means nothing but lets them put out press releases trumpeting victory while the workers on the ground get fucked. And right now it looks like that's exactly what is going to happen. I wish I knew how to stop it.
posted by enn at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2011 [68 favorites]


If those protesters were American liberals, they would have sided with the state while professing support for the people."

Looks like we're gonna be sending Steven Salaita a large order of Kiss My Ass, You Ignorant Fuck.
posted by grubi at 6:12 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meta
posted by enn at 6:16 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those too lazy to read the article or who think the author is talking about average Joe Liberal, here is a good summary:

I'm hoping that the piece I wrote uses Egypt as an example of how American power is sustained through the complicity of its liberal elite. There are many factors at play, of course, but whenever real change is afoot it is the liberal elite who usually come to the rescue of whatever center of power is under criticism. They make revolution in the United States virtually impossible, but alternate politics, I argue, are indeed possible, as long as we are willing to think outside the confines of a stifling electoral system.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Democratic Party represents the pervasiveness of elite corporate power

As Harry Truman didn't say, if the only choice you give people is between a fake Democrat and a real one, they'll pick the fake one every time.
posted by three blind mice at 6:26 AM on February 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Apparently if the Democrats had any guts they'd be occupying the streets until Obama is removed by the armed forces.
posted by Segundus at 6:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't that depend upon, among other things, exactly how many wheels your grandmother had?
posted by Flunkie at 6:30 AM on February 21, 2011


American liberals aren't all Democrats nor vice versa. As long as this supposition pervades this article, it's tainted.
posted by grubi at 6:33 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


It has been painful to watch the Democratic and labor leadership trying to figure out what to do with the situation in Madison.

"Liberal" media bastion NPR presented the full spectrum of public opinion - from someone who thinks the teachers should only be required to pay more towards retirement to someone who thinks teachers should have to do that and have their collective bargaining rights stripped.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:34 AM on February 21, 2011 [26 favorites]


No, but broadly speaking, all American liberals who are political elites are Democrats (excepting Bernie Sanders of course). That's who the article is referring to.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:35 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal


Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

-- verses from Och's "Love Me, I'm a Liberal"
posted by orthogonality at 6:35 AM on February 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


This whole thread is pretty iffy.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:35 AM on February 21, 2011


there were (or are) two main things driving a lot of the unrest in Arab nations: the new electronic media (FaceBook, Twitter, the net, cell phones)--the govt no longer controls what gets said and by whom; and the population bulge : average age of males is 30! and massive unemployment.

When conditions get seriously bad, your general public might also take to the streets. In fact, I see signs of it taking place as Blues confront Reds in Wisconsin. What was mere dislike in the voting booth is now turning into legislation (proposed) and confrontation.
posted by Postroad at 6:44 AM on February 21, 2011


They would only be democrats if they had democracy already.
posted by Brian B. at 6:45 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Doesn't that depend upon, among other things, exactly how many wheels your grandmother had?
posted by unSane at 6:45 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


This criticism is not without merit, but I don't think it's as simple as blaming "Democrats" or "liberals" or what have you. Our whole current culture is dominated by this kind of thinking. Why? Because we're a nation of salesmen: deep down in our bones, the middle of us regardless of political camp want to appease and accommodate the demands of others as much as possible.

Look at the way we've re-framed regulatory functions in this system: In Florida, for example, for the past couple of decades lawmakers here have demanded that regulators stop viewing themselves as being in an adversarial relationship with the industries they regulate, and start viewing their role instead as being public sector partners with these industries. The results have been predictable: more and more fraud (in real estate, insurance, banking, etc.) to such an extent that Florida played an outsize contributing role in the collapse of the US economy more generally due to its high foreclosure rates.

We've lost, generally, the recognition that competing adversarial relationships are a necessary balancing part of our system. We need healthy antagonism and opposition between competing interest groups in our democracy. That means not allowing any one set of interests to dominate, as we've done for too long now.

And as I've argued here before, if some self-identified liberals are behaving illiberally in the way this article describes, that means they aren't acting as "liberals," not that the meaning of the word "liberal" has to be revised down to include them. You don't get to earn the title liberal-for-life solely by virtue of who you are, so what matters is how you behave. This article should be accusing these leaders of betraying liberalism, not accusing liberalism itself of being the problem.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:45 AM on February 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


What if the egyptian protesters lived in America.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:46 AM on February 21, 2011



What if the egyptian protesters lived in America.


Juan Williams would feel less safe. More people would report seeing Osama Bin Ladden pumping gas down the street. The Guantanamo debate would once again be in the media. Someone would complain about a Mosque being built in Boise Idaho's downtown citing its proximity to ground zero and its insensitivity to 9/11 victims...
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:52 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


What if the egyptian protesters lived in America.

Jon Stewart would whine that they're contributing to uncivil discourse.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:55 AM on February 21, 2011 [34 favorites]


It has been painful to watch the Democratic and labor leadership trying to figure out what to do with the situation in Madison.

I'm hoping for the best in Wisconsin and I salute the workers and unions who are risking a lot to try and protect their rights. But I can also say that "what would happen if ______" arguments are closing the barn doors a bit late.

What's happening in Wisconsin isn't about what Democrats could or couldn't be doing; it's what they already didn't do six months ago and why it led to the largest state-level takeover from an opposing political party in American history.

If they don't realize that a couple thousand people just decided for them what their 2012 campaign strategy needs to be then they've lost everything already and there's not much you or I can do about it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:00 AM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


What if bees were hospitals? What if ice cream was invisible? What if chairs walked as men among us?

Boring old agitprop based on nothing concrete, as far as I can tell.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:02 AM on February 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


What if the Egyptian protesters had been Three-Headed Hydras? What if Three-Headed Hydras were Democrats? Could you vote for only one head but not the other two? What if Joe Lieberman had three heads? Could he start a Barbershop Quartet with himself and one other guy? Who would that guy be? I submit to you that it should be Neil Young. Lieberman, Lieberman, Lieberman and Young.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:05 AM on February 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is stupid. America is not a dictatorship. There is nothing to have a revolution against. We already had one.
posted by empath at 7:05 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, Democrats are on the streets in Wisconsin right now.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


What if Egyptian protesters were GIANT ANGRY BEARS WITH CHAINSAWS INSTEAD OF ARMS?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


Then the Egyptians would have the right to bear arms.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:08 AM on February 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


What if chairs walked as men among us?

That would be totally fucking cool.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:10 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Then the Egyptians would have the right to arm bears.
posted by cmyk at 7:13 AM on February 21, 2011


what if egyptian protesters were tea partiers? would they have been upset at how the Pharoh's wouldn't recognize Egypt today?
posted by ten year lurk at 7:13 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


if chairs walked on two legs, would the other two just be arms in disguise?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:14 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If 'if's and 'but's were candy and nuts, oh what i christmas we'd have.
posted by empath at 7:15 AM on February 21, 2011


What if the Egyptian minimum wage was $6.50 an hour rather than $6.50 a month? The Egyptian situation is not like the comparatively cushy situation US workers face, no matter how bad it may seem to our pampered asses.
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


what if egyptian protesters were tea partiers? would they have been upset at how the Pharoh's wouldn't recognize Egypt today?

(Teabagger reads twenty-foot-long hieroglyph sequence)

"...... no dammit I want to see the LONG FORM!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's a very good point, caddis. The point that the Democratic Party has sold out its morals and constituents is also a good point.

This Wisconsin mess, it just makes me sick. The union leadership gave the gov. all his concessions, and now they're fighting over the last little scrap of dignity and temporal power they (the union) have left, and they will compromise (give away) some meaningful portion of that little scrap. This is exactly what happened on a larger scale with the healthcare debate, and what is happening, more ominously, with the federal budget. The Dems have stipulated that defense, tax increases, and other sacred cows are off the table; all the cuts, all the pain, will occur in under-funded social programs in order to fulfill a hateful and regressive social agenda that will have no effect on the deficit.
posted by Mister_A at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


What if my brain was my ass?

Hey perhaps I could write like that too... then
posted by edgeways at 7:26 AM on February 21, 2011


What if chairs walked as men among us?

They would, no doubt, Walk Like An Egyptian...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The union leadership gave the gov. all his concessions, and now they're fighting over the last little scrap of dignity and temporal power they (the union) have left, and they will compromise (give away) some meaningful portion of that little scrap.

You can negotiate over numbers, but the right to collective bargaining is something you can't negotiate over. It's literally life and death for the union.
posted by empath at 7:28 AM on February 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


And here's the thing about Wisconsin. This is the end result of a democratic process. Whatever it is, it's not dictatorship, and it's not tyranny.
posted by empath at 7:29 AM on February 21, 2011


empath, you're right about collective bargaining - when that right is stripped from the union, it will cease to be an effective entity. It is life and death; this is one more union that is being killed by the anti-labor Republican Party.
posted by Mister_A at 7:32 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Egyptian situation is not like the comparatively cushy situation US workers face, no matter how bad it may seem to our pampered asses.

Actually, that's not as clear cut as you might think. What really matters is not how the wage is measured in absolute terms, but the relative spending power of the wage. You can't just compare dollars earned between two countries and get any meaningful sense of how well laborers are actually compensated.

As Mark Twain wrote in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court":
"In your country, brother, what is the wage of a master bailiff, master hind, carter, shepherd, swineherd?"

"Twenty-five milrays a day; that is to say, a quarter of a cent.

The smith's face beamed with joy. He said:

"With us they are allowed the double of it! And what may a mechanic get -- carpenter, dauber, mason, painter, blacksmith, wheelwright, and the like?"

"On the average, fifty milrays; half a cent a day."

"Ho-ho! With us they are allowed a hundred! With us any good mechanic is allowed a cent a day! I count out the tailor, but not the others -- they are all allowed a cent a day, and in driving times they get more -- yes, up to a hundred and ten and even fifteen milrays a day. I've paid a hundred and fifteen myself, within the week. 'Rah for protection -- to Sheol with free-trade!"

And his face shone upon the company like a sunburst. But I didn't scare at all. I rigged up my pile-driver, and allowed myself fifteen minutes to drive him into the earth -- drive him all in -- drive him in till not even the curve of his skull should show above ground. Here is the way I started in on him. I asked:

"What do you pay a pound for salt?"

"A hundred milrays."

"We pay forty. What do you pay for beef and mutton -- when you buy it?" That was a neat hit; it made the color come.

"It varieth somewhat, but not much; one may say 75 milrays the pound."

"WE pay 33. What do you pay for eggs?"

"Fifty milrays the dozen."

"We pay 20. What do you pay for beer?"

"It costeth us 8 1/2 milrays the pint."

"We get it for 4; 25 bottles for a cent. What do you pay for wheat?"

"At the rate of 900 milrays the bushel."

"We pay 400. What do you pay for a man's towlinen suit?"

"Thirteen cents."

"We pay 6. What do you pay for a stuff gown for the wife of the laborer or the mechanic?"

"We pay 8.4.0."

"Well, observe the difference: you pay eight cents and four mills, we pay only four cents." I prepared now to sock it to him. l said: "Look here, dear friend, what's become of your high wages you were bragging so about a few minutes ago?" -- and I looked around on the company with placid satisfaction, for I had slipped up on him gradually and tied him hand and foot, you see, without his ever noticing that he was being tied at all. "What's become of those noble high wages of yours? -- I seem to have knocked the stuffing all out of them, it appears to me."
posted by saulgoodman at 7:33 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And in case you get the wrong impression from the above, Twain wasn't arguing against Trade Unions ("Protection") in this exchange.

On the contrary, he was arguing against a particular form of trade unionism that existed in the ugly old days of monarchy that effectively left the power to set fair wages up to the capital holders:
"Sometimes the courts, sometimes the town council; but most of all, the magistrate. Ye may say, in general terms, it is the magistrate that fixes the wages."

"Doesn't ask any of those poor devils to help him fix their wages for them, does he?"

"Hm! That were an idea! The master that's to pay him the money is the one that's rightly concerned in that matter, ye will notice "
posted by saulgoodman at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


One last quote from Twain here:
"Yes -- but I thought the other man might have some little trifle at stake in it, too; and even his wife and children, poor creatures. The masters are these: nobles, rich men, the prosperous generally. These few, who do no work, determine what pay the vast hive shall have who do work. You see? They're a 'combine' -- a trade union, to coin a new phrase -- who band themselves together to force their lowly brother to take what they choose to give. Thirteen hundred years hence -- so says the unwritten law -- the 'combine' will be the other way, and then how these fine people's posterity will fume and fret and grit their teeth over the insolent tyranny of trade unions! Yes, indeed! the magistrate will tranquilly arrange the wages from now clear away down into the nineteenth century; and then all of a sudden the wage-earner will consider that a couple of thousand years or so is enough of this one-sided sort of thing; and he will rise up and take a hand in fixing his wages himself. Ah, he will have a long and bitter account of wrong and humiliation to settle."
posted by saulgoodman at 7:44 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


saulgoodman, you've reminded me of one of my own favorite bits from that book, on the French Revolution:
There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’, if we could but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred million; but our shudders are all for the “horrors of the… momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief terror that we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror – that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.
posted by enn at 7:50 AM on February 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


God this was an annoying article. The reason why weak-minded consensus-building liberals aren't out demanding the toppling of government probably has something to do with, oh I don't know, the fact THAT I CAN CRITICIZE MY GOVERNMENT WITHOUT BEING TORTURED OR KILLED. There are many things that really piss me right the fuck off about my government and they piss me off enough to want to do things that will actually change those things.

I am outraged about the fact that my community doesn't take care of the basic material needs of the least of its members. What's going to accomplish more here? Standing in the town square and demanding the resignation of Obama? Or getting involved, volunteering, lobbying my state legislators, talking to my neighbors. Yeah, if U.S. citizens got to the point where we didn't have any of that as options, as the Egyptians did, then things would be a little different.

Yeah, the democrats suck, but republicans suck more, fascinating point Mr. Salaita. The hyperbole and assumptions taken in this article are nauseating. Now, if you'll excuse me, I literally am headed out the door to go get something good for the world done. And I'll probably still vote democrat in 2 years.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:54 AM on February 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


The union leadership gave the gov. all his concessions, and now they're fighting over the last little scrap of dignity and temporal power they (the union) have left, and they will compromise (give away) some meaningful portion of that little scrap.

The concessions was actually (imho, and it affects my family) a decent political move on the part of the unions. They called Walker's bluff that this was about money. If it was about money, he would've accepted the concessions and we could all move on (accept the people without insurance because of the bill, and other issues). Instead, the unions haven't actually had to give up anything, yet and they managed to undermine one of Walker's biggest arguments.

There was part of me that thought maybe Walker just wanted to make the public workers take huge pay cuts, and was trying the negotiating tactic of threatening something far worse, but no, he just wants to break the unions because he's not a very effective negotiator.
posted by drezdn at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


For those who might respond to this hypothetical exercise by pointing out that the United States is not Egypt, I would agree.

"For those who might respond to this hypothetical exercise by pointing out that Egypt and the US have very different political systems and historical conditions, I would take my shoe off, lift in their direction, and scream SPINELESS DEMOCRAT over and over again at them."
posted by blucevalo at 7:59 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The concessions was actually (imho, and it affects my family) a decent political move on the part of the unions. They called Walker's bluff that this was about money. If it was about money, he would've accepted the concessions and we could all move on (accept the people without insurance because of the bill, and other issues). Instead, the unions haven't actually had to give up anything, yet and they managed to undermine one of Walker's biggest arguments.

Typical weak-minded limp-wristed American "liberal", suggesting that politics might involve politics. Row row fight the powah and such.
posted by kafziel at 8:00 AM on February 21, 2011


Ok, is anyone seriously under the illusion that the major parties in the United States are something other than political-machine institutions with the primary goal of keeping themselves in a revolving door of power? I'm not certain we've had a revolutionary reform party since the Red scare of WWI resulted in the government effectively lowering the banhammer on socialists.

This particular article though is annoying.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2011


Anyone here discouraged about Americans' hesitancy to revolt should imagine a tea party/military revolution.
posted by planet at 8:09 AM on February 21, 2011


What would we even be asking for in a revolt in the US?

To get a democratically elected government, with checks and balances between the branches of government?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:15 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The governor of Wisconsin is broadly popular and his policy is supported by the electorate. They held a recent election, he won now he gets to set policies. In a democracy when you are the minority party you have limited rights and you are free to exercise those, but don't get your hopes up. You want to change the policy you have to win at the ballot box. My advice is the same as it was to the obstructionist Republicans the last 2 years, you lost get over it. Spend your days on the street and protest if you like, but unless you have a overwhelming popular support, you have no chance.
The Egyptian protesters had the support of 80-90% of the population, including most of the corporate elite and the military who did not want to see Gamal take power. The Wisconsin protestors should have been this worked up before the election. It isn't like some of us didn't see this coming.
I find it terribly ironic that the same people who screamed that there was no difference between republicans and democrats are now up in arms over this. This is the difference dumbass. What did you expect the Republicans do to? You want them to negotiate better in the majority or minority, then you need a stronger political coalition than the one you have. Don't just show a path to winning elections, you have to build your coalition and win them.
posted by humanfont at 8:16 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


For organized labor rights that are even half as robust as the legal protections given to organized capital, for one thing. For an end to the current corporate patronage system in Washington.

Just having the external form of a democratic republic in place is not enough. We have to insist on the substance of a democratic republic as well.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:17 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The politics discussion on here has been too damn depressing lately. This thread is no exception.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously? From where I sit, this is exciting stuff! These labor protests are America at its finest, America reasserting its true national identity from where I sit. We just have to keep the ball rolling.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:25 AM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I can't help but think all the snark and knee-jerk "hey don't call me out on my comfortableness with the way things are in our unequal capitalist system where I don't get tortured for criticizing my government, only other people do, and I still have enough benefits to eat, and I'm doing just fine thank you even if other people are living in abject poverty and other people can't pay for basic healthcare and other people have to stay poor because that is part of how capitalism functions and I want to keep the peace!" really indicates that you are exactly the kind of people that Salaita is talking about.

If you ask me, our current democracy is not so different from the Greek Republic: freedom and economic prosperity for citizens. (It's just the definition of citizen is rather narrow and doesn't include most women, queers, people of color, immigrants, the destitute, the once-criminal, the future-criminal, etc. Yes you can cite individual examples of how these groups are represented in our government, but let's take a step back and reflect on how old-white-well-off-man our legislature looks and how that is both very picture-perfect with the Greek system and very unrepresented of our country. Obama does not a revolution make.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:32 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the situations are not really that comparable. And anyway, the democrats aren't doing things this way because they are weak, they are doing it because both parties are funded by the same corporations, who want things this way. The democrats are doing what they want to do, they're not being forced into something they don't want. It's just that it's divergent from what their base believes and what they pay lip-service to.

People need to realize that the whole 'weakness' thing is just a cover for doing things that their base doesn't want. And BTW a lot of the republican base feels the same way about their guys in congress.

It's just the definition of citizen is rather narrow and doesn't include most women, queers, people of color

Oh, the Greek system definitely included queers!
posted by delmoi at 8:37 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


These labor protests are America at its finest, America reasserting its true national identity from where I sit.
And when they inevitably fizzle because the politicians say they've done all they can and the people in the streets go home, that will be another example of representative democracy at its worst.
posted by cdward at 8:39 AM on February 21, 2011


To me it seems that in the US there's no party that currently represents a sort of middle + mildly progressive stance. You have a two party system, and both seem bought and paid-for by the military and Wall st. Nobody, including the Democrats, seems to represent people who want peace, internal stability, and social fairness.

Somewhat the same problem here in Canada. A Conservative government clings to successive minorities, has successfully outsourced our foreign policy to the US, and has started to dismantle the mechanisms of a progressive democracy. The Canadian Liberal party is rudderless and becalmed, and has internal rot.

In the Canadian multi-party system, at least we have more players, and the one to watch is the New Democratic Party. They are usually the party of unions and closet socialists, but they've had pretty solid and sensible leadership for a while, and have steadfastly held to some pretty reasonable principles while the Liberals flounder about. The NDP seems to be the farm club for when the Liberals need an injection of social conscience; one prominent Liberal - Bob Rae - was once the NDP premier (like governer) of Ontario.

In Canada, we seem poised on the brink of another federal election... all depending on how reckless the Federal Conservatives are with the upcoming budget. It's a crap shoot for the government. Maybe they'll blink and compromise.

I tell you this much - I much prefer our unscheduled Canadian elections that hinge on current policies and issues, rather than regularly-scheduled elections that turn the governing process into an NFL season, where election preparation overrules policy work.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:43 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


"What if I used a poorly-thought-out and controversially-titled-to-attract attention blog post to bait liberals on Metafilter?"
posted by aught at 8:49 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


humanfont: American politics and activism doesn't begin or end at the ballot box. Criticism and protest by the electorate is part of the process, and sometimes works to change or mitigate policy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:49 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if chairs walked as men among us?

That would be totally fucking cool.


Oh yeah sure, totally cool until someone vandalizes the moon.
posted by homunculus at 9:02 AM on February 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


American politics and activism doesn't begin or end at the ballot box. Criticism and protest by the electorate is part of the process, and sometimes works to change or mitigate policy.

Agreed. We're not electing term-limited benevolant dictators. We're electing representatives, and as such, we have a right to demand of them that they represent us. Not simply because of who they are, but because they respond to the expressed interests of their electorate.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the main difference between the Egyptian protesters and American Liberals/Democrats is 40 years of tyrannical rule.
posted by cman at 9:19 AM on February 21, 2011


I think the main difference between the Egyptian protesters and American Liberals/Democrats is 40 years of tyrannical rule.

Yeah, we've only been under the rule of oligarchy for roughly half as long, and we haven't nearly hit bottom yet.

When even one of Reagan's top economic advisers has concluded that America has functionally become an oligarchy of wealthy private interests, then I'd think you might want to stop and consider the possibility that we really and truly aren't in Kansas anymore and that the left's concerns can't just be dismissed as mere partisan political jockeying.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:28 AM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nah, American liberals are just lackeys of the imperialist ruling class. We need topple the old white men and their boot licking yes men in government staring with Obama, Reid and Pelosi. We have a government that is hostile to it's population, we are all a week away from the bread lines while they grow fat feasting on the flesh of the worker.

We have had over 200 years of oppression under the so-called constitution. A document written by slave owners to subjugate the proletariat. Time and again they send us off to fight their wars and refuse to even provide the basest of necessities.

It is time we cast off the yoke of oppression and the puling "liberals" should be first in line for re-education.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:36 AM on February 21, 2011


The author is Steven Salaita (b.1975) who works at Virginia Tech English dept. He wrote a book called The Uncultured Wars described as "..a powerful indictment of dominant American liberal-left discourse." He is of the school that there is a deep current of Arab racism in America and white elites are to blame. His background is in Native American (Indian) and ethnic literature, now specializing in Arab-American literature.
posted by stbalbach at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I think is fascinating is how we are seeing a divide in Democrats between (loosely speaking) the tax-payer consituency and the tax-consuming constituency that has a similarity between the divide among Republicans between fiscal and cultural conservatives.

On the one hand, you have Wisconsin State Senators breaking the law to avoid constituting a quorum, out of obediance to their public union bosses. On the other hand, you have Andrew Cuomo moving into open defiance of the unions, recognizing that New York is in a tax-increase / productive-citizen-loss death spiral, and has to get off, and the Obama housing-finance reform proposal that read like it was written in the Heritage Foundation and some lefty was given 5 minutes to add some low-income-housing platitudes to it before it was published.
posted by MattD at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2011


Looking at a few pages from Salaita's book, it seems to me his argument generally amounts to: We all know the American media is liberal(!), this "liberal" American media consistently encourages American exceptionalism and vaguely racist attitudes toward the Arab world, therefore liberalism is racist and anti-Arab. Or at least, it seems to do something similar to that--sort of like looking around and noticing you can't find any true Scotsmen and then from there reverse engineering the conclusion that therefore, the abstract concept of being Scottish is to blame. We really seem to have trouble with abstractions these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2011


This is stupid. America is not a dictatorship. There is nothing to have a revolution against. We already had one.

Correct, it's a banana oligarchy, with a side of kangaroo democracy.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:33 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


@shudders at the image of a three-headed Joe Leiberman@
posted by ironbob at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2011


When even one of Reagan's top economic advisers has concluded that America has functionally become an oligarchy of wealthy private interests, then I'd think you might want to stop and consider the possibility that we really and truly aren't in Kansas anymore and that the left's concerns can't just be dismissed as mere partisan political jockeying.

I don't think that a Reagan assistant treasury secretary coming out and saying such things is particularly controversial. Many Reagan appointees, including David Stockman, have said (as Stockman did a year ago) that "The beast needs to be trimmed back, but it can’t be starved enough to even begin to cope with our fiscal problem."

For all the lip service that Republicans now pay to Reagan, if Reagan were still alive and his presidential policy record were a matter of debate rather than a subject of hagiography and whitewashing, he would be excoriated by the current GOP establishment as not Republican enough.
posted by blucevalo at 11:06 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


well, i thought the article was great. spot on.

and to whoever said "i can say what i want about my government without being tortured" - well yes, but that is because you are no threat to the rulers, you have no power to make them change their ways. also you probably have white skin.
posted by marienbad at 11:11 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]



On the one hand, you have Wisconsin State Senators breaking the law to avoid constituting a quorum, out of obediance to their public union bosses.


Two things, the first is that the Senators haven't broken the law at all. Police were sent for them as a procedural thing, no laws have been broken. Secondly, the Senators are representing their constituents, many of whom will be affected by other things in the bill, like dramatic cuts to Badgercare.
posted by drezdn at 11:11 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that a Reagan assistant treasury secretary coming out and saying such things is particularly controversial.

It's definitely still a controversial idea (in the sense that it isn't widely accepted) that America has over the last couple of decades been functionally transformed into an oligarchy. And that's what this former Reagan assistant treasury secretary argues.

In general, it's the self-identified supporters of Reaganomics leading the charge to denounce and marginalize this point of view, often on the basis that this point of view is merely leftist (read: "communist") anti-Capitalist agitation. Granted, there are also more than a few "moderate" Democratic types who continue to deny there's been any significant recent shift in the underlying nature of the American political system.

But here's a stalwart of the Reagan era, one of the architects of the Reaganomics policies so roundly rejoiced on the Right (in short, someone with a credible opinion regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on), and guess what? He fully agrees with the "communists"!
posted by saulgoodman at 11:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, if we put Democrats in a similar situation where there is an autocrat in charge, food prices are going through the roof, and you reduced the average age of their population to under thirty, my bet is that they'd react in a similar way.

Which is to say that America and Egypt's political situations are hardly comparable. For one thing, high food prices have a way of quickly radicalizing people, and it suddenly becomes easier to march in the street when your livelihood is on the line. This is opposed to, say, protesting the Citizens United case, which, while consequential, does not directly affect people's livelihood.
posted by Weebot at 11:43 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In short, if the Egyptian protesters were Democrats, they would have undertaken no revolution. The Democratic Party represents the pervasiveness of elite corporate power;

I know you have to have a framing, but why not just call out the Democratic Party for what is does - give a line by line list of the suck(-ing up to corporate power)?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:54 AM on February 21, 2011


America is not a dictatorship.

And yet the conviction rate is in line with dictatorships.

There is nothing to have a revolution against.

Really?

I believe there was calls for such over action X during the Bush II years here on the Blue - For fun, one could see if X is still going on and if the same calls are being made now.

We already had one.

One?

That would be the Whiskey Rebellion, right?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:58 AM on February 21, 2011


If you ask me, our current democracy is not so different from the Greek Republic: freedom and economic prosperity for citizens. (It's just the definition of citizen is rather narrow and doesn't include most women, queers, people of color, immigrants, the destitute, the once-criminal, the future-criminal, etc. Yes you can cite individual examples of how these groups are represented in our government, but let's take a step back and reflect on how old-white-well-off-man our legislature looks and how that is both very picture-perfect with the Greek system and very unrepresented of our country. Obama does not a revolution make.)

The difference is that all those people CAN vote and have the right to speak and assert their case. In Greece, they didn't.

America is not a dictatorship.

And yet the conviction rate is in line with dictatorships.


That's got nothing to do with it.

I believe there was calls for such over action X during the Bush II years here on the Blue - For fun, one could see if X is still going on and if the same calls are being made now.

Protest and revolution are two different things.
posted by gjc at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2011


But here's a stalwart of the Reagan era, one of the architects of the Reaganomics policies so roundly rejoiced on the Right (in short, someone with a credible opinion regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on), and guess what? He fully agrees with the "communists"!

I don't disagree with you. My only suggestion is that people like an assistant treasury secretary or even David Stockman, who left the admin under less than stellar circumstances almost 30 years ago ("taken to the woodshed" by Reagan and/or his cronies after having a too-frank interview with William Greider), can be easily dismissed as rogues or disgruntled traitors to the cause. They would for the most part be considered cogs, not "architects." (Stockman being the odd exception.)

I can't think of anyone, in fact, still alive from those years who would be received by the mainstream opinion filters as having any credibility on this matter. Not to mention anyone many people under the age of 45 would remember the name of.
posted by blucevalo at 12:49 PM on February 21, 2011


And yet the conviction rate is in line with dictatorships.

That's got nothing to do with it.


Actually, it's not conviction but incarceration rates. And it's actually worse in the US than in any dictatorships in the world, because the US currently has more of its people incarcerated both per capita and in absolute terms than any other nation in the world period--dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy or otherwise.

Whatever you call our current political system, it likes to put more people in prison than any other in the world and that's not an exaggeration, so make of that what you will.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:02 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the strange things about living in Australia is that the people my friends denounce as 'right-wing nuts' are far to the left of any democrat. The biggest recent bogeyman, John Howard, BANNED GUNS and even the right wing supports government handouts and healthcare.
I'm not sure what can be done. The entire frame of discourse makes it impossible to push for any sweeping changes.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:33 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, the drug war is responsible for mass incarceration, and sure as heck isn't Goldman Sachs' idea ... it's perpetuated because politicians of both parties believe voters want it. That's democracy, even if it leaves a minority at the sharp end of the stick.

Really, it's one of the most democratic things in this society, when you think about it: something that we do just because the people want it, even though it burns tax dollars faster than bonfires could, and the material beneficiaries (prison guard unions, a couple of private prison operators) are by no means powerful enough to get it done on their own.
posted by MattD at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2011


Actually, it's not conviction but incarceration rates. And it's actually worse in the US than in any dictatorships in the world, because the US currently has more of its people incarcerated both per capita and in absolute terms than any other nation in the world period--dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy or otherwise.

Whatever you call our current political system, it likes to put more people in prison than any other in the world and that's not an exaggeration, so make of that what you will.


It's not right, but it STILL has nothing to do with dictatorship. Some dictators imprison their enemies, some don't. Some democratic societies have high incarceration rates, some don't.
posted by gjc at 2:06 PM on February 21, 2011


and sure as heck isn't Goldman Sachs' idea ... it's perpetuated because politicians of both parties believe voters want it. That's democracy, even if it leaves a minority at the sharp end of the stick.

Oh really? So I guess you think concerns about the Prison Industrial Complex's growing influence over rural politics are exaggerated or misplaced? So I shouldn't worry about Rick Scott's plans to privatize the Florida prison system, nor about the fact that US prison labor is actively marketed around the world as "outsourcing's best kept secret."

Correctional officials see danger in prison overcrowding. Others see opportunity. The nearly two million Americans behind bars—the majority of them nonviolent offenders—mean jobs for depressed regions and windfalls for profiteers

And gjc: I agree. We don't have a dictatorship. We have an oligarchy. Or as someone else put it upthread, a banana republic. But that's still not the way it should be.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Apparently if the Democrats had any guts they'd be occupying the streets until Obama is removed by the armed forces.

If that happened I'd start voting for them.
posted by clarknova at 3:57 PM on February 21, 2011


The Egyptian protesters didn't sign up to be red herring for trolls.

We were doing pretty well, until Bush inc. smelled blood, and fat wallets and carried off the largest robbery in known history.

We are all headed into a wall, because we can't find a way to live without population expansion, and expanding markets. We have to realize out planetary limits and embrace stasis, and find a noble plan which helps us all to live on Earth gracefully, joyfully, and without the destruction of our world.

There is a group of free money people, who pump oil, want to do nuclear, patent every seed planted, and a host of other loots. This group expects vast subsidy as they plunder. They wrap themselves in the flag, and decry socialism, while they carry out their robberies. They expect us to worship them. They don't necessarily like bananas but they love their banana republics. They indulge in the grossest chickenshittery imaginable, expecting protection for their plunder in the amount of the ever-expanding defense budget. Note how much is now budgeted for propaganda, mind control, twice removed robotic mayhem.

These oligarchs pay to walk up to a fence, and shoot penned animals, and call it sport. These oligarchs blah, blah, blah, blah. They aren't very interesting, that is why they have to buy it. Then they take a pill so they can have it, once they buy it. They want to put a power pole in the middle of your lawn, they want to shoot you if they catch you near their critical infrastructure. They recruit from American prisons for their offshore armies.

It will take three presidents to undo what Bush did, he seeded the entire government with political wonks with no skill, but the art of the yes, sir, Jesus, sir! There is some reason the revolution is happening all over the middle east, and I wish the world luck on the outcomes. Real revolution is painful.

I just worked all day, then to go out all afternoon and evening to take down a corrupt government, sounds exhausting, and frightening. Sounds like things have been horrible for a long time to get people out on the streets. I am so curious as to who the puppet master is for all this activity. Spambots! The singularity?
posted by Oyéah at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2011


America is not a dictatorship.
And yet the conviction rate is in line with dictatorships.
That's got nothing to do with it.


I see. So at what point ARE things "a dictatorship" - the nameplate on the ship of state says 'dictator'?

What EXACTLY are the lines that one side 'not dictatorship' and the other is 'dictatorship'?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:43 PM on February 21, 2011


What EXACTLY are the lines that one side 'not dictatorship' and the other is 'dictatorship'?

I'm not exactly sure what the full cavalcade of evidence may be which delineates "dictatorship" from "not dictatorship"... but I'm pretty certain having a legislative body which is determined to undermine everything you do and having the power to actually stop some of the things you want to do probably means you're not a dictator.
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2011


What EXACTLY are the lines that one side 'not dictatorship' and the other is 'dictatorship'?

I'd say the existence of an actual dictator certainly helps.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:00 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say the existence of an actual dictator certainly helps.\

So there has to be a 'nameplate' on the 'ship of state' that says 'dictator' then?

Huh.

Most of the places in the world claim elections and have a nameplate that says 'democratic', so they must not be dictatorships.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:38 PM on February 21, 2011


For all the lip service that Republicans now pay to Reagan, if Reagan were still alive and his presidential policy record were a matter of debate rather than a subject of hagiography and whitewashing, he would be excoriated by the current GOP establishment as not Republican enough.

"I can't believe I've been calling for a return to Reagan's America. I feel like an asshole."

posted by naoko at 5:50 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


So there has to be a 'nameplate' on the 'ship of state' that says 'dictator' then?

Huh.

Most of the places in the world claim elections and have a nameplate that says 'democratic', so they must not be dictatorships.


Are you suggesting that Obama has dictatorial powers and that he was not elected legitimately in a constitutional process? We don't have an independent legislature? We don't have an independent judiciary?

Losing an election doesn't mean you're in a dictatorship.
posted by empath at 6:11 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe there was calls for such over action X during the Bush II years here on the Blue

[citation needed]
posted by empath at 6:13 PM on February 21, 2011


I am really impressed with the low level of violence and the general good nature of the Egyptian revolt. But let's be frank: right now Egypt is ruled by a junta. In fact, it's remarkably similar to the way they ended up with a one-party army-dominated system in the first place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 PM on February 21, 2011


This stuff about America becoming a dictatorship is misguided, IMO. Not that it can't happen, but it's not the situation we're facing now. America's problem isn't that it's government is too strong; it's that its government barely has any authority left at all, and the gap has been filled by the oligarchs. It's the same as during previous periods in American history characterized by gross economic inequality and lack of social mobility. We've entered an era of corporate Robber Barons, not an era of centralized governmental tyranny.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although, in a lot of cases, the Robber Barons have captured governmental regulatory systems and otherwise used the government to further their financial interests at the expense of the public interest. But that's not exactly the same thing as a straight-forward dictatorship.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:51 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


ach. "its government". i'm tired.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:51 PM on February 21, 2011


I see. So at what point ARE things "a dictatorship" - the nameplate on the ship of state says 'dictator'?

What EXACTLY are the lines that one side 'not dictatorship' and the other is 'dictatorship'?


I don't know, but the number of people in jail is not going to give you the answer.
posted by gjc at 8:05 PM on February 21, 2011


So there has to be a 'nameplate' on the 'ship of state' that says 'dictator' then?

That's a not-great reading of what I said.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:02 PM on February 21, 2011


Saulgoodman wrote: its government barely has any authority left at all, and the gap has been filled by the oligarchs ... Although, in a lot of cases, the Robber Barons have captured governmental regulatory systems and otherwise used the government to further their financial interests at the expense of the public interest.

[adjacent posts merged to make things clearer]

I think you're conflating regulatory capture with weak government and placing too much emphasis on economic interests.

I acknowledge that the Wall Street fiasco looks like government weakness, but I would argue that it isn't: the system had been largely placed in the hands of the very people it was supposed to monitor. This isn't government weakness but rather the use of governmental power by special interests. Special interests love strong governments because they are parasites who thrive under government regulation. The entertainment industry, for example, enjoys the fact that your legal system now treats what are really private wrongs as if they were public crimes.

In any event, I think many of your country's problems don't come from economic regulatory capture but from self-perpetuating power bases within your government. Why do things like the secret rendition programs go on? It can't be for financial reasons and they don't make objective military or diplomatic sense. I'm pretty sure they persist because it would be too hard to stop them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Until just recently, our Food and Drug Administration didn't even have the power to force food and drug producers to recall their products.

In many formerly regulated industries, we've turned inspection and other regulatory functions over to the regulated industries themselves and compliance is now largely voluntary.

We no longer have any practical legal power to prevent false advertising, due to legal precedents that make enforcement impossible as a practical matter.

We no longer, in practical terms, have the ability to rescind broadcast licences.

The Supreme Court has ruled that congress is not allowed to impose limits on corporate political spending.

We couldn't even use anti-trust laws to break up the too-big-to-fail companies at the center of the financial meltdown after they dragged us all into one of the worst recessions in our history when everyone on both sides admitted the companies were too big!

Domestically, our government has been effectively dead in the water for a long time now, IMO.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:55 PM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


What EXACTLY are the lines that one side 'not dictatorship' and the other is 'dictatorship'?

I don't know, but the number of people in jail is not going to give you the answer.


True. Anything above 1% of general pop could also be an oligarchy.
posted by clarknova at 11:00 PM on February 22, 2011


Are you suggesting that Obama has dictatorial powers

Because no one has defined what 'dictatorial powers' are - exactly how is this question to be answered?

and that he was not elected legitimately in a constitutional process?

Why the AND clause?
(and the constitutional process is the electoral college votes - I'm led to believe that happened)

We don't have an independent legislature?

Independent of whom?

Certain corporate interests?

We don't have an independent judiciary?

Independent of whom?

Certain corporate interests?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:45 AM on February 24, 2011


This is civics 101 stuff, i'm not going to waste time explaining it.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on February 24, 2011


This is civics 101 stuff, i'm not going to waste time explaining it.

Eye C - sow U kant bee both-er'd 2 D-fine watt U mee'n?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:02 AM on February 24, 2011


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