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The Rain on Our Parade
October 16, 2012 7:00 AM   Subscribe

A Letter to My Allies on the Left by Rebecca Solnit
posted by mokin (240 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is what thoughtfulness looks like.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to healthcare is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

Quoted for truth.
posted by bpm140 at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


clap harder
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


clap harder

Fight in the primaries, vote in the election.
posted by jaduncan at 7:22 AM on October 16, 2012 [33 favorites]


This is what thoughtfulness looks like.

"big, sad, hot pony tears"?
posted by Egg Shen at 7:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is what thoughtfulness looks like.

"big, sad, hot pony tears"?


I didn't say the writing was good.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will then: the writing, it is good.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, is it time to play "harp endlessly on irrelevant word choices that may or may not even have been used in a Solnit article" again?
posted by kmz at 7:35 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I love it when angry reader commentary 100% reinforces the thesis laid out in the article being commented on.
posted by Mooseli at 7:48 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Shorter this: please, if you're left of the Democrats, shut up because the Republicans are omiogosh so much worse and really sometimes Democratic politicians do good things, honest and why can't you be more optimistic?
posted by MartinWisse at 7:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


I will then: the writing, it is good.

it's really not

we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

I think I usually like Solnit, but that was crap. The entire argument could be summed up as "quit yet bitching and do something." OK, I'm down with that, but don't be so preachy about it.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to healthcare is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

Your vote has about 0% of changing legislation any which way, and is just as likely to go against your position.

Counter: When your vote counts for nothing
posted by mrgrimm at 7:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Except for attacking a stereotype of a certain kind of interaction you might have in left-politics, which might be mostly justifiable, I'm not sure what she is getting at.

The problem with Obama (or Gore... or Clinton) is that they aren't allies of left politics. Their outlook is essentially right-wing, though not radically so. The difference between Obama and Romney (or Gore and Bush) is that, for purely political reasons, he is susceptible to pressure from the left. With leverage, the left could push Obama into positions he isn't happy with. But, part of that requires you to realize that Obama isn't your friend, he isn't going to give you ponies unless you force him too. You have to make him earn your vote. Gay activists did it, and they got at least the end of DADT. The unions didn't and they got exactly nothing. But the problem is that Obama is much more wedded to his friends in Wall Street than he is to keeping gay people in their place so the challenge for unions (and the economic left) is much harder...

But Solnit seems to flirt with the idea that somehow Obama and co. are going in the right direction by baby steps, which puts her in actual opposition to her "allies."
posted by ennui.bz at 7:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


Even shorter this: Keep your eyes on the prize.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, I'll grant that Obama made progress on important social issues, and generally done the job sensibly, but he continued his predecessors' slide towards a police state as well.

I suppose the slide towards a police state must sound like the left's version of the right's bitching about spending, while their politicians spending rampantly, but it's worth making a stink about.

I believe Romney leads Obama by at least 8 points in Georgia, although higher estimates come in around 21 points and average out around 12 points, so my abandoning him simply doesn't matter.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are DESTROYING OUR PLANET, and our presidential candidates have what plans for that? I mean really. I am going to work (I am working) on it, but I'm going to bitch too. Fuck both of them.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Holy mother of God I want to hug Rebecca and give her a parade.

The reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is not because he promised all sorts of things. The reason is that he flat-out admitted that "look, I'm gonna try my best, but we are in a hole deep enough that it's gonna take more than 4 years to get out of it, and it may even take more than 8 years to get out of it. But I'm gonna do my damndest to make sure that we all make progress together, ALL of us, EVEN the right-wing people, and that we fill in the hole behind us as we go."

I wasn't expecting perfection. I voted for Obama because the dude is a realist. And realism, the ability to perceive exactly what the problems are and see how big they are, and see what your opponents want as well and want to make an effort to make them happy to so they don't pull us back down into the hole in our squabbilng, is what I wanted.

I will grant Obama did swing further into the "try to work with the Right" side more often than I'd have liked, but he did the stuff I voted him in for. Because he's right - we're fucked, and getting un-fucked takes time. And any step towards the goal is still a step towards the goal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2012 [50 favorites]


I feel like she wrote this for DU. ;)
posted by nushustu at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


my abandoning him simply doesn't matter

that applies to pretty much everyone who doesn't live in Ohio or Florida.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:56 AM on October 16, 2012


clap harder

Responding to this is pointless, I realize, but I'll ask anyway: so what the fuck do you have to show for all of your political work?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel for people on the left in the US and elsewhere with FPTP voting, at least here I can wash the bad taste from my mouth by giving my first few preferences to the "real" left before shaping my further selection to be sure it aids the centre-left against the right.
posted by nfg at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just to take a specific example:

The problem with Obama making RomneyCare the law of the land is that RomneyCare passed in Massachusetts because it split the conservative dems from their "allies" who wanted something more like a single payer system. You can make an argument that the politics of Romney/ObamaCare actually make it harder to have truly universal health care, in particular, the way it splits people who can afford/have private insurance from those who are forced to take subsidized insurance.

Sometimes one step forward is actually two steps back.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


what the fuck do you have to show for all of your political work?

a celebration of what we've got.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2012


You can make an argument that the politics of Romney/ObamaCare actually make it harder to have truly universal health care, in particular, the way it splits people who can afford/have private insurance from those who are forced to take subsidized insurance.

Obviously. You could also say it creates a troubling relationship between private industry--insurance companies--and federal government.

If you were a cynic, you could say the only reason Obama passed health-care legislation is so he could use it against Romney in the election. How can Romney campaign against Obamacare and not look like an idiot. I suppose he's trying ...

I can wash the bad taste from my mouth by giving my first few preferences to the "real" left before shaping my further selection to be sure it aids the centre-left against the right.

Yes. We get to do it in California too. At least in Oakland/SF. Seems like a no-brainer for federal elections as well. I can't imagine why anyone would argue against it ... hmm ... I would certainly vote Obama third to prevent an asshat like Romney from winning.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2012


Also, I avoided complaining about Obama's environmental record like mrgrimm did because yes realists simply cannot make environmental progress when half the country wants to pollute as much as possible just to spite the hippies, alright fair enough. I have complained about the police state crap because that's directly under Obama's control. Republicans cannot be blamed for DHS ignoring court orders
posted by jeffburdges at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Short version: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Really, if you think about the state of American politics, you need to concentrate on electing 3-4 Obamas in a row, so that the center is redefined. Right now, Reagan is what passes for centrist in the US. Only after you move the center can you get some progress on the left.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


I feel like she wrote this for DU.

Spiritually, she did. And I'm glad that Democrats are finally noticing they need the Left to win. The Left just needs to remain strong and not be bullied. Wait for the carrot, ignore the stick.
posted by DU at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


a celebration of what we've got

A celebration! Are there balloons?

I swear, some of the comments I see here and opinion pieces like this one convince me that a significant fraction of self-described lefties are more than satisfied with warm, good feelings instead of actual legislative work. Anything actually accomplished is always inevitably inferior to what might have been done, or what will be done whenever the people wake up, or what could have been done if what was done hadn't made what could have been done impossible.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Fight in the primaries, vote in the election.

And just before the next primary? "Actual Left candidate can't possibly win. Vote for Right Centrist."
posted by DU at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Right has been smart enough to use science as servant, whereas the Left continues to see science as a master, ignoring that it is by-and-large in the service of the Right. Without a critique of science, the Left is doomed.
posted by No Robots at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2012


Wait for the carrot, ignore the stick.

"Come the revolution, comrade ..."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2012


Part of the problem is that it's never the "right" time to put pressure from the left on a Democrat.

I mean, think about it. Can't criticize Obama during the 2008 primaries - then Hillary might win! Can't criticize Obama during the 2008 election - then McCain might win! Can't criticize Obama during the Tea Party heyday, because look at how much worse they are! Can't criticize Obama in early 2010 - then healthcare might not pass, and you leftists would be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths! Can't criticize Obama during the rest of his lame duck term, because that might weaken him for 2012! Can't criticize Obama during the 2012 primaries - that'll look bad! Can't criticize Obama during the 2012 election - what are you, some sort of Republican-loving sociopath?

It is no coincidence that there's never a right time - according to "left wing" Democratic partisans - to attempt to push the party towards the left.
posted by downing street memo at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2012 [25 favorites]


Domestic politics aside, how do you feel about attacking Iran? Iran has more people than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, a proxy army in Lebanon, and huge influence over Iraq and Syria. Romney's foreign policy advisors are Iran hawks: Bush-era neocons (Bolton, etc.) and Bibi Netanyahu, who he's been friends with since the 1970s. I'm a moderate independent politically but for me the fear that we might attack Iran unilaterally is more than enough reason to vote Obama.

I really liked Rebecca's article and have already sent it to my lefty "so disappointed in Obama" parents. The right is fired up this year. If the left stays home we're fucked.
posted by Blue Meanie at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't criticize Obama

Oddly, that's never stopped anyone from criticizing Obama. Here or anywhere else.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is no coincidence that there's never a right time - according to "left wing" Democratic partisans - to attempt to push the party towards the left.

Except none of what you said ever happened. There's a difference between "don't criticize" and "saying there's zero difference between Obama and his competitor in policy and our prospective futures under either is quite frankly, idiotic."
posted by zombieflanders at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this still making the rounds? Ugh. Even as a question of bare political pragmatism, who is this supposed to convince? "To my allies: you are the worst. Seriously, you are the absolute worst. Vote Obama! Love, Rebecca."
posted by gerryblog at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm beyond bored with the argument that liberals harm liberalism by advocating for liberal politics. The reality is that liberals have the strongest party loyalty toward Democrats of any identified demographic group, in contrast to conservatives and moderates who flip party allegiance to varying degrees from election to election. It perpetually baffles me how %90 of the venom in these discussions is focused on 10% of a demographic that's only 15% of the electorate.

WRT lobbying and pressure for the reforms we want to see. So what? That's part of the sausage-making of politics.

Blue Meanie: I really liked Rebecca's article and have already sent it to my lefty "so disappointed in Obama" parents. The right is fired up this year. If the left stays home we're fucked.

Doubtful. I predict that liberals will show up at the polls, and ~90% of them will vote for Democrats, just as they've done in every election for the last two decades. The demographics you need to worry about are moderates and conservatives who swung left in 2006 and 2008, and swung right again in 2010 in response to a massive and aggressive astroturfing campaign.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"saying there's zero difference between Obama and his competitor is quite frankly, idiotic."

This smells like a strawman to me. Is anyone basing their choice not to vote for Obama on this rationale? People are mostly interested in using the one true lever they have over the behavior of politicians - their vote - to signal to Democrats the need to take left-wing perspectives seriously or, perhaps, strengthen the credibility of left-wing groups outside the Democratic party.

No one thinks Obama holds literally the exact same beliefs as Romney. "Greater than zero difference from a Republican" is insufficient rationale to win my vote. Sorry.
posted by downing street memo at 8:46 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


If there is one thing Democrats hate worse than Republicans, it is liberals.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read this earlier and being a leftist non-american I was a bit offended by this: "The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe."

I respect and admire Rebecca Solnit but this is intellectual dishonesty. I actually made several european friends take the "which US presidential candidate would I vote for" and my moderate to centre left friends all ended up with Jill Stein and a few moderate right wingers ended up with Obama. And the moderate left definitely has no Che Guevara as a poster boy. Think more in the lines of Olof Palme.

You don't have to be a Cuban revolution romantic to defend free healthcare, free education, fair access to justice, a welfare state with fair redistribution, an egalitarian society and having your civil and human rights as unalienable.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


The Tea Partiers had great success with their constant harping that the Republican party wasn't far enough to the right. Why shouldn't that kind of constant, vocal pressure also work on the other end of the political spectrum?
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Hippie-bashing and red-baiting is a ritualistic element of every piece of "journalism" that seeks to enforce fealty to vaguely-left establishment institutions.
posted by downing street memo at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's weird how often in American politics the word "Left" is suppressed and replaced with "Liberal." There is some kind of reality-check needed here. "Left" generally means anti-capitalist, whereas Liberal generally means capitalism + democracy.
posted by No Robots at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Greater than zero difference from a Republican" is insufficient rationale to win my vote.

Surely there must be a way to plot % difference from a Republican against caloric exertion to find the optimum point to get you off your sofa.

If there is one thing Democrats hate worse than Republicans, it is liberals.

IME, the only people lefties hate more than Republicans are liberals, so I guess liberals get it all around, eh?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


People are mostly interested in using the one true lever they have over the behavior of politicians - their vote - to signal to Democrats the need to take left-wing perspectives seriously or, perhaps, strengthen the credibility of left-wing groups outside the Democratic party.

This is precisely the wrong attitude. If you want to change Democratic policy, get involved in the party machinery between elections. That's how you change platforms.

No one thinks Obama holds literally the exact same beliefs as Romney. "Greater than zero difference from a Republican" is insufficient rationale to win my vote. Sorry.

You should be. What does this stance get you? Or DU, above? What have you achieved? You can pat yourself on the back for standing up and remaining pure. Meanwhile Romney wins, and those "greater than zero differences" mean a lot more people suffer. This is exactly the point: the perfect is the enemy of the good. You do not have your ideal option, but one option is worse than the other, who is still bad in many ways. It may suck, but that's reality, so face it.

You don't have to be a Cuban revolution romantic to defend free healthcare, free education, fair access to justice, a welfare state with fair redistribution, an egalitarian society and having your civil and human rights as unalienable.

But you do have to be willing to sacrifice smaller real gains for ideological purity in a system where achievement of those goals in the election is simply not possible. Your choices come down to who will let you achieve at least incremental steps to making life better for more people.

Honestly, I just don't understand people like downing street memo or DU. You two continually pop up with your snarky, smug comments on the evil of Obama and the Democrats but offer no real option. This isn't some game where you win Nobility Points. Someone will be President after the election, and what that person does matters. If that person can be the less shitty one, if it would make things even marginally better, then work for that. Because you do not have the perfect option you seem to want.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


The Tea Partiers had great success with their constant harping that the Republican party wasn't far enough to the right. Why shouldn't that kind of constant, vocal pressure also work on the other end of the political spectrum?

They never stopped voting for the mainstream Republicans as they advocated for more extreme candidates, however.
posted by aught at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This smells like a strawman to me. Is anyone basing their choice not to vote for Obama on this rationale?

I see it here and elsewhere all the time.

People are mostly interested in using the one true lever they have over the behavior of politicians - their vote - to signal to Democrats the need to take left-wing perspectives seriously or, perhaps, strengthen the credibility of left-wing groups outside the Democratic party.

Doing that in a Presidential election in a first-past-the-post electoral system is in effect a useless gesture, even counter-intuitive. Doing it in down-ticket races, especially at the local and state levels is where change gets done. Getting involved in the party is where change gets done.

"Greater than zero difference from a Republican" is insufficient rationale to win my vote.

That's your call. It's an essentialist and permanently flawed methodology, because it assumes that politics is pure ideology with no trade-offs. Which is, of course, essentially the antonym of politics.

The Tea Partiers had great success with their constant harping that the Republican party wasn't far enough to the right. Why shouldn't that kind of constant, vocal pressure also work on the other end of the political spectrum?

See above re: down-ticket races. The Tea Party didn't spring up from nowhere. It was essentially the last several decades of GOP dominance in state and local electoral politics that was monetized and astroturfed into the media.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It is no coincidence that there's never a right time - according to "left wing" Democratic partisans - to attempt to push the party towards the left.

Well, of course not. Again, the DADT issue is instructive. It took a "come to jesus moment" for Obama from gay activists/donors who said:

1) Don't expect any more checks from big money gay donors
2) Prepare for some shitflinging from gay activists about how Obama won't actually stand up for gay people.

And even then, Obama had to be walked towards rescinding DADT. Repeaing DOMA is still a blue sky goal and the dems could have done it in the first 100 days if it had been a priority.

I don't think her point (reading charitably) isn't that you shoudn't criticize Obama. But that it has to be backed up by real leverage.


"saying there's zero difference between Obama and his competitor is quite frankly, idiotic."


have you actually read Obama's books? There's an awful lot of free market, ownership society sort of cheer leading. Is Obama going to give a straightforward endorsement of Social Security tomorrow night? Or is he going to talk in code about "reform..." Zero difference is hyperbole, but Obama is a right-wing politician. That he is tolerant on social issues and is african-american doesn't change that.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


You don't have to be a Cuban revolution romantic to defend free healthcare, free education, fair access to justice, a welfare state with fair redistribution, an egalitarian society and having your civil and human rights as unalienable.

By the same token, you don't have to be a Tea Partier to identify a difference between Obama and Romney, and I also believe it is intellectual dishonesty to claim otherwise.

The two are different. The differences may not be as great as you would personally have them, but those differences are there. And me and others like me who vote for Obama instead of Jill Stein or a more progressive candidate are getting a little sick of the implication we're no better than Glenn Beck, quite frankly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


A comparison to Che or Stalin is the reverse-Godwin.
posted by jaduncan at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are at least fifteen documented cases wherein a drone strike on suspected terrorists has been followed up by a second drone strike on no-shit-really rescue workers. That NDAA thing that Obama signed with no discernible resistance is still there, like a giant yellow stain on our Constitution. And none of that is even part of the debate this year.

But apparently people who refuse to ignore this are the problem...?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


But apparently people who refuse to ignore this are the problem...?

Would you prefer another land war in Asia?
posted by No Robots at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Tea Partiers had great success with their constant harping.

That's not all they did. They went after congressional seats and state-level power first and aggressively. When they got this, that is when the national party paid attention. That's how the Tea Party got the GOP scared and dancing to their tune. The Tea Party also had the good sense to run their presidential candidates within the R primary and not gaze longingly at third party candidates and/or convince themselves of the uselessness of voting. They learned the lesson of Perot and Nader. The far left still has not. The general election is not the pressure point.

It took a "come to jesus moment" for Obama from gay activists/donors

This is not as strong of a criticism as you think. "How dare he respond to political pressure!"
posted by fleacircus at 9:19 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


But apparently people who refuse to ignore this are the problem...?

Yes, Obama's signing of the NDAA is a problem. But it's a different problem than the one we're discussing in here (which is, "The glee with which some people attack everyone they don't think is progressive enough").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on October 16, 2012


But apparently people who refuse to ignore this are the problem...?

See, this in itself is the problem.

No one is "ignoring" these issues. This is the core fallacy that the article addresses, that some people feel the need to constantly lecture the rest of us as if we either aren't aware of these problems or are ostriches with our heads in the sand who need your glorious insight to lead us to the light.

But being aware of these problems, the next step is: what can be done about them, realistically? What are your actual options? Not, what is the perfect solution where drone strikes stop and all crimes are outed and addressed, the problems of capitalism are faced and fixed, and we move on to a glorious future, but among the choices you have, what can be done?

Obama has failed in these areas, but he's done good in others. The alternative, Romney, is guaranteed to not only continue things like the drone strikes and state intrusions, but fight and/or roll back all sorts of other protections and rights.

So, what exactly is it you want to accomplish? To be able to say you're right, or to make even a small difference? On the other issues, you can work in many, many other ways to fix things. Your vote in this election will not and cannot do that.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


But apparently people who refuse to ignore this are the problem...?

So let me cede all your points, for the sake of argument, and still ask you: so what does someone get by throwing up their hands and either choosing not to vote or choosing to vote for a candidate who cannot possibly have any effect on those drones?

Convince me. Why should I vote for Jill Stein (or simply refuse to vote for Obama) when neither of those choices will advance left/liberal interests in any way?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is precisely the wrong attitude. If you want to change Democratic policy, get involved in the party machinery between elections. That's how you change platforms.

With all due respect, spare me the schoolhouse rock shit. This nonsense is why these conversations are always, always doomed to circularity. The implicit assumption is that left-wingers spend all their time bitching on the internet and none actually out in the world creating change in a liberal-approved way, and, secondarily, that bitching on the internet has no value.

Leftists skeptical of Obama are the driving force behind Occupy Wall Street, the most visible, discernibly-left social movement in decades. And bitching on the internet has real value to the extent that it causes people to check pre-conceived notions, examine privilege, etc.

Honestly, I just don't understand people like downing street memo or DU. You two continually pop up with your snarky, smug comments on the evil of Obama and the Democrats but offer no real option.

I think you have me confused with someone else. I don't think I've ever posted about my dissatisfaction with Obama here before.
posted by downing street memo at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Convince me. Why should I vote for Jill Stein (or simply refuse to vote for Obama) when neither of those choices will advance left/liberal interests in any way?

It's easy to win arguments with question-begging, isn't it?
posted by downing street memo at 9:23 AM on October 16, 2012


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.
posted by Pyry at 9:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think her point (reading charitably) isn't that you shoudn't criticize Obama. But that it has to be backed up by real leverage.

And that is the true lesson here. The Democrats rely on progressive turnout for the same reason that the Republicans rely on uberChristian turnout -- because where else are those people going to feel like they can turn to be represented? If you want to pull the Dems to the left, you have to demonstrate real consequences, whether good ones from catering to the left or bad ones from ignoring it.

One can argue that leftist elements tried that in 2000 and it didn't end up well for all concerned. Whether the lion's share of that blame goes to the leftists who felt abandoned and voted Nader or with the Democrats who decided that those leftists and their issues were irrelevant is left as an exercise for the reader. (The Democratic response was certainly much more LOOK WHAT YOU HIPPIES DID ARE YOU HAPPY NOW than any degree of introspection, much less admitting that putting Joe Fucking Lieberman on the ticket was an error.)

November 6th, 2012 is Election Day. So is November 7th, and November 8th, and every day that follows. You have to kick and scream and howl EVERY DAY to keep their attention, and you have to build up candidates at local levels who are listening to what you want. Liberals can't win a national election without a voter base; a voter base doesn't come without liberal elected officials giving people what they want. So start small and cut the legs out from under the bastards.
posted by delfin at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's easy to win arguments with question-begging, isn't it?

Well, then convince me that they will.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


PRIMARIES.

Fucking use them.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Leftists skeptical of Obama are the driving force behind Occupy Wall Street, the most visible, discernibly-left social movement in decades. And bitching on the internet has real value to the extent that it causes people to check pre-conceived notions, examine privilege, etc.

And then the people who have examined their privilege are confronted with the choice of either voting for Obama, who does have a chance of getting into office, or Jill Stein, who does not. So now what?

I bet if you bitched inside a party meeting, that change would happen a lot faster. That's what "the Schoolhouse rock shit" was really trying to get across, and it seems it didn't do a good enough job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


With all due respect, spare me the schoolhouse rock shit. This nonsense is why these conversations are always, always doomed to circularity.

With all due respect, it's that "schoolhouse rock shit" that matters and that does change things. You don't change the party with presidential votes. It takes hard, ground-level work to change things from the local level up. That means getting yourself and others involved in basic party machinery and putting in a lot of hard work. A "protest" vote in the Presidential election is sheer laziness.

So bitch away and refuse to get involved on a level that would actually have a chance of shifting policy or even discussion policy in directions that you want.

Again, what exactly do you think you're accomplishing?
posted by Sangermaine at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.

And in this case, it would then be counteracted by the very, very conservative Supreme Court. Health care reform was one vote away from being struck off the statute book, and as it is there's Citizens United. You should probably consider that the term limit for SC judges is, what, 40 years and it's on a knife edge. This is really not the election to lose if you want to allow left-wing policies; both Roe v Wade and the very ability of the Congress and President to implement new wide social programs would be very much at risk.
posted by jaduncan at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


And thne the people who have examined their privilege are confronted with the choice of either voting for Obama, who does have a chance of getting into office, or Jill Stein, who does not. So now what?

To put it succinctly I believe in an Obama vote as harm reduction. Which choice maximizes harm reduction will vary by state. In DC I will not vote for Obama, as my vote is a) nearly totally electorally meaningless and b) would only serve to pad the President’s popular vote total, perhaps leading to over-interpretation of his mandate and subsequent increase in harm done. If I lived across the river in Virginia, I would vote for Obama with pleasure – this is the choice that clearly reduces the harm done by the US government.

In either case, harm reduction is not something to be proud of or something to applaud, but a necessary step in mitigating to whatever extent possible the general malignancy of US power.

I don't think it's morally wrong to vote for Obama. I just don't think it's something left-leaning people should devote their energy, time, and money towards.
posted by downing street memo at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


No one is "ignoring" these issues. This is the core fallacy that the article addresses, that some people feel the need to constantly lecture the rest of us as if we either aren't aware of these problems or are ostriches with our heads in the sand who need your glorious insight to lead us to the light.

And yet, again, these issues aren't even part of the debate. It's not a fallacy. Obama has not been held to task on these issues in any meaningful way. He just goes on making his sad face.

Convince me. Why should I vote for Jill Stein (or simply refuse to vote for Obama) when neither of those choices will advance left/liberal interests in any way?

You may roll your eyes at this, 'cause the source is rather lofty, but it's less a matter of the messenger than the point being made:

"Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was 'well timed' in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" --Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

I totally get that Romney would/will be worse than Obama. McCain would've been worse than Obama. The next Republican to come along will probably be worse than the next Democrat, too. But if we never do anything about the Democratic party from within, in a way that makes the politicians of the party panic and change their behavior, then all we're ever gonna get out of them is more sad faces and more "bbbbut the other guy is worse."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'm sure it's clear, but I should probably say it: possibly 2 Supreme court seats up for grabs. That is the biggest thing in this election bar none for long term change.
posted by jaduncan at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It takes hard, ground-level work to change things from the local level up. That means getting yourself and others involved in basic party machinery and putting in a lot of hard work.

Who says this isn't happening? Why do you assume that all leftists do is bitch on the internet?
posted by downing street memo at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Who says this isn't happening? Why do you assume that all leftists do is bitch on the internet?

Why do YOU assume that all the people who vote for Obama aren't already aware of the things you're lecturing us about?

I don't think it's morally wrong to vote for Obama. I just don't think it's something left-leaning people should devote their energy, time, and money towards.

Bully for you. You have the privilege of living in a place where you can vote your conscience, what about left-leaning people in swing states?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why do YOU assume that all the people who vote for Obama aren't already aware of the things you're lecturing us about?

I'm not sure when I've lectured anyone here. I've said my piece. I have, however, been lectured several times about how the democratic process works and how if I want a leftier Democratic party I need to "get off the couch".
posted by downing street memo at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.

We've played that game recently. It wasn't a lot of fun. It also didn't accomplish all that much because the Dem leadership didn't say "Wow, how did we fail to attract those people," but rather "It's THOSE PEOPLE's fault we lost and they'd better learn from it."
posted by delfin at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The perfect may at times be the enemy of the good, but the argument "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" is also used to dismiss valid concerns and avoid needed reform.

Anywho, I voted for Obama and will vote for Obama, and, pinko that I am, I'll criticize Obama too, but I'm rather cynical about presidential elections. The dog and pony show of the presidential race is a great example of how the all-too-imperfect political system in the US maintains both itself and the inequalities it perpetuates.

Every four years (and to a less extent every two years during the congressional elections), America "does" democracy, and then we promptly forget about it. If commentators, news media, and citizen-voters put in a fraction of the attention and passion that they devote to the presidential elections into local and state politics, we might actually see some of the "change in Washington" the federal pols are always blowing up our bums. But doing that local & state level work is hard (just ask the religious right activists who built up their power base starting with the school boards in the 1980s). It is much easier to pay attention (i.e. be distracted by) the pageantry of the presidential race every four years. Now I don't expect the mainstream national or local media to suddenly dump resources into better local/regional political coverage, but it would be nice if journals like The Nation didn't fall so easily into the presidential-hullabaloo.

So, yes, "describe [the system] and its complexities and contradictions accurately," is good advice, and one of the contradictions is the presidential election is both important but also less important than it is made out to be. Supreme Court nominations, for one, do matter, but the continual slouching rightward of both parties matters too. Difficult problems that I don't have the answer to, though the question Solnit ends her essay with, "What do you want to achieve?" is one I'm left asking of her own argument.

In solidarity,
A member of the rancid left.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's also something to be said for keeping the political debate in this country honest. Sure, the right just jumps into lockstep and decides that whatever vile things their party supports aren't really vile (because their party supports them), but if both sides of the spectrum do the same thing, the debate itself will never change at all. Honestly, I think setting a better standard in that debate is worth the lack of enthusiasm shown for a candidate who no longer deserves anything better than "I'll vote for him 'cause the other guy probably sucks worse."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2012


With all due respect, spare me the schoolhouse rock shit. This nonsense is why these conversations are always, always doomed to circularity.

Except for the part where it's, y'know, how shit happens. Case in point: the wild success of the modern GOP.

The implicit assumption is that left-wingers spend all their time bitching on the internet and none actually out in the world creating change in a liberal-approved way, and, secondarily, that bitching on the internet has no value.

No, that's the language you're using, notably "liberal-approved." The explicit assumption is that people that are voting for top-level Federal elections have indeed given up on the process, presumably because they think it's "schoolhouse rock shit."

Leftists skeptical of Obama are the driving force behind Occupy Wall Street, the most visible, discernibly-left social movement in decades.

Only in the alternate universe that ignores, among other things, the unions who put a lot of effort into helping out. Unless you have actual proof that that is indeed the driving force, you're just fitting your opinions into it.

And bitching on the internet has real value to the extent that it causes people to check pre-conceived notions, examine privilege, etc.

Just bitching on the internet does not in fact do what you claim.

Who says this isn't happening? Why do you assume that all leftists do is bitch on the internet?

Because you feel that it's so important that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as actual working on stuff, which you deride as naivete.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll place a side bet that Goode and Johnson get more votes this election than Stein.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2012


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.

Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because the first Bush Administration was resurrected in 2000 when the Nader margin gave it to the Republicans. Thousands of dead due to drone attacks is a far better outcome than the wholesale destruction of one of the only secular societies in the Middle East, and the claim that there's no difference between Romney and Obama is pure nonsense. Whatever my disagreements with Obama are, he'll get my vote, because Mitt Romney is cannot be trusted to govern. He's unwilling to give the nation he wants to rule the same amount of information that he'd have to provide if he wanted a loan on a house. There's no foundation for trust, because he is a dishonest person willing to say anything to get elected, full stop.

Getting back to the problem with modern leftist arguments: they're just arguments for the sake of ego, not for the sake of action and results. For example, we live in a society with a good number of citizens who are terrified of single payer healthcare due to numerous factors. That's a fact. Now, are we going to elect someone who can reach the first compromise so that the fear and doubt are removed as happened with DADT, or are we going to continue carrying around pocket manifestos and bitching at each other in coffee shops?

In areas where compromise is needed — and if we truly believe in democracy than we should care about the views of Republicans — we can choose to be correct, or we can choose to be effective. If we want to help people in reality who need help right now, let's choose compromise and effectiveness, not fundamentalist style adherence to ideology. Instead of arguing for compromise and getting results that lead to more progress, we're assuming that the poor Republicans just don't know any better, so we're going to get a simple majority and then order them to agree with us. That's not Democracy. That's not inclusive legislation. That's not progress.

We need to stop pretending that hardline ideology is useful, and I mean that in regards to both sides of the aisle. Hoping for what's possible and fighting for what's probable is not a compromise of principle, it's the fulfillment of trying to achieve it.
posted by deanklear at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure when I've lectured anyone here. I've said my piece.

Said piece including the opinion that you don't think voting for Obama "is something left-leaning people should devote their energy, time, and money towards." I'm a left-leaning person who likes to not have my choice of where I devote my time and money sneered at, thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2012


Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because the first Bush Administration was resurrected in 2000 when the Nader margin gave it to the Republicans. Thousands of dead due to drone attacks is a far better outcome than the wholesale destruction of one of the only secular societies in the Middle East, and the claim that there's no difference between Romney and Obama is pure nonsense. Whatever my disagreements with Obama are, he'll get my vote, because Mitt Romney is cannot be trusted to govern.

This reads like you're blaming the Nader voters for those deaths.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2012


Jill Stein: Give us a mandate for what America needs: a Green New Deal
posted by homunculus at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This reads like you're blaming the Nader voters for those deaths.

In my book, you read it right.
posted by No Robots at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2012


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.

I don't have data in front of me, but I expect that that's wrong. As in, empirically, factually mistaken about the distribution of voters in the US. The core problem is that if the party took the positions that would gain them the support of people who'd really like to vote for Stein, it would lose them far more votes from the center than they'd gain on the left. The strategically smart thing for the Democrats to do if Obama lost due to Stein voters might well be to just abandon the left as a lost cause and shift to the right to try to capture more boring, uncrazy conservatives.

Or, differently, you're think that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And it does, sometimes. Other times it just gets replaced.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Said piece including the opinion that you don't think voting for Obama "is something left-leaning people should devote their energy, time, and money towards." I'm a left-leaning person who likes to not have my choice of where I devote my time and money sneered at, thank you.

You asked me what I thought people should do. I answered. No sneers involved.

The fact that the discourse has to be inverted in this way - that you're somehow being bullied and/or sneered at by people expressing, at your explicit invitation, an opinion different than yours - really does shed light on why these discussions are never, ever productive.
posted by downing street memo at 9:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because the first Bush Administration was resurrected in 2000 when the Nader margin gave it to the Republicans. Thousands of dead due to drone attacks is a far better outcome than the wholesale destruction of one of the only secular societies in the Middle East

OK, I will "sneer" at this.
posted by downing street memo at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are you familiar with rhetorical questions?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2012


You asked me what I thought people should do. I answered. No sneers involved.

Also not an answer to my question. Whch I will phrase more clearly:

Suppose that there is a person (let's call him "Sid") who lives in Ohio. Sid learns of the drone attacks and decides he doesn't like them. Sid learns of a number of other things about the Obama administration he doesn't like.

However, Jill Stein isn't even on the ballot in Sid's community. He honestly and sincerely has a choice of only Obama or Romney when he gets to the ballot box. What should Sid do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2012


However, Jill Stein isn't even on the ballot in Sid's community. He honestly and sincerely has a choice of only Obama or Romney when he gets to the ballot box. What should Sid do?

Sid should vote his conscience. If Sid feels that the "lesser of evils" is a valid option that he can live with, he should vote for Obama. If Sid does not, then Sid should write "none of the above" in on his ballot.

I genuinely wish enough "none of the aboves" would turn up to make it into a real news story, but I guess I'm a dreamer.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2012


And a follow-up question - if Sid votes for Obama, and his friend Hank tells him "oh, you voted for Obama? clap harder!" then what should Sid say to Hank?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2012


Leftists skeptical of Obama are the driving force behind Occupy Wall Street, the most visible, discernibly-left social movement in decades.

Does anyone actually have a good comparison of this with the Tea Party, covering number of people, man-hours, and actual impact on society? Isn't this a perfect opportunity to try and answer whether working from the inside or outside is more effective?
posted by jacalata at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2012


I think I answered your question pretty succinctly: Sid should vote for Obama because in a swing state that's the measure that reduces the most harm. He should not, however, spend his days condescendingly explaining to leftists on the internet how politics works.
posted by downing street memo at 10:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Won't they? If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote, then next election it would be in the Democrats' interests to pay more attention to the people tempted to vote for Jill Stein.

It certainly didn't feel like Kerry was going after Nader voters in 2004. He went after Bush voters.

If Obama loses this election, with or without a 3rd party eating a chunk of the vote, I'll bet dollars to donuts the next Democratic nominee will run a substantially more conservative campaign than Obama has.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sid should vote for Obama because in a swing state that's the measure that reduces the most harm. He should not, however, spend his days condescendingly explaining to leftists on the internet how politics works.

I bet Sid would be less likely to be condescending if other leftists didn't tell him things like "clap harder", though. And thus my new question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


(And by the way -- THAT is the point of the article, I think.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Obama loses this election, with or without a 3rd party eating a chunk of the vote, I'll bet dollars to donuts the next Democratic nominee will run a substantially more conservative campaign than Obama has.

This is also likely if Obama wins.
posted by delfin at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


If Obama loses this election, with or without a 3rd party eating a chunk of the vote, I'll bet dollars to donuts the next Democratic nominee will run a substantially more conservative campaign than Obama has.

That's a reasonable expectation, but we'll also have four years of Romney screwing things up to color everyone's opinions.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2012


It certainly didn't feel like Kerry was going after Nader voters in 2004. He went after Bush voters.

Going after Nader voters means pandering to a small cranky fringe. You'd do better (ie. win more votes) by deliberately attacking them and their policies.
posted by No Robots at 10:13 AM on October 16, 2012


We've played that game recently. It wasn't a lot of fun. It also didn't accomplish all that much because the Dem leadership didn't say "Wow, how did we fail to attract those people," but rather "It's THOSE PEOPLE's fault we lost and they'd better learn from it."

Yes, and those people's willingness to self-blame is also part of the problem. There should have been way more criticism of the party instead of Nader voters falling on their swords.

However, Jill Stein isn't even on the ballot in Sid's community. He honestly and sincerely has a choice of only Obama or Romney when he gets to the ballot box. What should Sid do?

Can you tell me which hypothetical state Sid is living in? Because I believe (but am willing to be corrected with evidence) there are alternate options just about everywhere - whether Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, etc.
posted by corb at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2012


I bet Sid would be less likely to be condescending if other leftists didn't tell him things like "clap harder", though. And thus my new question.

So wait... are you more bothered by the fact that I am pissed off at Obama's failures and bad choices, or the fact that I sound condescending when I voice my anger? Is there a way to respectfully voice my disgust and anger without my making you feel like I'm attacking you? Or does every criticism of Obama inherently attack his supporters, however quietly jaded or critical that they might be?

(Obviously I'm using myself as an abstract of folks like me, since we've never met... although clearly I am the most important person on the internet ever.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Obama loses this election, with or without a 3rd party eating a chunk of the vote, I'll bet dollars to donuts the next Democratic nominee will run a substantially more conservative campaign than Obama has.

I agree with this, and it exposes one of the central problems with the notion of "work within the party!!!!111" The Democratic party is institutionally sick independent of the ideological orientation of its members and officials.

If leftists shut up, "clap harder", and vote/work/donate uncritically for and to center-left candidates that endorse the fundamentally broken things about US society and government, they get a Democratic party unresponsive to their needs and one that runs the country and world into the ground at a somewhat-slower pace than the Republicans might.

If they work to change the party - whether that's by withholding votes or organizing and taking shit over or just applying public pressure - and it turns out Democrats lose a few elections for not taking care of this constituency, they get blamed for whatever bad shit the Republicans do.
posted by downing street memo at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


This reads like you're blaming the Nader voters for those deaths.

Pop Quiz! Which group had the largest influence on American politics in the 2000s?

1) registered Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader, in Florida or elsewhere

2) registered Democrats who voted for Dubya

3) registered Democrats who stayed home on Election Day 2000

Hint: Group 1 wasn't what swung that election.
posted by delfin at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

Also quoted for truth. Vote for the lesser of the evils while you also work either within a party to change the choices or outside of it to develop a viable alternative party. But don't, in effect, vote for the greater of two evils.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you tell me which hypothetical state Sid is living in?

Since we're talking a purely hypothetical situation, the state is "Missitucky."

In other words: I'm talking about something different from specific names on a ballot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2012


Pop Quiz! Which group had the largest influence on American politics in the 2000s?

Why is this framed in terms of registered Democrats?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2012


Listen, if the Left wants power, it needs to take responsibility. The Left will never obtain a clear majority of voters in the United States. Instead, it has to see itself as cybernetic force, operating by applying pressure at key points. The art is in selecting the points. There are always consequences for making a decision: vote Obama, and you have to take responsibility for drone attacks; vote third party, and take responsibility for....
posted by No Robots at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2012


There are always consequences for making a decision: vote Obama, and you have to take responsibility for drone attacks; vote third party, and take responsibility for....

You seem to have a very strange operating definition of "responsibility".
posted by downing street memo at 10:23 AM on October 16, 2012


There is a pragmatic reason to vote for Jill Stein! If you live in New York, California, or Illinois -- the three states that Nate Silver says have a 100% chance of going to Obama. 100%. Not 99%. Of course polls can be wrong, but I think it's a pretty good guess that Silver's not working with a 51% margin of error.

Our votes don't all count equally, which blows. Down with the Electoral College. But in this case if you live in one of those three states and think the most important thing is making sure Romney doesn't win, you're in luck! He won't win your state. You can call people in other states to talk to them about voting for Obama, or go campaign for him elsewhere where there is a chance of a Romney win, and with your vote show support for something better (or different, or left-er, or whatever) than the Democrats.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sid clearly doesn't care about Supreme Court nominations and things like Roe v. Wade being overturned, does he? That's a pretty selective conscience.
posted by sweetkid at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2012


You seem to have a very strange operating definition of "responsibility".

It's called the duty of the citizen in a democratic state. You should look it up.
posted by No Robots at 10:25 AM on October 16, 2012


It certainly didn't feel like Kerry was going after Nader voters in 2004. He went after Bush voters.

Not really. He went after the anyone-but-Bush voter, which was widely surmised to be the key reason he lost, as he was otherwise a pretty unappealing candidate to left-wing voters. In that respect, his campaign was very much like Romney's. Either way, I expect Obama's past shifts to enacting right-wing policies (with bones thrown to constituencies here and there) to continue unabated after his reëlection. The DNC learned nothing from Nader voters, except how to vilify a convenient scapegoat for their own vast shortcomings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2012


Sid clearly doesn't care about Supreme Court nominations and things like Roe v. Wade being overturned, does he? That's a pretty selective conscience.

Sweetkid, what are you talking about?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2012


It's called the duty of the citizen in a democratic state. You should look it up.

You seem to think that McCain/Romney wouldn't use drones. Do you have some evidence for that?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to think that McCain/Romney wouldn't use drones. Do you have some evidence for that?

Erm, I think I suggested above that the Republicans would lean towards another land war in Asia, which would include drone strikes, naturally.
posted by No Robots at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2012


If leftists shut up, "clap harder", and vote/work/donate uncritically for and to center-left candidates ...

I don't think anyone should shut up and accept the status quo uncritically. I do think that not only is a liberal not voting for Obama bad in the short term (Romney wins), it's counterproductive in the medium and long term too (the Democratic establishment thinks Republican-lite candidates are the ones who can win, we get shittier candidates).

I think there's this idea that by sacrificing Obama that somehow the Democratic establishment will re-form into a truer liberal entity or a third party will rise up. It seems to me that all that will happen is the Overton window will shift a bit more to the right and we'll lose any of the small gains that have been made since the Bush years.

That said, drone strikes suck.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:32 AM on October 16, 2012


Can you tell me which hypothetical state Sid is living in?

Definitely the state of Samsara.
posted by selfnoise at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2012


If leftists shut up, "clap harder", and vote/work/donate uncritically for and to center-left candidates that endorse the fundamentally broken things about US society and government, they get a Democratic party unresponsive to their needs and one that runs the country and world into the ground at a somewhat-slower pace than the Republicans might.

Nobody's advocating this uncritical position, yet you keep on claiming that's what everybody is doing.

If they work to change the party - whether that's by withholding votes or organizing and taking shit over or just applying public pressure

Only one of those is actually working to change the party from within.

and it turns out Democrats lose a few elections for not taking care of this constituency, they get blamed for whatever bad shit the Republicans do.

I don't recall any instances of Democrats blaming people actually working--again, not engaging in passive tactics that are invisible to everybody who outside of those individual people--to change the party for electoral misfortune.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to think that McCain/Romney wouldn't use drones. Do you have some evidence for that?

This is one of those intellectual honesty things that bothers me a lot. Realistically, I know damn well that Romney would keep up the drone attacks. Every indication is that his foreign policy would be more belligerent than Obama's. (Presuming, of course, that Romney's rhetoric means anything, but at this point I honestly have no idea what his administration would look like 'cause I can't tell which of his lies he actually meant.)

...but you put these two men up beside one another, and only one of them has actually presided over a program that openly kills innocent civilians.

Doesn't make me remotely likely to vote for Romney, but there it is, staring me in the face and saying, "Go ahead, tell me I'm a logical fallacy."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Erm, I think I suggested above that the Republicans would lean towards another land war in Asia, which would include drone strikes, naturally.

Then voting for Obama does NOT make you responsible for drone strikes, since either viable candidate was going to do drone strikes and not voting for either one still acquiesces to drone strikes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:34 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody's advocating this uncritical position, yet you keep on claiming that's what everybody is doing.

Right, it's OK to be critical as long as the criticism has no teeth and there are no consequences for ignoring it.

Got it.
posted by downing street memo at 10:34 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Right, it's OK to be critical as long as the criticism has no teeth and there are no consequences for ignoring it.

Nobody's advocating for that either.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then voting for Obama does NOT make you responsible for drone strikes, since either viable candidate was going to do drone strikes and not voting for either one still acquiesces to drone strikes.

I tend to look at it through the other end of the telescope: as a citizen, I would have no way of not being responsible for drone strikes. I think that this approach better suits the spirit of democracy.
posted by No Robots at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, can people who don't understand what I'm getting at with my analogy just ask me what I mean rather than nitpicking it to within an inch of its life?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2012


I hear the tea party mentioned for it's political effectiveness. What a terrible example. It was effective because it was quickly co-opted by established powers. Of course it was effective, the people who co-opted it already had money and connections.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


...but you put these two men up beside one another, and only one of them has actually presided over a program that openly kills innocent civilians.

So you discount the possibility that by not voting (which is essentially your position, the details being the vanishingly small probabilities that someone like Jill Stein would win), you could have put in place someone who would kill many, many times the number of people, or, at least, you feel absolved of any responsibility for that potential because you voted for someone to make yourself "morally pure." Yes, I wish I could ignore counterfactuals, too, but they have this tendency to bite me in the ass whenever I do.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2012


I'm ambivalent about drone strikes unless I am given the controls and allowed to aim them, in which case I am very strongly for them.
posted by delfin at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2012


I hear the tea party mentioned for it's political effectiveness. What a terrible example. It was effective because it was quickly co-opted by established powers. Of course it was effective, the people who co-opted it already had money and connections.

It was never co-opted, it is itself the people with money and connections creating an national extension of an existing movement. It was astroturf from the very beginning.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


you could have put in place someone who would kill many, many times the number of people, or, at least, you feel absolved of any responsibility for that potential because you voted for someone to make yourself "morally pure."

I can't, in good conscience, vote for someone who is committed to using state power for murder. The fact that the other guy will likely do even more of it is irrelevant. Your sneering at that doesn't certainly doesn't make me want to rethink my decision.
posted by junco at 10:43 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't, in good conscience, vote for someone who is committed to using state power for murder.

Does your conscience not cover women, or gays, or minorities? Because we know for a fact that they'll lose rights directly due to the policies of one but not the other.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2012


junco: " I can't, in good conscience, vote for someone who is committed to using state power for murder. The fact that the other guy will likely do even more of it is irrelevant. Your sneering at that doesn't certainly doesn't make me want to rethink my decision."

The only way it's not relevant is if you disagree that the other guy will likely do more of it. If you accept the premise that Romney is unlikely to scale back our drone wars and bellicose foreign policy in general, then your opposition to state-sanctioned murder should compel you to minimize the amount of state-sanctioned murder, which means a vote for Obama. If you don't accept this premise, then say so.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


La pureté, c'est une idée de fakir et de moine. Vous autres, les intellectuels, les anarchistes bourgeois, vous en tirez prétexte pour ne rien faire. Ne rien faire, rester immobile, serrer les coudes contre le corps, porter des gants. Moi j'ai les mains sales. Jusqu'aux coudes. Je les ai plongées dans la merde et dans le sang. Et puis après? Est-ce que tu t'imagines qu'on peut gouverner innocemment?--Les mains sales / Sartre
posted by No Robots at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Liberals really need to understand that leftists are not our friends. Sometimes they are our allies against the right. But they are no more liberals than conservatives are liberals.

It's kinda too bad there aren't more actual leftists in the U.S. If conservatives had ever encountered an actual leftist, they'd be a little less vitriolic about liberalism. Anyone with genuinely liberal sentiments who's had to endure actual campus lefties, e.g. during the decidedly illiberal political correctness craze of the '80's knows how much it's like having fallen down a particularly disorienting species of rabbit hole...

Look, I don't see any way to convince genuine leftists to vote for Obama. If someone is so far to the left that Obama and Romney look similar, then there's not much that you or I or anyone else can say to them in less than a couple of months that has any chance of changing their mind. Sure, try to persuade them, because, as a matter of actual fact, it matters enormously whether Obama or Romney wins. But don't get invested in it. You've got no more chance of saving/converting a committed leftist than you have of doing so to a committed rightist. They simply are not liberals. Why is that so hard to understand? And if we're going to go after converts, may I suggest more attention to the fat middle of the curve than the skinny end of it? Not that I'm averse to picking up whatever votes there are to pick up on the end...

I did like Solnit's reference to puritanism. If you spent time around both fundamentalists and lefties, you can't help but see the resemblance. They are purer and holier than you are; they are offended by things that you aren't; they seethe and weep at things you've gritted your teeth and borne. They are, in their own minds, simply too good and too pure for this bad ol' world. Lefties like to think that liberals are just lefties who aren't quite good enough. Liberals themselves, used to battling the right, sometimes seem to flirt with that view as well; they shouldn't do so.

But look, it's liberals that generally get the real work of reform done, anyway (the labor movement being to some extent an exception). It'd be nice to have some help from leftward in this bloody damn election, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:52 AM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


vote Obama, and you have to take responsibility for drone attacks

This is not the actual choice. It is either vote for Obama, vote for Romney, or don't vote/vote for third party. You have to take responsibility for not voting against Romney just as much as voting for Obama.

If Romney wins, I suspect we will see an effort by the GOP to consolidate their power in congress, the judicial branch, local governments, and the media. It will become more and more impossible for progressive policies to happen in this country. And, if you decide not to vote against him, you are silently endorsing this. Maybe some feel this is ultimately the best way to what they want - let the GOP take power and fail, and then population will become liberal. This seems somewhat delusional and very irresponsible to me.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't, in good conscience, vote for someone who is committed to using state power for murder.

Murder is what states do. This is PoliSci 101: A state is an entity with a monopoly on (legitimate) violence. All else is details.

I'm curious: How does the act of voting, in particular, entail moral culpability for the acts of the state in a way that, say, paying taxes doesn't? I mean, this is the nature of the 21st century first world existence: We all have blood on our hands. Or less dramatically, in the sense that voting for Obama is a morally wrong act, how is it any different, in kind or degree, from any of the day to day actions that entail various other wrongs? (Take your pick: Climate change, sweatshops, wev.)

Basically, my take is that unless you want to go live off the grid in the Rockies or whatever, you are profiting from a myriad of wrongs on a daily basis. We're always choosing the lesser of evils.

As the joke puts it, we've already established what you are, now we're just quibbling about the price.
posted by PMdixon at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So you discount the possibility that by not voting (which is essentially your position, the details being the vanishingly small probabilities that someone like Jill Stein would win), you could have put in place someone who would kill many, many times the number of people, or, at least, you feel absolved of any responsibility for that potential because you voted for someone to make yourself "morally pure."

Sadly, because I've already voiced my disgust for Obama and inability to vote for him, this means that the post you refer to clearly can't be addressed as its own point. But I don't put that individual comment up to advocate for or against Obama. I'm saying there's something intellectually dishonest when one guy has killed people, and another hasn't but probably would kill more, and I decide to support the guy who has killed people... when he's the only one of the two who actually has blood on his hands. The other guy, for all his talk, has to my knowledge never killed anyone.

(And by "killed," I mean "presided over a program that kills innocents," because I'm not talking about self-defense or anything like that.)

So if there's a name for that conundrum in the abstract (divorced from the specific names of Obama or Romney), I'd love to hear it. If there's a logical fallacy in what I'm presenting, please state it. I'd genuinely love to know, because I find this problem perplexing and I can't believe it's the first time it has ever come up in history.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2012


Murder is what states do. This is PoliSci 101: A state is an entity with a monopoly on (legitimate) violence. All else is details.

While we're doing Condescending Liberal Storytime Hour, it's also important to note that murder is, by definition, illegitimate.
posted by downing street memo at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a Leftist, I concur with Fists O'Fury.
posted by No Robots at 10:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only way it's not relevant is if you disagree that the other guy will likely do more of it. If you accept the premise that Romney is unlikely to scale back our drone wars and bellicose foreign policy in general, then your opposition to state-sanctioned murder should compel you to minimize the amount of state-sanctioned murder, which means a vote for Obama. If you don't accept this premise, then say so.

I explicitly said that it's very likely that Romney will do more of it. If the only two "real choices" are dedicated to varying levels of murder, then the system's broken. I'm not going to endorse a murderer explicitly with my vote in the hope of harm-reduction.

Est-ce que tu t'imagines qu'on peut gouverner innocemment?

I didn't say I thought I that not voting for Obama would "keep my hands clean". I'm a US citizen, so I'm complicit.

I'm curious: How does the act of voting, in particular, entail moral culpability for the acts of the state in a way that, say, paying taxes doesn't? I mean, this is the nature of the 21st century first world existence: We all have blood on our hands.

I didn't say it did -- see above. But voting is an act of volition, taxation and citizenship are coercive.
posted by junco at 10:57 AM on October 16, 2012


I can't, in good conscience, vote for someone who is committed to using state power for murder.

Does your conscience not cover women, or gays, or minorities? Because we know for a fact that they'll lose rights directly due to the policies of one but not the other.


Are rights for women, gays or minorities attacked by Jill Stein's platform? 'cause by my read, there is, in fact, a choice available that provides for equal rights while genuinely working against the use of state power for murder.

Granted, she ain't gonna win, but saying that Obama and Romney are my only choices is just plain not true. (And if I'm remembering wrong and Jill Stein's a raging homophobe, I hereby apologize for my sloppy read of her platform.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was effective because it was quickly co-opted by established powers. Of course it was effective, the people who co-opted it already had money and connections.

It's not like the Koch brothers have a lock on raising money and making connections, or were the first rich guys to want to influence politics. I'm not saying the far Left can emulate the Tea Party exactly, but I don't think it's wise to just ignore an example, right in front of your face, of people who are accomplishing what you wish you could do.
posted by fleacircus at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2012


Are rights for women, gays or minorities attacked by Jill Stein's platform? 'cause by my read, there is, in fact, a choice available that provides for equal rights while genuinely working against the use of state power for murder.

Granted, she ain't gonna win, but saying that Obama and Romney are my only choices is just plain not true.


The discussion about the electoral process has already been hashed out. If you choose not to accept how the real world operates in favor of a world made entirely of hypotheticals, either because you can't/won't actually grasp how that process works or because philosophy is the magic cure for everything, then this argument will remain circular.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:06 AM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


either because you can't/won't actually grasp how that process works or because philosophy is the magic cure for everything

Reductive views of people who have come to different conclusions than you isn't doing your argument any favours.
posted by junco at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reductive views of people who have come to different conclusions than you isn't doing your argument any favours.

If you've got another explanation for ignoring pretty much all available evidence to avoid having to answer a question, by all means share it with the rest of us.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:15 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, I want my country to have a good and just moral code. I want it to respect and uphold human rights and labor rights and animal rights and the environment and every voice that gets drowned out unfairly every day.

Barack Obama is probably not the guy to expect that from. (Hell, the mass of citizens are probably not the people to expect that from, either.) But he is, undeniably, closer to that end of the spectrum than Romney is. The AHCA that he worked for, as imperfect as it is, is the most human and humane thing our government has accomplished in a long, long time.

That's important. It does nothing to excuse his utter wrongness on other fronts, but neither does cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

Fight, negotiate, settle, build.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


my take is that unless you want to go live off the grid in the Rockies or whatever, you are profiting from a myriad of wrongs on a daily basis. We're always choosing the lesser of evils.

This is my take as well. Spurning American politics because it's hopelessly brutal isn't an incomprehensible moral choice, but it requires a lot more devotion to "living lightly on the land" than simply choosing not to vote.

if we never do anything about the Democratic party from within, in a way that makes the politicians of the party panic and change their behavior, then all we're ever gonna get out of them is more sad faces and more "bbbbut the other guy is worse."

In the Romney mega-thread I asked if there was ever any instance of a politician or party catering to the wishes of constituents who didn't vote for them. I can't think of any because that isn't how politics works, at least not in the US. Platforms aren't written by or for the people who don't show up.

Not a single vote for Jill Stein will stop a single drone or fund a single Planned Parenthood clinic or keep a single family from losing their health care due to a pre-existing condition. Voting for a third party candidate in a Presidential election is nothing but a sop to a kind of hipster moral purity, "I'm into this candidate that you've probably never heard of ..."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:23 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is true of EVERY argument from ALL sides.

That's certainly true, but I haven't expressed any such views in this thread. I state my position calmly and respectfully and I get accused of hating women and minorities. Downingstreetmemo, too, for that matter, was very thoughtful, but people kept imputing DU's condescending remarks to him.

If you've got another explanation for ignoring pretty much all available evidence to avoid having to answer a question, by all means share it with the rest of us.

I don't really care to engage with someone who obviously thinks I'm an idiot. It's totally understandable that this is an emotionally charged topic, but you seem too angry to hold a productive discussion.
posted by junco at 11:23 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hell, the mass of citizens are probably not the people to expect that from, either.

To be honest, this is the argument people who refuse to vote for Obama or other Democrats because of drones should be having, and it's somewhat telling that they don't (and sometimes won't) do this. When someone who is otherwise (mostly) reasonable in your community says something like this, are you more likely to try to convince them in a constructive fashion, or stay quiet and sneer at them? Try and win your "small world" issues before applying them on a wide scale. After all, if a majority of Americans support this kind of thing, you should be having a discussion with them rather than a party and its avatar, don't you think?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:24 AM on October 16, 2012


Not a single vote for Jill Stein will stop a single drone or fund a single Planned Parenthood clinic or keep a single family from losing their health care due to a pre-existing condition. Voting for a third party candidate in a Presidential election is nothing but a sop to a kind of hipster moral purity, "I'm into this candidate that you've probably never heard of ..."

...oh, man. Now you're associating my refusal of a false either/or choice with hipster trash.

Not cool, man. Not cool at all.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I state my position calmly and respectfully and I get accused of hating women and minorities.

I don't recall having personally accused you of either. I also note that Downingstreetmemo assumed I was speaking of him prior to the point at which I spoke to him directly.

However, I also note that DU's first comment in this thread was a dismissive "clap harder", and I think we can all agree that that at least didn't help any.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on October 16, 2012


You know, as someone who might be described as somewhat of a "Rockefeller Republican" I really liked Fist of Fury's comment.

People like me, and other pragmatic liberals or moderates, understand that we have some fundamental differences, especially on foreign policy, with the Left. We can debate those. (And its truly refreshing debating Leftists as opposed to the Right.)

If I could speak for moderately liberal pragmatists I would propose the following to the Left: Let's unite right now to defeat the Right. Let's break the Republican Party from its extreme elements.

I like Obama. I understand if you don't and don't want to volunteer or give him money. But please consider uniting with us liberals in elections until the Republican Party becomes fundamentally less radical. If together we hand them their heads for 10 years or so, they should become more moderate & fact based and we can then debate between us.
posted by JKevinKing at 11:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's certainly true, but I haven't expressed any such views in this thread. I state my position calmly and respectfully and I get accused of hating women and minorities.

You made a values statement regarding your conscience, and I pointed out that it required a trade-off in ideals. If you're going to make blanket statements, you really should be sure how much that blanket covers. Even Glenn Greenwald mentions this in regards to Obama, although he hems and haws about it going both ways.

I don't really care to engage with someone who obviously thinks I'm an idiot. It's totally understandable that this is an emotionally charged topic, but you seem too angry to hold a productive discussion.

I pointed out that the argument being made was based entirely on hypotheticals and ignored the evidence already laid out. That's hardly anger, but unless we come to an agreement on what actually happens, then you are correct in that productive discussion won't happen.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:30 AM on October 16, 2012


The core problem is that if the party took the positions that would gain them the support of people who'd really like to vote for Stein, it would lose them far more votes from the center than they'd gain on the left. The strategically smart thing for the Democrats to do if Obama lost due to Stein voters might well be to just abandon the left as a lost cause and shift to the right to try to capture more boring, uncrazy conservatives.

I think the bigger problem is that Republicans don't seem to be abandoning their ideological fringe to capture more liberal votes. Conservatives have been withholding their votes and demanding ideal candidates for the last thirty years, and the strategy appears to have been tremendously successful. Just look at all the Republicans who have left office because they were "primaried" by more ideologically pure challengers. In contrast, my slimeball Democratic congresscritter voted against the Affordable Care Act purely for his own self-preservation and yet, in a solidly Democratic district, it's unlikely he will ever face an electoral challenge from the left.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:41 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In contrast, my slimeball Democratic congresscritter voted against the Affordable Care Act purely for his own self-preservation and yet, in a solidly Democratic district, it's unlikely he will ever face an electoral challenge from the left.

And if he ever did, you bet your ass you'd get a lot of "concerned" liberals worrying about how the primary "hurt the party".
posted by downing street memo at 11:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in the penthouse of their obsidian tower in the ninth plane of dread, the Koch brothers lounge in solid gold jacuzzis filled with tiger's milk while a shackled manservant reads this thread aloud for their amusement.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:46 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I don't recall having personally accused you of either.

Not at all; I meant zombieflander's response to my first post.

zombieflanders: You made a values statement regarding your conscience

Right, but I was careful (I thought) to make it clear that it was regarding my conscience. I didn't mean to imply any moral failing on the part of somebody who decides to vote for Obama in an attempt at harm reduction -- just that I can't bring myself to vote that way.

If you're going to make blanket statements, you really should be sure how much that blanket covers.

Sorry, I'm unclear what you're referring to here.

I pointed out that the argument being made was based entirely on hypotheticals and ignored the evidence already laid out. That's hardly anger, but unless we come to an agreement on what actually happens, then you are correct in that productive discussion won't happen.

OK: I vote for Jill Stein. What happens? On the one hand, I haven't voted for a murderer (but I am still a US citizen, so I am complicit in the actions of the government regardless of who wins the presidency). Most likely, Obama still wins the election. My vote also makes it infinitesimally more likely that Romney wins the election. Romney will be a worse president than Obama, but not so much worse that the infinitesimal difference my vote will make in the chances of his winning justify my voting for a murderer. The only way my vote leads to a Romney presidency is if Romney wins my state by one vote, which is exceedingly unlikely. Again, this is my own reasoning, and I'm not necessarily accusing anybody who decides the calculus justifies voting for Obama of moral failings.
posted by junco at 11:49 AM on October 16, 2012


The thing is that there are factions in the Right wing as well. I would argue that they have been successful only as far as they have put differences aside and voted for Republicans, even as they criticized them. To the extent they have demanded purity, it has hurt them, all things considered, IMHO.

And they haven't been that successful. In nationwide elections they have won a plurality once in 20-22 years, and they have only done what they have been able to do through chicanery and pure strategic ruthlessness. Is that what you want?
posted by JKevinKing at 11:50 AM on October 16, 2012


extent they have demanded purity

Look, "demanding purity" would be refusing to vote for Obama unless he promised to enact 80% tax rates and immediately nationalized the healthcare industry. Requirements that include "not starting more illegal wars" and "not declaring to the Executive a unilateral right to assassinate American citizens" isn't "demanding purity".
posted by junco at 11:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Liberals really need to understand that leftists are not our friends.

The punchings will continue until opinions fall in line.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


And they haven't been that successful. In nationwide elections they have won a plurality once in 20-22 years, and they have only done what they have been able to do through chicanery and pure strategic ruthlessness. Is that what you want?

Yeah, all they've managed to do over that period is redirect trillions and trillions from American pockets to the elite and end up with control of the House, 29 state governorships, 26 state legislatures, and effective veto power in the Senate over a huge percentage of its business.

Pathetic.
posted by delfin at 11:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's what those 97,000 Nader voters told themselves in Florida. Bush won by 537 votes. Too bad they've never had to explain their votes to 100,000 dead Iraqis.

I prefer to blame the 1,804 people who voted for the Workers World candidate in Florida. Those BLOODY-HANDED BASTARDS.

(Or maybe the 200000+ Florida Democrats who voted for Bush? Nah, they can all sleep soundly.)
posted by delfin at 12:00 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Junco,

I guess I see it differently, but for someone in the Right wing, the differences between the two of them are as differences between an Obama supporter & a true Leftist.

When I wrote what you responded to, I was thinking about some of the 2010 Senate races in particular.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2012


Yeah, that's what those 97,000 Nader voters told themselves in Florida.

And what those who didn't vote for Humphrey in 1968 told themselves, and it probably resulted in millions more dead Vietnamese, especially considering Kissinger blocked a peace agreement prior to the election to help get Nixon elected.

The real irresponsibility is refusing to exercise the power you do have. But for those who truly believe Obama is Evil and the same or worse than Romney, I guess it makes sense to vote for a third party. And, yes, this thread is a complete waste of time.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2012


Delfin, With all that, they haven't yet fundamentally altered the social contract beyond what Reagan was able to do. They have only been able to do what they've done through dishonesty because a majority of the public disagrees with them. That's why Romney's their perfect candidate.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:08 PM on October 16, 2012


Requirements that include "not starting more illegal wars" and "not declaring to the Executive a unilateral right to assassinate American citizens" isn't "demanding purity".

Your and others seems to be a moral universe in which the pragmatic consequences of your actions are irrelevant, as long as your intentions are pure. This road is the road to hell.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:17 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your and others seems to be a moral universe in which the pragmatic consequences of your actions are irrelevant

The "pragmatic consequence" of my not voting for Obama is not a Romney victory unless the margin of victory for Romney is 1 vote, and I am not morally culpable for the voting decisions of any other person.
posted by junco at 12:22 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And what those who didn't vote for Humphrey in 1968 told themselves, and it probably resulted in millions more dead Vietnamese

But isn't Solnit arguing that all Presidents reign death upon other people and you would have to weigh all of those dead Vietnamese against all the good programs and agencies that Nixon established (like the EPA) which may have saved an equal number of other lives over the last 40 years? She is making that case for Obama (she weighs death by drone against lives saved by ObamaCare). So why can't we retroactively make the same case for Nixon, a President who was more liberal than Obama will ever be? Using Solnit's own argument for Obama, it is hard to see how you could impugn a vote for Nixon in 1968.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seymour,

If it weren't for Watergate, I would agree with that defense of Nixon.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2012


And as far as Nixon, his downfall came when moderate Republicans turned on him. The Conservatives never stopped supporting him, despite the liberal things he did. I bet that that has something to do with why moderates were drummed out of the GOP.

I distrust ideologues of all stripes with power.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:31 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nixon was rotten to the core. I don't believe Obama is, in other words.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: To be honest, this is the argument people who refuse to vote for Obama or other Democrats because of drones should be having, and it's somewhat telling that they don't (and sometimes won't) do this.

The peace advocates I know often make their entire lives an act of witness.

zombieflanders: I pointed out that the argument being made was based entirely on hypotheticals and ignored the evidence already laid out.

So is basing your entire argument on a repeat of 2000, which was a historical anomaly in multiple ways.

Sids are omnipresent in elections, resistant to change, and insignificant. We had the same arguments in 2004 and 2008, and Cobb and McKinney both got < 200,000 votes nationwide. I don't think Stein will do much better.

The group that scares me are the Nancys, the millions of voters that voted for Clinton, then Bush, and then swung to Obama. As we've seen in 2010 and with the last debate, this group can be persuaded by hard-hitting FUD and scare tactics.

If politics is the art of the possible, then does it not make more sense to sell Democratic leadership to the independent swing voters who have determined every presidential election in my lifetime, the ones who were sold on the idea in 2006 and 2008, than to waste time on an insignificant minority-in-a-minority?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:36 PM on October 16, 2012


But isn't Solnit arguing that all Presidents reign death upon other people and you would have to weigh all of those dead Vietnamese against all the good programs and agencies that Nixon established (like the EPA) which may have saved an equal number of other lives over the last 40 years? She is making that case for Obama (she weighs death by drone against lives saved by ObamaCare). So why can't we retroactively make the same case for Nixon, a President who was more liberal than Obama will ever be? Using Solnit's own argument for Obama, it is hard to see how you could impugn a vote for Nixon in 1968.

She also made the case for Schwarzenegger.

Nixon did some good things, and some very bad things - but that doesn't mean that Humphrey or McGovern wouldn't have been better.

I don't see anyone excusing or promoting the bad shit. Just acknowledging progress wherever it comes from.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:36 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK: I vote for Jill Stein. What happens? On the one hand, I haven't voted for a murderer (but I am still a US citizen, so I am complicit in the actions of the government regardless of who wins the presidency).

Obviously, Florida's Nader voters weren't solely to blame for Bush's presidency or the Iraq War; there's a lot of blame to spread around. But if you're making the case that a vote for Stein gives you a moral standing that other voters lack, don't you have to accept that failing to prevent future awfulness has moral implications as well? If President Romney starts the Iran War, will you accept the moral burden of failing to have done everything you could to prevent that?

If you don't think that any special moral standing accrues to "not voting for a murderer," if you just want to boast that "you didn't vote for a murderer," then why vote for Stein at all? Why not just opt out? What do you get from a vote for a candidate that has never nor will affect the policies you profess to be so concerned with?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2012


if you're making the case that a vote for Stein gives you a moral standing that other voters lack

I explicitly said in the comment that you're quoting from, as well as several others, that I don't think that voting for Stein gives me a moral standing that other voters lack. I cannot vote for Obama, who is a "murderer" (although that's a convenient, slightly snarky shorthand -- I got tired of writing "a president who explicitly sanctions illegal killings through the exercise of state power").

If President Romney starts the Iran War, will you accept the moral burden of failing to have done everything you could to prevent that?

As I said in a previous comment, that case only applies if Obama loses my state by one vote. Unless you mean I should be out fundraising and campaigning for Obama, and, again, if my only choice is to actively endorse a President who is committed to the use of state force for murder in order to prevent the election of a President who will commit even more murder, the system is irredeemably broken.

then why vote for Stein at all? Why not just opt out? What do you get from a vote for a candidate that has never nor will affect the policies you profess to be so concerned with?

Because she advocates policies I actually agree with, and Obama, by and large, doesn't. Stein is not going to win the Presidential election. But if she gets enough support, she may run for other office elsewhere and be successful, or in the event that she wins 5% of the popular vote, the Greens will get federal funding.
posted by junco at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It perpetually baffles me how %90 of the venom in these discussions is focused on 10% of a demographic that's only 15% of the electorate.

Bears repeating. If you really want democracy lets:

1. Implement IRV voting
2. Pass a national compulsory voting law
3. Expand the House
4. Kill the Senate
5. Create a national standard for establishing local congressional districts

That's the shit we need to work for (just like public power, or nationalized health care), because we know we need to get there someday, and career politicians won't do it.

Let's think 500 years in the future as well as 4 years. And have a plan to get there. I've *never* heard a (major party) presidential candidate talk about the next century or millennium. Where do we want to go? Who knows?

What do you get from a vote for a candidate that has never nor will affect the policies you profess to be so concerned with?

This is a good question, and I'd like an answer. I am a member of the Peace and Freedom Party, and we have had some ridiculous candidates through the years. In 2008 it was Leonard Peltier.

I do want the party to remain on the ballot because I believe in its platform, and in an IRV/parliamentary world (which I figure has to come one day), why not, so let's be ready for it.

However, if I do not vote for Roseanne (I probably will anyway), does that affect the ballot or other electoral status of the P&F Party? I've never gotten a good answer (let me look it up again ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone excusing or promoting the bad shit. Just acknowledging progress wherever it comes from.

I agree with that completely. But is the "left" any worse at it than the "right?" Bill Clinton gave a lot to conservative Republicans (welfare "reform," etc.), but I don't hear many GOP supporters giving Clinton "credit."

in the event that she wins 5% of the popular vote, the Greens will get federal funding

Yeah, that's really the only reason to vote third party. Build the base. I mean you have to try, don't you? If voting for what you believe has a negative effect on elections, elections need to change.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's really the only reason to vote third party. Build the base. I mean you have to try, don't you? If voting for what you believe has a negative effect on elections, elections need to change.

Exactly. And the Democrats certainly aren't interested in even discussing any of your excellent voting reform suggestions. As long as they continue getting >45% of the popular vote, it'll never happen.
posted by junco at 1:16 PM on October 16, 2012


if my only choice is to actively endorse a President who is committed to the use of state force for murder in order to prevent the election of a President who will commit even more murder, the system is irredeemably broken.

For some value of "murder," yeah, that's it, pretty much. Fortunately, you, my friend, can wash your hands of all that nastiness and cast a conscience-soothing vote for a candidate whom you like to imagine will some day, possibly, maybe, not be completely ineffectual.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "pragmatic consequence" of my not voting for Obama is not a Romney victory unless the margin of victory for Romney is 1 vote, and I am not morally culpable for the voting decisions of any other person.

Oh, so you're only responsible if the margin is 1 vote. So feel free to vote for Obama, because I can pretty much guarantee that they vote margin is not going to be 1 vote. (And what happened to that "you're responsible for Obama if you vote for him" shyte? Apparently that only works when he wins by a single vote. Your arguments are kind of inconsistent, though I fully expect a complex rationale for this latest inconsistency.)
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2012


For some value of "murder," yeah, that's it, pretty much. Fortunately, you, my friend, can wash your hands of all that nastiness and cast a conscience-soothing vote for a candidate whom you like to imagine will some day, possibly, maybe, not be completely ineffectual.

You are very committed to misreading and selectively quoting my argument.
posted by junco at 1:46 PM on October 16, 2012


Oh, so you're only responsible if the margin is 1 vote. So feel free to vote for Obama, because I can pretty much guarantee that they vote margin is not going to be 1 vote. (And what happened to that "you're responsible for Obama if you vote for him" shyte? Apparently that only works when he wins by a single vote. Your arguments are kind of inconsistent, though I fully expect a complex rationale for this latest inconsistency.)

Well, if nobody can be bothered to actually read what I'm saying before making a heated response, I'm done. Fun thread.
posted by junco at 1:47 PM on October 16, 2012


CTRL-F "Duverger's Law", no hits. Notable exceptions to Duverger's Law are often in areas where small parties have dominance over their own regions. I don't think inserting more regionalism in our party system to the point where third parties become viable is a great idea.

This thread is a conflict about emotions that should really be about math. Wasting your vote on a third party thinking it will produce a more liberal outcome is your prerogative if you go into the voting booth thinking that elections are fantasylands and not, you know, elections governed by laws and math. In the voting booth, you must obey the laws of mathematics.

IN THIS HOUSE, WE OBEY THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:47 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, you, my friend, can wash your hands of all that nastiness and cast a conscience-soothing vote for a candidate whom you like to imagine will some day, possibly, maybe, not be completely ineffectual.

When you take this line of thinking to its final conclusion, the fallacy becomes clear:

All you have to do is line up the 538 polls and have everyone cast their votes in line with Nate Silver's predictions (or some other agglomerative approach — not necessarily picking on 538, per se).

There is no need to bother voting any other way than for the winner of a collection of popular polls, since a vote for the assigned loser in the two-party system is, by definition, as completely and functionally ineffectual as voting for the automatic loser running as a third-party candidate.

We need not bother with the messiness of democracy at all, because a vote for any one loser is as equally wasted as a vote for any other loser in a winner-take-all system, if utility is now the measuring stick. Just do what Nate Silver's results tell you to do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


For those who refuse to hold their noses and vote for the "lesser of two evils", I hope your ideological purity is some comfort to you when you're negotiating with your private health insurance company at age 80.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 1:53 PM on October 16, 2012


This thread is a conflict about emotions that should really be about math. Wasting your vote on a third party thinking it will produce a more liberal outcome is your prerogative if you go into the voting booth thinking that elections are fantasylands and not, you know, elections governed by laws and math. In the voting booth, you must obey the laws of mathematics.

Get with the program pinkos! It's about math!!!
posted by downing street memo at 1:53 PM on October 16, 2012


For those who refuse to hold their noses and vote for the "lesser of two evils", I hope your ideological purity is some comfort to you when you're negotiating with your private health insurer at age 80.

Vote for the robot bomber or Medicare gets it!

(Cue the mystified ruminations on why some people just refuse to participate in a system that forces them into trolley problem after trolley problem)
posted by downing street memo at 1:56 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


You are very committed to misreading and selectively quoting my argument.

Can't see how. On the single issue you think is so important that you're willing to abandon every other issue important to left/liberals, you're voting for a candidate who will affect that issue not a bit. Good luck with that.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:57 PM on October 16, 2012


Well, if nobody can be bothered to actually read what I'm saying before making a heated response, I'm done. Fun thread.

Well, that's one way to avoid dealing with the conundrum...
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:57 PM on October 16, 2012


I both a) vote Democratic on harm reduction principles and b) loathe Democrats who pretend they aren't conservatives. Fun times!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the voting booth, you must obey the laws of mathematics.

Perhaps you should revisit this statement after reviewing the is-ought problem. The theory that a system reaches an equilibrium state says little about whether the behavior of individuals within that system is ideally ethical or not.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:18 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what, that's a little too harsh. Democrats who don't understand that they're not as different from Republicans as they'd like to fantasize, I guess I should say.

But the thing is, the lesser of two evils may still be evil, but that makes them the lesser evil, dammit. Third parties are a fake choice. It's like a mugger steps out in front of you and says "Your money or your life!" and you say "Nah, I choose playing Nintendo!" It's delusional and foolish.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:23 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can't see how. On the single issue you think is so important that you're willing to abandon every other issue important to left/liberals, you're voting for a candidate who will affect that issue not a bit. Good luck with that.

Voting in the general election isn't the sum total of a person's politics, and in many cases, it might not even be a critically important part of it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:24 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Vote for the robot bomber or Medicare gets it!

(Cue the mystified ruminations on why some people just refuse to participate in a system that forces them into trolley problem after trolley problem)


I guess it's mystifying to people who don't view this as an ethical abstraction and feel they have something real and tangible to lose. And yeah, the medicare threat is quite real. This time it probably won't be just be Iraqis who have to live with the consequences of a republican administration.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 2:25 PM on October 16, 2012


But isn't Solnit arguing that all Presidents reign death upon other people and you would have to weigh all of those dead Vietnamese against all the good programs and agencies that Nixon established (like the EPA) which may have saved an equal number of other lives over the last 40 years? She is making that case for Obama (she weighs death by drone against lives saved by ObamaCare). So why can't we retroactively make the same case for Nixon, a President who was more liberal than Obama will ever be? Using Solnit's own argument for Obama, it is hard to see how you could impugn a vote for Nixon in 1968.

I don't think it makes any sense to compare deaths saved by ObamaCare to deaths caused by drones. Presumably, if Romney were elected ObamaCare would be eliminated and medicaid, medicare, food stamps, student aid, support for public education reduced, and drone strikes would remain the same or be increased, and we would possibly invade Syria or Iran. So how is there even a comparison? I'm not seeing it.

It makes sense to me to compare the impact of the good programs Nixon established (I'm just taking your word for this, I don't know the history that well myself) against what would have happened had Humphrey been elected. It's hard for me to imagine what damage Humphrey could have done domestically that would have justified the years of intensified war in Vietnam. I suspect Humphrey may have done even better domestically, but who knows.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:36 PM on October 16, 2012


So.. Republican voters are anti-Populist, the Republican party is anti-Populist, the Democratic party is anti-Populist, and the corporate interests that control both parties are anti-Populist. There is no alliance. The amount of gravity the Democrats feel from the left is so minor compared to the heavy right-wing slant of the entire country, its base, and topdown, profit-driven economic power structure.

If a party doesn't support your interests you should shut up and vote for them anyway? Get inside their machinery and somehow change them from the bottom up, even as the entire country is aligned against you?

You may as well say the Democrats and the left should just pick up shop and all become Republicans and change them from the inside, then instead of two flawed parties we'll have one glorious party.

If infiltration was such a successful strategy. I think we'd see some results by now. These parties are really good at keeping their rank and file spinning in circles on policy while still generating votes for them.
posted by yonega at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, the thing is, some people apparently really think that Obama is a murderer.

And, look: if I thought that there was any non-trivial chance that that were true, I wouldn't vote for him either, no matter what. It's a lunatic view...but if you believe it, then you really cannot vote for the guy. I'm not sure how we can try to persuade them by saying things like "aw, c'mon, the other guy will murder even more folks." But if murder were anything like an accurate description of what's going on, Obama would make Jeffrey Dahmer look like a piker. How can you ask someone to vote for a person of whom they think such a thing? You could ask them to think more deeply about foreign policy and what our options actually are...you could ask them to form more careful hypotheses about what Obama is actually doing...you could ask them to reflect on the difference between murder and civilian casualties (God, what a horrific word) in war...but, given their current theory of Obama-as-murderer...I simply don't see how one could ask them to vote for him.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, the thing is, some people apparently really think that Obama is a murderer.

And, look: if I thought that there was any non-trivial chance that that were true


Just keep using the words "collateral damage" and it'll make you feel better.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:59 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just keep using the words "collateral damage" and it'll make you feel better.

Just keep telling yourself that you didn't help elect Bush and Romney, and it'll make you feel better.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:11 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


A comparison to Che or Stalin is the reverse-Godwin.

Is this the actual doctrinaire-Stalinist totalitarian executioner Che, or the mythological hippy rock-star sex-god and all-round cool dude Che?
posted by acb at 4:17 PM on October 16, 2012


Just keep telling yourself that you didn't help elect Bush and Romney, and it'll make you feel better.

I'm from Indiana, which went powerfully for Bush in 2000 and 2004; my vote was meaningless. I in no way contributed to the election of George Bush. (And, as has been pointed out, far more Florida Democrats voted Bush than voted Nader, and hell, there were a lot of things that led to Bush being "elected" in 2000, not that the Democrats will ever take an ounce of responsibility. Far easier to blame the hippies, even if it is a fucking lie.) I voted Obama in 2008 and I will do so in 2012 as well. I'm not at all against voting for a Democrat- what pisses me off is being expected to have a big shiteating grin about it and tell the Democrats that they're awesome while I'm doing it.

Vote Dem, but do it with your fucking eyes open. Moral purity is for people who value themselves more than they value others.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:23 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


i couldn't get past the first few paragraphs - she is talking to us as if we are children

there was another post today about how both parties infantalize the public over security and al queda

if only they confined themselves to that*

*yes, i am voting for obama - no, i don't want to hear how henry wallace, i mean, ralph nader almost ruined the country - now, on with the eternal argument
posted by pyramid termite at 4:58 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just keep telling yourself that you didn't help elect Bush and Romney, and it'll make you feel better.

I'm trained really quite expensively and well in international law. I think it is very clear Obama murders people via extrajudicial executions that are not at all covered by the Caroline case exemptions for self-defense. I'd still pick him. I can see why others might not, however, and I don't think they are immoral to do so. I just think they have to calculate the cost of their inaction against the likely alternative.

I have to agree with PG; nose-holding seems an entirely reasonable reaction when faced with infinite detention without charge, drone executions and the drug war. It's just not quite as bad as not voting for that, and sometimes all you can do is push the window a very little towards your views and vote for what prevents utter disaster.
posted by jaduncan at 5:02 PM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Green Party candidate arrested outside debate site
posted by homunculus at 5:20 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was idly wondering: what if some black-swan electoral calamity actually made Jill Stein president? Or some other third-party candidate, a hypothetical future Ross Perot? What would the machinery of Washington even do? (Who would plan the inaugural ball . . . ?) Without an enormous coalition of interest behind him, except for The People, what could a President hope to do with the legislature?
posted by Countess Elena at 6:59 PM on October 16, 2012


I'm from Indiana, which went powerfully for Bush in 2000 and 2004; my vote was meaningless. I in no way contributed to the election of George Bush. (And, as has been pointed out, far more Florida Democrats voted Bush than voted Nader, and hell, there were a lot of things that led to Bush being "elected" in 2000, not that the Democrats will ever take an ounce of responsibility. Far easier to blame the hippies, even if it is a fucking lie.) I voted Obama in 2008 and I will do so in 2012 as well. I'm not at all against voting for a Democrat- what pisses me off is being expected to have a big shiteating grin about it and tell the Democrats that they're awesome while I'm doing it.

Vote Dem, but do it with your fucking eyes open. Moral purity is for people who value themselves more than they value others.


I dunno what to tell you. Enjoy your feelings of moral purity/superiority then? God knows what you're trying to say.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:44 PM on October 16, 2012


I was idly wondering: what if some black-swan electoral calamity actually made Jill Stein president? Or some other third-party candidate, a hypothetical future Ross Perot? What would the machinery of Washington even do? (Who would plan the inaugural ball . . . ?) Without an enormous coalition of interest behind him, except for The People, what could a President hope to do with the legislature?

I suspect Stein would effectively govern as a Democrat, and Perot would govern as a Republican. In Congress each would probably have to pick a side, and might end up running as the candidate of that party next time round.

Bernie Sanders has the same pick.
posted by jaduncan at 7:51 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Obama loses because Jill Stein gets a larger than expected share of the vote

Please provide more details of this scenario. It sounds fascinating.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:47 PM on October 16, 2012


what exactly do you think you're accomplishing?

Speaking truth and acting correctly.

sometimes all you can do is push the window a very little towards your views and vote for what prevents utter disaster.

I suppose that's the real difference. I don't buy the utter disaster of Romney. I'm not convinced John Kerry would have been much different than George Bush. And, again, utter disaster is coming regardless of which candidate wins. We're destroying the planet and neither major candidate will even consider the problem.

Don't get caught watching the paint dry.

All I know is I'm voting for Jerry McNerney and Solyndra.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:52 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What an incredibly weak article by Solnit. 50% tone argument, 40% strawman, 10% engageable argument that everyone in the US already knows because it's already the predominating point of view.

I'm really surprised to read this in the wake of her excellent piece on mansplaining, because this one is basically an avalanche of "lib"splaining.
posted by threeants at 12:36 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's ridiculous, as some have pointed out, is that the US' "radical left" is, for the most part, not trying to smash the state or nationalize land tenure; they're trying to achieve the kinds of things that citizens of almost every other developed nation take for granted.

Our president had to overcome significant resistance within his own party, and then a filibuster on the part of the other party, in order to pass historic legislation requiring people to buy services from an HMO. Such a chain of events probably already existed as a plot in some Danish dystopian novel.

The world is laughing at us.
posted by threeants at 12:50 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


a significant fraction of self-described lefties are more than satisfied with warm, good feelings instead of actual legislative work.

Bogstandard centrist argument 101.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


One can argue that leftist elements tried that in 2000 and it didn't end up well for all concerned.

Because Bush stole the election, Gore let them and the lesson centrists learned from this is that it's always the leftwing spoilers fault when they lose elections.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:03 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


And of course the whole problem with these sort of articles and the resulting "debates" is that everything is being reduced to binary choices: as a leftist or liberal, to vote or not to vote for $current_democratic_presidential_candidate. Vote, because $current_republican_presidential_candidate wants worse policies; not vote, because $current_democratic_presidential_candidate is actually quite a nasty little shit enacting policies only marginally better than the other guy.

What it leaves out is all the politics that happens outside of presidential campaigns, no not that tired old saw about working through the party to change it from the better; that trick never works. The real secret of US politics is that any change for the better by and large had to come from outside the established two parties, both of which are dedicated to defending the status quo: the civil rights movement, the gay and lesbian rights movement, feminist movement all worked through direct political action outside the two parties.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:37 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, since everybody else is cheerleading the debate anyway, all this guff about how who you vote makes you responsible for $insert_scary_thing. Yeah, nobody really believes this now do they, other than as a stick to beat leftie dissidents with?

Because the thing is, once somebody is in office, what they do is no longer influenced by your vote. No president worries about the opinions of individual voters or let their actions depend on them, so voting for Obama doesn't make you complicit in the drone attacks, nor does not voting for Obama.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:57 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


not that tired old saw about working through the party to change it from the better; that trick never works.

why not? prove it.
posted by jacalata at 2:01 AM on October 17, 2012


The last twenty years of Democratic Party failure not good enough for you?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:04 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did the radical left make an effort to work through the Party 20 years ago? I was in elementary school then, but have only heard of Nader and people abandoning/working against the Democratic Party. Is there no biography of someone who tried working within the party and gave up? Perhaps people who feel they made the wrong strategic choice don't write biographies or articles.
posted by jacalata at 2:08 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I could ask Solnit one question it would be this: What is your bright red line that you will not cross when it comes time to vote? In other words, how bad would both options (Dem and Rep) have to be before you wrote a different opinion piece urging us to support some 3rd party candidate from an alternative universe. Talk about what that looks like for you, from the perspective of the left side of the political spectrum.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:37 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seymour Zamboni: "If I could ask Solnit one question it would be this: What is your bright red line that you will not cross when it comes time to vote? In other words, how bad would both options (Dem and Rep) have to be before you wrote a different opinion piece urging us to support some 3rd party candidate from an alternative universe. Talk about what that looks like for you, from the perspective of the left side of the political spectrum."

I think that's as good of a question as you can ask within the bounds of Presidential electoral politics, but the monomaniacal focus on the Presidential race every four years is what's keeping third parties from being anything more than host organisms for vanity candidates and landing zones for disaffected independents who want to try to "send a message" about the broken two-party system.

My own response to that question would be that there is literally no bright red line, and I would always vote for the lesser of two evils, no matter how evil. If there were a credible third party candidate who would overcome the institutional advantages the two major parties have, I would certainly consider them, but I don't see that happening without the also-ran parties doing the hard, boring work of competing in (and likely losing in) a bunch of small-potatoes races to build their brand and show the electorate they're serious about governance. Eventually, they could win some state assembly races, a seat or two in congress, maybe a governorship or two in a state like Maine or New Hampshire that's receptive to independents, and then use that momentum to build a real, viable third party that could rightly demand to be taken seriously in the Presidential race.

I recognize that third parties are swimming upstream in our first-past-the-post system, but I think this could work, but until it does, I can see no hypothetical scenario in which supporting a third party in the Presidential election makes any sense. If they can't win, they're not worth voting for.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:27 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another amusing critique
posted by jeffburdges at 8:10 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a reasoned article by Conor Friedersdorf on why liberals and progressives (like myself) will not be voting for Obama. Frankly, I found Solnit's writing to be dismissive and patronizing in the way that she claims that she wants to transcend and Friedersdorf more compassionate to the views of those who may oppose him.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 12:44 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Conor Friedersdorf is a libertarian, not a liberal or progressive, so he is in no position to speak for liberals or progressives.

More on why Friedersdorf is wrong here:
I was near the end of five years of irrational rage about the Welfare Reform act, and since I couldn't take it out on Clinton again, I took it out on Gore. That was, at the time, my "dealbreaker." In hindsight, my rage was deeply irrational not because I was wrong about the evils of the policy, necessarily, but because I was irrationally and single-mindedly focused on Clinton. The first alternative, which I barely acknowledged at the time, would have been to focus my rage against Republican legislators, who obviously passed the damn bill. But more importantly, my rage should have been directed to a significant degree against my fellow American citizens, whose political attitudes and values rendered Clinton's decision to sign that bill a canny political move. Similarly, today we have a political environment in which most Americans are indifferent to or actively in favor of drone wars in Pakistan. That doesn't make it right, or absolve those who engage in it. But it's the first fact someone horrified with it should confront. Meaningful, serious opposition by a majority of Americans to such a policy certainly wouldn't be sufficient to end it, and might not even be necessary, but it certainly couldn't hurt. When there's a broad bipartisan consensus on a particular policy, it's probably a good place to start.
and here.
I admire Conor's desire for change, and I have a lot of sympathy for his refusal to set his moral values aside when making an electoral choice. But, I have a few quibbles.

For as much as they have a huge effect on the direction of the country, presidential elections are not the place where meaningful change occurs.

Take President Obama. He was the catalyst for health care reform-in the sense that it was part of his agenda-but it didn't happen because Obama was elected. The push for universal health care was a decades-long process that involved efforts at the elite and grassroots levels. Experts had to be trained, politicians had to be elected, and liberals who supported reform had to reach key positions within the Democratic Party. Obama's decision to run with health care reform was the culmination of that effort, not the beginning.

[snip]

Which gets to my second quibble with Conor's piece: This idea that President Obama-or any executive-is acting with complete autonomy when it comes to national security. In a literal sense, this is true. There are few-if any-constraints on Obama's ability to conduct war. But, if this were offensive to the public, we would have heard something. American voters don't care about the drone war. And insofar that they care, it's because the government has seemingly developed a way to kill "terrorists" without risking American lives. Put another way, if there is a bipartisan consensus around national security, it's at least partly because the voters have pushed the parties in that direction, by rewarding the belligerent and punishing the reticient. Civil libertarians have to shift public opinion in their direction before they can expect to see politicians respond to their concerns. This is hard work, but it's possible (see: the push for same-sex marriage).

One last thing. Friedersdorf refuses to vote for a "lesser evil," but the fact of the matter is that Gary Johnson is also a "lesser evil." Johnson supports immediate austerity and a move to balanced budgets for the 2013 fiscal year. He would cut 43 percent from the federal budget in all areas, and call for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He supports "sound money"—which is code for tight monetary policy-and opposes entitlement spending, and most functions of the welfare state. He opposes Roe v. Wade-thus making him an effective opponent of abortion rights-and does not believe that health care is a right.

A world where Johnson could be elected president-which, Conor says, would be a good outcome-is a world where these things are possible. His domestic policies would throw millions into hardship, and his hugely contractionary economic policies would plunge the country-and the globe-into a recession.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a reasoned article by Conor Friedersdorf

Yes, we've done that before. I'm partial to Erik Loomis' reply to Friedersdorf, myself.

Bogstandard centrist argument 101.

Possibly, but not less true for that. I remarked that a significant fraction of self-described lefties are more than satisfied with warm, good feelings instead of actual legislative work and that's what I've seen here so far. They're perfectly happy to cast a vote for some solely because it will make them feel good to do so, not because that vote will change anything. Some people, like the author of that Counterpunch piece, with her ode to having the faith to lose elections, are reveling in their political impotence. In this discussion, the only remotely practical reason given so far to vote for a third party candidate is to exceed the precious 5% (which, in the case of left candidates hasn't happened since 1924) and "Vote Green for federal funding next time!" won't stop those drones any time soon.

So tell me, bogstandard centrist argument though I may be making, how is it wrong?

The real secret of US politics is that any change for the better by and large had to come from outside the established two parties, both of which are dedicated to defending the status quo: the civil rights movement, the gay and lesbian rights movement, feminist movement all worked through direct political action outside the two parties.

Which is true enough in the instances cited. But direct political action doesn't last unless its consolidated legislatively and voting for candidates who will never get elected won't consolidate those gains.

The last twenty years of Democratic Party failure not good enough for you?

Failure compared to what? Define "failure" here and point to any other US left/liberal party that has accomplished more than the Democratic Party. You can't. Because there isn't one. If the Democratic Party has been a failure—and God knows it's failed over and over—then every other party to its left has been an utter catastrophe.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:53 PM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I remarked that a significant fraction of self-described lefties are more than satisfied with warm, good feelings instead of actual legislative work and that's what I've seen here so far.

Seems like a classic self-fulfilling bias. One of the reasons I'm skeptical of all this attention on the handful of Sids as an important part of the election season is that criticism of Sids quickly slides into irresponsible criticism of the left. Perhaps I'm just skeptical that ~0.12% of the vote is a significant fraction of anything, no matter how vocally it's represented here on Metafilter.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:28 PM on October 17, 2012


One thing that doesn't seem to get mentioned much in these left vs center-left debates is that there really aren't many true leftists in the U.S.A. anymore. As a very small group with very little traction among the masses, their only hope to have an impact in the country is to play spoiler to the one group that will listen to them, which are their supposed "allies" in the center-left. Those allies are usually just corporatists who are for civil rights and health care. Voting isn't the biggest issue the left faces in America, it's how to get their message out to the masses who reject them prima facia. The one weak spot in the center-left/center-right/right alliance is growing distrust of corporations and their outsize influence on society. This is the one area, not foreign policy, not civil rights, not single payer health care, not organized labor rights, where the diminished left has an opportunity to reach and inspire a larger audience.
posted by cell divide at 2:47 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that doesn't seem to get mentioned much in these left vs center-left debates is that there really aren't many true leftists in the U.S.A. anymore.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Do leftists really believe that Libertarian Socialism will take hold in the U.S. by starting a third party? I don't get it. There is zero chance of this in any imaginable future. How can socialism work without people that believe in socialism? Maybe the best thing to do is go to Venezuela or somewhere and work on proving that this sort of system can work. Let the Tea Party take the U.S. into Capitalist slavery. Then people can look at Venezuela and see "wow, they are happier and healthier, they work less, they have more culture, they have a beautiful commercialized society, they have a productive economy, maybe we are doing it wrong?
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:09 PM on October 17, 2012


cell divide: One thing that doesn't seem to get mentioned much in these left vs center-left debates is that there really aren't many true leftists in the U.S.A. anymore. As a very small group with very little traction among the masses, their only hope to have an impact in the country is to play spoiler to the one group that will listen to them, which are their supposed "allies" in the center-left.

I think that's a narrow view of how politics works. Worse, it's a theory of politics that's proven to be a losing proposition. The ballot boxes and legislative sessions are the endgame, the hard work comes in the process of making those ideas and values less scary, and then acceptable. To use gay rights as an example, every win of the last decade was the product of over 50 years of hard and historically radical work that included both coming out within straight culture, and building alternative cultures as a substitute.

I won't uncharitably say that the center-left lacks a coherent praxis for engaging in politics beyond vote-counting. I think the Democrats proved in 2006 and 2008 that at least a few people there have a clue about how to make votes.

Golden Eternity: Do leftists really believe that Libertarian Socialism will take hold in the U.S. by starting a third party?

No, we do not, making the rest of your comment bs.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:55 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've come to loathe "I don't get it" in variations as the preface for patently absurd, profoundly ignorant, and astoundingly offensive generalizations about a group. It's usually dishonest in that the writer isn't actually admitting any ignorance, but ironically true in that the writer usually is ignorant.

There's a lot to criticize about the American left, overgeneralizing from a single dimension of political practice by a fraction of it isn't even accurate WRT people who actually vote Green.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:10 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


But isn't Solnit arguing that all Presidents reign death upon other people and you would have to weigh all of those dead Vietnamese against all the good programs and agencies that Nixon established (like the EPA) which may have saved an equal number of other lives over the last 40 years? She is making that case for Obama (she weighs death by drone against lives saved by ObamaCare).

My read was that Solnit was not arguing that we should weigh the good that a particular presidential candidate does/may or does/may not do against the bad and come up with an objective measure of the goodness of that presidential candidate. My read was that she was arguing that we should compare candidates on all axes, and that while Obama and Romney are both likely to be quite bad and cause many deaths via their foreign policy (thereby the comparison on that basis being a wash), and while they both support neoliberal economic policies (thereby the comparison on that basis being a wash), that at least Obama would be better on some social issues, and vulnerable to influence from pressure from the left.

She seems to be essentially making the harm reduction argument for voting for Obama (although I think that downingstreetmemo has a more nuanced analysis in taking into consideration Electoral College politics and which state one is voting in). I really wish she had managed to phase it in a way that didn't assume that all "radical leftists" (a category based on ideology, not level of negativity versus positivity in outlook on life) were passive complainers who didn't actually work toward change; that made a distinction between the harm reduction argument and the issue of the value of "lifestyle" activism (the idea that living your life so as to set an example is worthwhile) versus what we can maybe call "community" activism (trying to change other people's attitudes and actions); and that separated out each of those two distinct issues from the third issue of the role of hope, memory (eg. of past movements and their successes), and celebrating current successes (minor though they may be) in sustaining both a movement and the individuals who make up a movement (emotional self-care being important to prevent personal burn-out as well as to build healthy communities within the movement).
posted by eviemath at 7:03 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did the radical left make an effort to work through the Party 20 years ago? I was in elementary school then, but have only heard of Nader and people abandoning/working against the Democratic Party. Is there no biography of someone who tried working within the party and gave up?

I can't find it at the moment, but I know that on the state level, somebody wrote about how Texas used to be a heavily democratic state. But the powers-that-be never let newer, younger members have a shot at a House seat, so young Texas Dems stopped trying. Because of this (along with some really clever work on the part of the Republican Party, shifting the entire South) Texas is deeply red.
posted by nushustu at 12:10 AM on October 18, 2012


CBrachyrhynchos: To use gay rights as an example, every win of the last decade was the product of over 50 years of hard and historically radical work that included both coming out within straight culture, and building alternative cultures as a substitute.

That's actually kind of what I was trying to say, that being a small group means you need to think outside of the obvious "spoiler" role and think about building alliances across various groups around issues that matter.
posted by cell divide at 11:29 AM on October 18, 2012


cell divide: That's actually kind of what I was trying to say, that being a small group means you need to think outside of the obvious "spoiler" role and think about building alliances across various groups around issues that matter.

From my perspective, this is backward. Coalition-building, grass-roots activism, services on the community and individual level, lobbying, and consciousness-raising are the "obvious" roles that the left plays in American politics. Electoral spoilers are just a sideshow that gets wheeled out every election.

Well, actually between elections as well. There's a corollary of Godwin's law here on Metafilter that almost any advocacy of left-wing politics within or outside of the system will eventually engender a irresponsible reference to Nader.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there no biography of someone who tried working within the party and gave up?

Does Dennis Kucinich count? (though he hasn't given up as far as I know).

I can't find it at the moment, but I know that on the state level, somebody wrote about how Texas used to be a heavily democratic state. But the powers-that-be never let newer, younger members have a shot at a House seat, so young Texas Dems stopped trying. Because of this (along with some really clever work on the part of the Republican Party, shifting the entire South) Texas is deeply red.

I think the primary cause of the shift of Southern segregationists to the Republican Party was the Civil Rights Act (Lyndon Johnson was the former Governor of Texas which was largely democratic). The Democratic Party has an atrocious record of civil rights in the South up until the sixties. This allowed Nixon's Southern Strategy where he allied himself with segregationists like Strom Thurman, and evangelicals.

More recently Republicans have used gerrymandering and voter caging to prevent the South from falling out of Republican control. They also heavily fund local candidates, including judicial candidates, on a national level so similar techniques can be used throughout the country. The Iowa Supreme Court, for example, is currently being voted out for supporting same-sex marriage, and this effort has been funded primarily by outside sources.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:07 PM on October 18, 2012


there really aren't many true leftists in the U.S.A. anymore

As a %, maybe, but still how many is not "really" many? In California Alone, the Peace & Freedom Party has about 60,000 members, the Green Party about 120,000, throw in another few hundred thousand Socialist Party members and you probably have at least 1-2 million registered lefties across the country (I mean, Vermont), who each represent about 3+ people IRL. (P&F candidates have gotten 200,000 votes; Green candidates 400,000). (Not saying that all Greens are leftist, but that's how much the scale has shifted, I suppose.)

So 4-6 million might be high, but let's say 3M, or even "just" 2M. That's a lot of people who can make a difference.

How do we do it? Seriously. (All I've got is: work, write, explain, vote. Vote strategically if you must (i.e. close races/districts) but stay true to what you know is right.)

Although momentum has slightly stalled, the Occupy movement did more to change the direction of political discussion in the country than any politician in ... how long?

Do leftists really believe that Libertarian Socialism will take hold in the U.S. by starting a third party? I don't get it. There is zero chance of this in any imaginable future.

Your attention span is too short here. (I blame all those quick edits on TV shows these days.) We're not thinking 4, 10, or even 50 years, we're thinking 200. It's only been ~160 for the GOP. If we can't have sane planetary policy now, let's at least make a long-term plan to get there.

In 100 years, I expect to see Fire-Eaters, War Democrats, or Greenbertarians. Why not? Things are changing. The Internet has only been around in the mainstream for 15-20 years. BIG things are changing.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:33 PM on October 18, 2012


How can socialism work without people that believe in socialism?

Isn't that what we have now, vis a vis seniors complaining about socialism while cashing government checks?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Daniel Ellsberg: Progressives: In Swing States, Vote for Obama
posted by homunculus at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what we have now, vis a vis seniors complaining about socialism while cashing government checks?

To the extent that you can say medicare is socialism, seniors who believe in medicare believe in socialism. By socialism, though, I meant to refer to the end of capitalist exploitation through the elimination of private property and a fully planned economy where workers control the means of production, but I'm not even sure if this sort of thing is advocated by 'true leftists' anymore. That comment of mine was pretty asinine, and I apologize for its offensiveness and my ignorance.

Your attention span is too short here. (I blame all those quick edits on TV shows these days.) We're not thinking 4, 10, or even 50 years, we're thinking 200. It's only been ~160 for the GOP. If we can't have sane planetary policy now, let's at least make a long-term plan to get there.

I guess an advantage of an organization like the Green Party is that it can become a global networking organization. To make a significant impact on global warming or other 'planetary' issues, global cooperation would be required, obviously. The Democratic Party has gone from founding Jim Crow to creating the Civil Rights Act. I don't think it is a stretch to say that within 50 to 200 years it may move much further to the "left," but the key to adopting leftist policies is to move popular opinion to the "left," IMO. I'm not seeing how third parties in the presidential election are necessarily the best way to accomplish this, particularly if that means seceding power to the GOP.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:30 PM on October 18, 2012


seceding power to the GOP. oops.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:38 PM on October 18, 2012


By socialism, though, I meant to refer to the end of capitalist exploitation through the elimination of private property and a fully planned economy where workers control the means of production

I was joking a little, but only a little. The line between public and private seems to be blurring as corporations take on a lot of the responsibilities formerly managed by government. So while what could be considered socialism today (planned welfare and policies that deliberately and lawfully benefit military contractors, energy companies, etc. as much as individuals) is of a hybrid or mixed type that is quite different from the stoic, workers-of-the-world, Five-Year-Planning of Soviet bloc states, it's still socialism that can be made palatable to people, if presented in the right way.

People across all social strata really do love socialism in their hearts, even if not all of us want to call it that. Excepting diehard Aynrandians, maybe, we all love roads, schools, safe food and medicines, emergency, fire and police services. Our seniors love getting guv'mint checks in the mail, even as they howl in tune with welfare queen dog-whistles. Even our 1%ers love it: CEOs and shareholders love the corruption that allows buying protectionism abroad, tax breaks and loopholes at home, laws that preserve markets in spite of technological progress, etc. etc.

I wonder if what socialists lack aren't appealing ideas — a number of social programs that are already in place are what would be made law under their hypothetical Red Dawn regime — but that they simply lack good marketing. Red-blooded Americans hear "socialism" and think about the Cold War, Yakov Smirnoff, long-lines for turnips, and Stalin.

All this stuff keeps the economy and society humming along, as far as it goes. It's just that the narrative of America as the archetypal Horatio Algerian success story does not allow openly connecting these "planned" aspects of our effectively socialist economy with, well, our effectively socialist economy.

That's why you hear doublespeak from Romney and Obama about how government doesn't create jobs (while whoever you vote for will be tasked to using the government to create jobs). Or how the free enterprise system is the "greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known", while calling for regulations on that system's excesses.

Republicans and Democrats both push the American Dream brand while quietly recognizing that regulations keep it all going. More die-hard socialists would call for and implement a great number of the same sorts of regulations that would appeal to the public (obviously with some specific differences wrt private interests), but I suspect that, without a core story that somehow reduces crudely to pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, it may be difficult to break through and appeal to the public — and that's only to get to a point where they are effectively sponsoring the very same social policies that are already in place!

One useful thing the Green Party could do is hire someone like Frank Luntz, who will help figure out how to simplify and conceptualize environmental and energy policy changes as opportunities for the best and brightest American entrepreneurs to make money and create jobs, reinventing or re-energizing the country about depressing topics like expensive gas fill-ups and climate change. Even if the GP may not win much in terms of raw votes, their ideas might resonate more with the public and get the country moving in a better direction. I don't think that they would necessarily be helping the GOP gain much power, if they market themselves in this kind of "libertarian socialist" way. If anything, this new approach might help move the country back to the left, by being a bit more up front about the specifics of how government plays useful and important roles in society.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:32 PM on October 18, 2012


My fellow lefties, this is how you do it:
Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February

Q: After the polls swung in Romney’s favor after the first debate, did you reconsider your criticism of President Obama?

A: We have to prevent a Romney takeover of the White House. No doubt about that. It would be very dangerous in terms of actual lives and actual deaths of the elderly and the poor. Those people who are dependent on various programs would have to deal with the ugly damage of the further redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the well off.

Q: Right. But doesn’t criticizing Obama make all that bad stuff you just said more likely to happen?

A: I’m strategic. We have to tell that truth about a system that’s corrupt—both parties are poisoned by big money and tied to big banks and corporations. Speaking on that is a matter of intellectual integrity. American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscience—if I voted my moral conscience it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it's strategic in terms of the actual possibilities and real options available for poor and working people.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:43 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


People across all social strata really do love socialism in their hearts, even if not all of us want to call it that. Excepting diehard Aynrandians, maybe, we all love roads, schools, safe food and medicines, emergency, fire and police services. Our seniors love getting guv'mint checks in the mail, even as they howl in tune with welfare queen dog-whistles. Even our 1%ers love it: CEOs and shareholders love the corruption that allows buying protectionism abroad, tax breaks and loopholes at home, laws that preserve markets in spite of technological progress, etc. etc.

I think you're partially correct, but are missing a major piece. People love government programs that go back to what they think of as "their people." And everyone has a different definition of what that is. We may all love roads - but ask, say, the residents of Staten Island what they feel about the Verrazano Bridge tolls going to other in-city projects, and you'll be met with a lot of anger. We may all love schools - but schools for our neighborhood, so our children are able to be taught in the way we want and at the level we want. We all love safe food and medicine - well, as long as our food is safe, but there's not a lot of outrage over other people's. Same with the emergency services. Social Security and Medicare? Well, you have to have worked a certain portion of time, or at least used to.

So socialism is popular in some sectors primarily as long as it's voluntary, includes only productive middle class+ people, and doesn't spread outside tribal borders.

This is not socialism on a national scale by a long shot, nor is it in line with those who have socialistic ideals, who want it to be more broadly applied to benefit the poor as well.
posted by corb at 8:10 AM on October 19, 2012


Daniel Ellsberg: Progressives: In Swing States, Vote for Obama

Kind of a no-brainer I would think, but I can understand.

So what do those of us in non-swing states do?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2012


mrgrimm: " So what do those of us in non-swing states do?"

If he's worth voting for in swing states, then it's worth working to make sure he has majorities in both houses of congress so that his policies aren't held hostage by the John Boehners and Mitch McConnells of the world, who have proven they'll shoot hostages when they need to.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:27 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Solnit is a careful thinker, and an articulate writer. Thanks for posting this.
posted by trip and a half at 11:28 PM on October 29, 2012


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