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Left 3.0
February 23, 2013 7:24 PM   Subscribe

The left side of the American political spectrum has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the past dozen years. Perhaps because it remains a work in progress, the extent of this transformation has gone largely unremarked and seems underappreciated even among those who have been carrying it out....Left 3.0 is not only an ideological movement, but also effectively controls (or rather guides) a political party fully competitive at the national level.
posted by shivohum (86 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
BTW this is from the Hoover Institution, one of the biggest conservative think tanks out there.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:28 PM on February 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Shouldn't this just be called "Strawman 101"?

Always funny when there is an attempt to identify and describe a monolithic, homogeneous political group called "The Left" or "The Right".

It's a very useful practice from the point of view of whoever is making such a broad characterization, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:34 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"When the party in 2004 nominated John Kerry, a candidate sufficiently congenial to the Left to avoid consequential defections from the Democratic cause, he came up short in the center."

I feel like the first part of this is backwards.
posted by dismas at 7:43 PM on February 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, but this description seems remarkably accurate as a description of the general thrust of the Democratic Party over the past decade or so.
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is a little more about the author of this essay...
posted by 1367 at 7:46 PM on February 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


If the Democratic Party is Left 3.0 then us progressives/liberals/communists/socialists have done a damn shitty job subverting and subsuming the Democratic Party's establishment.
posted by Talez at 7:46 PM on February 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also whenever I see pseudo-software-versions in titles I assume it's written by Thomas Friedman. I think he killed that one, guys. Maybe come up with something else.
posted by dismas at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Few on the Left are willing to grant that their critics are reasonable — in other words, that the Left has anything to gain from taking its critics seriously.


the left has no need for outsourcing its self-criticism to this thinktank, PNAC, get-the-DoD-a-bonehead. the internal criticism sits at a dull roar at most times, except when it reaches a juddering cacophony.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 8:06 PM on February 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Might have had an unfortunate title, and cringe-inducing 'wikification' reference, but all in all I thought that was thoroughly fair and objective, despite its source.

Reads like an opposition research memo.
posted by graphnerd at 8:09 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only accurate point is that the left, yes, does believe in some kind of equality.

But the article confuses all sorts of movements, and is breathtaking in the lack of historical examples. Progressives were often quite anti-socialist; good government could save capitalists from themselves.

The left was almost never unified, full of their own rivalries and priorities. When it was effective it often harnessed the power of voluntary institutions like Churches. It rarely had any kind of monolithic orientation guiding it. And the fragmentation of the not-for-profit sphere, the prioritization of identity politics diminished effective organizing around economic issues, as the working white poor were often culturally conservative.

He also essentially makes race into a minor "discovery" of the left rather than a pretty central problem in American politics.

Meh. There are far better conservative thinkers to read.
posted by john wilkins at 8:11 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The left was almost never unified, full of their own rivalries and priorities. When it was effective it often harnessed the power of voluntary institutions like Churches. It rarely had any kind of monolithic orientation guiding it. And the fragmentation of the not-for-profit sphere, the prioritization of identity politics diminished effective organizing around economic issues, as the working white poor were often culturally conservative.

That was a point that was pretty explicitly made in the article.
posted by graphnerd at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2013


john wilkins: "The only accurate point is that the left, yes, does believe in some kind of equality. "

Well, I'm not sure about that. The conclusion seems sound, in particular this paragraph:
At this writing, the nexus of talk radio and the Tea Party is making life miserable for “establishment” Republicans, who for the most part consider themselves to be staunch conservatives in their own right. The party is deeply divided over social issues. Abortion, for example, may be a politically useful issue to Republicans, or at least a neutral issue, when the subject is parental notification or late-term abortions. But if the party persists in nominating candidates who would ban abortion in cases of rape or incest, the political costs will be high. It doesn’t matter that realistically speaking, such candidates have no chance of their views on abortion prevailing nationwide. It’s the thought that counts. The theological justification for the position makes no sense to anyone not already operating within the same theological framework. Democrats in conjunction with Left 3.0 will be unsparing in holding the entire Republican Party to account for such views.
Frankly, I would go further than he does: if the Republican Party is to remain relevant, the Tea Party must become its ideological center; it is the only wing of the party that shows any hope of being a flashpoint conservatives can actually rally around, because it's the only wing of the party with any purity in its ideals or rational straightforwardness in its message. One may disagree with them, and frankly I frequently do, but fiscal conservatism that is absolutely devoid of social conservatism is the only conservatism that will survive the next decade, I think. The Tea Partiers I know who get pissed off at abortion legislation of any kind because they think it's a government-invasive waste of time, and who could give a flying crap if two gay people want to get married so long as taxes are dropping and the market is healthy - they will, I believe, be the future of the Republican Party. I disagree with them strongly on many points; but I think they recognize at least implicitly that Reagan's Moral Majority is broken beyond repair.
posted by koeselitz at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2013


One may disagree with them, and frankly I frequently do, but fiscal conservatism that is absolutely devoid of social conservatism is the only conservatism that will survive the next decade, I think. The Tea Partiers I know who get pissed off at abortion legislation of any kind because they think it's a government-invasive waste of time, and who could give a flying crap if two gay people want to get married so long as taxes are dropping and the market is healthy - they will, I believe, be the future of the Republican Party.

I guess you know some very different Tea Partiers. The ones I see are vicious racists - as bad as it gets. Ones who are not even subtle in the least - proudly carrying signs that would not be out of place at a Klan rally. And if you think their opposition to undocumented brown people is based on economic reasoning, you really have not listened very much. Homophobia - check. Misogyny - check. Hatred of Muslims and non-Christians - check.

They are nativists - and that has a long tradition, and this is what the Tea Party is harkening to. The tax thing and fiscal stuff is just more of the same old resentments whites had about blacks possibly benefitting from social programs - they'd rather cut their own noses off in spite. Or it's not "welfare" and "handouts" when they are the recipients, only when the Other is. That too has a long history - particularly in the South, where these resentments, particularly in poor whites, were deliberately catered to for generations.

The Tea Party is old wine in not particularly new bottles.

You seem to think that the TP are some kind of Libertarians. For the most part, they are not. They are very, very socially regressive. And do not have any principled, coherent economic stands. Of course, if you scratch your average Libertarian out there (like f.ex. Ron Paul groupies), you'll find a right-winger shining through soon enough, replete with all sorts of social baggage and the coherent economic stands fall apart very quickly.
posted by VikingSword at 8:42 PM on February 23, 2013 [50 favorites]


Yeah, the Tea Party really is nothing without their social policies; it's what defines them. Conservatives, on the other hand, have been going on since 2008 about how they all need to get back to their Eisenhower/Goldwater iteration, and yet they keep propping up the wingnuts during campaign season like desperate gamblers. If all these Republicans are embarrassed about the Tea Party, I guess we'll have to wait and see when new elections roll around who they choose to support. But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:49 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This conclusion:

"Conservatives mostly know where they want to stay: in conditions in which liberty can thrive and the market can work its wonders in creating prosperity."

is an example of why I (and doubtless others) don't take the criticism of the left by conservatives seriously: the blind adherence to nonsense in the face of the obvious. Liberty thrives when the rich are not controlling society, and "social conservatives" are refraining from rabidly imposing their morality on others: and let's not even mention the role of conservatives in preserving the many social ills this country is guilty of, and the claim is a love of liberty? And the economics are just ridiculous: a well-regulated market has some wonders, the lack of regulation leads to the economic ills we see around us.

Just... something. Tiring, that. Boring.
posted by emmet at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


the left...
lol! he's talking about the Democratic Party!
posted by Catchfire at 8:57 PM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Democratic party occupies the space that used to be filled by the Rupublicans while the Republicans have moved so far to the right that they're about to fall off the flat earth. The cognitive dissonance in the Tea Party movement is off the scale. Yelling for the cutting of all social spending as they collect their SS and Disability checks. My sister-in-law is the perfect example, widowed and suffering from mental health problems, she has no hope of ever working again. She gets $1331 / month from the government. Her living expenses are $2000/month, guess who makes up that deficet? My wife and I do, to the tune of $8000/year. Yet she's out there waving her don't tred on me flag and shouting for lower taxes. It's insane. Plus she gives 10% of everthing to her church. There is no reasoning with that woman. She drove her mother to an early death an she'll drive us that same way unless we can reel here in.

Clinton out republicand the republicans. Got rid of welfare, deregulated industry. Remember the good ole days? I'm outta here, Ambien kicking in.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 9:06 PM on February 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


VikingSword: “I guess you know some very different Tea Partiers.”

Apparently; all the Tea Partiers I know are gay, so I appreciate that I may be speaking from a fairly different perspective. However...

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: “Yeah, the Tea Party really is nothing without their social policies; it's what defines them.”

Really? The central tenets of the 2009 protests seem to be pretty much devoid of social agendas at all. I grant that there are many, many very iffy elements that crept in – racists, hardline social conservatives, etc – but it seems extremely doubtful to me that the original movement's self-representation as an economic movement against taxes was nothing but a massive deception.

I don't deny that the Tea Party has at times been characterized by hysteria, by xenophobia, by weird regressivism and a misjudged perception of the very foundations of the American republic. However – in our party system, when third party movements are absorbed into one of the two main parties, those things are generally sorted out, and the thing that first attracted people to the third party is subsumed. At its inception, what drove the Tea Party was a notion that the United States government was spending beyond its means, at that this issue – the economic issue – spelled disaster more than any other – indeed, that attention paid to other issues is a distraction from this central thing. And I think that notion is what will be adopted by the Republican Party if it's to survive.

To say this from the other side, in a way that echoes this article's conclusion, so that maybe it can be understood better:

Social conservatives will lose on social issues. Every single poll anyone anywhere has taken points this up: Americans are coming around on gay marriage, for one, and the old wars over abortion are giving way to a generation that at least would like to see the issue in a more nuanced way. The Republican Party may or may not die – my money's on the latter – but if it's going to survive, it's going to have to take these changes into account. The Tea Party offers them a chance to do that. The crazy nutbag fringe Tea Partiers can be ignored, yes, but on the main, the message that conservatism is and ought to be fiscal conservatism first and foremost is starting to be a message the Republicans are comfortable with. There still exist contingents of religious social conservative voters, just like there exist old-style libertarians and even communists, but Rick Santorum would never have made it as far as he did if the party weren't in chaos, and I have a feeling we'll look back on his erstwhile candidacy as a last gasp.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 PM on February 23, 2013


I'm generally not a fan of the Hoover Institute, but most of it is a pretty fair-minded and straightforward explanation of basic progressive principles, how they've evolved over time, and so on. For example, take this explanation fo the concept of Affirmative Action:
The Left’s contention, however, is not typically that blacks deserve special consideration because they are black, for example, but that an individual black candidate applying for a job may deserve special consideration because white applicants have benefited from improper privileges in the past. You could say that the unselected white applicant was denied on the basis of his or her race; but you would then be obliged, in the view of the Left, to take into consideration all the ways in which being white has provided and still provides advantages. Special consideration for minorities or women in employment or admissions is not, in this view, the point at which discrimination starts, but the point at which broader social discrimination begins to be remedied.
There are definitely some parts to take issue with, but I'd hope that my analyses of the people I disagree with could be this reasonable and even-handed.
posted by verb at 9:10 PM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's no significant Left in the US (at least not elected to office, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders), just a spectrum from centrist to batshit-crazy-beyond-rightwing. The entire spectrum has lurched far rightward in the last few decades. Almost nobody questions their corporate owners. (And the loony teabagger fringe even actively advances the interests of those owners: witness the congressman who today proposed that corporations be given the right to vote. After Citizens United, an Orwellian-named astroturf organization if there ever was one, got the Supremes to declare that money is free speech, nothing is too crazy.) It's not even "the left and right wings of the Business Party", as Nader once put it, any more; it's the middle and right wings of the Business Party.
posted by Philofacts at 9:11 PM on February 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


VikingSword: “They are nativists - and that has a long tradition, and this is what the Tea Party is harkening to. The tax thing and fiscal stuff is just more of the same old resentments whites had about blacks possibly benefitting from social programs - they'd rather cut their own noses off in spite. Or it's not 'welfare' and 'handouts' when they are the recipients, only when the Other is. That too has a long history - particularly in the South, where these resentments, particularly in poor whites, were deliberately catered to for generations.”

I think this confuses the movement itself with elements that were later drawn to it. Yes, this kind of aggrieved economic outrage that takes the stance that the powers that be are oppressors taxing the common people into destitution has always been popular with racists and nativists, but that doesn't mean that it's identical to racism or nativism.

“The Tea Party is old wine in not particularly new bottles.”

True, it presents a lot of the same old angry anti-tax tropes which are as old as America itself, tropes which have often been very much on the wrong side of history. Still, I think at this moment, when the Republican Party desperately needs to convince itself to leave aside social conservatism somehow if it's to remain relevant, it can present that party with a kind of opportunity, if the party elders are smart enough to take it.
posted by koeselitz at 9:14 PM on February 23, 2013


koeselitz, my impression was that the Tea Party started with fiscal issues but Fox and Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon and defined the movement thereafter.
posted by Schmucko at 9:17 PM on February 23, 2013


I don't know verb, I thought that analysis of affirmative action was pretty far off the mark. That analysis looks like simple reparations; whereas, I thought the point of affirmative action was as an antidote to present, often implicit discrimination against minorities.

It isn't only or even primarily that white people improperly benefited in the past but that non-white people and women are still discriminated against today and would be even more seriously discriminated against in the absence of corrective legislation.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:19 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know verb, I thought that analysis of affirmative action was pretty far off the mark. That analysis looks like simple reparations; whereas, I thought the point of affirmative action was as an antidote to present, often implicit discrimination against minorities.

There's possibly an element of that, but frankly it's the argument that is advanced by most progressives. "Whites are recipients of unearned advantages that blacks are not" covers a lot of ground, from educational opportunities to networking and connections to presuppositions of competence. The paragraph also acknowledges that claims of "reverse discrimination," if they're to be advanced seriously, must first acknowledge the concept of systemic advantage and privilege to make any sense, validating much of the premise of affirmative-action programs.

So, while there are definitely quibbles it's certainly the most sympathetic framing of the issue from a conservative source I've ever seen.
posted by verb at 9:24 PM on February 23, 2013


Left 3.0 is an entity whose internal divisions are minuscule in comparison to the shared convictions that hold it together.

This is extremely key. There are often excuses for Democratic/liberal failures that suggest the party fails because it is a big tent of diverse views opposed by a united and disciplined conservative opposition. Folks claim that liberals are a tiny, politically self-destructive minority of the population. This is not the case. You can take a shallow look at political self identity polls that suggest there aren't very many liberals, but liberal views poll well and the Democratic party is popular and currently ascendent.

Democrats are very united in ideology and purpose while the Republicans are trying to serve so many masters that they end up incoherent, illogical, and dishonest. You can be a purist for one ideal, but you can't be a purist for two contradictory ideals. The social and economic dogmas are not compatible if total purity is demanded.

That is not to say there are no valid excuses for liberal failures, but the excuse that what we want is not what America wants is, on most issues, total BS. The left in America right now is ideologically united but flexible to compromise in the name of progress.

Beyond all that though, they are simply competent. That's one thing the right really can't accept about Obama. I have severe disagreements with him myself, but after the catastrofuck of the Bush years having a competent leader is a tremendous thing. I honestly think a conservative President would not be so bad, if he was competent. I think America votes based on that a lot more than they do based on ideology. That's why Romney beat out the purists in the primary and why Obama was able to make a case for another term.

Republicans who want to win should unite behind Chris Christie. His ideology is abhorrent to many in his Democratic state but his competence and flexibility as a leader have served him well. No chance though. If they aren't scared by the RINO stuff they will be scared off by the ridiculous focus on his weight.

America is a center-left country right now. That isn't a permanent state, but before the right can convince us to adopt their ideology, they are first going to have to prove they are competent. They deserve to be out of power for decades because of Bush. I know he is almost universally hated now, but it's still under-appreciated how terrible he was, I think.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:29 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't find this article to be incredibly profound or worth reading. I'm not really satisfied with his attempt to show that the Democratic Party is a newly unified "Left." The author must not read MetaFilter, listen to Tavis Smilley or watch Democracy Now!. Obama's foreign policy is certainly moderate if not center-right. He is very moderate on energy/global warming and on Wall Street. Is there that much difference between Obama and Clinton really? He hasn't reversed Clinton's welfare changes, and as I recall Clinton was the first to try to reform healthcare - which the author makes out as the final frontier of socialist conquest. I doubt very many on the "Left" are very satisfied with ACA.

The Left in its earliest years believed in universal history: one story about movement in one direction toward one endpoint, or if not an endpoint, at least toward one goal — greater equality. One of the most important developments in the thought of the Left in the past century was its newfound appreciation for “difference.” Ironically under the influence of the most anti-progressive philosopher of the modern era, Friedrich Nietzsche, the Left began to flirt with and eventually largely embraced a relativistic view of the world, according to which judgments presupposing the superiority of one culture over another were no longer acceptable.

The way he uses the word "equality" throughout the article really annoys me. He never indicates if he means equal rights, equal opportunity, equal wealth or what. Just "equality." I hope by now conservatives are okay with the idea of equal rights (even in Mississippi), the ideas of equal wealth and by extension equal opportunity are areas for constructive disagreement between the left and right, imo. There seems to be a neo-con undercurrent to the whole article, fearing "liberal equality" will let down the gates and allow the barbarians to destroy us from the inside.

if the Republican Party is to remain relevant, the Tea Party must become its ideological center

It's an interesting idea. The value of "conservatism" as I see it is to provide a practical free market, anti-regulation, small government rival to the welfare state. The Tea Party has some huge problems:

Foreign Policy: One of the biggest reasons for Reagan's iconic status seems to be the credit he is given for winning the cold war. This involved all sorts of dubious foreign policy in South America, Afghanistan, etc., obviously. It's hard for me to believe that these sorts of Reagan Republicans would be that happy with Ron Paul's foreign policy: "Ron Paul would be a very dangerous Commander in Chief for this country...he's advocating polices far to the left of Barrack Obama." -- Rick Santorum. The Tea Party needs to change it's foreign policy.

Science: There is no reason for the Tea Party to be anti-science, anti-academia. This culture must change - but it's so ingrained.

The Welfare State - Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/Education/etc: People really like this stuff. I don't see how the The Tea Party can be so opposed to the New Deal. As demographics change, "wink-wink, nod-nod, we're not going to take *your* medicare" is not going to work. Somehow they either need to convince people of the sufficiency of their free-market utopia and charity (which apparently hasn't gone well in Florida) or give in, accept the Welfare State and maybe convince people they can authentically do it better with free markets to reduce the weight on the taxpayer or something.

Culture: The Tea Party/Limbaugh culture feels like a culture of bitterness and contempt. They feed off of cooking up fear of liberals. If the demographics are changing and this fear is not as effective, I don't think it will work. Conservatism was supposed to have a parental "father/mother knows best" feel to it. Who would want Rush Limbaugh as a father?
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:34 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I especially like how addressing climate change isn't among the Scary Leftist Agenda Items, which include things like mandatory paid parental leave and a value added tax.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:35 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also interesting is the author's hewing to the now-debunked idea that Obama won re-election with "less support" than his first term election. It makes for an interesting narrative prop when discussing technology savvy on the part of the progressive movement, but it isn't exactly, well... factual.
posted by verb at 9:36 PM on February 23, 2013


At its inception, what drove the Tea Party was a notion that the United States government was spending beyond its means, at that this issue – the economic issue – spelled disaster more than any other – indeed, that attention paid to other issues is a distraction from this central thing.

Well, good thing they elected Michele Bachmann as the chair of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus then.
posted by one_bean at 9:36 PM on February 23, 2013


Er - she was the one who "elected" herself chair, since she started it. Not to defend Tea Partiers or anything, but the movement itself had very little to do with the Tea Party Caucus, and was in fact pretty pissed off about it.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 PM on February 23, 2013


It's certainly the most sympathetic framing of the issue from a conservative source I've ever seen.

This is sort of a low bar, isn't it?

Maybe we just read the article differently, but the way I read it, the role of current discrimination is completely ignored. The only thing that is supposed to matter is making up for past wrongs. I honestly have no idea how people on the left typically justify affirmative action, but it seems to me that an account of leftist justification for affirmative action that does not say anything about present discrimination -- making the problem out to be one of historical inequalities and the effects of historical inequalities, rather than a present-day psycho-social problem -- is either uninformed or disingenuous.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:50 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just wonder where you see evidence that the Republican Party will be abandoning its social conservatism, with the Tea Party leading them on, when in fact it's exactly the omniphobic conservatives you're worried about who have adopted the name.
posted by one_bean at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


3 Lefts make a Right.

It is true. Think about it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:06 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


making the problem out to be one of historical inequalities and the effects of historical inequalities, rather than a present-day psycho-social problem

Well to be fair, from the passage verb quotes above: "...you would then be obliged, in the view of the Left, to take into consideration all the ways in which being white has provided and still provides advantages. Special consideration for minorities or women in employment or admissions is...the point at which broader social discrimination begins to be remedied."

This suggests that the "broader social discrimination" mentioned in the last sentence includes the just noted consideration of "all the ways in which being white...still provides advantages" -- as in, how this is a present problem, not just historical.
posted by shivohum at 10:20 PM on February 23, 2013


You seem to think that the TP are some kind of Libertarians. For the most part, they are not.

The starting point had many due to the Ron Paul rally tie-in.

The Tea Party/Limbaugh culture feels like a culture of bitterness and contempt.

Wow. Why are these 2 being linked together?
http://www.teapartytribune.com/2013/02/22/rush-limbaughs-shame/ doesn't seem to imply a link. Other than a 'I hate tea party' and 'I hate Rush' therefore they are the same way of thinking.

They feed off of cooking up fear of liberals

Consider that a "feature" of the 2 party system. 'liberals' are the 'not them' and the 'not them' is to be feared. One can see that kind of "cooking" here on The Blue over the 'not them' of Blue posters.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:40 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not even going to read this; why give any one ammo. I do the good thing.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 10:41 PM on February 23, 2013


The central tenets of the 2009 protests seem to be pretty much devoid of social agendas at all.

Not really. Here's Dale Robertson, a prominent Teahadist from Houston, eloquently explaining himself in 2009. Also from 2009, Teahadists holding signs proclaiming that Obama's goal is white slavery, that Obama loves baby killing, portraying him slitting the throat of Uncle Sam, asserting that he fellated a Saudi princeling, and many assorted references to him being black and random condemnations of abortion and homosexuality.

You can make whatever distinctions you care to between the leadership, such as it is, of the tea party movement and the people who make up that movement, but at the mass level it has been a disproportionately racist, socially conservative movement from the get-go. This is not a matter of random crazies holding up signs, some moral equivalent of those wreckers that get into lefty protests but really just like breaking shit. Survey evidence has repeatedly confirmed that tea-partiers are, as a movement, harbor more racial resentment than other conservatives.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:44 PM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


America is a center-left country right now

Sure it is but only in the sense of the 2 party "one is left/other is right" POV.

Compared to the "left" in, say, Europe.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:46 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can make whatever distinctions you care to between the leadership, such as it is, of the tea party movement and the people who make up that movement, but at the mass level it has been a disproportionately racist, socially conservative movement from the get-go. This is not a matter of random crazies holding up signs, some moral equivalent of those wreckers that get into lefty protests but really just like breaking shit. Survey evidence has repeatedly confirmed that tea-partiers are, as a movement, harbor more racial resentment than other conservatives.

On top of that, the tea party doesn't even stand for fiscal conserativism. They use the posture of fiscal conserativism to further their (racist) ideas when it is convenient. The fact that the majority of them are welfare recipients in one form or another speaks volumes about that. Their fiscal conserativism extends only so far as that it is the "other" that they are concerned about receiving welfare.
posted by patrick54 at 10:59 PM on February 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Conservatives mostly know where they want to stay: in conditions in which liberty can thrive and the market can work its wonders in creating prosperity."

There's your problem right there - thinking that there is this thing called 'a market' and 'it works'.

So what if we told you that, by our calculations, the largest U.S. banks aren’t really profitable at all? What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:02 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure it is but only in the sense of the 2 party "one is left/other is right" POV.

Compared to the "left" in, say, Europe.


Yes and No. Some areas of Europe are as backwards and socially conservative as the US and some think conservative economic policy is a super idea. But I am talking in terms of the American political spectrum, yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:54 PM on February 23, 2013


well, on the upside, there's about half of a paragraph right in the middle there that neatly articulates a dominant historical narrative re: left-political utopianism that I had been trying to capture "in vivo" for an essay that I'm preparing.

So, there's that.
posted by LMGM at 12:17 AM on February 24, 2013


me: “The central tenets of the 2009 protests seem to be pretty much devoid of social agendas at all.”

ROU_Xenophobe: “Not really. Here's Dale Robertson, a prominent Teahadist from Houston, eloquently explaining himself in 2009. Also from 2009, Teahadists holding signs proclaiming that Obama's goal is white slavery, that Obama loves baby killing, portraying him slitting the throat of Uncle Sam, asserting that he fellated a Saudi princeling, and many assorted references to him being black and random condemnations of abortion and homosexuality.”

If stupid signs held by idiots at rallies constitute a party's platform, then every party that has ever existed has been racist. And I am not dismissing the seriousness of the shit that a few of them have written on signs – it is serious shit that needs to be addressed, and the fact that the Tea Party didn't address it is a serious lapse in responsibility. I remember that argument.

However, it's pretty clear to me that, while racist, the Tea Party's platform is generally not motivated by a hatred of minorities. The telling fact is that, if we look at Tea Party statements both in 2009 and now all over the internet, they don't use these terms at all. The racism is a result of the policies they espouse, which don't seem to understand how economic safety nets and the benefit of all are supposed to work, and which would be happy disenfranchising minorities utterly because they believe racism isn't a problem anymore; but, again, this is motivated less by a hatred of minorities and more in a belief in a hackneyed and distorted ideal of the foundation of the United States and some very confused notions about the state of the world today.

This seems like a fuzzy distinction, I know, but the alternative is declaring that all Tea Partiers are vicious racists. And I'm not prepared to do that. They have adopted a party line that is incidentally racist, but none of the Tea Partiers I have met in my time have been abject KKK-type white pride assholes.

“You can make whatever distinctions you care to between the leadership, such as it is, of the tea party movement and the people who make up that movement, but at the mass level it has been a disproportionately racist, socially conservative movement from the get-go. This is not a matter of random crazies holding up signs, some moral equivalent of those wreckers that get into lefty protests but really just like breaking shit. Survey evidence has repeatedly confirmed that tea-partiers are, as a movement, harbor more racial resentment than other conservatives.”

"Harbor more racial resentment," yes. The Tea Party's theme – the economic oppression of true citizens by a nameless, faceless power – is one has historically been attractive to racists. But yet again, that doesn't mean that every single one of them is a vicious racist. And if we declared the Tea Party to be an inherent and thoroughgoing racist movement, that's what we'd have to do.

patrick54: “On top of that, the tea party doesn't even stand for fiscal conserativism. They use the posture of fiscal conserativism to further their (racist) ideas when it is convenient. The fact that the majority of them are welfare recipients in one form or another speaks volumes about that. Their fiscal conserativism extends only so far as that it is the 'other' that they are concerned about receiving welfare.”

Er – I know a lot of Tea Party people who would beg to differ with that. They clearly believe that they stand for fiscal conservatism. I don't think they're crypto-racists; I don't think they're generally capable of crypto-anything, and plain-speaking seems to characterize the movement.

I guess it may seem confusing, the stance I'm taking here, but if anything what I mean is that I've had some good conversations with Tea Party people over the past four years, and my conclusion generally has been that they're more open-minded and accepting of new ideas than people have often given them credit for. And – while I think a lot of them harbor ideas that happen to be racist, I don't classify them with the hopeless racists I've encountered, racists like white power types whom I have no interest in trying to convince because I don't like wasting my time. Tea Partiers sometimes harbor a lot of unconscious racist ideas, but sometimes when those are pointed out they come around.

I don't know. I'm not trying to say you have to love them or anything; only that the movement's ideas on race are very tangled-up, not simply vile or simply okay.
posted by koeselitz at 12:18 AM on February 24, 2013


Also - I stand by my point above about how I think the Republican Party should approach the Tea Party. The Tea Party does present a real opportunity for them; regardless of the Tea Party's 'true' aims that we've been arguing about, they have convinced (fooled?) the public that their main concern is economic, which means the Republican Party has an opportunity to be reborn as centrally fiscal-conservative rather than social-conservative.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 AM on February 24, 2013


The Republicans and the tea party have the exact same positions, the only difference is the tea party has attracted the purists who are not willing to compromise those positions. You will know a libertarian movement when they are talking about legalizing pot instead of banning gay marriage and abortion. This isn't it. A true libertarian movement would be welcome, they do have batshit economic views but so do mainstream Republicans, at least libertarians have some redeeming qualities.

They don't get to shove Sarah fucking Palin in my face and then claim the movement is libertarian. Bullshit. Stop it. It's not even that I dislike her, but that her actually competent and nationally under-appreciated term in office was far from libertarian. She taxed the shit out of the oil companies to swell her budget. A very wise big government move. She was loved by the right for her salesmanship and charisma, not her record. That is all the tea party is, rebranding. Ideology has nothing to do with it.

I know there were Ron Paul groups using the name "Tea Party" in the past but they are not actually connected with the Palin/Sharron Angle fan club that is the actual movement.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:11 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: " That is all the tea party is, rebranding. Ideology has nothing to do with it. "

Sarah Palin's arrival on the scene predated the Tea Party by almost two years, so it's odd to see her as representative of the Tea Party in any way at all - I don't think they would claim her. If you see her as representative of the Tea Party, then obviously it just seems like rebranding, since she was and is firmly an establishment Republican; she seems to have tried to jump on the Tea Party bandwagon, but like Michelle Bachmann she has seen limited success in that endeavor.

But I suspect we'll just have to agree to disagree. This is certainly not a hill I feel like dying on.
posted by koeselitz at 1:29 AM on February 24, 2013


The tea party emerged days after Obama's first inauguration and Palin was a very major figurehead of opposition at that time due to her extreme popularity among the conservative base after her nomination. She cemented this as his term went on by being a vocal opponent of policies such as the health care bill. She was integral to the tea party. This isn't agree to disagree territory, you would have to be blind not to see it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:46 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't deny that, as I said, she's jumped on the bandwagon, but she was as much part of its inception as Michelle Bachmann, which is to say not at all. She absolutely was not at the founding protests, nor did she side with them until a year later when the Republican machine had started to try to exploit the whole thing. Citations: Politico on Palin's 2010 'Tea Party Convention:' "[Erick Erickson of RedState.org says] 'It is a purposeful decision on her part to try to claim a segment of the conservative movement as her own.' ... And a tea party source familiar with the convention’s fundraising and planning efforts questioned whether it was wise to prominently feature Palin at an event purporting to be driven by grass-roots activists." And in this ABC article on the same event, here's the aforementioned Dale Robertson: "She hasn't been a part of this movement at all and she doesn't seem to be suffering at all, as many of these patriots who've been donating their time, their money and their resources... But she's giving [her speaking fee] back to the machine, right? Republicans."

I mean, if any establishment Republican can be pointed to as a Tea Party founder, it's Dick Armey. Almost all of the rest - Sarah Palin included - steered clear of the Tea Party phenomenon until they realized there was political hay to be made and until they felt it was politically safe to do so.
posted by koeselitz at 2:11 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really don't know how you formed such an ahistorical point of view on this. Palin-Santelli 2012 was a thing immediately after his rant. She didn't jump on the tea party bandwagon, they jumped on hers during the '08 election and just kept riding it.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:24 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Also whenever I see pseudo-software-versions in titles I assume it's written by Thomas Friedman. I think he killed that one, guys. Maybe come up with something else.

While all the cool kids are using git commit IDs, “Left 232e35c2e22482d5c55f1f1abb1371779627a21b” doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
posted by scruss at 5:29 AM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really don't know how you formed such an ahistorical point of view on this. Palin-Santelli 2012 was a thing immediately after his rant. She didn't jump on the tea party bandwagon, they jumped on hers during the '08 election and just kept riding it.

This. I had just moved to Austin before Obama's first term, and I distinctly remember my neighbor - an out-of-work-real-estate-guy-turned-documentarian - trying to get me to go to a "Tea Party Rally" (I hadn't heard the term prior) to protest insane spending.

I suspect that what we think of as "The Tea Party" is still defining itself, still finding its legs, if only because there is evidence that various incongruous ideas seem to be co-opting the name to sell ideas. Methinks it will shake out over time. Curious to see what happens.
posted by Thistledown at 5:33 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Left also has long held a low opinion of critics of the Left, not least as impediments to the improvement of society the Left wants to engender. The Left regards its evolving egalitarian agenda as self-evidently reasonable. Few on the Left are willing to grant that their critics are likewise reasonable — in other words, that the Left has anything to gain from taking its critics seriously. That leaves the Left in search of an explanation for why it hasn’t won over its critics. The Left has three main explanations. The first is ignorance, in the sense that its critics lack sufficient knowledge of how society could be improved and why what the Left seeks would constitute improvement. For this category, there may be hope in the form of remedial education. The second is stupidity; its critics are simply unable to understand superior wisdom when they face it. There is little hope for them, alas. The third is venality — that its critics know better but seek to defend their position of personal privilege anyway. The only way to deal with these critics is to defeat them politically.
I cheerfully acknowledge this about myself. When I come up against some Republican agenda --say defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in order to stamp out abortion-- I tend to think that 1.) perhaps the people supporting this should be educated as to how much PP does for the low income women it provides services for and how few abortions it provides. 2) Perhaps those who support it are stupid in thinking that closing down PP will end in abortions. 3) Perhaps those in power are venal and have financial reasons rather than ethical reasons for railing against PP.

Given that the Republican-controlled legislators in Florida (abetted by their governor) are dismantling their statewide mosquito-abatement program-- considered to be one of the best in the world-- am I not to think that they are either ignorant, stupid, or venal? Am I supposed to consider that this is a reasonable action which I could grasp if only I had an open mind?

My point is that in the last 13 years* Republicans have frequently proposed actions that boggle my mind (after 911, "let's invade Iraq!") that are so far from logical or reasonable that I have no way of dealing with these ideas other than to tell myself that those who support them MUST be ill-informed, stupid or venal. What's the alternative? That they have a good reason but it is super-secret or too complicated for them to convey to me?

*To take an arbitrary cut-off point.



About the Tea Party. I have to admit to being confused as to what I am supposed to think is their platform and their acknowledged leaders The latest Tea Party-endorsed elected legislator in the news seems to be Ted Cruz who is certainly making a name for himself.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die: "I really don't know how you formed such an ahistorical point of view on this. Palin-Santelli 2012 was a thing immediately after his rant. She didn't jump on the tea party bandwagon, they jumped on hers during the '08 election and just kept riding it."

By reading the actual citations I gave (which I note you aren't giving, and we aren't talking about stuff that happened in 2012 here) and by actually talking to Tea Party people. But like I said: never mind. Not something that matters to me this much.
posted by koeselitz at 6:56 AM on February 24, 2013


The Democratic Party won't, and can't, become a left wing movement until it no longer relies (as it absolutely does now) upon the support of the majority of the managerial and professional class and the minority (but important minority) of the ownership class who are uncomfortable with the rural and religious element of the Republican Party, and as such must make protecting their property and social interests a high priority.

I live in a New York suburb which typifies the establishment supporters integral to the modern Democratic alliance. Just Obama's vow to let top rates go from 35% to 39.6% let Romney get 28% more votes than McCain got in 2008, while Obama got 19% fewer votes -- the overall mix going from 70% Obama to 60% Obama. I am sure that if you broke out contributions by zip code (something I haven't done), the mix probably was even more dramatic -- 80% Obama/Democrat in 2008 to more like 30% Obama/Democrat in 2012.

If Democrats were actually congenial to serious leftism -- a European-style top rate, constraints on industry*, anything that lets the crime rate start to rise, the merest whisper of civil rights litigation on school district boundaries (= property values), failure to back Israel, affirmative action policies which cross from making their kid go to Dartmouth instead of Princeton to threatening their or their kids' careers in a real way -- this establishment swings around hard.

It's hard to predict what politics would look like if the Democrats unloaded their well-off contingent. It's not a lot of votes in absolute terms, and with modern technology and organizing techniques the dollars could be replaced. Demographic changes make it hard for Republicans easily to regain their place. Still, when even the most radical components of the Democratic establishment (the Congressional Black Caucus, for example) is rhetorical icing on a very comfortable, industry-and-lobbying revolving door cake, that kind of move left is hard to see happening.

*Industry other than the energy industry -- not too many people in the Democratic wealthy establishment make their living on oil and gas, and a lot of people's there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I instinct isn't sufficiently well-honed to see that they might be next if oil and gas go down.
posted by MattD at 7:05 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


the alternative is declaring that all Tea Partiers are vicious racists.

But by sticking 'em in a box labeled "racist" one can then hate them without needing to think about anything else, because, racism.

How many of the people who "hate racists" have that same reaction to yellow pages of black or hispanic businesses? How about that same hate for blackpeoplemeet.com? Or is the 'disliking racism and racists' reserved for only certain KINDS of racism?

Slapping "racists" on the group sure does seem to be the same kind of 'slap a label on that is disliked so you can dislike the labelled thing' that Rush Limbaugh does when he says "liberal".

But I'm sure each and every one tossing around "racists" would never be like Rush and are willing to be nuanced like koeselitz and have come to your conclusion honestly.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:06 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


About the Tea Party. I have to admit to being confused as to what I am supposed to think is their platform and their acknowledged leaders

That is because there is not leadership - only a label. Its like finding the leader for Anonymous.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the alternative?

Work towards things like runoff voting so the political landscape is not 2 sides of the same coin.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2013


The Left’s multiculturalism is connected to its older tendency to think in terms of rectifying injustices based on identity. But the presumption in the case of the latter was that the overcoming of these injustices would lead in one direction only, that of equality. With multiculturalism, it became necessary to think in terms of equalities as the final result or goal. No culture has the right to impose its standards on another.

In theoretical terms, this relativist perspective has considerable difficulty explaining itself: What is the ground of the judgment that one must not judge other cultures? How could such a prescription not itself be cultural-bound, if everything is culture-bound? But that would make non-judgmentalism no more than a cultural prejudice — and no better than a cultural prejudice groundlessly asserting the superiority of the particular culture.


I'm not much interested in the left, in part because I don't agree that the Dems are now unified with it. I'm basically a liberal, and the left per se is basically illiberal, so we don't seem to have anything more in common than I have with conservatives. But I think many liberals think otherwise...and I'm concerned about the relativism that creeps from certain parts of the left (but certainly not all of it--Marx is no relativist) into liberalism.

'Relativism' is vague and ambiguous. It is used to refer to a kind of a strange anthropological view not mentioned here. It's also sometimes used to mean, as the author says, that "no culture has a right to impose its standards on others." That's an impossible view to defend philosophically, and it makes no sense practically--if culture C believes that all its brown-haired people should be tortured to death, we have no good reason to refrain from intervention. Injustice against the innocent shouldn't be permitted, and that doesn't change just because its accepted as permissible by a lot of people. This view is a distortion of the reasonable view that such interventions should be circumspect. We used to go around trying to fine-tune everybody's lives down to making them dress like us and worship Jesus. The defensible view, the liberal view, is that others should be left to decide all such things for themselves; that doesn't mean we have to tolerate--and therefore be complicit in the injustice. There's a world of difference between those two views.

Another thing 'relative' can mean is 'culture-bound'. But this is kind of a mess, too. One can say that thoughts are culture-bound, meaning that people cannot see past the conceptual horizons of their own culture. That's false, of course--culture influences but does not determine thought, and that's just an empirical matter of fact. People see past the boundaries of their own culture all the time. The boundaries there are soft--but strong.

Interestingly, the proper use of 'relativism' in philosophy describes a view according to which something like morality is determined by culture and tradition. So that if culture C has always oppressed people with brown hair, then that is genuinely morally obligatory (and not merely thought to be so) for members of C. This is insane and entirely indefensible...but sometimes to get those on the left to recognize this, you've got to point out that it's a type of conservatism beyond the most fevered dreams of Newt Gingrich. The conservative merely thinks that our old ways are right. The cultural moral relativist thinks that everybody's old ways are necessarily right--no matter how horrific, unjust, and irrational they might be.

Anyway. "Hey, everybody, let's not rush to fold all our subcultures into one generic soup!" is a kind of a cool idea worth trying out. "Hey, everybody, whatever you do is obligatory so long as you do it long enough" is a crazy idea. That latter idea has to be shunned from liberalism at all costs.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:20 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy:

I cheerfully acknowledge this about myself. When I come up against some Republican agenda --say defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in order to stamp out abortion-- I tend to think that...

Maybe that stance is worth reconsidering. I remember one of my college professors putting it something like this: imagine if we were talking about not abortions but female 'circumcision'. And there was an NGO in Africa that spent 95% of its resources on actual healthcare, but did also perform these 'circumcisions'. Would you support sending them money?

Now, I definitely would not. The abhorrent tiny fraction would outweigh any good that such an organization could possibly ever do.

Personally, I think it's ludicrous to compare abortions to genital mutilation. But that's not true of everyone. And I don't think that the belief of the belief that abortion is fundamentally morally wrong can easily be traced to stupidity, ignorance, or venality. Instead, it's the result of an entirely different set of values.

My point in that (admittedly extreme) example is the same; educating people about most of the work that PP actually does is completely beside the point; if they see abortion as an absolute wrong, they can't support it. And that isn't necessarily the result of stupidity, ignorance, or venality.

The same basic structure is at work in a lot of other areas; explaining the extent of inequality can't sway someone who fundamentally doesn't believe in egalitarian values, for instance.

For the record, I donate to Planned Parenthood every month, and I didn't bring that argument up because I find it compelling. Just as a way to say that maybe we shouldn't automatically assume stupidity on the part of those with whom we disagree.
posted by graphnerd at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slapping "racists" on the group sure does seem to be the same kind of 'slap a label on that is disliked so you can dislike the labelled thing' that Rush Limbaugh does when he says "liberal".

I'm not sure what point you're trying to prove with this false equivalence. That calling a group of people who regularly foist racist slogans and artworks at their rallies racist is somehow the same as the blatant fabrications Rush Limbaugh engages in? Do you think this makes you seem balanced and nuanced or something?

The Tea Party has poisoned political discourse in the US. They create and deliberately re-iterate straight up falsehoods about domestic and foreign policy, they are engaged in a war against a woman's right to choose and basic human rights for LGBT folks. They place a scary amount of emphasis on Christian dominance and the importance of arming up. And all but a handful of Republicans are falling over themselves to pander to them.

I'm sorry that my heart doesn't bleed for the poor, misrepresented Tea Party, and if there are a couple reasonable, Goldwateresque fiscal conservatives in their midst, then my apologies to them for being lumped in with the Talibaptists. Calling a duck a duck, though, is not even in the same ballpark as the shit Rush spews.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:24 AM on February 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


The tea party emerged days after Obama's first inauguration

Got proof of that?

Because I can go dig up links showing a respons to the 9/11 commission of dumping it in the ocean and calling it a tea party.

Then a link that names an ex-Reganite who was involved with the renting of a hall where Ron Pual wanted to hold a rally and was able to convince the 9/11ers to allow his group use of the room.

Well before your claimed date. But do go ahead and show how your perception is correct.

Now if one is wanting to use smear tactics, why not have the looser cannon Republicans take a label like Tea Party so the Republican Brand doesn't suffer from actions to be labelled Tea Party?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2013


MattD

I agree with your point that the importance of the professional class to Democrats prevents the party from going all-out leftist, but I'm a little confused about how there could be an alternative.

On the one hand you acknowledge that even incredibly modest changes to the marginal tax rates will have serious effects on their ability to win, but on the other you seemed to suggest that white collar support could be easily replaced by technology.

Am I reading that right? If that's the case, I'm interested in hearing how the loss in resources and votes that a strong leftward move would cause could be replaced.
posted by graphnerd at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2013


rough ashlar

Why not just provide the links rather than an oblique reference to their content?
posted by graphnerd at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The left side of the American political spectrum has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the past dozen years.

I love Science Fiction!
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was implied to be a socialist and communist last night by a distant in-law. Another close in-law had disclosed her support for raising the minimum wage. He suggested "you can't legislate prosperity" and I countered with "you can sure as hell legislate the sharing of it". Right after that he aligned my thinking with socialism and communism.

I don't think he's had a liberal intellectual shitkicking for a while but I think I scared the living shit out of him with my militant egalitarianism.

Him:

Promoting general welfare comes by providing opportunities, not taking from some to give to others through mandatory means. No where did the founding fathers encourage the redistribution of wealth unless one chose to do it voluntarily.

Me:

Have you even read the constitution? Seriously? Like sat down and read it. Even just the first three articles?

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;" - US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1


And he's a fucking mormon! Matthew 19:21? Luke 18:22? Fuck that I've got the "fuck you I've got mine" gospel of Rush Limbaugh!
posted by Talez at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This seems like a fuzzy distinction, I know, but the alternative is declaring that all Tea Partiers are vicious racists.

What? No, it certainly is not. This is a pretty classic example of an excluded middle. Not to mention your adding the word "vicious" to it.

In between "The tea party movement is not racist" and "Every member of the tea party movement is racist" are such alternatives as "The tea party movement is not free of racism but is less racist than white folks in general," "The tea party movement is about as racist as white folks in general," "The tea party movement is disproportionately racist," and "The tea party movement is about as racist as its demographics would predict."

Of these, some combination of the last two is true. The tea party movement is more racist than the population (of white folks) at large, but it is about as racist as you would expect from a sample of older, maler, more southern, especially conservative whites.

But this largely misses the point. The point is:

The tea party movement is not a movement that began as a purely fiscal-conservative movement. There has never been a time when it was not disproportionately composed of people with high racial resentment and social conservatives.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:18 AM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe that stance is worth reconsidering. I remember one of my college professors putting it something like this: imagine if we were talking about not abortions but female 'circumcision'. And there was an NGO in Africa that spent 95% of its resources on actual healthcare, but did also perform these 'circumcisions'. Would you support sending them money?

I think of this kind of position as the 'one dollar dictator'.
posted by srboisvert at 8:40 AM on February 24, 2013


America is a center-left country right now

Sure it is but only in the sense of the 2 party "one is left/other is right" POV.

Compared to the "left" in, say, Europe


Generally, words like "Right" and "Left" are shorthand for the actors in a political system. In fact, the terms come expressly from the seating arrangement in the Estates-General during the first part of the French Revolution.

To act like there is "no left" in the U.S. because in some foreign countries some parties have views that would be considered far left here isn't getting the point of calling things right and left in the political system.

Not to mention that European left parties have steadily been moving toward US style positions (outside of the postwar consensus) for some time now.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:50 AM on February 24, 2013


To act like there is "no left" in the U.S. because in some foreign countries some parties have views that would be considered far left here isn't getting the point of calling things right and left in the political system.

I think one can perfectly well understand that Democrats are on the left and Republicans on the right internal to the U.S. political system and still say that the U.S. has no left in order to indicate that the Democratic Party as presently constituted would not be regarded as leftist either historically or internationally. (This is why people say things like, "Nixon would be thrown out of the Republican Party as a socialist," or "Even Reagan would be regarded as liberal today," and why people point out that the Affordable Care Act is basically a Republican healthcare plan from twenty years ago.)

The people you say don't understand what's going on here are just using language differently than you would like them to.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a bunch of ineffective highly self important people running around on the Internet pretending to be a left, but that's about it. Anything that's vaguely related to a leftie agenda that gets done in America gets done by centrists who they hate for being engaged with the real world and not our there making futile gestures 24/7.
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


By reading the actual citations I gave (which I note you aren't giving, and we aren't talking about stuff that happened in 2012 here) and by actually talking to Tea Party people. But like I said: never mind. Not something that matters to me this much.

You are just plain wrong and being frustratingly obstinante about it. I did not give you a link about something that happened in 2012, I gave you a link about conservatives gushing about Palin and Santelli days after the tea party became a thing in early 2009 right after the first Obama inauguration when Palin was the hugest star in the conservative pantheon. I usually respect you dude, but my opinion of you is being lowered right now.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2013


Jonathan Livegood, take a look at the section on affirmative action with the following passage highlighted.

The Left’s contention, however, is not typically that blacks deserve special consideration because they are black, for example, but that an individual black candidate applying for a job may deserve special consideration because white applicants have benefited from improper privileges in the past. You could say that the unselected white applicant was denied on the basis of his or her race; but you would then be obliged, in the view of the Left, to take into consideration all the ways in which being white has provided and still provides advantages. Special consideration for minorities or women in employment or admissions is not, in this view, the point at which discrimination starts, but the point at which broader social discrimination begins to be remedied.


Does is still seem to you That analysis looks like simple reparations; whereas, I thought the point of affirmative action was as an antidote to present, often implicit discrimination against minorities. Even with the explicit point that being white still provides advantage? And the note that affirmative action begins to remedy social discrimination?
posted by layceepee at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2013


It's hard to predict what politics would look like if the Democrats unloaded their well-off contingent. It's not a lot of votes in absolute terms,

It's pretty easy to imagine what politics would like like, because we've lived it it: we'd have the politics of the Bush-era. Obama got more of the white vote in 2008 than the Democratic candidate got in 72, 80, 84, 88, 92, 2000 and 2004 (he tied Clinton's 96 numbers.)

Obviously Obama knocked the minority numbers out of the park. But if you compare a map of 2004 and 2008, the biggest thing that sticks out are the suburbs. If Kerry had Obama's numbers with white people, he would be leaving the White House last month, not entering the State Department.

You're wrong that there aren't a lot of votes here. The Obama map was created by taking educated, professional white people from the Republicans. It's the flip-side of Reagan democrats. This is why the Democrats are talking more about social mobility and inequality (rather than poverty or helping middle-aged former manufacturing workers like in the past). Their future is secured when enough Latinos become Yuppies, therefore insulating them from the GOP cultural-counter strike.
posted by spaltavian at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2013


Does is still seem to you That analysis looks like simple reparations; whereas, I thought the point of affirmative action was as an antidote to present, often implicit discrimination against minorities. Even with the explicit point that being white still provides advantage? And the note that affirmative action begins to remedy social discrimination?

Yes. Yes, it does. Since I had been away from the thread overnight (and since no one had come back to that issue), I replied to a follow-up by memail. Since you bring it up again, I'll just copy the memail I sent with some slight editing for style:

I agree that one could read the piece as saying that the advantages that whites presently enjoy include not being implicitly discriminated against. But I think that reading is less plausible than my reading, on which the advantages at stake here are purely connected to wealth. The way I read it, the argument the author wants to attribute to the left is that white people gained wealth unfairly in the past and as a result, they have an advantage that persists today. Hence, we should use affirmative action to correct that problem. I think this is the best way to make sense of the line earlier in the paragraph that says:
The Left’s contention, however, is not typically that blacks deserve special consideration because they are black, for example, but that an individual black candidate applying for a job may deserve special consideration because white applicants have benefited from improper privileges in the past.
The key for me is the appeal to the past here, without any acknowledgement that whites benefit from the same improper privileges in the present -- the same privileges, NOT just the historical legacy of improper privileges that they used to have but now do not have.

My point is that there is another important justification for affirmative action: present implicit and explicit racism and sexism. Not only did we white males rack up a lot of improper privilege in the past, from which we continue to derive advantages, but also non-whites and non-males presently suffer, TODAY, from the same discriminatory pressures (perhaps at an attenuated level) that created the unfair privilege in the past. For example, job resumes with female names or black-sounding names are less likely than identical resumes with white-male-sounding names to be selected for interviews. (Lots and lots of similar research shows that whites stand in a privileged position because of implicit biases, not because of historical advantages.)

One could, I think, deny that the legacy of past privilege is a good reason to support affirmative action and still support affirmative action in order to remedy current implicit and explicit biases against non-whites and non-males.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2013


The key for me is the appeal to the past here, without any acknowledgement that whites benefit from the same improper privileges in the present

But whites do not benefit from the same improper privileges in the present. The improper privileges that whites benefited from in the past included the fact that discrimination based on race was legal, and in many cases it was legally mandated.

The improper privileges that whites enjoy today are not the same ones. They are different ones, with some overlap, but the importance of legal discrimination and Jim Crow was fundamental, and the claim that whites benefit from the same improper privileges in the present that they did in the past sounds like a greater distortion that the one you think the author has made.

The way I read it, the argument the author wants to attribute to the left is that white people gained wealth unfairly in the past and as a result, they have an advantage that persists today.

I am a leftist, and I think the argument as you claim the author is presenting is correct. I don't think it's in any way inconsistent with the argument that affirmative action is a remedy for current discrimination. The power that whites have as a group to continue discrimination is the legacy of legal structures that have since changed, but ending legal discrimination was not enough to provide equal opportunity in employment.

I don't think my opinion is atypical for a leftist. So I don't agree with you contention that's what's wrong with the discussion is that it mispresents a progressive defense of affirmative action,
posted by layceepee at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2013


"...The acceptance of limiting principles allows the Left to avoid the temptation of radicalism. It keeps the Left in “the system.” The Left’s ambition is to obtain majority political support — no more, no less. The Revolution has been canceled. “The system is the solution.” The Democratic Party is the sole legitimate representative of the aspirations of Left 3.0.

There are, no doubt, a few aging radicals who still dream of sweeping the whole capitalist system away and starting over. But never in the history of the Left have such views been so marginal. Once the vanguard of the Left, the radicals are now its pets...."


Even back in the late fifties, the (so called) Left was emerging, and attracting a variety of people. It was as if we were about labeling ourselves as groups: blacks, whites, women, men, gay, Eso de La Raza, and so on. The central theme of the Vietnam War protests were a rally flag for all these people, representing a common interest, and excluding only those who uncritically supported the War. The common parlance in those days was Doves and Hawks. Conservatives might be either, because conservatives, too, came in various flavors.

It was the radicals among the Doves on the Left that were anti-capitalistic. Revolutionary thinkers belonged to all those groups: feminist, blacks, and so on. Many of them seemed to follow the notion that the power held by the white majority would necessarily have to be wrested from their unwilling hands--though not necessarily from their cold, dead fingers. Not all those people were revolutionaries in the Marxist sense. Dr. King, for example, thought humans had the ability to be evolutionary. Struggle didn't necessarily mean violence, and the violence should not be a tool of the side with the moral high ground.

Lindberg, in his essay, seems to favor the tactical analysis. I recognize the landscape he describes. Maybe it's his prose that feels off-putting. But I do agree with the notion that somehow the values of the 60's (to gloss heavily here) were to some extent lost, to some extent carried forward. If the revolution is over, then the revolutinaries did indeed lose. The either faded into the woodwork or were co-opted into the system. Sold out, if you will, when they had to put their kids through college, and their kids started dot-comming all over the place, and looking back at their parents with no small embarrassment over their hairstyles, but with some appreciation of the new strands of good weed and the awesome musical legacy. Power to the People had somehow morphed into Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Lindberg senses that the "media" is liberal friendly, but allows that it's because the conservative factions (and he recognizes many) are sort of fumble-fingered and organizationally challenged, computerwise. I'm not sure I go along with that. The bullshit forwards I get in my email tend to show that the right-wing wingnuts are alive and well. But my bias is at play here. I want to think that the media is just a messenger service, and the net bias toward liberal, or progressive (if you will) ideas is because those values in general are ones to which most rational people aspire.

The notion of white privilege at war with affimative action is instructive:

"...Special consideration for minorities or women in employment or admissions is not, in this view, the point at which discrimination starts, but the point at which broader social discrimination begins to be remedied...."

If the charge that affirmative action is itself an act of discrimination, then the dialogue, productively, is about where one view meets with the other. In an ideal world the affirmative action law will disappear on the same theory that reasonable persons don't need laws because they will always act in acceptable ways. The ideal will always remain a fiction, but that doesn't discount efforts to try to get our daily doings to conform to our aspirations. This helps us, on the left, to seek out the sincere counterpart on the right. The danger is the small-minded Thought Police in either camp who rely on dogma instead of reason, and create a hateful conflict where discourse should be civil. Racial humor, for example, or blonde jokes also come to mind. Vigilance has undefinable boundaries. Sometimes you just drift into paranoia. Passion makes you stupid, and you ought to be willing to massage your paradigms without giving up principals. Ought to.

There isn't much room for this kind of evolution in society under the revolutionary's rhetoric, but I think the revolutionary is sometimes useful in helping to create the dialogue that inspires those thoughtful persons of privilege to step down off the fence and take a stand. This was the tactic and purpose of much of the street theater I witnessed during the anti-war demonstrations in Washington D.C., in 1971. Dialogue was the intent, not consensus. Achieving consensus does away with the revolutionary's purpose. It's time for him to go back to work in his garden, or at the factory, or the bookstore. It goes wrong when the dialogue loses track of the ideals.
posted by mule98J at 10:35 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see now how my claim might come across as too strong. I agree that there is a big difference between legally enfranchised discrimination and illegal discrimination. What I want to resist is the temptation to think that once the legal discrimination went away, discrimination went away. The improper privilege that I maintain persists today is often implicit, and sometimes explicit, privileging of white over non-white and male over female, despite the fact that discrimination on these bases is now illegal. My point is that white men still gain and non-white, non-males still suffer -- though in an attenuated way from the way they suffered in the past -- purely on the basis of illegitimate reasons like skin color and sex.

Also, I am not saying that what the author says is wrong as one justification for affirmative action. What I am saying is that the author leaves out another important justification. The implication, I think, is supposed to be that the left only has one justification for affirmative action, and it is this justification that has as its immediate goal a leveling of economic outcomes. Whereas, I think there is a justification that has as its immediate goal a leveling of economic opportunities.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The democratic party is centrist, full stop. It only incorporates the left in this country, because the left has nowhere else to go.
posted by empath at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I am not saying that what the author says is wrong as one justification for affirmative action. What I am saying is that the author leaves out another important justification.

My only question is what about the bits that I bolded and quoted above, and that layceepee also mentioned, could be plausibly be read as not seeing current discrimination?

The author clearly states that whites "still" -- meaning today -- provides advantages, and in the next section puts this in the context of "broader social discrimination." How could these sentences be read as not acknowledging current racism?
posted by shivohum at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2013


Empath, the question is whether the Democratic party needs to be centrist any more. Democrats were historically forced to be centrist by their professional and ownership class donors, by the threat of the wealthy owners of the media to check their sentimentally liberal editorially staff, and by the need to assuage middle class whites of their fears on social issues.

None of these factors is really in play any more.

The $2,500 checks on the rubber chicken circuit are easily replaced by $20 and $50 paypal contributions on the one hand, and liberal interest group muscle on the other.

The rich owner / advertiser - liberal editor / publisher dynamic tension really doesn't characterize the media any longer. Mass communication is half unmediated by commercial forces / capitalist ownership, and of the half that's left, much of it (the New York Times, MSNBC, public broadcasting) has made a deliberate commercial decision to be on the left.

The white voters who used to change their votes based on social issues are far reduced in number -- crime and welfare don't get much discussion, gay marriage and abortion are no longer swing voter concerns but are intramural Republican debates.

Taking this into account, the question (a thought exercise really) is what Republicans could do that they can't now do if they were to gain the alliance of a million high-influence, high income households (give or take) who are now staunch Democrats whom a strong left-wing program would chase off, and whether the Democrats could counter that with new things that they could do no longer burdened with the need to please socially-liberal rich people.
posted by MattD at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2013


Again, I might be misreading this or reading too much in, but here is the distinction I have in mind.

Suppose that in the past, person A was discriminated against while person B was not. As a result, the wealth that person A accumulated was small, while the wealth that person B accumulated was large. Both pass on their wealth to their children.

Now suppose that the discrimination ends such that it does not apply to the children of A and B. As a result, the children of A are not any less likely to be able to get a good education or a good job simply in virtue of the irrelevant property that is the basis of the discrimination. However, the children of B will still be able to acquire better educations and other kinds of goods in virtue of having greater wealth.

The social discrimination is not then on the basis of the irrelevant property but on the basis of wealth. It would not be fixed by fixing the original kind of discrimination based on the irrelevant property. (In fact, in the toy example we're assuming that the original discrimination has been fixed.) Rather, it has to be fixed by eliminating inequalities of wealth.

My claim is that the author is implicating that we are like the toy example: there is no active discrimination on the basis of the irrelevant property but only on the basis of (inherited) wealth. And I claim that this is to deprive the left of a powerful empirical argument in favor of affirmative action, namely that discrimination on the basis of irrelevant properties still goes on.

Could one of you say what it is about the passage that makes you think the author is clearly -- or even not clearly -- marking both of the distinct justifications for affirmative action?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2013


Could one of you say what it is about the passage that makes you think the author is clearly -- or even not clearly -- marking both of the distinct justifications for affirmative action?

I see. Yes, I think the author marks both justifications because he talks first about historical injustice, then mentions a possible remedy (favoring a black person), then addresses an objection to that stance, the idea that affirmative action is reverse discrimination, by pointing to the fact that "being white" "still provides advantages" -- not that being rich provides advantages, and not just that being white helped gain unfair advantages in the past (he's addressing an objection to a remedy of this point), but that "being white" in the present gives unfair advantages. How could this be? Obviously because racial discrimination still exists. And so he links "special considerations for minorities" to remedying this "discrimination" he just mentioned, and which consists in these advantages that white people still get... by virtue of current racism.

But anyway this is way more parsing of the text than it can bear.
posted by shivohum at 11:57 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can think of a great reason for affirmative action--this country will be better off the more African Americans are full participants in the economic and employment aspects of our country. Stronger politically, stronger socially, and stronger militarily. We do affirmative action because it fixes a problem for the country.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alright. If we can't agree to restore "Left" to the simpler (though more abstract) meaning it's held for the vast majority of its time in circulation (i.e., the commoners in a society viewed as a political bloc with common interests, or even more simply, those in opposition to the existing socioeconomic power establishment), then I'm afraid I'm going to have to substitute a coinage of my own so that at least we still have some way to talk coherently about those particular abstract relations when the need arises, without getting caught up in endless fractious disputes over what it means or doesn't mean to be a leftist.

So, henceforth, all people who are not wealthy or politically well-connected, by inheritance or otherwise, will be known for purposes of political discussion as "Normals." Those on the other side of this particular abstract power relation, whose political and economic interests must necessarily come into conflict with Normals at some level, as they seek to preserve their disproportionate share of economic and political power (whether hard-earned or ill-gotten) shall henceforth be known as "Subnormals" (since, as Tolstoy observed and The Economist has since affirmed, the global political and economic elite are in fact helplessly subservient to those of us among the unwashed masses). I now further renounce my previous self-identification as "Leftist" and declare myself to be a "Normalist," meaning that in my politics I prefer platforms and policies that deliberately prioritize the interests of the vast majority of people, who are Normal by definition whether the consciously identify as such or not, over those that deliberately prioritize the interests of the Subnormal few.

Anyone who refuses to accept this new coinage at face value, accuses me of satire, or quibbles over my use of these terms as I have presently defined them, simply refuses to accept that I am using language differently than they would like me to, or is an ideologically-blinkered Subnormal.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:39 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is an odd article. The article is definitely reductive in assuming that "the Left" (however defined) has captured control of the Democratic Party, but on the other hand, it is actually charitable enough in giving non-straw-man descriptions of liberal and leftist views that it is actually more convincing as an argument for liberalism or leftism than several leftists I've seen on MeFi.
posted by jonp72 at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unrelated to this strawman : Some Remarks on Consensus by David Graeber
posted by jeffburdges at 5:47 AM on February 28, 2013


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