Skip

The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals By Adolph Reed Jr.
February 26, 2014 2:43 AM   Subscribe

The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals "The left has no particular place it wants to go. And, to rehash an old quip, if you have no destination, any direction can seem as good as any other." (Originally in Harpers)
posted by mecran01 (135 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think there's a pragmatic case to be made for casting your lot in with Democrats in elections where the only other option is far worse, but this paragraph pretty clearly sums up the damage this short-term pragmatism causes when it crowds out any semblance of principles:
The atrophy of political imagination shows up in approaches to strategy as well. In the absence of goals that require long-term organizing — e.g., single-payer health care, universally free public higher education and public transportation, federal guarantees of housing and income security — the election cycle has come to exhaust the time horizon of political action. Objectives that cannot be met within one or two election cycles seem fanciful, as do any that do not comport with the Democratic agenda. Even those who consider themselves to the Democrats’ left are infected with electoralitis. Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection. For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate. True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will. And, of course, each of the “pivotal” Supreme Court justices is four years older than he or she was the last time.
posted by crayz at 3:00 AM on February 26 [19 favorites]


"The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already."
posted by Auden at 3:08 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


I used to mock the very idea that there was a real "left" in American politics. Then the last sixteen years of UK politics happened, and I realised that we've become almost as bad.

“Instead of championing a radical idea of a new society,” Jacoby observes in The End of Utopia, “the left ineluctably retreats to smaller ideas, seeking to expand the options within the existing society.”

A thousand times, that. So-called left liberals now seem more engaged by the act of fiddling while Rome burns; worrying about gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings. My god, I miss real socialism.
posted by Decani at 3:17 AM on February 26 [47 favorites]


The failure of communism and the collapse of the USSR seem to be a bit of an elephant in the room, here.
posted by Diablevert at 3:19 AM on February 26 [7 favorites]


The failure of communism and the collapse of the USSR seem to be a bit of an elephant in the room, here.
posted by Diablevert at 7:19 PM on February 26 [+] [!]


You seem to have misspelled "totalitarian dictatorship" as "communism" there. The USSR wasn't "communist" in any more meaningful sense than when the Republican Party uses the word "freedom."
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:29 AM on February 26 [52 favorites]


Or it could be that the dismissal by many mainstream older lefties of the struggles of oppressed people as "pointless whining" is playing right into the hands of the right. Up to you I guess.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:31 AM on February 26 [55 favorites]


Or it could be that Rupert Murdoch now has such a lock on the dissemination of the raw material for public opinion that it's never been harder to make any even vaguely left option look achievable enough to get significant public support.
posted by flabdablet at 3:43 AM on February 26 [18 favorites]


The USSR wasn't "communist" in any more meaningful sense than when the Republican Party uses the word "freedom."

I don't think it's quibbling to point out that pretty much all of the communist/socialist/Maoist countries of the time -- USSR, China, Cuba, etc -- were basically totalitarian and unpleasant places to be. Some of that I'm sure can be blamed on aggression from the US, but most was internal and makes it really hard to keep with the "but it wasn't really communist," since those are the only examples we have of what happens with the implementation of those systems.

There is a lot to criticize about the US and western Europe, but they have done fantastically better at basic quality of life, protection for minorities, and care for the environment. I think that there is a genuine argument to be made that we are approaching a set of crises within capitalism (as seen in the open corruption in the banking system and the wildly increasing inequality) that require large scale changes to fix, deeper than just regulatory fixes, but that isn't going to be classic socialism.

But even segments within the GOP are starting to acknowledge that inequality (of opportunity, if not of wealth) is a serious problem. The writing is starting to be on the wall that it's a structural problem and will require some actual fixes, whether or not those fixes are what the author of this piece desires. The classic New Deal coalition he describes is long gone, both from attrition but also because many of the issues driving it were, if not solved, at least seriously addressed.

But if the left is tied to a Democratic strategy that, at least since the Clinton Administration, tries to win elections by absorbing much of the right’s social vision and agenda, before long the notion of a political left will have no meaning. For all intents and purposes, that is what has occurred. If the right sets the terms of debate for the Democrats, and the Democrats set the terms of debate for the left, then what can it mean to be on the political left?

It was incredibly frustrating how for years and years and years the Democrats seemed fixated on playing to the tune of the Republican right. But in the last couple of years it feels like that dynamic has finally somewhat broken -- witness the changed relationship over the last threats of a shutdown, for example -- and the right is having to respond to issues like inequality and gay marriage that are not coming from the center of the center of the center, as phrased in the article.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:47 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


So-called left liberals now seem more engaged by the act of fiddling while Rome burns; worrying about gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings.

Spoken like someone who has never had to worry about sexism, rape, or racism.

Seriously though, you can worry about more than one thing at a time. You can act on about those issues and other issues too.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:57 AM on February 26 [73 favorites]


You seem to have misspelled "totalitarian dictatorship" as "communism" there. The USSR wasn't "communist" in any more meaningful sense than when the Republican Party uses the word "freedom."

Hunh. I didn't think I'd find a live person prepared to argue the "communism has never failed because it's never really been tried" side in 2014.

I'm certainly not. Which was mostly my point, really. The great leftist triumphs he alludes to early in the piece came about in a world in which there were two viable, competing ideologies with incredibly distinct visions for how to organize a society. One of 'em collapsed and fell off the see-saw. Is it any wonder, then, that the whole political spectrum began to tilt the other way? When you have "complete government control off all major industries" out there being enacted as policy by a major world power, "socialized medicine" is a way point. Now it's an end point, and inevitably the "rational, reasonable" compromise is something much further right.
posted by Diablevert at 4:15 AM on February 26 [10 favorites]


To clarify: not that I'm saying I endorse that rightward shift. But I don't see how you can write an article about how the left is lost without acknowledging the role of communism as a counterweight to capitalism.
posted by Diablevert at 4:19 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Seriously though, you can worry about more than one thing at a time.

You certainly can, but I don't see it happening in the broader political landscape.

Every 4 years we have the debate about whether or not it matters which political party wins. The problem with that debate is that the debaters are often comparing apples and oranges. On a deep structural level--like how capitalism works--there is no difference IMO. The leaders on the left and right fight for the same big free trade agreements (just to pick one example) that have certainly caused, to some degree, the transformation of our economy over the last few decades and with it a decline in opportunity to join the middle class in the absence of an expensive college degree. They both (the left and the right) have pushed for the same deregulation--think Bill Clinton as he signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall and gleefully handed the pen to Republican Phil Gram. They worked together on that one and the rather muted attempts by Obama to push back against that certainly speaks to who buys and directs policy at that fundamental level. So both parties--on that deep structural level--create an environment that grows inequality and economic hardship for a segment of the population. But, it is in the response to those problems--problems that both parties create--where the difference between the parties and who wins starts to matter. The Democrats campaign to assist those people they helped to screw at the deep structural level with more entitlements. The Republicans tell those same people to go pound sand and deal with it themselves. And we fight. Throw in some hot button social issues and presto you have a rough and tumble campaign that does matter on one level (apples), but doesn't matter at all on a much deeper level (oranges).
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:26 AM on February 26 [14 favorites]


If only Al Gore had been inaugurated after the 2000 election, the story goes, we might well not have had the September 11 attacks and certainly would not have had the Iraq War — as if it were unimaginable that the Republican reaction to the attacks could have goaded him into precisely such an act

....except that it's possible that Al Gore might have paid attention to the Osama bin Laden attack may be imminent security report.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:43 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


Well, Communism seems more important as a casus belli for a war against labor by an alliance of political and financial interests. The labor movement didn't just fade away because it wasn't needed any more - it was systematically deconstructed by aligned political and corporate interests, which Reed addresses initially and then sort of shifts away from.

First labor had to be broken to protect against subversion and invasion by Communist elements, then it had to be broken to protect against outperformance and undercutting by the Far East, and now it has to be broken to protect against... well, to be honest at this point it's not wholly clear, since Russia has no interest in conquering the US and any job that could be offshored already has been, but certainly Wal-Mart employees cannot be allowed to unionize, or something terrible will happen.

Faced with the alliance of corporate and government interests intent on representing the interests of wealth, and both willing and able to apply state power to support those interests, it's probably tempting for the right wing within the left to turn inwards and start demanding that the movement seek to protect their tender feelings - at the expense of activists who are doing a lot of the actual heavy lifting - rather than work for the betterment of labor. But that isn't what Reed or Jacoby are arguing for and, as the hollowing out of the SWP in Britain has demonstrated, it isn't a winning strategy for the left itself.

The funny thing is, though, that, rightly or wrongly, the apparently victorious neoliberal right is terrified that its power is unsustainable: you can see it in Roger Ailes' anti-Bolshevik fortifications, and in the conniptions when a basically centrist politician does anything outside a very narrow definition of acceptable behavior - Bill de Blasio having visited Nicaragua, Barrack Obama having been born in Kenya*, Joe Biden having sat on a train.

Either the Neoliberals are genuinely twisting themselves into pretzels for no reason whatsoever - which is an amusing concept, admittedly - or they have a existential and well-founded fear that there is something outside of, and largely ignored by, the current setup which has the power to disrupt it. That's where things get interesting, I think, and what Reed is effectively saying - that the left has to stop expecting that its interests will be represented or even meaningfully listened to by anybody sufficiently embedded in the structures of power to be in a position to run for political office within the current binary.


* Kidding!
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 AM on February 26 [20 favorites]


If it isn't brutally clear that policy issues are going to be won or lost at the local and regional level and in the primaries, I don't know what to tell you. Tuesday in November is too damn late to vote on issues that matter - at that point, your party has already settled on a policy platform, and are trying to keep the neo-feudalists from doing any more damage.

You vote for your positions in the primary, and you vote against the destruction of the nation at the hands of the plutocrats and dominionists in the general.

So, no, election cycles don't matter, and strategizing policy goals around them is idiotic. You build consensus among co-operative constituencies, and make sure you can get your candidate on the ballot by wheeling, dealing and good old fashioned campaigning, and this is continual and ongoing.

This means we need to take back the school boards, the municipal governments and state legislatures - especially during redistricting! - and the groups who can do that will set the agenda and influence who's nominated.

Politics ain't the goddamn Superbowl. It's a continual and ongoing struggle. Strategize accordingly.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:03 AM on February 26 [39 favorites]


A simple question: who is the current card-carrying liberal firebrand in the US who can be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate, much less actually win?

The 'centrist' Democrats will point to results: Clinton, two terms. Gore, should've been at least one. Obama, two terms. On the more liberal side, Carter, one and done. Mondale, McGovern, Dukakis, stomped like tent stakes. They will point to demographics: how a Democrat-Republican Congressional race in an awful lot of districts is effectively DINO vs. Trance-Babbling Wackadoo, and veering left means that the Wackadoo will WIN. They will point to a media that flowed with the Overton Window smoothly to the right and calls capitulating to right-wing extremism 'compromise' and 'bipartisanship.' They will point to money: corporate donors and lobbyists aren't all that likely to throw big bucks behind candidates who want to take corporate donors and lobbyists out of politics, after all. (Please ignore the obvious subtext that the candidates they DO throw big bucks behind are bought and paid for.)

And, in the America we live in now, maybe they're right. But perhaps some left-wing populist can rally the troops one more time.

So who's left? Shall we trot out Dennis Kucinich one more time so he can finish fourth or fifth in the primaries? Can Howard Dean be talked into tilting against the Third Way windmill one more time, trying to catch lightning in a bottle again? Go for broke and see if Middle America's ready for Barney Frank?
posted by delfin at 5:04 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


It turns out the right were playing a much longer and different game to the left.
posted by fullerine at 5:05 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


delfin, to many liberals, Barney Frank is pretty centrist.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:06 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Fighting for equal rights 300+ years into a democracy is fighting for the middle of the middle of the middle.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:10 AM on February 26


delfin, to many liberals, Barney Frank is pretty centrist.

Agreed. Though to many non-liberals, as an outspoken gay Congressman from New England, he's left of Karl Marx.
posted by delfin at 5:12 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


So-called left liberals now seem more engaged by the act of fiddling while Rome burns; worrying about gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings.

Way back in the 1960s, in Armies of the Night, in the non-fiction part, Mailer explained that one of the lingering effects of 1950s McCarthyism was that is so indelibly associated the Democratic Party with Marxism and communism, it denuded the American left of any credibility on economic matters. Race and gender emerged as the only issues on which Democrats had political credibility and so they embraced this new identity wholeheartedly. On economic matters however the left was in full retreat right about the time the Great Society was being introduced.

The collapse of those Marxist systems thirty years later obviously did not help the American left's moribund state. Under Clinton, the American left disappeared entirely. Big finance never had a better friend than the one named Clinton. (And I don't see how Mrs. Clinton gets everyone to forget about that.)

On economic issues there is no difference between the crony capitalists who control both parties and so it's been decades of full throttle on the social-issues on both sides.

The people fiddling while Rome burns? They are the ones making all the money.
posted by three blind mice at 5:27 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


I don't think the right is actually more goal-oriented than the the left, to be honest.

Much was made about how Occupy failed to rally around a leadership or a plan of action; it was just an expression of frustration. (And arguably, the echoes of McCarthyism shied them away from embracing a socialist platform.)

But honestly, was the Tea Party any more unified? Racism and dislike of Big Gummint were all it had. That, and corporate sponsorship.
posted by Foosnark at 5:31 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Hunh. I didn't think I'd find a live person prepared to argue the "communism has never failed because it's never really been tried" side in 2014.

Yo.

All the socalled communist regimes were at best state capitalist, where the ruling classes propogate themselves through use of party/state organs rather than through true capitalist organisations as in the west while still keeping a monopoly on political and other power.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:38 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]




Another symptom I've noticed of the left's death has been to see the comparative intellectual fecundity of the right. You have neo-conservatives (which can be cut in different ways, ala Wolfowitz or ala Kristol and Strauss), paleo-conservatives (The American Conservative), tea-party conservatives, GOP conservatives (Boehner), you have libertarian conservatives, and I'm probably missing a few. In any case, many of these various conservative expressions have their own magazines, and various formulations by rather smart people.

The left doesn't seem to have anything like this. Marxism has long been condemned to intellectual poverty such that I'm convinced the average GOP voter is more in touch with reality than any self-avowed Marxist. There are of course various policy splits in the Left. There are splits over reactions to the NSA and Snowden leaks. There are splits over foreign policy, with the liberal hawks seeming to wield more influence over Obama due to the work of Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice. There are splits over the sort of healthcare system we should have. But there really aren't any splits over comprehensive political philosophy like there is amongst the right.
posted by SollosQ at 5:45 AM on February 26


The effect of communism collapsing, mentioned above, was that there was no need for capitalists to play nice with labor anymore and compete on a world stage with things that communism offered. (Also, agriculture failed under communism regardless).

Another point to make about liberalism is that it doesn't go far enough to make the case for capitalism, as a golden goose to tax.
posted by Brian B. at 5:54 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]




The problem with contemporary market capitalism is that it lacks any serious ideological competition, which--according to its very own tenets--is a fatal weakness.
posted by NapAdvocacy at 6:01 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


But honestly, was the Tea Party any more unified?

This has actually been studied. Psychologists have found that conservatives overestimate the degree to which they have consensus with each other, and that liberals underestimate the degree of consensus.
posted by Jpfed at 6:04 AM on February 26 [20 favorites]


The labor movement didn't just fade away because it wasn't needed any more - it was systematically deconstructed by aligned political and corporate interests, which Reed addresses initially and then sort of shifts away from.

Exactly. The labor movement, especially in the U.S., made gains in the twentieth century that have been stripped away in the last forty years as we've seen income inequality grow. Globalization and ideology have both been factors. We simply don't have a Labor party ni the U.S.

It's a shame, too, since it was Socialism that got us through the Great Depression and WWII and made us the superpower we were during the postwar period, and created the institutions and infrastructure that made us a player in the Cold War.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:11 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


I think it's also worth recalling that, prior to the end of World War II, the notion was often that economics were the performative effect of political philosophy. The argument was more often framed as "dictatorship vs. liberal democracy," not as "communism or fascism vs. capitalism." This framing starts to shift with the postwar rise of folks like Hayek and really gets solidified in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the form of Thatcherite and Reaganite responses to national left-liberal parties' failures of economic stewardship. Before the fall of communism, there was a largely successful effort to discredit social democracy in Anglo-American politics. (For various reasons, this effort was not successful elsewhere until very recently, when it starts making inroads as a kind of export from the Anglosphere.)

The result has been a strange kind of historical re-visioning, often a rather forgetful one, in which history is read as market economy's triumph over various forms of command economy, which tend to be labeled popularly as "communist" or "socialist," sometimes rather tenuously. I'd argue that left-liberalism fell *before* Communism as the political alternative in Anglosphere politics, and sort of prepared the way for the way in which the fall of the Communist states is now being discussed.

This analysis is rather less salutory for conservatives in many ways, not least because Hayek and the Austrians are provably wrong. The European social democracies do not seem to have become serfdoms, and Hayek himself ended up arguing for a minimum guaranteed income (albeit at a subsistence level).

Another symptom I've noticed of the left's death has been to see the comparative intellectual fecundity of the right. You have neo-conservatives (which can be cut in different ways, ala Wolfowitz or ala Kristol and Strauss), paleo-conservatives (The American Conservative), tea-party conservatives, GOP conservatives (Boehner), you have libertarian conservatives, and I'm probably missing a few.

You're not really looking in the right places, though. The left has Deleuzean microcollectivists, anarcho-syndicalists, social democrats (unless you'd argue that this is more a liberal position), plain ol' socialists, and even post/neo-Marxist thinkers like the aforementioned Zizek. Feminism alone has as many variations as your conservatism.

The distinction is that the American left has little toehold in the electoral process, so its ideological debates and intellectual diversity don't play out as electoral branding on TV. But politics are not done entirely in government or on TV. You seem to have confused "intellectual" with "politician." The American right is quite politically fecund compared to the left, but it's intellectually moribund for the most part. There are plenty of conservative intellectuals, but not many of them are the Republican politicians or conservative editorialists you list here.

But then, you've simply dismissed anyone who still reads Marx as an exemplar of "intellectual poverty" and refer to the American Right as "intellectual" by listing a bunch of people who are politicians, not intellectuals. How are you defining that word, "intellectual," exactly? And who are the thinkers of these flavors of conservatism, as opposed to the candidates and pundits? I mean, I'll spot you Strauss, Bloom, Kristol, and Yoo for neoconservatism and maybe Buckley for paleo (though he's not really consistent enough as a political philosopher, for all the hype he gets; I wouldn't call Gore Vidal a liberal thinker either).
posted by kewb at 6:11 AM on February 26 [22 favorites]


And it should go without saying that conservatism did not "discredit" various left populisms so much as, once in power, employ force to eliminate them wherever possible.
posted by kewb at 6:13 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


There was another post along these lines - a video, I believe, based in part on a book by Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class. This article appears to be written with the same premise. I found a used copy of the book, I'm just afraid to read it. But with this article as a basis for some comparison, I guess now I have to read both!
posted by PuppyCat at 6:15 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Another point to make about liberalism is that it doesn't go far enough to make the case for capitalism, as a golden goose to tax.

And that brings you back full circle to Marx comrade. Old Karl never had the idea that communism should create wealth in those poor, feudal, disorganised, agrarian countries where it found purchase, but in fully modern, fully capitalist, fully industrial ones - like Germany - where the wealth already existed and only need be distributed.

The 20th century didn't really give us an example of what happens when Marxism is adopted by a modern, wealthy nation, but it would seem safe to assume that the goose in this scenario ends up just as dead.
posted by three blind mice at 6:16 AM on February 26


I think the key point is, as others have said, that when left-wing politics was successful it was based on very large organisations that were built from the ground up, outside the conventional political process - above all, unions.

If that kind of organisation can be built again, then the left will be revitalised. If the left keeps waiting for a messiah to become king and hand down justice within the existing system then it will never get anywhere.

But it is perfectly possible to do more than one thing at once - vote for the left-most candidate on the ballot and yet work to organize genuinely left-wing groups outside "mainstream" politics.

And I agree with this:

The funny thing is, though, that, rightly or wrongly, the apparently victorious neoliberal right is terrified that its power is unsustainable
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:20 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


If this thread gets distracted into a general conversation about whether or not Communism failed - i.e. the same conversation that conservatives and idiots always attempt to start every time someone discusses improving progressive organisation - then it will be a great shame.

Because that is a conversation that has been had over and over and over again.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:21 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


The Surrender of America’s Liberals: an interview with Adolph Reed Jr. by Bill Moyers
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:25 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


By the way I highly recommend ARJ's book Class Notes. It has a lot of his essays from ~15-20 years ago which remain relevant today. The introduction is especially excellent.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:27 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


If this thread gets distracted into a general conversation about whether or not Communism failed - i.e. the same conversation that conservatives and idiots always attempt to start every time someone discusses improving progressive organisation - then it will be a great shame.

I was just thinking that this is one of the big reasons that the left gets messed up - we actually think it's worth our time to respond to red-baiting from the right. Talk to your allies and your potential allies, not your enemies - your enemies aren't interested in the argument, they're interested in preventing any challenge to whatever power and wealth they have.
posted by Frowner at 6:29 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


Seriously though, you can worry about more than one thing at a time.

Worrying about more than one thing at a time is one thing. Allowing one of the things you worry to distract you from worry about those other things - or, using it to criticize the actions of someone also worried about those other things - is something else again, and is far more common.

I've seen way too many arguments start over things like "you and I are both anti-war, but you aren't vegan so GET OUT, the anti-war movement doesn't want your kind".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:30 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


A thousand times, that. So-called left liberals now seem more engaged by the act of fiddling while Rome burns; worrying about gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings. My god, I miss real socialism.


It's interesting how even as American society gets over certain prejudices, it builds new ones and shores up existing inequalities.

Politicians generally can't away with gay or racial slurs, same-sex marriage is swiftly becoming legal across the country, the military has repealed DADT, and there's a black President.

At the same time, the underlying injustice is still there. Your Congressman can't call you a f****t but won't give you a living wage. You're allowed to be out in the military, but that was just a sacrifice made so you can help shore up the US military's oppression of other people, elsewhere. The NYPD can't openly slur you if you're Muslim, but they can spy on you and your community just because you're Muslim. And the incredible, ongoing concentration of wealth continues unabated and unaddressed, concentrating power in a few, mostly white hands. There is no meaningful opposition, certainly not the Democrats.

The system is the ultimate martinet: It masks the immensity of its injustices by banning insults and letting Lynndie England help out at the detention facility.
posted by anemone of the state at 6:31 AM on February 26 [9 favorites]


‘eh. The Republicans may not have ended the Universe yet, but it’s not like they aren’t trying. I mean, have you seen the shit they’re trying to pull off in local governments where they have even the slightest hair’s breadth of a majority? In the new world order, Democrats are Republicans and Republicans are cartoon villains and conservative Republicans are nihilistic cult leaders who want to see the plague of civilization wiped to create a Pure Earth.

I bought the lie that Democrats and Republicans are the same when I was a naïve new voter in the year 2000. Eight years of Dubya later, I’m not making that mistake again.

How we manage to make Democratic politicians be less feckless is hard to imagine, but I’m open to ideas.
posted by Skwirl at 6:31 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


As lucien_reeve said: " ... above all, unions". IMO, one of the elephants in the room is that the dismantling of unions means that labor no longer has a seat at the business or government tables. That was the goal, and, to my mind, is a MAJOR cause of today's problems/issues.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:34 AM on February 26 [16 favorites]


The 20th century didn't really give us an example of what happens when Marxism is adopted by a modern, wealthy nation, but it would seem safe to assume that the goose in this scenario ends up just as dead.

No doubt. According to Edmuind Wilson, Marx thought communism impossible in either Russia or China because they weren't ready for it, underscoring his overestimation. Regardless, the modern debate on capitalism is best framed as demand-side versus supply-side, or whether we grow the middle-class in numbers or the dominant class in power. Oddly, supply-side is both communism and extreme-capitalist monopolism. Demand-side is essentially distributing things at marginal cost to where the producer is not harmed, but where the consumer is probably qualified for need first, whether or not this is done through taxes or direct government involvement. This is basic Western "socialism" as currently found in developed countries, and it rarely had to defend its premise in elections until recently, with heavily financed opposition, because economists quietly designed it during the cold war it for maximum efficiency.
posted by Brian B. at 6:36 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


There are massive arguments that I don't have the time for about how Marx saw things, but google "combined and uneven development" for a sense of the actual ideas out there.

In the modern political context, the problem is absolutely that left liberals backed themselves into a corner by giving Obama "space" after his election. There were public meetings held after the election where flacks basically shut down the discussion and tried to turn the Obama machine into a rubber stamp for the administration's agenda. People needed to be pushing things further - a much larger jobs program, a tax on the financial industry to pay for it, single payer healthcare, the whole thing. The crisis had proven that neoliberal capitalism and monetarism didn't work. They didn't seize the moment and now what we have is ... the return of monetarism in the form of austerity so savage that people in country after country are rioting about it.

At the core of it, the Democrats are committed to the same politics of austerity that the Republicans are, they just want to go about things in a different way. If you oppose austerity you have to find ways to do it that don't rely on the Democrats. A real program starts with the demand for jobs, and at good wages.
posted by graymouser at 6:50 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


(virtually) Nobody really believes in Marxism anymore and as soon as the right's equivalent of Marx, Ayn Rand, falls out of favor some actually common ground might be found and progress made.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:06 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


At the core of it, the Democrats are committed to the same politics of austerity that the Republicans are, they just want to go about things in a different way. If you oppose austerity you have to find ways to do it that don't rely on the Democrats. A real program starts with the demand for jobs, and at good wages.

Except for the very important fact that NOW EVERYONE HAS HEALTHCARE.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:07 AM on February 26


(virtually) Nobody really believes in Marxism anymore and as soon as the right's equivalent of Marx, Ayn Rand, falls out of favor some actually common ground might be found and progress made.

Yeah if there's one thing that is holding the left in America back its dogged adherence to Marx. Give me a break.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:08 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Hunh. I didn't think I'd find a live person prepared to argue the "communism has never failed because it's never really been tried" side in 2014.

Well, communism hasn't ever been tried. No, seriously, communism was only supposed to be the quasi-utopian end state that the regimes that were headed by Communist parties were bringing us towards. The intermediary period was a period of what they called socialism or state capitalism or whatever, but it certainly was not communism.

But the position that socialism was never really tried in regimes headed by Communist parties, in particular the USSR, is taken by none other than Noam Chomsky (not to mention myself and many others). Socialism is, essentially, workers' control of production.

If this thread gets distracted into a general conversation about whether or not Communism failed - i.e. the same conversation that conservatives and idiots always attempt to start every time someone discusses improving progressive organisation - then it will be a great shame.

Well, I don't think discussion of communism today is a shame. It's clear that the prevailing political order of liberal democracy isn't getting us -- whether we live in Greece, Ukraine or the USA -- what we want. In that context I think it is only reasonable to talk about political alternatives. And the only (progressive) one we really have is communism.

I think Jodi Dean has a great line about this. The reason that conservatives blast everything progressive -- bicycle lanes or whatever -- as communism is because they understand communism and fear it as a political force. Communism, as she says, is the collective desire for collectivity.

I think the key point is, as others have said, that when left-wing politics was successful it was based on very large organizations that were built from the ground up, outside the conventional political process - above all, unions.

Right. I think, although this discussion about the Left's failures is necessary, it gets off on the wrong foot by talking about the "Left," a very ambiguous contentious concept (is it vegans? women? Democrats?). What propelled progressive politics forward in the first half of the twentieth century was a workers' movement. Absent that, the "Left" has no political power. As is the case today, essentially.

It is a pressing question whether the Left can be reinvigorated by other means -- or if the workers' movement can be reconstituted.

Except for the very important fact that NOW EVERYONE HAS HEALTHCARE.

Not everyone has health care. Even in the US. To say nothing of affordable health care. I mean, yeah, the ACA was a step in the right direction. But a small one. And way less than Americans deserve. Or that Obama and the Democrats meaningfully tried for.

The fact is that, generally speaking, Obama has mainly continued, if not escalated, the policies of the Bush regime. There are exceptions, but the vehement insistence of Democratic apologists that vast differences exist between the two (not that they aren't meaningful sometimes) is predicated on a very narrow conception of politics.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:12 AM on February 26 [8 favorites]


the dismantling of unions means that labor no longer has a seat at the business or government tables. That was the goal, and, to my mind, is a MAJOR cause of today's problems/issues.

A real program starts with the demand for jobs, and at good wages


I agree with this. The thing I'm not sure about is what to do about it....it ain't the 19th century anymore, and I dunno if unions will be the right solution. To be clear, I am in favor of organizing workers. But I think technology is making capital steadily less reliant on human labor at all. Part of the reason unions had a seat at the table was all the hard goddamn work of organization the left did. But part of the reason was that we had an industrial economy where huge chunks of the workforce labored in factories. If the capitalist can respond to the threat of a strike by moving the work overseas or replacing the majority of workers with robots, how can a union effectively exert pressure? Even retail is moving online.
posted by Diablevert at 7:13 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Not everyone has health care. Even in the US. To say nothing of affordable health care. I mean, yeah, the ACA was a step in the right direction. But a small one. And way less than Americans deserve. Or that Obama and the Democrats meaningfully tried for.

Ok, everyone has access to healthcare once the ACA becomes fully rolled out.

The fact is that, generally speaking, Obama has mainly continued, if not escalated, the policies of the Bush regime.

We all remember Bush's policy goal of massively expanding access to healthcare for everyone, thank god Obama continued that.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:19 AM on February 26


Objectively explaining political conditions is a tricky task, because legitimacy is not an objective concept, and writers who bother to write about political outcomes almost always have some skin in the game.

Blaming the current state of affairs on appeasers and accommodationists is simply the move of someone who is losing but who doesn't want to give up legitimacy. I'm pretty sure that from his own perspective, Barack Obama is a skillful politician who is navigating the existing political currents to the best of his ability. Is that not accurate?

Likewise, blaming the current state of affairs on those who are most opposed to it, the purists on the left, seems to me to be more of a rhetorical move than a scientific explanation.
posted by leopard at 7:20 AM on February 26


Except for the very important fact that NOW EVERYONE HAS HEALTHCARE.


Well. Everyone not covered by a public healthcare plan (medicare, medicaid, VA) has a legal obligation to purchase insurance from a private health insurance operator, under pain of financial penalty. Those too poor to purchase private health insurance can apply for exemption from this penalty, and - assuming they are able to negotiate healthcare exchanges - can apply for subsidies whereby public money is paid to a private insurer to provide health insurance.

Going into the detail of the ACA would be yet another derail, but the box in which it and universal healthcare fit together is a very large box. And this, rerailing, is a good illustration of how little flex there is at the top of the system, and how terrifying and disruptive that limited flex appears.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:23 AM on February 26 [6 favorites]


Except for the very important fact that NOW EVERYONE HAS HEALTHCARE. ***

*** Except for the many states where Republicans blocked expansion of Medicaid, thereby screwing lots of people who still can't really afford healthcare and don't qualify for subsidies.

While it could be argued that Democrats had no way of knowing that the Supreme Court would strike down this part of the law, this is exactly the kind of crappy situation that 'not going far enough' creates, and Democrats are now too 'united' in defending the entire program from stupid-but-loud Republican cries of Socialism to even admit that this is a huge problem.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:23 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Blaming the current state of affairs on appeasers and accommodationists is simply the move of someone who is losing but who doesn't want to give up legitimacy.

In addition to appeasement and "accommodation", don't forget outright corruption.

I'm one of those people. So I guess that makes me a counterexample to your hypothesis, since I don't have any legitimacy to begin with.

But, sure: it's a complex story. There are a lot of moving parts, including historical arcs that are hard to pin down. I also include the US historical consequences of slavery as a key underlying backdrop. But that doesn't mean there hasn't been a shitload of appeasement, accommodation, and corruption involved in the decline of the US liberalism.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:29 AM on February 26


How we manage to make Democratic politicians be less feckless is hard to imagine, but I’m open to ideas.

Vote in Democratic primaries
Volunteer for Democratic races, including low-level ones like school boards
Vote for Democratic candidates, including low-level ones like school boards
Repeat for a couple decades
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:30 AM on February 26 [14 favorites]


(pointing at ROU_Xenophonbe wildly)

THAT. Primaries have only like an 11% voter turnout rate. And the whole "putting people up for the low-level races" approach is how the right got to be so big - they'd get people to run for things like Town Dogcatcher to get their foot in the door, specifically so they could then make the leap to more legislative local offices and claim that they had "x years of experience in government," because they knew no one really knows much about the local candidates and saying that you had experience is usually what gets you elected because people know dick-all about anyone else.

You want better candidates? Get involved in the picking. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


The argument was more often framed as "dictatorship vs. liberal democracy," not as "communism or fascism vs. capitalism."

I have a very hard time agreeing with this. Even in the late 30s, and certainly by World War II, there was a distinct three-way split between Communism, Fascism, and Liberal Democracy. Whether you thought of those three options as different places along a line (starting at the left with Communism, at the right with Fascism, and Liberal Democracy conveniently placed "just right" in the middle) or with some more meaningful multi-dimensional model, anyone who lumped both fascist-leaning and communist-leaning systems together into a single bucket labeled "dictatorship" would have, rightly, been chalked up as grossly oversimplifying.

If politicians used "dictatorship" generally as a way of expressing the opposite of some liberal democratic ideal, they were likely doing so in order to avoid alienating anyone (or appearing to be a sympathizer with the other side); it's a convenient shorthand for "bad guys", but the United States has never had a particular problem propping up dictatorships as a hedge against communism. This couldn't have been the case if the struggle were really against dictatorship and anti-liberalism generally.

If anything, Reagan and Thatcher borrowed heavily from anti-fascist rhetoric and applied that to communism (and extended onto 'socialism'), painting communism and fascism not as distinct political and economic philosophies but rather simply two sides of the same dictatorial coin. This was explicitly done in order to undermine communism by linking it to the intellectual bankruptcy of fascism, at a time — the late Cold War — when the major politico-economic tenets of Soviet-style communism still held some water.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:38 AM on February 26


Those Soviets who called themselves Communists, and the Chinese? They were No True Communists, my friend. They were a bunch of CINOs.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:39 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


Vote in Democratic primaries
Volunteer for Democratic races, including low-level ones like school boards
Vote for Democratic candidates, including low-level ones like school boards
Repeat for a couple decades


see the McGovern campaign, where the Left actively engaged with the Democratic party, volunteered, worked hard, coalesced behind a successful mainstream candidate and then... the right-wing of the Democratic party, including the blessed labor unions, refused to back McGovern, sabotaged his campaign and directly and indirectly supported Nixon, and then Reagan.

The history of the modern Democratic party goes back to the McGovern campaign. The people who run the Democratic party would rather lose national elections for twenty years than let the Left have a seat at the table.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:46 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


What ROU_Xenophobe said. Gar Alperovitz likes to say: "You want to play this game? The chips are two to three decades of your life. This is what it’s about–don’t start if you’re not serious."

I don't like that any more than anyone else. I'd like to just pursue my own happiness making my own little mud pies. But it's the truth.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:47 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


But part of the reason was that we had an industrial economy where huge chunks of the workforce labored in factories. If the capitalist can respond to the threat of a strike by moving the work overseas or replacing the majority of workers with robots, how can a union effectively exert pressure

Well, the horse has left the barn, definitely. The time to stop the mass exodus of (at least approaching) middle-class jobs is largely over. But industry is far from dead; we still buy most of the products we used to make. And, the foregone jobs and wages from the last forty years would certainly have made the national bankbook look different. It would have certainly taken some, if not most, of the wind out of the "OMG, we're fucking broke, we need AUSTERITY NOW!" sails.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:51 AM on February 26


(I'm not saying one shouldn't get involved with the Democrats, far from it, but you have to go into it with the attitude that it's a hostile takeover: when shit gets real the "liberals" will absolutely turn against the Left once their wars and economic status are threatened... see you at the caucus meeting Thursday!)
posted by ennui.bz at 7:51 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


The people who run the Democratic party would rather lose national elections for twenty years than let the Left have a seat at the table.

Yes, but that's why you take over a party from the bottom up. It's not about the people who run it at the national level. I agree--they're a lost cause. Most of us Obama voters figured that out pretty quickly during his first term. (And I say that as someone who voted for him twice--I see no contradiction there.)

BTW, it's not just one thing or another. You can both work to control local Dem organizations, and try to set up an anarchist commune, communitarian economic systems, etc. These activities feed into each other. But what you can't do is just expect MoveOn to nudge the Dems toward enlightenment. The corporate capture has gone on for too long at this point for that to have any hope of working.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:52 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


The people who run the Democratic party would rather lose national elections for twenty years than let the Left have a seat at the table.

No shit. We had 100k+ people on the lawn of the WI capitol for weeks without any real support from the Democratic party and complete unwillingness to capitalize on what really was a grass-roots movement.

On the other hand, the Tea Party gets 3400 white dudes to show up on the same lawn to hear Sarah Palin speak, and that's a MOVEMENT and a GROUNDSWELL and well....

Fucking dems is feckless.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:58 AM on February 26 [11 favorites]


No shit. We had 100k+ people on the lawn of the WI capitol for weeks without any real support from the Democratic party and complete unwillingness to capitalize on what really was a grass-roots movement.

Because you can't get elected without corporate and rich-people money, and none of them, not even the so-called "Hollywood Liberals" with deep pockets, really likes an actual liberal let alone socialism. Which only leaves the unions. Which A) have never been as sympathetic as all that to many aspects of socialism, and B) are in the process of being systematically murdered and will soon cease to exist as a force. Which means in practical terms there will only be a right wing. Cue "flying in circles" joke, which which would actually be rather apt.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:05 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Those Soviets who called themselves Communists, and the Chinese? They were No True Communists, my friend. They were a bunch of CINOs.

People still seem to do a very good job of ignoring the crucial difference between the "no-true-communist" and the "no-true-scotsman" constructions: The Communists themselves never claimed they had managed to achieve a true, communist system. Even among themselves, in their own discourses, they always acknowledged they had not created a Communist system, but were only pursuing political strategies meant to help lead them to Communism as it was envisioned.

When those folks called themselves "Communists," it was a consciously aspirational gesture: Their ultimate aim was to establish a Communist state system--a system in which the masses of workers were the most politically, socially and economically powerful group and owned all the means of industrial production (factories, equipment, etc.) rather than wealthy capitalists or some dictatorial state.

Even the communists never claimed they had achieved an actual communist system in practice. Please let's at least be honest and clear about that when discussing what communism is or isn't.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:07 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


The people who run the Democratic party would rather lose national elections for twenty years than let the Left have a seat at the table.

The Democrats have won the popular vote in the Presidential election in 5 out of the 6 last elections.

The people in charge may be self-interested cynical assholes with no interest in leftism, but I don't buy the charge that they're more interested in ideology than in winning.
posted by leopard at 8:08 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Except for the very important fact that NOW EVERYONE HAS HEALTHCARE.

Everyone has an obligation to purchase health insurance. Not even close to the same thing.
posted by graymouser at 8:11 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


His name is Adolph. He was born in 1947. What.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:14 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Those Soviets who called themselves Communists, and the Chinese? They were No True Communists, my friend. They were a bunch of CINOs.

The Stalinists rounded up the actual Communists and shot them. Not exactly fodder for cheap "in name only" jokes. They were separated from actual Marxism by a river of blood.
posted by graymouser at 8:15 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


I think it comes down to vision; the Democratic party does not have a clear, articulate vision of what they want the country to look like. The Republicans do; granted, that vision is sort of a "best* of" amalgamation of the 1950s and the 1850s, but it's a vision. Sort of. Ask a mainstream Democrat what they want the country to look like in a hundred years, and $5 says they'll give you an answer that amounts to "exactly like the present, but with a few slight tweaks."

*for certain definitions of "best"

And yet, if you think about it, it's more surprising that either party has anything resembling a vision of the future. For the ruling class, the present is just great; they're looting the whole country and getting madly rich while doing so. (The center of the GOP "vision of the future", such as it is, seems to be "But guys, we could be getting even richer even faster!") What's more, both parties have major portions of their platforms that require a head-in-the-sand approach to the future - if you're in complete denial over the consequences of global warming, fossil fuel industries, or even government deficits - well then the future is a big scary bugbear that it's better to just ignore. So no major political party can actually look forward. No politician can sit down and give you an intellectually honest, "Here's what I want the United States of America to look like in a hundred years." They'd have to admit that for them, everything is pretty great right now; and what's worse, they'd have to admit that the "pretty great right now" that they're enjoying has no long-term future.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:18 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Beyond the seemingly endless debate over the word "communism" and its historical baggage, there are meta-concepts that are much more relevant and important today.

We need to think about communitarianism, not just as a semantic dodge, but as an organizing principle. The Amish are communitarian, not communist. In the west, at least, there are many ongoing attempts to create alternatives to Earth-eating capitalism that go beyond the narrow confines of the tired state socialism vs. global capitalism debate. While most of these attempts are not "communist" in any historically identifiable sense, they are communitarian: local currencies, worker owned cooperative networks, time banks, "venture communism"... these are all examples of what I'm talking about.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:21 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


One thing that hasn't been touched on us that the Left doesn't have a hugely wealthy and influential media organ dedicated to promulgating it's philosophy to the populace at large. As long as Fox News controls the media landscape, the Left will be at pretty much irrelevant. It's hard to say that the Left needs it's own Rupert Murdoch, but that's in fact the case.

The thing is though, it's a fact that political systems and philosophies do indeed pass away and there's nothing that can be done but deal with the new reality. No maybe hie much certain nostalgics may lament it's passing, feudalism and the divine right of kings died out by W.W.I. Monarchism proved vulnerable to constantwarfare and the fact that birth is no guarantee of competence. And Marxism, well, nice try. Deal with the fact it's dead and move on, or become like those guys who pine for monarchy.

Current trends will likely continue, given there is no sign of real opposition. Wealth will continue to concentrate so that relatively soon 99% of the wealth will be in the hands of a small elite. We will most likely evolve into a loose hydraulic empire, with the resources controlled being money and information. Hydraulic empress are extremely stable, so this will continue until there's a major disruption, say massive ecological collapse or Yellowstone blowing its top.

They're's always an alternate of course; the second most likely scenario is our splintering into incoherent warring splinter states along the lines of Yugoslavia, Syria or the Ukraine. The fact that most states are "purple", with large monitored if people belonging to the other ideology would make internecine warfare even worse.

But a mass Movement of people to reforma the U.S.along Marxist or even Social DemocratIc lines? I suppose it's nice to have a dream.
posted by happyroach at 8:24 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


A constant problem in these conversations is that most people don't actually have any kind of accurate understanding of left history, particularly but not uniquely communism. (I mean, it's difficult enough to have an "accurate" "understanding" of any kind of history, yes, but there are particular considerations here.) There is an incredible amount of myth-making from the right and the center about what various left movements have actually done and advocated and what contoured the choices they made, and it's all pretty complex anyway. But we've all learned various "truths" about civil rights, communist movements, socialist movements, unions, etc through school and osmosis. On an unconscious level, I think most USians - even those of us on the left - have incredibly negative beliefs about left causes. We've all been hearing from the cradle on that even if there really was racism or sexism or inequality, people on the left were just a bunch of whining squabblers who couldn't keep their eye on the ball, except when they were genocidally murdering each other. We on the left are so often drawn into red-baiting because we believe that we have to separate ourselves from this other "bad" left, to show that we are not like "them".

It is useful, actually, to go back and read a broad selection of original documents - whether you mean original materials from the pre-Soviet Russian left, or the civil rights movement, or the Italian autonomians or whatever. Reading actual materials by thoughtful people engaged with a movement is always a surprise because of how we are educated - "whoa, they weren't actually all stupid ideologues, and they didn't have infinite choices and didn't willfully choose the gulag!!!! In fact, I'm not sure what I would have done in their place!!!!"
posted by Frowner at 8:25 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


the Democratic party does not have a clear, articulate vision of what they want the country to look like. The Republicans do

The Democrats have a fairly clear vision to me. It's basically the same vision they've had for a few decades now. It's neoliberalism with a safety net. Free markets are good, but we need to balance it with things like Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA. Taxes are not good but we need to fund these government programs. Basically, the role of government is to ensure that people who work hard and play by the rules are taken care of.

I mean, it's not a particularly leftist vision, but it's hardly unclear or inarticulate.
posted by leopard at 8:26 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


A constant problem in these conversations is that most people don't actually have any kind of accurate understanding of left history, particularly but not uniquely communism.

I submitted a MF project to, in part, remedy that...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:28 AM on February 26


My only quibble, leopard, is that it's "neoliberalism with a shrinking safety net". Austerity über alles!!
posted by mondo dentro at 8:29 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah if there's one thing that is holding the left in America back its dogged adherence to Marx. Give me a break.

LastOfHisKind seems to be saying that the left in America has long since more or less abandoned Marx (outside maybe a few irrelevant stragglers who still seem to be the types hanging around places like MF). And that it's the right's wallowing in ideology that is a major sticking point in today's polity. To which I'd agree.

One problem I see is that Democrats don't have a foothold in small elections, and don't really want one. The left doesn't even have a language for that level of leadership in too many locales. These are places where gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings simply don't have that kind of purchase. It's not a dogged adherence to Marx but a dogged adherence to a personal interaction/secular moralizing kind of leftism that keeps it politically isolated and uninterested in governing at low levels.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:44 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


This essay gave me a big Terry Eagleton flashback, when it complained that the American left had retreated into a cloud of disparate issues with no gripping central vision.

Interesting read, but the last paragraph should have been the first paragraph. The author spent a lot of time talking about how Obama and the Democrats aren't really leftists, which is fair enough, but not news. I would imagine that the average reader of ZNet already understands quite well that Obama and the Democrats are not on their team. I would have appreciated a deeper analysis of how the "real" left had gone awry, and where to go from here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:50 AM on February 26


It's neoliberalism with a safety net. Free markets are good, but we need to balance it with things like Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA. Taxes are not good but we need to fund these government programs.

As I said: exactly like the present, but with a few small tweaks.

I suppose what I mean by "articulate" is a vision of the future you can present to the public as something that you're leading them towards. A vision you can't actually say out loud is not exactly articulate, and by saying "Okay, we think this is pretty much great, we're hoping to keep everything exactly the same" they'd commit political suicide. Even by just believing it, the Democrats are necessarily forced into a reactionary role - their vision of the future is primarily "we keep the safety net we have" while the Republican vision is "we dismantle the Dems' safety net".

It may sound odd but it's pretty much the truth: the Democratic party is conservative (in the dictionary sense of "averse to change") and reactionary, and the Republican party is attempting to drag everyone back in time. Nobody's going, or even looking, forwards.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:53 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Fucking dems is feckless.

They get to hide behind the right-wing meme that they are feckless. It's not incompetence but some pretty hard politics. The big industrial unions have been allergic to popular left-wing politics since before McCarthy, dating back to when the CP was actually for real in the US. And then you have the Southern Dems, like Clinton and Carter before him, and the Northeast liberal brahmins (the ones who engineered the Vietnam war.) It's the ultimate irony that today Carter is treated like some red diaper baby, when he was the epitome of the socially conservative Southern Dem when he was elected.

But of course, the difficulty the "New Left" had with actual (as versus academized) class politics isn't entirely a fiction of Nixon.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:58 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


One problem I see is that Democrats don't have a foothold in small elections, and don't really want one. The left doesn't even have a language for that level of leadership in too many locales. These are places where gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings simply don't have that kind of purchase. It's not a dogged adherence to Marx but a dogged adherence to a personal interaction/secular moralizing kind of leftism that keeps it politically isolated and uninterested in governing at low levels.

I would love to hear a first-hand account of how an obsession with trigger warnings derailed a local Democratic political campaign.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:01 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


From the article:

For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate.

Did anyone else notice this crucial detail? This phrase in bold surrenders the ideological battle at the most basic level. This thinking is the end of the left. The person who wrote is either not a leftist or doesn't really understand leftism. Here's why. This is important.

Conservatives, reactionaries, and traditionalist types like to characterize things like taxes, government-subsidized anything, and all public goods as "redistribution" of wealth. That is wrong. It's not a fact, it's a reification of their conception of government and society.

The insight of the left is that there is no original situation in which wealth was "distributed," and after which, any further mediation constitutes redistribution. There is no such thing. Every distribution of resources is political.

So speaking of "redistribution," using that term, necessarily cedes the single most important point that leftism offers: that whatever political-economic regime currently exists is contingent, is not some kind of original situation, is open to change.

When so-called leftists begin talking about economic matters in terms of redistribution, they're agreeing with the premise that political/economic arrangements that benefit the wealthy are the original distribution, but those which benefit people who actually need it are, somehow, re-distribution. It concedes the idea that all money basically belongs to the wealthy, and anything which gets between the wealthy/powerful and money is unnatural, an interference with The Way Things Are.

We must not speak about redistribution. That term is poisonously, insidiously tendentious. There is only distribution of wealth. Once we accept the propagandistic distinction between distribution and re-distribution, the important debate is over, and we're then in the inherently losing position of trying to defend a principle that is constructed in such a way as to be indefensible.
posted by clockzero at 9:03 AM on February 26 [31 favorites]


I would love to hear a first-hand account of how an obsession with trigger warnings derailed a local Democratic political campaign.

It doesn't even get that far. If you have ever been involved with small-scale radical left political groupings, these organizations can and do get massively derailed by infighting around "privilege" issues. Of course, the problem might be that these sorts of "radical" groups tend to be bubbles of white suburban punks looking for an outlet for their alienation from the lifestyle they were born into but....

The book "Direct Action: An Ethnography..." by David Graeber is kind of fascinating peek into one corner of this world.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:08 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I would love to hear a first-hand account of how an obsession with trigger warnings derailed a local Democratic political campaign.

I would love to hear a first-hand account of how an obsession with trigger warnings assisted a local Democratic political campaign. Or even made it past the coffeehouse level of political musings.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:08 AM on February 26


mstokes650, I agree that the Democrats are basically conservatives while the Republicans are radicals. However, I don't agree with:

A vision you can't actually say out loud is not exactly articulate, and by saying "Okay, we think this is pretty much great, we're hoping to keep everything exactly the same" they'd commit political suicide

This line is right out of Obama's SOTU speech: "Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same." The idea that America is a pretty great country that just needs to be tidied up around the edges is actually a very popular one -- much more popular than the notion that America is an imperialist country built on the backs of slaves with a long history of treating people like shit.
posted by leopard at 9:10 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


This line is right out of Obama's SOTU speech: "Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same."

The problem with this line is that it is a dog-whistle to people who still hate the "dirty fucking hippies" i.e. the people who didn't "play by the rules" but, more than that, playing by the rules means putting yourself into an economic hierarchy where everyone is stepping on the person below them. Or at least, that belief is what puts you on the "Left."

Basically, the whole line is a "New Democrat" spin on some ugly politics which goes back to Nixon. You can make an argument that you can use it for Left politics but it would ultimately be really cynical.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:19 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


leopard, you're right that you sort of butt up against the notion of American Exceptionalism if you're not careful how you phrase your calls for radical reform, but don't forget that one of the key buzzwords Obama campaigned on the first time was CHANGE. And I think most people will concede that fixing a busted government and a busted financial system constitutes more than "tidying up around the edges", even if they believe that the core of America is still "exceptional".
posted by mstokes650 at 9:21 AM on February 26


The problem with this line is that it is a dog-whistle to people who still hate the "dirty fucking hippies" i.e. the people who didn't "play by the rules"

It's not a leftist line, sure. But it seems like a category error to consider Obama a cowardly leftist or the Democrats an inarticulate party. This line plays well (at least I think so, I am open to the possibility that I'm wrong and that it's actually a politically loser).

I think anyone who makes it to the Presidency is basically going to be a calculating politician who will look at the political landscape and simply try to figure out how to make themselves look as good as possible. I don't think the obstacles to radical reform are to be found in Obama's spine. For all his faults, Obama made a bet on healthcare reform, barely managed to pass it, and had to deal with a ridiculous amount of opposition on all fronts. You have to look at Congress as a whole, and in turn you have to look at the power of money. The banks are incredibly unpopular right now, on *both sides* of the political aisle, and yet popularly elected politicians are barely doing anything to act against them. Ideology is important but I don't think it's the only factor explaining political outcomes.
posted by leopard at 9:29 AM on February 26


I suppose what I mean by "articulate" is a vision of the future you can present to the public as something that you're leading them towards. A vision you can't actually say out loud is not exactly articulate, and by saying "Okay, we think this is pretty much great, we're hoping to keep everything exactly the same" they'd commit political suicide. Even by just believing it, the Democrats are necessarily forced into a reactionary role - their vision of the future is primarily "we keep the safety net we have" while the Republican vision is "we dismantle the Dems' safety net".

Well, that's kind of what I was alluding to above when --- god forgive me my trespasses --- I brought up communism. The worker's paradise was the towards. The push forward to counteract the rightist pull back.

I dunno whether to characterize this as a flaw or merely a characteristic of the way I think about the world, but I tend to be drawn to the big picture. It helps clarify my thinking to identify the main theme or purpose of a given situation in order to identify the pressures and interests that motivate the actors. Left and right go back to the tennis court and the lodestone of the left has always been the revolution, the promise that we can radically change society for the better.

For more than a century, Marx provided the blueprint for how it was supposed to go. Well, the buildings fell over, and even if proper blame falls to cack-handed subcontractors, I'd say that most people viewing the rubble are pretty leery of giving it another go.

Yet a reactionary left, a left with no revolution in sight, is necessarily a weak left. And that to me is the essential problem. I think there needs to be a whole new set of plans on the drafting board before you could see a real leftist revival. Something born not out of a 19th century analysis of industrial societies but out of a 21st century analysis of information ones, because the pressure and the motives are different....which is of course, the equivalent of saying, "Step one, lasso the moon." The Ultimate Pony. But you need a towards or else it's all just fiddling round the edges...
posted by Diablevert at 9:32 AM on February 26


The banks are incredibly unpopular right now, on *both sides* of the political aisle, and yet popularly elected politicians are barely doing anything to act against them. Ideology is important but I don't think it's the only factor explaining political outcomes.

Answering this orthogonally: if anything, this highlights just how deeply entrenched the ideology truly is. Everybody agrees that banks are corrupt and Congress is corrupt, and yet people acknowledge this and carry on. This cements the ideology. And when we do find that the financial sector have caused great harm, the focus is often on who has broken the law: those who caused harm merely because they had broken the rules, and not because the system itself had been problematic from the get-go. When we find that many of these big players had actually arguably operated within the law, there is frustration and muttering and shrugging, but not much more beyond that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:42 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]



where to go from here.

It's in this thread:.
  • Vote in Democratic primaries
  • Volunteer for Democratic races, including low-level ones like school boards
  • Vote for Democratic candidates, including low-level ones like school boards
  • Repeat for a couple decades

Gar Alperovitz likes to say: "You want to play this game? The chips are two to three decades of your life. This is what it’s about–don’t start if you’re not serious." I don't like that any more than anyone else. I'd like to just pursue my own happiness making my own little mud pies. But it's the truth.

The people who run the Democratic party would rather lose national elections for twenty years than let the Left have a seat at the table.
that's why you take over a party from the bottom up.
It worked for the other side between 1964 and 1980 (and beyond). They developed their farm system.

see the McGovern campaign . . .

A perfect example of what not to do -- put all your hopey changey eggs in the single basket of a single quadrennial national election, and then be crushed when it doesn't work; top-down-only thinking. Of course the existing power structure resisted. You have to replace the entire power structure, not just hire someone to lecture to them.

If you poll Americans on political ideas and policies, separated from labels and personalities, the majority already agree with the left and has done for decades. Maybe work with that.

WITT vs YOYO is a compelling narrative. It should be used more often, until everyone has it planted in their souls. And the 'W' in WITT is the Big We; unless you really plan on putting people up against the wall when the revolution comes, "W" includes those guys, too.

Also, Molly Ivins explains how to develop the patience required:
You got to have fun while you're fightin' for freedom, 'cause you don't always win. . . . So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
I'll take Having Fun With Molly Ivins over Make Joan Baez Laugh, any day.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:51 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Answering this orthogonally: if anything, this highlights just how deeply entrenched the ideology truly is. Everybody agrees that banks are corrupt and Congress is corrupt, and yet people acknowledge this and carry on. This cements the ideology.

That's not ideology, that's powerlessness. People carry on because they can't do anything about it.

I could be mistaken, but 10 years ago it seemed like there was no shortage of people willing to argue that highly paid CEOs and bankers were talented superstars whose high pay was simply the price we paid to benefit from all the value creation. This seems like a much more minority view now. The opposite stance seems popular now -- basically everyone at an investment bank or with a lot of money is considered a moral degenerate destroying society, even if they're not selling overly structured products to pension funds or fueling a housing bubble that will cripple the global economy.

Still, the outcome for the banks is basically the same.
posted by leopard at 9:52 AM on February 26


I would love to hear a first-hand account of how an obsession with trigger warnings assisted a local Democratic political campaign. Or even made it past the coffeehouse level of political musings.

Ah, so it seems neither of us is going to get their wish. Of course, only one of us was offered the confident promise of such an account...

(Although, on broader "social issues"? Wendy Davis in Texas is an immediate and obvious one.)

Back on the article - TBH, I kind of miss barnstorming, take-no-prisoners Adolph Reed Jr:
I took pains to subordinate what put me off about [liberals] to the larger objective of unity against the rightwing onslaught, I decided to overlook their capacity for high-minded fervor for the emptiest and sappiest platitudes; their tendencies to make a fetish of procedure over substance and to look for technical fixes to political problems; their ability to screen out the mounting carnage in the cities they inhabit as they seek pleasant venues for ingesting good coffee and scones; their propensity for aestheticizing other people's oppression and calling that activism; their reflex to wring their hands and look constipated in the face of conflict; and, most of all, their spinelessness and undependability in crises.
That was 18 years ago! Just imagine how POed he must be now...
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:56 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


It's not a leftist line, sure. But it seems like a category error to consider Obama a cowardly leftist or the Democrats an inarticulate party. This line plays well (at least I think so, I am open to the possibility that I'm wrong and that it's actually a politically loser).

I'm not arguing it doesn't play well, it's just a question of who it plays well too and why. You can make the argument that a "bankster" is someone who doesn't play by the rules, but you are still also talking to people who hate hippies and other radical types who also "don't play by the rules." But then, what does it say about the politician who is trying to sell themselves to people who hate radicals and bankers simultaneously? Dealing with Wall Street is going to take some radical changes, even if you are Elizabeth Warren much less a radical leftist. So, if you are selling yourself to people who hate radicals, you are also outing yourself (as a politician) as someone who is actually against any radical change and is trying to split the difference...

Now, Elizabeth Warren may trot out that line, but it will work against her if she actually ever tries to make real change happen.

A perfect example of what not to do -- put all your hopey changey eggs in the single basket of a single quadrennial national election, and then be crushed when it doesn't work; top-down-only thinking. Of course the existing power structure resisted. You have to replace the entire power structure, not just hire someone to lecture to them.

This is to misunderstand the level of work that built up to the McGovern candidacy. These guys took McGovern through the convention, and it took years of work building from the anti-war movement and civil rights movement to get that far.... The reaction from the Dems was to sabotage the candidacy and purge the party. This is exactly the problem with "playing by the rules," if playing by the rules upsets the people with power, they will change the rules. It's a game you can play, but you shouldn't forget the lessons of the past.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:04 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


> Seriously though, you can worry about more than one thing at a time. You can act on about
> those issues and other issues too.

But you can't organize against all perceived problems at once with the same organization. One big issue, maybe two at the outside, everything else gets mentioned in the party platform document and then forgotten. For Labor and the Left to sit down together and make large scale common cause about jobs, they would have to have a basic "sense of the meeting," as the Quakers say, that everybody was there about jobs, period. We're all here to create effective opposition to the job-exporting Corporate State and if we can't focus just on that we're toast. This would require the Social Justice tumblr Left to sit down with people--underpaid workers! the unemployed!--who say "I'm no racist but..." and "NO HOMO," and large numbers of whom make and laugh at boobie jokes. And stay seated with them and continue making common cause over jobs, and leave the invisible-backpack battles for another day and another place. You've heard the term "unwashed masses?" Boobie jokes and all the other sins like that are what "unwashed" means in terms of today's developed-nation masses. All the union people you're sitting with, they will all have had baths for Ghod's sake.
posted by jfuller at 10:05 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


The failure of Marxism is due ironically to its failure to connect itself to history. It needs to reconnect with its own historical roots, which are philosophic and spiritual. It needs to connect to Hegel, Spinoza and prophetic Judaism. In that way, and only in that way, can it provide a horizon for the future.
posted by No Robots at 10:11 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "You want better candidates? Get involved in the picking. :-)"

Or the running!

I've been involved in local politics for a while now and I've seen a lot of third-party candidates run -- libertarians, greens, constitutional party, a guy who calls himself a "farm radical" which I'm not really even sure what that means but he's pissed about some stuff -- as well as major-party candidates who want to make CHANGE. And what nearly all of them have in common is ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEPT OF THE ISSUES. If you're running for state senate and you're talking about the Tenth Amendment and how the federal government stomps all over it but you have nothing coherent to say about pension reform, well, that's great, go write it up for a law review and best of luck to you. You're a local lefty running for city council who wants labor to have a bigger seat at the table but you can't talk to me about asphalt? GTFO. Local government is DETAILS. Asphalt contracts are a lot of money and a really great way to promote union labor ... if you have any idea how local road paving works.

It takes TIME. You have to develop a reputation for being someone who can get things done, who delivers on what they promise, who listens, who can work with other people. You develop a network. It's not so much "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" but that people come to know you as someone who's quick to respond to a question and who listens to concerns. You do the boring work, because an awful lot of governance is boring work like knowing excruciating details about asphalt. A whole lot of what I do (as a local elected official) is going over really excruciatingly dull financial reports and audits. It's tedious, it's not glamorous, nobody will ever thank you for it, but it is a huge part of what makes government run.

But you do these things for five years, and you go to dinners and campaign events and Rotary meetings and you talk to everyone who wants to talk to you, even the crazy people, even when you have to sit at your computer for fifteen minutes trying to think how to start your e-mail to them some way other than, "Look, crazypants ..." ... you do the audits and you deliver on your promises and you help people figure out who to call to get help and you listen to your colleagues respectfully even when you completely disagree and when it's time to go over the school district's non-discrimination and bullying policies, you say, "This policy needs to include protections for trans* students," to a room full of Republicans and African-American church leaders and they at least LISTEN. And you say, "Here's why it's important" and even though some of them don't believe that transpeople exist and others of them think it's a bad thing, they hear you out because you've spent all that time listening to people and proving you are a serious and thoughtful person. And you get those protections voted in, because you built up the goodwill with hard work and time, and because you were able to explain why that issue was important enough for them to care about and why this was the right way to go.

Right now my district is DISarming its security officers (while of course the national political discourse is towards arming teachers and putting more guns in schools), and while it's great to talk about the school-to-prison pipeline and theories of youth disengagement and the use of police force against minorities and whatnot, what parents want to know is, "HOW WILL THIS KEEP MY CHILD SAFE?" And you get out there and you explain, until you are blue in the face, as many times as it takes, until you literally lose your voice because you talked about it for six hours in a row in three different meetings and took phone calls about it while in the car between meetings, what we know about how to keep children safe in schools, what we've done with controlled entrances, what we've done with community police relationships, what we've done with early violence intervention, what we've done working with anti-gang initiatives. How in 20 years our security officers have never drawn a gun and how we want them to be holistic partners in caring for children in crisis, not just guys who stand at the door looking dangerous. How having an armed officer present at a school shooting is just LUCK, but having a strong relationship between trained security officers and the children they're looking out for, that's the sort of thing that can identify trouble spots before they erupt into violence.

Anyway, all this focus on theory and presidential politics -- that's not where to do it. Start local. And local governments all watch each other for ideas, inspiration, noticing when it's safe, etc., so if you get something leftie done, it's highly likely that at least some other nearby towns will do the same. And when it gets more common in the towns, your state representative is more likely to get on board. It gets normalized. People get used to it. Start local, and master the details and explain to people who your way is actually better for them, not just theoretically better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:39 AM on February 26 [36 favorites]


If you don't want to run for office yourself, why not make a left-liberal PAC in your county that fundraises and grants $1,000 to local candidates? $1,000 buys a lot of road signs in a local race. Invite all the candidates for interviews on issues that matter to you, issue an endorsement, and give a thousand dollars with it. (Local chambers of commerce that have PACs typically give around $1,000 to the business community's preferred local candidate after a similar process, is where I get the number from.) You force the candidates to address your issues, you get press for your causes by issuing the endorsements, and you help leftie candidates who are locked out of fundraising from the business community get some funding traction. You cultivate those people when they're running for city council and county board, you get paid back over time with local leaders who take your issues seriously -- and eventually state and national politicians who have to contend with you to move forward.

People sound so HOPELESS in these threads. It's not hopeless, you just have to go DO the things instead of just complaining about the things. Run for office. Form a PAC. Start your own community action group that lobbies the town council. These things aren't hard; they require energy and commitment, and sometimes are strenuous or stressful, but they're not HARD.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:41 AM on February 26 [17 favorites]


Good on you, Eyebrows McGee!
posted by mondo dentro at 10:49 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


This would require the Social Justice tumblr Left to sit down with people--underpaid workers! the unemployed!--who say "I'm no racist but..." and "NO HOMO," and large numbers of whom make and laugh at boobie jokes. And stay seated with them and continue making common cause over jobs

When the racial slurs start popping out, that's when someone is interrupting consensus building. That's the moment in which you start isolating certain members and telling them "you're not exactly welcome in this coalition." It's not the social justice brigade who is doing the interrupting. By the time someone steps in and says, "Hey, can you please not use that language?" the process of talking about jobs has ALREADY been interrupted.

This is why it's handy to have a code of conduct established in advance. When you step into the room, you can make it just about the jobs and not about what language we feel is appropriate to use. And if the members can count on the facilitators to monitor that code of conduct and let people know when they've diverged from it, then every member in that room can focus on the jobs and not on standing up for their own basic human rights.

Of course, building the consensus on what the code of conduct should be is a whole nother bucket of worms. But usually I think you'll find that the guy who wants to say 'No homo' occasionally is not going to show up for that meeting and insist on his right to say it, because his use of slurs is probably more thoughtless than an intentional crusade to keep that phrase in popular language.

If we acknowledge that the unwashed masses should have a voice at the table, we should not be so patronizing to imply that they can't be held responsible for what they do with that voice.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:50 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


This is to misunderstand the level of work that built up to the McGovern candidacy. These guys took McGovern through the convention, and it took years of work building from the anti-war movement and civil rights movement to get that far.... The reaction from the Dems was to sabotage the candidacy and purge the party.

The results demostrate that the work done was insufficient.

Building up the civil rights and anti-war movements was important work, but movements don't get elected to office. The strategy suggested is to take your movement not to the streets, but to your local elections. Work to get your peeps elected, keep an eye on 'em and make sure they also walk the straight and narrow path while doing the actual job of keeping the street lights lit and the potholes filled. That's where state reps, mayors, congresspersons, governors, senators, etc. come from. And that is where presidents come from.

Then when it comes time for the Dems to react -- you're the Dems.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:50 AM on February 26


Ugh, this essay is a dog's breakfast of vague definitions, cherry picking, microwaved complaints and gleeful revisionism about the history of leftism, liberalism, labor and Democrats. At a certain point, this kind of DOOOOOM pablum is more comforting for leftists and liberals because it places blame on the Gods of Systems, reaffirms that you were right all along, and just sold out by the Man, no matter the D or R. It ignores real progress, shifts economic goalposts and just reifies the co-option myth.
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


"If you don't want to run for office yourself, why not make a left-liberal PAC in your county that fundraises and grants $1,000 to local candidates? $1,000 buys a lot of road signs in a local race."

If you don't want to run for office yourself, set up a PAC that funds actual engagement strategies, like paid face-to-face door canvasses, public outreach and telephone calls, pretty much in that order and all aimed at either early messaging or GOTV. But don't put anything into yard signs. Yard signs are something that supporters like but that are a pretty huge waste of money — there's a reason for the adage "yard signs don't vote." They've got a big opportunity cost for minimal efficacy.
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 AM on February 26


People sound so HOPELESS in these threads. It's not hopeless, you just have to go DO the things instead of just complaining about the things. Run for office. Form a PAC. Start your own community action group that lobbies the town council. These things aren't hard; they require energy and commitment, and sometimes are strenuous or stressful, but they're not HARD.


Yeah, I know so many people that want to TAKE TO THE STREETS and FIGHT THE MAN but they won't vote or participate because any candidate that doesn't install true communism the instant they elected is ideologically impure and posting on Tumblr is much easier...

And I just want to scream at them that if you want to really fight the power, all it takes is you and maybe ten friends in most areas and you're a local power bloc. That's pretty much what the entire Obama machine did: Got people to show up. Now there was a lot more once they got going but seriously, in many areas, all you'd have to do is get ten people to show up to a party meeting and you're power brokers.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:13 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


If we acknowledge that the unwashed masses should have a voice at the table, we should not be so patronizing to imply that they can't be held responsible for what they do with that voice.

Anecdata, but I've encountered more casual racism and sexism among wealthy, Ivy League-educated young men than among working people. The idea that -isms will be some terrifying new bloom that the "Social Justice left" - many of them, incidentally, women, PoCs or LGBT people - will never have had to confront before is kind of a straw man person.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:34 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah, and sometimes people don't want to be around rape jokes and be triggered.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:43 AM on February 26


(The two most promising projects I've ever been part of both broke down because of rape by a male organizer of a female organizer and the ensuing refusal of the other men in the project to deal with this. Both projects had previously had ongoing problems about gender - women being silenced, bad meeting structure that resulted in centering men, prioritizing of a macho organizing style under the rubric of "being serious", reluctance to challenge sexist bullshit because "our allies" are just like that.... so the organizational culture was one in which sexual assault was not, I suppose, surprising. Two other projects that were smaller but that, hell, I liked....well, those broke down when white people pushed out working class men of color. My bestest ever project, however, managed to deal with some racist and misogynist bullshit by actually talking stuff through and changing some behaviors...a couple of people left, but in general, people have stayed and worked through things.

My point being that all this "you social justice warriors with your whining about boob jokes" (and let's be honest, it's not "boob jokes", it's "rape jokes")...what that really obscures is that shitty racial and sexual harassment hurt people, drive people out, create a situation where violence can happen...and expecting people who are already experiencing racist and sexist harassment* to suck it up is just gross. Also, it's the reason for half the stupid policies that get formulated - the white middle class dudes have driven out all the working class people and people of color and women (and working class women of color, etc) and so they have no fucking idea how to create a policy that actually helps those groups, so they do some dumb bullshit.


*It's not "jokes" - it's harassment. Rape "jokes" aren't "jokes"; creepy touching or talking about how you hit your partner aren't jokes, they're harassment. Treating working class people of color like they're stupid and ignoring their comments or speaking in that "you are very stupid and I am a gracious white lady" tone of voice isn't a joke, it's bullying. Letting people who come into your space harass volunteers of color instead of standing up for them - that's not organizing, it's colluding in racism. And this is the shit that happens when we decide that the whiny women and people of color need to shut up in the name of jobs or healthcare or the election or whatever - I've seen it happen.)
posted by Frowner at 11:56 AM on February 26 [27 favorites]


I'm late to the game here, but I think there's an important note to be made from my field. I work in epidemiology, and that is set in a larger context of toxicology and public health.

I wrapped up my masters degree just before the economic collapse really kicked into high gear, but people employed by the U.S. government were already beginning to feel the pinching-in and avoiding retirement because of it. This caused a huge glut of would-be regulators to be confused by where to apply themselves, where to work, when the regulatory jobs simply weren't available. And so, many of us sought out policy work with the scores of NGOs that exist as brain trusts for the regulatory establishment.

Now that we're coming up on a decade of this kind of non-regulatory diaspora, many of us are convinced that the regulatory aspect of government--even in our area that is at least shielded from being directly involved in financial markets--isn't up to the job. The intellectual progressivism that most (if not all) scientific fields generates isn't being used within the government, it's now pretty thoroughly outside of it. Our politicking is functionally devoid of scientific expertise, and that's holding up a kind of technical, technological, human-centered progress that it seems left-leaning politics has needed as a soapbox from which to say, here, look, this evidence-based path is the way forward. And so things like the 2007 NRC report urging a complete overhaul of the way we regulate the hundreds of thousands of synthetic chemical compounds in use (prepared at the begging urgency of the EPA) have sparked a sea of activity in the NGO realm in response. Unfortunately, the federal agency buy-in to these elements of larger progress has been slow, limited, poorly-funded, inarticulately coordinated, and so on.

And so, net result, non-government organizations are doing brilliant work on shoestring budgets without having anywhere to put the fruits of their labor. At best, NGOs are considered minimal stakeholders in the governing process, and at worst, this scientific intellectualism is cast as "activist" and doomed to being considered too toxic to bring up during an election cycle.

Indeed, the left has poisoned its own well through excessive focus on political game-playing that can only deal in simplistic terms on short timescales. I'm very hopeful for a future political representative that will come from the NGO research and policy ranks who can look past the worn-out political routines we're all so familiar with (and tired of). But I have no idea who that will be or how we will get that person there without buying into electoral media routines.

And, as Obama has shown us, we don't always have good skills when it comes to predicting who that visionary will be.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:02 PM on February 26 [6 favorites]


I'm a member of a really great and inclusive state political group with a PAC arm. We do candidate interviews about social justice issues and give endorsements. Most of the candidates we endorse, though, never mention it - they don't want to be too loud about being supported by a GSM organization, because they think it would hurt them more than help them here. So we have a right that's tripping over themselves to see who can yell the loudest about moral decay and the dangers of repealing our state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law (which was being enforced as recently as two years ago), and a left that's too timid to even say they favor equality in anything above a whisper.

This same pattern plays out with economic policies - wingnuts shout through megaphones about which one of them will enact the lowest flat tax (or do away with income taxes altogether) while Democrats whimper platitudes about keeping current levels and being more "efficient," all while our state has been radically slashing its budget for years straight. The last time we attempted any progressive reform, we actually wound up worse off when conservatives later kept the progressive tax cuts but repealed the progressive tax increases. If you want to see the dire future laid out in this essay, just come to Louisiana.
posted by Corinth at 1:07 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Ghostride The Whip: "but seriously, in many areas, all you'd have to do is get ten people to show up to a party meeting and you're power brokers."

Yeah, at a lot of these Democrat events I go to I'm the youngest person there by 10 years, sometimes 30 years (I'm in my mid-30s). YOUNG PEOPLE: SHOW UP, there is a power vacuum coming! And these people who are super-community-involved tend to be pretty good about mentoring the next generation. There are certain disconnects (I have spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to convince a local Democrat group that is having trouble getting "moms" to its meetings that the issue is MOMS HAVE CHILDREN AND NEED CHILD CARE, hold your meeting somewhere child-friendly or hire two sitters for two hours; it is like talking to a wall) but they generally want younger people to be involved and they want you to succeed and they have wisdom, advice, and resources to offer.

If you want the Democrats to be further left in 10 years? Seriously get in there now, there's a gigantic greying of the ranks.

Frowner: "what that really obscures is that shitty racial and sexual harassment hurt people, drive people out, create a situation where violence can happen...and expecting people who are already experiencing racist and sexist harassment* to suck it up is just gross."

This is all true, and being involved in politics does require a certain thickness of skin w/r/t it. I have been trying to phrase a response to this that just keeps coming out wrong and like I'm telling people how to be, which I'm not trying to, but my personal attitude when I have to face this shit is, "The more I stand here and insist, both by being here and by refusing to accept this as a legitimate viewpoint, that these racist and/or sexist attitudes are not acceptable in this community, the more I crowd out the people with those attitudes." Like, the fact that I'm helping to shift the community norm to something better helps me cope with harassment. (If I felt like I couldn't shift that norm, I'm not sure how well I would cope.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:10 PM on February 26 [5 favorites]


...true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will.

This comment seems to assume that, contrary to the truth, the Bush administration wasn't an obvious disaster, and I think that is the perception of a large part of the voting public. It is frustrating that the Republican party is so good at PR, because without that factor, the Democrats should have a lasting majority for the foreseeable future and would be able to muster the will for long-term change.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:23 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


It is frustrating that the Republican party is so good at PR, because without that factor, the Democrats should have a lasting majority for the foreseeable future and would be able to muster the will for long-term change.

I don't see Republicans as people who gullible dopes who have been fooled by a brilliant PR campaign. I see them as a coalition of people drawn to a political party with an agenda of lower taxes, less government regulation, and general hostility towards abortion/gay marriage/evolution/unions/immigrants/racial minorities.

It's not about the PR. Political party identification is very stable and largely inherited from one's parents. For most people, it's not this fickle thing that is only held into place by brilliant advertising campaigns.

I don't get this idea that most people are deep down true leftists who lack self-awareness just because of masterful PR. Most people are terrified of change.
posted by leopard at 1:43 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


My point being that all this "you social justice warriors with your whining about boob jokes" (and let's be honest, it's not "boob jokes", it's "rape jokes")...what that really obscures is that shitty racial and sexual harassment hurt people, drive people out, create a situation where violence can happen...and expecting people who are already experiencing racist and sexist harassment* to suck it up is just gross.

I....haven't seen anyone arguing that anyone experiencing harrassment to "suck it up," number one.

Number two, there's a wide, wide range of things between "the leader of my PAC raped/harrassed me" and "the leader of my PAC is pressuring me to be vegan as well." I believe that much of the complaints people are making about the left turning against itself refers more to instances closer to the latter example.

This absolutely does not negate that there are people in places of power that have done shitty things, and it is not meant to imply that the kind of abuses you're talking about don't happen. It is only meant to indicate that they maybe aren't what is being complained about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


I don't know if veganism is exactly a political issue - like in the sense that if the leader of your PAC is pressuring you to be vegan, they probably need to be told that they will not have a PAC any more if they continue with such tomfoolery. If s/he has principles about land use or the food industry that mean she can't associate with non-vegans, that's a slightly different issue, but one which is susceptible to discussion in camera. If s/he's just self-righteous... well, that's potentially a venn-diagram behavior between "vegan" and "socialist", but it doesn't mean those two circles are overlapping.

However, what is being complained about here, I think, are the things that the "social justice (sc. warrior) left" object to - which does not generally include eating dairy.

So, in jfuller's formulation, racist statements, "boobie jokes", "no homo" and the like are not treated as harassing (although it's worth point out that working class people of color, women and LGBT people do actually exist) - they function only as things the (sc. white, male, straight) social justice left has to learn to tolerate. That's kind of a canard.

decani is more explicit:

So-called left liberals now seem more engaged by the act of fiddling while Rome burns; worrying about gendered insults, rape jokes, "hate speech" and trigger warnings. My god, I miss real socialism.

He absolutely wants people to suck it up, because if they don't they are not real socialists. We've done this dance before, and it's only really an issue when the same language is parroted, like here. And yes, I think that attitude absolutely will normalize harassing behaviors, and try to shame people who object to them into silence, even if that is not the intent.

I mentioned the SWP in Britain earlier - the Socialist Workers Party, that is. That party has been in crisis since it was alleged that its central committee had downplayed, ignored and pressured women to recant accusations of sexual harassment, including rape, by a senior member of the party - and had threatened to expel any member who went to the police:
A transcript of the SWP's annual conference in January, leaked to the Socialist Unity blog, revealed that senior officials pleaded with hundreds of activists to trust in the committee's verdict and reminded lay members that the party had "no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice".
China Miéville, a former member, is pretty sharp on the implications of this implementation of socialism:
It is one thing to have a respectful and sharp-eyed Marxist caution about identity politics. It is quite another to ossify a body of theory. Tactically it is bankrupt to leave members ill-equipped to engage with advances in radical social theory, particularly now. Theoretically it is arrogant and stultifying not to be open to the idea that we might not only debate with but learn from different theoretical traditions
So... yeah. I think we can agree that "the leader of my PAC raped/harrassed me" and "the leader of my PAC is pressuring me to be vegan as well" are very different things. However, I don't think this discussion is devoid of arguments touching on the former, albeit at some considerable remove.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:44 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


I don't know if veganism is exactly a political issue - like in the sense that if the leader of your PAC is pressuring you to be vegan, they probably need to be told that they will not have a PAC any more if they continue with such tomfoolery. If s/he has principles about land use or the food industry that mean she can't associate with non-vegans, that's a slightly different issue, but one which is susceptible to discussion in camera. If s/he's just self-righteous... well, that's potentially a venn-diagram behavior between "vegan" and "socialist", but it doesn't mean those two circles are overlapping.

Well, I was pulling veganism out of my ass, but I've indeed met people who believe it to be a political issue. I've also seen that kind of discord happen here in the US. Hell, I've seen it happen on Metafilter, where one person accuses another person of not being a true liberal because the don't believe [foo] or don't [baz], and to them, [foo] and [baz] are indeed political issues. And if you want to work with them, you have to follow the exact code of ethics they do or else you're doing it wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:53 PM on February 26


OK, sorry, so... the veganism thing didn't actually happen? I think I may have misunderstood that...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:55 PM on February 26


My bestest ever project, however, managed to deal with some racist and misogynist bullshit by actually talking stuff through and changing some behaviors...a couple of people left, but in general, people have stayed and worked through things.

For any doubters in the room I'd like to chime in that this is precisely the way Metafilter decided to go about it years ago during the Great Sexism Debate, and yeah a few prominent contributors left, but goddamn did it improve the level of discourse.

If you don't believe me do a site-search for the phrase "I'd hit it".
posted by Ndwright at 4:12 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


the veganism thing didn't actually happen?

No, I was proposing a hypothetical illustrative analogy to point out that there was a difference between the kind of thing Frowner was talking about and the kind of thing I believed the rest of us were getting at when we discussed these kind of "the perfect is become the enemy of the good" problems.

It's a problem of "the left" in this country, I've found, where you can't just all be collaborating on one cause, everyone has to think the same way about everything. It may not necessarily be something the supervisor imposes on you, but it's definitely a form of "peer pressure" that members of any "leftie" group exert upon each other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 PM on February 26


Ah, OK. Well, if the veganism example is a general signifier for $irrelevance, in the premise "sometimes people get overly passionate about $irrelevance, and then exclude people from their PAC for not agreeing/caring as much"... then, yeah, I think that's true. And if that's happening regularly with someone who is meant to be an orgnanizer, that's a bad thing.

However, I think $irrelevance isn't exclusively what we're talking about here - I mean, it isn't what Reed is talking about, and on from there. His thing is, or at least was in the 90s, that everything is about class, and that focusing on race or gender to the exclusion of class is a mistake. So, he sees the quote-unquote liberal project as a distraction from the core issue. On the other hand, I don't think he'd respond with indifference to hate speech aimed at his race, or believe that it should be tolerated in the service of the mission - rather, he'd see it as a locus of class warfare. (This may be a misreading, but it's my best understanding based on memories of "Class Notes".)

And I don't think its entirely safe to say that "the rest of us" are talking about $irrelevance - or possibly more exactly I think that, while people might think that the things they are citing are $irrelevance, I don't think that is necessarily the case when some of those things are gendered insults, hate speech and rape jokes - those aren't things that it's healthy for the left to ignore in pursuit of quote-unquote real socialism, or downplay in the name of the cause, because in the end you end up with a movement where the discomfort of people of color, women, LGBT people and the "social justice left" is considered distractions from the mission. And then, best case scenario, they leave, leaving you with a brocialist rump.

So... I hope we can agree that veganism is indeed in the set of "not necessarily a good reason to confront somebody in a PAC", but that other things that are not veganism are in the set of things worth raising, and that entities from both sets are in play - not necessarily in Reed's piece, but certainly in some of the subsequent discussion.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:34 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah, at a lot of these Democrat events I go to I'm the youngest person there by 10 years, sometimes 30 years (I'm in my mid-30s). YOUNG PEOPLE: SHOW UP, there is a power vacuum coming! And these people who are super-community-involved tend to be pretty good about mentoring the next generation. There are certain disconnects (I have spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to convince a local Democrat group that is having trouble getting "moms" to its meetings that the issue is MOMS HAVE CHILDREN AND NEED CHILD CARE, hold your meeting somewhere child-friendly or hire two sitters for two hours; it is like talking to a wall) but they generally want younger people to be involved and they want you to succeed and they have wisdom, advice, and resources to offer.

See, I've found that they often *say* they want younger people to be involved and succeed, but they really don't. I've been a precinct committee person, a leg district captain, and even a local candidate for office, and *many* Democratic Party central committees are moribund social clubs for the aged New Left, particularly in places that trend GOP and they don't stand a great chance of winning elections.

Many of these folks like the socializing opportunity, social status, and control, of being an operator in a local party structure, but they don't really want to relinquish any of that control, or try anything new, so they ultimately end up alienating any new blood that might otherwise stick around and stay involved.
posted by stenseng at 4:41 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


It's not about the PR. Political party identification is very stable and largely inherited from one's parents. For most people, it's not this fickle thing that is only held into place by brilliant advertising campaigns.

No, but those innate leanings can be played. Like the company that wants to pulverize a mountain and basically wreck the land you grew up in telling you "those meddling bureaucrats in Washington want to deny us jobs and tell us what we can do with our land." When of course there are no jobs or profit in it for the locals and "us" is a ludicrous fiction because the speaker is just a mouthpiece for a multinational who happens to have the right accent.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:46 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


OK - I read the article. It shouldn't take that long to say "Democrats sold out and have exactly bubkes to show for it". I agree. Also, if you want to see young folks engage in political action right along side the grand dames of the Texas Democratic Party, check out Battleground Texas.
posted by PuppyCat at 5:51 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I would suggest, to this debate, that liberals don't drink the Koolaid about privatization. There is a reason why it didn't evolve that way. The public sphere evolved naturally to pave roads and offer public schools and utilities, because there was no profit in it, but it was a public good that promoted improvement. The sham in having having private interests suddenly want to take these over these entities, with public funding, is an extreme position that assumes that private companies do not really want to make a huge profit for some alien reason, or are less likely to shaft the public than elected officials. Only a con artist would sell it, only a dupe would buy it.
posted by Brian B. at 7:57 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


Just to look from the other side a bit, I read this on ConservativeHome today:
The British Conservative Party – the twentieth century’s most electorally successful political party in the world – hasn’t won a parliamentary majority for more than twenty years.

The American Republican Party that won most of presidential elections in the cold war period hasn’t won more than 50% of the vote in five of the last six contests for the White House.

In looking to understand transatlantic conservatism’s political weakness it would be foolish to blame individual policies or personalities. Something deeper has gone wrong. Conservatism is suffering something of an identity crisis. It’s not just ordinary voters who can’t agree what conservatism is. Most people on the centre right of politics are deeply confused about what conservatism is.
Any political movement has a tension between ideology and pragmatism. Do you risk doing what you truly believe, in the hope of achieving something great? Or do you play it safe and accommodate ideas from the other side?

In recent history, the left-of-centre parties have been pragmatic, and the right-of-centre parties ideological. The left-of-centre parties have won political victories on platforms that don't include their big ideas.

Before that, in the Eighties for instance, the left-of-centre parties were ideological, and the right-of-centre parties pragmatic. In their own terms, the right-of-centre parties won political victories, but they didn't actually shrink the state or cut the overall tax burden.

Whether you see pragmatism as defeat or victory depends on how you look at it. The right doesn't see liberals as "surrendering": they see a persistently large state sector and a steady advance of equal rights as a crafty liberal victory.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:38 AM on February 27


Reed pretty much puts it exactly. Maybe he's a bit light on the "What's the Matter With Kansas" angle.

The wedge issues, whether the right wins or loses, keep us impotent on the economic ones. The left exhausts its political energy on them, and working class social conservatives align themselves with their economic enemies based on them.

It's grim.
posted by Trochanter at 9:03 AM on February 27


It's not about the PR. Political party identification is very stable and largely inherited from one's parents. For most people, it's not this fickle thing that is only held into place by brilliant advertising campaigns.

This may be true now and for the last century or so of American politics, but political alliances have been much more fluid for much of our past, and for a lot of US history, we didn't really even have a stable multiparty system with consistent party organization and funding over the longer term. It's too new a development and, it seems to me, it's development too coincidental with the emergence of sophisticated PR campaigning to be able to say whether or not it's about the PR. Maybe these attitudes are as stable as they are now as a consequence of the political PR that first really got underway in the last century or so, when campaigners and marketers began promoting the idea that party affiliation should be viewed as a matter of personal identity and tribal affiliation more than as a practical, political choice.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 AM on February 27


Scott Lemieux: The Leftward Drift of the Democratic Party
I didn’t expect to agree with the bottom line, but having seen several smart people recommend the new Harper’s piece by the genuinely brilliant Adolph Reed Jr….I was expecting it to be better. ... I think what he says that’s true isn’t actually controversial and what is controversial isn’t true.
...

I find the idea that the Democratic Party has moved right since 1980 frankly bizarre. A party whose leadership consisted of O’Neill, Byrd and Carter is more progressive than Pelosi/Reid/Obama? On what planet? The former Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for 4 years — where’s their progressive achievement comparable to the ACA or the repeal of DADT?

...

Reed asserts that short-term thinking has prevented the left from pursuing goals like single payer. My question — how many people on the American left, not just radicals but left-liberals, don’t support single-payer (or a similar European health care model?)

...

In addition to minimizing the large and increasing gaps between the Democratic and Republican parties — we’ve been through this enough — Reed says that “[m]ost telling, though, is the reinvention of the Clinton Administration as a halcyon time of progressive success.” He does not cite anyone who has believes this, I would assume because for all intents and purposes they don’t exist.

...

Calling Obama a “neoliberal Democrat” suggests that the term has ceased to have much meaning beyond “a politician I don’t like.” Obama is certainly not a person of the Left, a point Reed establishes in great detail (although, again, it’s not clear to me what non-Republican ever believed that he was.) But the ARRA or the ACA simply aren’t Reagan/Thatcher or even Clinton private-centered neoliberalism — name me some neoliberals who were big fans of expanding the single-payer program for the poor.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:50 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


Political party identification is very stable and largely inherited from one's parents. For most people, it's not this fickle thing that is only held into place by brilliant advertising campaigns.

I'm certainly aware of that, and it takes a huge disaster by one party to effect significant shifts. That's my point exactly. The Bush administration was such a disaster (2 misguided wars, crashed economy, cronyism, incompetence, etc., etc.). It is only through a sustained and well funded PR effort that the party survives.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:56 PM on February 27


re: distribution, the IMF is on board; Inequality and Redistribution - "Redistribution appears generally benign in terms of its impact on growth."

also btw...
-The shocking numbers behind corporate welfare
-A look at the big American companies that pay little or no corporate taxes
-Dave Camp vs The Tax Code[1]
-Should the government pay you to be alive? "It sounds radical, but the 'guaranteed basic income' almost became law in the United States—and it's having a revival now, with some surprising supporters."

oh and...
-Bring back the real neoconservatives
-America And The Lessons Of The 21st Century
-The Tiger Gets Hungrier
-Politics And Prejudice[2]
-What's The GOP Running On?
No, I'm not shocked. But I'm also not so cynical as to ignore the nihilism at the heart of today's GOP. They are the reason we have gridlock; they are the reason we cannot reach some obvious fiscal compromise that could raise some taxes and trim some entitlements; they are the reason we cannot even have a debate about how to tackle climate change; they are the reason we cannot enact even minor gun control measures backed by huge majorities; they are the reason we cannot offer some relief to countless undocumented immigrants while reforming immigration to allow for more skilled workers. I won't even begin on foreign policy, where, again, they are all opposition and no coherent policy (or divided by Rand Paul non-interventionism and Cheney-style neoconservatism).
-Billionaire tech star Peter Thiel, big GOP donor, says time to "seriously consider" $12/hr minimum wage
"In theory, I'm against it, because people should have the freedom to contract at whatever wage they'd like to have. But in practice, I think the alternative to higher minimum wage is that people simply end up going on welfare.

"And so, given how low the minimum wage is -- and how generous the welfare benefits are -- you have a marginal tax rate that's on the order of 100 percent, and people are actually trapped in this sort of welfare state.

"So I actually think that it's a very out of the box idea -- but it's something one should consider seriously, given all the other distorted incentives that exist."
-Walmart's Shadow Minimum Wage Campaign[3]
posted by kliuless at 5:38 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


Omnivore: An American politics of paradox
posted by homunculus at 1:51 PM on February 28


Adolph Reed, the author of the FPP article, has a followup post on his blog at Jacobin.
posted by Corinth at 10:18 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]




Main link is now borked.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:30 AM on March 13


« Older Judith Butler explained with cats...   |   Adios Maestro Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post