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The Left's Victim Complex
June 14, 2007 7:20 AM   Subscribe

The American Left's Silly Victim Complex
posted by exogenous (158 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
LOLBERALS?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:23 AM on June 14, 2007


Oh look it's the whiniest most pathetic liberal of all.
posted by washburn at 7:26 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, I was hoping this was some sort of hospital.
posted by hermitosis at 7:31 AM on June 14, 2007 [21 favorites]


Ugh,
These days the Roosevelt stratum of rich East Coasters are still liberals, but the industrial middle class that the New Deal helped create is almost all gone. In 1965, manufacturing jobs still made up 53 percent of the US economy; that number was down to nine percent in 2004, and no one has stepped up to talk to the 30 million working poor who struggle to get by on low-wage, part-time jobs.
What is up with the fetishization of factory work on the "left"? It's not really the whole "left" but clearly there a sort of feeling among at lot of the more traditional left that we need to be spending more time in factories. But who cares? I guess it's more dignified then a service sector job, but it hardly seems like much fun.
posted by delmoi at 7:33 AM on June 14, 2007


"It's not really the whole "left" but clearly there a sort of feeling among at lot of the more traditional left that we need to be spending more time in factories controlling the means of production."
posted by majick at 7:39 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


What is up with the fetishization of factory work on the "left"?

The only thing I can think of is that factory work pays a lot more than service work. A person can actually live and raise a family on factory wages.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:41 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


"In reality it's the saddest collection of cowering, ineffectual ninnies ever assembled under one banner on God's green earth."

This from AdBusters.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:42 AM on June 14, 2007 [20 favorites]


The biggest problem with modern American liberalism may be the word itself. There’s just something about the word, liberal, something about the way it sounds – it just hits the ear wrong. If it were an animal it would be something squirming and hairless, something that burrows maybe, with no eyes and too many legs.
Framing the conversation, much?
posted by verb at 7:42 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


It illustrates how different things are for some people than others. Unlike the author of that piece, I feel
- the oppression of the state
- a reason to fight
- the nobility of the traditionally leftist cause
and so on.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:43 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


I mean, don't get me wrong- Taibbi's absolutely right. The American left is a pathetic thing. (As, for that matter, is American liberalism.) But still.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:44 AM on June 14, 2007


According to Terry Eagleton in After Theory, the social liberalism which was part of liberal efforts and ideology in the latter part of the 20th century dragged down the rather more important political/economic liberalism, which diminished as capitalism became more global and liberalism/socialism/marxism remained national. Or, in other words, people became more interested in "coupling bodies rather than laboring ones."
posted by honest knave at 7:46 AM on June 14, 2007


Liberal heritage.
posted by priyatam at 7:46 AM on June 14, 2007


From the wikipedia,

Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights. It seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power (especially of government and religion), the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of all citizens are protected.[2] In modern society, liberals favor a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed.[3]
Of course it's more subtle, and maintains more of the power structure, to try to keep the blacklist politics of exclusion rolling, trying to weed the undesirables out of your ideological movement (ad-hominem against the independent existence of an idea).

Eh one of these days I'll go up in a gasoline pyre just to show how much I care. Until then, I am purely dead weight.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:48 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is up with the fetishization of factory work on the "left"?

Unions. Which you know make sure people don't get totally reamed. And were a traditional source of left support.

Besides, you don't get poor people benefits by playing on altruism, because most people are selfish bastards. You get it by making the same benefits apply to the whole bottom stratum, which used to be really poor folks + blue collar workers. The rise of crappy service industry jobs matches the growth in income inequality on the one hand, and the movement of moderate-paying, lower-middle-class jobs to offices, which are less union-friendly.
posted by dame at 7:48 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


What is up with the fetishization of factory work on the "left"?

Well, for a while, it paid better than behind-the-counter oroffice-clerk jobs (I've had all three and they're all fairly equally mind-numbing) and they were more secure and pretty much anybody could hold one which led to less unemployment and less of all the attendant social ills that go along with it. But that's all gone, now.

As for the essay, yeah, it's a collection of cliches, but some of 'em still ring true. My positions are generally to the left, but I don't refer to myself as a leftist or a liberal much, mainly because of embarassment at being associated with (or having to hang around with) a lot of my more embarassing fellow travelers.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 AM on June 14, 2007


So, what is this about? Liberals or the American left?
As far as I can tell there's not much liberalism left in the American political spectrum - you can choose between far-far-right-wing authoritarian and right-wing authoritarian. Where are your true liberals, your socialists, your green party? Heck, even something that would look remotely centrist from an outside perspective would be a step in the right direction...
posted by PontifexPrimus at 7:51 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Victim complexes seem to be central to mass political movements, at least these days. Seriously. Listen to right-wing radio-- it's all "oh, we're the poor, oppressed victims." It's not just the left.
posted by COBRA! at 7:52 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Personally I think the problem is greater than any one political movement, yeah, American liberalism is pretty whack, but American conservatism is also pretty craptacular, and everything else, nationally, is anemic to the point of disinterest. So, what is so toxic, at least on the national level, that we have to accept this co-dependant, pathetic state of affairs.
posted by edgeways at 7:53 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


"It's not really the whole "left" but clearly there a sort of feeling among at lot of the more traditional left that we need to be spending more time ... controlling the means of production."

And when the means of production change such that it takes 80% fewer people to control them, then we must... clamor for a return to a system of production that us union activists can more readily understand and therefore control!

gimmeabreak.
posted by rkent at 7:54 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


well, COBRA! at some point victimhood became synonymous with 'authenticity,' and then everybody rushed into claim it, which is silly and counterproductive when you think about it.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


also, PontifexPrimus: socialism will catch on this country about the same time Michael Richards gets a show on BET. There's just too much cultural baggage attached to it, and FWIW, if the best response we can comeup with to the Bushes and Cheneys of the world is a tired old system that has never worked in practice, well...maybe we do suck.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 AM on June 14, 2007


I generally sympathize with the Libertarian position but I think the closing of factories and the lack of manufacturing jobs is quite important as well.

Manufacturing jobs have stability, that's for both the individual and the community. At one time a connection with a large company, and possibly a union, through a blue collar job provided not only for a consistent paycheck but some kind of benefits and partial pension.

Not everybody is going to college. Thinking of college as 'necessary' just extends the onset of adulthood by increasing the number of institutions someone has to step through. I don't know what benefit comes from that.

A manufacturing facility is also an economic backbone. People are going to live and work in the area so other economic needs are going to be present and others can make plans to meet them.
posted by BigSky at 7:58 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


A much better piece from Taibbi.
posted by mediareport at 7:59 AM on June 14, 2007


also, PontifexPrimus: socialism will catch on this country about the same time Michael Richards gets a show on BET. There's just too much cultural baggage attached to it, and FWIW, if the best response we can comeup with to the Bushes and Cheneys of the world is a tired old system that has never worked in practice, well...maybe we do suck.
posted by jonmc at 8:00 AM on June 14, 2007


fuck. accidental double. feel free to clean up, admins. sorry.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on June 14, 2007


Everyone, be it liberals, conservatives, libertarians or socialists, is losing out to money. The interests of big-business commerce win out over everything else because they pay to get people elected.

Too bad writing about that won't give him the opportunity to characterize at length the people who annoy him.
posted by uri at 8:03 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


We all know where this stuff comes from. Anyone who’s ever been to a lefty political meeting knows the deal – the problem is the “spirit of inclusiveness” stretched to the limits of absurdity.

He's got a point...
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:04 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wait, America has a left?
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is the most fatuous piece of bull scrotum and nonsense I've ever read in my life. The fools have trotted out the scarecrow of beliefs again and pulled the strings for the old familiar dance , "most of the country is conservative" it is not socially or otherwise , wah wah the liberal media, lol lefty peacenik irrational irresponsible.

This article qualifies as the most sophmoric piece of useless political shit I have ever read. I would very much like the time it took to read and get angry about back.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2007 [7 favorites]


Great article. So many points are right on.

For me the word "liberal" means a touchy-feely, everyone's-point-is-valid mess that I totally cannot relate to -- even though I am very much to the left. I think you can be left and not be a moral relativist. In any case, I don't find myself on the American political spectrum.

I lived in France for quite some time where "liberal" is basically short for libertarian -- and is usually used in a derogatory manner. Though France is obviously not completely anti-libertarian in that they just elected a president who is in many ways just that. In any case, France does have a real left -- and they are not touchy-feely. A bit disorganized maybe, but not insipid.

I live in DC now. I meet a lot of people with progressive ideas. Still, most people I meet, regardless of their ideas, are jockying for their big payday. And the only people I have met who would actually describe themselves as "liberal" are middle-aged, ladies in pink types.
posted by pwedza at 8:08 AM on June 14, 2007


If that whole article isn't one humongous troll squatting under a teeny-tiny little bridge all ready to leap out and shout "Your favorite politics sucks!", then I don't know what it is.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:08 AM on June 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


This post is just meant to inspire controversy on the board and should be removed by the moderators..

Nothing new, insightful or even clever here.
posted by james_cpi at 8:12 AM on June 14, 2007


The answer's to the left's image problem are not political, they're cultural. Back in 1960's it was the right wing that was humorless and sanctimonious. Somewhere along the line the left decided to get in on the act and it lost a lot of people. Plus, like the artcle says, the urban working and middle classes that made up the core of the New Deal left have, since the 1970's felt (justifiably or not) abandoned.

My Dad told me a story about his father, an upper-Manhattan and Queens raised Irish Catholic small-shop owner and life-long Democrat who in the 1970's called his local ward heeler for help on some zoning thing and the guy shined him on. The next week, Grandpa registered as a Republican. Silly? Maybe, but I bet stuff like that happened a lot. Plus there were events like Patty Hearst, Jonestown, the Fall Of Saigon, the busing mess in Boston, and others that just gave people compassion fatigue.
posted by jonmc at 8:17 AM on June 14, 2007


also, PontifexPrimus: socialism will catch on this country about the same time Michael Richards gets a show on BET. There's just too much cultural baggage attached to it, and FWIW, if the best response we can comeup with to the Bushes and Cheneys of the world is a tired old system that has never worked in practice, well...maybe we do suck.

I would love to see someone running a plank promising to get rid odf socialism in america. Saying were gonna get rid of Social Security, Medicare, public education, libraries, subsidized federal loan programs, parks, environmental protections, Basic hospital care for everyone regardless of their ability to pay(If hit the ambulance with a knife wound someone is gonna end up taking care of that, instead of harvesting your organs).

Americans fucking love socialism. They just don't like the word, don't mention the word, and they'll like it just fine.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:23 AM on June 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


Americans fucking love socialism. They just don't like the word, don't mention the word, and they'll like it just fine.

Exactly, but the people who pushed those reforms through weren't dumb enough to call themselves socialists and were smart enough to keep free enterprise open. Like it or not, what the words 'socialism,' and 'Marxism,' conjure up to most people is the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall and Red China, which puts people off.
posted by jonmc at 8:25 AM on June 14, 2007


MarshallPoe - Word. That was one of the better/more depressing stretches of the article.

It reminded me of my classmates in a course I recently completed at a very liberal school. The class was on tutoring, but you wouldn't know from the class discussion. Everything was about "empowerment" and "creating a space for the writer's voice" - Students who suggested that tutors also help tutees get their spelling and grammar right were rewarded with veiled accusations of censorship.

And the group was most certainly ANTI-censorship. That's another thing that irks me a little on the left - how all our beliefs gotta get tagged with PROs and ANTIs - anti-censorship, pro-choice - makes me think of industrial cleaners and shampoos - anti-grease, pro-vitamins.

I guess I still prefer the company of ineffectual hippies to bellicose right-wingers. I just don't think that the slave laborers in Saipan or the tsunami victims of Southeast Asia see much direct benefit from a white dude waving a sign around.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I guess I still prefer the company of ineffectual hippies to bellicose right-wingers.

Like I said, I have the opposite problem. I'll support the left's policies, I just don't want to hang out with them. They generally aren't much fun and have lousy taste.
posted by jonmc at 8:29 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


mainly because of embarassment at being associated with (or having to hang around with) a lot of my more embarassing fellow travelers.

I know what you mean. But, really, jonmc, is calling yourself a liberal more embarassing than wearing flannel shirts you've owned since 1991?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


They just don't like the word, don't mention the word, and they'll like it just fine.

Let's call it "Compassionate Progressivism".

Hey, if crypto-fascism can pass for "Compassionate Conservatism", why the hell not?
posted by psmealey at 8:31 AM on June 14, 2007


I say Screw the Left and Liberalism and let's stay in Iraq and invade Iran...et them bitch about that too
posted by Postroad at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2007


Heh. I will buy new shirts when they free the prisoners at Gitmo! See, I'm doing my part.
posted by jonmc at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


They generally aren't much fun and have lousy taste.

I dunno man, I've never been much of a Rage Against the Machine fan, but I'll definitely take them over Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith.
posted by psmealey at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2007


Matt Taibbi needs to tear himself away from his T.V. and get out in the real world. There are plenty of "liberals" out there who aren't "terminally adolescent buffoons trapped in a corny sixties daydream." (Like say Rolling Stone). There are people working hard, every day, on a local level, doing things like fighting for better public education, for the rights of the working class, for the separation of church and state. It's hard, thankless work, but Mr. Taibbie thinks its all cocktails parties and puppets at protests.

It’s about goals, not people.

Ronald Regan couldn't have said it better.
posted by Otis at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


I thought the best section of the article relied on quotes from Bernie Sanders, socialist Senator from Vermont:
Sanders agrees, saying that “where the money comes from” is definitely one of the reasons that the so-called liberals in Washington – i.e. the Democrats – tend not to get too heavily into financial issues that affect ordinary people. ... Once the DLC’s financial strategy helped get Bill Clinton elected, no one in Washington ever again bothered to question the wisdom of the political compromises it required.

Within a decade, the process was automatic – Citibank gives money to Tom Daschle, Tom Daschle crafts the hideous Bankruptcy Bill, and suddenly the Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna....
“It’s also a cultural thing,” Sanders says. “A lot of these folks really don’t have a lot of contact with working-class people. They’re not comfortable with working-class people. They’re more comfortable with environmentalists, with well-educated people. And it’s their issues that matter to them.”

posted by exogenous at 8:35 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


This liberal prefers Charlie Daniels over Rage Against the Machine any day. Lee Greenwood not so much.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:36 AM on June 14, 2007


Actually, I'll take Charlie over Rage. He's a lunkhead, but he plays a mean fiddle. It's just that whenever I've gone to a protest or any other gathering of left-wing activists, I feel like I'm crashing a party full of people who I wouldn't like and wouldn't like me, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way. (and FWIW, I generally don't feel all that comfortable around right-wingers either, and just to be clear I'm talking about people who seem to devote their every molecule to 'the Cause' not just people with opinions.)
posted by jonmc at 8:38 AM on June 14, 2007


I know what you mean. But, really, jonmc, is calling yourself a liberal more embarassing than wearing flannel shirts you've owned since 1991?

Oh man oh man, ICEBURN!! Do me next, me next!
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2007


This post is just meant to inspire controversy on the board
Nice mind-reading, dude. You should turn those skills to stock-picking, or maybe nose-picking.
posted by exogenous at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2007


Taibbi hits the nail on the head, regardless what the MetaNazi's around here think. He's writing this article, ironically enough, for the mainstream who don't quite get liberals or why they dislike them....they just do.

It's like that annoying guy at work: you don't really dislike him, but you keep your contact with him to a bare minimum. Small doses.

Taibbi's article sums up the impression that the rest of America has of "liberals", and I think he's spot on correct. The ire that conservatives heap upon "liberals" (Rush, Ann, etc.) is upon the people Taibbi is discussing in this article.

I think it's funny that the educated, college elite of Metafilter are ripping apart this guy and what he's saying because ironically, he's talking about *you*.
posted by tgrundke at 8:41 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'd like to take a moment to say "woah, there" on the conflation of liberalism and socialism. Liberals, for all their welfare and social projects and such, are still capitalists- they just disagree with the conservatives on what and how much regulation and government tampering should exist. Liberals are not socialists- to become so would require addressing the source of economic ills, rather than applying band-aids to the symptoms.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2007


Pope Guilty: my comments about socialism were a response to Pontifex, who brought them up as an example of 'the real Left.' I wasn't trying to conflate, just make a point.
posted by jonmc at 8:44 AM on June 14, 2007


He's writing this article, ironically enough, for the mainstream who don't quite get liberals or why they dislike them

That mainstream that reads Adbusters on the shitter, right?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


he's talking about *you*

No, he's not. He's talking about a media-fueled stereotype that you also happen to buy into.
posted by Otis at 8:46 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


"gimmeabreak."

I think you misunderstand me. I'm not sure. Perhaps I was either too obtuse or too ham-fisted. My point was that this is the rhetoric that informs the "traditional left" -- although maybe "traditional left" means something different to you than it does to me -- part of its foundational storyline for good or ill, and hence explains a bit of why the factory thing is so deeply embedded in the "traditional" American leftist ideal. At one point, the means of production actually mattered and (ahem) collectively speaking the politics of the left haven't caught up to the fact that today the means of production is "cutting a check to someone in China."
posted by majick at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2007


What is up with the fetishization of factory work on the "left"?

Speaking for this left-libertarian . . . 'cuz that's where, you know, THE ACTUAL WEALTH is created in this country.

The hollowing-out of domestic industry in this country is, IMO, bad bad news for the long-term fiscal health of this nation.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2007


Taibbi is the literary equivalent of guys on stilts.
posted by erikharmon at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2007


All the annoying people he's talking about call themselves "progressives" too.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Phew, lots of standard dung smearing going on in here. I particularly like tgrundke's "MetaNazi's", the suggestion that Taibbi's writing about liberals for the "mainstream" who don't get them. Yeah. In AdBusters. And then the little swipe at the "educated, college elite of MetaFilter".
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2007


When referring to Charlie Daniels, are we talking about the real Charlie Daniels or the imposter who assumed his name, declared himself "born again"and ruined all his lyrics for Jesus?
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:57 AM on June 14, 2007


(Then there's all the people who actually work on working people and poverty issues who don't care if they're "liberal" or "progressive." And who Taibbi doesn't mention.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:58 AM on June 14, 2007


When referring to Charlie Daniels, are we talking about the real Charlie Daniels or the imposter who assumed his name, declared himself "born again"and ruined all his lyrics for Jesus?

The one who wrote 'Uneasy Rider' and 'Trudy.'
posted by jonmc at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2007


Well, George_Spiggott, as usual everyone around here nitpicks instead of walking away with the message that's intended. This is why Metafilter provides lots of entertainment.

Regardless what periodical his writings appear in, the message should be clear: the liberal movement hasn't moved much beyond its 1960s roots.

What he's writing about *is* mainstream because he's writing about what large swaths of America think of "liberals" today: as educated, wealthy, college elitists who like to preach to everyone else. The fact that so many in this discussion are trying to refute that issue demonstrates to me that the progressive/liberal movement is incapable of moving forward.

One of the great coups of the Reagan years and into the 1990s was that the Republican Party successfully pulled in the mainstream and gained support, financial and otherwise, from 'average Americans'. The Democrats, meanwhile, somehow managed to reinforce the belief that they are the party of the wealthy Coastal elites who are going to tell the mid-section of the country how to live.

I'm painting broad strokes here because for better or worse, this is the picture that has been made of the liberals/progressives in this country. If you want to get beyond that, you've got to change your message and bring more people in.

But please, let us continue the snarks and ignore the message.
posted by tgrundke at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love Taibbi, and I especially love the outrage he inspires in people who take things too seriously. But this is outrageous:

I’ll stay a liberal till the end of time. But between you and me, between all of us on that side of things, liberalism needs to be fixed.

THERE'S NO NEED TO BRING CIRCUMCISION INTO THIS!
posted by languagehat at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, liberals are those people who have an average annual income of $71,000, wear Che t-shirts and attend protests on stilts?

This is some insightful stuff!
posted by bonecrusher at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


At long last, someone is willing to stand up against the left and mock them with a series of unsupported assumptions! May a thousand flowers bloom from this, may a hundred million right wing blogs form simply to gleefully link to the article! Finally someone has the guts to parade every simpering, nancying, mincing, twittering, latte drinking stereotype of liberals in an exercise in pure dimissiveness, so that this country can get back its God given destiny of being beer swilling bullies who don't know the specific date that 9/11 occurred, don't know the religion of the attackers, but know we're doing good work in Iraq.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gratuitous, corresponding media-filter:

Adam Curtis' latest, 'The Trap:What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom'.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
The central thesis here is that the central premise of 'Freedom' has been abstracted and co-opted by the corpo-tocracy – in Curtis' specific study, Britain's Conservative Party after a percieved failure of the (Liberal, Labor-dominatd) Public Service-class.

The Right single-handedly decided that the 'Public Good' was a myth and replaced many of those public servants with members of the Contractor-class that we see running rampant in DC these days under the (misguided) conviction that self-interested employees will do a better job than New Deal-type public servants.

IMHO, liberalism failed when the Public Servants were laid-off – in the US, when Carter got sandbagged by an Oil crisis and runaway stagflation. I'm not sure how it went down in the UK.

(Perhaps this needed to be a new FPP – not sure, I'm still processing the movie's contents...)
posted by vhsiv at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


This stream of comments is the problem with American democracy today: Full of high school bullshit. You all are too concerned with how cool it is to be associated with a certain group without thinking anything about policies or what's best for the country. Good job.

For what it's worth I'm proud to be a liberal. Most of the negative connotations associated with the term these days are the work of Republicans who want to neuter the competition and keep idiots from realizing they're being screwed. "Well, I like social security, dislike this war, I want affordable schools and health care but can't stand those dirty fucking hippies so I'll be cool and be a libertarian". And how many of you who have this conception of dirty, hippy liberals have actually been involved in grassroots liberal activism? Because in the last five years of my involvement in politics I've rarely seen anyone who even comes close to these stereotypes. But yeah, keep letting the media convince you that it's only important who you'd like to get a beer with and what kind of clothes the candidates wear.

done ranting
posted by slapshot57 at 9:13 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


And how many of you who have this conception of dirty, hippy liberals have actually been involved in grassroots liberal activism?

I've protested. I've done labor organizing and been involved in other stuff. and FWIW, it's not the 'dirty, hippies' who bother me. Hell, I like them. It's the prissy, fire-breathing, I-know-what's-best-for-you ideologues who get to me. and they are legion.
posted by jonmc at 9:17 AM on June 14, 2007


I think it was Jessie Jackson who said, "In America you have the freedom to choose between Coke and Pepsi." (I prefer Coke)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:17 AM on June 14, 2007


jesus christ that's a long article.
..sorry.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2007


I've protested. I've done labor organizing and been involved in other stuff. and FWIW, it's not the 'dirty, hippies' who bother me. Hell, I like them. It's the prissy, fire-breathing, I-know-what's-best-for-you ideologues who get to me. and they are legion

...so you're saying you're not a people person? Cause that behaviour is not limited to a certain political spectrum
posted by slapshot57 at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2007


This piece seems nothing more than an overly longattempt to frame liberalism in a negative light even more than it already is. If you try to define liberalism as exactly the silly/stupid/bad things done or supported by some people who call themselves liberal, then yes it will seem that liberalism needs change. The left really needs to do a better job of taking control of the framing of political issues.
posted by vegetableagony at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


...so you're saying you're not a people person? Cause that behaviour is not limited to a certain political spectrum

I'm the world's biggest people person. and I know it isn't. There's right-wing humorless bores and prisses, and likeable, non-judgemental lefties, too. I'm just saying that when we kep the type of people I describe from taking center stage, we do a lot better, since we seem to agree that those type of people are insufferable.
posted by jonmc at 9:27 AM on June 14, 2007


I !@#Q$%$ hate Adbusters. Hypocritical, anti-Semitic, and advocates violence against women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I !@#Q$%$ hate Adbusters. Hypocritical, anti-Semitic, and advocates violence against women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on June 14, 2007


Arg. Hope me.

Adbusters advocates violence against women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 AM on June 14, 2007


The one who wrote 'Uneasy Rider' and 'Trudy.'

Amen, brother. You know what's wrong with American Liberalism these days? What's wrong with it is that while passing a "US out of the UN" sign I could quote:
"I'm a faithful follower of Brother John Birch
And I belong to the Antioch Baptist Church.
And I ain't even got a garage, you can call home and ask my wife!"
and get nothing but a blank stare from my friend next to me. Sad, sad.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:33 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


he's talking about *you*

Pretty close. He's talking to you as well. Hopefully you'll listen and pay attention instead of being all hot-and-bothered about something that initially upsets your delicate sensibilities.

The point the author of this article is trying to make is that the American left has a tragically misdirected sense of righteousness. Those who identify themselves as liberal are rather affluent and educated compared to the rest of the country. These are perhaps the cleverest and most enthusiastic group of people we have, but they somehow remain more or less irrelevant to the country as a whole.

Why? Maybe they're wasting all their time on their blog raving about the latest scandal the administration has gotten away with, or arguing on MetaFilter, posting new cat pictures. Maybe they feel that they are contributing to society by trying to push unpopular candidates (whether it be Ron Paul or Sanjaya) on a skeptical public, grumbling about the travesty of said ineffectual campaign, but still slapping themselves on the back for making ripples in the pond.

In essence, the author accuses the modern American liberal as treating their political view in a similar fashion to their taste in music - like it's a lifestyle choice rather than an intrinsic set of values. I accuse them of this as well. Liberalism should embody the idea that the people come before all else. Right now, the people don't buy it. They see liberals as elitists, who look down their nose on the poor, the uneducated, the less fortunate. That's why they vote republican.

I'm really looking forward to curling some toes with this comment. It's kind of an experiment...
posted by tjvis at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


as usual everyone around here nitpicks instead of walking away with the message that's intended.

The message that's intended? An infantile stereotype that could have been written by Bill O'Reilly (though your "MetaNazi's" [sic]*) gem owed more to Limbaugh, I think. Given the haste with which it's got people running away from the word "liberal" here, there's something to be said for the lily-livered epithet, I'll certainly grant that.

* Oh noes he said [sic]! He's a educated libberel elete who hats our freedoms!!!
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2007


and get nothing but a blank stare from my friend next to me. Sad, sad.

But could s/he identify a portabello mushroom?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:46 AM on June 14, 2007


I think you can be left and not be a moral relativist.

Liberal/Libertarian/Socialist/Left are not interchangeable, folks. America was very much designed to be, a liberal country. The Constitution is a liberal document. The Bill of Rights is a liberal document. They are designed to extend rights and privileges and obligations to all.

Conservatism, as practiced for at least the last 150 years, has endeavored to consolidate power and privilege for the few. Very unAmerican in my book.

And it is not moral relativism to say everyone should be free, or able to marry, or allowed to speak, or have access to public services. It is moral relativism to say that certain groups can do things that other groups can't for no other reason than they have a different viewpoint. Conservatives are much more morally relativist than liberals.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:46 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


What Pope Guilty said. Taibi seems to be accusing the liberal elite of being bad leftists, when, in fact, they are not leftists and would pale at the suggestion they were.

Hedge fund guys writing $4,600 checks to Barack Obama strongly believe in capitalism and free trade, and in the right of smart people like themselves to get rich off it. They mostly believe in an aggressive foreign policy, strong support for Israel, and the immaculate zoning and policing of their suburban homes and school districts (or well-secured apartment buildings and private schools, as the case may be).

As long as institutional liberalism feels the same way, or at least agrees not to interfere, than the hedge fund guys can vent their displeasure with the religious and cultural orientation of the Bush administration, with its incompetence in Iraq, or its lack of interest in climate change, and indulge their pity (and tolerance for slight tax increases) for the less fortunate with welfare, public housing, and other things that make them feel good without costing much money.

But the second that institutional liberalism actually comes into conflict with capitalism, the sentimental attachment will be gone in an instant, and the rush to Republicans would be deafening. There's a word for Barack Obama without a tall stack of $4,600 contributions from hedge fund guys: "Dennis Kucinich."
posted by MattD at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


"It's the prissy, fire-breathing, I-know-what's-best-for-you ideologues who get to me. and they are legion."

Seems a bit out of place as a criticism of the left. I know it's a common one though. The right certainly has more of an "I'll tell you how things are.... We need to hold the line... Standards!" component to their rhetoric. I think the reason why this dogmatic character of the left sticks out for so many is that what the right stands for is up front and known. It is present to the point where it is tuned out. On the other hand, the left comes out with a welcoming tolerance and then that gets tuned out. Once the loving acceptance is over, there are all these views they want someone to buy into, and this back door approach is met with surprise and dismissal.

*-*-*-*-*

slapshot57,

You have it exactly backwards.

We don't become libertarians to avoid dirty hippies. I like dirty hippies and I think the cultural tastes of the left are superior. My social circles have been largely made up of people with strong positions on the left. Libertarians take their position because they don't like social security, national health care and public schools.

*-*-*-*-*

Benny Andajetz,

The constitution may be a liberal document by an archaic usage of the word, but it is certainly not liberal the way that word is used today. The Constitution is very much about limiting federal government and preserving the rights of the states. It is through largely liberal decisions in the SCOTUS, like Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade, that the character of the Constitution has flipped.
posted by BigSky at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2007


But could s/he identify a portabello mushroom?

Probably. If it wasn't singing Charlie Daniels.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2007


There's a word for Barack Obama without a tall stack of $4,600 contributions from hedge fund guys: "Dennis Kucinich."

There's also a word for Barack Obama without the amazing amount of popular support he's received everywhere he's gone: "George W. Bush." But I'm sure I don't need to tell you that.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:58 AM on June 14, 2007


The constitution may be a liberal document by an archaic usage of the word, but it is certainly not liberal the way that word is used today.

I think you are projecting your concept of "liberal" here. The Bill of Rights is liberal in every meaning of the word. The Constitution certainly tries to balance federal/state power, but it is primarily trying to curtail governmental power in general.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:00 AM on June 14, 2007


...whenever I've gone to a protest or any other gathering of left-wing activists, I feel like I'm crashing a party full of people who I wouldn't like and wouldn't like me, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way. (and FWIW, I generally don't feel all that comfortable around right-wingers either, and just to be clear I'm talking about people who seem to devote their every molecule to 'the Cause' not just people with opinions.)

jonmc is apparently my spiritual kin, at least in this regard.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2007


The right certainly has more of an "I'll tell you how things are.... We need to hold the line... Standards!" component to their rhetoric.

As someone who feels alienated from both parties, I'd say it's a dead heat.

I think the cultural tastes of the left are superior.

This si where I always lose the train. My cultural tastes are not exactly right wing, but they're out of step with the rest of the left. I like pro sports. I like domestic beer. I like old classic rock. I hate NPR and David Cross. So a lot of the time, leftists view me as the enemy based on that kind of cultural bullshit, which should be irrelevant.
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2007


Taibbi sure knows how to troll.
posted by dhartung at 10:07 AM on June 14, 2007


(of course, it's also fun to offer myself up to right-wingers as a liberal who defies the stereotype)
posted by jonmc at 10:07 AM on June 14, 2007


(They) strongly believe in capitalism and free trade, and in the right of smart people like themselves to get rich off it. They mostly believe in an aggressive foreign policy, strong support for Israel, and the immaculate zoning and policing of their suburban homes and school districts (or well-secured apartment buildings and private schools, as the case may be).

Guilty, and proud of it (although I do not support an aggressive foreign policy, and I am also not American and do not live in the States).

And it must be said I have campaigned for the socialist party here for the last two elections. No more.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 AM on June 14, 2007


Big Sky

We don't become libertarians to avoid dirty hippies. I like dirty hippies and I think the cultural tastes of the left are superior. My social circles have been largely made up of people with strong positions on the left. Libertarians take their position because they don't like social security, national health care and public schools paying taxes for shit they're not using at the moment.

fixed that for you. Every libertarian I know from my high school/college friends is a 20 something finance/business guy who wants to be able to keep doing drugs/get their girlfriend an abortion but doesn't see why the government keeps taking their money for shit they're not using. Despite the fact that they went to public schools and will gladly collect social security when the time comes. Basically they're young, self centered people with money, which is my opinion of most libertarians.
posted by slapshot57 at 10:16 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


"The Constitution certainly tries to balance federal/state power, but it is primarily trying to curtail governmental power in general."

Even with this view of the Constitution, how is it liberal? How are centralized government programs like these, social security, public education, welfare, possible increased involvement in health care, wealth redistribution through income tax - both liberal (small government conservatives despise them all), and constitutional in the sense of limiting government's power?

I don't know why you think I'm projecting but I can't see how the Constitution can be considered favorable to the liberal agenda, especially when that agenda involves spending the citizens' money. As far as I can tell the Constitution is liberal in the sense of classical liberalism with its emphasis on property rights, free markets and limited government, all of which are seen more among conservatives than liberals. The social conservatives of course put less emphasis on these principles and seem quite happy with big government. But I don't see any faction on the left that identifies with classical liberalism.
posted by BigSky at 10:24 AM on June 14, 2007


The author lost me at the mention of "genital warts" in the third paragraph.
posted by ilsa at 10:25 AM on June 14, 2007


working people are getting fucked over in this country and no one's really standing up and saying anything about it in a way they find believable

the current crop of candidates have little to say to them that sounds sincere

there is a gaping vacuum in our political system ... all that is needed is someone to fill it

hope to god it's a roosevelt and not a hilter
posted by pyramid termite at 10:26 AM on June 14, 2007


Libertarianism wouldn't be any more justifiable if the Constitution supported it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2007


The tone of the article is over the top, but dammit if the substance is not accurate. I hope a lot of ears are burning round here :)
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shhh!! We've replaced these diners' regular Matt Taibbi with Karl Rove crystals...let's see if anyone will notice...
posted by briank at 10:41 AM on June 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


i don't think Taibbi does sincere very well...
posted by geos at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2007


"Libertarianism wouldn't be any more justifiable if the Constitution supported it."

That's a stunner. Why not? Is there some cosmic scale of right and wrong that has returned judgment on the matter. Please, share what you know.

For some of us, what the Constitution declares does make a difference. Granted, it's not the most pragmatic attitude to take when you want policy implemented, since making an amendment takes a long time. Still, it's what we agreed, it is the acknowledged common framework.
posted by BigSky at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2007


Brilliant article!

(And most of the country is conservative, it's just that half the people that actually vote are liberal; otherwise there would never be a liberal president)
posted by tadellin at 10:56 AM on June 14, 2007


But I don't see any faction on the left that identifies with classical liberalism

We georgists / geolibertarians / LVTers do.

As for socialism not being Consitutional, that's correct as far as it goes, except that the States are certainly free to go this route, and once the States do this the Commerce Clause gains power in this area.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:56 AM on June 14, 2007


Big Sky:

I take it you are a "small-government" conservative, no?

I would argue that the size of the government is more or less irrelevant. Our system of government requires that the government is accountable to the people. They act at our behest and in our interest. Free elections, divided government, and mechanisms for altering processes were provided in our founding documents. This is why the US is generally considered the first and largest experiment in enlightened liberalism and self-government.

So, our government is accountable to the electorate, and is also specifically charged with "promoting the general welfare". To state flat out, as most small-government conservatives do, that social programs are not within the purview of the federal government is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, a willful lie.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:02 AM on June 14, 2007


HEY AMERICA!

It doesn't fucking matter... you get to choose between Corporate War-Party Red or Corporate War-Party Blue. Stop whining and love our democracy.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:07 AM on June 14, 2007


That's a stunner. Why not? Is there some cosmic scale of right and wrong that has returned judgment on the matter. Please, share what you know.

That right and wrong exist is a necessary concept to engage in any such work or theorising. It is simply impossible to engage in politics without it. Even you are acknowledging it- you clearly feel that binding political compacts make other compacts justifiable- whether you possess the ability to recognise it or not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on June 14, 2007


Remember, true marxism is post-capitalism, not an "alternative" to capitalism.

Why can't liberals (and conservatives for that matter) define themselves as something other than "Whatever the other guy is doing, I hate it!". There is room for intelligent debate, and for admitting that your opponent has some good ideas. It's not a battle over evil and virtue, it's a battle over the value of ideas.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:12 AM on June 14, 2007


Man, folk's are handing out the favorites like they're friggin chicklets. I stopped counting at fifty.
posted by Wonderwoman at 11:15 AM on June 14, 2007


Remember, true marxism is post-capitalism, not an "alternative" to capitalism.

Not every anti-capitalist is a Marxist, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:20 AM on June 14, 2007


In essence, the author accuses the modern American liberal as treating their political view in a similar fashion to their taste in music - like it's a lifestyle choice rather than an intrinsic set of values.

If you haven't read Nation of Rebels, you probably should, it'll give you ammunition for your argument.
posted by drezdn at 11:29 AM on June 14, 2007


What I wanna know is how long has the left=liberal, right=conservative misconception been floating around (from all my readings it can't be more than about 20 years old, although maybe the idea that the left tends to be more liberal may be a little older), because it's really confusing things and seriously detracting from the richness and sophistication of political discussion in America.

The subjects of liberalism and leftism in America are two entirely different subjects that should be treated as such. To gloss over the distinction is hurtful to the quality of the conversation to the point that it prevents any meaningful progress, IMO.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:35 AM on June 14, 2007


maybe the idea that the left tends to be more liberal is a little older...

(And as for the subject of the left's tastes, I'll take "lefty" art from artists like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Sr., Woody Guthrie, Thom Yorke, Kurt Vonnegut, and Mark Twain over Toby Keith any day, thanks.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on June 14, 2007


Oh and Willie Nelson, too...
posted by saulgoodman at 11:38 AM on June 14, 2007


BigSky, what is the largest branch of the Federal government? Eliminate the military and you eliminate most of the government. And yet you rarely hear supposedly conservative folk wanting to shut down that money printing machine...a machine which is way more intrusive and dangerous to your average citizen than any of the more celebrated "big government" programs.

I wonder--do any libertarians actually refuse benefits like fire protection or first aid from their governments? Do they prefer private toll roads (and probably no roads out to their rural compounds), no irrigation or electricity from dams (bye bye California and Eastern Washington farming, see ya Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix).

A straight-up interview with Sanders would have been more interesting than the article, actually.
posted by maxwelton at 11:56 AM on June 14, 2007


In a free society, differences of political sentiment result in different political parties. These sentiments resolve themselves naturally into two basic parties: the authoritarian (or monarchist, tory, etc.) that favors government that controls the people, and the democratic (or republican, liberal, etc.) that favors government controlled by the people. The body of the nation chooses a path that is mapped by one or the other of these parties. --Thomas Jefferson

In your face, "we live in a Constitutional Republic not a Democracy" fools.

(Re-Public: Literally "Of" + "the People." Choke on it, hataz.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on June 14, 2007


I saw Loretta Lynn a few years ago, and it's the only concert I've ever been to that I'd describe as right-wing. There was an extended break to talk about bringing prayer back to the schools, ferchrissake.
posted by COBRA! at 11:59 AM on June 14, 2007


Why can't liberals (and conservatives for that matter) define themselves as something other than "Whatever the other guy is doing, I hate it!". There is room for intelligent debate, and for admitting that your opponent has some good ideas. It's not a battle over evil and virtue, it's a battle over the value of ideas.

Ah, if only. I'm in the camp that doesn't self-identify as either group. As a result both "sides" often eye me with contempt for not seeing things in terms of absolutes.

If you're not with us You're agin' us.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:00 PM on June 14, 2007


about bringing prayer back to the schools, ferchrissake.

Loretta Lynn, as a "coal miner's" daughter, was also a champion of union rights, which makes her a lefty. Socially, she's conservative, politically she's a leftist. See how much more nuanced that is?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


"To state flat out, as most small-government conservatives do, that social programs are not within the purview of the federal government is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, a willful lie."

Please. Being intentionally offensive does not cover up the weakness of your argument.

"General welfare" is a very ambiguous term. If you are implying that it should, or even can, mean taking money or property from one and handing it to another because that is the current notion of the herd then I think your view of the Constitution is contradictory. The Founding Fathers threw out their British governors because they felt their rights were being infringed upon. A much more likely interpretation of "general welfare" is maintenance of natural rights. And property rights was a major concern of theirs.

I believe the Constitution states the powers it has are granted by the people. That means if the Constitution does not give the federal government a specific power, then they are prevented from that action until the Constitution is amended to allow them to do so. There is a further declaration that any powers not enumerated are reserved for the states (10th Amendment?).

So where do the federales get the power to legislate on subsidized education loans? or on Social Security? or on welfare?

Perhaps that's what conservatives mean when they say it is not within the purview of the federal government?

No individual has a Constitutional right to education or health care or housing or special consideration for a job because they are a minority. Since it does not grant goods and services as a birthright it is not a liberal document.

------------

"That right and wrong exist is a necessary concept to engage in any such work or theorising."

No doubt. You're the one who claimed that even if it was supported by the Constitution, libertarianism would be wrong. I'm intrigued to know what sense of moral order finds libertarianism such an outrage that it is out of bounds for consideration as a guide when crafting a government. Would New Deal - fascism be wrong if it had been supported by the Constitution?

-----------

maxwelton,

We don't mean large, like population or budget, but large as in exceeding limits. Do we refuse benefits? I should hope not, I certainly don't. Why would I handicap myself below the standard? And it's not that we want no government involvement. First, we want it reduced and to give private enterprise an opportunity. Second, when there is government involvement we prefer that it be local.
posted by BigSky at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2007


Re-Public: Literally "Of" + "the People."

What the hell are you talking about? Republic is from the Latin res publica 'public thing.'
posted by languagehat at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


[French république, from Old French, from Latin rēspūblica : rēs, thing; see rē- in Indo-European roots + pūblica, feminine of pūblicus, of the people; see public.]

You're right--more like "thing of the people."

Shouldn't have been so hamfisted, but the term has still historically been understood in that sense--a constitutional republic is an entity in which leaders are democratically elected and presumably represent the people (as opposed to a monarchy).

I defer to your overwhelming and forceful excellence, languagehat.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2007


(And most of the country is conservative, it's just that half the people that actually vote are liberal; otherwise there would never be a liberal president)
posted by tadellin


Wow... I had what I was going to say all thgough-up in my head, and then... well, tadellin never fails.

/commence shaking rant

Aside from the question of what actually counts as "conservative" in this country anymore, which is a question better left for dozens of other threads, there's the fact that on just about every specific issue, when polled, the American people will come out handily on the progressive side. Most Americans are absolutely progressively-minded, but the right has been very good in the past ten or fifteen years at latching onto the ONE THING that they might differ from the left on, and then convincing them that whatever that is is coming to kill their children. That is conservatism - bullshit artistry dressed up as an ideology. Most Americans are not conservatives, but I've done enough troll-feeding already now, and I'm too well aware of the capacity on the right to just assume whatever you wish to be true as fact and then claim victory without actual debate, so I'll stop now.

/shaking rant over. hopefully.

I think it was, in fact, a great article. If the point was to call attention to problems within the movement, then I don't think there's much point in bitching that he was just focusing on negatives. That was the point. Talking about what we need to fix.

We spend too much energy trying to identify ourselves under the banners of parties, philosophies, campaigns, movements, and so forth - without spending the appropriate amount of time and energy really getting at what we really believe, and working to fix things, and maybe even trying to convince people of our arguments, and listen to theirs, and actually work for change.

For every person helping out at school fundraisers or forming neighborhood watch groups there are ten of us (probably much, much more) sitting in bars and coffeeshops saying what we are rather than what we believe, and what we're doing about it. It's gotten so bad that we brag about voting - the most basic of all civic duties. And those of us who are really making a difference go to rallies. Wow! Get ten thousand people altogether and there for the same purpose, and then preach to the choir! Democracy masturbating! With stilts!

The truth of it is that the "left," which I'm defining as those likely to vote democratic, is huge. A vast, diverse landscape where no two people agree. It's big enough to include both Frank Zappa and Tipper Gore, Matt Taibbi and Molly Ivins, Jimmy Carter and Marilyn Manson, Green Day and Barbara Streisand, Ben & Jerry and the whole vegan movement. Any attempt to group ourselves as a cohesive whole is folly - what Kurt Vonnegut called a Granfaloon. Instead, we define what we, ourselves, believe, and then work locally to bring about the changes we find the most important.

If the neo-cons managed to scare half the country away from their actual beliefs, their undoing is happening in their attempt to homogenize. The vision of the new right is rural or suburban, Christian, and overwhelmingly white. It also helps if you've never spoken to a gay person long enough to know that they don't have cooties. As more and more of the "scared" realize that they don't exactly fit the mold - i.e. that the conservatives are preaching hate against them as well - they'll come back to that inclusion that can be so troubling for our party, but which in the end is it's most defining characteristic.

We don't need to work on our image, or at least we don't need to focus on it. As for the labels and who's-in-our-group and all that - fuck it. Let the right kill itself by deciding which parts of America are genuinely American and which they just don't like. We're better than that. Just do something, and stop worrying about whether you're a leftist/socialist/democrat/green/libertarian/civil-libertrian/ what have you. It's honestly the least important part of our democratic life. Leave it for the other side to worry about. We've got work to do.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:13 PM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Loretta Lynn, as a "coal miner's" daughter, was also a champion of union rights, which makes her a lefty. Socially, she's conservative, politically she's a leftist. See how much more nuanced that is?
posted by saulgoodman


Not to derail too much, but that exact level of nuance is a perfect example of why trying to stuff artists into political boxes is generally fruitless. And I'd say the same thing about people general, making Taibbi's article pretty useless, too.
posted by COBRA! at 12:26 PM on June 14, 2007


"General welfare" is a very ambiguous term. If you are implying that it should, or even can, mean taking money or property from one and handing it to another because that is the current notion of the herd then I think your view of the Constitution is contradictory.

Well, federal income taxation is the result of a Constitutional amendment.

The Founding Fathers threw out their British governors because they felt their rights were being infringed upon.

That's only part of the story. They were upset that they had no way to complain, and that the grievances they did file went ignored. In other words, the British government was not accountable to it's citizens. Benjamin Franklin, for example, fought hard for the country to remain British subjects until he was rebuffed in person while trying to relay our grievances in England.

So where do the federales get the power to legislate on subsidized education loans? or on Social Security? or on welfare?

Don't get me wrong, Big Sky. You and I may be at philosophical odds, but I think your questions regarding federal mandates and legislative "laws" are legitimate. The government today can basically do whatever it wants as long as the masses don't become mad enough to hit the streets. There are too many "end runs" on the prescribed system.

OTOH, societal problems need to be dealt with: working conditions, food safety, public infrastructure, etc. The money has to come from somewhere. To insist that it come from people who have benefitted from a system that made their wealth (large or small) possible, is not unreasonable.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2007


"General welfare" is a very ambiguous term. If you are implying that it should, or even can, mean taking money or property from one and handing it to another because that is the current notion of the herd then I think your view of the Constitution is contradictory.

Well, federal income taxation is the result of a Constitutional amendment.

The Founding Fathers threw out their British governors because they felt their rights were being infringed upon.

That's only part of the story. They were upset that they had no way to complain, and that the grievances they did file went ignored. In other words, the British government was not accountable to it's citizens. Benjamin Franklin, for example, fought hard for the country to remain British subjects until he was rebuffed in person while trying to relay our grievances in England.

So where do the federales get the power to legislate on subsidized education loans? or on Social Security? or on welfare?

Don't get me wrong, Big Sky. You and I may be at philosophical odds, but I think your questions regarding federal mandates and legislative "laws" are legitimate. The government today can basically do whatever it wants as long as the masses don't become mad enough to hit the streets. There are too many "end runs" on the prescribed system.

OTOH, societal problems need to be dealt with: working conditions, food safety, public infrastructure, etc. The money has to come from somewhere. To insist that it come from people who have benefitted from a system that made their wealth (large or small) possible, is not unreasonable.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2007


COBRA!--I agree. But particularly on the point about the article, now that I've actually read the damn thing. IMO, our problem is we paint political ideas with overly-broad brush strokes, due to ignorance and ahistoricism, and the result is confusion and counter-productive partisanship.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2007


I was hoping tadellin would find this thread! The minute I saw this post, I just knew his Hannity-Sense was tingling.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


*bumps fists respectfully with saulgoodman*
posted by COBRA! at 12:51 PM on June 14, 2007


"OTOH, societal problems need to be dealt with: working conditions, food safety, public infrastructure, etc. The money has to come from somewhere. To insist that it come from people who have benefitted from a system that made their wealth (large or small) possible, is not unreasonable."

I don't argue with this at all. I also don't want to seem more of an extremist than I am. My positions are not way out on the fringe, well, at least not from my perspective. A lot of what I'm writing is more about wishing there was a better match up between what we proclaim and what we do.

For example, I'm not an attorney but my understanding is that Roe vs. Wade really shouldn't be a federal issue. Instead it should be decided at the state level.

I think when the expediency is the main concern and pragmatic considerations run right past the established procedures it distances government from the people. Breeding apathy and disinterest is not a good thing in a democracy. At this point, getting everything in line would be a tremendous amount of work and I don't think it's worth the pain. But it would be better for all of us if the powers of the federal government were reflected in Amendments (no matter how excessive I might think they are) and had not been exercised until that point.

The story of the frog in the slowly warmed pot of water comes to mind. I wouldn't be surprised if within a couple of decades we accept the digital recording of every financial transaction and the abolition of cash.

-----------

Heywood Mogroot,

OMG!

I just saw your comment.

Another geolibertarian. I don't see the word thrown around very often. There's so few of us I think more about the right wing because there are a few there who share some of my views. One of the most amusing things about Libertarian politics is the constant splintering. It's like we're the mainstream where a group separates so their specific voice gets more acknowledgment. But with us there's no one listening.

Despite my comments about property rights, I think Henry George has it right. But talk about the path going uphill. That's a hell of a sales job to the public at large. Perhaps environmental concerns will push us in that direction.
posted by BigSky at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2007


Cause that behaviour is not limited to a certain political spectrum

OK, but the left wingers take the prize for Most Annoying Protest Chants. Can we all agree on that? What do we want? A new chant! When do we want it? Now!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:39 PM on June 14, 2007


Where are your true liberals, your socialists, your green party?

Right here, dude. We nominated Leonard Peltier as our presidential candidate in 2004. Great thinking!

Oh, and here. Check out all those 2007 candidates!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:41 PM on June 14, 2007


The real problem is that he never defines "liberals" as anything beyond a list of things he complains about. I would imagine that someone who exhibited all the traits he bitches about would be pretty annoying, but what exactly would the point of that article be?
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2007


my understanding is that Roe vs. Wade really shouldn't be a federal issue. Instead it should be decided at the state level

my basic perspective on big-F Federalism is that states are free to disestablish themselves but not free to infringe on personal common law liberties, many of which have been explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution. I respect the right-to-life angle of saving a potential/actual life, but not the "defending-human dignity" and other claptrap, so I tend to see state-level abortion restrictions infringing on the common-law right to be let alone.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2007


I tend to think liberals are just fine in this country. Same with conservatives. You know who the real fuck ups are? The media.
posted by effwerd at 2:49 PM on June 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


As others have pointed out upthread, the words "liberal" and "conservative" are framing devices. Both have strong positive definitions that we are told to apply to ourselves, and strong negative definitions that we are told to apply to our opponents. "Left" and "right" are similar in that regard.

Whenever and wherever possible, avoid using these. I suggest that instead, political morality comes down to the answers to a few questions. One of the more important is: Is it morally justifiable for some people to starve in squalor while other people idle in luxury? Another is: Ought it be permissible for elected representatives to gain election and/or govern by deception?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:11 PM on June 14, 2007


Is it morally justifiable for some people to starve in squalor while other people idle in luxury

I see the questions a bit more subtle -- and fundamental -- than that, since in the general case there is more than sufficient opportunity for anyone starving in this country to gain sufficient employment to work themselves out of that condition.

There are twin moral hazards lurking in your philosophy; one of the freeloader problem and the convenience (to you) of robbing industrious Peter to pay off lazy Paul.

I am no Randroid so I do not share faith that the Free Market Fairy can bring us a superior social order, but I would like to start from first principles that a person has a right to his life, liberty, and property, and that these rights can only be severable upon due process.

I do think this nation is turning into rentiers (of various stripes -- the Degreed enjoying their Gated Professions, the wanna-be real estate barons) and the helpless/hopeless who lack sufficient earning power to make ends meet in this modern & costly world.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2007


robbing industrious Peter to pay off lazy Paul.

What utter rot. If you think those receiving services are lazy, you're way too uninformed to even be talking about the problem.

Everyone benefits from social services. The working class benefits from a higher standard of living and the capitalist class benefits from both healthier, more capable workers and the insulation that liberal social programs provide against working-class unrest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:52 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


“For what it's worth I'm proud to be a liberal. Most of the negative connotations associated with the term these days are the work of Republicans who want to neuter the competition and keep idiots from realizing they're being screwed.”

I could say the same about being conservative.

Which seems to be what this article boils down to - liberals share the problem of branding that conservatives have (not necessarially the specifics of the problem, but the fact there is a problem).

I get along pretty well with liberals (philosophical liberals, not the common use social term) except for a few key issues. I’ve always thought gun control f’rinstance was an odd position for a liberal to take (given the individal rights emphasis).

But it seems to me the real dichotomies are authoritarian/anti-authoritarian and radical/preservative.
I’m fairly anti-authoritarian, but into preservation and radicalism (rapid change) bothers the hell out of me.
(Reminds me of seeing Ron Paul on the Colbert show talking about eliminating a slew of institutions - that might be great or it might suck, but those kinds of massive changes need to happen slowly - so much emphasis on “what” today - so little on “how”)

The right has adopted more and more radical positions and has undercut a number of long standing and fairly stable traditions.
The left meanwhile seems stymied by this. I suspect because they think of themselves as the ones who make the changes while the stodgy right is supposed to be trying to keep things the same or turn back the clock. Hence the “progressive” branding.
But in terms of philosophy and political ethos? Or protecting people from unforseen and unintended consequences of rapid change? Or preserving predictability within government institutions through tradition?

I don’t think that’s been a real part of the spectrum of political thought in the U.S. for a while. As I said, I get along with liberal folks who actually have reasoned positions derived from actual liberal philosophy - same as with conservatives. They’re damn hard to find though. For the most part people who label themselves one or the other are bound up with whatever are the social or political issues of the day, rather than the principles by which government and society should be run - whether based on tradition or reason - much less adapting their position to practical realities and necessities through experiance.

Far as I can tell the so-called bearers of those standards are shouting for rapid change to their respective positions regardless of what it does to anyone else.
Seems like they’re just masks on that level, with no real substance behind them.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you think those receiving services are lazy, you're way too uninformed to even be talking about the problem

I said it was a moral hazard. cf. Europe, eg. the recent Belgian election.

My above is talking about First Principles. As a left(ish) libertarian I would like to think a geolibertarian regime is necessary and perhaps sufficient to establish a sufficiently just society, but the lefty part of me suspects democratic government is still necessary to move raw Free Marketeerism from its path-dependency and more toward global and not local maxima.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:13 PM on June 14, 2007


I’ve always thought gun control f’rinstance was an odd position for a liberal

20th century liberalism is appealing to governmental Powers to rebalance individual liberties where they are contentious, especially where externalities are concerned.

I think it's similar to the balance between your right to smoke in a bar and my putative right not to suffer in your polluted air.

Gun control itself was a response to social issues that came to a head in the late 1960s, plus the rise of violent drug crime in the 70s and 80s.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:23 PM on June 14, 2007


The word "liberal" makes you cringe because you have been bamboozled.

Decades of right wing radio and TV pundits turned it into a dirty word.

Thank corporate media for that one.
posted by wfc123 at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2007


The word "liberal" makes you cringe because you have been bamboozled.

For decades you heard the loud-mouthed right wing radio and TV propagandists turn it into a dirty word.

Thank Bob Pittman for that one.

Yup, Bob Pittman.

He created the Morton Downey phenomenon and later consulted a young, former liberal, failing DJ Rush Limbaugh to do a conservative talk show.
posted by wfc123 at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2007


This makes me so mad I just want to scream.

Conservatives can be so, so, so much more *decisive* and *accomplish* so much more because they don't pay any fucking attention to laws, morality, planning, honesty or the facts.

To children, adults will always seem "indecisive"; adults see a nuanced view which a child could never understand.

*** Just the fact that the conservatives are incompetent, lying, violent motherfuckers who have killed hundreds of thousands, raped the treasury and shit all over the Constitution should immediately eliminate them from any voice in the country's future. This is much, much, much worse than any "weakness" shown by liberals.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:43 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


(btw, by "conservative" I mean "the Republicans" -- to avoid any arguments there)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:44 PM on June 14, 2007


much worse than any "weakness" shown by liberals

after the trillion or so we're going to end up throwing down the Operation Iraqi Freedom rathole, Republicans who were actively for this misadventure had better STFU about any Federal spending initiatives not within a zero or two of that water mark.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:46 PM on June 14, 2007


I think Saul Goodman has it right -- these artificial, meaningless distinctions "seriously (detract) from the richness and sophistication of political discussion in America."

In essence, the parties themselves (and the labels they wield as weapons against each other) serve as shortcuts to civic intelligence among the voting citizenry.

Our system of government rests upon representative democracy precisely because no one has time to learn and appreciate the complexities of polciy in whole -- trade policy (and the pre-requisite economic theories driving decisions), the effectiveness of changes to tax code, nuances of foreign policy and what have you.

Political parties take this "shortcut" of representative democracy a step further, by aligning votes on the basis of a branded ideology. Not only does a voter need to appreciate the nuances of policy (we can hire wonks to learn that, split them amongst the various committees and advisory boards, and govern appropriately) -- the voter no longer needs to familiarize themselves with issues much at all. Why, if you believe government is the problem, vote R. If you believe that government can solve problems, vote D, and so on. Your party will take care of the rest.

The reduction to labeling, and by extension, defining one's opponents as liberal or conservative -- dumbs down the discussion further still. Said appropriately (with a sneer), partisans can demonize entire swaths of the population with nary as much as a single issue being examined...it is now a question of character assassination consisting of a cantation of nebulous terms with flexible meanings. The shortcuts are even further still reduced to market-tested buzzwords -- from "limousine liberal" to "cheap labor conservative".

Now devoid of policy knowledge, and relieved of the burden of understanding basic issues, one can turn the inherent shortcuts of representative democracy into a cudgel with which to beat their opponents (and steal away with all the power and money). In one generation we've seen this -- the rise (and success) of hyper media inflated wedge politics, and scripted divisiveness. It is no substitute for good governance.

Anecdotally and just for the sake of pointing out the futility of labels, I'll post some of my own positions. Like most others in this thread (and as Smedleyman said) I think it's fair to say that no individual falls strictly on party or ideologically driven lines.

For me it's all about pragmatism -- what works?

I'm interested in good policy, and I actually have an interest in wonkish things that bore others to tears. I joined a political party simply to have a say in who wins primaries -- not as a shortcut to deciding issues for myself, but as a way to influence the discussion and lead the party closest to my ideals towards the direction I believe the country needs to go. I support a national single payer health care plan on capitalistic grounds (the current system is an inefficient waste of money that leads to much avoidable suffering). For that matter, I'm a capitalist and think it's the foundation for the social mobiliy we've historically enjoyed. I'm a also strong supporter of second amendment rights and the ACLU. I'm pro-choice but my own choice would be "no". I don't like the idea of affirmative action (I support the meritorious), but must recognize the disparities in opportunity over time, and recognizing how these shortfalls compound I wonder what would be a better solution. I am unabashedly in support of gay marriage and against the death penalty. I'm deeply religious, but without affiliation to any church.

What does that make me?

Simply put (and I mean "simple" as in dumb) -- if I'm opposed to George Bush's policies -- I'm a liberal. That's what Bush supporters (the 28% of them remaining, anyway) would say. (That, and plus I use big words.) But I don't support deficit spending, or pre-emptively invading the wrong country, and I do think our innovation and prosperity as a nation begins with strong emphasis on science and civics -- which used to make me conservative.

As labeling goes -- the Bush administration cannot be described as conservative...they can only be described in historical context as "radical". That one I can say with certainty. And that their remaining supporters are not conservative either, though they think they are...what they really are can only be described as "gullible". None of these labels are ideological in nature.

I figure anyone who actually takes time to craft a coherent, empirical political philosophy defies categorization -- which is what makes Matt Taibbi's piece such pablum.
posted by edverb at 9:19 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


what they really are can only be described as "gullible"

too facile. If I were a Bush supporter it would be for anti-Kerry, anti-patchouli prompting.

'Heroes-in-Error', better-be-wrong-for-the-right-reasons, and all that.

At least things would be fucked up the way I wanted it, not like those idiotic mistakes like trying to save checkered owls and big-bureaucracy and nanny-state coddlying of all our victim-industry minorities, which those goddamn Dems always do.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:34 PM on June 14, 2007


empirical political philosophy defies categorization

left-lib works for me, btw.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:55 PM on June 14, 2007


I think edverb is right about Saul Goodman being right. (et.al)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:52 AM on June 15, 2007


I’ve always thought gun control f’rinstance was an odd position for a liberal to take (given the individal rights emphasis).

I think it has something to do with the line of thought that my right to live (the most fundamental right) trumps your right to own devices, the only purpose of which is to injure or kill.
posted by oaf at 10:03 AM on June 15, 2007


(btw, by "conservative" I mean "the Republicans" -- to avoid any arguments there)

Notwithstanding the fact that Republicans aren't conservative...
posted by oaf at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2007


I !@#Q$%$ hate Adbusters. Hypocritical, anti-Semitic, and advocates violence against women.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on June 14

bwahahahah! oh, wait. are you serious?
do you not see the irony? that it's that kind of overwrought, knee-jerk mentality that's at the core of the lefts inability to be in the least bit cohesive.
posted by mikoroshi at 6:45 PM on June 15, 2007


Yeah, we should totally tolerate hypocrisy, anti-semitism, and misogyny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on June 15, 2007


AdBusters is antisemtic? WTF?

Wait a second... is this an Israel thing?
posted by Artw at 9:00 PM on June 15, 2007


it's that kind of overwrought, knee-jerk mentality that's at the core of the lefts inability to be in the least bit cohesive.

That's a crock. As if AdBusters could ever be disciplined enough to be part of any concerted political movement, right or left. The culture jam crew is just as likely to eat its own young as it is to attack its detractors. If they have any message it all, it seems to be: "you! what you're doing is wrong, stop it or we will crush you with the might of our snark and the heft of our righteous indignation.".
posted by psmealey at 6:52 AM on June 16, 2007


Yeah, we should totally tolerate hypocrisy, anti-semitism, and misogyny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on June 15

you find some actual examples, and we'll all fail to tolerate them.
posted by mikoroshi at 10:04 AM on June 16, 2007


Mikoroshi, here they are, for your reference.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2007


Am I missing something?
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on June 16, 2007


KokuRyu, I saw those links this first time, I just fail to see the indigaties in them that you do.
posted by mikoroshi at 2:26 PM on June 18, 2007


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