I continue to be impressed with Nate Silver, and not just because of his number-crunching skills. His post on the “two progressivisms” speaks to why some progressives find other progressives annoying. Go take a look.
Of the two types I’m clearly more rational than radical. I’m not nearly as credulous as I was, um, eight years ago (wonder why?) and I’m also much less of an incrementalist, but I identify more with the rational side.
Rational progressives sometimes regard radical progressives as impractical, self-righteous, shrill, demagogic, naÃ¯ve and/or anti-intellectual. Radical progressives, in turn, regard rational progressives as impure, corrupt (or corruptible), selfish, complacent, elitist, and too quick to compromise.
I don’t think I identify the radicals as anti-intellectual. It’s more the case that they seem to have an emotional need to stay in attack mode. One wonders if events arranged themselves to give them every policy change they wanted, would they still find something to attack? I suspect so.
In my case, my ultimate goal is not so much to enact progressive policies (although that would be nice) as it is to create a nation in which the people received factual information and could have rational, substantive debates about issues. And then if well-informed voters, after a thorough airing of a problem, express a preference for conservative solutions, so be it. I am just damn tired of living in a nation in which it’s a near-impossible task to lift facts over all the bullshit and demagoguery.
I wish–oh, how I really, really wish–there was, at a minimum, a weekly TV program along the lines of non-partisan Fact Check, specifically designed to examine political claims. While I have no desire to see a return of the Fairness Doctrine, as things now stand anyone with a microphone can spew whatever nonsense comes into their heads, and all too often it is taken for Truth with a capital T.
A few things on that last, I’d say radicals consider realists to be naive believing that you can work with certain people. They also are process oriented because they think they’ve seen evidence that focusing on outcomes alone is a mistake. Geithner and Summers for instance are an example where radicals focused on process and were right as Geithner and SUmmers have done their level best to proclaim rightwing economic orthodoxy and freeze out anyone who believes differently.
Also, in terms of ideas, when was the last time the right in the form of elected Republicans had a good one? When was the last time anything republicans touched hasn’t crumbled to dust? What with all the “conservatism has failed!” is that not saying that the battle of ideas is effectively over? When your ideas have won doesn’t become a battle of wills?
Also in terms of empirical and normative, don’t you need normative ideas to know where to conduct empirical experiments? You can’t have one without the other.
Dave Sirota is a tool, but I think there have been demonstrable instances where the screaming of the left has helped. And Nate Silver’s older post about shutting up and letting the experts decide what to do and then getting that done with all our power is completely inexplicable.
…what I find occasionally tiresome is the passionate deathgrip some have on the overpowering need to see all of their initiatives win, lest they take their football and go home. I guess if there is a need to be categorized, that puts me in the “rational” camp. So be it; my life will be somewhat more peaceful than some other’s because I stand a better chance of seeing some of my “lazy”, “less ambitious” dreams come to fruition than many of those others do.
I’m somewhat surprised that the list includes cynicism as a trait of the radical progressive. I tend to credit – if that’s the right word – a deep and abiding cynicism with what apparently is my more “rational” progressive self; I beleive progress will be acheived only when politicians’ self-interest intersects with my interests and I only expect that to happen occasionally in the best of times…
One wonders if events arranged themselves to give them every policy change they wanted, would they still find something to attack? I suspect so. True on both sides of the aisle. It appears that the Repub radicals have control of their party. I think rational progressives have control over ours. I see this as a good thing.
Muldoon said, “…as things now stand anyone with a microphone can spew whatever nonsense comes into their heads, and all too often it is taken for Truth with a capital T.” Anyone with an Internet connection for that matter. I can’t count the number of times someone (frequently my son!) has quoted a bit of nonsense then told me it was on the web or in some forwarded e-mail, and therefore it must be believed. The problem is there’s more disinformation out there than information, and not too very many discriminating minds to pick through it for fact and rational opinion.
…my ultimate goal is not so much to enact progressive policies (although that would be nice) as it is to create a nation in which the people received factual information and could have rational, substantive debates about issues. And then if well-informed voters, after a thorough airing of a problem, express a preference for conservative solutions, so be it
While that’s a laudable and huge goal by itself, I’ve come to disbelieve in the old school liberal idea that “if people only knew the facts they would choose wisely”. Your goal doesn’t express this – you’re happy with allowing people to choose conservative solutions, given a reasonable expression and debate of the facts.
I’ve come to see that progressive policies and goals must be packaged and sold as skillfully as conservative goals are. Face it, conservatives are like a business with an incredibly toxic product but with the best marketing ever (which fortunately has hit a wall with the economic collapse).
And so I’ve come to see, as Drew Westin did, that emotions are every bit as important as factual debate.
I’ve come to see the importance of appealing to people’s higher nature, and to shame them when they don’t. I frankly am a lot more interested in trying to evolve this country and its people into something better.
I don’t think I have ever met a radical progressive. Although, I do not consider myself a progressive. I am too old to be one; I am a bleeding heart liberal and proud of it.
I am definitely a realist, although on some issues I am radical. Civil rights for all is one of my biggies that I am willing to go to the wall for. I guess this is because growing up as a minority in America in the 1950s and 60s, I’ve sometimes had my civil rights violated for no reason other than being a highly visible member of a minority. No crimes ever committed, college-educated, teacher, just a different amount of melanin in my skin.
Longtime lurker here, compelled to break silence by the above – which I think represents a serious misunderstanding of “radicalism”. The root of “radical” means “root”, in politics connoting a concern with deep structures and systematic (re-)definitions.
Obviously, there can be many kinds of radicalism, promoting multiple goals: one can be “radical” in pursuit of leftist, rightist, or all sorts of other agendas.
But any radical vision that meets this definition is more than a shopping list of short-term projects. To transform a society requires a long-term vision and replacement of institutions across the board, something that could never be done in one step even with widespread consensus and negligible opposition. An easily satisfied “radical” is just another liberal
As an intermittent member of one part of “the rad movement” for a few decades, I’ll certainly agree that constant complainers are hardly unknown among us, but have also spotted more than a few in just about every part of the spectrum. Our actual weaknesses are legion (lack of experience in practical management, obsessively narrow foci, scientific ignorance, and the accumulated psychological & organizational effects of losing countless struggles topping my personal list) – but dismissing everything “radical” with a cheap ad hominem slap is below the standards of a usually fine and thoughtful blog.
Pierce — I wasn’t talking about all radicals, just the subset of radical progressives as Nate Silver defined them.
Not to make light of Pierce’s comment..But isn’t it strange how the generated icon seems tailor made for the comment.
I’ve always wondered what you looked like, Swami.
…overactive limbic systems. This affliction is not exclusive to either the right or the left.
Bonnie.. Here’s the real Swami. Have a look into my life.
Valuing rational debate and abiding by the will of the majority are THEMSELVES progressive/liberal ideals, largely by default, as conservatives started abandoning those values when well-informed voters, after a thorough airing of a problem, stopped expressing a preference for conservative solutions.
Radicals are right-brained and rationals/reasoners are left-brained. Since the entire population is divided along those lines, perhaps effecting ‘change’ is best achieved by appealing to both? (A thousand years ago I read that ending the slave trade in England was primarily effected by two men, one on the ‘street’ and one in parliament. They didn’t work together but they worked toward the same end.)
Pure right-brainers are an interesting bunch – like 20 percent of them believe that the sun goes around the earth every 24 hours, or the earth and everything on it was created about 7 thousand years ago and in 7 days, or the guy who said that if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it should be good enough for the rest of us. Rational/reasoners won’t get to first base with that bunch, but radicals just might.
Maha – thanks for the clarification.
Swami – yeah, I was struck by the same thought… but I considered just about any of the icons on display would’ve done as well.
* Wanders off in search of pic of Patty Hearst in her “Tanya (‘smash the fascist insect!’)” stage… *
I’m really happy that someone of Nate’s recent stature is around to lend credence to my long-held position that progressives are divided into two groups: Those who divide progressives into two groups and those who don’t.
I think there’s another category – rational radicals. Most of the people I know in offline life who are interested enough to discuss politics are way to the left. I mean, they’re not insulted by being called Marxist-Leninists. Just don’t get them confused with Trotskyites or Maoists who were in entirely other camps. But after many, many years they too have become divided between the process oriented and outcome oriented. The outcome oriented radicals believe that they’re living in the reality based community and by all means, ask for more, but it’s got to be done by building consensus, not by trashing the best we’ve got, and it has not been lost on them that Obama is head and shoulders above anyone they thought they could hope for just a year or so out.