Scorched Earth Politics

Marcy Wheeler (Firedoglake) and Nate Silver (Five Thirty-Eight) have been having a cross-blog disagreement over the Senate health care reform bill. The links go to their most recent posts in the discussion. Marcy argues that the bill is detrimental to middle-class families, and Nate mostly disagrees. Remarkably, both of them are, as near as I can tell, trying to be honest with data. Even more remarkably, neither one has resorted to character assassination of the other.

This is a rare and wondrous event. Bronze those bytes and save ’em in a museum, I say.

I wrote recently about a strain of Manichaeistic thinking on the Left

This is the view that sorts all Democratic politicians into one of two categories — they are either pure and noble defenders of the righteous liberal cause or blackhearted, corrupt sellouts to the moneyed Powers That Be. And while the default mood of righties is seething resentment, the default mood of lefties may be either annoying self-righteousness or deadening cynicism, or the two combined.

And boy, are we seeing this now, big time. It’s gotten as bad as the Democratic Primary wars between Obama and Clinton supporters. Dispassionate discussion of facts is rare. Disagreements are almost always framed as character issues; people who disagree with My Noble Position are infected with evil. Sellouts, betrayers, dupes, etc.

I think the BooMan has a point here —

The split in the blogosphere is over splintering goals. On one side you have people who now identify the government itself (the insiders) as the corrupt entity regardless of party. On the other side you have people who don’t disagree about the systemic problems but who are looking for best outcomes and a successful presidency.

There is a place for both, but if you are waking each morning to blog about what a bunch of corporate whores the Democrats and the president are, you haven’t really adjusted your style to the new situation in Washington. In fact, you are effectively denying that there is a new situation in Washington. You just brought over what you were doing during the Bush administration and turned your guns on the Obama administration. And, remember, I am talking about motivation here, not discrete posts. I’m talking about themes and focus. Is this first thing you do in the morning to look for ways to talk about how the president has disappointed you? How Congress sucks? Then you aren’t interested in keeping the Republicans out of power any more. You are fighting a different battle. And if you don’t have a plan for how your reinforcement of Republicans memes is going to help lead to better outcomes, you aren’t really a Democrat anymore, and your activism can’t necessarily be considered progressive even if uses progressive terms and angles. That’s fine. No one is compelled to support the Democrats over the Republicans or to support policies they disagree with. But we should call this kind of blogging what it is, which is anti-Obama, and anti-Democratic Party…and anti-government, really.

BooMan is being roasted for writing this. At Firedoglake, Steelydan3 writes,

Here’s a quick short retort: We criticize the president and the party because by completely betraying the base on almost every single issue of import we risk losing the House and the Senate in 2010 to the Republicans. Of course, then Obama can have his prized “bipartisanship”. The first order of the day of course in January 2011 will be stripping the one or two decent things in the health care bill that Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders sold their souls for and to turn the IRS into the gestapo in blue states with shoot to kill orders, but I digress about this horrific yet realistic alternate future.

Betraying the base. Sold their souls. Gestapo. Shoot to kill orders. I rest my case. Further, I say that when we think Bernie Sanders has sold out to the Dark Side, maybe it’s time to take a close look at where we have our own feet planted.

And, frankly, the idea that the way to help Democrats keep the House and Senate is to engage in relentless character assassination of those same Democrats (plus our only socialist, Bernie Sanders) is, um, hallucinatory. On its face.

The fact is, the health care legislation is enormously complex, and there are big chunks of it — the excise tax on expensive policies, for example — over which reasonable, intelligent people have honest disagreements. There are a great many projections of how the several aspects of the bill should work together to reduce cost and make health care more affordable, but like any complex thing we won’t really know how it’s going to work until it’s put into effect. And this would still be true if the bill had a robust public option.

And, one always has to ask, what’s the alternative? Every progressive blogger I’ve seen who supports the Senate bill forthrightly admits that parts of it stink out loud. But it beats the hell out of the alternative, which is the status quo. If there were a reasonable expectation that killing this bill would inspire Congress to cough out a better one next year sometime, then I’d be in favor of killing it, too. But that is not a reasonable expectation, at least in this time-space continuum.

Getting back to BooMan’s point about people not making adjustments — on the other blog yesterday I linked to an article from Tricycle magazine on Buddhist ethics. The author points out that opinions become part of our self-identity. Thus, a disagreement can be perceived as an existential threat. Thus, the opinion must be defended at all costs, and if we run out of reasonable arguments we must counter-attack and destroy the source of the threat — the person who disagrees.

Further, self-righteous anger feels really good. It’s one of the all-time great ego reinforcements. Pema Chodron has written quite a bit on the seductive, intoxicating qualities of anger. This is from an interview with Bill Moyer

I mean, not only has something, evoked a response in me but it’s going to be difficult for me to let go. Anger is like that for sure. Prejudice is like that. Critical mindedness is like that. You don’t want to let go. There’s something delicious about finding fault with something. And that can be including finding fault with one’s self, you know? So that’s what I mean by hooked. You’re sort of it because of the image of a fish and the hook and it has this juicy worm on it and you know the consequences aren’t going to be good. But you cannot resist. And one of the main things we’re addicted to is escalating aggression.

I agree with BooMan that lot of what we’re seeing is a refusal to adjust. That self-righteous anger that built up during the Bush Administration is just too intoxicating, to delicious, to let go. We’re looking at outrage junkies.

BooMan also points to a defense of relentless criticism of the President from Cenk Uygur, who argues that such relentless attacks from the left help President Obama politically. I say it just further poisons our already toxic political culture.

About the biggest reason the nation is so screwed up is that, for many years, we’ve been unable to engage in reasonable, rational, fact-base discussion about anything on a national level. Instead, every “debate,” whether on Iraq or abortion or taxes or health care or whatever, quickly collapses into a free-for-all in which people stop at nothing — including outright lies and death wishes — to defend their positions.

Today, some of the bigger personalities on the leftie blogosphere truly have lost all sense of proportion and decency. Bloggers who had been their comrades in arms through the Bush Administration suddenly are re-cast as Judas for having the temerity to disagree about the merits of a health care bill. This is self-evidently screwy.

Stop the hyperbole. Stop the self-indulgent self-righteousness. Just stop it. Being perpetually angry never helped anyone think more clearly. And even if, say, you score a political victory using these scorched-earth tactics, the ground on which you fought is too scorched to be of further use. This is not a rational way for the citizens of a republic to govern themselves.

60 thoughts on “Scorched Earth Politics

  1. Was looking up a Will Rogers quote:

    I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!

    Found this one instead:

    Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed
    with each other, they would be Republicans.

  2. I think it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are always two sides of the same coin, and that more often than not mortal enemies are often as similar as they are different. Assuming that, it stands to reason that there is a subset of lefty that’s basically equatable to the wingnuts, at least tempermentally. Not all progressives, of course, but I think it’s fair to put Markos and Hamsher in that category by now. These are people who are just better suited to the minority, ranting against the other side, than to the majority, when you actually have to govern. It’s also a subset that bascially requires a victim complex, which, as best I can tell, is why they need to be “sold out.” Otherwise, I just don’t get the anger. There’s plenty of places for legitimate anger; there’s things Obama actually hasn’t done that he could control, and there’s members of the Senate that are blocking progressive policy. But that sort of constructive anger doesn’t really work for the ranters, so instead of giving Ben Nelson hell for blocking Dawn Johnsen’s nomination because she’s pro-choice, they spin odd narratives about how Obama sold her out, never wanted her confirmed, etc. It’s best recognized for what it is, I think, and would serve the larger left well to explicitly marginalize it, at least until they have a point.

  3. mah,
    Besides the one today, it was a post a while back that I want to thank you for. You walked me back from the edge. I see that the actual miracle is that there were 60 votes in the Senate for HCR. It’s a start…

  4. the Conservative right
    is consistently wrong
    if you think I’m mistaken
    you’ve not heard their song

    they lie to the left
    they lie to each other
    they lie to their kids
    and they lie to their mother

    in our halls of Congress
    they kneel down to pray
    what are they beseeching
    something glorious no way

    let’s deny health care
    a Christian thing to do
    if you find this is shocking
    it ain’t nothing new

    the party of NO
    that’s what they’ve become
    their brand of idiocy
    should make people numb

    like metastasizing cancer
    they’ve spread through the land
    if only we could excise it
    but for that we need a Health Plan

  5. “the view that sorts all Democratic politicians into one of two categories — they are either pure and noble defenders of the righteous liberal cause or blackhearted, corrupt sellouts to the moneyed Powers That Be.”

    This is a highly naive view. There is only one category of Democratic politicians, and they all fall into the same category as their Republican counterparts. Suffice it to say, this is not the category of the pure and noble.

    • This is a highly naive view. There is only one category of Democratic politicians, and they all fall into the same category as their Republican counterparts. Suffice it to say, this is not the category of the pure and noble.

      A variation of the same Manichaeistic theme. Reduce everything to a simple black/white, good/bad dichotomy. It saves brain cells.

  6. I know this is going to sound strange coming from me, but, let’s keep Rush in our thoughts. I can’t stand the black-hearted SOB, but I certainly don’t wish death or illness on anyone.

  7. Extraordinarily well said. MLK and RFK have, temporarily, stopped spinning in their graves, purely on the strength of this one post. Thank you.

  8. steelydan3?

    Somehow I don’t see much parity here. Quoting an anonymous minor blogger hardly equates to the left melting down. Are some of us boiling mad about the sell out over healthcare?

    Hell yes. And it would be foolish of us to blame Republicans exclusively for this mess of a bill given how many Democrats worked their butts off to sell us out.

    Single payer was what everyone wanted. The public option was the least offensive compromise.

    We are getting the worst bill imaginable, one that will empower the loathesome private insurers and destroy the middle class with taxes on good healthcare plans.

    I don’t expect to change your mind on this Maha, but if the left doesn’t start fighting back, the compromises will increasingly be between the McConnells and Liebermans, and our voice will disappear from the process entirely.

    Good Democrats cannot help but disagree over this bill, just like we did over Bush’s march to war. As for me, I’m still waiting for the Bush appeasers to admit they were wrong. For the most part, the Dems who voted for war are the same Dems who have voted to water down healthcare reform.

    • Somehow I don’t see much parity here. Quoting an anonymous minor blogger hardly equates to the left melting down. Are some of us boiling mad about the sell out over healthcare?

      Point taken, but the guy is a diarist at Firedoglake and the post got a lot of views. And, frankly, Jane Hamsher herself has been one of the most egregious flamers.

      We are getting the worst bill imaginable, one that will empower the loathesome private insurers and destroy the middle class with taxes on good healthcare plans.

      That’s hyperbole. A lot of smart, wonky people, like Paul Krugman, are behind it and say it will do a lot of good, flawed as it is. When all the wonks are lining up and saying pass the bill, attention must be paid. I’m not saying they are necessarily right, but don’t dismiss their arguments out of hand because you’re pissed off.

      I don’t expect to change your mind on this Maha, but if the left doesn’t start fighting back, the compromises will increasingly be between the McConnells and Liebermans, and our voice will disappear from the process entirely.

      Hyperbole again. I say there’s a middle way between not fighting back and going into a self-destructive and counterproductive rage. Fight back, yes, but fight back smart, not stupid.

  9. Thanks for the post, Maha, it needed saying.

    I do believe it’s vital that we continue to agitate for a better bill than the Senate produced because the insurance industry and big Pharma most certainly will continue to exert powerful pressure for more bennies from the conference committee.

    But I’m beginning to have trouble distinguishing between some liberal commentators and teabaggers. We’ve started snapping and snarling at each other, and the negativity and personal attacks are not helpful. Except to the Republicans, of course. They’ve got to be high-fiving each other and laughing their asses off. Their strategy of doing nothing and leaving Dems to duke it out among themselves is working. Makes me want to hurl chunks.

  10. “It’s gotten as bad as the Democratic Primary wars between Obama and Clinton supporters”

    Obama is a center left democrat that is what he ran as, that is basically where he is governing the country from. Does anyone really think Clinton would have been more liberal? I see a trend in the lefty blogosphere, the more you trash Obama the more you get on one of the cable blather-fests. The cables love nothing more than to report how Obama is losing the left. Lets see who can we get to represent the angry left? It makes for a good (lets all talk over each other) shouting segment. I rarely see a lefty blogger on the TeeVee supporting Obama, that is what the establishment “democratic strategists” are for, (its how they maintain a presence in between campaigns), so the only part left for the lefty blogger to play is the contrarian, it just a big fucking show. Many are just taking positions that will drive traffic to their commercially funded websites plain and simple.

    Cundgulag- I hadn’t heard about El-Rushbo, yes I’ll keep him in my deepest darkest thoughts, I wouldn’t “wish” death or illness on anyone either but anything that silences that fat fuck would be something to celebrate, hip hip hooray! But sadly he is resting comfortably in the hospital.

    • I see a trend in the lefty blogosphere, the more you trash Obama the more you get on one of the cable blather-fests.

      Exactly.

  11. Well said. I sometimes find myself waxing nostalgic for the days when progressive media were engaged in the intoxicating task of dismantling the Bush-Cheney cabal brick by brick. Happily, I usually have the sense to slap myself upside the head immediately afterward.

  12. This post is so needed – some real wisdom in the post Bush chaos. I finally managed to put away my chronic anger against the GOP/the Bush years (for the most part), and I fully get what you and Pema Chodron are saying. The Bush Years and the anger that came with it really aged me, and that’s not good. Anger is a habit and a bio-chemical addiction. I can’t tell you how many times angry thoughts literally gave me the fight motivation to jump out of bed and start the day. I can now (mostly) do this with thoughts of peaceful, compelling activities instead. But it wasn’t easy to make this transition, it took a lot of years of pulling out the angry weed-seeds from my mental garden.

    And I wonder how many are like me, who are turned off by this intramural fighting over details few people fully understand; and with the GOP not directly in charge of things (no obvious enemy), have gone back to our normally scheduled lives. I read and write at blogs way less now than I did a few months ago, and I’m sorry but I consider that a good thing.

    OTOH, I saw Avatar yesterday (fantastic movie! especially in 3-D), and in the very emotional midst of the comeuppance the bad guys were so richly getting, I found myself shouting “Goddamn Republicans!!” in the theatre. I’m afraid I’ve been scarred for life by the decade we’re about to leave.

  13. maha, I really appreciate you stepping up to be reasonable throughout all the angst. Thank you.

    Oh, and… I nominate finefroghair for our poet laureate!

    Happy New Year, all.

  14. Single payer was what everyone wanted. The public option was the least offensive compromise.

    Speaking for myself only, wanting something and being entitled to something are two completely different things. I also wanted (and received) reforms in care denial practices and limits, administrative profit allocation/regulation and the all important individual mandate.

    James Surowiecki has an exemplary piece in the latest New Yorker about how these reforms alone completely change the face of insurance in America. For myself, I see this as merely a step towards single-payer: chaotic, ugly and pretty much only necessary to prove the worst aspects of the current system, but there you have it.

    We are getting the worst bill imaginable, one that will empower the loathesome private insurers and destroy the middle class with taxes on good healthcare plans.

    I don’t see it this way. I think this empowers the the private insurers in the worst possible way (for them) and will lead us (ultimately) to single payer. The premise is that they will be able to weather the change this reform demands. I don’t think they will. In fact, I’m pretty certain they won’t. Now, if it was up to me, and the assorted co-religionists who feel as I do, we’d just skip straight to single-payer universal care and cut out the middle-chaos. We, as a democracy, simply aren’t there yet. But we’ll get there. The historical analogy that best presents itself is pre-civil war America where compromise after compromise were attempted to ameliorate first the effects and then the expansion of slavery. I’m not saying that we’re going to fight another war, but that after a time, the rational and humane arguments will win out, even against the irrational and inhumane.

  15. “Single payer was what everyone wanted. The public option was the least offensive compromise.”

    And this is where the leftier-than-thou breed really pisses me off. To wit, no, I don’t “want” single-payer. I’d take it to be sure, but all else being equal I much prefer a system more along the lines of Britain’s NHS. But, of course, there’s no chance of getting anything like that. So much so that even leftists don’t really consider it. The fixation on single-payer and fucking insuarnace companies in general is just odd at times.

    “destroy the middle class with taxes on good healthcare plans.”

    Yes, whoever could imagine progressives supporting progressive taxes?

  16. Dear Maha —

    thank you VERY much for this post. There are some lefty blogs i’ve just stopped cruising because they are talking about Obama in almost exactly the same way they did about Bush. Obama ran as a moderate Democrat. I personally wish he were more liberal and more willing to make enemies, but I certainly don’t feel like he changed capes once he got inaugurated.

  17. I think FDL isn’t engaging in scorched earth politics. Continuing to point out flaws, pointing out the broken promises (eg:”Negotiations on CSPAN”? PhRMA deal wasn’t done publicly and there’s a lot of money to be saved if drug re-importation were permitted) is doesn’t poison the atmosphere.

    I want to see Obama do what’s right, want to see policies that help the middle class. I’d like to see some accountability for banksters. Is there any chance for this to happen? Well 300+ cosponsors for auditing the Fed suggests that there is bipartisan support for some accountability.

    I think FDL gets a bit strident at times. Partly due to the recent attention it has been getting from other blogs. Flaming is a natural response to provocative posts… and FDL has been provocative. IMHO the provocation is meant to add light not heat, the heat comes from those that aren’t interested in looking at the dark corners of our sausage making – see previous example.

    • I think FDL isn’t engaging in scorched earth politics. Continuing to point out flaws, pointing out the broken promises (eg:”Negotiations on CSPAN”? PhRMA deal wasn’t done publicly and there’s a lot of money to be saved if drug re-importation were permitted) is doesn’t poison the atmosphere.

      Not by itself, no, but the way some people are going about this is just plain stupid and destructive.

  18. I don’t know–I agree about the Buddhist stuff and not letting anger get in the way of practical action and tons more but I disagree strongly that Booman’s take on this is…well…honest or thought provoking or useful. I absolutely disagree that the division is between angry people who can’t get over their rage with Bush and attach it to Obama and pragmatic realists who are true progressives who want to help the president. That’s a very ugly way of presenting people’s motivations and their political ideas and its too binary and too self congratulatory to be taken as accurate.

    The democratic party has a “big tent” and specifically invited real progressives along on the Obama ride. That was great and very enjoyable. And now that the democratic party is in power it has the chance to put some really progressive policies into action but it finds itself stymied, over and over again, by–centrist democrats, blue dog democrats, joe lieberman, the republicans, and the vast and complex forces of both the military/industrial and the pharmacological/insurance industry complexes. That’s a pretty fair statement of what has happened. And I’m a die hard democrat and a serious Obama supporter. But those are just the facts.

    The argument that marcy wheeler etc… are having is over whether Obama and the Dems are doing as much as they promised, and as much as they can, given the seemingly intractable structural problems. Not surprisingly, since many of the structural problems are conventional, or have to do with disorganization, people watchign Obama et al are kind of pissed off. The Senate rules are hampering the majority of senators from getting stuff done–rules that they agreed to at the start of this session and that are merely conventional. Centrist and blue dog dems are running roughshod over the president and his plans–nothing is done to reign them in. Secret deals are made with pharma and etc…–no secret deals exist to placate or work with the progressive side of the aisle. These are actually real problems *even if you think the problems are systemic or not voluntary* on the part of the Dems. People are, rightly, asking whether the democrats are willing to act like a serious national party with long term interests or are willing to settle for minor electoral politics as usual. And they are asking whether the goal posts will continue to be moved back and back, always with some excuse, or whether there is any there there to Democratic commitments as expressed in campaign promises and party platforms.

    That’s not some weird kind of emotional response, that’s just politics.

    aimai

    • aimai — I agree completely that the Democrats and the Obama administration have been disappointing and frustrating all year. And I think we progressives need to keep pushing them hard about many things. But there are smart ways to do that and stupid ways to do that. Perpetually forming circular firing squads over every disagreement is, I think, real stupid.

  19. I have read nothing on either side as “self-righteous” as this post. Log in yer eye, etc.

    You say there is some other way to change the legislation besides pressuring from the left. Care to share with us rubes? Because I don’t see any better suggestions coming from those who seem to get their jollies chastising others. Instead, all I see is the same message I’ve seen for years – just be less hyperbolic, be less shrill, and then everything will somehow (notably, this is NEVER explained) get better. I’m calling bullshit on that.

    I came into this a month ago on the fence, but now I’ve come down on the Hamsher/Uyger side of the debate, in no small part because they’ve been able to explain how their plan is supposed to work, something the “can’t we all just get along” side has never done.

    • You say there is some other way to change the legislation besides pressuring from the left.

      I said absolutely nothing of the sort. Learn to read. But do thanks for dropping by and proving my point about liberal Manichaeism. See also my comment above about fighting smart, not stupid.

  20. I have read every post from you this year, Barbara – and I think you saved the best for last. Kudos & Spasiba.

    Politics is about TRENDS – not absolute answers. We are trending better. I hope tomorrow somebody posts a list of what the WH has done and reversed from the Bush era. I suspect it’s a long list. Those who hike know – to prevent being discouraged by the ascent before you, look back at how far you’ve come.

    What’s missing in ALL the ‘kill-the-bill’ rhetoric is a clear, plausable option for a BETTER bill in the near future. Everything the reformists want make sense – but the method reads ‘click-your-heels-together-three-times’. And we’re not in Kansas, anymore. In DC it’s done with votes and compromise – bribery and blatent extortion. At the end of the day (or year), we have a bill which will improve access, affordablity and reduce the deficit. An ugly win is better than a pretty defeat. The public is worn out – the Congress is worn out. We will lose seats in the House & Senate in the mid-term. Reality needs to set in.

    That said – we need to be critical about ISSUES – not personalities. Not only between ourselves, as Barbara says – but as directed at the Administration. Grenwaldt has excelled at this, giving credit AND criticism, backing every position factually – the wonk’s wonk. Hell yes, keep the pressure on – but the support needs to be unwavering. The choice will not be between Clinton and Obama in 2012. If we quit on Obama, we will be enabling (or electing) Palin.

  21. Great post Maha, I have enjoyed your blog tremendouslyover the past few years.
    Happy new year and best wishes to you and your readers.

  22. Certainly I agree that reasonable people can disagree about many of the provisions in the various health insurance bills. But I would submit that it is quite a stretch to assert that reasonable people could disagree about the safety of drug importation, as proposed by Sen. Dorgan’s proposal, defeated at the behest of the Obama administration. I would like to see someone take up the challenge of providing an honest, fact-based discussion of the defeat of the Dorgan bill and of the history of drug importation without “flaming” the President, or at least saying very non-supportive things about him. After that, perhaps we could hear some discussion of the provision that indicates that Nebraska should be spared the cost of Medicaid, but that my very hard-pressed blue state should not. Let’s see someone take this challenge on without being subjected to ad hominem attacks about how they are spoiled, irrational, or not frightened by Sarah Palin.

  23. I find anger quite motivating. PERPETUAL anger, now that may be another matter, or, as in my case, it perpetually motivates. blinding anger, now that one is counterproductive.

  24. I put my hand up. I’m one of those former Democrats who has turned against corporate-whore Obama.

    However, on this blog and every other I participate, I’ve been very polite to those with whom I disagree. I’m even polite to rightwingers with whom I disagree about most everything. Some return that favor, but I also been called every name in the book by some of you supposed “moderates.” On this blog, I’ve been told to “go to Hell,” and worse.

    It would be nice to have a civilized discussion. Actually, on most issues, all you Mahabloggers probably agree with me about 90% of the time. I am a progressive. I voted for Obama. I am dispairing on how he’s morphed into a Republican. A lot of you still have faith in him, and the Democratic Party. I once had that faith, but it’s gone, probably for good. I expect nothing from the Democrats other than a few feel-good resolutions.

    Our main disagreement is on tactics. You guys think that the Democrats can be persuaded to “do the right thing” if you send them emails. I think that they can only be persuaded to do the right thing by being expelled from office, and replaced by another party.

    It’s not possible to have a third party? I think if people get disgusted enough, it can be done. It will not be easy. Revolutions (even peaceful ones) are not for wimps.

    The alternative is more of the same. If you’re satisfied with crumbs, keep supporting Obama. If he continues the way he’s going, our next president will likely be Sarah Palin.

    Don’t agree? Fine. I’m willing to listen to your side. So how about trying to have an intelligent debate without name calling? Without telling me to “go to Hell.”

    What say you to that?

  25. To be honest with you Ozone, anything that increases the chance of Republicans regaining the White House or a majority in either chamber is not a good alternative to my way of thinking. As far as tactics, I think Obama is doing pretty good. He still has the possibility of a 60 vote majority in the Senate for a future need. We have more work to do and we still need that 60 vote majority because of the Republican obstruction to break the Obama presidency. We elected Obama to do his best with a liberal agenda and we should continue to try and move forward with that agenda as best we can. There are many ways to go about getting a job done. Just because we don’t agree with each and every move the Democratic Leadership makes doesn’t mean we aren’t moving to the same goal.

  26. “If he continues the way he’s going, our next president will likely be Sarah Palin”

    If so called “progressives” give up on Obama because they didn’t get 100% of everything they ask then yes we will end up with Sarah Palin. Like it or not this country is not very liberal, a president can’t give everything to the left that it wants and remain in office. Bush couldn’t give everything to the right either, that’s just the facts. Consider the alternative, what if we had McCain-Palin right now, would you be happy then. Are you one of the serial whiners Maha talks about in the post? Because you asked I won’t call you nasty name. But calling Obama a corporate whore and then asking that we “moderates” don’t call you a name, well that’s kinda rich isn’t it?

  27. Here it is – one hour of 2009 left. There’s Dick Clark with Ryan Seacrest. I remember back in the day when New Years Eve used to be Guy Lombardo, a bowl of french onion dip and a bag of Ruffles potato chips. Here’s hoping that 2010 is a lot happier than 2009.

  28. Ozonehead – “It’s not possible to have a third party? I think if people get disgusted enough, it can be done. It will not be easy. Revolutions (even peaceful ones) are not for wimps.”

    Splitting your forces is a strategy for fools. Custer did that at the Little Big Horn. Here in FL, Crist was the favorite for a Senate seat opening up in 2010. But the teabaggers find Crist offensive and they are going to split the party, which will give the seat to the Democrat if the teabagger wins. That’s how splitting your forces works.

    Want to know who got Bush elected in 2000? There’s a single person who can take credit. Ralph Nader. Without question he siphoned off many more Democratic votes then Republican votes in FL. The total number of votes cast for Nader is known, and it would have been enough to deprive Bush the presidency.

    If you were proposing a 3rd party in the CENTER, hypothetically peeling off conservative voters disgruntled with Palin, combined with conservative Democrats, you could make a remote argument. You want a 3rd party to the far left and the arithmatic says it can’t possibly do ANYTHING except hurt Obama thereby helping Palin. Why not make it simple and enroll in her blog?

    Just like a wingnut – no amount of facts will sway you but I think some rational readers will take note. We need to work for what’s better and possible.

  29. Things Maha has said or, quoted with approval, within this post, about people who disagree with her and their words and actions:

    Manichaeistic
    annoying self-righteousness or deadening cynicism
    Is this first thing you do in the morning to look for ways to talk about how the president has disappointed you
    you aren’t really a Democrat anymore
    your activism can’t necessarily be considered progressive
    relentless character assassination
    hallucinatory
    if we run out of reasonable arguments we must counter-attack and destroy the source of the threat — the person who disagrees
    [- this last is the attitude she attributes to us -]
    self-righteous anger feels really good
    self-righteous anger that built up during the Bush Administration is just too intoxicating
    outrage junkies
    poisons our already toxic political culture
    outright lies and death wishes
    Today, some of the bigger personalities on the leftie blogosphere truly have lost all sense of proportion and decency
    self-indulgent self-righteousness
    perpetually angry
    scorched-earth tactics
    not a rational way

    .
    Maha, if your intention was to calm us down and start a reasoned discourse, you have a very odd way of going about it.

    Contrary to what you seem to think, I don’t enjoy being angry. I am angry because because the actions of Obama and Congressional Democrats. (And the oh-so-superior attitude of many Obama supporters hasn’t helped.)

    Obama has convinced me, by the people he takes money from, by the people he surrounds himself with, and above all by his actions, that he will not support or will actively oppose the causes I believe in. Given that, it hardly seems reasonable to ask for me to support Obama, except occasionally as a matter of tactical political considerations.

    You wanted a rational way of disagreement. Okay. Let’s start off with a small part of why I oppose Obamacare. The burden of Obamacare is on the backs of working people. And given the weakened financial situation for working people, I’m not sure that those backs can bear that burden anymore.

    • Contrary to what you seem to think, I don’t enjoy being angry.

      Then stop being angry. Your emotions are entirely of your own making. As my first Zen teacher used to say, nobody makes you angry. You make yourself angry.

      The burden of Obamacare is on the backs of working people. And given the weakened financial situation for working people, I’m not sure that those backs can bear that burden anymore.

      All right, you’ve stated your premise. Now, the next step is to provide an argument, with supporting data, to show why you are right and all the wonks, who say the Senate bill provisions are progressive and will benefit working people, are wrong. This is how rational arguments are conducted. The Marcy Wheeler-Nate Silver exchange is a good example, so I suggest reading both of them (and with an open mind). Do not forget to factor in the alternative to killing the bill, which is doing nothing, and what sort of burden that will likely dump on working people. However, demonizing other people and projecting nasty motivations onto them is not helpful.

  30. Doug, I disagree with your assessment of Nader handing the election to Bush in 2000, the persons handing him the presidency were Katherine Harris and his brother Jeb, why there was no uproar over the matter is a mystery, why there is no current investigation and prosecution of the Bush administration for massive criminal behavior is no less than a travesty of justice.
    Why Cheney is permitted to constantly bloviate on FOX, along with other neocon dirt-bags like Dick Morris and Ben Stein is a true mystery. How he even got away with shooting a “hunting” partner in the head and going missing for 24 hrs is a mystery in its self.
    Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, outright lies and distortion borders on the criminal.
    I share some of Ozonehole’s frustration; deeply upset over the escalation of violence into Pakistan and Yemen, the continued and expanding use of predator drones and XE mercenaries, the continuation of Bush policies, bailouts for the very wealthy and crumbs for the masses.
    I understand the huge scope of Obama’s task, he was handed a shit sandwhich unlike we have ever seen, but he got in line for it, he must have known what was coming.Bravery on a scale I can barely imagine. The nation’s first President of color with so many insurmountable problems is a racist’t wet dream.
    As for the future, who knows? The teabaggers are angry magical thinkers who believe in salvation with a big angry daddy; they say they want small government, but love anything connected to military action, they want tougher laws for everyone but themselves, they are for the most part angry and frightened that their white bread world is falling apart, racists in denial. If you want to see a righty fumble, ask one if the freedom to bear arms should be limited to whites only, ask one if an overweight black woman getting raped is as bad as an attractive white girl; watch for the hesitation, then a smirk. Ask one if killing a Muslim child is acceptable if getting an Al Qaida fighter makes it necessary. Ask one if turning Afghanistan into a “slag heap” is a good idea.
    I predict they will split the Republican party and promote Palin, and perhaps some other goof ball like Glen Beck to run in 2012.
    If the country continues to stagnate economically, the Dems will suffer a blood bath in the mid terms, and Obama will be hobbled; this barring some grand event on the international stage.
    If the misery I see every day in the hopeless unemployed, and the fear of the under employed continues, if there is the constant drip of blood and treasure in these futile foreign adventures, if there is another “Opreation Cast Lead” in the levant, If there is another “Katrina”, another major financial bail-out followed by an orgy of greed, there will be trouble on a revolutionary scale.

    We have built a consumer economy, and have crushed the consumer.The farmer quit feeding the cow and wonders why the milk quit flowing.
    The bankers got bailed out, but the consumers are being crushed. People turned out of their homes and thrown into poverty don’t forget easily.

    As far as progressives and liberals go, we need to stick together and quit beating each other up. constructive dialog with a bit of whining and passion is not a bad thing. I don’t like what I see happening, I don’t agree with Obama’s foreign policy, but The world would suffer untold misery with another wingnut regime.

    I do disagree with Ozone hole’s statement regarding Palin winning the presidency in 2012, I think the country will move more towards the Ron Paul cult, by 2012, if the economy stagnates or sinks further, no one will give a rat’s ass about abortion or gay marriage; they will want out of the third world’s business, and concentrate on fixing the wreckage.
    Ben Stein shot the neocon’s foot off last week on Larry King Live when he called Ron Paul’s remarks regarding war in the ME “antisemitic”.That exchange will be a real catalyst for change in the Republican party; The Jewish neocons are too smart to support the insane Sarah, but Ron Paul has now lost them.
    Interesting indeed. AEI and APAC without a player in the game?
    My money is on Obama, they will turn their support to him. Another “Mugging by reality”.
    On one hand, I lean towards the “Church of George Carlin”.
    The game is rigged by an elite club that we’re not part of. We see the evidence every day, everywhere. But we have to have hope that we can change, or at least nudge or redirect the course we’re on.

    Happy New Year,
    May we move ahead and towards enlightenment in the months ahead.

  31. Doug, I disagree with your assessment of Nader handing the election to Bush in 2000, the persons handing him the presidency were Katherine Harris and his brother Jeb,

    Nader was a tool. It’s possible that without Nader the Bushies wouldn’t have gotten away with Florida 2000.

  32. Obama’s embrace of right wing corporatist ideology has increasingly divided actual progressives from the Leader Followers.

    That some of the bloggers I’ve respected have shown their subservience to a person rather than keeping to their principles has been disappointing but it’s important to keep them in mind.

    Republican framing Nate Silver called those he didn’t agree with “batshit crazy”.

    When Nate Silver used Republican Newt Gingrich’s manipulative language to imply that everyone that disagreed with him was “irrational”, Booman was the first in line to embrace that toxic Republican framing. That’s “scorched earth politics”.

    Booman has since come out as a right wing corporatist, even going so far as to label those he disagrees with as anti-corporatists (Republican Newt Gingrich’s favorite manipulative word, saying that your opponents are “anti”-something).

    And here is Maha, following along in the most discrediting way possible.

    Maha is upset that ‘some’ on ‘the left’ are being divisive and putting people into two groups and to help her argument she cites Booman putting people into two groups.

    Booman either ignorantly or manipulatively doesn’t even put people into the two obvious groups (corporatists and progressives), instead he completely misses or ignores the concerns by actual progressives.

    Actual progressives are increasingly offended by Obama’s embrace of right wing corporatist ideology.

    Obama’s FISA vote giving amnesty to criminal spying by Corporate Telecoms, his massive gifts to the Banksters, his ‘cap and trade’ corporatist solution to global climate change, and now this forced buy of Corporate-insurance.

    The forced buy of corporate-insurance will further empower the lock-hold that the corporate-insurance industry has on politicians and even more offensive, that corporate-hold on our politicians will be paid for by US through the worst regressive tax ever.

    OVER 8% of poor American’s incomes will be directly paid as ransom to the corporate insurance extortionists. 17% of average American’s incomes will be directly paid as ransom. And those regressive, extortionate taxes don’t even include the obscenely high deductibles and co-pays which are designed to discourage people from using healthcare.

    Obama’s Leader Followers are using Republican framing to FALSELY sell right wing corporatist [email protected] sandwiches as progressive ice cream. And now those followers of right wing corporatism are complaining that they are being called out on the right wing corporatist ideology they are serving.

    • Obama’s embrace of right wing corporatist ideology has increasingly divided actual progressives from the Leader Followers.

      That some of the bloggers I’ve respected have shown their subservience to a person rather than keeping to their principles has been disappointing but it’s important to keep them in mind.

      This comment is a pure example of liberal Manichaeism. Notice that the writer does not address the factual arguments people are having for or against health care reform. He simply states his position and then denigrates the character of people who are taking another position.

      I say that if Paul Krugman is a right-wing corporatist, and Nate Silver is “Republican framing,” sign me up. Nate may have called people who disagree with him “batshit crazy,” but at least he followed up the accusation with a real argument based on factual data, not hysteria.

  33. Good morning Maha!
    Agreed, Nader was a tool in the 2000 election. A spoiler, indeed.
    While Nader may have drawn some voters from “Gore/Liberman”, it is very possible that his supporters might have just stayed away from the polls had he not run. That is a big “what if”, but a good possibility.
    But Jeb , Harris, and “The Supremes” damaged the Democrazy.

    Jeb and George will be giving a motivational seminar in Naples, Florida in the next week or so, should anyone want to attend. ( how to wreck a country in 5 easy steps)Harris has been in hiding.

  34. @News Reference…

    I honestly don’t understand this: “Booman has since come out as a right wing corporatist, even going so far as to label those he disagrees with as anti-corporatists” ……. you spent most of your post talking about how evil Corporatists are … how does that NOLT make you anti-corporatist??

    I, for example, was and am anti-neocon. I don’t like neocon philosophy, I don’t like neocon policy, and I am against everything neocons have done and want to do. What else could I possibly be but anti-neocon??

    -Ian

  35. Hi Maha.

    “Stop being angry.”
    Much easier said than done. I’m afraid in my present state of development this isn’t useful advice.

    “Marcy Wheeler-Nate Silver exchange”
    I’ve seen more of the Marci Wheeler side of the debate since I check out Emptywheel almost daily. I’ve opened up the page with Silvers latest and I’ll give it a good look today. The fact that there is even a debate on whether people will be able to buy insurance and still pay the rent is pretty telling. But I won’t be arguing within the premises of their debate since it doesn’t seem likely to persuade you.

    Perhaps the millions of people without health insurance have mostly made rational choices. They can’t have all they want or need and health insurance was what they gave up. It would follow that Obamas mandate will force them to give up something else. Maybe the college fund gets raided. Maybe Mom has to get a second job and leave the kids alone at home for hours at a time. Maybe Grandpa has been subsidising the kids of his layabout son and won’t be able continue. If you think about it you realize that Obamacare works by forcing people to buy health insurance who have proven by their actions that they can’t afford it.

    Quite honestly, It isn’t clear to me whether the senate bill is better than doing nothing. What is clear is that we finally have a single stable bill from the senate that we can analyze and debate. Given how little of the bill takes effect this year, I don’t see much harm if Obama has to wait another 6-12 months for his landmark legislation to become law.

  36. One of the problems seems to be that many of us have difficulty distinguishing between concrete facts and opinions.

  37. Much easier said than done. I’m afraid in my present state of development this isn’t useful advice.

    The first step is to realize and acknowledge that no one else but you is responsible for your anger. “I’m angry because of what he did” is never an excuse.

    The fact that there is even a debate on whether people will be able to buy insurance and still pay the rent is pretty telling.

    Yes, but telling of what? I could write “The fact that people debate whether President Obama was born in the United States is pretty telling,” but it’s not telling about President Obama. It’s telling about the people making the argument.

    That said, I respect Marcy’s argument and I acknowledge there is reason to be concerned about the impact on middle class families. But I’ve also read Nate’s argument, which persuaded me that killing the health care reform bill would have an even worse impact on middle class families, as well as lower-income families. This suggests to me that instead of killing the bill, it would be better to work on it to make it less burdensome to middle class families.

    But I won’t be arguing within the premises of their debate since it doesn’t seem likely to persuade you.

    You have me confused for you. I’m the one arguing for seeing both sides of the argument and keeping an open mind. You are the one who thinks only your side is worth considering. Keep that straight.

    Given how little of the bill takes effect this year, I don’t see much harm if Obama has to wait another 6-12 months for his landmark legislation to become law.

    Oh, sorry, I had you confused for someone who lives in the same time-space continuum I do. If the current legislation is killed, there is no way in this universe that Congress would have a better bill in 6-12 months. Even if hell froze over. What would most likely happen is either a much worse bill, meaning one that the conservatves/moderates would write, or else we’ll wait another 15 years for the next chance at health care reform.

  38. From CBS News 2004 –

    “If Nader had not been on the ballot in New Hampshire or Florida, both states would have gone to Democrat Al Gore. Instead George W. Bush won by the narrowest of margins: 537 votes in Florida alone. …

    In 2000, Voter News Service exit polling showed that 47 percent of Nader’s Florida supporters would have voted for Gore, and 21 percent for Mr. Bush, easily covering the margin of Gore’s loss. ”

    I don’t make this shit up. It’s likely some moron will form a far-left splinter party to protest Obama’s policies. The political FACTS are not part of ancient history. The question is: Are progressive voters are smart enough as a group not to screw themselves?

    How do I say it so you understand? – LIBERALISM is a PROCESS – it will take decades of moving from the decadent right to the liberal left to get where we want to be. It won’t be found in one election or one person. The threat to progressive politics is not from the GOP – the threat is found in the inability of non-conservatives to play nicely together.

    Ben Franklin said it nicely and I think he was talking about the different philosophies of the delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence – “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

  39. Look, with the Obama Presidency, we’re at the beginning of something. Whether it’s a 4 or 8 year beginning, maybe more with a successer, no one knows. And many people here had some small, or not so small, say in the elections of the past few years.
    Health Care is a start.
    We’re actaully moving in a better direction in many different area’s, Afghanistan not included.
    Do I agree with Obama on every move? Hell no! I knew in my heart he was an incrementalist. But, how could he not be? Imagine the uproar if the first President of color went around trying to legislate massive, Liberal change? He knows that he needs a House and a Senate that’s going to support him, or he’s out there sitting alone on his own. Hell, he needs US to make change.
    And Doug’s right. It will take years, if we can make it happen at all. And we start that at the ground roots. Like the right did. Start putting progressive people in local offices and let them grow to larger ones; maybe eventually the House and Senate.
    Trying to re-grow a competent government doesn’t start over night. We need to fertilize that which we’re trying to grow. And that sure doesn’t start with each and every interest group flinging poo at the others.
    Get it? Got it? Good! Now, let’s get to work for 2010.

  40. “Imagine the uproar if the first President of color went around trying to legislate massive, Liberal change?”

    Exactly, it seems the favored method of governing for many is for Obama to shove everything on the liberal wish list through right now. That method will doom his presidency and ensure wing-nut rule for at least another 8 years after Obama’s first term (if the teabaggers don’t end it sooner), they are fucking calling him a socialist despot now for cripes sake.

    It really pisses me off when I hear wing-nuts say things like; “this country is center right”. I don’t believe we are a center right country but we sure as hell are not a liberal country either. Unfortunately Obama has to govern as close to the center left as the will of the country will allow. That’s just the way it is.

    It seems many liberals must have believed the wing-nut FAUX news hysteria that Obama was a left wing radical bent on socialism, I watched his campaign very closely, hell I volunteered here locally, I never thought Obama was very liberal at all. So far I’d say I got what I voted for. Disappointed, sure a little but I am still a strong supporter.

  41. uncledad,
    “…they are fucking calling him a socialist despot now for cripes sake.”
    I just want to amend that slightly to correct it.
    It should read “…they are fucking calling him a terroist loving socialist, fascist, communist follower of Leninist Trotskyite Stalinist Mao Castrosim (with a dash of Che, for spice), who is an Islamofascist follower, raised in a Madrassa, who went to church run by a radical Black minister, and is a Godless Heathen who will burn in Hell to boot, anyway. And his wife, children, and Bo-Bo, his little dog, too…”
    There, did I miss anything? Oh yeah: ACORN.

  42. Maha thanks for putting my anger in perspective. cund gulag just got your handle cute name, you’re so right we have to quit squabbling and get on the same band wagon the consequences are most dire. I shudder at the thought of Palin as president then I would be seeing you in the gulag along with many others. Obama may not have done all that I wanted but he is most surely a far cry from Bush. I am mainly disappointed in his reluctance in investigating and then punishing the criminal antics of the former regime. This reluctance causes me to wonder if there is truly any difference between the two parties or are they just a wholly owned subsidiary of the highest bidder.

  43. cund gulag – you forgot ‘anti-christ’ – there’s a faction of wingnuts who believe Obama will bring the biblical end of the world.

  44. But…but…cund gulag, shouldn’t “liar” be on that list, too? You know — as in “You’re lying!”

  45. Obambi…oops, I mean Obama did say that we had to…what was it? Support him/push him/ pull him or something to that effect. So the question in my mind would be what might do that best? I’d say the best chance is to pull him because he is apparently disinclined to be way out in front on issues as George Bush had been.

    The hyperbole does more to muddy the minds of those who perpetrate it than it serves to motivate Obama but what would motivate the man more than credible progressive opposition? So I see this more as a style issue and a matter of effectiveness. Fighting smart is an apt enough description of what needs to be done for me. So lately I’ve been inclined to concern myself more with a few key upcoming congressional races.

    Doesn’t anyone even notice how the current political environment now opens up some interesting possibilities such as opposition from the left on several key issues? The biggest one seems to be Gold-in-sacks blatant infiltration into the government, inability to de-regulate much and this illusion of regulation posed by a so-called oversight board or committee rather than LAW.

    I don’t need to engage in potty mouth or histrionics but there’s nothing wrong with expressing the opinion that our buddy Obama has fallen short when we believe he has or in beginning to nurture anything which might coalesce into credible opposition in some areas while supporting Obama in others. I want Obama in the hot-seat. He and his adminstration are big boys and girls and can take the harsh talk but it all sounds like venting to me and hardly effective.

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