Dem Jellyfish Syndrome

The 2012 Democratic convention, with its ringing calls for economic populism and commitment to civil liberties, had me persuaded that Dems had finally grown spines. But now, reflecting on the midterm loss, it seems they’re reverted to being invertebrates again.

After the midterms a great many people pointed out that the Dem candidates who lost often were the ones who ran furthest and fastest from President Obama’s record. Of course, we’re told over and over again that President Obama is “unpopular.” And why is that? Jeff Schweitzer wrote shortly after the election that public perceptions of the Obama Administration have been painted by Republicans and often bear little resemblance to, you know, what the Administration actually is doing.

But I can’t lay blame just on those lying weasel Republicans, because the Obama Administration itself has failed to connect with people and make the case for its own accomplishments. This is partly because the Dems lack the media infrastructure the Right has built, and partly because the allegedly leftist media still allows right-wing voices to dominate talk shows and opinion pages. But it’s also the case that Dems turn into jellyfish way too easily.

Kevin Baker writes,

Today’s Democratic Party, with its finely calibrated, top-down fixes, does not offer anything so transformative. It seems scared of its own shadow, which is probably why it keeps reassuring itself that its triumph is inevitable. It needs instead to fully acknowledge just how devastating the recession was for working people everywhere in America, and what a generation of largely flat wages did to their aspirations even before that. It needs to take on hard fights, even against powerful forces, like pharmaceutical and insurance companies that presume to tell us the limits of what our health care can be or energy companies that would tell us what the world’s climate can endure. It means carving out a place of respect for working men and women in our globalized, finance-driven world.

Invite us to dream a little. You don’t build an enduring coalition out of who Americans are. You do it out of what we can be.

It may be that the GOP’s only message is to scare people to death, but at least it has a message.

40 thoughts on “Dem Jellyfish Syndrome

  1. I am not sending a damn dime to the non-Dems, the DINO crowd or anybody but a socialist liberal progressive Democrat. No national committees unless Howard Dean is running them hard and hot!

  2. I don’t understand politics but I think as long as we have just two parties with influence, we are going to have this problem. Why does one (a person) have to be either Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. There is no room for creativity or individualism. I remember Molly Ivins used to say when someone would try to pin her down on some label or other, she would just say “I’m Molly Ivins”. I like that attitude. Do we have to have political parties in a democracy or a republic or whatever the hell it is we have? It can be compared to joining a church or any organization. Once you do that, you are committed to embracing their belief system or agenda, thereby losing your freedom to think as you wish. I have heard it said that people form their beliefs then look for something in the world to verify it. That’s true to a certain extent but how do they decide what to believe in the first place? With all this noise coming at us from all directions, it is very difficult to think. All people, no matter race, culture, male, female, straight, gay, etc., etc. want the same things. That is to love and be loved, be able to live in peace and harmony in their own little corner of the world. The question is, how do we achieve this?

  3. People prefer to be scared to death about bullshit issues that really don’t concern them, than have their issues ignored.

    At least someone realizes they’re afraid.
    Maybe not of that!

    Look at KY.
    Mitch McConnell blatantly lied about people being able to keep their KYNECT health care, while he and his fellow psychopaths tear-out Obamacare, ‘root and branch’ – for people whose family trees have only roots, I wonder how he and his fellow conservative heard of branches.

    What did Ms. Grimes his Democratic opponent have to say about it?
    Nothing that I heard.
    Her ads were of her firing pistols and rifles.
    She was even afraid to say whether she voted for President Obama!
    No ‘profile in courage,’ she!

    One party is full of sociopathic simps.
    The other, is full of wimps!
    What does it say to people, when they know one party is full of simps, but the other is to wimpy to point that out?
    Nothing good.
    Nothing good…

  4. grannyeagle,
    To answer your last question, some people will tell us to read New Testament in the Bible.

    But if the Christians themselves don’t, then why should we?

  5. A lot of it has to do with the guy at the top. For decades, I have wanted someone with Obama’s personality to be President – very smart, intellectual – in sharp contrast to the dope who preceded him – and as evidenced by this interview in the Economist from a few months ago, I got my wish. But I now see the downside to this – he’s too aloof and not able to connect with ordinary people well enough to stand up and defend himself. And so the right is very happy to paint him as a disaster. It’s exactly like the nerd in high school who can’t connect with the ordinary kids who then jeer at him as a failure.

    Had Obama been more able to promote himself, and been willing to fight the PR battle on his own behalf, the down-ticket Democrats would’ve been less likely to fold.

    Regardless, the textbook example for all of this is Alison Grimes’ failure to come out and say who she voted for, in a state where Obamacare has been a resounding success, thanks to the Democratic governor who worked to embrace it. She deserved to lose.

  6. @grannyeagle wrote do they decide what to believe in the first place?

    Initially it’s conditioning – what you imbibed as a child when you had no way of understanding or filtering what you were actually being taught – and then it’s the school of hard knocks – where your conditioning is tested, rejected or refined.

    I had the fantastically good karma to have grown up in the 60s and 70s, in a middle class circumstance that taught me that the world is a mostly safe place, there’s enough to go around, and that knowledge and science and progress are not only good things but inevitable. The future was only going to be better. Star Trek, here we come – the original series embodies this same optimistic worldview.

    After several decades of encounters (the school of hard knocks) with these weird right wingers who came from the opposite perspective, I realized: had I been born five years later, into a slightly different family circumstance, I would’ve been one of them, and not only that but, the worst example of a right winger, a real Breitbart/James O’Keefe jack-ass. I know myself well enough to say that.

    The school of hard knocks involves spending time in situations or with people who provide a contrast with you, to help you see what you really believe, and to reject stuff that you don’t. I have wasted years/decades of my life in groups or with people that were painful to be in, like trying to stuff your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit. After a while you pull your foot out because it hurts too much, and you know to never try on that kind of shoe again.

  7. I think you left out one other problem: we are a nation of goldfish. The Democrats can do what they do best and go door to door explaining accomplishments, but the minute the guest leaves the house of the voter and they flip on the TV, they hear a skewed news report and forget everything that was just explained to them by the Democratic worker.

    Either that or it’s what Bill Maher says, we’re a nation of idiots.

    When you consider the low voter turnout, that means an extreme amount of people fell for the GOP’s plan to turn off voters from going to the polls and that shows how easy it is to con the public.

  8. I realized: had I been born five years later, into a slightly different family circumstance, I would’ve been one of them, and not only that but, the worst example of a right winger, a real Breitbart/James O’Keefe jack-ass. I know myself well enough to say that.

    There but for the grace of God go I? 🙂

    Well, I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and I got the full monty of conservative thought. An era of God and Country with a heavy heavy dose of American Exceptionalism. Law and Order was the order of the day..and don’t ever question authority because better minds then mine could ever be have already determined the way thing aught to be. Do what you’re told because it is the most pain free way to traverse life.
    I had to escape the mental and emotional shackles of conservative thought. What was good enough for grandpa just wasn’t good enough for me!

  9. I don’t even want to start on the Bible. I could be here all day. Growing up in the 40s in the Midwest (Bible belt) the Christian religion was all I was exposed to so that was my conditioning. My parents did not go to church, they were too busy making a living and raising a family. I must have been doing some heavy thinking at an early age cause I remember going to my mother and telling her I didn’t think there really was a god. She answered very emphatically: “Oh, you must never doubt god.” I accepted that but decided that I would find out what god was so I started going to all different kind of churches but never finding god in any of them. The closest I came was the Catholic church I think simply because of the feeling I had when going in. I didn’t understand Latin and I couldn’t take communion but I liked the atmosphere. I never gave up my search for God but have long since eliminated the Christian beliefs. They just don’t make sense to me which has caused a lot of grief in my life since my sister became a fundamentalist Baptist and of course I am of the devil. I am still searching but reject all organized religion. I remember an Indian Jungian psychologist told me once that we all eventually see the light even if it’s not until the day we die.
    I realize as Moonbat says it originally begins with conditioning as children and if we lived in a simpler society as in ancient times maybe I wouldn’t even question. But I am here and now and I try not to have beliefs but instead take in information, let it simmer and my unconscious will show me the way. For I know whatever God is I am connected and cannot be otherwise. Whenever I am tempted to see someone as the “other” (which happens often) I remind myself we are all children of the universe and as Carl Sagan says: “We are all kin”. The cosmos is so vast we cannot even begin to comprehend it with our puny minds. We are all on a journey and no matter what path we take, we will end up at the same place. So we may as well start getting along.

  10. This question about people’s conditioning is interesting. My gravatar is a reflection of when I grew up–a GI Joe Air Adventurer from the early 1970s, the period when Joe mustered out of the army and formed a relatively benign Adventure Team. He still fought sharks and stuff, but the whole military thing was definitely out of fashion at that point.

    Of course, it wasn’t long before GI Joe was all about tanks and machine guns again.

  11. For I know whatever God is I am connected and cannot be otherwise…The cosmos is so vast we cannot even begin to comprehend it with our puny minds. We are all on a journey and no matter what path we take, we will end up at the same place.

    The key thing here is that you’ve grown to the point where you’re aware of, and trust your inner knowing – the powerful statements you made come from this. This transcends and supercedes your initial conditioning, it transcends the lowest-common-denominator herd-mind of the culture, these are hard-won things you’ve figured out in this lifetime.

    Culture is arbitrary, even enlightened cultures, and culturally instilled teachings at whatever age have to be transcended so that you develop this sense and trust of your own inner knowing.

  12. I think it is far more of the media. President Obama talks a lot about a lot of issues, but the only time he is heard is when he is personally talking on the TV. Virtually never is his message publicly heard from anyone “reporting” about ANYTHING.

    The Rightwingnut absolute control of the public information system is the death knell of our erstwhile nation.

    Be very afraid.

  13. For I know whatever God is I am connected and cannot be otherwise.

    Ah, What I hear you saying is exactly what I was saying with my comment about being God. I realize I conveyed it in such a way that it would be perceived as either delusional, comical or that I possessed an ego on par with Ted Cruz. My point was that any conception of God where human attributes were part of the conception, then it would stand to reason that I would have to be God. Not in the sense that I would be the creator of the universe, but in the sense that all value judgments, moral codes, and whatever creativity could emanate from my mind would qualify me as a “God”. I capitalized god only because I’m worth it. And it’s also important to have a healthily self esteem.
    Unfortunately people will perceive that wholesome projection as narcissist but to my mind there is no God that dwells outside the human mind.
    In the Bible there is a passage that says: We are all Gods. I don’t know who threw it in there or why, but it might be a big hint that was slipped in there to give us pause to think. I think therefore I am?

  14. to my mind there is no God that dwells outside the human mind.

    IMO, the human mind gets in the way. It’s a useful tool, but 99% of the chatter it generates is useless distraction. You know things before the mind knows them. When you gain the ability to shut off mind chatter – achieving internal silence – through meditation – you realize that the mind is really an accessory. You realize that Descartes was wrong: you are, whether the mind is thinking or not. The overwhelming majority of people never experience this silence their entire lives.

    We are all gods

    It’s a very intriguing statement in the bible, yes? I take it to mean that humans are the only species that creates the future through their free will and imagination. We invent our future in our minds, first, and then materialize it through our efforts. Every single man-made thing around you originated in somebody’s mind, first. We’re also the only species that can self-reflect – in other words direct our awareness (a feat all by itself) back towards ourself.

    Dogs, trees and so on all have awareness, but it’s hardwired into very specific directions. Trees are intimately aware of the air currents around their leaves, for example, but they cannot shift their awareness into something else. Humans are the only species with the ability to direct their awareness down any avenue they choose.

  15. Swami: Like others I took your comment to be a joke and enjoyed it. Nice to see we are on the same page so to speak. I guess the bible has much wisdom in it although I’m sure it has been watered down and distorted considering the history of how it came to be. There’s a trick to sort of reading between the lines and observing the metaphysical message but most people don’t really care. It’s too much trouble and they would rather have someone else interpret it for them.
    Moonbat: As far as hard-won things figured out, it only took me 75 years.

  16. Y’all sound like a bunch of hippies !
    Just what I needed after a long day ,all of your comments were a relief to read.that’s why I hang out here.
    As far as the Republican / Democrat thing goes; Republicans run with the wolf pack, democrats are house cats. I like cats, but it takes a bunch to get them riled up, and the attention span is pretty short. Wolves tear it up, stick together, make the kill. Hard to beat.

  17. When you gain the ability to shut off mind chatter – achieving internal silence – through meditation – you realize that the mind is really an accessory.

    Is it a generator or a receptor? I’m inclined to see the mind a generator.. hence my God complex. 🙂

  18. When I hear or read other people’s thoughts on spirituality, which I love, I let my inner hippie out for a walk. I suspect that in a few short years he’ll become my outer hippie again, anyway.

    Maybe we should enjoy the mystery, that is, enjoy not knowing. That seems the easiest way to avoid the illusion of “knowing.,” or thinking that we know. I don’t really have beliefs, just a matrix of conjectures in a constant state of flux. The conjectures are a patchwork of simplified science, childhood superstitions, fever dreams and other mystical experiences. That’s pretty poor equipment for a spiritual quest, but there it is.

    I guess the big question is, “Where does ‘God’ reside?” I tend to think that the proscriptive, directive, grey bearded “God” is a product the hard wiring of our DNA that defines us as a species through a set of behaviors. He takes residence where “he” can prevent us harming the species as a whole, and sometimes, other members of the species. This has not worked out very well over the span of recorded history, especially since he was kidnapped by patriarchs.

    Another aspect of “God” seems to reside in the space where the brain becomes the mind, where the physical structure of the brain produces something immaterial. There seems to be some evidence that consciousness is a quantum phenomenon, and of course, being totally baffled by quantum mechanics, QED and the like, I find it an especially handy place for the mystery of mysteries. When I think about Seth Lloyd’s or Nikola Tesla’s work, it almost seems plausible that “consciousness” is a kind of quantum “Oversoul,” and our brains act as receivers. Tesla, evidently believed something similar. In this way, everything has a kind of consciousness or resonance at the quantum level, a Buddha nature.

    I do have a Zen question that arose last evening over a brandy or two. I hope this won’t sound too crazy. I was thinking about all the animals that have been born and lived here during the past couple of decades. Is there such a thing as a shared Buddha nature?

  19. ” Making Young Liberals Look Longingly at Rand Paul ”

    Ed, pretty much anything that is published at that rag “REASON” is completley unreasonable?

  20. Animals, one of my favorite subjects. Love dogs, cats, wolves, not so fond of opossums although I accept they must have a purpose or they wouldn’t be here. Dogs and cats are different, true but all in all one cannot deny the determination and courage of a single cat, even a housecat. I have seen videos of a cat making a bear or crocodile back off and there was a video recently of a family cat attacking a dog that had attacked a little boy. I have even experienced my own cat making my big dog back off when she thought he was getting too aggressive with me. As for humans being the only species that can self-reflect, I have heard that often but I’m not so sure. Remember, it is a human that is making that assessment about another species. The conclusion is based on observing and experimenting with animals. Since they cannot speak, they can’t let us know how they really feel and experience the world. So, how do we really know? For myself, I’m not sure. Remember, it was not too long ago that black people were not considered totally human and were not capable of the intelligence of a white person. All I know is that humans are the dominant species on this planet and if we are the most intelligent, it falls on us to protect all others. IMHO, we are failing in this. There is divinity in all creation and until we recognize and respect this, we will never have peace on earth.
    Just for the record, I see the brain as receptor and thinker as generator. What is the thinker? That is the mystery.

  21. Oh, yes, I forgot. Erinyes, please don’t compare republicans to wolves. That is an insult to wolves as they are very social, loving and spiritual. Yes, they run in packs but that is their social structure. republicans are more like hyenas and just as ugly.

  22. Is it [the mind] a generator or a receptor? I’m inclined to see the mind a generator..

    I see it more as a receptor. No one knows where thoughts come from, and I’m inclined to believe that we’re all part of a universal mind. We do choose our thoughts, following some and rejecting others – part of our ability to direct our awareness – but I’m inclined to see this as just how we swim in universal mind.

    @grannyeagle – good points about animals and self-awareness. And I like your clarification about wolves vs hyenas.

  23. In Tibetan folklore, there is the story of an old blind turtle who lives in the depths of the ocean. Once every thousand years, the turtle swims to the top of the sea and sticks its head up through the waves for a great breath of air.
    Now imagine that there is a wooden ring floating on the surface of the ocean and think how rare it would be for the blind turtle, coming up for air once every thousand years, to put its head through the wooden ring. It is that rare, say the Tibetans, for a being to gain human birth.

  24. One of my teachers (in 108 Discourses on Awakening), expresses it like so: The human form is as rare as a star at midday. I’m sure he’s heard of the story about the blind turtle surfacing in the wooden ring. He further says:

    When a person goes from complete ignorance, trapped upon the wheel of samsara, to liberation in a single lifetime, the process of the transformation of identity involved is mind boggling and enormous. Yet the rigor of human architecture also has this enormous flexibility that includes all qualities. In the process of awakening, the human form even encompasses the quality of gods, gaining their powers and capabilities. As the forms of realization, mastery and enlightenment occur, even gods and godesses are surpassed by the enlightened human…

    Ye are all gods, indeed. First, you gotta do something about that massive ego, that would love to be God.

  25. Alas, Swami, What hair? But, thanks for the link.

    Yes, Grannyeagle. I have seen a mother hen, chase my wife’s horse away from her chicks, pecking at the back of his legs as he ran away. I guess he recognized her determination.

    After so many years and so many animals, I tend to fall on the side of anthropomorphizing them. Aside from being a lot more fun, I would bet that it’s a lot closer to the truth. Our brains weren’t just made whole our of new cloth, they were built on the framework of the brains of the animals that we evolved from. Even chickens exhibit some pretty complex behavior, mostly aimed at survival. They have consistent strategies for dealing with predators on the ground or from the air. When there is a threat present the rooster stand sentry duty. They repeatedly signal each other and the roosters from my neighbor’s flock, definitely passing along information. They do all of this with a brain the size of a lentil.

  26. Pingback: Schnizzle » Mike’s Blog Round Up

  27. Gulag: You are funny. I don’t know how maha feels about it but I wouldn’t want the job. It’s hard enough dealing with the idiots in my own little corner let alone the world. Besides, I’m not sure I am evolved enough that it wouldn’t go to my head. Then I would just be another tyrant.

  28. A mature woman with compassion and critical thinking to lead the world ?
    Our mothers did a pretty good job, why not ?
    While we’re ( kind of ) on the subject of cats, I have three that live with me. Butch is my big boy, 16 lbs, he’s either a Maine coon or a Norwegian forest cat. He’s beautiful, smart, and a big chicken. Chloe is our sweet chubby calico. I think she was abused by a male human earlier in her life, it took a long time for her to get comfy with me. She is very shy and submissive. Then their is Mickey. A tiny tabby with the spirit and temperament of a tiger. She’s about 15 yrs old and her health is failing. Still tough as nails, but very affectionate when she’s in the mood. My wife and I joke that she’s my mom incarnate.

  29. Ye are all gods, indeed. First, you gotta do something about that massive ego, that would love to be God.

    Would that be a generic admonition or is it specific? Somehow I’m not sure whether to feel dissed or not. 🙂

    But, just to cover all bases, I’ll reiterate …Swami is all about love. I’m good that way. The only thing worse than a reformed drunk is a reformed conservative!

  30. @swami – it’s generic, it’s the human condition. Our egos lead us around by the nose – it’s a huge thing to even see how this works specifically in our life, and it’s even more difficult to overcome.

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