Comments: The Start Of A Long Debate

The problem I have is that giving in to the realities of the two-party system and trying to work within it is inseparable from being a part of the mainstream masses which create* the two-party paradigm in the first place.

* with a lot of help from our thoroughly broken electoral systems, of course.

Posted by Dayv at February 1, 2007 02:55 PM

That is, I'm screwed either way.

Posted by Dayv at February 1, 2007 02:56 PM

I'm with Dennis - I'm deeply skeptical of the Democrats being transformable, particularly given how much they seem to enjoy sucking on the corporate teat. That's a lot to give up, and it'll take a powerful force to make them do that - namely, fear of losing their political positions. And THAT won't happen unless the Democrat base pushes them into it. And while the base is definitely to the left of their representation, I'm not convinced that it is "progressive" by and large. Without doing that (far more difficult) work of making a majority progressive base within the Democratic party, there's simply no point in pushing for a progressive faction at the political level.

Posted by saurabh at February 1, 2007 03:26 PM

My thoughts are that their plan might be workable,if there some stick backing it up. The wingnuts' scheme was successful because they weren't afraid to take a loss for the party in order to ensure a victory for the agenda.

Posted by Scruggs at February 1, 2007 03:29 PM

The wingnuts were successful mostly because their base isn't interested in anything other than fulmination - and most of the rest of the Republicans don't mind fulmination so long as your bottom line doesn't get touched. When your base is waiting around for the Rapture to happen (and has been since 0 AD), not actually delivering any legislative agenda isn't such a big deal. Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, want actual content in their politicians, and their demands very much threaten the bottom line. A much harder battle.

Posted by saurabh at February 1, 2007 04:03 PM

Lovely people, Dennis and Jeff. They remind me a little of my grandfather, a Social Democrat in Vienna in the 1920s and '30s. Believed his and his party's progressive ideas would resonate with the workers and the middle class. Ha, ha, ha.
And in the USA, where almost everybody "follows the money" and the NFL and "Amereican Idol" more than politics and even self-interest, somehow progressives in the Dem Party have a chance.
As much as reforming the defense industry.
As much as finding an intellectual within the Nebraska football team.
As much as getting a gay, African-American philosophy major into Skull & Bones.
Crash first, reform after that. If we're lucky. For my grandchildren's sake, I hope we will be.
But as the aphorist said: "To hope is to deny the future."

Posted by donescobar at February 1, 2007 04:20 PM

typo: American

Posted by donescobar at February 1, 2007 04:22 PM

Saurabh, the religious convictions of the wingnuts are political. You can be misled by taking them too literally. Their Biblical literalism is itself tactical. I think the selective quality they bring to it shows that. Wingnuts are at war, with everything all the time! It's true that many of them are pathologically greedy, however that's less materialistic than a desire for comparative advantage. Paying a lot of attention to the rapture nuttiness is chasing the cape. Most of that is rage and vengeance oriented. Moreover, just because their eternal crusade/revolution is driven from the top down don't make it any less an actual popular movement.

Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, want actual content in their politicians, and their demands very much threaten the bottom line

You really couldn't tell from the way they vote, or what they do the rest of the time. They undermine all their liberal institutions at every election, and starve them the rest of the time. The ACLU has only five hundred thousand members. Such a basic thing! Given the revulsion to the Patriot Act and other security state nonsense, I'd expect ten times that.

Posted by Scruggs at February 1, 2007 04:39 PM

Crash first, reform after that.

It's almost certainly the case that a progressive takeover of the Democrats could only happen after a crash. However, that doesn't mean a crash would make that inevitable, or that even if progressives did manage it that the party they now controlled would take over the government. It's just as likely that a crash would lead to some EXTREMELY unpleasant political forces taking over here, significantly worse even than we have now.

Organizing inside or outside the Democratic party, the important thing is to be organizing, and preparing for the coming Big Crunch. If we wait until afterward to start it will be much too late.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at February 1, 2007 05:06 PM

Jonathan

Now the big question: who is going to be in the "we?" Who's going to bring a chunk of the old
Dem working/middle-class/minority/women/union people into the progressive fold? When was the last time a progressive agenda could even be put in front of them? Other than tinkering with health care and the minimum wage, which all of the above would embrace, "how far" up the progressive pole would they climb? As you suggest, BEFORE the crunch? With almost all media in corporate hands, in an entertainment-hungry but ideas-starved public square, demonstrations and leaflets will reach few and be portrayed as extremist, fringe stuff to the very audience we'd be trying to reach.
How to get around that? I don't know. And about organizing within the Dem party--isn't that like the light bulb that doesn't want to be changed?

Posted by donescobar at February 1, 2007 06:30 PM

Except for the minor fact that the Republicans stand for pretty much everything I detest, I envy their freedom. Listen to Rush Limbaugh and you'll hear a liberated man, who will say whatever crap is on his mind. This is not Howard Stern (whose liberation is that of the 10 year old who pees in the flower pot) or Imus (whose sole focus is to overcome his inferiority complex). It's not even about being unPC. It's much more subtle.

At heart, it's about being uber-conservative but in a progressive way. In other words, his talk is animated by the notion that politics can lead to progress (drilling oil from the arctic, conquering the world, killing all the Muslims, etc). That's the sort of "progress" I, for one, want nothing to do with, but in their eyes it is progress.

Dennis hits the nail on the head: most of the Dems I know, anyway, are reactionary, in ways Rush is not.
They don't believe in progress but in amelioration. And for that one does not change: one tinkers.
They're status quo ideologues. They get up in the morning hugely excited that today will be the day they get to implement their great plan of doing... nothing.

I am not being subtle here and yes there are progressive Dems, etc. But the party itself is reactionary.

There are many obvious examples (like Iraq, health care, etc). A more subtle (and telling) instance of that reactionary behavior was the horrified reaction to Dean's comments about appealing to the white guys with pickup trucks and confederate flags. Think about it: that reaction was completely understandable; completely in line with Democratic values; and deeply reactionary.
(The Nation has an interesting piece on the subject.)

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at February 1, 2007 09:08 PM

It's not about the money, not about the religion, it's ALL ABOUT THE POWER, YOUR POWER. Your military, your industry, your reputation in the world, your financial strength. YOU THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER, YOURS. What corporation can match YOUR wealth? What country or ideology match YOUR army? NONE. YOU CANNOT BE BOUGHT OFF since everyone is vying for YOUR TAX DOLLAR. YOU ARE THE WEALTHEST ENTITY on the planet at this moment. YOU OWN THIS GOVERNMENT AND ALL THAT'S IN IT. YOU ARE THE PARTY OF THE FUTURE, all you need to do is just say no to what you don't want and yes to what you do want. Money talks and bullshit will follow right along with the money.
As for the two parties, ZAPPA said it best," Republicans only talk to you if your a millionaire, Democrats only want you to own the clothes you wear."

Posted by at February 1, 2007 09:43 PM

It's not about the money, not about the religion, it's ALL ABOUT THE POWER, YOUR POWER. YOUR military, YOUR industry, YOUR reputation in the world, YOUR financial strength. YOU OWN THIS GOVERNMENT AND ALL THAT IS IN IT. YOU are the wealthest entity on the planet at this time. YOU, THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER. All you need to do is control your wealth, just say NO to what you don't want and YES to what you do want. YOU CANNOT BE PAID OFF, as everyone is vying for YOUR TAX DOLLAR. What corporation can match YOUR WEALTH? What country or ideology match YOUR ARMY? NONE. Money talks and bullshit follows right along behind, hanging on EVERY word.
As for the two parties, ZAPPA said it best, "Republicans only talk to you if your a millionaire, Democrats only want you to own the clothes you wear". YOU ARE THE PARTY OF THE FUTURE.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 1, 2007 10:01 PM

A lot of interesting comments here. I find myself in agreence with several conflicting posts.

Despite that, I think the democrats are salvagable, and the more progress made the more progress caan be made. Things seem so daunting at the moment, there's so much greed and ignorance and consolidation to fight against that the fight seems futile. Yet, success brings success. We, the people, can reign in the foreign policy a little. Just a little at first. Then, we can demand some of that military budget go towards infrastructure. Then, we take on conglomerations - re-implament strong anti-monopoly laws. These are reasonable goals, and success will breed success.

It's the early stages of a quasi-revolution, but trajectory suggests we're fighting the winning fight.

As monopolies are busted, we can re-emphasize innovation and foster a perpetual culture of progress, environmental and economical progress.

these are humble goals; reign in war-mongering, war-profiteering, consolidation, and expose propaganda for what it is and where it leads. Once we do these things, we can reign in imperialism and transnational corporations. It's doable - and I think Kos is showing the way. Pragmatic, don't venture too far beyond where the people are ready to go, but back your trail-blazers every step of the way.

Posted by A different matt at February 1, 2007 10:08 PM

Recall that in 2004 Kucinich stayed in the race to the very end, promising his people that he would demand some podium time at the convention. The convention came and Kucinich backed down -- "Vote for Kerry. Thank you good night."
The PDA is a con job.

Posted by Lloyd at February 1, 2007 10:31 PM

"I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown - an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth."

Isn't that the point? Dennis' point about the Mideast and Israel is just the current most obvious manifestation of the deeper malice. We need to face that to end the human war.

Posted by osama -- err -- sam at February 2, 2007 01:25 AM

sorry-- I meant the republican party. Although...

Posted by Jonathan Versen at February 2, 2007 02:53 AM

Arvin Hill: Mass Movements are comprised of people who are tired or disatisfied of their own lives and willing to follow a charismatic fanatical leader. (Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Robespierre, Hitler, Jim Jones, Luther, Mohammed,etc.) They deny self and therefore personal freedoms, in exachange to BELONG to the group. ALL mass movements must have unit cohesion and self sacrifice of the mass to exist. Without that LEADER, WITH OUT THAT UNQUESTIONING OBEDIANCE, they do not exist. Mass Movements are ALWAYS ruthless and bloody.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 2, 2007 03:13 AM

Mike Meyer, your last comment is completely ahistorical. There are many mass movements that existed without unquestioning obedience or a single leader. This country is full of them. The Grange movement, the IWW, the abolitionists, heck, the temperance movement, etc.

Posted by saurabh at February 2, 2007 03:39 AM

Abolitionists, Civil War, Ruthless and Bloody. Temperance, loss of personal freedoms, Prohibition, ruthless and bloody. I know nothing about the Grange movement or the IWW.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 2, 2007 04:10 AM

Mass Movements don't have to have just one fanatical leader, Abolutionists, John Brown, Nat Turner. Temperence, Every Baptist Preacher of the day, hundreds.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 2, 2007 04:16 AM

When it comes to ruthless and bloody, one would think it difficult to overlook those qualities in The State - The United States - but, all too often, we do. Unquestioning obedience? I see it in every direction - left, right, up, down and all points in between. Whether such unthinking deference is to a "leader" or conventional wisdom and other phantoms doesn't matter. The American public is comatose - ill-informed and ill-advised and just plain ill.


It's silly to fret about the prospect of a bloody and ruthless progressive movement gone astray, particularly when liberals refuse to do something as fundamental as interfere with commerce to make a point. When it comes to protest and resistance, The Self-Conscious Left does little besides vote, occasionally hold signs and promptly comply with the cop (or President) on the bullhorn. And that is neither protest nor resistance.

When that changes - if it ever does - so, too, will the political situation. It's going to take some time - and it won't happen without serious deliberation and effort. The Democratic Party is not the place to start.

Posted by Arvin Hill at February 2, 2007 04:33 AM

Since both major parties are corporate controlled entities, a mass movement will occur only after their divisive policies have accomplished the goal of separating Americans into two combantant classes: the incredibly powerful wealthy against the helplessly powerless poor. Even if the masses do rise up in protest of the oppressive slavery that is inevitable after the recent raping of the Constitution, the Pentagon is already contracting war profiteers to produce numerous state-of-the-art weapons of mass destruction to keep those starving barbarians away from the gates of the wealthy. Welcome to the 21st Century!

Posted by JLaR at February 2, 2007 05:58 AM

This handwringing about the superiority of radicals vs moderates is pointless -- most successful movements need both. The radical abolitionists went to New England to get funding from wealthy Bostonians who would never even think of traveling to "Bloody Kansas." The labor unions in the 1930s needed blueblood FDR and vice versa.

It's called a coalition, and they are always uneasy. Neither side will accept the most extreme/moderate position of the other -- you find something like a common ground, ignore the disagreements and move forward as best you can. Or you sit around and bicker like the People's Front of Judea in "Life of Brian" (or was that the Judean People's Front?)

Take over the Democratic Party? Start new media? Take to the streets? Sure, yes, all of the above; it's going to take all of this and more to actually achieve the change we need in this country. If someone chooses a different tactic than you favor, let them go do it and hopefully we'll all be together eventually, with tactics coming together in ways no one ever imagined.

Posted by whistler blue at February 2, 2007 10:20 AM

Please understand I am not agitating on behalf of "radicals."

Given the extreme rightward shift in the United States over the last two or three decades, terms like moderate and radical are largely meaningless.

I'm simply proposing that progressives are not helping themselves by focusing on politics to the exclusion of social/cultural considerations. Most Lefties I know deny this is even a problem, but two cliches come to mind: (1.) To a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and; (2.) It's hard to see the forest for the trees.

I regret bringing up the term "mass movement" because people have very different ideas about what a mass movement is. Instead of equating "mass movement" with an urban riot, for purposes of this discussion, think social transformation.

Yes, there are fancy Pentagon weapons to zap crowds. Not to mention total surveillance, corporate governance, permanent class war, authoritarian culture/mindset and too much Knobby Boot phenomena to list. That's what makes it a struggle - a word which has been robbed of its meaning by pampered Americans for whom the term deprivation means gas above two dollars a gallon.

Of course, "laying the foundations for a social movement" sounds daunting and ambitious. It is.

I'm not suggesting there is zero value in attempting political reform. What I am suggesting is that progressives - for a long time now - have placed a disproportionate emphasis on politics-as-solution.

Those of us gathered here for this discussion are political people who think in narrow political terms. Until we free ourselves from the confines of such limitations, we will continue to fail.

And, on that note, I shall recede back into the shadows of the Peanut Gallery so as not to hijack the conversation.

Later, taters.

Posted by Arvin Hill at February 2, 2007 12:01 PM

In comprehending the distribution of power within the system we all wish to alter, perhaps it would be useful to look at patterns sans labels. Toward that end, as some have pointed out, history can be instructive.

In both Mississippi Freedom Summer, as well as in the long struggle for liberation in South Africa, the freedom fighters had to establish their own, self-determined agenda and organizations independent of the institutions they were preparing to attack. To do otherwise, they resolved, would have been suicidal.

The fact that both these social movements chose at the outset to create popular educational programs within schools they themselves constructed and controlled, tells me they understood the need to free their minds first--then their world.

Posted by Spartacus O'Neal at February 2, 2007 12:55 PM

This is where we ALL differ, LEFT AND RIGHT VS. WHAT I AM SAYING. Left and Right both look for a mass movement to change the world and make it all good according to each one's ideology. The Right IS INVOLVED in it's MASS MOVEMENT and has been for several years, It's been ruthless and bloody, I think we can all agree on that point. Since there is no and has not been found a CHARISMATIC FANATICAL LEADER to propel the movement at key moments, it's on its downward slide. PLENTY OF FANATICS, NONE CHARISMATIC. The Left wants to try its hand but it looks like the same problem will show up. BOTH ARE NOT OF WHAT I SPEAK. My mass movement, while bloody and ruthless at its inception occured 230 years ago, and once gaining POWER became institutionalized under the CONSTITUTION. It started over paying an UNFAIR TAX. ALL our problems TODAY boil down to ABUSE OF THE REVENUE GARNERED FROM OTHER UNFAIR TAXES. THE CONSTITUTION already has avenues to CHANGE the situation in place at its inception, all one need do is exercise them. NO NEED FOR ANOTHER BLOODY AND RUTHLESS MASS MOVEMENT. We are a FREE PEOPLE, we just need to exercise our FREEDOMS and take RESPONSIBILITY for what our representatives in OUR Government are doing. Sometimes that REQUIRES SAYING NO.
On a personal note, I look at the country as TAXPAYERS AND TAXSPENDERS (or collectors if you will) not LEFT OR RIGHT. I'm fairly satisfied with my life in this country, but MY RESPONSIBILITY AS A CITIZEN is to keep a CLOSE WATCH AND TIGHT REIN ON MY GOVERNMENT. In doing so I am WILLING TO SAY NO. How about YOU.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 2, 2007 01:00 PM

I think Arvin makes good points. When the society at large demands it, politicians respond, they have to, because they only have power as long as we allow them to. Period. As Mike Meyer above points out. Positive change has always come from the ground up, until it is finally recognized and instituted. Blogs and the alternative Internet press are a ground up phenomenon, providing us an inkling of what could be.

Posted by Bruce at February 2, 2007 01:09 PM

An aside to Arvin - If you recognize a famous golfer on an airplane, do NOT greet him with your phrase "Hi Jack" - you'll be in a heap o' trouble in here in Bush Country!

The references to Zappa bring to mind a song by the Mothers that is eerily prophetic as far as the situation in the world today: Brain Police.

Since the corporate takeover of rock n' roll instituted by Bill Graham and his ilk, added to FM stations losing their commercial-free status in the 70s, one can only look back and long for the activism the good old days. Music was a pure form of activism and Dr. Gonzo nailed it with his quote "back when real men used to rock n' roll".

Speaking of appropriate songs, kick back and sing along with King Crimson and me as we listen to Robert Fripp spray some exceedingly fast, extremely clean and blazing hot lead riffs in the backgound:

"Cat's foot, iron claw, neurosurgeons scream for more

At paranoia's poison door, 21st Century Schizoid Man

Blood rack, barbed wire, politician's funeral pyre,

Innocents raped with napalm fire, 21st Century Schizoid Man

Death seed, blind man's greed, poets starving, children bleed

21st Century Schizoid Man......."

Posted by JLaR at February 2, 2007 01:11 PM

"They" are just like us. (because they are us) If the CHECK IN NOT IN THE MAIL, then EVERYBODY starts jerking. Believe me, the very next question is "WHY?" No matter how Schizoid a man is, he still NEEDS his money. (rent , groceries, meds, kids, bills, payoff those campaign favors as they don't contribute out of love, etc.) Once the question "why" appears, that means SOMEONE is willing to hear an explaination, the actually WANT an explaination. At that point the TAXPAYER explains things. But it will take most ALL OF US.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 2, 2007 08:41 PM

1. Spartacus O'Neil (swell name) above touches on an important point--freeing the mind first, then the world. My sense is that the left, or progressives, have been--let's be kind--less than successful in talking to the people, to the teacher in Charlotte, NC or the forklift operator in Dayton. How to do that? How to get the messages about power, distribution of power and money, across to them--is anyone doing that effectively? I don't see it, hear of it, read about it except on a very small level in small communities. As much as The Nation pretends, for example, student activism is to student careerism as water polo is to the NFL. So the Dems choose Skull& Bonesman Kerry to shout "help is on the way" at the people, and the people shrug and snicker and turn on a better sitcom.
The "system" has to take a very heavy blow and stagger before people will pay attention. The passivity, induced and self-inflicted, of the American people is stunning by now.

2. Mike Meyer: capitalization is really distracting. Even the Germans don't capitalize as relentlessly as you do. VERSTANDEN?!?!!!!

Posted by donescobar at February 3, 2007 11:02 AM

O'Neal, sorry.

Posted by donescobar at February 3, 2007 11:30 AM

I just returned from a parent/student meeting for a group of high school kids who are going to Europe this summer, my daughter among them. She's completely put off by the utter passivity, ignorance and general nativism that most of these kids exhibit, but her desire to see Paris and Rome outweighs whatever personal distaste she has for the other teens. But the parents! Dear God, I felt like I was drowning. I realize that people like me are in the minority out here in the great American spread, but living for nearly two decades in NYC helped ease the pain of this reality.

I don't wanna be a snob or elitist -- far from it. But how to approach them? It's one thing to talk to blue collar people, since I've done more blue collar work in my life than not. There's a directness at that level you cannot fake. But these people are largely suburbanites and walled off from the rest of the world. When one of the tour directors advised that the kids not wear any shirts that read "USA" or displayed Old Glory, given the general mood in Europe, many of these parents were shocked. They really didn't understand why their beloved country would be hated. At least that's the vibe I got in the room. Now, how do you begin to demystify this mindset? Chances are good that you're gonna either anger or alienate the very people you're trying to reach, no matter how you soft-pedal it. This is why the Dems talk the way they do, making sure that cherished myths remain undisturbed. And as long as the system more or less operates at present levels, those myths will be next to impossible to dismantle.

Take over the Dems? A lot of groundwork is needed first, and that's not going to be a pleasant task.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at February 3, 2007 12:49 PM

donescobar: You FLATTER me, Sir, especially with the word RELENTLESS. Were you to ever meet me, or say, anyone who would know, me, or ever has known me, RELENTLESS IS my one redeeming quality. In all probability the only redeeming quality. It's even in my military record.
At this point in my life I AM DEDICATED to Voter Initiative on the BUDGET AND TAXES, and since I'm too old to change, I'm probably going to be RELENTLESS, so at this time I MUST APOLOGISE TO YOU AND ALL, PLEASE FORGIVE ME.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 3, 2007 01:28 PM

And a commendable quality it is!
Carry on!
Now, to put an end to my exclamataion point obsession!

Posted by donescobar at February 3, 2007 02:29 PM

Dennis Perrin: Gives creedence to the 30 second sound bit short term memory theory we AMERICANS are world famous for. Paul Simon comes to mind, "When I look back at all the crap I learned in high school, It's a wonder I can think at all."

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 3, 2007 05:13 PM

re "Abolitionists, Civil War, ruthless and bloody"

Let me say that "War is bad", in my opinion. Let me also say that sometimes the war has already started and you have to fight back, get out of the way, and/or accept the consequences of not doing so. Let's go to the case of the bloodiest, most fanatical abolitionist of them all, John Brown, hanged until dead (although skillfully enough that his head remained attached to his body).

The crap I learned in high school (and grammar school - a "child of the 60s", I'll be 60 pretty soon myself - coincidence?) definitely took the "crazed fanatic" attitude toward John Brown. So more recently it surprised me to encounter more sympathetic perspectives on him - see the Wikipedia article for a start on the subject. The basic point, though, is that slavery is ALREADY a system of daily violence, up to and including murder, so using deadly means to resist it is justified.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at February 4, 2007 02:59 PM

FANATICAL doesn't always mean wrong or crazy, it just means DEDICATED EVEN UNTO DEATH. JOHN BROWN wanted to start a CIVIL WAR even if it cost him his life and/or all he had. HE WAS CORRECT on all three counts, IT'S ONLY CRAZY IF YOU FAIL. The key word IS charismatic, which he indeed was. LINCOLN was of the same ilk. Charismatic and fanatical. He is an AMERICAN HERO, and no less so, yet he STILL was what he was. He was able to rally the North into a MASS MOVEMENT to insure survival of the Nation, against the MASS MOVEMENT of the South. Sometimes MASS MOVEMENTS are instruments of survival for a People and a Nation, sometimes not. Most times they are an unneccessary BLOODBATH (Iraq) brought about by the usual flaws in the Human Character. I guess lifes is like that and that's the way it is. MASS MOVEMENTS still need that Charismatic Leader, that Fanatical Leader, and ,of course,THAT DREAM, THAT ILLUSION, to focus upon. IT'S ONLY CRAZY IF YOU DON'T WIN.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 4, 2007 04:10 PM