Comments: Rick Perlstein: "A Liberal Shock Doctrine"

...but, but, but, I thought Obama was SMART. What am I missing here?

Posted by bobbyp at August 20, 2008 11:38 PM

VOTE DIGBY-CLARK-2008---VOTE THE INTERNET both are smart AND have a backbone.

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 21, 2008 12:10 AM

That's what happens when you get an empty suit puppet with no experience! In other words, he's not a great thinker. You can tell by the way he stutters and mumbles when he's not reading from a teleprompter.

Posted by Bitter American at August 21, 2008 08:41 AM

Obama is not a reformer. Obama has never promised to BE a reformer. Obama is a left-leaning centrist who espouses a doctrine of premature compromise - folks like that are good managers, not good reformers.

The absolute best we can hope for with Obama is a second Bill Clinton administration. That's the outer limit of where he's going to be. And that was fairly obvious from the start of his campaign for anyone who was actually listening to what he was saying instead of projecting their hopes and dreams of the world's most awesomest president onto the man.

Posted by NonyNony at August 21, 2008 09:09 AM

"The absolute best we can hope for with Obama is a second Bill Clinton administration."

Probably not a good time to start a church inside a large, rural compound, I'm guessing.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at August 21, 2008 09:52 AM

The problem with the analysis here is that it doesn't take into account that the military-industrial complex controls American politics. The CIA is more important than the President. The CIA in large part dictates who the President is. Their operatives and allies in the press help elect their choice. And when their choice isn't in the White House they make sure that the occupant knows the limits of his/her power.

Is Obama farther to the right or the left? Is he tough or weak? Is he up or down? Is he dirty or clean? He is whatever the junta wants him to be.

Until there's a recognition of this your analysis is useless. You will forever be disappointed in politics. Politics is almost as fake as professional wrestling.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at August 21, 2008 10:02 AM

Bob in Pacifica: I contend, sir, the internet is well able to offset and out strip the CIA influence through shear numbers of people who are well informed. Remember, there is NO more privacy, not even for the CIA.

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 21, 2008 12:07 PM

Good Lord Mike, why do you keep posting the same things everywhere? And what in the name of God gave you the idea that Digby was smart or has a backbone? She's an imbecilic battered wife who is wedded to the stinking, violent zombie that is the Democratic Party.

Posted by anonymouse at August 21, 2008 12:55 PM

Not to mention the fact that Wesley Clark is a fucking war criminal. Oh wait, I just did ;)

Posted by anonymouse at August 21, 2008 12:56 PM

It's true. Progressive changes have to be snuck in quickly, then it's back to the same old. As in a French bedroom farce, where the lover sneaks into the wife's bed for a brief encounter before the fat old husband returns.

Posted by donescobar at August 21, 2008 01:38 PM

anonymous: I stumping for them.---Have YOU got any PROOF. I could easily say YOU are a battered housewife and a war criminal, but without PROOF---???

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 21, 2008 01:39 PM

This is retarded. The whole point of our republic is (was) to prevent quick changes like these, no matter which side is trying to make them.

I think this is a fundamental flaw in left wing thinking, "it's ok if we do it because we are well meaning."

I mean, this is the same way we got, the Federal Reserve, the income tax, 17th amendment, X number of wars, and so on and on. And that's not to mention all of the socialist programs which you probably assume are good, but I would have an argument that that isn't so.

Maybe the right thing is to roll the system back, so quick changes are impossible for BOTH sides.
It's called a Constitution, follow it.

Posted by tim at August 21, 2008 02:03 PM
The whole point of our republic is (was) to prevent quick changes like these, no matter which side is trying to make them.

No, that's not the point of the republic: the point of the republic was to create a democracy where the government was bound to the will of the people. As the linked article pointed out, that flaw IN our republic was the result of a compromise with slaveowners, an immoral group of people whose evils help create the bloodiest war we have ever fought. It's simply stupid to pretend that intent doesn't matter in politics. Intent is everything. Our present problems are the result of ill-intent by our leadership, not mere foolishness.

I think this is a fundamental flaw in left wing thinking, "it's ok if we do it because we are well meaning.".

Um, no, the flaw would be to conclude that moral values have no place in procedural analysis -- such a perspective would be -- wait for it -- immoral.

And equally immoral is the idea that the U.S. has two "sides" that are basically equal. Well, one of these so-called "sides" happily rips off U.S. citizens with punitive bankruptcy laws and health care costs and quietly pines for the days of formalized racial segregation. It is deeply offensive, and not just immoral, to say that everyone in the U.S. not on that "side" is just as foul. And the people who read this site are the ones you have implicitly insulted.

In short, no one here is foolish enough to buy what you're selling.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 22, 2008 02:26 PM
The whole point of our republic is (was) to prevent quick changes like these, no matter which side is trying to make them.
No, that's not the point of the republic: the point of the republic was to create a democracy where the government was bound to the will of the people. As the linked article pointed out, that flaw IN our republic was the result of a compromise with slaveowners, an immoral group of people whose evils help create the bloodiest war we have ever fought. It's simply stupid to pretend that intent doesn't matter in politics. Intent is everything. Our present problems are the result of ill-intent by our leadership, not mere foolishness.

So you are telling me that the founders (who used "democrat" as an insult btw) tried to create a democracy? Uhh, ok. They tried to make a magical system that can change it's course due to the intent of the people (only the "good" ones, of course) in it. Right. I stand by my original statement (and yours minus the first sentence.)

I think this is a fundamental flaw in left wing thinking, "it's ok if we do it because we are well meaning.".
Um, no, the flaw would be to conclude that moral values have no place in procedural analysis -- such a perspective would be -- wait for it -- immoral.

Ok, now you want a system based on morals? You realize that they are subjective right? Who gets to decide which morals are right? The democratic majority? Morals are fine (and necessary) for individuals but they have no place in public institutional procedures. I hate to say it but you are at the top of the slippery slope to all sorts of bad (read: evil, hah. and yes democracy is at the top of that list) governments.

And equally immoral is the idea that the U.S. has two "sides" that are basically equal. Well, one of these so-called "sides" happily rips off U.S. citizens with punitive bankruptcy laws and health care costs and quietly pines for the days of formalized racial segregation. It is deeply offensive, and not just immoral, to say that everyone in the U.S. not on that "side" is just as foul. And the people who read this site are the ones you have implicitly insulted.

In short, no one here is foolish enough to buy what you're selling.



And the other side is instrumental in ballooning the size and power of the state to make those things possible.
Well, it seems to me that if both sides weren't equal then we wouldn't be in the situation we are, because the angels that you believe in would prevent it (from your side of course).

Posted by tim at August 22, 2008 04:23 PM
So you are telling me that the founders (who used "democrat" as an insult btw) tried to create a democracy? Uhh, ok. They tried to make a magical system that can change it's course due to the intent of the people (only the "good" ones, of course) in it.

Alright, this is just dumbassery. I know you're trying to be snide, but it would help if you said something, well, untrue. The Framers did want to create a system of government that the people would be able to directly influence and they went to great lengths to protect said government from "bad" people. (More accurately, they sought to reduce the destructive effects of self-interest, but individual revolutionaries did point out classes of people they didn't want monkeying about in government due to ethical concerns.)

Proof: separation of powers.

Seriously, if you think the framers didn't think there were bad people, we should stop communicating. This is second grade stuff here. I would be better off discussing geography with a flat earther.

Ok, now you want a system based on morals? You realize that they are subjective right?

Alright, this is out-and-out childish. Human populations have been coming up with consensuses on what is moral and what is not since -- literally -- the beginning of time (e.g., our perception of time). By your logic, the criminal justice system does not exist because it is based on the moral values of the population and, by your logic (I am doing a disservice to that term, I know) no moral value can be held simultaneously by more than one individual at a time since morals are "subjective" -- whatever the hell you think that means.

So the score so far: separation of powers doesn't exist, nor does the criminal justice system. Let's take another hit of the magical fairy dust and see what else we can learn.

And the other side is instrumental in ballooning the size and power of the state to make those things possible.

It's hard to express how completely nonfactual that sentence is.

Bush is responsible for both increasing the raw number of governmental personnel -- and, more importantly, the most out-of-control spending of any government in the history of Earth. The notion that this isn't the case isn't just wrong or stupid. At this point, I think tim is typing because his keyboard makes an interesting sound when he does so. I just can't believe that anyone can be this stupidly wrong about anything. There has to be another reason why.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 22, 2008 05:33 PM

Early in Mr. Perlstein’s piece there are assertions I find to be fantastical and possibly ignorant of history. It is likely that there is more to the assertions then I see and I am not hearing what Mr. Perlstein is saying. There is a chance, however, that I am hearing correctly which leads to the conclusion that my understanding of history is quite contrary to Mr. Perlstain’s. If that is the case then I offer my understanding of history as it relates to Mr. Perlstain’s assertions so that people reading this and myself can develop a better understanding of history.

Mr. Perlstain claims that “The post–Civil War reconstruction of the apartheid South” was a “narrow windows of progressive opportunity” that allowed for “reforms that have advanced our nation's status as a modern, liberalizing social democracy.” My knowledge of reconstruction was that it was an attempt by the victorious power to acquire the spoils of victory and to firmly establish northern political power over the south under a military occupation.

Reconstruction did little to actually elevate the condition of the former slaves. A large number of former slaves became share croppers who living in the same conditions and worked for the same people doing the same thing that they were in during slavery. Reconstruction failed to provide the 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves that was promised so a large group of people with no wealth whatsoever were now responsible for providing everything they needed on their own. They did form their own communities where they could have provided for themselves, they looked to existing intuitions for employment and for resources. Reconstruction freed slaves and brought them into poverty.

As far as the political condition of the slaves, it improved oh so slightly. By the 1880’s Jim Crow was established throughout the south. It wasn’t until the civil rights era that any liberation from the condition of slavery was achieved for African Americans and blacks got real rights and got an equal footing with whites. Blacks were in large part completely dependent on whites for their station in life, both economically and politically after reconstruction. In addition the southern economy was devastated during the war and reconstruction did nothing to repair it. When President Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority, he did so in the most impoverished place in the country and Alabama, is today, the poorest state in the union. After the Civil War there was less to go around in the south. The economic punishment laid upon the south by the north destroyed any hope of African Americans of integrating into the American mainstream as everyone was hit hard but the former slaves were hit even harder by segregation. The poverty experienced by African Americans today is a legacy of reconstruction and I don’t consider that a liberal legacy. The other legacies, a vastly poor region effecting residence of all races of the country, political and cultural alienation, a military regime in the south surviving in the prison system, and others aren’t very liberal either.

If reconstruction was truly liberal or progressive it would look like nothing like it did. It would be a federal/state cooperation instead of military governance, it would have made investments in the southern economy that would ensure prosperity for the entire nation (like the Marshal Plan fallowing World War Two), and if the military would be used for anything, it would be used to ensure that all adult men, regardless of race, would have the same political rights. Remonstration failed to accomplish anything progressive in the south.

In addition the abolishment of slavery was not something that happened quickly. The Republican Party was formed in 1854 to end slavery and seven years later a Republican President launched a way to end slavery to preserve the Union. This would not have happened if there wasn’t a long established abolitionist movement working tirelessly for a long period of time before 1854. There were abolitionists working to help slaves and to end the practice long before the United States was even in existence. Also the abolitionist movement was unignorable anywhere in the country as a political and cultural institution since 1820 at the latest. It was because of centuries of hard work by people both inside but especially outside the political system that the slaves were eventually freed, not because of a few years of activity of the Republican Party and then the Civil War.

Similarly the other periods mentioned as “narrow windows of progressive opportunity” that allowed for “reforms that have advanced our nation's status as a modern, liberalizing social democracy,” are also due to at-least decades of people pushing for those very reforms. The reform period of one such narrow window itself even lasted for several decades as “the Progressive Era remaking of the institutions of democratic deliberation” lasted from the time of President McKinley into the time of President Wilson. That era was also the product of the American union movement dating back to the 1870’s. It took two decades of work before there was any political change. The progressive era was defiantly not a short burst of liberalism but a long hard struggle over which the victories were spaced out amongst decades no months.

The New Deal implemented by President Roosevelt would not have happened without the union movement of the 1900’s onward. It took decades of people willing to fight and to die for progressive change before the President would implement those changes. The impetuous for change was building incrementally throughout the 1900’s and the 1910’s. It did build much during the 1920’s but there were people keeping the struggles and the ideas alive thought that decade. During this entire time victories were won, even if they weren’t in the office of the President or in the Congress. Mr. Roosevelt in 1933 had little choice but to implement weeping reforms regardless of his motives for implementing them. There was a nation in which a large portion was demanding major change in government and was determined to get it. This group was large enough that it could not be ignored. The changes instituted by Mr. Roosevelt did, amongst other things including brining improvements into people lives, sufficiently placated this group.

The advancements of the great society were made necessary by the civil rights movement. In terms of the civil rights advancements it was clear that the country would tear itself apart if it did not grant true equal rights to African Americans. This was the case only because African Americans made it clear that they wouldn’t settle for anything less through decades of violent struggle. Several leaders of the civil rights movement also spoke out vehemently against poverty and the horrors of capitalism. Only because of this advocacy and the immediacy spurred by the decades of struggle could President Johnson implement any reforms.

It is interesting to note that all of these long struggles leading up to legislative action were violent and that violence was initiated by those wishing to keep the status quo. To assert that these periods of reform were narrow windows only focuses on the finial victories and is unduly terse or ignorant of the long struggle that actually saw the reforms implemented. It takes decades of persistent bloody work to see improvements in government policy. The suggestion that change can happen quickly and spontaneously is one for which I have seen no evidence for. The final legislative changes happen quickly not because the opportunity for change closes but because the last victory has finally been won and there is nothing stopping the change that has been struggled for and the change doesn’t happen because of a President who able to work the legislature through an agenda but because those who struggles long and hard for the change have made the change inevitable one way or another and the congress and the President is merely the path of least resistance.

Carter did see his energy policy achieved because people weren’t pushing for a change in energy policy for decades beforehand and not because some things that Mr. Safire wrote. Mr. Clinton didn’t see health care reform because people weren’t willing to take to the streets demanding rational health care decades before his reform and not because something that Mr. Kristol wrote. Change happens in government only once change has happened in the society. The change that happens in society is indeed incremental and happens over periods of decades or centuries.

There isn’t much progressive struggle today and for that reason will there be no dramatic change in American policy. The one exception is climate change. Now this struggle has yet to see the same level of violence that the other mentioned struggles saw but there is a large push for responsible management of global warming inducing pollutants and a responsible energy policy. It is little wonder that, with the exception of the recent drill here, drill now campaign, that both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are talking about seriously addressing climate change. This is the only hope for real change no matter who wins in November because of what is happening the rest of society. Even if there are 60 democratic Senators in the next congress we will not be sign radical health care reform because outside of political campaigns people are not campaigning for health care reform. 60% of the public will not be firmly in favor of passing universal health care on January 20th 2009 because nowhere near that number are firmly in favor of passing universal health care today. If universal healthcare will be realized it needs a large people struggling for health care as a universal right for decades before the government will act.

Posted by Benjamin A. Schwab at August 22, 2008 06:15 PM

NOoC:

No, they did not consider good and bad at all, that's what you don't get. It doesn't matter
The system is designed around majorities and minorities


The point was that no matter how well meaning the majority was or is, it should not be able to force it's views on the minority. And that is the reason that direct democracy is bad. Yes, in our system the public has influence over the course of events, but in a very strictly controlled way.


As for morality, it isn't something that "society" has. It is an individual thing. Our legal system is based on consensus between (moral) individuals. Yes people can share the same morals, but do you really want a collectivist enforcement of morals?


And no, I suppose Bill Clinton didn't sign the DMCA, (ahem) the Line Item Veto Act. Didn't start massive expansion of law enforcement, especially the "war" on drugs. I suppose he didn't raise taxes to pay for more government, did he? Oh wait, yes he did.

I'm not saying the other side isn't worse, it's just your side is bad too. You just keep telling yourself that it's ok for your side to do it, and after the next 8 years Bush III can come in and abuse whatever expansion Obama has in mind


Posted by tim at August 22, 2008 06:33 PM

Mr. Schwab's post deserves more time than I'm giving it (what can I say, I'm tired and troll smiting is low-hanging fruit?), but I will point out that though all his points are valid, there is, perhaps, something to be said for a necessary tactic. Just because Roosevelt had the social movement needed to make the New Deal a reality does not mean that a slower tactic would have been successful. Speed was a necessary, but not sufficient part of the strategy, just as the social movement behind the New Deal was necessary but not sufficient. Thus, Perlstein may have made a mild error in downplaying social conditions that Schwab points out, but his thesis is correct (as are Schwab's facts, upon a cursory look).

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 23, 2008 01:35 PM

No. Consequence:

I sincerely appreciate your kind words. They do my heart good. I don’t think Mr. Perlstein, you, and I are in great disagreement but I do think there is some here. You have said something that is I am in disagreement with. I wish to now clarify my position. I hope you will give it a suitable critique.

I will illustrate my position with the example of the New Deal first. I think the decades of working class struggle lead to the New Deal and nor the decades of campaigning by President Roosevelt. I do not know the history of our 31st President well enough to conclude that he wasn’t campaigning for the type of change the New Deal brought in the 1920’s by it is my completely uneducated and reckless guess that he did not. It wasn’t a smart thing for a national politician to advocate that type of change during that time and what I do know about President Roosevelt was that he was an extremely good politician but tragically not perfect.

In addition by the time of President Roosevelt’s first inauguration in 1933, it was clear that major changes were necessary to maintain a coherent nation. Because of the great depression the people made it known that anything but significant change in government was necessary. This is why, combined, Franklin Roosevelt, the Democrat, Norman Thomas, the Socialist, and William Foster, the Communist, received 59.9% of the vote, all of which were campaigning on platforms of significant changes in policy while Herbert Hoover, the voice of the status quo, failed to receive 40% of the vote. In 1933 truly 60% of the nation was firmly in favor of progressive change. In addition to the evidence of the Presidential election, the entranced factors that usually prevent significant progressive change in policy were severally weakened (as evidenced by the elections for the United States Congress and the weakened faith in Wall Street as opposed to the faith in Wall Street during the 1920’s).

The forces pushing significant progressive change were quite dominant and the forces that are usually in place to prevent such change were absent. The change was going to happen and if it wasn’t by Mr. Roosevelt’s leadership it would have happened through some other means. Likely the riots that were occurring would become more severe, and there may have even been the possibility of an attempted and failed Bolshevik type rebellion (with a large portion nearly million people who voted for Mr. Thomas, or Mr. Foster and people who supported Governor Roosevelt in 1932 who would now be disillusioned with President Roosevelt taking part). When the violence became severe enough that military force could not keep the populous in control leaders would then quickly implement reforms.

President Roosevelt’s quick leadership led to progressive reforms without more violence and without major painful social upheaval. For that he is to be commended but the changes would happen one way or another and quickly when it did. President Roosevelt’s speed, while certainly having positive effects, was not necessary for change to happen and the underlying social movement was sufficient to effect change, just not control the way they change would happen. Also that the policy changes will necessarily happen quickly when they do happen but this is an effect of the process of change and not a cause.

The discussion of the tactics to implement progressive change is necessary but not in the way I’ve read from Mr. Perlstein. I think it’s important in figuring out how to best implement change, not to in how best to cause change. My issues with the piece by Mr. Perlstain are the claim that post Civil War reconstruction was liberal and/or progressive and that it, intentionally or unintentionally, suggests that the path to progressive change lays in the political skill of progressive leaders.

I find that there are a lot of people in this nation that believe that electing Democrats to legislators and executives at any costs will lead to progressive change. I see this as a problem. Because of arguments made by Mr. Perlstein, myself, and others this will not be and has not been the case. Which party is in power in these institutions is rather immaterial; what is not is large groups of people sacrificing and pushing for change.

What is needed for change is for people to campaign for changes outside of politics and brign the campaign into the political arena only when it is well established and making achievements elsewhere in society. For example, the use of boycotts, sit-ins, litigation, freedom rides, rallies (social ralliers, not political rallies), and other tactics achieved successes in desegregation long before the federal government acted significantly on the issue. This type of progressive advancement is indeed incremental and only when the final victory is one and it comes to changes in governmental policy is there quick change.

I advocate that people make progressive changes in their own lives and then working to make progressive changes in society at large and I advocate for people to give up blind faith in and unconditional support for the Democratic Party as the path to change for I believe that is the only way change can in fact happen.

I thank you, No. Consequence, for challenging my position so that I can further refine it and hopefully strengthen my beliefs through an increase in accuracy. I don’t know how much we are actually in disagreement but I hope I can do the same for you and any observers. If you or anyone else has something else to add, I ask you to do so, for my own benefit if nothing else.

Posted by Benjamin A. Schwab at August 23, 2008 10:14 PM