Comments: I Like the 9/12ers

Yeah, I sometimes wonder what portion of these crazies could be converted to progressive action. It's the will to action itself which seems to be the scarce commodity.

So then the question is, how to get the message to them. Certainly not through "reason", the way liberals always think they're gonna convince people.

Nope, it has to be the same tactics the Republicans use. As down and dirty as necessary.

Posted by Russ at September 13, 2009 03:26 PM

If we write people off as "conservative," then naturally we won't try to reason with them, because that is what Democratic Party protocol recommends.

On the other hand, if we see people as suffering from the same economic pressures we are, one misfortune away from losing our health and our homes, then it is easy to "reason" with them. It begins by taking an interest, and presenting an argument based on class -- not "political" -- sympathies. Religious and abortion views aside, you'd be surprised how much working people have in common!

Posted by JRBoyd at September 13, 2009 03:44 PM

The missing story here is this: a few thousand loons show up to protest "obamacare," and the Washington Post leaps to print the article you've linked us to, with the screaming headline "Tens of Thousands Protest Obama Initiative."

Yet, we might recall that on a certain Feb. 16th, after several hundred thousand in NYC protested a coming war in Iraq the day before (as part of a day of protests, of course, in which several million took part), the WaPo had this to say: "In New York, Thousands Protest a War Against Iraq."
(The only link I can find is here: http://www.why-war.com/news/2003/02/16/innewyor.html... The Post doesn't seem to still have the article archived).

I, for one, will never forget the desperation I felt, seeing the absolutely underwhelming headlines in major American newspapers that day... And so, though we don't need yet another little screed about how biased the corporate press is, etc. etc., I can't help but point it out.

And by the way: nothing will ever convert even the smallest percentage of these crazies to leftist activism: a person does not go from marching on the capitol, calling center-right neo-liberal Obama a "socialist," to actually embracing socialist platforms. Despite the fact that it might seem obvious to us that they are acting against their own interests (though how it is that we know their interests better than they is always the tricky bit), the best we can hope is that at some point, these people will just sit down and shut up and get the hell out of the way of what will then have been history.

Posted by matthew at September 13, 2009 03:55 PM

I totally agree. While I detest everything the 9/12ers stand for, I find the smug, wealthy liberal attitude towards them completely repugnant. To some extent, I agree with Thomas Franks about this kind of political phenomena: it is further proof that the Democratic Leadership Council’s neoliberal triangulation policy has been an abysmal failure. Once the cultural „wedge issues“ are put aside, it seems that a genuinely progressive populist political program would be much more effective and would redirect much of the vitriol of middle and working class people towards progressive ends.

Posted by Bryan Klausmeyer at September 13, 2009 04:03 PM

And yet, if Democratic elites had made the effort to improve the lives of ordinary people, the 9/12ers would be the first to scream 'communism' and 'death panels.' These are the very people, after all, who are holding violent protests against getting better health care.

They made their beds and dragged the rest of us down with them. Let them burn. They're too malignantly stupid to deserve anything.

Posted by Curmudgeon at September 13, 2009 04:05 PM

Interestingly enough Clinton, TN had the first high school to be integrated in Tennessee after Brown vs. Board of education and it was (unsurprisingly) not the most pleasant affair.

And assuming Mr. Chancey grew up in Clinton he's just about the age to have experienced it directly...

Posted by gary at September 13, 2009 05:32 PM

the dlcers point to the 912ers, who have no power, while their precious party, which controls the oval office, senate and house, sells us out behind closed doors to the pharmas, the insurance companies, and the hospitals. And as their new hero, the pope of hope, compromises away what 75% of the people that he professes to represent want: the public option.

In my more cynical moments, I think the ramping up of this right wing nonsense is being orchestrated by big business ... that's just hard fact actually ... to give obama more credibility, by contrast, so that he can sell his sell-out to the american people more effectively. The right wingers have a way of making the centrist corporatists seem like friends and big business can depend upon interconnected beltway "progressives", who have essentially been coopted and are really dlcers more than anything else, to do their share by trying to focus the public's attention on the crazies rather than the people, and party, that we've chosen to represent us, but don't and doesn't.

I'm not saying that the dlc water carriers are part of the plot, but they can be counted on to reflexively do the dance and seize upon the nuttiness to blindly promote their party becoz for them it is party over principle.

With progressives like them, who needs republicans?

Z

Posted by Z at September 13, 2009 05:41 PM

My mom saw one of these guys being interviewed on CNN, and he was asked, "What do you want?". His reply: "We want our country back! We want things back to the way they were 100 years ago!" The two anchors - one, a woman, the other, an African-American man - didn't bat an eye.

Posted by SteveB at September 13, 2009 05:55 PM

Mebbe it's just me, but I don't think larry Summers' career choice has anything at all to do with phil chancey's feelings of abandonment. I spent 10 years in baton rouge, mid-'80s/mid-'90s, during one of David Dukes' periodic ascendancies. You heard this a lot from Dukes' apologists: "Nobody's talking about OUR interests. He mightn't be the best guy to be the face of the movement, but SOMEBODY's gotta be saying things that need to be heard."

A hundred years is just a "round number", but they don't need to go back that far. They'd be perfectly happy with 1940, more or less...

Posted by Woody at September 13, 2009 06:13 PM

I kinda agree with Matthew here, Sorry JR.

Posted by Jenny at September 13, 2009 06:16 PM

Hmm, I like "$100,000 per day". I.e., "more money than any man needs to live comfortably, per day".

Posted by saurabh at September 13, 2009 06:16 PM

A hundred years is just a "round number", but they don't need to go back that far. They'd be perfectly happy with 1940, more or less...

By 1940, we'd already made the mistake of giving the women the vote, which, no doubt, contributed to putting that communist Roosevelt in the White House. Plus the colored folk were already getting uppity by then, with Joe Louis taking the heavyweight title.

Nah, we'd have to go back at least a hundred years to get to the America that guy wants to see.

Posted by SteveB at September 13, 2009 06:40 PM

i DON'T like them. they lie freely and choose to believe the worst in fellow countrypeople with no more evidence than their own misfortune. daddy's playing them because they're childish.

Posted by hapa at September 13, 2009 07:06 PM

"We want our country back! We want things back to the way they were 100 years ago!"

He wants a resurgent Populist Party and militant unionism?

Posted by RobWeaver at September 13, 2009 10:28 PM

lol populism

"For the rich man hath said to the king, Come, let us go down, and flatter the people with condominiums, and Best Buys, and Olive Gardens; that they turn not again to the populism of their forefathers, and our power shall be upheld for ever."

Posted by Cloud at September 13, 2009 10:56 PM

That has been the formula since 1980, anyway, but it may be about to backfire in the form of, one might say, "blackshirt" populism.

The worst are full of passionate intensity, etc.

Posted by Cloud at September 13, 2009 11:01 PM

Another Excellent Post.

I find the comments really interesting, because they're so different. It reminds me of the story about all the blindfolded people feeling the elephant, and what they think it is depends on what part of it they touch.

I think the nostalgia the guy quoted by CNN had may not be for racism and sexism, but an era when people actually could take care of themselves, an era that I should note John D. Rockefellor said was already gone even 100 years ago. (And he should have known, having pumped a few of the last rounds in it himself.)

Face it, the Democrats have helped kill people's sense of security in the world. When people have to worry about their job disappearing because someone in Bangalore or Shanghai has been hired to replace them, they are scared. And when they think the government is going to have more and more control over their lives, from the freaking speed cameras to the decision about the end of their life, that doesn't help them feel like they have control over anything anymore, and that's scarey too. Having a black guy as President probably doesn't help for a bunch of them, and of course there are plenty of a-holes among them, but even apart from that the fear is real and the Dems servility to banks just ratchets it up even more. The banks are predators, and people who are already feeling hunted don't feel reassured when they see a grizzly in the brush.

What's too bad is that since the Reagan Revolution government hasn't been used to create social conditions that are less frightening for people who don't have lots of money. That could help start to undo this endless propaganda that government will hurt rather than help you, which may be hard because that has too often been the case in recent decades. Working a change like that doesn't appear to be just around the corner right now.

Finally, two of Larry Summers uncles were noble prize winners in economics (Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow), and both his parents were U Penn professors, so he probably wasn't ever headed for a career as a high school math teacher even if the upper middle class valued teaching more. Rigid social classes are part of the problem too.

Posted by N E at September 13, 2009 11:10 PM

us, them? To me this is (somewhat) like the Ron Paul problem.

Unlike Obama and Hillary, he represented a pretty forthright repudiation of American Empire, where the leading democratic candidates had their various technocratic caveats that didn't instill confidence if you listened closely enough.

On the other hand, there was his view of social security, which gave me pause. He had some other sundry nutty views besides wanting to do away with social security, but most of the rest of them were things that the congress were highly unlikely to go along with, like returning to the gold standard.

All the same, the demographic we used to call Nixon's "silent majority" (now I guess they're Glenn Beck's noisy minority) is not as monolithic as the front the tea-baggers present, nor as Beck would have you believe. And they're not all racists, although discouragingly many /s/of them/s/ Americans clearly are.

Also, let's be honest and acknowledge that tribalism cuts both ways, pace the cult of Obama, and all the people who gushed over his insipid speech from this past week. If we can't see that, then we, along with the tea-baggers, are just stooges for a one-party system.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at September 13, 2009 11:54 PM

I think NE hit the nail on the head. Unlike you others--yes, it's an assumption, but I'm pretty sure a valid one--I'm old enought to actually remember when people could be reasonably confident that if they did right--worked hard, educated themselves, were honest, didn't acquire debt--they'd lead fulfilling and comfortable lives. Oh, I know that didn't apply to lots of people, who were permanently behind the 8-ball because of gender, color, or disability, but maybe to more than it does now. As for political parties, it seems to me there were pretty clear differnces, at least as perceived by most. It was not Utopia by any means, the old class stuff was in place then, too, but it may have been better for most of the lower to middle class. I wish we could have salvaged at least some of that.

Posted by Rosemary Molloy at September 14, 2009 08:03 AM

I'm old enought to actually remember when people could be reasonably confident that if they did right--worked hard, educated themselves, were honest, didn't acquire debt--they'd lead fulfilling and comfortable lives.

Sure, for a period from about 1945-1970. But that was due to strong unions, something I'm willing to bet all of these protesters oppose.

I agree that there a tens of millions of Americans who feel completely alienated from our political system and think the game is rigged against working people.

But those people don't come to marches in D.C. organized by Dick Armey, any more than they came to marches in D.C. organized by United for Peace and Justice.

People who get on a bus to go to D.C. for a protest are still engaged in the system, and still hold the belief that if enough people like them speak out, something will happen. Those of us on the left have had that belief beaten out of us by eight years of the Bush administration, now it's the right-wingers turn. They will have their march, and then Congress will pass some clusterfuck of a bill called "health care reform", and Obama's supporters will trumpet it as a great victory, and the right-wingers won't turn out next year, because what the hell good did marching do?

Posted by SteveB at September 14, 2009 08:48 AM

My impression is that the majority of the non-wingnut contingent were retirees terrified that "reform" is really a code word for cutting medicare.

Given Obama's ties to Pete Peterson and stated enthusiasm for entitlement reform, there is plenty of reason to suspect the worst.

See
http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/8062

Chris Hedges nails the broader point today:

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. . . He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care.. . .He is a tool of the corporate state."

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/14

Posted by John Halle at September 14, 2009 09:48 AM

My impression is that the majority of the non-wingnut contingent were retirees terrified that "reform" is really a code word for cutting medicare.

Given Obama's ties to Pete Peterson and stated enthusiasm for entitlement reform, there is plenty of reason to suspect the worst.

See
http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/8062

Chris Hedges nails the broader point today:

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. . . He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care.. . .He is a tool of the corporate state."

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/14

Posted by John Halle at September 14, 2009 09:48 AM

I took action; I wrote a letter . . .

"Dear Sir
Stop it."


Posted by Murfyn at September 14, 2009 09:57 AM

Sheesh,

When 'people from [your] social strata' start suggesting peeps teach high school math in TN rather than engorging themselves in base, craven and disgusting displays at the gilded abattoirs of this fine republic, I think of the phrase 'mission creep.' As in, this creep is on a mission to sink Hedge Fund Larry. And that makes me...well...chuckle because you used the word nincompoop, which could be the greatest word ever.

Posted by john at September 14, 2009 10:54 AM

I called TODAY, 1-202-225-0100, and DEMANDED SINGLE PAYER, because single payer is what I want.
The 9/12ers DON'T have a clue to what the want. They think its 1890 America or no TAXES or a lot of money or WHO knows what. NOTHING in their signage says what they want except maybe a WHITE President.

Posted by Mike Meyer at September 14, 2009 11:10 AM

This is always a central contradiction in liberalism I think; the compassion for your fellow man and the problem when it turns out that your fellow man is an ignorant racist asshole. The 9-12ers remind me of that quote by Jay Gould, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half". Guess which half the 9-12ers are?

Although Obama has done a lot to bring out the authoritarians on what passes as the left of mainstream US politics, the right has always had an easy time leading these 9-12ers around by the nose. As Bob Altemeyer's research shows, there are differences between them and us. The right is easier to fool, easier to control and manipulate. They don't think things through much, they don't seem to notice the lies as easily. They trust leaders more quickly and they are loyal.

So, yes you can reason with them but it isn't easy. You can convince them their leaders are corrupt but there's nobody better for them to follow is there?

This concept of getting back to the golden age, the time when everything was good (ie palingenesis) is common on what passes for the left too. You can see it over the reaction to George Bush. The idea that America started going bad sometime, perhaps after 9-11, and that things were better before all that. A front-page liberal at FDL recently said things were worse than at any time in his life ---and he was in his sixties. I had to point out a brief list of nasty things that had happened during his lifetime.

I don't think that the teabaggers and 9-12ers are more enthusiastic to do something though. Let them be ignored and opposed by the corporate media instead of being sponsored and feted by it and then we'll see how much enthusiasm they really have I think. I mean really-- who marches on Washington with corporate sponsors? Yes, they know something is wrong but they lack the intellectual strength to figure out what. There's a laziness there and it is a laziness which causes great harm. They are responsible for their actions.

Posted by DavidByron at September 14, 2009 11:30 AM

Z: I think the ramping up of this right wing nonsense is ... to give obama more credibility

That's how the good cop / bad cop system works. It is easiest to see this happening over how the Democrats pretend they can never get anything done and come up with excuses such as needing a majority, needing a filibuster-proof majority, needing to be "bipartisan" and so on. Now Glenn Greenwald wrote that very provocative article on how this happens (which even he seems to have now forgotten about) but he didn't take it the next few steps. If that is what the Democrats do, and it is, why don't the Republicans call them on it? Why are they not calling the Democrats weak all the time? It would be a very credible attack because it is true. Instead they have nothing but this birther crap.

So the Republican party protects the Democratic party's interests much of the time and that is a very hard fact to explain under the theory that both parties are distinct and opposed to each other. I've never heard anyone try and explain why the Republican party so often fails to attack the Democrats in this way.

John Halle, quoting Chris Hedges: "The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist"

That's like saying Hannibal the Cannibal is a vegetarian. It's a ridiculous thing to say and further tends to undermine what socialism is. It bizarrely lets Capitalism off the hook and allows the sort of argument that conservatives love, "Capitalism never fails, it is only failed." This depression, the bail-outs, the corruption -- that is what capitalism is. That is what you get from a system that puts greed on the throne. Bubbles and crashes are part of the system. Unemployment is part of the system and desirable within capitalism. The system has utterly failed. Let's not start calling the system something else just as it is seen to be a failure.

Posted by DavidByron at September 14, 2009 11:49 AM

For some people, it's more important to feel superior to someone else, than it is to work together to fix problems. Schwarz, your closing statement is about the wisest thing I've read here in a few years.

I'm going to guess at something here, but it's a guess founded on my own personal experience as well as the experiences of many friends. And here's the guess:

"Liberals" and "progressives" regularly drive people into the arms of any cause or person but the person or cause chosen by the lib-prog. Why?

The smug superiority. The denigration. The pompous verbosity of the grad-degreed lib-prog "putdown" is routinely displayed in the comment threads here, many of which fail to point at problems and instead attack "rethugs" and the like as if that's the same thing as pointing out problems or trying to solve the problems so identified.

I guess if one's life feels abysmal in some respect, it's more fun or tranquilizing to scapegoat an enemy group/tribe/individual. I would have thought the fancy-education lib-progs wouldn't have this problem of having an abysmal life or aspect of life. I mean, they went to such great lengths to attend "superior" schools to get "superior" degrees to give them entry into "superior" jobs.

I flirted with being a lib-prog for 2 years in the early 90s. But the more I experienced that world, the more I realized why so many people side with the visceral hate of the Elephants. Intellectual bullies are as bad as corporal bullies.

Posted by Fame is Not Wisdom at September 14, 2009 11:52 AM

"Liberals" and "progressives" regularly drive people into the arms of any cause or person but the person or cause chosen by the lib-prog.

And yet public support for progressive positions continues to increase, whether it's support for gay marriage, concern about the environment, or opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How come we're so persuasive when we're so repulsive?

The pompous verbosity of the grad-degreed lib-prog "putdown" is routinely displayed in the comment threads here, many of which fail to point at problems and instead attack "rethugs" and the like as if that's the same thing as pointing out problems or trying to solve the problems so identified.

But where can I be pompously verbose if not here? If I try to talk to people in person, they yawn and glance at their wristwatch, which just throws me off, and then I have to start my pompously verbose rant all over again.

The smug superiority. The denigration. ...I guess if one's life feels abysmal in some respect, it's more fun or tranquilizing to scapegoat an enemy group/tribe/individual.

Somehow, I sense a contradiction here, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Intellectual bullies are as bad as corporal bullies.

So being subjected to withering sarcasm is as bad as being lined up in front of a mass grave you've just been forced to dig? I'd respond to that claim with withering sarcasm, but I don't want to hurt anyone.

Posted by SteveB at September 14, 2009 01:31 PM

Thanks for proving my points in one quick post, Steve. Your arrogance and condescension are a shining exemplar for all!

Posted by Fame is Not Wisdom at September 14, 2009 02:09 PM

David, the full quote from Hedges is "The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations." If John Halle cut it off at "socialist" I sure hope he explained the omitted context. If you're just objecting to the notion of "corporate socialism" (aka "corporate welfare") I can understand that, though it doesn't bother me personally, but if you read Hedges' article you'll see he agrees with everything else you said.

And Hedges was also basically saying the same thing Jon's saying:

The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.

I'd say there are millions of people on the right who really are Republicans in name only; in fact I've got several in my family. That's one reason why I think people are mistaken to dismiss the universal appeal of "far left" (e.g. Green/Naderite) politics—because the linear scale distorts the reality of how people's beliefs work. There are plenty of people out there who are absolutely right when they feel that nobody's standing up for them, as Jon mentions, but the lack of a prominent outlet for that anger on the left has pushed them to follow the Judas goat of right-wing populism.

That said, the majority of the teabaggers themselves are not the ones who're ever going to be converted to progressive anything. I always make a point of talking to opposition protesters at the events I go to, and I've encountered many ostensible right-wingers who were very reasonable when you got past sign-level rhetoric and talked about real concerns. But when I've talked to the teabagger types, they're completely gone. At a pre-Iraq invasion protest in 2003 I had a picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, and they just laughed it off, entirely unfazed by the cognitive dissonance (some of these same people were holding signs expressing their deep hatred for Saddam and the idiotic commie protesters who coddle him). The teabagger, Michael Savage-loving, LGF-reading, Freeper right is happy to get near us to wire up the electrodes, but they're never going to be on our side in any other sense. "Proto-fascist" is dead on.

So Jon, while I'm with you on the admiration for people getting off their asses, it doesn't extend to (say) Klan marches. I respect many of the Republicans I've known, but you had it right when you called the people at this particular rally terrifying nincompoops.

Posted by John Caruso at September 14, 2009 02:18 PM

Arrogant? Condescending? Absolutely. But have pity on me, it's my abysmal life and grad-school training that drive me to act this way.

Posted by SteveB at September 14, 2009 02:20 PM

Fame is Not Wisdom: SO, what is that YOU want? Pelosi and Congress KNOWS what MIke Meyer wants as does ALL of the net.

Posted by Mike Meyer at September 14, 2009 03:07 PM

Boy, is my face red...I didn't realize David meant that John Halle quoted Hedges in this very comment thread. So it does look like you're just objecting to phrases like "corporate socialism", David, in which case (as I said) they don't bother me, though I can understand the arguments against them.

Posted by John Caruso at September 14, 2009 03:15 PM

Mister Caruso, et al,
I am reminded of my bowling-pin based, semi-unified field theory of US politics, which I've drawn, but never really blogged about.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at September 14, 2009 03:50 PM

No, wait; I did discuss my bowling pin theory a bit, here:"Torture, secret memos, and piracy(cont'd)". Don't remember if I discussed it in pt 1, but from the above essay it doesn't look like it. Me, me, me. Now I will go back to being modest.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at September 14, 2009 04:05 PM

Progressive ideas are mainstream ideas, but they're held back by the non-mainstream people at the front of the parade. Nader, Chomsky, Kucinich--these guys aren't just uncharismatic, they're anti-charismatic. And that's just how progressives want them. American progressives don't respect popularity; when they don't actively fear it, they think it's shallow, and if there's one thing a progressive must not be, it's shallow. (Michael Moore's just barely acceptable; he's popular, but unattractive.)

American progressives don't want to attract mainstream support any more than the comic geek wants everybody to read comics. They want everybody to know how smart they are, fix existence with a gimlet eye, and complain bitterly. That's why they take on baleful constants like human cruelty with snarky blog posts.

If progressives did want mainstream support, they'd change the faces of the movement. It's not impossible to figure out what people react to, and what stories they need to hear. But progressives do not, and I think the Iron Law has something to do with it--they're more comfortable being pure and powerless than being forced to test their ideas, and having to compromise.

This is much more harsh than I wish it to seem, but I do wish American progressives would wise up. Because they ARE right--but this countercultural/grad-school fetish they've been indulging doesn't connect with the people progressives profess to care about. "Why aren't they acting in their best interests?" Because the right person hasn't told them the right story. "But we're RIGHT." Sure, but who cares? That's not the game being played.

American progressives couldn't sell fur coats to Eskimos, mostly because they think it's beneath them to try. But until you have leaders commensurate with the ideas--leaders who can inspire, articulate the alternative vision, and connect with Americans on a visceral level--we'll remain stuck in this weird world where Americans believe one thing and their government does another.

Posted by Mike of Angle at September 14, 2009 06:09 PM

I think we all need to use the word 'nincompoops' more often.

And Mike of Angle, before you go have a beer on doctor's order, have you seen Kucinich's wife? If he's anti-charismatic, he must have other gifts.

Posted by N E at September 14, 2009 06:31 PM

Mike of A -

I think you're right, except this (which NE just said, too, sort of): have you met Dennis Kucinich?

I met him once, by accident, in a hotel lobby, and immediately found him to be the most charismatic person I have ever happened across.

Dunno what this says about your theory. It might say more about what we are allowed to know than it says about the people you mention.

Posted by Aaron Datesman at September 14, 2009 07:24 PM

The sick thing is We Could Prevent Another Attack!(video)

Posted by Tom at September 14, 2009 08:12 PM

Oh, N E, I'm fine. No beer for me, but I had some scrumpy last night that truly rearranged my world. Soothed the pain of the Bears game, improved my performance on Beatles Rockband (a gift from Mr. ATR himself). Scrumpy--is there anything it can't do?

Jon and I have also marveled over Mrs. K's hotness. Aaron, I have no doubt that DK is plenty magnetic in person. I heard Cynthia McKinney speak at a conference and was impressed by her, too. But the fact remains that they do not connect with the masses--shit, they don't even connect with my Boomer parents, who probably share about 95% of their beliefs! Blaming the MSM seems awfully convenient; too convenient.

It's not an insoluble problem--if progressives want to solve it, but I'm not sure they do (for reasons I elucidated above). So many progressives remind me of the folks who spent the 70s talking about how the metric system was so much more logical and wondering why, oh why people didn't want to switch.

Posted by Mike of Angle at September 14, 2009 08:51 PM

I appreciate anyone who actually gets off their ass and does something.

Lynch mobs get off their ass and do something. The Klan got off their ass and did something. Any dumb racist asshole afraid of blacks and mexicans can get off his ass and do something. What about any of that makes it worthy of appreciation?

Posted by stras at September 14, 2009 09:48 PM

Mike of A:
Naomi Klein's got it all: attractive, articulate, and can spin a good narrative that gets right to the point. I saw a Youtube of her once on Fox News and she absolutely demolished the poor right-winger they had set against her. And you know what? She was never asked back on Fox News again. Now, if she'd been a nice anti-charismatic schlub like Alan Colmes, she'd get to be on Fox every night.

Forget Chomsky for a second and think about how many attractive, charismatic folks we have on the left: How about Arundhati Roy? Or Jeremy Scahill? And these people, like Naomi Klein, will never be on your television. I think that tells us something, but it's not that progressives don't want to be popular.

And I still remember all of the progressive folks who were just ecstatic that they had a rather charismatic fellow named Barack Obama as their candidate. We all know how that turned out, but my point is that they we happy to have him, when they thought he was theirs.

Posted by SteveB at September 14, 2009 10:59 PM

Mike of A:

"But progressives do not, and I think the Iron Law has something to do with it--they're more comfortable being pure and powerless than being forced to test their ideas, and having to compromise."

Come on. How many people have you met who have told you in 2008 that they were going to vote for Obama(or Hillary), but their politics are actually closer to Kucinich's? Quite a few, I'd wager. And then when you ask them if they voted for him in the primary, they look at you like you have rocks in your head.

And then, when the S.O.B. du jour actually does get elected, they make all sorts of excuses for how the system "won't let him" be the kind of president that they just know in their hearts he means to be.

Mike, don't get me wrong-- I think you are right about some style-related particulars. For example, Kucinich probably should have shelved his department of peace idea, recognizing that it would come across as confirmation of various stereotypes about liberals, and was a waste of the precious little face-time the MSM afforded him, relative to other things he had on his agenda.

But from here, cold-blooded democratic voters who tell themselves all sorts of lies about how prudent and reasonable they're being look like a far bigger problem.

Posted by Jonathan Versen at September 14, 2009 11:52 PM

ok, stras should be a lawyer if (s)he isn't, because (s)he has natural talent. I think Mike of Angle probably didn't mean to include Hitler in the list of people he appreciates either.

Aaron is on to something with his observation about the effect of media and the difference between charisma presented by media and personal charisma. I'm glad to hear Kucinich is personally charming and not just some physical freak.

I didn't entirely mention Hitler above by accident. The phrase "connecting with the masses" made me think of Hitler, who was probably the best ever at that. But surprisingly or not, Hitler apparently wasn't terribly good at speaking to or connecting with just a person or a few people. That made him uncomfortable. It literally took masses, or a mob, for him to find his connection, probably because it had some hypnotic aspects and wasn't a real personal connection. Still, say what you will about demagoguery, it has some passion behind it.

We could have a round-robin discussion of Lakoff and frames and what the latest brain research says about how people form political opinions, but maybe that would be like discussing the metric system. I'm tired anyway.

But not that tired, so I will say this. The left will need not just a program that can appeal to a majority of people to ever have enduring power, and I don't think that is likely to take the form of socialism, whose structures showed themselves to be too corruptible. And just as importantly, progressives will need an organization and strategy of disciplined action to prevent themselves from being destroyed by the State, because when push comes to shove the State uses every nasty tool at its disposal to preserve its power.

Real change is revolutionary even if it doesn't come from insurrection, and it isn't agreed to by those in power just because that would be the democratic thing to do. All the Cointelpro shenanigans in the 60s that we know about were probably just the tip of the iceberg, and the whole history of the labor movement in the U.S. is rife with police spies and agent provacateurs and unending brutality and violence. That will certainly be the response again.

But that's getting way ahead of the game, because right now I don't think you're far from the mark. The thing to remember is that times can change pretty fast and politicians will change too as they do. FDR was fairly milquetoast before he took office, and he ran a conservative campaign in 32 despite the dire state of the country. But throughout his first term he had Huey Long well to his left with his "Share our Wealth" clubs, and Upton Sinclair ran for Governor of california as a socialist. So there was pressure for FDR to move left, and that's what he did. He was swept along by the current.

Once the movement is there, someone with charisma and political talent will emerge, or if necessary be created. And how far that person go will depend at least as much on the strength of the current behind him as his political skill and charisma.

Posted by N E at September 15, 2009 12:01 AM


better:

...And when you ask them if they would therefore vote for him in the primary, they look at you like you have rocks in your head.

And then, when their more viable S.O.B. du jour actually does get elected,...

Posted by Jonathan Versen at September 15, 2009 12:03 AM

Fame & SteveB,

There's something to what both of you have had to say. May I propose an overarching hypothesis that may account for the mindsets and subsequent actions observed coming from both the right and the left? I sometimes wonder if "smart" people just can't (with rare exceptions) help themselves from exploiting their access to insights into the metadata of human experience to the distinct disadvantage of their fellow men.

Those on the right tend to do so with little to no apologies; as their world view often runs toward viewing life as a zero sum game, they are ab initio both philosophically and emotionally reconciled to the exploitation of others for their own aggrandizement. Given this outlook, failure to take advantage of a sucker would be the equivalent of leaving money lying on the table, and having "insider" access to information in information-dependent venues like stock markets and such would unfailingly be viewed as a good, and something to be ruthlessly exploited for one's own benefit, regardless of the legality. As greed and narrow self interest are the default positions, and are felt to be the universal human condition, for smart people to refrain from exercising an intellectual advantage would be viewed as highly irrational. Of course, for those with a residual conscience this "nature red in claw and fang" world view is papered over by resort to rationalization the "market" works to the advantage of all, except of course for the weaklings, who had it coming.

Those on the left can be just as exploitative of their fellow man, but they may do so with the burden of a bad conscience. Sure, they can work the system, and they may be able to quietly parlay their insights into advantages that their purportedly egalitarian Weltanschauung cannot emotionally reconcile with the real world inequities that result from the application of their smarts. But a bad conscience can easily result in psychological projections and a propensity to rationalize one's superior economic or social status. ("Certainly the Lumpenproletariat are 'equals', but realistically viewed the finer things would just be lost on them. More importantly, absent the finely-honed technocratic guidance I can bring to them, they would surely be lost. So, it's only appropriate that I should be on top, with the access to all of the requisite resources to prevent those sheep from falling into pits and all. And what could be the harm of a nicely aged burgundy as a reasonable reward for all of my solicitation on their behalf, after all. They, on the other hand, seem quite content with Bear Whizz Beer. To each their own."

In a recognition of this order of things, I sometimes observe to my wife when confronted with a circumstance where people seem to have opened themselves up to being used, "It's enough to make you a Republican." I can't quite bring myself to actually go that far, however. Intellectual right wingers have an deep-rooted suspicion that left wing intellectuals may give away the game by spreading insights about the social order among the hoi polloi. These hostilities generally attain expression through anti-intellectual sentiments, while avoiding engaging in direct criticisms of political critiques. That might have the undesired effect of establishing the argument's validity, rather than dismissing it out of hand through ridicule. Goering's pity little aphorism comes to mind in this connection: "Whenever I hear the word Culture, I reach for my revolver". You don't get much more categorically dismissive than that.

Ironically, extreme lefty intellectuals go so far as to advocate for the extirpation of intellectuals, too. Recall the course of the Cultural Revolution; if you were an intellectual, you were regarded with the utmost suspicion. Of course, this policy originated with Mao, himself an intellectual, although one possessed of a strong sense of self-loathing. I think that this may have arisen from the not unjustified belief that even left-oriented intellectuals are disposed to using their smarts to advance themselves, no matter what they might say with their lips. And who is to say that old Mao wasn't correct, when we view how things have played out in China.

So that's my long-winded hypothesis, painted in broad strokes. Props are of course due to Friedrich Nietzsche and his observations. But perhaps our own Elites have combined the remorselessness of the Strong with the serpentine ressentiment of the Weak in some sort of synthesis that exquisitely serves their ends. They're good.

Posted by JerseyJeffersonian at September 15, 2009 01:31 AM

And to think I scrolled all the way down here to call "Fame is Not Wisdom" a dick.

Never mind then.

Posted by NoneSuch at September 15, 2009 02:34 AM

chomsky isn't at the front of any parades. he's... well, his photo is on the jacket of a book in a store window that the parade is passing.

nader is a national hero with severe political liabilities that his rivals know how to exploit better than his supporters know how to defend.

actual soc–dems-with-power like kucinich or sanders are expected to be superhuman.

nobody's mentioned wellstone. nobody's mentioned working together or loyalty.

charisma... salespeople... feh.

Posted by hapa at September 15, 2009 02:52 AM

hapa

i think wellstone was very charismatic, and a great person, when he was alive.

jerseyjeffersonian

I wonder what Mao would think of China today. I have no idea. That's probably about as easy to figure out as what Jefferson would make of the USA today.

Mao sure was brilliant, and most definitely had a strong intellectual bent. I'm not expert, but I don't think of him as self-loathing at all--that view surprises me, though you could easily know more about Mao than I do.

But I wouldn't overdo the theoretical importance of the anti-intellectualism of the Cultural Revolution. There were a real split about policy at the core of what happened, mostly about China's relatinonship to the USSR and the possibility of an independent path, and because Mao had lost control of party bureaucracy, he really didn't have that many options. Having seen the Indonesian PKI slaughtered in one of the truly horrific mass murders of the 20th century, which was a very aggressive and murderous move backed by the United States, and facing a serious danger of nuclear attack from the US, where the anticommunist hardliners seemed to have become ascendant, Mao responded decisively to regain control of policy. The Cultural Revolution was his way of purging the bureaucracy and regaining control. Part of Mao's genius was that he found creative ways of accomplishing things that others couldn't, and the Cultural Revolution was one of those ways. All those "intellectuals" were part of a powerful bureacracy that stood in the way of a big change in policy, and the Red Guards removed that obstacle. If they had ONLY been intellectuals, I don't think Mao would have had any problem with them. After all, he read voraciously so that he didn't have to rely on dim-witted bureaucrats.

And you weren't that long winded!

Posted by N E at September 15, 2009 08:36 AM

The thing about charismatic and anti-charismatic spokespeople is completely missing the point. We've got plenty of charismatic spokespeople; it's just that, as SteveB notes, they're never on television. And they're never on television because for-profit corporate media is, pretty much by definition, owned by the opposition. That's why, when we do get off our asses - most notably in the protests leading up to the invasion of Iraq - a worldwide protest of hundreds of thousands can get dismissed as an isolated handful of aging hippies and out-of-touch college brats, while a few thousand Glenn Beck groupies gets portrayed as a righteous upwelling of working class rage.

Posted by stras at September 15, 2009 08:42 AM

Hell, Glenn Beck himself is not exactly the model of a charismatic spokesperson. The man comes off as a schizophrenic muppet on the brink of a nervous breakdown. What made the difference between his currently successful Fox show and his abysmally rated show on Headline News is mainly that he's now a schizophrenic muppet with some decent production values.

Posted by stras at September 15, 2009 08:48 AM

a few thousand Glenn Beck groupies gets portrayed as a righteous upwelling of working class rage.

There are lots of factors at play here, and it may all simply be due to the memos sent down the line directly from the desk of Rupert Murdoch, but I have a nagging suspicion that Glenn Beck's minions get more airtime because they conform to the stereotypes of "The American People" held by New York and Washington-based editors and producers.

I'd love to ask any random editor at the New York Times, for example, what the average American is like. "Oh, probably a conservative Christian, drives an SUV or pickup, maybe with a gun rack in the back window?" So when people who match that stereotype take to the streets, the editor thinks, "Ah, now that's the authentic Vox Populi! I must send a reporter, no matter how much I may disagree with the message!"

Posted by SteveB at September 15, 2009 09:38 AM

Talking about 'charisma', I would vote for Mr. al-Zaidi. He has revolutionised the way, how dissatsified citizenry can protest against its govt peacefully, around the globe!
here
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8254930.stm

Posted by Rupa Shah at September 15, 2009 10:58 AM

MY truck has a gun rack. Third Party, Folks.

Posted by Mike Meyer at September 15, 2009 12:12 PM
Come on. How many people have you met who have told you in 2008 that they were going to vote for Obama(or Hillary), but their politics are actually closer to Kucinich's? Quite a few, I'd wager. And then when you ask them if they voted for him in the primary, they look at you like you have rocks in your head.

The problem is the whole electoral process imho. I have NEVER been able to vote for my FIRST choice in the primaries as that person is eliminated by the time it is my state's turn to vote. The only way to get rid of this undemocratic process is to select a candidate or candidates ( and have a run off if need be ) on one single day in the whole country ( that will shorten the campaign and less money will be spent). Groups rooting for a specific candidate will be able to organise better and will have greater impact and chances of some one like Rep Kucinic getting elected will increase tremendously. Of course, I do not know enough about the system to know what would be required to change it.

Posted by Rupa Shah at September 15, 2009 12:42 PM

Rupa Shah,

What would be required to change it would be the repeal of the Iron Law of Institutions.

http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/001705.html

This is unlikely to occur prior to the entropic heat death of the universe, however, so I wouldn't get my hopes up about substantive change originating from within the Democratic party.

Mike,

Third party is my favored option as well. I voted for that McKinney woman last go around, not that I expected her to win. But I smelled a rat with Mr. Hopey Changey, and you've gotta have a code of conduct that you hold yourself to. Don't get trampled, but try like hell to not yourself be a part of the stampede as the price of your personal salvation. As e.e.cummings said somewhere, "...there is some shit I will not eat..."

Posted by JerseyJeffersonian at September 15, 2009 01:36 PM

the editor thinks, "Ah, now that's the authentic Vox Populi! I must send a reporter, no matter how much I may disagree with the message!"

But the point is this:

The editors don't disagree with the message. The editors, and, more importantly, the owners, have got good health care. They want the reform to be weak tea.

They agree with the message, and therefore send reporters.
And no matter how disagreeable they may find the messengers, the editors and owners recognize their usefulness in this regard and so will portray them as the authentic Vox Populi.

Posted by Death dies at September 15, 2009 01:59 PM

The editors don't disagree with the message.

Sure, that's a possibility too.

Posted by SteveB at September 15, 2009 06:16 PM

JerseyJeffersonian:
Thank you for the link... a great post.
I guess, I missed it as I discovered ATR just last summer. Now, I will have to read all the archived material!

Posted by Rupa Shah at September 15, 2009 09:22 PM

The recent amazing success of the Working Families Party in the NYC primary election provides a model for a new model of political appeal.

The WFP deals only with issues of concern to all working people and their families: economic issues. It leaves aside social questions like abortion or gun control thereby not alienating large sections of the electorate on either side of those questions.

Posted by Seth at September 17, 2009 11:16 PM

What Seth describes is intelligent, and it sounds disciplined. Elites are small and can only succeed by dividing people. The challenge for popular parties is to unite around core issues and not get drawn away from them into other areas that will divide people.

Posted by N E at September 18, 2009 12:44 AM

to JerseyJeffersonian --

I think you misunderstand me to be a "right wing intellectual." I belong to no wing, I want nothing to do with a single wing... birds can't fly with only one wing, even though Steverino tries mighty hard to get his one-winged bird off the ground, it just flaps around in a walking circle, chasing its own shadow, thinking it's flying when all it's doing is demonstrating crippledom.

Of course in Steverino's eyes, his one-winged bird is a noble Eagle, and its inherent nobility is expected to carry the day. Methinks Steve is like most "progressives" in that he is so caught up in being Superior and Correct that he can't even imagine he's turning away whomever he believes should simply admire him and fall in line behind him.

And he's not alone, of course. Many who comment here regularly come from that view -- or at least, they POST from that view as if that's where they're coming from.

Instead of seeing commonality -- i.e., there's a whole fucking raft of disaffected Americans out there, and a lot of them agree on these points:

* the Wall Street bailouts are bullshit

* the assistance to AIG and other big corporate entities, that's bullshit too

* the ruse of "health care reform" is bullshit

* the over-spending by the Fed Govt is destructive

* the continued warring of Imperial Bloodthirst is destructive

* the Fed Govt spying on its own innocent citizens is WRONG

* the destruction of habeas corpus and all civil and criminal rights protection via procedural safeguards, that's WRONG too

* the ownership of our Fed Govt by corporate interests is WRONG

now with all these commonalities, why would someone choose to pick on a point of division?

If there's some reason other than to feel superior, I'd like to hear it.

Posted by Fame is Not Wisdom at September 18, 2009 03:35 PM

now with all these commonalities, why would someone choose to pick on a point of division? If there's some reason other than to feel superior, I'd like to hear it.

FINW, every time I've seen you post here you've "picked on points of division." Do you recognize the irony? And is there some reason you're doing it, other than to feel superior?

I'm not trying to score points on you here; I'm genuinely asking. You seem like you're speaking from sincere beliefs rather than just trolling, but when you piss on someone (or usually everyone) every time you comment it's hard to see any meaningful difference.

Posted by John Caruso at September 18, 2009 08:34 PM

And that makes me...well...chuckle because you used the word nincompoop, which could be the greatest word ever.

You might have a point there

Posted by cemmcs at September 18, 2009 08:45 PM

The issue for progressives is their relationship to the state. Those that distrust the state will align themselves with people, because it is only through them that power can be diffused. This means undertaking the work of appealing to people: listening to their concerns, responding with arguments that they find persuasive. Failing this, coming up with better arguments, listening more.

Many progressives aren't up for this, however, and see the answer in having their policy prescriptions adopted by the state, by engineering a better party vehicle. Failing this: complaining.

Given the prevalence of the latter view, it is little wonder the corporation has “populism” on its side: progressives have yet to present the white working class with a better argument; or, as the party faithfuls would have it, any argument at all!

Posted by JRB at September 19, 2009 02:12 AM

Many progressives aren't up for this, however, and see the answer in having their policy prescriptions adopted by the state, by engineering a better party vehicle.

OK, let's break this into two parts:

see the answer in having their policy prescriptions adopted by the state

Yeah, sure. Given that, in sane countries, things like universal health care are delivered by the state, progressives do tend to think state power would be a useful thing to have.

by engineering a better party vehicle.

Also true, at least for most progressives, neglecting the (growing?) number of progressives - like me - who identify with a third party. But again, if your goal is state power, in a democracy, that's going to require winning elections. So yes, people do tend to look to the party that has a record of winning elections, rather than the party that has a record of losing elections.

And none of this is mutually exclusive with the idea of "undertaking the work of appealing to people: listening to their concerns, responding with arguments that they find persuasive." I don't know if you've ever engaged in any electoral work, but listening and persuasion are often employed.

And can you name a political tendency that is more persuasive that progressivism? As I pointed out above, it's the progressive position (support for gay marriage, concern about the environment, opposition to war) that is the majority view in this country today. Those progressives must be doing something right, no?

Look, I'm all for localism, self-help, mutual aid, cooperatives, community-supported agriculture, and all the other truly wonderful and inspiring things that people - many of them self-described anarchists - are doing that don't involve lusting after state power. But if you don't, at some point, gain some measure of control over the state, then the state gets used against all your inspiring examples of small-d democracy, as the original populists learned more than a century ago.

Posted by SteveB at September 19, 2009 09:17 AM

Steve B,

Thanks for the link to the "original populists." A really good history lesson for all to read.-Tony

Posted by tony at September 19, 2009 09:38 AM

John Caruso --

The problem is that you think I'm pissing on people, when for the most part I'm complaining about ideas offered by people.

That's a significant difference, a difference which most any person who isn't on the defensive and feeling attacked can see.

As to my chiding SteveB, what can I say? I'm human. Every post I've ever put up here, under whatever handle I've chosen, SteveB has attacked me with violent vitriol. Forgive me for not having Gandhi's patience with Steve, it's hard to muster when he takes such a superior, dismissive tone -- my inclination is to give him the same thing back, in spades.

I do issue insults toward the general idea of "progressive" politics, because of two things: (1) the label doesn't mean anything concrete, so why not just mock it?, and (2) the label's not taking us anywhere close to what it pretends by its literal meaning, so why take it seriously?

I think if you want to hold me to a standard of perfection, you're going to find it easy to say I'm a big problem. But I'd wonder -- why do you choose me to attack thusly, when so many here behave as spoiled children who always want to blame everyone else other than themselves, who never accept responsibility for their own role in the eternally divisive nature of present-day American politics?

Is it really enough to simply be a "progressive"? I think not. I would enjoy reading some evidence of humility and some indicia that the urge to divide, so as to feel superior, is acknowledged and is accepted as a problem worth fixing.

Posted by Fame is Not Wisdom at September 19, 2009 03:54 PM

I would enjoy reading some evidence of humility and some indicia that the urge to divide, so as to feel superior, is acknowledged and is accepted as a problem worth fixing.

If I admit that this is a problem (and I'll readily admit that), will you admit that it might be your problem?

Posted by SteveB at September 19, 2009 06:34 PM

And just to be fair, and to start things off on the right foot, I'll admit that I have been guilty, from time to time, of feeling superior to others. For example, when I see thousands of right-wing protesters on the Capitol Mall, I think, "Well, at least I'm not allowing myself to be manipulated by corporate astroturfers who don't have my own best interests at heart. Therefore, my understanding of the world is superior to theirs."

Sorry about that (no, actually, I'm not.)

Posted by SteveB at September 19, 2009 07:06 PM

For the record "Fame", there have been plenty of sock puppets that have gone though here and some have earned their derision. Since they're all so INSISTENT on changing their screenames constantly, its understandable that its been hard to distinguish who from who.

Are you the the "MediaGhost"? That Jesus guy?

Who?

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 19, 2009 11:16 PM

Forgive me for not having Gandhi's patience with Steve, it's hard to muster when he takes such a superior, dismissive tone -- my inclination is to give him the same thing back, in spades.

Yes, that's a natural and universal human reaction, but you seem blind (again) to the irony of what you're saying. Why would you expect anyone to react to your constant attacks in any other way than the way you react when you feel attacked?

I think if you want to hold me to a standard of perfection...

I'm not holding you to a standard of perfection; I'm suggesting that if you actually want to achieve something with your comments other than compensating for an abysmal life or making yourself feel superior (your notions, not mine), you should treat people the same way you want them to treat you.

Posted by John Caruso at September 19, 2009 11:30 PM