Thursday, November 11, 2010


Some things, it turns out, take longer than others.

We're back from the trip but something that developed in the course of it has kept me away from the keyboard. But here I am again, like the proverbial bad penny.

Anyway, so how'd "the most important election EVAH since the last one until the next one" work out for you?

Oh, and did you hear about Keith Olbermann? Like, wow, dude!

So, having mentioned them, I suppose I'm obligated to offer a paragraph or two on each. Election here, KO later.

Yes, this was called - more than once - "the most important election of your lifetime." However, the same was said about every goddam presidential election since at least 1980 and a good number of off-year ones, too. In other words, it's just more election year crap. I just can't get behind the notion that this is either the beginning of ultimate evil or the end of all things good and true. Yes, it will make our work a little harder, but our work - as opposed to the efforts of those who thought and think that the answer is ever to "elect more and better Democrats" - was always hard. And get some perspective: We have been here and worse before, up to and including the murder of dissenters to the cheering of crowds. Even with John Boner (that's not a typo) as Speaker of the House, I really really doubt we're going to see a lot of book burning. (Well, not a whole lot more, anyway.)

On the other hand, one thing the election did prove to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear - in other words, not Democrats - is that chasing the GOPpers to the right is a terrible electoral strategy: Yes, some notable liberals (defined as people actually worthy of the term) lost, particularly Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson (the latter of who we should have been surprised was elected in the first place). But so did Blue Dogs: Half of the Blue Dog caucus in the House lost their seats. So did so-called "New Democrats." Their caucus in the new Congress will be a third less as a result of the election. On the other hand, if I have the numbers correct and I believe I do, of the 78 members of the House Progressive Caucus, 75 retained their seats, a retention rate of 96%.

Such comparisons are always somewhat misleading, since outcomes depend on the local electorate. The House, remember, is not one big election but 435 smaller elections. But the figures do point up the bogus nature of the claim that victory is simply and always a matter of becoming just a little more of a rightist. They also means that potentially - and I emphasize the word potentially - the Dims could be more liberal in opposition than they were in the majority, since the Progressive Caucus now makes up a larger portion of the whole.

I say "potentially" because there are two big objections to that prospect. One is that it depends on the Dimcrats ability to, in what I think were Michael Moore's words, get a soul and grow a spine, either of which would be a dramatic change from recent behavior.

The second, bigger, objection is that it assumes the Ds as a party want to be more liberal, that their reluctance to stake out and clearly argue for positions to the left of Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson is neither a reflection of actual conviction nor an act of financial (as opposed to political) cowardice, a fear of straying too far from the desires of their corporate paymasters, by which I mean their source of campaign financing.

Either way, the odds on the Dums obtaining either soul or spine are low indeed, considering that already Barack "I did it your way" Obama has once again caved even before entering the arena, this time on tax cuts for the rich, and party so-called "centrists" are arguing the Dims must tack to the middle - the "middle" being defined as midway between the Dims and the GOPpers, which means that if you do "tack to the middle," that is, to the right, the "middle" will still be defined as midway between you and them, meaning you "must" go even further to the right to get to the "middle," and so on.

But none of that matters. It's all irrelevant because we know what the real problem is, the real reason the Dims got creamed. It's all the fault of the left, as self-described "socialist" Lawrence O'Donnell (He has got to be kidding!) insisted election evening. In fact, it's so much all the left's fault that according to O'Donnell, Blanche Lincoln lost because she was primaried by someone somewhat to her left, Bill Halter, which left her "wounded." This even though Lincoln was always behind eventual winner John Boozman in the polls even before the primary and Halter polled better against Boozman than Lincoln did. No matter. It was the left's fault.

Something for which I will credit O'Donnell is his declaration that he refuses to surrender the term "liberal." Good. Because I'm damn tired of hearing yet another wishy-washy "Love me, I'm a liberal" scared of their own shadow call themselves "progressives," thus sullying the time-honored and honorable appellation for those who are to the left of liberals, who do the spadework to clear the ground onto which liberals might later gingerly step. (I've long thought of myself as standing at about the point on the US political spectrum where "progressive" and "radical" meet; my moral and ethical convictions run to the radical but my stylistic approach tends to be somewhat more moderate.)

The point of that diversion is that when those of us who actually are progressives try to advance our policies and politics by arguing for or supporting (or, worst of all, being) third party candidates, we get denounced for it. As I wrote the day before the election,
[t]he root argument ... invariably, is that "independents are just spoilers who only hurt the candidate closer to them and so help the one further from them." Put another way, "they only damage their own cause." Put a third way, those who support such candidates are "pissing away their votes."
So what alternative is there? What are we encouraged to do? Why, work within the party! Run in primaries! That's the ticket!

Um, except now, according to O'Donnell (and not only him), even that is bad as it "wounds" the establishment candidate so when they lose - even if they were expected to all along - it's our fault and we again just "helped the worse candidate."

So now what's the alternative? How are actual progressives supposed to work within the electoral system? Let's see: We're not supposed to go third party. We're not supposed to primary incumbents. If it's an open seat, surely we have to present a "united front," not that of a "divided party," so challenging the establishment candidate in that case is out, too. And certainly we can't not vote! The very idea! So what can we do? What is it that we are instructed to do, expected to do, by the "realists," the "pragmatists," the ones who "understand these things?"

Simple: We are to sit quietly and vote obediently while regarding The Daily Show and Countdown as marking the outer limits of acceptable commentary.

In other words, we are to STFU.

Same as it ever was.

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