« High Stakes (1): Abortion, Contraception, and Women's Control Over Their Lives | Main | More on Nate Silver and Sunday Evening Open Thread »

October 27, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Sir C, will you please comment on the idiotic piece by Matt Stoller in Salon on the "progressive case against Obama"??! Just glancing through it was enough to make me want to smash my computer.


A depressingly realistic take, Sir Charles, with the emphasis on "realistic."

Before the Red Army could take Berlin during World War II, it had to stop the Wehrmacht at the gates of Moscow and at Stalingrad. Doing that cost, literally, millions of lives. But that step could not be ignored, bypassed or wished away.

kathy a.

becky, i haven't read that piece, and i'm not gonna, because i'm pretty sure i can guess the gist of it. this is no time for ideological purity in the voting booth -- not at the national level; not when such huge things are at stake for so many people.

i think that the only people who can even consider that kind of "purity" are ones who do not have much to lose personally, and additionally do not think much about the larger universe of citizens. for example, a working (or wealthy) adult who is already through college; who is not in danger of being drafted to the next war; whose retirement is long off; who does not have family members needing family planning, obamacare, social security, medicare, medical, student loans, jobs, etc.

if you have GOT to make a statement -- go ahead, but do it at the state and local level.

kathy a.

also, ya know -- pressure your congresscritters and the executive branch about the stuff you care about.

change of topic -- hope all the east coast coggers are OK during this massive storm. it truly looks awful.

kathy a.

back to the election -- chin up! NYT endorses obama. wapo, too. LATimes. SF chronicle. and as previously mentioned, even salt lake city.

Sir Charles


Stoller is a "heighten the contradictions" lightweight, a person with very little sense of history, who offers an extraordinarily unfair reading of what Obama has done and the obstacles he faced.

He is yet another white male whose politics are abstract in the extreme, who seems to have little concern with what the immediate impact of having Roe v. Wade repealed, or legalized gay marriage at the state level crushed, or having a president who at least sympathizes with labor versus one who would live to crush us.

He's a fool.

There is no better day coming via crisis -- we are not going to replicate the New Deal by plunging the country into the miasma of reaction. All we will do is increase the suffering of millions of real people with no guarantee -- indeed little likelihood -- of their deliverance. America's diffuse and difficult governing structure has made progressive change one of the most difficult things to accomplish over the years. Betting on it occurring via disaster followed by ideological purity is a delusion.

Sir Charles


I added a link to the article in my post so others can see -- although I hate to give Stoller the links.

The guys at LG&M pretty much dismantled this piece a while back. And Tbogg has been particularly good at skewering this tendency on the left.

Sir Charles

By the way, I early voted today in DC. We were there when the doors opened. A pretty good crowd followed.

Not that DC is ever in doubt, but I liked seeing the enthusiasm for Obama. And it's nice living in a place where he will pull somewhere between 85 and 90 percent of the white vote.


Hi Sir C, I saw Scott Lemieux's evisceration on LGM. It blows my mind that any progressives can still believe this argument after the 2000 election and the Bush years. Some people are just impervious to reality I guess.

kathy, I fit most of your description of someone who wouldn't be negatively affected by a Romney election--hell, I might benefit from increased military spending, since I work for the Army. But I'm scared witless of the prospect of people my age (55), including me, losing Medicare. No one who isn't independently wealthy can afford that, regardless of how comfortable their present circumstances may be. We're all vulnerable to being bankrupted by medical expenses as we age.

kathy a.

yay for early voting! we do not have in-person early voting in my area, but i did my vote-by-mail already, because i just needed to get it done. for my health, ya know?

agreed, nancy. we are age-mates. i suspect that because of your work, you do not want to see more people suffering more wars unnecessarily -- whether that keeps you employed longer or not.

Sir Charles


I made the mistake of thinking this was a piece by Stoller that he wrote a while back. I didn't realize it was a new travesty as I thought I had read the same argument from him not long ago.

You're right -- LeMieux eviscerates him. Once again.


kathy, I'm becky, not nancy. ;-)

You're right that I'm sick of seeing my patients' families suffering through all of these deployments. I've seen parents who've been deployed 9 times or more (I can think of one who's been deployed 12 times). Most of them have had at least 4-6 deployments. Not surprisingly the rate of PTSD is high, and the toll on the families is enormous. It's good for my business, unfortunately, but I still want it to stop.

kathy a.

ack! becky, sorry! i knew it was you, but mis-responded.

i can't even imagine 4-6-9-12 deployments to a war zone. really, i can't. (and i served also as a military wife, but during the cold war; the many deployments were to a submarine.) i've dealt with PTSD in my work -- VN combat vets, kids raised in dangerous circumstances, etc. -- and so, i think that your work requires absorbing a lot of those horrors that your patients have gone through, and helping them process. very hard and honorable job. sending much thanks for the work you do.


You guys realize you don't have a link to LG&M on the blogroll, nor your comments?


MAgnitude 7.7 earthquake off coast of BC, Canada. Tsunami warnings issued for BC, Wash, OR, NoCal. http://bit.ly/SpOKJV


So, let me say something re Stoller. I don't expect the disaffected third-party contingent to shrink, no matter how many Bush/Gore situations occur. It's a fundamental difference in mentalities. At some point, you're going to have to present to them the case not that the Republicans will shoot the hostages (there will always be hostages to shoot) but that the Democrats will significantly expand and implement policies on a small number of key issues. If Obama wins and fails to do this---fails to take even a losing but principled stand on a major left-wing issue---then in 2016 the Democratic Party will lose even more of its left wing to the mentality you decry.


Let me put it another way. There is a contingent that would have preferred that Obama put up a stringent case for a single-payer plan and lost badly then ever having to countenance the PPACA which they believe precludes a transition to single-payer in the next several decades, barring revolution or catastrophe. The PPACA doesn't cover everyone properly, and that to them is a criminal form of discrimination, and they don't believe it is fixable within the PPACA context especially considering the motivations that underly its design.

That Obama losing the health-care battle might have meant that Obama may be so weakened as to lose the election this year is not a point that rings strongly in this contingent. If a principled stand on health care is sufficient to destroy an incumbent president, then the USA is wholly lost and the deluge should be brought on forthwith.

Why should anyone care? Because, it appears to me, this contingent is NOT SHRINKING. It may eventually gather enough momentum to pull a Nader without actually having a Nader.

Joe S

Mandos, "the contingent" you are referring to is wrong and is not able to appropriately discern policy or the possible within the American system. If this contingent is not shrinking, then we will have to look to demographic changes to win elections with a progressive coalition able to work within the American system. There is nearly always 2-3% of the vote which will go to various third party candidates. What we cannot do is adopt policies which will only appeal to (at the outside) 35-40% of the population.

Moreover, your claim that more of the Left Wing will defect from the Democratic Party is really belied by history.

Harry Truman did ignore the third party challenge in 1948 and the Henry Wallace wing was folded back into the Democratic coalition-- largely by adopting some watered down (but acceptable to the general public) version of the third party platform. Henry Wallace's coalition, for better or worse, never arose again after 1948.

Similarly, most of the Bull Moose Progressives were folded back into the Republican tent by a watered down version of progressivism presented by William Taft and later, Herbert Hoover.

Ralph Nader, of course, never gained much traction after 2000 after the Democrats moved ever so slightly to the Left.

It seems the best tactic would be to marginalize and ignore the likes of Nader, Stoller, and Armstrong- and move ever so slightly to the left to pick up most of the coalition while keeping a good deal of centrist bona fides.


I'm with Joe. The progressive purists don't understand how the American system works. Every progressive program in this country has started out in a much more limited form than how it currently exists. To take one obvious example, Social Security initially discriminated against African-Americans. Assuming Mandos' analysis is accurate (and I think it basically is), the PP caucus would rather have shot down Social Security rather than letting this happen. The result of that wouldn't have been a more just/inclusive SS system; a much more likely result is that SS wouldn't have happened at all--a result that would have been disastrous for the many African-Americans that eventually were covered. The ACA is a good example of the same idea. Would I prefer a single-payer system? Sure. Did I want a public option? Absolutely. Did I want the ACA to fail if it didn't have one? Absolutely not! 60 vote majorities in Congress are very, very rare, and Obama needed to use that to his best advantage for as long as he had it. I wish we didn't have a Madisonian system with multiple veto points, but that's not going to go away because I don't like it. In the meantime a lot of people who will be covered by the ACA (assuming it survives this election) will get healthcare who otherwise wouldn't have gotten any. I'm not prepared to look into their eyes and tell them they're worse off than they were before because the ACA falls so short of ideal. The PPs need to grow up and deal with the reality we have; nobody benefits from lost causes.

P.S. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes; anybody else getting the feeling that Mother Nature is fed up with us?

Sir Charles


Let me blunt -- I couldn't give a fuck what a wanker like Matt Stoller wants. I am concerned about the real live thirty to forty million people who will have access to health care coverage who would not otherwise under PPACA, regardless of its flaws and compromises. I care about the many people I know personally who would otherwise be uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions.

You can be a poseur and a whiny little dick like Stoller and never accomplish anything. Or you can do the difficult work of putting together coalitions to improve the lives of actual, living breathing human beings, however incrementally or piecemeal that process may be.

Neither Social Security nor Medicare were perfect when created, but they have made an extraordinary difference in the lives of America's elderly; as a result they are the proudest accomplishments of Democratic pragmatism -- even if many of their beneficiaries have forgotten the provenance of their bounty. I believe that within a decade people will feel the same about PPACA. And if we are smart, it will be refined and improved over that time.

low-tech cyclist
Let me blunt -- I couldn't give a fuck what a wanker like Matt Stoller wants. I am concerned about the real live thirty to forty million people who will have access to health care coverage who would not otherwise under PPACA, regardless of its flaws and compromises. I care about the many people I know personally who would otherwise be uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions.

You can be a poseur and a whiny little dick like Stoller and never accomplish anything. Or you can do the difficult work of putting together coalitions to improve the lives of actual, living breathing human beings, however incrementally or piecemeal that process may be.

What SC said.

low-tech cyclist

Oh, just one more little thing that's at stake, courtesy of Kay at Balloon Juice, who passes on this tidbit from, of all places, an interview of Ann Romney in Good Housekeeping magazine:

AR: I’ve been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers’ unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.
Just one more institution that the vast majority of us depend on, that they'd have no qualms about upending.

Mitt Romney, Matt Stoller...either way, they don't give a shit about real human beings, do they?


Ann Romney. Well, it can only get better, huh? This is her, pre-election. Ughly.

kathy a.

freaking charter schools. uh, huh. more blame the teachers. jeepers. here's another Q/A that i love:

GH: And have you picked yet what your issue will be? What do you feel most passionate about?

AR: It would be what I've been involved with my entire adult life, which is working with at-risk youth and recognizing that every child is a child of God. And that some of those children are being left behind, and that is a heartbreak and a huge, huge loss to this country.

excuse me, but wtf? she works with at-risk youth? how, when, what does she do? i mean, "that is a heartbreak" does not give us a lot of information, ya know? i will eat a bug if anyone can prove to me she has spent time in projects, trailer parks, and juvenile facilities -- and that she has made any concrete efforts to improve conditions for the young people in those places. photo ops do not count (if they even exist).


So, let me just say that for my own part, I'm not exactly a fan of every American politician, but not much has changed since 2008 in real terms: the Republicans have too many hostages, and the Democrats will not or cannot rescue them. However, as no one else seems to be able to, I'm willing to accept "lesser evilism" and encourage, then as now, for people to vote for Obama, even if the lesser of two evils is still evil. The real key in the lesser evil argument is the lack of a greater good. For having made this argument, I've been occasionally been pariah'ed in places where I would normally otherwise feel welcome.

Having said that...

I do not agree that it is wise or clever to sneer at or ignore the concerns of this group, which doesn't only consist of Trotskyistic radicals but not a few who would otherwise be considered relatively close to the left-liberal mainstream in terms of policy preference.

The problem is that the mechanism of co-option that Joe S mentions appears to have broken down. It's been broken at least since the defeat of Al Gore. It doesn't appear to me that the Democratic Party is currently willing to make very many concessions outside the bare minimum required to keep the hostage-shooting distinction with the Republicans.

The PPACA is an interesting case in point. The objection of the liberaler-than-thou set is not just that it isn't single-payer, but that it very carefully avoids stepping in the direction that the left largely believes is required to really deal with the problems in the health care system: getting the for-profit actors out of the payments intermediation system (ie, insurance). In fact, it appears to carefully rescue the private aspect of the health care system, just enough to keep the whole thing afloat!

Then it becomes an empirical question: can it be improved from there? The liberaler-than-thou set has an answer: no. It was not intended ever to enable the transition away from for-profit/private insurers. Consequently, they are betting that for the average American, in 10 years, care will be even further out of reach and that will be the new normal as the system would have been kept afloat...

And the not-unfounded suspicion is that at the highest levels of the Democratic Party, there wasn't any real intention to promote any leftier solution than that. That's the problem here: the trade-off for the liberalers-than-thou to support the Democratic Party is at least the notional promotion of a left-wing agenda. That possibility was not fully closed under Clinton, but it was closing. And Obama's principal achievement left the overall impression that the door had been shut, and that a positive promotion of left-wing policy would never be more than the minimum to solve an ongoing crisis.

That is why I believe that Stollerism or Stretherism or whatever is here to stay, and cannot and should not be ignored whatever the problems with the messengers themselves may be. At some point, there needs to be something to co-opt with. If there is only the Republican hostage situation, well, then it boils down to the threshold at which one is no longer willing to negotiate with terrorists, which varies from person to person and movement to movement.

The comments to this entry are closed.