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September 30, 2005

Comments

Many in the choir seem to hold to the belief that the path to power starts with engaging in bad behavior more skillfully than the opponents. Maybe, maybe not. Hasn't worked so far, but it's early yet.

Hasn't worked so far, but it's early yet.

See your previous sentence about "more skillfully" ;)

What, you're saying they need more practice? Could be, Anarch.

"Many in the choir seem to hold to the belief that the path to power starts with engaging in bad behavior more skillfully than the opponents. Maybe, maybe not. Hasn't worked so far, but it's early yet."

I beg to differ. If you had written that it hasn't worked so far for Democrats, I would agree with you.

Wow. So far, everything that Obama says or writes just impresses me more. I'll have to keep watching his career to see what he actually does (rather than what he says), but if he keeps on the way he's going I would vote for him as president in a heartbeat over just about any other Democratic or Republican nominee I can think of.

"Many in the choir seem to hold to the belief that the path to power starts with engaging in bad behavior more skillfully than the opponents. Maybe, maybe not. Hasn't worked so far, but it's early yet."

What these people don't seem to realize is that though this tactic might work, if they had some actual principled goal they were trying to achieve with said power, they'll have thrown it away by the path they've taken. (Of course, that doesn't matter if they just wanted power for the sake of power and the spoils thereof.)

I think he's doing here what a good politician does--he flatters the American voter, saying that they are non-ideologues, straight shooters who call things as they see them and have an innate sense of decency and, wouldn't you know it, if things were explained to them carefully using non-inflammatory language they'd support just those policies that Obama favors. So this is a politician practicing his trade, not the disinterested analysis of a political observer. But he might be right about the correct approach for a Democrat to take. And I agree Democrats shouldn't impose litmus tests on each other and drive out the ideologically impure.

they'll have thrown it away by the path they've taken.

Exactly. I guess it's possible to re-cloak oneself in moral righteousness after taking part in the crapfest, but it'd take a while to do so credibly.

If you had written that it hasn't worked so far for Democrats, I would agree with you.

I'd thought that was so obvious that I wouldn't need to say it. Guess not. Consider it corrected.

Barack Obama will never be President of these United States.

I will start taking the conciliators and appeasers....oops...the affable and reasonable seriously when I start to see some frigging victories. And if you think postponing the destruction of Social Security was a great triumph then your expectations are very low indeed.

I do not believe this country, nationwide, is massively more conservative than it was in 1920 or 1935 or 1965. Yet policy seems to be moving back toward the Gilded Age.

What, you're saying they need more practice?

All I'm saying is that the antecedent hasn't been met so we can't draw any conclusions about the failure of the consequent.

"All I'm saying is that the antecedent hasn't been met so we can't draw any conclusions about the failure of the consequent."

Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s?

Neither antecedent nor conclusion is anything that I'm standing behind, Anarch. Just saying how it looks to me.

I have observed a tendency by some to urge the D party toward a sort of MAD of dirty tricks with the R party, and the ones doing the urging are guys like Oliver Willis (just as an example). So there are at least a few out there who believe this tactic will succeed.

If there ever was a chance I'd pull the D lever, it would not be because they were bigger assholes than those under column R. But that's just me.

Not sure he actually addresses the "Dems have to have a clear position, to stand for something, in order to prove to voters they have a backbone" view he notes except to conclude that coming up with policy is hard work.

except to conclude that coming up with policy is hard work.

Something about that sounds familiar, somehow...

If there ever was a chance I'd pull the D lever

This is the root of the problem, Slart. You're a smart and decent person, a part of the group of voters that seems most likely to be swayed by policy arguments. The administration that you support is an abomination. Many Democrats look at the '04 election and find themselves unable to believe that there is anything we can do to get your vote. So we have to look to other voters, and acknowledge that they may require other sorts of convincing.

Many Democrats look at the '04 election and find themselves unable to believe that there is anything we can do to get your vote.

I'm not sure, but I am sure that trying to out-asshole the incumbents is not going to do it for me. It's like another level of insanity: take that which does not work, and work to perfect it.

I'm not sure who I'll vote for next election, SCMT; it depends on who's put up. If it's your contention that I'd never not vote Republican, you're already wrong. I've pulled the D lever and even the I lever when I thought that was a better choice. Howard Dean never looked to me like a better choice than...well, than anyone, and his behavior of late just underscores that assessment. If the tactics of the D party is to out-slime, out-lie and out-cheat the opposition, why on earth would you think that'd INCREASE my odds of voting for them? The only reason I can imagine you'd think that is that I have a preference for the worst a politician has to offer.

So Slarti, what's your impression of Obama so far? Is he someone you would consider voting for?

Honestly?

I believe the Republicans will gain one or two Senate seats, a few House seats on 2006. and win the Presidency on a close electoral college vote in 2008. I believe this pattern will continue for at least the next half dozen elections, until they achieve something like 300 house members and 65 Senate conservatives. SCOTUS will be 6-3 solid Scalia clones.

In ten-twenty years the affable and reasonable Democrats will start to publicly speak up, but it will be way too late. A depression or World War couldn't change the balance of power. Praise the Lord, I will be dead.

How shrill should the left be? How shrill is a mini-gun?

I'm not sure, but I am sure that trying to out-asshole the incumbents is not going to do it for me.

That's not what SCMT said; he pointed out that the Democratic efforts in 2004 did not win you over. The Democratic campaign in 2004 was not one of trying to out-slime the Republicans (as if that were possible given the present administration's slimy resources). So the fact that a slime campaign will not win you over is irrelevant; Democrats are not losing anything by failing to win you over.

Hey speaking of slime have you guys heard about this great new use for it?

Howard Dean never looked to me like a better choice than...well, than anyone

There's the problem, though. When George W. Bush is one of the options, why didn't Howard Dean look like a better choice?

I've seen Democrats - committed Ds who would never consider voting Republican - say that they're looking forward to 2009 even if a Republican candidate gets in, because anyone - anyone at all - looks like a better choice than the present incompetent incumbent.

Faced with a choice between Kerry and Bush, an incomprehensible number of intelligent Republicans decided that they'd rather continue with the disaster area than vote for a man they knew to be more competent than the incumbent. (I'm not arguing any special status for Kerry: I'm simply arguing that he has a far better track record of competence than George W. Bush did in 2000, and an infinitely better track record of competence than Bush did by 2004. But then, the same would be true of a large number of politicians.)

It's hard to figure out, given that in 2004 so many Republicans opted for a disaster area, what on earth the Democratic party could do to get them to vote D.

I think the biggest problem I see with his essay is where he says

Or to make the point differently: How can we ask Republican senators to resist pressure from their right wing and vote against flawed appointees like John Bolton, if we engage in similar rhetoric against Democrats who dissent from our own party line? How can we expect Republican moderates who are concerned about the nation's fiscal meltdown to ignore Grover Norquist's threats if we make similar threats to those who buck our party orthodoxy?

The situation we're in is that the Republicans that have gained power have done so at the expense of any sort of coherent ideology, at the expense of all credibility and honesty. The strategy they used takes advantage of their lack of honesty, and the strategy causes the lack of honesty. The strategy makes it so that the most successful politicans are the ones that only care for power for its own sake. And the strategy is the best political strategy available with our electorate and electoral system.

The only way to keep the Democrats from going mad with power should they gain it is to change our electoral system, to change our political institutions. Because progressives are at a structural disadvantage. The country is structured so that fascism is the natural endpoint of the ideological progression of the most powerful people in the country over the long term.

In other words, Obama is way too optimistic.

It's hard to figure out, given that in 2004 so many Republicans opted for a disaster area, what on earth the Democratic party could do to get them to vote D.

Yeah, that's a baffler. I think our identities (who we are, who we think we are, who we would like others to think we are, who we would like to think we are, who we think we are supposed to be, etc) get all tangled up in our political choices. So, in this context, "Bush is bad, but I'm not the kind of person who votes Democrat." Switching over requires people to think about who they are and then make a decision to change who they are. That's a lot of inertia for a political party to overcome.

Providing a clear, palatable to the audience, explanation of what "being a Democrat" means would be a good place to start.

So Slarti, what's your impression of Obama so far? Is he someone you would consider voting for?

Yes, actually. Point one in his favor: he hasn't yet said anything that didn't sound well-considered and fair. Point two in his favor: he hasn't yet said anything that seemed to be untrue to who he is. If I were in his constituency, I'd feel very fortunate.

That's not what SCMT said; he pointed out that the Democratic efforts in 2004 did not win you over.

Still looks like the same thing to me.

why didn't Howard Dean look like a better choice?

That's a question that maybe you should hang out with for a while. I'm not saying that to be a smartass, I'm saying that because you really need to see how Howard Dean is not an acceptable choice for the Oval Office. He wasn't even acceptable to mainstream Democrats.

Given a choice between two parties chock-full of self-important, lying, bloviating windbags, I'm going to go with the one that's at least nominally going to go along policy lines that I agree with. At present, that party is c) none of the above. Right now I might be more inclined to pull the lever for someone who's simply honest and trustworthy, even if I knew that he/she stood for things I simply don't agree with. Hell, I'd vote for hilzoy right this instant, if she were inclined to run for anything at all. I would likely disagree with her as often as agree, but I'd know what I'd be pulling the lever for.

I don't require that you believe any of the above, BTW.

Hard for me to imagine the Dems running someone so bad I'd vote R.

(above in ref to the Presidency)

Could you imagine the Rs running someone so good that you'd vote R? I can imagine an analogous situation for me, but given the conversation here I rather doubt it'll ever happen. If Obama's reception over at dKos is any gauge, it's a near certainty it won't.

Hmm, maybe that's "Hard for me to imagine the Rs running somebody I'd consider voting for over a ham sandwich". I would at least have thought about McCain in 2000 for a few minutes. I would have thought about voting for Slart or von for a while, depending on who the V.P. was, even though I liked Gore a lot on policy.

(above x-posted)

Oh yeah, if _Powell_ had run in 2000 I would at the time have had a hard think.

Slarti, if I am reading this correctly, you are saying that:

1. engaging in bad behavior doesn't work for Democrats, but (at least by implication, and it was what I was implying) it does for Republicans.

2. You far more frequently vote for Republicans than Democrats (in spite of 1).

3. You consider Kerry in 2004 to have run a campaign which was on a lower road than Bush (and I join with Jeremy Osner in wondering how you could possibly come to that conclusion).

I put these together and come to the conclusion that for you, taking the low road is something which you will tolerate in a Republican, but not in a Democrat. Please tell me if I am misreading you.

Slart:

Two points -

(1) I'm not arguing that we could get your vote through slime; I'm saying we can't get your vote. So we look to others, and try to sort out what will convince them.

(2) I'm deeply curious about what made Dean unacceptable. AFAIK, the only non-centrist thing he said was that he was against the Iraq war. I think a lot of people find that an acceptable position (or even the right position) now. He was also the most "straight talking" of the Presidential contenders. Is it just his position on the Iraq war that would keep you from voting for him?

1) You're still listening to what you want to hear, I think.

2) See 1).

3) See 1).

Consider that there is more than one variable. Let's flip this around: if you were to have your dream about how you were represented in government, would the current version of the D party be just as you designed it to be? If not, why do you vote that way (assuming you vote that way, if not treat it as a hypothetical)? If the Ds aren't exactly as you'd have them be, why in the name of all that's holy aren't you voting R?

Let me know if, on considering those questions, the point doesn't become more clear. If the D party is exactly as you'd design it, consider this one of those things you're just not going to understand about me.

why didn't Howard Dean look like a better choice?

That's a question that maybe you should hang out with for a while. I'm not saying that to be a smartass, I'm saying that because you really need to see how Howard Dean is not an acceptable choice for the Oval Office. He wasn't even acceptable to mainstream Democrats.

Slart --

I'll accept that this is not intended to be smartass, but it is maddening. Trust me -- I'm a mainstream Democrat. The candidates I root for are in the dead center of the Democratic party. I thought Dean was perfectly acceptable, and I can't figure out why you wouldn't find him acceptable unless you actually tell me.

That doesn't mean that you don't have perfectly satisfying reasons for opposing him, but implying that a little introspection should reveal to Jes that Dean was self-evidently unacceptable is, as I said above, maddening. All I get from what you said is "I couldn't possibly have voted for Dean, and I won't tell you why. If you were worth engaging with you'd already know."

I would have voted for a Republican, if given a good choice, until sometime in the mid 90s. (For Congress or President, I mean.) Now, I think I would not, and the reason is that I believe that the Republican party has been taken over by, well, crooks. (DeLay, Abramoff, et al.) Since a vote for a Republican would be a vote for someone who would further empower the Republican party leadership, I would not vote for a Republican now, unless the Democrat were some complete and total nutcase of a dangerous sort.

This cuts both ways: I think that in the 50s, I would have had a very hard time voting for Democrats, despite the fact that I would have agreed with them on most matters of policy, simply because to vote Dem, at that time, was to vote for a party held hostage by segregationists. From, oh, 1929 through 1945 I would have thought that there was something even more important than undoing segregation, but that's just because of the flukey fact that we had two such monumental crises as the Great Depression and WW2. Under any more normal circumstances, meaning 1945-early 60s, I hope I would have voted Republican.

Which is to say: I would have been with the Dems on most issues, but would have seen the party as having a structural feature that generally precluded my supporting them until it was changed.

I think that if I were Republican now, I would feel similarly. The extent of corruption in the Republican leadership is, I think, unprecedented in my lifetime. It matters that it be defeated.

That's fine but it makes it hard to understand why you would not self-identify as Republican. (If I am remembering correctly that you posted a few months back, that you were renouncing that party affiliation.) Because it sounds like you are saying, you're a Republican who might conceivably vote Democratic if the Democratic candidate were perfect in your estimation. I don't see what Democrats have to gain from listening to political advice from someone who feels that way.

(Sorry, that last post was directed towards Slart's previous one, a couple were interleaved.)

Slarti,

On item 1, if my statement that engaging in bad behavior works for Republicans is incorrect, what did this exchange mean to you:

"If you had written that it hasn't worked so far for Democrats, I would agree with you.

I'd thought that was so obvious that I wouldn't need to say it. Guess not. Consider it corrected."

If you are saying that you vote R for after balancing a number of issues, and this is one of them, that's fine. But if so, then I do not follow how you can then say that engaging in bad behavior, by itself, prevents you from voting for Democrats.

See any commonalities between the Democrats of the 50's that you couldn't vote for and the Republicans today, hilzoy?

Because it sounds like you are saying, you're a Republican who might conceivably vote Democratic if the Democratic candidate were perfect in your estimation.

Please tell me where I said perfection is a requirement. And no, I don't believe I self-identified as a Republican, here. If so, oops, force of habit.

My problems with Dean pretty much all stem from that he prefers to think those who don't agree with him are evil. Conversation over; he's no better than any of the other idiots who confuse access to the soapbox with eloquence. What I'm at least attempting to say is that so far, Obama is not one of those idiots. Strong mark in his favor, and I'd at least hope that most people agree.

I did vote for Bill Nelson, and will vote for him again when he runs against Kathleen Harris. I also voted for a couple of Democrats when I lived in Alabama, and even voted for Ross Perot in a fit of pique. I'd vote for Joe Lieberman if he were to win the D nomination, and may have voted for him last year had he been a candidate. You can argue that these aren't "really" Ds if you like. As for Rs that I'd reelect, Jeb Bush would be one of them (the Schiavo affair notwithstanding). In a state that seems to be well above average in the realm of crooked politics, Jeb's done a great deal more right than he has wrong.

I wonder if you could point out an instance of Dean calling people who disagree with him "evil".

That was a very thoughtful article by Sen. Obama. If I were an Illinoisan (Illini?) I would be glad to have him as one of my Senators.

Bob and Jes, I think you are too pessimistic about the Democrats' future. These things tend to go in cycles, and I think the Republicans are getting to the point where the Democrats were in the 70's - arrogant and complacent, and ripe for a fall.

(And I say that as someone who almost always votes Republican.)

Right now, the Republicans have well-oiled party machinery and the best attack dogs, but those things don't last forever (remember the Democratic city machines?). All the Democrats really need is the right candidate - maybe a combination of Bill Clinton's charm and blue-collar appeal, but with real national security credentials. You put forward that person and you'll see crossover voters.

I can't think of who that might be off the top of my head, but sometimes the right person sneaks up on you. What were Clinton's odds when the '92 campaign began?

Slarti, my question wasn't "Why wasn't Dean acceptable?" in a vacuum: it was "Faced with the choice of George W. Bush returning for a second term as President, and anyone else" - why wasn't Howard Dean a better choice? What, in your estimation, made Dean unacceptable for the Oval Office when Bush was the only other alternative?

Slarti: As for Rs that I'd reelect, Jeb Bush would be one of them

Given Jeb Bush's skill in fixing elections, I'd say you don't really have a lot of choice about that. But I'd certainly concede he seems to be decidedly more competent than his brother.

SCMT: now that you mention it...

More generally: I voted (in MA, mid 80s) for Bill Weld over John Silber (competent, if a bit heartless, R over vicious D). And I even registered as a Republican in 1980. That doesn't really count, since I did it to vote, in the primaries, for Anderson over Reagan -- Reagan's policies seemed to me fiscally irresponsible, and I was a deficit hawk even then. Plus, the race between Carter and Kennedy on the Dem. side didn't do much for me.

Then I forgot to un-register, so in the 1984 primary I got to vote for my sister for President and my boyfriend for Congress. She wasn't 40, and he wasn't even a US citizen or even in the US at all, but I figured the chance of either of them winning was sufficiently remote that that didn't matter. (This was before Mass. had crossover primaries, and Reagan was running unopposed.)

I wonder if you could point out an instance of Dean calling people who disagree with him "evil".

Me, too. Probably a poor choice of words, but based on the level of vituperation directed Rightwards.

What were Clinton's odds when the '92 campaign began?

1.0, apparently, but only obvious after the fact.

I might vote for Bill Bradley if he ran for President as a Republican, and I might vote for him if he ran as a Democrat.

I would vote for Hilzoy.

I would vote for Slart, unless Hilzoy were running against him.

That said, given the current lineup of likely Republican candidates for everything, and given the Rovian cast of their handlers and the nasty punks in the Young Republicans on campus, I think shrill and pissed-off and brutal is the ticket for the Democratic Party.

Would prefer nice, honest people, but they get eaten alive which is why Bradley, Hilzoy, and Slart won't be on the ballot.

Further, I'm not interested in the principled, uncorrupt Republicans who are fed up with Bush because he has blown, so far, the effort to abolish Social Security and Medicare. I'll take my Republicans nasty, corrupt, and incompetent any day over Republicans who wish to complete that agenda, however principled.

By the way, I'm posting from another computer because something ate mine at home.

I would vote for George W. Bush for a third term if made a law that "fatal error" messages were henceforth rendered in plain English.

All the Democrats really need is the right candidate - maybe a combination of Bill Clinton's charm and blue-collar appeal, but with real national security credentials. You put forward that person and you'll see crossover voters.

Assuming that the votes get counted, which is something that Diebold voting machines (with their lack of paper trail to confirm how people voted) means that you can't be sure of that any more. Any election where Diebold machines are in use is an election where the results can be changed, untraceably. Whether or not they were in 2004, we don't know: we can't know. (We can look at exit polls and guess, of course.)

Whether or not they will be in 2006 or 2008: we don't know: we can't know. Using Diebold machines means electoral fraud can be untraceable. We know for a fact that the 2000 election in Florida was stolen (yes, Slarti, I know you're about to tell me you don't believe it): but changing the votes electronically, no paper trail, no record that they were ever different, is much safer.

I would vote for Slart, unless Hilzoy were running against him.

Even if hilzoy weren't running against me, I'd write her in rather than vote for myself. Why anyone would want to be President, I have no idea. On reflection, that makes voting for hilzoy an exceptionally unkind thing to do, by my own standards.

I think shrill and pissed-off and brutal is the ticket for the Democratic Party.

I guess we're going to find out, aren't we? Because there seems little inclination on the part of anyone to do things differently.

You know, for someone who doesn't want to talk about this any more, J, you could hardly talk about this any less. If there's going to be an open thread on this, you're going to have to promise to come up with the goods.

Trivia: the ballots filled out by Slartibartfast are (and will continue to be):

a) Punch-card
b) Butterfly
c) Electronic
d) Optical Scan

Slarti: if I disagree with you, it's only to get back at you for writing me in, even in your imagination. (I agree: why on earth anyone would want to be President is a mystery.) But: the Democrats have not, in fact, been particularly shrill recently. We really haven't. We confirmed Roberts. We have not gone to town on DeLay, Frist, Abramoff, that guy in procurement who was arrested, Larry Franklin pleading guilty, the people connected to Abramoff who were arrested for a mob-style hit -- and that's just the last week.

Newt Gingrich on the House Bank scandal -- that was shrill and pissed-off and brutal. The Democrats, at the moment, are none of the above. They have lost their voice.

This Kos diary takes up the complaint I made above. In less-measured tones, needless to say.

But: the Democrats have not, in fact, been particularly shrill recently.

Yes, I agree that's true if "recently" is some period of time on the scale of a couple of months. By the inclinations of some, then, you're being far too nice.

More broadly, though, what I'm saying is something to the effect that it's really, really difficult to claim the moral high ground after you've abandoned it. I'm not saying that criticism is out of bounds, I'm simply saying that reasoned criticism is probably more likely to find new ears than the shrieking kind.

But this is all sounding a bit like advice, so scratch that.

Despite that, you still don't seem to be falling into our arms, Slart. While it would be a better world if neither party was rude about their disagreement with the other, abstention from rudeness doesn't get us any votes, including yours. While being ruder might preclude you from voting for us, you're not voting for us anyway, so your preferences aren't a relevant subject of consideration.

I wonder if Slarti's problems aren't much the same as the Bull Moose's. He doesn't want to be a Democrat -- he wants to be an old-school Republican. There aren't any old-school Republicans, and it looks like there never will be any.

The Bull Moose bit the bullet and decided Democrats were better than the current incarnation of Republicans, but spends most of his time griping about how today's Democrat's are the Golden Age Republicans he so fondly remembers.

Perhaps Slarti just isn't ready to bite the bullet and give up on the GOP returning to sanity.

More broadly, though, what I'm saying is something to the effect that it's really, really difficult to claim the moral high ground after you've abandoned it.

Just out of curiosity, what "moral high ground" has the Democratic Party "abandoned", which the GOP (preumably) still has?

That came out snarkier sounding than I meant it. What I meant was something more like: There's a certain minimal level of unpleasantness inherent in pointing out that you disagree with someone on policy. From my point of view, you seem to perceive that minimal level of unpleasantness as offputting and unacceptable when it comes from Democrats. Given that, while you seem to be a decent guy and I'd love to have your vote, it doesn't seem to be accessible to the Democratic party outside very specific circumstances, and crafting a message to appeal to you is not going to garner a lot of votes.

"Despite that, you still don't seem to be falling into our arms, Slart. While it would be a better world if neither party was rude about their disagreement with the other, abstention from rudeness doesn't get us any votes, including yours. While being ruder might preclude you from voting for us, you're not voting for us anyway, so your preferences aren't a relevant subject of consideration."

Do you think there is a large number of people who are not currently voting for Democrats but would if they were ruder?

While it would be a better world if neither party was rude about their disagreement with the other, abstention from rudeness doesn't get us any votes, including yours.

I agree that both parties being equal (other than core policy), I am most likely going to vote R. I'm not sure if that's what you're saying; if not, I disagree. And there isn't much I admire about the current priority set on the R side, so I think I'm a bit more up for grabs than you're representing.

While being ruder might preclude you from voting for us, you're not voting for us anyway, so your preferences aren't a relevant subject of consideration.

That, I kind of agree with. I'm not sure if rude is exactly what I'm talking about, though.

Do you think there is a large number of people who are not currently voting for Democrats but would if they were ruder?

Well, there's a level of clarifying the points of disagreement between the parties on policy matters that can come off as hostile and unpleasant, and that I think that Democrats could get more votes by doing more of. It is perceived as rude to say: "Issue X is vitally important. My position on X is correct because of A, B, and C. My opponent's position on X is wrong because of D, E, and F. If my opponent gets into power, bad things will happen relating to this issue." Nonetheless, without that sort of rudeness, no one is going to vote for you.

i can't think why anyone would imagine the Democrats have abandoned the moral high ground. But then I judge by actions, not words. Although the Republican leadership has been claiming the moral high ground for years , their behavior and policies have been in consistant contradiction of morality for decades. Democratic politicians have more principled policies, but brag on themselves less.
And no, opposition to abortion does not constitute moral superiority.

And Slarti: for what it's worth, I think you would not vote for me if I were running as myself, but Karl Rove or some similar figure spent a little time on crafting a storyline about the evils of hilzoy. It goes without saying that, as a Democrat, I would be a radical left-winger, out of touch with American values. I opposed the war in Iraq, so I must be an appeaser who is not serious about fighting terrorism. Obviously, I do not love this country. I'm an effete academic, trapped in my ivory tower, studying, heh heh, Philosophy.

I'm a feminist, which (according to me) means someone who thinks that men and women should be treated with equal respect and dignity, that this (like dealing with the aftermath of segregation) is not as easy as just deciding to do it, but takes some careful thought and unearthing of stuff we're not aware of, and that this work is worth doing, but in the caricature would mean: someone who is trying to make your little boys and girls into little androgynous robots who all share little unisex bathrooms.

I'm not religious, which means I have no moral values, and also that I secretly sneer at Christians and want to rob them of their faith, or at least make it illegal for them ever to pray. I support gay marriage -- well, what do we need to say about that? Next thing you know, I'll be supporting the rights of pedophiles to marry the three-year-old of their choice. I'm a vegetarian.

Plus, I think I have said, here, that I smoked dope (four times!!!). I have, in the past, been depressed, and have taken Prozac. (a history of mental illness!) I could go on, but why? You get the point.

"Nonetheless, without that sort of rudeness, no one is going to vote for you."

Maybe so. Though the type of rudeness I see from Democrats is much more of the Rep. McKinney variety than reasoned discourse which you seem to label rude.

"But then I judge by actions, not words."

Is that for the US only or does that count for Iran and North Korea as well?

;)

Sebastian: if you'd like me to be rude to you in some other way, you have only to ask ;)

No, I'm such a jaded Republican that reasoned discourse doesn't even strike me as rude.

Plus, I think I have said, here, that I smoked dope (four times!!!).

That you did so and admit to it (projecting to the almost-certainly fictional future, here) would most likely get you my vote.

Yes, I get your point. Would this fictional scenario include you abdicating all that you hold dear in order to retaliate in kind? I'm thinking probably not, which changes things in my eyes just a wee bit.

You know, I honestly can't get worked up over rudeness in Democrats when the Republicans are being both rude ("fuck off", as the Vice President says) and engaging in the wanton slaughter of innocents, trashing our domestic security and our standing abroad, and all that. If my house were on fire, I wouldn't worry about mixing up the good silver and the flatware while shoveling them into a bag. Same deal.

When there is a widespread and sometimes effective Republican challenge to the Bush administration on torture, waste, and corruption, then I will feel obliged to listen serious to criticism about Democratic manners. Until and unless, it's beam-in-your-own-eye time.

That you did so and admit to it (projecting to the almost-certainly fictional future, here) would most likely get you my vote.

You voted for Gore!?

Seb: Nope, I wouldn't. But then, part of the reason I would never think of running for office is because I can see so clearly what the attack line against me would be. (Or, more likely, several to choose from.) (I mean, there's also the 'effete academic snob from a family of effete academic snobs' line, and I think that what, when I was younger and it was a larger part of stuff, I used to think of as the Fact of Dad could be deployed against me, if used subtly.) There are the relatives who are Swedish Social Democrats, = socialists. The number of ex-boyfriends > 1 . (Actually, the number who comment at ObWi > 1.) (Mental illness, dope fiend, and promiscuous! (Where the actual facts support the caricature about as much as in the dope fiend case.))

Sorry: last post to Slarti, not Sebastian.

LB, if you what you got from that was I'd vote for anyone JUST BECAUSE they smoked pot, you got it wrong.

As someone with no party affiliation...

Dems are not losing a battle of nasty names and mudslinging. They are losing the war of defining their vision in relation to the American myth. Dems need to start spinning their own version of the American myth. It's not Rush that is winning the arguments, it's Reagan. Rush is just appealing to the picture of America that Reagan painted.

This is not a 'party of no' sort of statement, so much as an acknowledgement that most Americans want to believe the myth of the 'self made man', and that the Dems don't have a similarly romantic myth to rely on. The Dems need a good myth to sell.

Brotherhood?

I've long thought that the Democratic pitch should be "good neighbors".

You and someone you love? Your business. Likewise with what you read and watch and think about, as long as you're not leaving health hazards lying around your yard or beating up the kids (or the loved one, come to that). Need a lift to the store while your car's in the shop? Can do. Maybe we can work out something to do it regularly, and spread the costs of hauling the groceries around. Don't like your neighbor's religion? Tough. They get the same privacy and security you do, or at least we're going to try to keep us all safe and able to make our choices. If you take a poke at them over, it's your fault; same as if they take a poke at you.

And there's some things we do together because it just makes more sense. Each of us keeps our own yard up, yes, but we get together for the roads and the sewers and all that.

And so forth and so on. Start from personal choice and respect and the merits of cooperation, and go up from there to dealing with the vast array of real help any of us might need.

"Brotherhood" is not enough. It doesn't play enough off of the rugged individualism that's part of the American character (and which many progressives have forgotten). And social justice, in my book, doesn't work as well as social mobility...

Dems are not losing a battle of nasty names and mudslinging. They are losing the war of defining their vision in relation to the American myth. Dems need to start spinning their own version of the American myth.

I agree. This is what I meant when I wrote that Dems need to "provide a clear, palatable to the audience, explanation of what "being a Democrat" means..."

Political parties need to sell "identity narratives" right along with policy prescriptions. As you note, only one of the parties is doing this now.

Oh, and after further reflection, I think the hilzoy for President thought experiment wasn't particularly well considered. Maybe she's exactly where she'll do the most good right now.

Of all the nights to go to bed early and miss all this fun.

It's not a question of being "rude". It is a question of specifically manipulating appearances in order to convince just enough voters to tip the balance. While one would think that it would be a simple matter to aim for the center and marginalize the two extremes, people who are advocating the the Dems reply in kind are realizing that it doesn't seem possible. It seems to them (and more and more to me) that David Stockman's admissions that you do what you can to win the election and then you take whatever steps you have to (the original article is here behind a subscription firewall), rather than being a bit of a bad dream, were an increasingly accurate prediction of the future.

Now, I don't want to suggest that doing what you can to win the election and then patching everything up is solely the territory of Republicans. I do want to suggest that this current administration has skipped the second step.

I don't want to be accused of denying all evidence in order to avoid changing my mind, so I have to say, something to support the notion that Dems don't need to go the mattresses is lacking.

It may be a question of defining an 'identity narrative'. But part and parcel in narrative is ignoring all points where that identity seems to be contradicted. Thus, the party of small government or the party of efficient government or the party of no nation building presents its facade, as long as you ignore the man behind the curtain.

Since people have links to DKos stuff, I'll note that there was something by Hunter over there that I can't find, but the short version was him jumping on some Republican for saying something like 'the Dems are playing with fire'. I want to say that it was a superb rant, which already reveals that I am leaning towards the Dems go nuclear and let the devil take the hindmost.

Unfortunately, (and apologies for the rather inflammatory observation, if the hat doesn't fit, don't put your head in it) the Dems seem t be leavened with people who actually think that the truth is important, a category I hubristically put myself in. I worry that folks like us are basically standing in front of the Wal Mart on the 4th day of the flood, worrying about the ethics of breaking in to get bottled water.

At the moment, one line of attack has opened itself up. Note Brad DeLong and Yglesias. Looking at Bennett's words, I agree, but why should I devote one iota of energy to defending a Bill Bennett? And if I can find some bungee cords to hook the gamblin' Man to any other administration official, why is this a bad thing?

Yglesias has a new this that deserves to be noted in light of this discussion

Another, better interpretation, however is that the reverse is happening. Most Republican legislators are more conservative in their hearts than their public profile would suggest. In particular, many members of congress find a (somewhat) moderate public image useful to them on election day, but what they want to do is create conservative policy outcomes. Under these circumstances, the existence of a strong leadership that can "force" policy rightward "against their will" is very useful. To my way of thinking, this second interpretation best fits the facts -- the practice of "catch and release," the conference committee two-step, the unwillingness of moderate Republicans to use the committee process to block initiatives, etc. I laid out this argument in an August article co-written with Mark Goldberg called "The Fraud Caucus" so I'll say no more about it except to note David Sirota's demonstration that Roy Blunt is just DeLayism without DeLay. If the moderates were ever going to stand up for themselves, this was the time to do it. They didn't do it because they don't want to.

I still have this altogether quaint attachment to the truth, but it may be like a vestigal appendix that will need to be cut out. I am also reminded of a quote about the French Revolution that noted how, like a volcano, when it came, it didn't simply take the truly corrupt at the top, but along with them, took all of those who were trying to reform the system to save it. Sauve qui peut.

Sorry, here is the link to the Hunter post. I understand Hunter is also from Mississippi?

"Under any more normal circumstances, meaning 1945-early 60s, I hope I would have voted Republican."

Hilzoy, with all due respect, even during that era the politics of race was much more complicated than you seem to be saying. Are you saying Truman would be worse on race than Dewey, or Stevenson worse than Eisenhower? Paul Douglas(D,Ill) introduced the weak Civil Rights Act of 1957 which LBJ managed to wheel and deal to passage...involved the Snake River Dam in Washington; Everett Dirksen(R,Ill) the stronger version in 1964, which Barry Goldwater voted against and then gained his party's nomination. I suggest, respectfully, you study those eras more closely.

Even discounting the historical change that now makes the like of Javits or Brooke or Rockefeller an utter impossiblity in today's Republican party, to call the Democratic Party of 1955 "hostage to racists" is really unfair to many fine men, and makes me wonder if you have listened to too much Republican revisionism.

Bob M: It wasn't reading Republican revisionist history so much as going through a binge of labor history recently. (Thank TPM Cafe for making me realize that I knew next to nothing about the history of the labor movement in the US.) It seemed as though at every turn, some piece of legislation that would have helped a whole bunch of people, and might just possibly have helped, to some tiny extent, the lot of southern blacks, was for that reason deemed utterly unacceptable by the Congressional Democrats. You're right, though, that I should look more carefully at the history of the Congressional Republicans on this topic.

And it's not just that the Dems were not good on civil rights then; the point was more that the Dixiecrats seem to have had a veto on policy affecting civil rights, so that the Democrats then were institutionally hobbled. Which was meant to be the parallel to the Republicans now. Even if I agreed with their policies, the fact that they have introduced really breathtaking levels of corruption, and have done so as a body, would probably make me vote against them, so as not to let this go on.

It wasn't reading Republican revisionist history so much as going through a binge of labor history recently. (Thank TPM Cafe for making me realize that I knew next to nothing about the history of the labor movement in the US.)

I'd also point out that the reactions in dealing with the labor movement in the US are deeply entwined with the worldwide problems of dealing with the anarchist/progressive/socialist/communist movements that emerged at the turn of the century. I wonder if the TPM links talk about the Wobblies or Big Bill Heywood. It would be unfortunate if they didn't, but understandable, because Heywood, after being convicted of espionage and sedition for calling strikes during WWI, jumped bail in 1921 and fled to the Soviet Union, where he died in 1928. I shudder to imagine the hay that could be made if the labor movement acknowledged this linkage.

(If the links do show this, you have my permission to ridicule me for 3.78 posts)

"...was for that reason deemed utterly unacceptable by the Congressional Democrats. You're right, though, that I should look more carefully at the history of the Congressional Republicans on this topic."

Wikipedia breaks the 64 Civil Rights Votes down by Northern and Southern branches of each party, and I would need a breakdown on most issues along those lines. Were Northern Republicans more sympathetic to labor issues than Northern Democrats? Somehow I doubt it.

In addition, I can imagine Republicans using race in the 50's and 60's to damage and weaken the Democratic Caucus. For example, just guessing, I could imagine Dirksen defeating a liberal Douglas in Illinois with a combination of Southern rural Republican conservatives and Chicago blacks, claiming the Dem Party is the party of racism, and then screwing his urban black voters on every piece of economic and social legislation to come along. Somehow I doubt Dirksen had a great relationship with Daley.

Oh, and of course my own political analysis should be understood along the lines of Lincoln may have had some good points, but he was a Republican.

Everett Dirksen

An excellent and fair extended biographical essay on the greatest Republican of the era.
Also a first approximation of the complicated history of 35-65. I scarcely know what to say. I suspect Slart and Sebastian would love him.

Oh, and of course my own political analysis should be understood along the lines of Lincoln may have had some good points, but he was a Republican

Bob, I'd ask you to marry me but 1)I'm married and the crowd here isn't into poly-whatever (discounting the folks who say that it is the natural urge of men) and 2)it might be interpreted as simply a pr stunt in support of gay marriage.

I now realize that the path is clear. Do what the Repubs do but do it with a sense of humor.

Slart, what do you think of someone like Feingold?

As for Obama's piece. I don't know quite what to make of it. The people he defends by name--Leahy, Durbin, and Feingold--absolutely deserve it. They are on my top five list of The Good Guys in the Senate (along with Levin and Obama himself.) The Roberts vote is a close call, withdrawal from Iraq is an impossible issue, and Ithink those three are voting their conscience.

But there is an awful lot of truth to the Kos-ites' story line. The Senators they are usually angry with aren't Durbin, Leahy and Feingold--they're Lieberman, Nelson, Biden, Salazar and Kerry. The votes they are angry with aren't usually on close issues like withdrawal from Iraq or Roberts. They are on things like the decision to go to Iraq, the marriage amendment, the Gonzales confirmation, the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, the estate tax. And for many Congressmen on many issues, the problem is not principled disagreement; it is cowardly, unelightened self-interest. And whether it's right to demand party loyalty on a vote depends more or less entirely on what you're actually voting on.

There are a lot of hard issues the country faces right now, but there are also a whole lot of easy issues we're screwing up very badly.A lot of hard problems, but not so many hard Senate votes.

He closes all right though.

Someone like Russ Feingold, or Russ Feingold?

Ok, that was a smartass question, but in a good-natured way. I don't know much about Russ other than he was hooked into the one thing I dislike the most about John McCain. Spiffy idea, but ought to be in every encyclopedia beside "Law of Unintended Consequences". I do hold that against both Feingold and McCain, but I don't see it as automatic disqualification.

Reading Feingold's Wiki, I see some things I like. I'd have to study him a bit more, but I don't see anything (other than McCain-Feingold) that casts him in a bad light. And I think his heart was in the right place, there, even if he failed to foresee the result. What I like most: his pledge to live in Wisconsin rather than DC, and his pledge to spend a rather substantial time talking to people in the state.

I pretty much meant Russ Feingold.

I don't know. When I discuss actual issues with you and Sebastian and Moe there seems to be a lot of common ground, but I absolutely and completely fail to understand how you justify being on these people's side--and you are. It's like we see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but there's some invisible algorithm in your head where you multiply every Democratic wrong x 100 and divide every Republican wrong by 100. Cynthia McKinney somehow outweighs Hastert, DeLay, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Frist. Howard Dean's tendency to shoot his mouth off somehow outweighs this administration's utter contempt for the Constitution. I know that decent, smart, informed people still support these guys, but I cannot for the life of me understand how. And I haven't the foggiest clue how the Democrats would reach you. I really think it's hopeless. Your minds are made up in some way, for some reason, to a degree that, while it's conceivable we good get your vote, I have so little clue as to what would persuade you that hasn't persuaded you now, that if I were a campaign strategist I would certainly write you off.

Katherine, put Russ Feingold up and see what happens. Or you could keep putting your feckless guy against our feckless guy, expecting us to choose yours.

Seems pretty straightforward to me, but I live inside my head.

that if I were a campaign strategist I would certainly write you off

Campaign strategy is one of those things that I detest about politics (besides nearly everything else), so it's good that you're not. Really, the D choices are as puzzling to me as the R choices seem to be to you. You seem to be interested in what makes us tick, though, and that's rare in my experience. Maybe one day we'll get this all sorted out and reach a new, less frustrating impasse. When rocks fart, at this rate.

this thread at Dkos says it for better than i could regarding Obama:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/30/224211/286

The important, and truly shocking, part is that Obama referred to a "straightjacket."

:-)

Bob and Jes, I think you are too pessimistic about the Democrats' future. These things tend to go in cycles, and I think the Republicans are getting to the point where the Democrats were in the 70's - arrogant and complacent, and ripe for a fall.

[...]

Right now, the Republicans have well-oiled party machinery and the best attack dogs, but those things don't last forever (remember the Democratic city machines?). All the Democrats really need is the right candidate - maybe a combination of Bill Clinton's charm and blue-collar appeal, but with real national security credentials. You put forward that person and you'll see crossover voters.

There are a couple of things going on here.

On your first point, before I snipped, I was saying similar things and would have found that more or less an adequate extremely brief, but sufficiently accurate, descriptive of the situation through the admin of 41.

But I think the situation is considerably more complex by now, and the description has been come insufficient and inadequate as fairly accounting for the sort of structural changes and advantages the Republican Party leadership has slowly instituted since first achieving control of Congress in modern times, and then regaining the Presidency, and institutionalizing a wide variety of power advantages in Congress, with much of corporate America and the power of Big Money, with the K street lobbyists, and so on. This sort of thing, and this, for example.

And because of that, I have to say that from the point of view of any sort of Democrat, rational as well as irrational, the problem isn't remotely simply regaining the Presidency, nor even both houses of Congress as well, nor dealing with the generations of Republican-appointed judges dominating the judiciary for at least a generation or two to come, but doing all of the above and fighting, if not rolling back, the pretty much Grover Nordquist's entire strategy of the past generation of politics, and that dating back to at least the Nixon era, or, at the very least, the Reagan era (I have no objection to Ken Mehlman's attempts to disavow the recent racist past and to-whatever-present-extent of the Republican Party; it will only succeed in gaining minority votes if it's real, and if it's real, fine and well and good and hallalujah).

I could be more coherent about this, and possibly more coherent, with more time and wordage perhaps, or perhaps not (perhaps just more time and better wordage), but I'm trying to edge back into commenting, so pray forgive.

Needless to say, that I find something not understandable could prove that it isn't understandable OR it could prove that I have limited understanding. But I don't think I'm alone on this one.

And bob, you're making a big mistake. Lincoln was delightfully shrill sometimes. I only discovered this recently--the Cooper Union address and the remarks on Dredd Scott are the first examples that come to mind but there are many others. People talk about the Lincoln Douglas debates like some kind of triumph of civility & an exchange of ideas among worth adversaries--I haven't read those, but in Lincoln's speeches and letters, his contempt for Douglas oozes from between the lines. As I've said before, you can be harshly critical and still be classy about it.

See also Obama's late, great "I'm opposed to dumb wars" speech. And, well, a lot of things by hilzoy.

"Looking at Bennett's words, I agree, but why should I devote one iota of energy to defending a Bill Bennett?"

Fairness, honesty? In purely practical terms, it will gain you some credibility with some, albeit at the expense of ill will points from folks who hold a Bob McManus-type view, so I don't know how the practical argument ultimately plays out.

"And if I can find some bungee cords to hook the gamblin' Man to any other administration official, why is this a bad thing?"

Why are lies of omission bad, in general? Why is dishonesty for the sake of a cause arguably bad or not so bad as to not be unjustified?

Granting arguendo that there are times it's morally acceptable, or perhaps we're even morally compelled to lie in some circumstances (Oskar Schindler, say), but presumably few would argue against the notion that there must be sufficient justification for making a dishonest argument, or -- and it's not the same thing, but it's perhaps on a related moral plane or spectrum -- not speaking up someone to defend them from a baseless charge, even if they are thoroughly guilty of other offenses or evils, perhaps?

And, yeah, Bill Bennett has no standing with me to speak to ethics or morality or much of anything else, other than perhaps on Vegas restaurant tips, and I think he is, in general, slime, and should hold little or no place in public standing or discourse, but on this particular quote, while it was completely impolitic, highly inflamnatory, and therefore extremely foolish to utter, it was factually correct, though trapped by its shortness as a sound-bite into being, ah, incomplete. I can't see taking it as evidence of Sekrit Genocidal Preferences or plans, I'm afraid. But I'm content to tar Bennett with being a moralizing gambler, and wrong on policy, as a rule, and having all sorts of sleazy compatriots, and so on.

Katherine, to slartibartfast: It's like we see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but there's some invisible algorithm in your head where you multiply every Democratic wrong x 100 and divide every Republican wrong by 100. Cynthia McKinney somehow outweighs Hastert, DeLay, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Frist. Howard Dean's tendency to shoot his mouth off somehow outweighs this administration's utter contempt for the Constitution.

Well said, Katherine. I wonder if your friend slarti will ever address your main point.

"I shudder to imagine the hay that could be made if the labor movement acknowledged this linkage."

Any history of US labor that doesn't either discuss at length Big Bill Heywood, or that doesn't deal through its full length with the labor movement's integral, if frequently mutating and struggling with multitudes of factions on both sides, inseparability from the history of Socialist and Communist movements in U.S. history would have to be so inaccurate as to be useless or downright damaging to understanding.

Of course, any useful history also has to fully and honest explain the relationships, good and bad, distinguishing the elements to be proud of from the elements to be ashamed of from the elements to merely shrug at or roll one's eyes at, and taking note of the AFL-CIO's anti-communism, and the dominance by the Fifties of anti-communist liberalism in the American left as a whole, and similar threads, as well as the Trotskyite and Stalinist and earlier radical left threads.

Slart--I think one of the uses of a site like this is anthropological--understanding what the people on the other side one can have some respect for are actually thinking. But to say what one really thinks can lead to some real hostility. And I think for the conservatives here who have gotten along the best with the liberals, there has been a real hesitancy to do that. I can see why, but I find it really frustrating. What drives me crazier than incivility and much crazier than a little profanity is a feeling that people are not really engaging with what I am saying. This, I think, is what leads some of the liberal posters to Demand Satisfaction in the form of annotated explanations of why you voted for Bush last November and would do so again and will probably vote GOP in 2006(glad to know you draw the line at Harris though): you listen to our arguments, you often don't disagree, at least not directly--and yet in the end it doesn't seem to matter very much to you.

More likely, you agree less than I think but don't wish to say so, or there is something else you even care about even more that outweighs all of it. But I have not the foggiest clue what it is, and I'm not sure you guys have really done a thorough explanation of why. It couldn't possibly be the existence of Michael Moore, Cynthia McKinney, or Howard Dean sticking his foot in his mouth every so often. So what is it? If you think my views are inexplicable it's not for lack of me trying. I've explained in excruciating detail what I think is wrong with this adminsitration and this Congressional leadership. So has hilzoy, so has Edward. I wrote many long endorsements of Dean, and of Kerry back in the day. Hilzoy's a Clarkie and I'm leaning Feingold and many of us are Obama groupies and I remain a giant Durbin fan. I came up with an entire theory of jurisprudence in response to Sebastian's criticisms of liberal judges.

I have not seen anywhere close to that level of detail about why anyone supports any GOP Congressional leader or potential presidential candidate. I've seen a lot of vague claims that the Democrats are worse, which when we get into specifics often turn out to be 15 years out of date or to be about people who are relatively powerless or sins that are relatively trivial compared to the arguments we're making. There's probably a better, more thorough explanation than that. But honestly, where is it? Why do you support these guys? I'm genuinely curious. You wrote a pretty good explanation on election day IIRC but it was also very short, and a lot has happened since then.

My honest curiousity wouldn't necessarily prevent me from jumping down your throat at parts of the answer, of course, but geez, we do that to y'all anyway. And I'm from a big family, so I guess it's conceivable to me that people could jump down each other's throats on a semi-regular basis and still like and respect each other.

(i'm not expecting it on this thread, obviously. More of a long term request.)

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