Are liberals useless? A further meditation on Chris Hedges’ piece

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I know, this Chris Hedges piece came out nearly two weeks ago.  This is a further exploration of the “liberals are useless” meme in political conversation.  Here I will suggest that liberals, progressives, etc. may be useless, but they can’t be dismissed outright.  Thus we need the building blocks of a more proactive stance.

(Crossposted at Orange)

On a first read, Chris Hedges’ piece “Liberals Are Useless” from two weeks ago looks like another complaint about ineffectual political sellouts.  Let’s take a short look at what Hedges says:

Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them.

Same old complaint.  But then I started to see a lot of echoes of it elsewhere, especially as regards the run-up to the coming vote on “health insurance reform.”  Here, for instance, we have a campaign contributor who pledges to stop working for the Democratic Party after feeling sold out on a number of grounds.  And then you have Rahm Emanuel, who said: “Don’t Worry About The Left.”  Why not worry about the Left?  Because they offer no source of political resistance.  (And, yeah, this apparently applies to supposed “socialist” Bernie Sanders as well.)   This message was corroborated (in a sense) by the White House staffer who said that Howard Dean was “irrelevant to the entire health care debate.”  And then of course you had thereisnospoon’s diary of last week, which tells us that “no one is going to save you fools,” and urges you not to trust your politicians.  Do you catch my drift?

So are liberals, progressives, etc. “useless” or “irrelevant” to politics as played in DC?  Let’s take a look at Jeffrey Feldman’s piece, outlining Rahm Emanuel’s strategy: “Get ’em, then gut ’em.”  Here is the puzzle Feldman sets out as regards the “liberals are useless” meme:

Given the likelihood that elected Democrats would rather stiff arm activists in their own base than be publicly accused by their own President of blocking health care reform–meaning that the current health care bill will likely be signed into law rather than killed–what can the base of the Democratic Party do to guarantee they have more end game influence in the next legislative battle?

This should be considered in light of David Waldman’s speculation in yesterday’s Orange that Reid has enough votes at this point to grant America a national Romneycare.  And, gee whiz, who can fault Romneycare, except maybe for the fact that 21% of Massachusetts residents still forgo necessary medical care, or that Romneycare has failed to rein in medical costs.  From the PNHP report:

The plan does nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs. Even before the health reform, health costs in Massachusetts were among the highest in the world, approximately 25% higher than the U.S. average. Since the reform’s passage, premiums have continued to escalate. The costs for the four (subsidized) Commonwealth Care plans rose 9.4 % in 2009, significantly higher than increases in inflation or wages. (p. 13)

Spare me the counter-arguments about how this is “better than nothing.”  If we do a half-baked job of pressing Congress for “reform,” and Congress only save a small portion of the lives it could have saved, we have nothing to be proud of.

Okay, so here’s the proactive part.

Folks, if America’s progressives had really been serious about politics, they would have asked something like Feldman’s question decades ago.  Yeah, this one — “what can the base of the Democratic Party do to guarantee they have more end game influence in the next legislative battle?”  So where was progressive “end game influence” in, oh, any number of legislative (or for that matter, political) battles over the last three decades?  The fact of the matter is that the political class is united against the public, and in favor of stewardship of the neoliberal state.  Kees van der Pijl outlines this on a global scale in the abovecited link, “The Aesthetics of Empire and the Defeat of the Left.”  The money quote:

As a cadre entrusted with the day-to-day management of politics and administration, the ‘political class’ of each state is an internally cohesive force, and the particular sources of the entitlement to occupy state management posts such as the class struggle of the labour movement, have increasingly been left behind by that part of the cadre which entered politics as representatives of the working class aspirations for socialism.

What politicians care about, then, is each other, and not you or me.  Paul Rosenberg calls it the “Versailles Dem Mind.”  In this political climate of collusion amongst the political class, moreover, the progressives have given up their political clout for the sake of various “lesser of two evils” campaigns, for various tenets of progressive ideology, and for all kinds of other excuses to rationalize their powerlessness while pretending to continue to “play politics.”  And the politicians have treated them like children caught eating dinner at the grown-ups’ table.  Here’s what they tell progressives: “We’ll fix the legislation later.”  Uh-huh — here’s slinkerwink’s idea of that.  

Of course, if the progressives disappear from the political process entirely, like they did in failing to influence the reprehensible No Child Left Behind Act (Senate) (House), then things just get worse.  NCLB, if you recall, turned America’s schools into test prep organizations, minions of McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Harcourt General; as Gerald Bracey points out, NCLB is the Administration’s favored regime for those who simply can’t afford a good progressive private school.  

Progressives, then, may be “useless,” but dismissing them and relying upon another demographic segment of the American public would probably not be the best course of action at this time.  So that’s where we stand.

What should we do?

Here’s where it gets personal and, well, it’s not up to me to tell everyone what to do.  It’s especially not up to me to tell you what to do.  First off, although I may be with you on “the left,” and on health care, and maybe even on education, I’m not a progressive.  Secondly, I don’t place my organizational faith (or despair) in an entity called the “Democratic Party,” which holds its members together in a “Big Tent” philosophy which is supposed to unite its members behind various vague and unspecified goals.  Lastly, I’m not a “realist” or an “incrementalist” — I don’t think that respect for the delusional character of much of mainstream American society will amount to anything good, and I do think that drastic, sudden change is quite probable given world society’s heedlessness toward its environmental substrate.

Oh, sure, I understand the realities of power, but I don’t think of power only in the narrow, political sense.  There are plenty of other types of power, the “powers of the weak,” which need to be activated if a better world is to be achieved.  I certainly don’t kid myself about the power of money over the political process, to the point where I’m voting for politicians who give away the store to moneyed interests “but they’re better than the Republican” on some minor point.  I may know less than you do, but I do try to acquaint myself with life-knowledge that counts.

As regards the “health insurance reform” issue, progressives might have done well to heed the advice of letsgetitdone over at Firedoglake and exercised the “progressive power of ‘no‘” a lot earlier, and a lot more often, than they have done so far.  As it is, they haven’t used this power, they won’t use it, and as a result they have no real power over the bill, and so they will pass it without meaningful complaint.  The teabaggers understand the power of obstruction better than the progressives — if anyone in this era is going to take to heart Mario Savio’s famous incantation about how “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious-makes you so sick at heart-that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part,” it will probably be some reactionary fool.

I can’t quite place a name on my own philosophy, but I suppose “ecosocialism” is as good a label as any.  You might also look at “historical materialism” as something in which I believe.  I think that if we are to have profound political change, it will not appear to us as the success of a hobby we might pursue, or as a side-project we engage while we climb the corporate ladder, but rather as a transformation of our ways of life.

Now, despite what they say about us in DC, we are in fact all grown-ups now, and can therefore think for ourselves.  Thus I’m sure you can glean through this diary and through your other sources to find moral principles which will allow you to pursue a politics which won’t make you “useless.”  Perhaps you’ve already done so.


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  1. cassiodorus
  2. jamess

    The Democratic National Platform

    We need to reference it.

    We need to demand it.

    And we need to re-write it —

    to more strongly encapsulate

    today’s Progressive Values and Goals.


  3. dkmich

    compared to the race to the top.  One strategy is to vote Republican.  We’ll lose, but so will they. That’s makes us even, and puts us miles ahead of where we’ve been for the last 3 years.  

  4. jeffroby

    Haven’t heard of Mario Savio for a long time!  But your quote only goes so far.  Then there’s the part:

    “And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.”

    In a piece from ( Friday ), I wrote:

    we need something more immediate.  Maybe have thousands of the unemployed storm congressional halls, call it the six-packers.  Sit-downs at phony jobs fairs.  Surround the homeless shelters or welfare centers.  I really don’t know exactly.  Some of this may sound outlandish, but December 3 Bloomberg reports, “senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.”  I do know there are going to be a lot of pissed-off people out there with nothing to lose, and I don’t believe we can’t come up with something.

    I don’t exactly agree that liberals (I cried when they shot Medgar Evers) are useless.  Rather, they are gutless.  Fact is that the White House and the Rahm Emmanuels and the institutions that hand out JOBS can exert more pressure than we can.

    When we can exert more pressure, by making the disparity between their PROFESSED principles and their practice concretely clear, in action, in creating situations where “which side are you on?” means you cross this line or you don’t, then they either join us or openly proclaim themselves part of the powers-that-be.

    The onus isn’t really on them until we can do our part.

  5. bigsurtree

    has quite a few older participants. I am one of them. We need a hell of a lot more younger people to really help form and energize a larger movement. The tragedy is that a huge percentage of them were co-opted by the Obama forces, and probably are wondering what has happened.

    Without question, Obama has done far more harm to the “liberal/progressive” cause and its influence on the Democratic party than could ever have been imagined: He

    literally fractured an embryonic movement before it had any time to coalesce. He has single handedly and profoundly weakened the Orange One IMHO.

    There was just way too much investment in the man himself.

    But it seemed unavoidable, because it was a historic election. Perhaps now, the blogosphere can be used not only for fundraising, political discussion, petitions and

    personal lobbying, but also organizing for mass demonstrations and protests. Perhaps the targets should be expanded to corporations as well as government, with a powerful reminder of who they work for.

    One of the saddest things to see are the college youngsters going deep in debt for a lifetime without any recourse to changing this arrangement. So not only are we making a healthy life harder to get and impossible for many, but also higher education. And we are going deeper and deeper into debt to boot. Not a real good way to compete in this global economy. In fact it’s a f****g recipe for failure.

    Oh well, it’s Sunday evening and I better stop while I’m ahead.

  6. whitewash


    I can be there to help.

    Hopefully, all those crying for government health insurance because they don’t have any can be there too.

    And all these incessant keyboard claquers can set up a hot spot in New Tent City.

    On the National Mall.

    Once they start carting people away, once the sick and uninsured start getting arrested, once President Fuckup has to call to order our portapotties, there might be a shift.

    Until then, everything is just bedpan in the wind.

  7. seabos84

    have overlapped?

    I wasn’t saving the world – just myself. I was cooking in fine dining in Boston (Four Seasons Hotel, ’85 to ’87) feeding the rich slimeballs.

    (did I eat GOOD!)

    I grew up on welfare (we weren’t hungry, just broke broke broke) in a decaying industrial pit, Holyoke, and got the 1st bus out to boston college when I was 18 in ’78 blah blah blah.  My main concerns where making sure I had skills so when I had to beg for employment and when I had to kiss ass to keep my job, at least I’d have something to get me a new job if the fuckers chucked me outta work.

    I volunteered in campaigns to meet the XX persuasion.

    the boston lib dems I met are pretty much like seattle lib dems I met – relatively affluent, able to afford the incessant sell outs and political incompetents disguised as leaders.

    I like Hedge’s piece.

    what to do?

    1. STOP electing fucking sell outs, or political incompetents. I quitely did NOT vote for Maria Cantwell in 2006 – I’m fucking done voting for pathetics (see her pharma vote this week? patty murray too?) cuz there is a fascist on the other side.


    finally, we gotta do something that fucks wiht the machine (PEACEFULLY) BUT it has to be persistent.

    We gotta find a way to gum up the works BUT …

    I can’t AFFORD losing work time to jail,

    I can’t AFFORD to lose my job,

    I can’t AFFORD to lose my shit health ‘insurance’,

    I am NOT mother theresa and I am NOT spending 27 years in jail like mandela – hand cuffs and jail cells suck.

    We gotta find a way to gum up the works …

    use cell phones and twitter tweeter whatever to follow around sell outs and incompetents, 24*7, with embarrassing signs, like the right wing anti whacks do?


    we gotta do something that fucks wiht the machine (PEACEFULLY) BUT it has to be persistent.

    I was part of hte feb 2003? anti war march

    YAWN … what the fuck did it accomplish which persisted?


  8. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    Ten years of us “kids” yelling in the streets about these days of economic peril because the two-parties being paid off by the same corporate pimps that don’t care about us has worked!

    Soooo whenever you’re ready, I got a few ways we can get some stuff done.

    If you’re interested that is.  I know how people like to just say things with no intention of doing anything about it :-)

  9. banger

    Liberal/Progressives don’t seem able to do either very well. Particularly the “hurt” part. If you can’t do that then you don’t deserve to take part in the political game. You are better off praying. Mind you, I believe in prayer and meditation and I believe in its power but it is not the same as taking part in political action.

  10. cassiodorus

    There has to be a viable third party.  Nobody really cares about protest voting, or staying home.  

  11. Dameocrat

    dlcers can’t spin that as the Democrats being “too wibwal!”  or write in, but never vote repuke.  If the democrats don’t express my views why should I vote for a republican that I disagree with even more?

  12. Allison In Seattle

    Just ignore them. Put energy into non-profits and/or any group that is building change from the ground up.

    Politics now is a distraction. It’s paying attention to a group of people that are abusive, are abusers. Who laugh at what the ordinary person needs, pay no mind to it.

    To really damage a bully, one ignores the bully.

    That’s what we need to do.

    It’s an addiction, thinking that politics can save us.

    There are so many groups doing so much good. They can use the extra energy.

  13. Xanthe

    for a third party.  I’ve not seen this anger before.  “Viable” – there’s the problem.

  14. arendt

    Didn’t Pat Buchanan hijack some party back a few years ago?

    Regardless of whether he did, don’t progressives outnumber libertarians? Couldn’t we just set up shop inside their party with the part of our platform that they would buy (reducing executive power, reducing unfunded mandates (like NCLB), etc)? But, in reality, we would just be hijacking their up-and-running in all states status.

    It would save us a lot of trouble.

    Downside, if we don’t outnumber them at least 10:1, we could get caught in a gigantic brawl with an irrelevant, but rabid, minority.

  15. cassiodorus

    Haven’t seen you around.

  16. Dameocrat

    they just have to cause bad dems to lose and to be lefty so the dems no they lost for being to conservative.

  17. rossl

    in March.

  18. whitewash

    A real shame about all the passion that has been wasted over the last many many months.

    All the rage against President Fuckup that could have been channeled into getting something done.

    Instead all we have is a lot of infuriated hatred for our President, callouses on our phonecalling fingers, and the fading scent of long-ago burnt hair.

    The Fringies of my beloved Party certainly learned nothing from The History of Protest.

    Dr. King could have mailed it in.  “I have a dream all of you will send an angry post card to your Senators.”  That kind of deal.  He didn’t though, and he gained success.

    You can’t Crash the Gates from your basement.

    You have to do it in person.

  19. randgrithr

    Yes, I do believe some of you are starting to figure out the answer.

  20. jeffroby

    All the rage against President Fuckup that could have been channeled into getting something done.

    ,,, and to risk being a royal pain in the ass, getting WHAT done?  I completely agree with your central point.  I am starting to see glimmerings of this kind of thinking, that outrage is not enough if it doesn’t translate into action.

    What I’m trying to engage is the difficult question of how we come to collective decisions and even include those 11 long-haired Friends a’ Jesus to take specific actions.

    Come on and join our convoy

    Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.

    We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy

    ‘Cross the U-S-A.

  21. whitewash

    How’s that?

    I remember it happening in the 60s….

  22. jeffroby

    I’m nobody! Who are you?

    Are you nobody, too?

    Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!

    They’d banish us, you know.

    More than two of us even on this thread.  Something is starting to stir.

  23. cassiodorus

    This is a good thing you know.  Mother Teresa is a reactionary Catholic whose concern for the poor is rather severely limited by adherence to doctrine…

  24. jeffroby

    I can’t AFFORD losing work time to jail,

    I can’t AFFORD to lose my job,

    I can’t AFFORD to lose my shit health ‘insurance’,

    I am NOT mother theresa and I am NOT spending 27 years in jail like mandela – hand cuffs and jail cells suck.

    Good!  You’re doing some serious honest thinking.

    I think the Full Court Press will gum up the works — it’s designed for nobodies.  But it should be — at best — one tactic among many, and it’s payoff will take over 2 years.  And people are hurting NOW.

    People are already out of work.

    People have already lost their healthcare.

    As for jail, well, if you’ve got no money and you’ve got no job and you’ve just got a worried mind (Coal Tattoo) …

    Mass actions can get folks jailed, but the 27-year Nelson Mandelas are few and far between.  Mostly it’s a few nights of government-subsidized housing, a misdemeanor on your record, and a fine.  Been there.  But it’s not something people do alone.  When there’s a hundred people in the pokey singing their heads off, and thousands outside in solidarity, that’s a whole other thing.

    When there’s movement and when there’s hope.  Conditions gotta be built.  

  25. banger

    Then organize. Somehow that has missed us. It really has. No ideas will work without that and any idea will work, to a degree, if we organize.

    Look, it could be a lot of fun!

  26. Nightprowlkitty

    … your Full Court Press.

    I have completely bastardized the idea to suit myself!

    Here’s what intrigues and interests me.

    The notion of using electoral politics for a different reason than winning public office.

    I don’t like the notion of a national platform.

    Frankly, I’d like to see tons of conflict in the 400+ candidates – I’d like to see folks go wild with imaginative platforms and say everyone else’s platform sucks!

    We could literally steal the debate and, in the process, learn how to really fight, how to deal with conflict among ourselves, learn about losing and thinking out of the box, etc.

    It would also be excellent to go outside the political blogosphere in using the internet as a political tool.  For example, I read the fashion blogs and there’s not only some smart women there but they are usually liberal even if not terribly political.  Sports blogs, game blogs, academic blogs, engineering blogs, there’s a wealth of untapped human resources out there.

    Reaching out to anyone we please because we wouldn’t be accountable to anyone, not even each other.  The only thing we’d have to agree on is to either run ourselves for office or help someone else run.

    Just brainstorming here.

    The “learning how to lose” aspect of my riff on your idea relates to a comment I wrote that got little traction, but is at the center of my thoughts about Obama and leadership generally.

    Also I’ve been reading (and feeling myself) a lot about how folks are sick and tired of electoral politics.

    We need some fun.

    Tonight I read about the Yippees and how they ran Pigasus for President.  They got a pig arrested during that piece of political performance art.

    I’m not crazy about that particular scene for personal reasons (involving a member of my family), but it is somehow germane to the thinking process I’m undergoing.

    As well, Chairman Mao said “let a thousand blossoms bloom” and then when they did, he arrested them all and killed most of them, lol.

    Not crazy over Chairman Mao either, but I do like the phrase “let a thousand blossoms bloom.”

    I think, in other words, you have provided a structure that is very interesting and very flexible and new and could help us break out of the kind of conditioning that limits us so heavily.

  27. TMC

    I like it.  

  28. seabos84

    create the new / next … movement of sell outs!

    let a thousand flowers bloom, cuz

    more people will do more when they’re doing stuff they want to do! more people doing more stuff = hopefully more better stuff?

    instead, we got OFA emailing people telling them call that fucking piece of sell out shit nelson AND THANK THE FUCKING SELL OUT?


    Don’t we already have enough large organizations pre-occupied with keeping the those in charge in charge & living large?

    if I hit that big lottery, I’m gonna set up a software suite for organizing which will require that you … type in your name, hit submit, and VIOLA ! you got the tools you need so people can start working together  – instead of tools to start fucking with software after spending 5 or 50 or 500 grand on clueless geeks.




    To win political organizations need to be effective, which means we need Efficiency,

    Transparency, and Accessibility in our grassroots campaigns.  In 3 of the above web pages,

    “Basic Web Needs”, “Meetings Agendas Resolutions” and “Event Planning and Calendar”, I

    detail suggestions to accomplish these goals.  On this page I try to explain why I have put

    the ideas on the above pages together.  



    oh well … back to work.


  29. jeffroby

    A very, very interesting response.  Very thoughtful.

    As you’ve gathered from my posts, you know I’ve been wrestling with the problems of transforming the massive anger at the Democratic Party sellout over healthcare (and Afghanistan and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Gitmo and Wall Street giveaways and the whole economic team and … and … and …) into effective action.  How to use the breadth and fluidity of the internet to zero in on vulnerable pressure points in the system and actually apply some pressure.

    To cope with this, I am stressing THIS organization, THESE 8 principles, THIS specific tactic.  Without what’s almost a fetishization of specificity, I fear that everything will get transformed into SOMEBODY has to do this, EVERYBODY should do that, PROGRESSIVES should call for … and NOBODY will do anything NOTHING concrete will get done except a giant howl of righteous rage that has already been factored  into the White House political budget.

    I feel very strongly that such an approach is needed for THIS moment.  At this early stage of development, I’m trying to deal with some hard organizational question.

    If the impact of the Full Court Press doesn’t really hit until 2012, how do you keep people interested without having more than a propaganda group?

    If we try to field candidates in 2010, it will only be a few.  Will we be able to pull off maybe 10 races next year.  The strength of the Press is its targeting 435 seats.  If we only contest 10 and they lose, will that discredit the tactic for 2012.

    How fast will this grow?  Given that the Press has only reached a few hundred people, I’d say the response has been terrific.  But it’s only reached a few hundred people.  If we reached thousands (as I believe we can), and hundreds of people want to “enlist,” can we handle that?  (I’ve read that the crisis point for many small businesses is when the mom and pop operation suddenly starts getting massive orders and can’t make the transition.)

    You say you don’t like the notion of a national platform.  That’s a touchy one.  I’m trying to keep it as simple and small as possible.  There is all sorts of pressure to add this good thing, and that good thing.  But everything you add might drive someone else away.

    On the other hand, we are seeking to have national impact by inflicting death of 435 cuts.  And I feel strongly that we draw some firm lines around abortion rights and the war in Afghanistan.  I’m rigid there.

    I love “let a thousand blossoms bloom.”  It’s just that we have hardly any blossoms right now.

    If we arrive at a time when there were “tons of conflict in the 400+ candidates — folks go wild with imaginative platforms and say everyone else’s platform sucks!” I would be absolutely thrilled.  As an aging flower child, I am keenly aware that the organization you need to get things going can too easily become a crabby parent trying to get the kids back home by curfew.

    What you are talking about, if I might try to summarize, is how things could look if there were serious social movement in this country.  I think I’m starting to see a few tender shoots sticking themselves out of the mud, and that is precious.  As you note, I’ve tried to keep the plan rather small, to ensure maximum flexibility, to not compete with other actions.  I have no investment in ownership.

    One final note.  You write:

    It would also be excellent to go outside the political blogosphere in using the internet as a political tool.  For example, I read the fashion blogs and there’s not only some smart women there but they are usually liberal even if not terribly political.  Sports blogs, game blogs, academic blogs, engineering blogs, there’s a wealth of untapped human resources out there.

    I’ll keep that in mind, you are absolutely right.  People there might not have the mental damage afflicting those of us that have gone to too many demonstrations without a helmet.

    Oh yes, rest assured that I’ve had plenty of defeats.  Didn’t kill me, so …

  30. randgrithr

    A just war is what happens when all other avenues to the restoration of a just peace fail.

    Pelosi and Conyers refusing to impeach Bush is why a just war is inevitable.

    Obama refusing to prosecute Bush and Cheney and instead continuing their policies of torture, imperialist exploitation and abuse of domestic power is why a just war is inevitable.

    Failure to truthfully and objectively investigate 9/11 is why a just war is inevitable.

  31. Inky99

    And many of them will never touch politics ever again.

    I don’t blame them.

    Maybe that was part of his job.

  32. Joy B.

    for mass demonstrations thing is a waste of time and energy these days. As well as an open invitation to government-sponsored murder and mayhem. It accomplishes precisely zip and gets a lot of people hurt.

    We need a new means of effective protest that the government can’t throw troops at. That would be the 21st century version of the General Strike. Just stay home, shut the whole thing down. Their only response would have to be issuing terse orders nobody would pay attention to via FoxNews. If they send troops door to door to find people staying home, don’t answer the door. The whole idea of arresting and/or brutalizing people for staying in their own homes instead of going to work would absolutely break the plutarchy’s back. Marching Americans out of their homes in chains to be delivered to their workplaces like the slaves they truly are would be The End of America.

    …or a tax strike. Removing their funding accomplishes much the same thing.

  33. jeffroby


  34. cassiodorus

    when you live in a world of ideological dupes being controlled by a consolidated (and united) political class.

    I blame no one.

  35. Xanthe

    can win eventually.  Not a party that could become a joke. The question is how do we get the money out of politics.  It seems a impossibility.  But the anger is out there now.  Unfortunately, it’s the teabaggers (I know I know) that look populist and that ain’t good.  

  36. Nightprowlkitty

    … I think what I’m proposing is an offshoot of your idea.

    2010 would be great practice to find out what works and what doesn’t.

    As an activist, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of defeats.  But many of us haven’t … yet.

    I question anyone’s ability to hold together in coalition without knowing what actually binds us and what will cause us to fall apart when the least wind blows.

    If we individually found our “lines in the sand” then we could form coalitions.  At this point, I have zero idea who my allies are any more — the ones I thought were my allies, turns out they aren’t.  I like a lot of folks, some very much indeed, but that doesn’t mean I think of them as allies when it comes to the issues that I will not back down on.

    I think the “conditioning” we’ve been talking about has caused us to feel we have to limit ourselves on our issues -especially those of human rights and civil rights.  I’m sick of that and won’t do it any more.

    Very much appreciate this brainstorming.

  37. banger

    From where we each are who are our allies? I mean in our daily life and whatever else we want to include.

    In my life and others I know, the circle draws ever smaller. We live among non-allies for the most part. This is deeply tragic for all of us. We gather at places like this blog to make some connection with kindred spirits. Can we do more?

  38. jeffroby

    … in terms of how things could eventually look.

    I question anyone’s ability to hold together in coalition without knowing what actually binds us and what will cause us to fall apart when the least wind blows.

    That’s where the common principles come in.  Otherwise you think you have a coalition and Obama decides to invade Iran and halfl your people think that’s fine.  Or as we saw with healthcare, all these House Dems are voting for a version that contains Stupak.

    I think they should be minimal, I’ve seen too much wrangling over program because wrangling over program is easier than doing any work.  But there has to be something.

    Tactically, I’ve been thinking that commitment to some kind of WPA-style public works program is vital in the coming year, given Obama’s aversion to having the government creating any jobs.

    You’re helping me sharpen my thoughts!

  39. Edger

    …government has become terrifyingly efficient. Red tape no longer exists: laws are conceived of, passed, funded, and executed within hours, rather than months. The bureaucratic machinery has become a juggernaut, rolling over human concerns and welfare with terrible speed, jerking the universe of sentients one way, then another, threatening to destroy everything in a fit of spastic reactions. In short, the speed of government has gone beyond sentient control (in this fictional universe, many alien species co-exist, with a common definition of sentience marking their status as equals).

    BuSab begins as a terrorist organization, whose sole purpose is to frustrate the workings of government and to damage the incredible level of efficient order in the universe in order to give sentients a chance to reflect upon changes and deal with them. Having saved sentiency from its government, BuSab is officially recognized as a necessary check on the power of government.

    First a corp, then a bureau, BuSab has legally recognized powers to interfere in the workings of any world, of any species, of any government, answerable only to themselves (though in practice, they are always threatened with dissolution by the governments they watch). They act as a monitor of, and a conscience for, the collective sentiency, watching for signs of anti-sentient behaviour and preserving the essential dignity of individuals.

    Bureau of Sabotage, from Frank Herberts Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment

  40. banger

    in fact, from what I’ve seen as an ex-gov’t contractor it is pretty bad. There are some bright spots to be sure but when it is bad it is really bad. Working in Washington has made me very sympathetic to the libertarian movement. At any rate, it would not take much to gum up the works over there — the private sector does it all the time to avoid regulations. What we need to gum up, in my view, is the MSM — they are the primary culprits to the problems we face. The gov’t is secondary.

  41. Edger

    what the fuck? And what’s the point of this whole goddamn exercise?

    Everybody should read that diary… and especially lawyers, I agree, cass…

  42. banger

    There must be a catch somewhere. Like, supposedly, the income tax is “voluntary” but not in practice. They may call it voluntary or not have any criminal statute associated with this particular law but there may be other laws that can be enforced to make people subject to some kind of penalty. Perhaps on credit reports or something like that. I don’t know. Is there a lawyer in the house?

  43. Edger

    via email from Sheldon Laskin:

    DKOS is confused.  The penalty is indeed mandatory, it just cannot be enforced through the IRS lien procedure.  But the taxpayer is still open to an IRS collection action through the courts.  The difference is that, until the IRS gets a court judgment, it won’t be able to attach or execute on the taxpayer’s property.  It’ll slow down the IRS, but it won’t stop them.

    Hat tip to David Swanson – I emailed him about this and he contacted Sheldon for me.

    Sheldon H. Laskin is Counsel to the Multistate Tax Commission and Adjunct Professor of Law in the University of Baltimore’s Graduate Tax Program, where he teaches State and Local Tax.

    Also see:

    The Individual Mandate: An Unconstitutional Exercise Of Congressional Power

    By Sheldon H. Laskin

    21 December, 2009


    It is generally agreed, by both proponents and opponents of the Administration’s health reform bill, that the lynchpin of the legislation is the individual mandate requiring uninsured Americans to obtain health insurance, or pay a penalty on their tax return for failing to do so. Without the mandate, even the Administration’s wildly exaggerated cost savings estimates simply cannot work. The whole plan is predicated on enlarging the risk pool by bringing in younger, healthier people who currently lack the means or the incentive – or both – to purchase health insurance.

    Given the centrality of the mandate, it is somewhat surprising that little attention has been paid to the critical legal question of whether Congress has the constitutional authority to require Americans to purchase a commodity from a private, for-profit corporation. Other than some limited commentary on the Right — George Will and Orrin Hatch both had columns on this topic in the Washington Post and the Heritage Foundation recently published a detailed legal analysis of the question – there has been almost no critical discussion of the issue. The silence on this issue is even more amazing in view of the fact that the Congressional Budget Office raised a red flag on the question during the Clinton Administration’s abortive effort at health care reform:

    “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”



  44. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    people are going to need food.

    Most of the food pantries by me are abundant in canned food but low on cereal and another had more cereal and oatmeal then they knew what to do with but no canned food.

    They aren’t opposed to trading with each other but have a very inefficient model for contacts.  

    So what i’m doing currently is making them aware of “Google Wave” to use with each other until I try out some of the open-source webpage applications that are like “Facebook-in-a-Box” in order to finally do a project I had in mind like 2 years back but no way to pull it off.  The program is called Elgg and you can have it easily installed after you get a domain on godaddy or whatever hosting plan you got.  So feel free to tray and get something going with this “box of ammo” 😉

    The idea is Social Networking for charity heads if only so they can keep in touch, post events and news, or even co-sponsor events.  Since Facebook addiction allows for others to be updated on others, this should tap into that addiction so as to be very effective.  My non-prof has strong ties with Island Harvest so it’ll come together.

    Since most charities are from religious groups it’ll form a grassroots Inter-Faith Council by mistake on purpose.

    I always said to even the most staunch Atheist activist (seeing how I am one) that to overlook the religious organizations and their charity arm is to deny the history of social change.


  45. jeffroby

    I guess the first “improvement” would be to increase the penalties.

  46. banger

    I’m going to look into it. Social networking is important but I’m not sure how to use it. My problem is that there are too many directions to go in and when we go in all directions at once we don’t get very far. Uniting  under one “suite” of methods to create some political change seems important. We need a web presence that deals with practical issues of organzining without which nothing can happen. I’m giving this a lot of thought as I am on a major career altering binge at the moment. I want to go in the direction of networking but I only see Facebook YouTube and so on as very limited and very much on the surface. We need something with depth and power that will allow people to focus not go all over the place and lose their power by having too many choices.

  47. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    lynch the Hedge Fund managers, burn down The Capitol in D.C., and occupy all the colleges in order to open them up to all for free.  

  48. Jack's Smirking Revenge

    but this is open-source and has so many features I was blown away:


    You don’t even need to know anything personally but if you show this to someone who has even the most basic knowledge in website development they’ll be able to get it up and running.

    I advertise open-source apps like this because it’s free for a purpose.

    Other than that, if you want an invite to google wave for the time being you can email me.

  49. Dameocrat

    since there is no reason to vote dem anymore, what’s the problem?

  50. cassiodorus

    though remember my diaries on progressive ideology and such — progressives are particularly ill-suited to genuine dissent in a neoliberal regime because their opposition to the regime is based on a fantasy.

  51. cassiodorus

    It’s nice to know you have a lawyer friend.  Could you ask your lawyer friend why the ACLU doesn’t see any point in challenging the legitimacy of the mandate in Romneycare?

  52. Joy B.

    was chosen to implement a ‘war tax’ during the last years of Vietnam because the government knew it couldn’t enforce it via IRS. It was a separate surcharge on the monthly phone utility bill (back before the anti-trust rulings). Our Poli-Sci department at college, busy organizing for Moratorium Day, got a lawyer who explained that this ‘contract tax’ enforced by Ma Bell was unconstitutional. So we started educating friends, neighbors and acquaintances about it, urging everyone to simply deduct the amount from their phone bills. Maybe send a note explaining why, but basically just don’t pay it. Millions didn’t pay it, there was nothing the government or Ma Bell could do about it. So long as you paid your actual utility bill, they couldn’t cut you off. When the protest made it to Congress and general war funding was suddenly at risk (nobody was happy about Kent State), the writing was on the wall and the war was soon over.

    Of course, that’s when they decided that their future wars had to be “all volunteer,” so the ‘bots could be separated from the sacrifice and urged to just go shopping…

  53. cassiodorus

    Read their diaries on Orange — all kinds of stuff to sneer at Jane Hamsher and anyone else who dares dissent from the Democratic Party official line.  No, the post-Boston John Kerry campaign of 2004 should have shown you all that the Democratic Party runs on the Leninist principle of “democratic centralism” when the chips are down, engaging genuine discussion and debate only when the perceived stakes are low enough.  

  54. jeffroby

    … and ended up wearing his crown alone among the shattered ruins, his career as a candidate effectively ended.

    The point of a “takeover” is to add to your strength.  If all you end up with is yourself in an otherwise empty shell, then it’s not worth the bloodshed, to say nothing of ending your prospects of working with anyone else.

  55. jeffroby

    … re Buchanan.

  56. jeffroby

    Entering the Greens would be very different from going into the Libertarians.  There would be at least some commonality of belief.  It wouldn’t have to be a hostile relationship.

    If you had an organized group to do this (see my second reply to arendt), the arrangement could be coalitional, not a takeover.  But the Greens have problems with ideological purity.  If you had an organized group, it would not be immune from such tensions as well.  They could end up taking YOU over, by winning over your people.

    To even engage this question, you would have to have a lot more clarity over purpose and strategy.  Go for it.

  57. arendt

    its a lot of work to get on the ballot in 50 states. The Libertarians have already fought all those fights.

    I just want the “gate at the terminal” that the Libertarians are currently the owners of. I don’t want to “add to my strength”. Libertarians can come along or go away grumbling, just like what happened to progressives in the Democratic Party.

    But, the plan only works if we massively outnumber Libertarians, so we can legally vote ourselves into control of their party.

    OTOH, if progressives don’t outnumber libertarians at least 5 to 1, this country is beyond salvaging.

    Could you please just comment on the idea from a tactical, political point of view?

  58. Joy B.

    before the Iraq invasion. Nice day in the park, lots of old folks, young parents with small children and babies in strollers and backpacks, grunge and emo teenagers, a few speakers, some music and a few booths handing out issue propaganda. The pigs moved in full riot gear, forced everybody into a blind alley and started swinging clubs and spraying mace. Not a single dangerous,  troublemaking anarchist anywhere, just emboldened pigs and regular citizens. Many people were hurt, dozens arrested for no reason (“blocking traffic” was the primary charge, dropped immediately when the jail had to send a majority of the prisoners to the ER for treatment of their wounds at city expense).

    These fine, upstanding, peaceful citizens and their neighbors launched a legal assault on the city like nobody’d ever seen before. When it was over the police chief and half the force were out of work, the council was decimated, and the coffers were dry from paying legal judgments.

    That kind of action is stupid if you don’t want to have your 5-year old’s arms broken by some fat pig. Since that is what’s real in the post 9-11 world, we need a new and better strategy. Simply shut ’em down. Flat. It can start fairly small and build. Soon even the bus drivers and snow plows are idle, nobody’s getting anywhere. It got France the ‘socialist’ system they enjoy today, it was mostly just gung-ho kids who got hurt on the streets (because they wanted to be seen, not because they needed to be seen). It was everybody else who just stayed home that got the job done.

  59. Edger

    They don’t take any bullshit from their government. They just shut everything down till the government smartens up…

  60. jeffroby

    From a tactical, political point of view, it is a bad idea.

    First, who is the “we” that would do this?  It won’t happen spontaneously.  Going in in dribs and drabs, which is how it would be without you having an actual organization, would be rebuffed in dribs and drabs.

    More importantly, if you had an organized force to do this (which would have to be a very disciplined organization), which at this point you don’t, it would require a bloodbath.  They would fight you to the death, and you would be in their “homeland.”  Buchanan had overwhelming force when he made his move, but it was still a political disaster.  Believe me, if your hypothetical group did this to the Libertarians, nobody else would ever let you in the door because you might do this to them.

    Finally, if you had an organized force that outnumbered the Libertarians 5 to 1, you could then earn your own ballot status.

  61. jeffroby

    So let’s take it a little further.  You’re talking about revolution, you know.  If people could be ORGANIZED to do what you’re suggesting, they wouldn’t have to settle for reforms — they could take it all.

    The problem lies in getting from here to there.  What would be the preconditions for what you suggest?  What level of organization?  What level of crisis?  France has a very different history of unionism, by the way.  In the U.S., it’s organized around basic economics, and then dabbles in politics to back that up.  In France, the unions were radically political from the git-go, and retain that tradition.

    It can start fairly small and build.

    What do you mean by “fairly small”?  And what kind of time frame?  That’s where my head is.  What fairly small actions and organizations can be built on, without going too far too fast and being crushed before the mass sentiment is there to back it up?  My time frame is a long one, not from desire but from necessity.

  62. cassiodorus

    might not apply all that well to the Greens.  Do some research on the Greens, and get back to me.  I was a Green for fifteen years — I can offer pointers if you need them.  But show me that you are interested enough to research it.  I am not interested in a mere Internet pie fight with you.

  63. cassiodorus

    should we expect something along those lines?

  64. Edger

    if you will too, Cass! 😉

  65. Edger

    maybe for the first time ever, progressives, unions, and even (shudder) teabaggers, are all on the same side.

  66. Allison In Seattle

    locally, with one or more of the many groups that are creating fabulous change in this world…

    that’s “exerting more pressure”. Because we will be creating change.

    Real change.

  67. Joy B.

    General strikes generally have to be of short duration so people don’t end up homeless and starving. But they have to include enough people/industries to get everyone to notice, so that more and more join the effort over weeks. And they’ve got to have people ready with specific demands for the politicians so the threat itself keeps momentum going on those demands. And that may include aftershock strikes of short duration just to keep hammering home the point that the people really can shut the whole thing down.

    My guess is that it should include unions from the git-go. Then non-union workers can refuse to cross lines, stay home in solidarity, etc.

  68. Joy B.

    subtle persuasion in teabagger circles of late, family/friends and other blogs, treading lightly but scoring a few points of agreement. Let’s face it – it’s a ready made radical fringe (thanks, FoxNews!) who could add numbers and impact even if we think some of their issues are dumb. There never would have been a successful insurgency in this country if purity trolls had been in charge. We’ll need a huge umbrella for beefs against the system, details can be worked out later…

    I say we use their divide and conquer sleight of mind against ’em. For a change.

  69. Edger

    You subvert, you… 😉

  70. Joy B.
  71. Edger

    Keep thinking! 😉

  72. arendt

    Perhaps the OP has a point. Liberals are so useless they can’t even defend their “homeland”.

    Your point about dribs and drabs is well taken. I think when the fundies went after the GOP, back in the 1980s, they were very well organized. (I will skip over the rumors about all the coaching they got from (K)CIA assets like the Rev Moon. and Ted Schackley.)

    So, what is the most strongly organized of the “progressive organizations”? Or are they all just disorganized, infiltrated, losers?

    I live in Massachusetts, and if there is a Progressive Party here, I don’t hear about it. I have seen individual Dems (Capuano) and former Dems (Scott Harshbarger) called “progressive); but where is the ORGANIZATION?

    Do you have any suggestions for those of us who simply don’t have time to start such organizations, but would be willing to help?

  73. jeffroby

    How many YEARS do you think it will take until such a general strike is possible?  What are the preconditions?  Events in France didn’t come out of nowhere.

  74. jeffroby

    First, the DLC emerged from forces already WITHIN the Democratic Party.  And with corporate backing, they had inordinate resources to begin with.

    I would argue that the most strongly organized or the progressive organizations is the AFL-CIO.  Problem is that there’s no way they’ll do it, they are committed to the Democratic Party and would only shift if their leadership was overturned by the rank-and-file.  It’s not just a matter of who has the strength, but who has the political understanding to want to make such a move.

    NOW, NARAL, NAACP?  Democrats through and through.  Move-On, committed to the Democrats.  Could progressives fight to change Move-On?  Conceivably, but it’s a very calcified organization, and it would be a very long tough fight, best outcome might be a split-off in a few years.

    Do you have any suggestions for those of us who simply don’t have time to start such organizations, but would be willing to help?

    I’ve been wrestling with that very question.  It invites a superficial blow-off (since when is history dictated by you?) but that would be a mistake.  I don’t think we have to mechanically reproduce the 30 years of basebuilding that led to the movement of the 60s.  It involves the understanding of the relationship — or possible relationship — of the netroots to boots on the ground.

    So your question has got me a’thinking.  I’ll be formulating a diary that discusses this after Christmas.  Thank you.

  75. dkmich

    I thought the article was right on target.  I use to think I was one, but not so much anymore.   Liberals want power, but they want to reason themselves into it, which has Rahm and the like ROTFLTAO.  Liberals won’t take off the gloves because they aren’t willing to take a punch to get what they want.  Club for Growth knows how to do it, but then we’d end up with Republicans with Rs behind their names instead of Ds.  I am toying with voting REpublican because I can and Ds have it coming.  We don’t have enough money to buy them, and primaries don’t work, e.g. Lieberman vs. Lamont.  I think the cheapest and easiest way to nail Democrats is to vote Republican.   I see it as a twofer.  I vote against, and I add my vote to the opposition.  Just like Club for Growth, take one or two of them out; and they’ll think twice before they sell us out again.  

  76. arendt

    progressive organizations have too much to lose by walking away from the DLC-Democratic Party; so they won’t.

    That.is.so.depressing. It sounds like the whole country has decided to give up on democracy and settle for whatever chump change corporate America is handing out to loyal slaves.

    Given the recently repeated factoid (whose truth I can’t verify) that the blogosphere is dominated by older people, it sounds like the corporations managed to prevent the 30-something generation from having any political awareness beyond a vague dissatisfaction. Having tried to acton that dissatisfaction by working for Obama, they are highly likely to go back to ignoring politics. That is the real agenda of Obama – to destroy the Democratic Party as a party for the working and middle class; to turn off an entire generation. And, I think he has already succeeded.


    I noticed you said nothing about Howard Dean and the party activists. Do you consider them not organized or not powerful or both?

    If there are no powerful progressive organizations, what course of action is meaningful. By the time any such organizations mature, we will have gone 4 or 8 more years down the road to militarism, corporatism, puppet theocracy, and global environmental collapse. We need action in the 2010 elections  or the de facto hijacking of the Democratic Party becomes “legitimized” by all the sheeple choosing what’s on offer from the corporate candidate vending machine.

    It seems that the PTB have been planning for this endgame for decades, and they’ve done a good job. They have destroyed or bought anything that stands in their way.

    I’m willing to listen to any plan that doesn’t require four years to achieve some pushback against this coup. Because we simply no longer have the luxury of that much time. The jail cell door is closing.

  77. arendt

    that we would be too sympathetic to the Greens to be ruthless enough to get an effective progressive platform – for exactly the “ideological purity” reasons you cite.

    Certainly, I have great spiritual and practical respect for the Green MOVEMENT. Its just that politically, the Greens have never been as effective as they have been respected. The really activist Greens (like Greenpeace) basically get the full media/cointelpro treatment – right down to blowing up their boats, infiltrating their party, and manufacturing a media stereotype of mad anarchists. The rest of the Greens come across as a bunch of powerless do-gooders.

    You would think that, with all the environmental/oil issues, that some Green would have made a fortune selling alternative energy technology; and that some of that fortune would go towards promoting Green politics. (I mean that’s how it works with the dirty industries. Revenue is used to buy politicians to write laws to generate more revenue.) But, I can’t name such a Green success story.

    To join a coalition with the Greens is to put yourself in the same boat with a movement that has already been targeted and labeled by the right. All they have to do is add Progressives into their exsting boilerplate dismissal/fear-mongering of the Greens.

    For all those reasons, I took a pass on the Greens.

    But, in general, I think that ONE of the already existing marginal political parties will become the vehicle for Progressive political coalescence over the next year – because there is no time for any alternative.

    I’m willing to be persuaded into some kind of “United Front”, although, historically, these kinds of political coalitions are very brittle – not what you need when facing well-funded, monolithic, neoliberal/MIC/Wall St. opposition.

    In any case, keep talking and thinking.

  78. arendt

    to be, one must assume that dis-enchanting people from any future leftish political saviors was part of the script from the beginning.

    I had diaried that his whole campaign smelled like one of the Eastern European “color revolution” campaigns – all charisma and no substance, with a lot of money from the usual corporate suspects backing those campaigns. BTW, Zbig Bresisinki was up to his eyeballs in the color revolutions and in setting up corporate shop in the “Republic” of Georgia. And, we all remember who BHO’s foreign policy advisor was during the campaign – Big Zbig.

  79. Joy B.

    a Constitutional challenge to this “Constitutional Scholar”‘s HCR POS right quick, I expect we’ll be more than ready by about April 15th.

  80. metamars

    metamars is here! Remember the words of the great Bhuddha, who famously said,

    He who travels over the mountain will have a great journey

    And he who travels around the mountain will have a long journey

    And he who goes through the mountain, even if equipped with dynamite, will have a tiresome journey

    But he who flies over the mountain in a helicopter will complete his journey in a jiffy.

    OK, Buddha didn’t really say that. But I firmly believe that 4 years is in no way necessary. Even without a huge growth in unemployment (which we may get.)

    Stay tuned.

  81. metamars

    Those guy sitting in Congress are the gatekeepers of power. Not all power, but a good deal of it. You don’t play football with just a helmet, and say to yourself that you never really found a pair of shoulder pads that you really liked.

    It’s nice to avoid concussions, but what about dislocated shoulders?

    I think starting with Congress is exactly the right strategy. Some people, like Thom Hartmann, have said to take over the Democratic Party by starting from the bottom – even running for dogcatcher. (He was half joking, I think. More seriously, I think he means school boards and such.)

    While a ‘farm system’ for democracy is to be encouraged (i.e., running for school board, then mayor, then state assemblyman, etc.), that is as a supplement to influencing and getting people elected to the real gatekeeper positions. We simply can’t wait to get a good farm system in place.

    jeffroby’s entry point in the political pipeline is exactly correct, IMO.

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