Monday, August 17, 2009

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

"The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." -Albert Einstein

Adirondack Musing blog is written by a self-described liberal. Its author seems like an eminently decent guy, no clown or joker he. But he seems to fall prey to the same disease that affects far too much of society. Too many Americans, including lots of otherwise decent ones, seem to define themselves more strongly by what and whom they are against rather than what and whom they are for. What this unfortunately means is that too many Americans are more interested in opposing than in doing.

His blog devoted primarily to taking shots at conservatives and this entry is no exception. He approvingly quotes a conservative economist who declared, "Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect."

Yet I contend that liberals are guilty of the same thing.

Until liberals once again hold Democrats to the same standard they hold Republicans, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect.

I concluded this over a decade ago, which is why I switched my party registration from Democrat to Green. The intervening ten years has only strengthened my belief that I was right to do so.

For example, President Obama is about to abandon the "public option" of his so-called health care reform bill. This isn't a compromise. It's a capitulation. It's not sacrificing something good to get something decent. He's abandoning the only semi-redeeming feature of his vastly inadequate plan.

And whose fault is that?

According to liberal Democrats, it's the fault of the Republicans, the Party of No, the "mobs" and "hooligans" trying to shut down town halls, the far right wing nuts tilting at windmills.

All worthy of scorn no doubt, but mere scapegoats.

Why isn't it the fault of the party that has 60 pct. majorities in both houses of Congress?

Why isn't it the fault of the Messiah who promised Change We Can Believe In and consistently failed/refused to deliver, on issues from Guantanamo to the War Against Civil Liberties to, now, health care.

The last time the Democrats controlled the presidency and had Congressional majorities of this size, they passed Medicare and Medicaid. This time, they can't even pass a modest 'public option.'

The Democrats promised us that things would be so much different if we simply gave them all the power. Liberals crossed their hearts and promised us they would hold Obama's feet to the fire.

I knew that was b.s. and I didn't believe it for a second. Now we're seeing it clear as day with his capitulation on the only semi-worthy part of what should be the most important bill of his presidency.

The truth is that neither the public option nor the sensible option (Medicare For All/single payer) were killed by the evil, minority Republicans. They were killed by sainted DEMOCRATS. I'd say Adirondack Musing's rage and those of other liberals is just as misdirected as the conservatives they vilify.

So here's my question: when will these self-described liberals hold Democrats accountable to the same degree they did so for BushCheney and the Republicans?

Democrats are beholden to corporate interests to more or less the same degree as Republicans. If this fiasco doesn't make that clear, nothing will.

If you really want change to believe in, start voting for smaller party and independent candidates not bought and paid for by corporate America. It may not bring change instantly, but there is no way forward without real multipartyism.

Update: Adirondack Musing offers his retort.


PCS said...

There are definitely clowns on the left, no question. You've convinced me to become a green (but I draw the line at watching soccer). After I register as a Green, will the party send me info on how they plan to gain control of the government and how they plan to a majority of voters to support their platform? I pretty sure that pragmatism is out.

Brian said...

Further, it's been shown time and time again in American history that movements and smaller parties can have a significant impact on the direction of policy even if they don't get a majority of the vote.

Brian said...

Thank you for your support.

The lack of focus among Greens is a serious hindrance to them taking advantage of the widespread state and national disgust with Democrats (and Republicans). No one knows that better than I do.

But at the end of the day, one thing is indisputable. The Greens may not bring about significant change to benefit real human beings. Democrats definitely won't bring about significant change to benefit real human beings.

Democrats know good folks like you will always vote for them no matter how terrible they are. That's why they are virtually indistinguishable from Republicans on economic issues these days and are largely petrified to take progressive positions on social issues. If they know that their drift to the right might have electoral consequences, then they might be more responsive to their largely well-intentioned rank and file. Right now, there i$ no incentive for them to do $o and plenty of incentive for them to do the oppo$ite.

Greens may not be the solution, but I'm willing to give them that chance and work to try to make that happen. If it doesn't work, I may give up on the party. But for now, they're the most viable progressive option I have.
Continuing to vote for the same corporate party and expecting outcomes that favor ordinary human beings is not the least bit pragmatic.

PCS said...

Back in the "day" (60's) I would have used dollar signs instead of esses (S's?) also.

Brian said...

Equal political rights for blacks, the beginnings of the women's rights, gay rights and environmental movements... really, so little was accomplished in the 60s...

PCS said...

Yes, lot's was done in the 60's and probably, unlike you, I was in college and in the thick of it.

Brian said...

I admire your contribution and am trying to model it.

Oh and to answer your earlier question. The first step is to get people who largely support what Greens stand for and are disillusioned with the major parties to actually vote for their beliefs. Anything else seems very unpragmatic.

PCS said...

Well, we will have to agree to disagree on what we think is pragmatic. But seriously, I wasn't making fun of the Green Party when I mentioned how the party could market itself to US citizens. A majority in the USA might (unlikely) support the Green Party platform, but can you imagine the lies and scare tactics that would come from conservatives. I also agree that until we get corporate money out of, at least National elections, things are not going to change much in this country. Again, even the minimal changes made by McCain/Feingold made conservatives go crazy. I for one am all in favor of a system that funds National campaigns from tax dollars. I also believe that the voting system, I forgot the name, where there is a list of candidates and you rank them as #1, #2 etc. Unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

Brian said...

FYI-The voting system you're referring to is called instant runoff voting (IRV). And some municipalities in this country already use it.

If I saw the results of your approach, I'd be more willing to stick with it. But I gave your approach many years and I saw it going in the wrong direction and it's only gotten worse. So I'm trying another approach for a while.

Lord knows, no one is more frustrated with the inability/refusal of Greens to market properly themselves than I am. It comes from some problems which activist types tend to have.

The first is the general inability to effectively engage people who don't already agree with them. I have friends and relatives of all political stripes. Not just establishment Democrats and Republicans, but also militarists, libertarians, Marxists, gun lovers, social conservatives, hippies, conspiracy theorists, you name it. I know which types of arguments are more likely to move each group.

But many activist types don't know how to vary from the jargon or activist-speak when they're talking to ordinary people. It comes from the fact that so many Americans confine themselves to political echo chambers. This is not unique to Greens but it harms smaller parties more because they don't have the advantages of corporate backing or of name recognition. Party building (marketing, if you will) isn't about preaching to the converted.

There's also the self-righteousness question. You need a little self-righteousness for two reasons. One because you need to be motivated enough about something to get of your couch and try to change it. Two, because the mere idea that people's minds can be changed just by hearing your brilliant argumentation requires a certain degree of vanity. You have to be able to shake people, to unsettle people, without completely scaring or infuriating them away. It's a tricky balance. Not knowing how to talk to diverse types of people makes it all the harder to find that balance.

Related is the belief held by many activist types that their pet cause is so important that everything else is secondary. I think the democracy and good governance (as opposed to corporate governance) question is the most important thing because just about everything else I believe in is being obstructed by. Focusing on anything else instead of this is putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion. But that doesn't mean I won't support actions on climate change, Medicare For All or whatever else.

Greens tend to have a consensus in THEORY about a wide variety of issues. But a meeting of 20 Greens will have 1 who thinks they should focus on climate change, another who thinks they should focus on democracy, another who thinks they should focus on labor rights, another who thinks they should focus on localism, etc... and if you try to pick two or three to collectively focus on, the others will often take their ball and go home. This diversity and openness is both what makes the party worth being a part of and a large part of what makes it so infuriatingly ineffective.