Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Presidential Address Today

Not bad at all. I have no doubt that Republicans will roar incoherently about socialism while at once whomping up anti-governmental populism fed by the very abuses and distress Obama seeks to address here, meanwhile the left, rather than supporting the President, will accuse him of being a Bush-lite stealth corporatist even before Congress fails to implement this minimally reasonable intervention, pretending that the failure of a carefully crafted compromise somehow provides evidence that whatever incomparably more radical intervention they happen to advocate in the abstract (as Obama himself surely would prefer more radical interventions in the abstract as well, having both a brain and a heart as he does) would somehow have a better chance to get implemented than the moderate intervention that can't get through.


The Mathmos said...

Ah, those dang shrill pouty leftists and their Naderite deadenderism. What I wouldn't give for them to frame and see and think about things the way I do.

If only they were capable of putting actual Democratic political results in the context of a personal, involved understanding of Obama's true intentions, as I do.

If only they feared the indecorous stints of Republican dominance enough to embrace Democratic Third Way politics as the sole Realistic/Pragmatic/Sensible/Serious/Possible alternative, as I do.

If only they understood that a political wing is defined not by steadfast adherence to political aims, and the pressuring necessary to achieve them, but by the very subordination of those aims to the organizational interests of the Party brandishing the right cultural markers, as I do, etc.

Dale Carrico said...

"Steadfast adherence to political aims and the pressuring necessary to achieve them" is indeed what defines the proper left. You think we disagree but we don't.

I just know that "pressure" doesn't mean stamping your foot and pouting at reality. "Pressure" to be efficacious has to be attentive to actual context. Otherwise, your "steadfastness" is just theatre, and your claims to radicalism are just narcissism, it seems to me.

You falsely claim that I am advocating Third Way politics which I disdain, presumably because you think anybody who struggles to connect ideals to outcomes in a pragmatic way must be a Clintonian triangular. This is false, but stick to your cartoon if it makes you feel better. There's a lot to feel miserable about in the present state of US politics so go with what works for you, I suppose.

You falsely claim that I pretend to read Obama's mind when I simply deny he's a seeeecret eeeevil Bush-lite corporatist just because he can't unilaterally impose his progressive will in an actually diverse, actually undercritical polity whose governance is organized by separation of powers at every layer.

The reality of literally unprecedented monolithic Republican obstructionism in a Senate with a filibuster is that every Senator among the 60 who caucus with the Democrats (a non-negligible minority of whom are very conservative in some of their views) has veto power over any legislative efforts, and many are willing to use it opportunistically or in the service of actually conservative ends.

That is reality. You can pretend digging your heels in and demanding more radical outcomes is somehow more achievable than the moderate ones that can't get through the DC slaughter house, but that doesn't really make sense to me. You can decry my efforts to grasp the left wing of the possible or to assess Obama in light of what I take to be possible as my own stealth corporatism or whatever, but that doesn't really make sense to me either.

I don't quite understand your snide tone if all you ultimately mean to communicate is that we disagree with one another about what is possible for the left or for a left President under the present circumstances. I think it is fairly obvious that we do. I'm not insinuating otherwise.

The Mathmos said...

I was simply echoing your characterization of an hypothetical "left" prone to "accuse [Obama] of being a Bush-lite stealth corporatist", which is usually a prelude to more canards about left-wing critics being in one way or another unaware of Reality; in your case, Reality seemed to be equated with a recognition that Obama would do More Leftwing Things If Only…

A genuine realist would insist that we evaluate the current Democratic administration at the level of its policy results and effective political stances, which are nothing more than Third Way clintonism with the additional continuation of many of the severe Executive abuses from the Bush Era. That some “left” or other deems such a government worthy of criticism and, yes, even outraged contempt, shouldn’t surprise anyone aware of actual leftwing aims and values.

Only in the US duopoly system would inflamed leftwing criticism of an elite-friendly, neoliberal government like the current administration be deemed somehow illegitimate.

Dale Carrico said...

I am not hypothesizing a monolithic left prone to facile Bush-Obama equivalency theses, but pointing out that there is a noisy online left faction that pointlessly indulges in just such rhetoric. To the extent that they imagine this renders them a "more legitimate" voice of the left than those who find their interventions divisive and demoralizing to no good purpose I point out my disagreement and for reasons I state as such.

No doubt you are right when you describe the US duopoly system as one that circumscribes radical left critique and activism whatever the soundness and popularity of its dictates. But, of course, the duopoly system actually exists and one either works in the institutional terrain available to alter that or achieve what one can within its terms or one becomes a revolutionary instead.

If you are a revolutionary I can respect that even if I don't agree that that is the right way to go. But if you are not a revolutionary and you just want to pout and stamp your foot at the realities that articulate agitational and organizational possibilities in the US as it is then and make strident claims unconnected to reality with the expectation that everybody will coo about how righteous and awesome you are for indulging in what amounts to narcissistic performance art you will have to forgive me if I don't give you satisfaction.

I guess that is what you mean by left wing canards, but I daresay you could best expose the canard as such by acting a little less predictably in confirmation of my worries on this score. And yes, I do indeed believe Obama would push for more progressive outcomes if the legislative and media environment provided any hope for their realization, even though my own politics are left of the center-left Obama. But you can believe whatever you want to the contrary for all the good it will do you.

The Mathmos said...

I don’t see how taking into account the polarized terrain of political action in the US must entail refraining from criticizing and outright attacking the Party closest to one’s aspirations. The latter is probably how the fabled Reality will change to acknowledge new policy options. A more steadfastly critical left, ready to impose certain criteria for support of the Democratic party, is a necessary step.

Dale Carrico said...

You have to walk and chew gum at the same time, right?

You determine and advocate best outcomes in the abstract while at once engaging in education, agitation, organization, legislation to accomplish best practically possible outcomes given the the circumstances that actually beset you.

I mean, to the extent that you want to accomplish practical political outcomes through non-revolutionary means that's what you have to do.

You achieve progressive outcomes tactically with the legislators and voters you have, and in the institutional and mediated terrain that actually exists, not with the ones you wish you had on terms you wish prevailed.

You can make purely theoretical or aesthetic interventions that comment on the political scene -- I do the former myself all the time, and cherish the latter.

These sorts of interventions do have their impacts, certainly, on their own time-frame (and in less predictable ways than one might wish), but they are not a matter of practical, tactical, legislative, organizational politics.

And to the extent that folks engaging in politics as a theoretical or aesthetic exercise want to snipe at those who are engaging in the scrum and compromise of practical, tactical, legislative, organizational this is just looks like the cowardice of heckling from the cheap seats to me.

I agree that the left could use more good theory and clearer framing of best outcomes in the abstract. I disagree that positing Obama as stealth-corporatist or pretending Democrats have an actually compliant majority with which to implement the agenda for which they were elected or claiming Democratic/Republican equivalency represents either good theory or good rhetorical framing in the service of either best ideal or best possible outcomes. Sorry.

I especially disagree that purity tests or lines in the sand make much sense directed to compromised Democrats, when every Democratic loss is a Republican victory at a time when Republicans are insane authoritarians and the US is balancing on the historical knife-edge when Movement Republicanism either games the system to destroy governance altogether and install a failed state here the better to loot it and rampage in it or self-marginalizes into a ineffectual rump empowering more, and better, Democrats and leading the closest to sane Republicans remaining to eat their own until the GOP resumes its still-bad but incomparably better Eisenhoweresque profile.

As I said I do advocate challenging Democratic incumbents from the left when their voting records are to the right of their constituencies, and I do advocate running candidates in "unwinnable" districts as a way of using highly mediated campaign seasons as educational tools, and I do advocate passage of instant runoff voting district by district to render third parties actually-viable as they are not at present, and I do advocate long term ideal outcomes like basic income guarantees and single payer healthcare and democratic world federalism while at once supporting practical outcomes like insurance reform and more robust welfare entitlements and piecemeal reform of presently unaccountable international governance organizations judged as good or bad according to prevailing tactical circumstances and against the horizon of the ideals they incrementally approximate.

That's what I mean by walking and chewing gum at the same time. By all means excoriate my cynicism and stealth-conservatism to your heart's content.

The Mathmos said...

Well, I won't excoriate you for being a cynic or stealthily conservative or whatever, and I don't think my other comments amounted to such an excoriation. What I have difficulty understanding, however, is how your theoretical gum-chewing on the most leftwing issues (healthcare, welfare, etc.) doesn’t seem to impact the (in my view) quite naïve emotional investment in Obama (the figure as opposed to the man) accompanying your pro-Dem ‘walking’ ; I sense the same dynamic in your ambivalent characterizing of the Democratic party as a sort of ‘next best thing’ quite insufficient to meet your avowed long-term political goals, but still enjoying your full adhesion and defense when some dreaded online pajama-wearing leftist takes aim at their insufficient (in my view proactively neoliberal, elite-serving and in some cases starkly criminal) ways.

So what is it ?

1) Strategic push for Democratic success in favor of long-term leftist goals, those goals being opposed by most of the actual, present-day Democratic party, and at least a recognition of such an opposition when left criticism rears its ugly head,


2) Emotional investment in the untapped leftist potential of the Leader of a presently neoliberal, elite-serving party, and/or in the un-manifested reformism of cohorts of unnamed, sophisticated, multicultural, soon-to-appear Democratic party members of the Future.

To be clear, I agree with you about the difficult political terrain for leftward politics in the US, and I don’t mind working the duopoly system in favor of leftist goals, but at least let’s not kid ourselves. Roosevelt is dead and buried, and the dominant liberal ideology for the Democratic establishment has been neoliberal clintonism for a while now.

Dale Carrico said...

More, and Better, Democrats. Fight Democrats in the name of imaginary and impossible better than Democrats and you are no use to anybody. Dividing and demoralizing the people who are doing the closest to what you want rather than out organizing the people who are actively destroying everything you care about is stupid. I have no idea what you "sense" about my "emotional investment" or the rest of that nonsense. I am capable of educating and agitating for long term goals while engaging in social struggle on the tactical terms available, with the actual organizations at hand. If you are a revolutionary, great, do that, stop whining about party politics and start blowing things up; if not, get on board with the actually possible politics of the actually existing left given its actually existing limits and possibilities. Hate Obama if you like, be that way. I don't, and I don't care that you don't like it. This exchange has arrived at diminishing returns.

The Mathmos said...

Well, let's end it here, but you still haven't deciphered for me the how and why of your belief in Obama's preference in "more radical interventions in the abstract". Short of being personally knowledgeable on Obama's True Motivations, I'd say such Leader identification is troublesome. That's all.

Dale Carrico said...

I've read his books and that provides some of the context for my assertion that Obama aspires for more progressive outcomes than are practically achievable in the world in which he finds himself. He's said plenty on the campaign trail and in office countless times otherwise to support this, so I don't think it is really that difficult to grasp, and certainly no "mind-reading" or "wishful-thinking" is necessary to come to this conclusion. I frankly think anyone who believes Obama pleased at the outcomes he is settling for has to be making, let us say, questionable assumptions about his motives and practices. And you wrong to an extent verging on the trollish to continue to paint me as the equivalent of a Beatlemaniac where Obama is concerned, given the patient elaborations and qualifications I have provided you in our exchanges on this score. The end.