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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

June 25, 2005
Don't Do This

I feel all ranty today, sorry.

There are things I wish the Left wouldn't do.

#1 - Swarm speakers on the Right for every passing remark. Like Rove and his recent idiotic remarks about the Left and 9/11.

Wouldn't it have been enough for someone in the public eye to say, "Someone needs to remind Mr. Rove that there are quite a few Democrats in the armed forces."

And then someone else could have said, "Perhaps Mr. Rove would like to poll New York's police, fire, and rescue services for their party affiliations before he insults their patriotism and their sense of duty?"

You see what I mean. If the Left had to respond, they needed some nice sound-bitey put-down that could have made it on the evening news and would have made the evening headlines. Turn the insult back on him and move on.

By attacking him chaotically from ten different directions, all we wound up doing was giving his (carefully worded) slam at the Left more and more air time. If we'd just ignored it, or sneered at it as a cheap, political stunt, which it was, would the MSM really have cared anyhow?

Just slap him upside the head in passing and keep your eyes on the ball. Don't allow yourselves to be distracted from the important things by some petty squabble over rhetoric.

Which brings me to my next point.

#2 - I donít want the Left to apologize when they don't make any mistakes. Durbin should have stood his ground. He didn't say anything inappropriate and it was wrong of the Democratic Party not to stand behind him.

If you read descriptions of prisoner abuse and torture, you don't expect to see the USofA's name signed to them, do you? That's what he was saying and he should have stuck with it.

Grow a spine people. Say what you mean and stand behind it.

Anyhow.

#3 - Make irrelevant personal attacks. This isn't about the "leadership", it's about the world o'blog. The next blog on the Left I read dissing Condaleeza Rice for her appearance is coming off my reading list permanently.

(I'm of two minds about this one. John Bolton's mustache isn't something that should be sprung on an unsuspecting public without warning, you know? If a man is going to walk around with a white rat on his upper lip, he really should be preceded by someone waving a red flag. But I realize that voluntary facial disfigurement isn't really grounds for objecting to someone's politics, so I won't mention it any more.) (Unless I forget.)

#4 - Ignore Iraq. I do believe that a lot of our more prominent politicians are afraid to say too much about Iraq because it is true that in this day of global media, what they say goes into ears around the world, which includes those of people in Iraq that don't like us. And it does, to some extent, encourage those who are fighting our soldiers.

We need not to care about that. We made our dirty laundry the world's business when we invaded a non-aggressive country on the flimsiest of pretexts. We have to live with the consequences.

We didn't have any business invading Iraq. It was stupid. Sticking our jaws out and wading on through a sea of blood is only limiting the options for the future.

None of the problems that Iraq, or the greater Middle East has can be solved while staring down the muzzle of an M-16. Especially now that we've admitted to the world that we deliberately turned Iraq into a lightning rod for terrorists.

This is not a war that can be won. The neocons have gotten a couple of thousand USofA soldiers and maybe as many as 70,000 Iraqis killed, proving that their tactics Do. Not. Work. They're a bunch of pie-in-the-sky lunatics who are trying to kill an idea, to destroy a belief system. That can't be done.

I believe that the troops we have over there will do everything humanly possible to make their mission a success, but that doesn't alter the fundamental problems with the mission itself. Bring them home now, while we still have some shred of dignity. Don't wait until we're airlifting the last survivors off the top of our embassy.

#5 - Hit and run. Pick some issues and hammer away at them. Don't talk about Social Security one day and Congressional ethics the next day and judicial nominees the next and then take a break to make remarks about the level of corporate fraud in Bush's campaign donor list and then take a side-trip into Medicare before running over and yelling about job outsourcing.

Yes, I know the Right keeps changing the subject. They do that every time you start to back them into a corner on one topic. Why do you let them get away with it? Get a grip on yourselves.

Stop letting them set the terms of the debate.

Over 50% of the people in this country share liberal values. Why aren't you talking to them about those values? What do you stand for? What are your issues? Who are your people who can speak to the public on those issues? Find those people and give them your support.

Pick any three issues and own them. Find some simple, clear rhetoric that explains what you believe, or what you want to do, and then repeat it until it sinks in to everyone's brains. If the Left keeps hammering at their chosen points, refusing to be side-tracked and refusing to apologize when they haven't said anything wrong, they could have the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership biting their own tails in a month.

Every now and then, I just get tired of being the party of the grown-ups, you know? The party that tries not to burn bridges and tries to reach across the partisan divide to a bunch of teenaged thugs too busy strutting around and talking tough to see the truth.

I'm just saying. I'm tired of trying to be reasonable and responsive when the other side thinks power is an end in itself and that killing someone proves moral superiority. That's the kind of bullshit that's gotten the world into wars for centuries and one of these days we really do need to just grow up.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:26 PM


Comments

Great list. Most of it is pretty much a reflection of the extent to which Dem-leadership (and bloggers, for that matter) has been aping the Republican playbook. "it worked once...."

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at June 26, 2005 02:53 AM

While trying to avoid starting myself off on another rant :) it's true that that's a large part of the problem.

The Right is for something. What they're for may be wrong and stupid and dangerous, but in the eyes of the Great Unwashed Public, they're staunchly for something and, right or wrong, that's perceived as strength.

The Left keeps trying to just be against the Right. That's flabby.

It's all very well to object to disastrous changes to Social Security and protest against us using torture on illegally detained prisoners of war but what about the second half of the equation?

"We shouldn't do that" is just weak.

"Don't do that. Do this." That's a much stronger approach. It not only taps into people's awareness that "that" is wrong, it provides a necessary alternative. It provides a path of action which is, I think, what people want to hear when they perceive there's a problem.

Posted by: Anne at June 26, 2005 09:08 AM

"Pick some issues and hammer away at them. Don't talk about Social Security one day and Congressional ethics the next day and judicial nominees the next and then take a break to make remarks about the level of corporate fraud in Bush's campaign donor list"

If we promise to hammer away at an issue, rather than wandering from one to another, do you promise not to quit weblogging forever and then resume it 4 months later without telling any of your friends?

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 28, 2005 01:06 AM

"The Left keeps trying to just be against the Right. That's flabby."

Both the Republican party and the Democratic party are made up of a great many, highly diverse factions, some of whom disagree with one another. Depending on the current alignment of factions, one party or the other will seem more cohesive. Normally cohesiveness is bought at the cost of majority support. The broader coalition is often the less unified.

In 1968 Nixon spoke of a "Silent Majority" that was tired of the New Deal and radical politics. Nixon was right. Likewise, I suspect we've another Silent Majority that is tired of the Christian Fundamentalists running the show.

When you say "the Left" is trying not to be the Right, could you name some names? It sounds like a strawman argument. Can you name some writers or politicians who think are doing this?

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 28, 2005 01:12 AM

Lawrence, when did you get a new site? I'm fairly certain I didn't get a Grand Opening Party invitation. :) (I foresee several hours of catch-up reading this evening.)

The next time I leave in a huff (or just burned out), "never to return," I'll send out notices when I return, okay?

As for your second question, I can answer it but, once again, I'm at work. :) I'll work on it and post again later, okay?

Posted by: Anne at June 28, 2005 09:03 AM

Lawrence -

After further consideration, I don't believe the "strawman" argument is justified and I'm not certain that what I said requires that I name specific names.

I was talking about rhetorical style, not accusing a specific politician (or writer) around a specific speech.

If you still feel specifics are necessary, let me know.

Posted by: Anne at June 28, 2005 03:42 PM

"Lawrence, when did you get a new site? I'm fairly certain I didn't get a Grand Opening Party invitation."

Impugn my intelligence but not my manners. The site isn't officially open till next week, at which point it'll be up at the domain www.whatIsLiberalism.com. It's actually a group weblog I've started with two friends, but they haven't posted yet.

I shouldn't have included the link to the mock-up site. That was an impulsive thing I did.

Anyway, of course I was planning on notifying all my favorite webloggers (ie, begging them to link to me).

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 28, 2005 10:28 PM

"After further consideration, I don't believe the "strawman" argument is justified and I'm not certain that what I said requires that I name specific names. I was talking about rhetorical style, not accusing a specific politician (or writer) around a specific speech."

I'm sorry that I accussed of you making a strawman argument. I take it back. But it is interesting what you said:

"The Left keeps trying to just be against the Right. That's flabby."

It leaves me curious who you were thinking of.

Did you mean yourself? Did you mean me? Did you mean Jonathan Dresner? Avedon Carol? Josh Micah Marshall? Kevin Drum? Did you mean Michael Moore? Paul Krugman? Al Franken? Hilliary Clinton? John Kerry?

Who?

Just curious.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at June 28, 2005 10:46 PM

Ahhh.... I see what you mean.

You have to realize, I originally wrote that entry while I was at work and amazingly bored. I was ranting to hear myself talk as much as anything else. I'm prone to that. (I swear, sometimes I still forget anyone but me reads this thing.)

Anyhow, I wrote a whole, long response that wasn't really to the point, so the short version is that I wasnít talking about anyone in particular. Certainly it would be difficult to say the world o'blog isn't passionate enough about issues or that the rhetoric isn't strong enough.

I guess I was actually thinking about Durbin. I was (and I remain) annoyed that he stood up to the Bush Administration with strong words on a subject I feel passionately about, he was forced to (almost) apologize.

How much of that pressure came from the Left? He didn't say anything inappropriate. I was annoyed when he apologized and I remain annoyed that so many people are afraid of a little strong rhetoric.

Durbin said, in no uncertain words, that the USofA is not "for" torture. That it was appalling to many of us to read descriptions of torture with the USofA's name attached.

And then he was forced to apologize, when the other Congressional Democrats should have been standing up and cheering his words.

(I'm poking around in the new site anyhow.)

Posted by: Anne at June 29, 2005 09:23 AM

I see what you mean. It is tragic that Durbin backed down. There is a part of me that longs for a left-wing version of Barry Goldwater: saying exactly what they mean and never backing down. But then, Barry Goldwater lost. When progressive forces were at the peak in America, mid-20th century, the Republicans only got elected by promising not to touch the New Deal (Eisenhower, Nixon). Now the right-wing is at its peak, and I suppose the only Democrats who can get elected are the ones who sound sympathetic to large parts of Reagan's agenda.


"(I'm poking around in the new site anyhow.)"

I'm working on it today. Myself, Phillip, and Carolyn should all post something within the next 48 hours.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 7, 2005 10:01 AM

I don't believe that today's Dems have to buy in to Reagan Administration policies.

First, considering the number of people who wound up facing charges, I think I'm justified in sneering at the Reagan era as a time when we were (also) being misled by people who did not, to be polite, have the actual best interests of the USofA public at heart.

(I continue to whine and complain about how I don't understand what Reagan did to make the radical Right want to canonize him, but no one listens or explains.)

In fact, what I'd really like to know is exactly what you define as Reagan-era policies and which ones you think the Left should be paying at least lip-service to?

(Well, post soon! I've checked the site ten times and now I'm tapping my foot, giving you One Of Those Looks.)

Posted by: Anne at July 7, 2005 01:57 PM

"In fact, what I'd really like to know is exactly what you define as Reagan-era policies and which ones you think the Left should be paying at least lip-service to?"

Reagan (and Thatcher even more so) brought about two changes that I think are likely to last for a long generation:

1.) Liberal democracies are morally superior to any other form of government. I didn't appreciate this when I was a teenager in the 1980s. I hung out with lots of radicals who insisted each type of society had its flaws, and American society was as flawed as the Soviet Union. This was a popular thought in the 1970s and early 80s. I thought Reagan was a moron for opposing the Soviet Union on moral grounds. I thought the anti-anti-communism of the New Left was important because the anti-communism of the Right had done so much harm to America (this last bit I still believe). In retrospect, I think Reagan was right to suggest that the Soviet government was immoral. I now hope to see a foreign policy in America that insists all tyrannies are immoral, even if they are friendly to us.

2.) In high school I was taught that society developed economically through certain stages, and that the "entreprenurially" stage had started in the 1800s and ended in the 1920s, and we now lived in the "corporation" stage where all economic activity was organized by corporations. That was what I had to put down on history tests. Thatcher insisted that the age of the entreprenuer could never end, that in fact the entreprenuer was a timeless figure that belonged to any healthy human society. I now think that she, and Reagan, were right about that. I don't why she, or Reagan, needed to bring in so many reactionary economic policies to go along with that one insight, but I think that one insight is true and will live on into the next progressive era.

Mind you, I do believe, with all my heart, that the current conservative era is near an end, and that 2008 will see the begining of a new progressive era in America, on par with 1932. But no era over-turns everything from the previous era, and two trends above are likely to last.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 8, 2005 10:49 AM

Hmmm...let me think about those two for a little while.

(In the meantime, I fixed the "cialis" problem. It wasn't MT, it was me, getting tough on comment and trackback spam.)

Posted by: Anne at July 8, 2005 12:38 PM

I realize I'm making a contrarian argument by suggesting Reagan and Thatcher may have made useful contributions. I think I do so because I like to think democracy works. I think: Reagan was popular, so surely he must have had some good ideas? Otherwise I have to believe that the people can make absolutely total mistakes and then continue in that mistake for decades.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 11, 2005 07:33 PM

I like to think Democracy works. But I still can't view the fallout of Reagan-era policies (I know little about Thatcher, domestically) and see any of them as wise or desirable.

Possibly I'm misremembering, confusing what I've learned since then with what I was taught in school, but I distinctly remember being taught about the Enlightenment and at least tacitly that the rise of entrepreneurial behavior was responsible for most of our social/economic advances since that time? (This was back when Reagan was still a has-been movie hack, so no influence of his could have been present.)

Ditto, I'm afraid, for the "liberal democracy as morally superior." I learnt that in school and until now, I'd assumed it spread with the Cold War and, again, pre-dated Reagan's presidency. I'm sure what little I learned about various forms of government was presented around the superiority of the liberal democracy.

It never occurred to me that Reagan was trying to lay claim to having originated such ideas. (Caveat: I was largely apolitical during the 80s as a result of my entire and total disgust with how the political process continued to deteriorate after the Nixon fiasco. So, the honest truth is that I sneered when Reagan's name came up and ignored politics the rest of the time.)

Still. If others do feel that Reagan is responsible for the invention or spread or whatever of these concepts, it explains what's always mystified me...the popularity of a president whose economic policies were disastrous, whose foreign policies were expensive and unsuccessful, and whose Administration was riddled with scandal and corruption.

Posted by: Anne at July 11, 2005 08:05 PM

Also? I think people can make mistakes and be too stubborn, too short-sighted, or too pig-headed to admit it. I don't doubt that history is littered with examples of this behavior. But that's not entirely what I'm saying here.

I think they're not admitting mistakes because I think they're not seeing mistakes. I think they're just seeing policies that they haven't been able to implement fully...or that haven't come to fruition yet. I think the neo-con 'bosses' are determined that their policies will work, so determined on their course, that they've developed dangerous tunnel-vision.

I believe that, like many of the rest of us, they see the future and they recognize there are some hard choices and some real problems spilling over from tomorrow into today.

Unlike many of the rest of us, they believe that "control" is the answer. If they can "control" enough of foreign events, enough of the news, enough of the population, enough of the behavior of other countries, then maybe they can stave off the disasters threatening.

This is a dangerous belief of theirs. The kind of control they envision isn't possible, except maybe with much more bloodshed than even the current crop of 'them' will be willing to tolerate.

I do them the courtesy of believing they mean well. I just think they're taking completely and utterly the wrong tack.

(Clearly I could be entirely on the wrong track myself. This is what I believe lays behind their policies. On the other hand, they could just be random nuts. Or maybe my view is so colored by my dislike of their bigotry and sexism and warmongering that I can't see them clearly.)

Posted by: Anne at July 11, 2005 08:18 PM

"Still. If others do feel that Reagan is responsible for the invention or spread or whatever of these concepts, it explains what's always mystified me...the popularity of a president whose economic policies were disastrous, whose foreign policies were expensive and unsuccessful, and whose Administration was riddled with scandal and corruption."

Well said. My own, quite limited, view of the world in the late 70s and early 80s was different from your own. I grew up in a farily radical household, but my oldest brother, ten years older than myself, turned hard-right and became a raving Republican. As I went from being a kid to a teenager, the dinner table conversation at my house was often a debate between my parents, who were on the Left, and my older brother, was on the Right. When I was 14 or 15 my view of Reagan was strongly shaped by what my brother said that Reagan had said.

Obviously entreprenuerialism and private property have all been part of the American tradition from the beginning, and totalitarian states like the Soviet Union represent everything the Enlightenment tradition stood against. But in, say, 1983 my brother was far stronger in his support of entreprenuerialism than my folks were and he was far harsher in his denuciations of the Soviet Union than my folks were. So to whatever limited extent my life as a teenager in the suburbs in 1983 was typical, I think it was possible to get the sense that Reagan, for all his mistakes, also defended a part of the liberal tradition that some people on the Left were uncomfortable defending.

It goes without saying that I could be wrong about all this. My views are shaped by the extent to which I felt sympathy for my folks views in the early 80s and the extent to which I turned around in the 90s and agreed with the idea that entrprenuers were an important part of any vital society.

Jonathan Rauch has this essay in Reason magazine, and for a right-wing rag this is a fairly balanced view of Reagan.

http://www.reason.com/rauch/061804.shtml

Rauch downplays the crimes that the Reagan administration is guilty of, but when he talks about his own turnaround, of thinking Reagan wrong on every point and then later realizing that Reagan may have been right about some things, I sympathize from where he is coming from.

Given what an economic disaster the 1980s were, its open to question whether Reagan was really a friend to entreprenuers. There is no question that Clinton was far more of a friend to entreprenuers than Reagan ever was. One can argue that what changes of attitude did occur would have happened whether Reagan was president or not. But on economic matters, Reagan did throw out the technocratic, managerial mindset that was present in American political circles before him. That may have been his one great contribution.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 12, 2005 12:33 PM

...I think it was possible to get the sense that Reagan, for all his mistakes, also defended a part of the liberal tradition that some people on the Left were uncomfortable defending.

Hmmm...I can't speak to any discomfort the Left might have been experiencing. Although it pains me to admit it, it's my opinion that the Democratic Party has been in turmoil for decades. (I see that connected to some irrational fear of the Right's accusations of "elitism" but that's a different rant.)

I read the Rauch essay. It was very interesting. My objections to Reagan don't match what his were, nor did my view of the world in 1980 match his. Still, it does explain the whole Reagan phenomenon, so thank you for pointing me to it.

Given what an economic disaster the 1980s were, its open to question whether Reagan was really a friend to entreprenuers. There is no question that Clinton was far more of a friend to entreprenuers than Reagan ever was. One can argue that what changes of attitude did occur would have happened whether Reagan was president or not. But on economic matters, Reagan did throw out the technocratic, managerial mindset that was present in American political circles before him. That may have been his one great contribution.

I might be willing to accomodate the suggestion that Reagan's short-term disastrous economic policies laid the groundwork for the successes of the 80s. Rauch gives Reagan credit for inflation control (or at least not standing in the way while the Federal Reserve took action). I don't know enough about economics to make a judgement but it would be interesting to read someone who understands the topic discuss the two decades.

(If Reagan threw out the managerial mindset, is our CEO in the White House doing his best to restore it? I'm afraid I've paid far too little attention to whether or not any real assistance to small/new business has been offered alone with the Bush Administration's corporate-soft policies.)

Posted by: Anne at July 12, 2005 08:22 PM

"(If Reagan threw out the managerial mindset, is our CEO in the White House doing his best to restore it? I'm afraid I've paid far too little attention to whether or not any real assistance to small/new business has been offered alone with the Bush Administration's corporate-soft policies.)"

I don't have the impression that this administration is friendly to small business. I've been confused by this administration regarding its economic policy. Reagan and Newt Gingrich both took the Republican party toward free market economics. I don't think Bush has, but he hasn't embraced industrial policy either, nor has he publically embraced Keynesian economics. I agree with Brad Delong that this administration is completely incoherent when it comes to economic policy.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at July 13, 2005 05:14 PM