Skip to main content

View Diary: The Left Drops the Ball (244 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  I don't understand your article (15+ / 0-)

    I have read your other works so I know its not intentional, but I do think its is inaccurate to speak of a "left," when describing barely leaning "liberal." There is a bad habit of conflation at this site that's a real problem in terms of it having any value. You aren't, for the most part, movement activist (to name one example) when push comes to shove. You are Democratic Party loyalists first rather than people dedicated to a movement. You being most of the site as a plural rather than singular.

    Because you are not a movement it means you have less power. Because you aren't a movement with a clear message it means that all that energy be funneled into things you don't believe in.

    There is no left in America when it comes to blogs, including this one, which is a Democratic, and not even a better Democrats blow anymore. That one went out the window with "how do we achieve obtaining better Democrats" and the response has been to focus once again on short term electoral cycles rather than long term movement building.

    Here's some articles on the history and situation. First, up, is a discussion of the blogs:

    "There are many myths within the political blogosphere, but none is so deeply troubling or so highly treasured by mainstream political bloggers than this: that the political blogosphere contains within it the whole range of respectable political opinion, and that once an issue has been thoroughly debated therein, it has had a full and fair hearing. The truth is that almost anything resembling an actual left wing has been systematically written out of the conversation within the political blogosphere, both intentionally and not, while those writing within it congratulate themselves for having answered all left-wing criticism.

    That the blogosphere is a flagrantly anti-leftist space should be clear to anyone who has paid a remote amount of attention. Who, exactly, represents the left extreme in the establishment blogosphere? You’d likely hear names like Jane Hamsher or Glenn Greenwald. But these examples are instructive. Is Hamsher a socialist? A revolutionary anti-capitalist? In any historical or international context– in the context of a country that once had a robust socialist left, and in a world where there are straightforwardly socialist parties in almost every other democracy– is Hamsher particularly left-wing? Not at all. It’s only because her rhetoric is rather inflamed that she is seen as particularly far to the left. This is what makes this whole discourse/extremism conversation such a failure; there is a meticulous sorting of far right-wing rhetoric from far right-wing politics, but no similar sorting on the left.."


    What you are really referring to is the death of the liberal class:

    “We have a choice,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges. “You can either be complicit in your own enslavement or you can lead a life that has some kind of integrity and meaning.” Hedges argues for moral responsibility in a world bankrupt of it, and discusses the downfall of what he refers to as the liberal class in his newest book. From World War I to the present, he traces the rise and fall of liberal values, and paints a grim portrait of the future.


    For the record, the Democratic response of FDR was to stop the left from gaining roots in the U.S. after the near collapse of capitalism in the Great Depression. Liberals are in fact just a way for the establishment to keep a tight control of that 99 percent that you mention. So, it is not a surprise that it engages in whole scale censorship of leftist positions. That's what the entire structure has been designed to do.

    I am not even a socialist, but I can see the tactical and strategic advantage of having  a fake left to control the range of discourse so that it only reflect the views of the Democratic leadership, which is not leftist or liberal, but neoliberal in focus at this point (Which I mark as 1988 with the rise of the Clintonites and the DLC--- recounted here:

    In power, the Republicans restructured their national political committees and the Congress into giant ATMs capable of financing broad national campaigns to protect and extend their newly won position in Congress. The Republican success left the Democrats facing the same dilemma they had in the late seventies, as the Golden Horde first formed up behind Ronald Reagan: they could respond by mobilizing their older mass constituencies or emulate the Republicans. That battle had been settled in favor of so called “New Democrats” (Ferguson and Rogers, 1986). Dependent for many years on campaign money from leading sectors of big business where regulation kept recreating divisions – notably finance and telecommunications (Ferguson, 1995b) – the Democrats reconfirmed their earlier decision to go for the gold. They followed the Republicans and transformed both the national party committees and their Congressional delegations into cash machines, with the leaders in each chamber, but especially the House, wielding substantially more power than at any time since the famous revolt that overthrew Speaker Cannon in 1910-11. As the Republicans moved further and further to the right, the Democrats did, too, constrained only by the need to preserve something of their mass base.

    So you shouldn't be surprised at this:

    "Some of this anti-protest posturing is just the all-too-familiar New-Republic-ish eagerness to prove one’s own Seriousness by castigating anyone to the left of, say, Dianne Feinstein or John Kerry; for such individuals, multi-term, pro-Iraq-War Democratic Senator-plutocrats define the outermost left-wing limit of respectability.  Also at play is the jingoistic notion that street protests are valid in Those Bad Countries but not in free, democratic America.

    A siginificant aspect of this progressive disdain is grounded in the belief that the only valid form of political activism is support for Democratic Party candidates, and a corresponding desire to undermine anything that distracts from that goal.  Indeed, the loyalists of both parties have an interest in marginalizing anything that might serve as a vehicle for activism outside of fealty to one of the two parties (Fox News‘ firing of Glenn Beck was almost certainly motivated by his frequent deviation from the GOP party-line orthodoxy which Fox exists to foster)."


    The reality is that it is a part of the systemic strategy to drown out dissent from the left, and has been since FDR. I consider myself an FDR Democrat. I believe in the accomodation as way to deal with the best aspects of socialism and the best aspects of the market. That means that one has to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both. However, the system has been set up to block out that debate. So, I am not sure what you mean by "left."

    •  Can't disagree with that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, cynndara

      I would posit, though, that there are quite a few of us who are leftist. But you're dead on about the way the system is configured. It's all quite a ruse. And a damned longstanding one at that.

      I've become re-radicalized. Thanks a lot you bunch of oligarchical fascist sons-of-bitches. But once again, I have no choice. Bring it the fuck on.

      by mdmslle on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 11:35:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Individual left, yes. Collective left, no. (6+ / 0-)

        The key element here is that you are individuals are on the left rather than a collective movement.

        The value of protesting is that it can be the start of a movement. If it is not eventually focused as a movement , it is co-opted by the Parties and personalities that will seek to use it.

        But that requires understanding that the left must act collectively as a movement, just as the right does.

        There is this great article on that subject:

        ""My counter-proposal, which is boring, goes like this. If you want to move US public policy to the left, what you have to do is to identify incumbent holders of political office and then defeat them on Election Day with alternative candidates who are more left-wing. I think this works pretty reliable. To my mind, the evidence is pretty clear that even the election of fairly conservative pushes policy outcomes to the left as long as the guy they’re replacing was more conservative. And if your specific concern is that the Democratic Party isn’t as left-wing as you’d like it to be, then what you need to do is identify incumbent holders of political office and then defeat them in primaries with alternative candidates who are more left-wing."

        To the extent that people are not punishing Democratic representatives who do not follow the ideological line when required is the extent to which you can differentiate party loyalists from people who are truly interested in a movement to the left.

        We have points of comparison. We can see the effect of the strategy described above on the right. We know it works. It is simply never considered because of the loyalties and fears.

      •  The above strategy would require (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sidnora, alizard, DawnN

        voting in Republican primaries to get the most left leaning Republican on the ballot in certain districts and doing the same in the Democratic Party.

        The difference here is that the focus would see the parties as servicing the goals of the movement rather than the movement servicing the interests of the party to stay in power.

        •  This (5+ / 0-)
          the focus would see the parties as servicing the goals of the movement rather than the movement servicing the interests of the party to stay in power.

          is the heart of the problem entirely, at least on the left. To a great extent it's true on the right as well, though at least the GOP behaves like they're afraid of their movement backers when in public.

          You should really write a diary, excuse me, a post,based on this series of comments. Not only because there's plenty of good analysis here that could use a much wider airing on this site, but also to remind people of the basic truth, which is that currently there is no left in the United States. Most Americans of any political stripe are unaware of this, unless they travel and/or keep themselves informed about the internal politics of other nations. I have a friend who is ideologically to my right, though still an active Democrat. She shakes up discussions regularly with this assertion.

          Like you, I consider myself an FDR Democrat. I do know people IRL whom I consider true leftists. Ironically, every one of them channels their political activity through the Democratic Party, though on the local level, where it is often easier to distance oneself from DNC ideological orthodoxy. People here on DK who consider themselves leftists need to take a deep breath and survey the amount of work it would take to build a functioning left. It's a daunting proposition, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

          The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

          by sidnora on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 12:59:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Here's my post ont he subject (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:


            As per your advice.

          •  I dunno. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PlutocracyFiles, sidnora

            Seems to me that there's a functioning Left out on Wall Street right now, but I'm stuck with a mortgage on an unsellable house in Ohio.  So I'm sending them hot chocolate and cookies.

            •  I would describe it as a (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              functioning, but nascent left.  

              In order for OWS to have a lasting impact, it will have to grow exponentially, which may be happening even as I write this. And despite extensive discussion elsewhere in this thread to the contrary, it will have to develop something resembling a political action arm capable of negotiating with TPTB. Because eventually, if things play out as we hope, TPTB will be forced to negotiate. We made them give us a place at the table in the 60's, and that's what's necessary now.

              Let's not forget that even within the past decade we've had street protests that dwarfed this one. The protests immediately preceding the invasion of Iraq are thought to have been the largest (world-wide) in history, but they had no appreciable effect on the people they were aimed at.

              The reason this one might have a chance of making a dent where those didn't, nor the enormous march on the Republican National Convention, nor several 250,000-strong marches (all of which I participated in) against various aspects of the Bush Administration is that OWS has no plans to leave. Merely making our discontent public isn't nearly enough. We have to make it a problem (though not a violent one), an annoyance, an ongoing embarrassment.

              The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

              by sidnora on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 05:18:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It also needs to be understood (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                as years in the making in terms of change rather than next week after I had a protest.

                This has to be a decades long willingness to fight.

                Its easy to get the middle class hot and bothered for a moment, but its the long term that concerns me. I am looking for life long people, not just in the  moment.

                I don't consider what's happening nascient until I see some long term thinking going on. Right now it feels more like what I see at Daily Kos on a daily basis. They need to think long term. That list of theirs is uninspiring- its the typical list that I expect from this kind of moment - a laundry list- much of it redundant - rather than a focused clear headed effort.

                I was lucky enough to have grown up with people who were involved in the civil rights movemnt. They were prepared to fight for years and decades and they did exaclty that. That's what needs to be understood here. I would love to know if people appreciate that point? I don't know yet if they do. time will tell.

                •  The only reason I called it (0+ / 0-)

                  "nascent" is the apparent willingness of the demonstrators to stay as long as it takes. Otherwise I'd have no more hope for it than I did for all those huge demonstrations of the 2000s.

                  I, too, have some criticisms of their list, both in redundancies and priorities (non-human animals?). It reads like what it is, something written with considerable thought and effort, but by a group of very young people inexperienced in such things.

                  There's a distinct wariness among them of people with a history on the left, which may be a result of just the the blurring of the meaning of "left" that we've already discussed. But there's a price to be paid for that disconnect; it reminds me of the Vietnam-era "don't trust anyone over the age of 30" attitude. Turning their backs on those with more experience may give them the independence they feel is crucial, but it also condemns them to re-inventing the wheel.

                  I hope they will eventually sort out which people/organizations are genuine allies and which ones are co-opters. They'll figure it out if they hang together long enough.

                  The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

                  by sidnora on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 06:47:11 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Finding an accurate label is difficult + (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I am referring to people sympathetic to the movement who could provide useful expertise. I've posted in a lot of other comments why I think this is important.

      What I will say is that if it comes to a time where having expertise is important, I think it would be useful if we had prepared for that.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 01:11:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Labels aren't problem. Meaning is. (0+ / 0-)

        The reason why you are seeing what you are seeing is because conservative (including the conservative Democratic leadership) want to control the definitions.

        Here's my complete thoughts in my diary on the Left movement, or lack there of:

        The main point here this isn't a matter of lack of information or lack of will. It is a matter of actions being taken, such as the TNR, to control the discourse. That discourse is dangerous to the status quo and the Democrats in power.

    •  For better or worse (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, cynndara, lotlizard, Kurt Sperry

      many if not most of the major progressive achievements of the industrial age resulted from the actual left (at the time) becoming so vocal and strident and well-organized and persistant and basically scary to the establishment, who feared a revolutionary (or even merely democratic and thus evolutionary) takeover by the left of government and the economy (and thus their power, property and prerogatives), that they decided to co-opt the left with quasi-leftiest policies, programs and reforms to basically steal away the left's thunder, reason for existing, and its popular support among the masses.

      And it worked, both as a way for the establishment to stay in power, and as a way to introduce some measure of progressive reforms into society.

      E.g. Bismarck getting the German government to pass what was then the most progressive social welfare system in the developed work in the late 19th century to co-opt and silence the growing social and christian democrat, socialist and communist movements threatening the establishment.

      E.g. Teddy Roosevelt and succeeding presidents introducing anti-trust, child labor, worker safety and other reforms in response to and also to co-opt an organized push by the US left to end the robber baron era.

      E.g. FDR implementing the New Deal to prevent what many in the establishment feared would be a violent leftist revolution in the US due to the Great Depression and the injustices that led to it.

      Not to take away from the benefits that resulted from these advancements, or even any good intentions on the part of the people who implemented them. But none of them would likely have seen the light of day were it not for the massive protest movements from the left pushing for even more radical change that scared the living shit out of the establishment and made it come to its senses, whether for moral or self-interested reasons.

      I.e. this shit works. Nothing else does, be it in salary negotiation or passing progressive legislation: negotiating from strength is the ONLY way to negotiate effectively, even if you'll never get everything you want (or deserve).

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 01:55:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It works if people understand what they are (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kurt Sperry

        trying to achieve and what the process is about.

        The process isn't about civility or parties or any of that other nonsense- its about the movement's goals, whatever they are.

      •  Absolutely. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kurt Sperry

        If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times on Kos: bullies DON'T UNDERSTAND anything but force.  Republi-thugs/chickenhawks can ONLY be convinced by the broad side of a 2X4 across the back of the head.  When you're dealing with this kind of person, the last thing that's going to be effective is offering to deal like rational human beings.  They see that as weakness, and the worst thing is, if you're unwilling to stand tough, then it IS.

        •  Tough but non-violent, of course (0+ / 0-)

          Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debs

          by PlutocracyFiles on Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 04:10:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Tough can just mean unmoveable (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wsexson, GiveNoQuarter

            by any force they throw at you. that's the kind of tough that's needed here. The truth is that the real issue has been capitulation and a willingness to wait out what little of the left that exists because the assumption is that you will capitulate.  You need to be as crazy as the Tea party- which here means be willing to say I am willing to let the entire house burn down (metaphorically) rather than lift  a finger until I get what I want. How many here are willing to do that on key policy issues?

    •  This. (0+ / 0-)

      Very nice summary.

      Let me add a little anecdote.

      Yesterday someone wrote a diary whining about how we shouldn't attack the rich because "rich" is a subjective term.  I was making the point that the focus of our anger was on the plutocrats, not the petty bourgeois shopkeep or country lawyer.  Into the the conversations stepped a particularly nasty little reactionary creature who immediately started red-baiting me by focusing on my sig line.  This reactionary tool of the plutocrats started going off on how evil I was for quoting Mao and how Mao was the same as Hitler (!), etc., etc.  When I challenged this idiot to put forth some real arguments based on investigation and evidence, all he could come up with is that he'd read books about Mao and was a college history teacher (a pretty damn sad statement about the college that hired him.)  He offered not one single argument.  He throws some shit out there about Mao having killed 70 million people, not knowing of course that that number was produced by academic fraudsters Jung and Halliday, whose book is taken for the garbage that it is by serious historians of the period in question.  

      Anyway, long story short, he has minions hr are me because he couldn't actually construct an argument based on evidence and apparently also went to the Kos Kops to knock down my bar level by one.  

      Moral of the story: what people call the "left" blogosphere is swarming with people who like to think of themselves as progressive but who when you look just beneath surface show themselves to be anticommunist/anti-radical tools that would make Joe McCarthy proud.

      We should rid our ranks of all impotent thinking. All views that overestimate the strength of the enemy and underestimate the strength of the people are wrong. -- Mao Zedong

      by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:00:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site