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Recently I stumbled into an ongoing catfight between what some describe as the "Obama Rox/Sux" crowds. Fair warning, neither side is likely to appreciate what I have to say.

In the last few weeks there have been a couple of diaries that have excited a great deal of heated debate here. So much so that Kos felt obliged to post a diary on the subject. Roughly speaking, the division of opinion seems to be between those who believe that there should be no criticism of the Obama Administration, at least for the duration of the Presidential Campaign and those who take the opposite view. I won't describe the two sides as factions because I don't see them as either large enough nor programatically coherent enough to justify such a label. But it does seem that there is enough of a core constituency on both sides to justify describing them as cliques.

In this context, as one might expect, we've seen an escalating spiral of hostility and paranoia on both sides. Hyperbole, over reaction and suspicion of motives have been the order of the day, none of which, as Kos has pointed out, serve the mission of this site. I think we would all do well to take a deep breath and get back to the basics of what DKos is.

DKos is a site and community dedicated to a strategy of electoral politics via the Democratic Party. In considering the significance of this point there is a truism of electoral politics that everyone should be keep in mind: It doesn't matter why someone gives you their vote, so long as they give you their vote.

Why is this important? Because by definition it excludes the kind ideological purity that some on both sides seem to hanker after. People vote for widely varying reasons. Any viable electoral strategy can't be based on refusing to recognize this fact. You can't win if you reject either those who are lockstep groupies or those who will hold their noses while voting. An effective electoral coalition must embrace both of these extremes and everything in between.

In concrete terms relating to DKos the two poles of opinion could be described as those who believe in electoral politics exclusively and those who consider electoral politics as one tactic among many and not necessarily the most important one. Obviously these divergent views may reflect differences in ultimate goals. However, such differences are irrelevant to the purpose of this site: electing more and better Democrats. Come November it will not matter whether a vote is cast for Obama because the voters think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread or because they think that he is only marginally better than the alternative. What will matter is that they vote.

Given the above, its my own view that both extremes in this current round of squabbling are in the wrong. For those who imagine that they are upholding the mission of DKos by calling for squelching criticism of the President and the Administration, even to the absurd extreme of censoring satirical cartoons and , in at least one instance, attacking one of the admins as being part of the problem, I must point out that if successful you will only succeed in alienating those voters who do not accept such strictures.

For those on the other side who seemed to be obsessed with painting the President and the Administration in the darkest possible colors, I have to ask exactly what purpose you think is being served? I do not think that the President should be immune to criticism but do you believe that his failings are such that it makes no difference whether it is he or Mitt Romney that occupies the White House? If the answer to that question is yes, then you owe it to this community as well as yourself to say so and to accept whatever consequences follow. If the answer is no, then your criticism ought to reflect that fact. Anything less than this is nothing more than an exercise in cynical manipulation.

Since I've taken it upon myself to criticize others, I'm obliged to follow my own advice and make full disclosure. I am of the camp that views voting as a matter of tactics. I supported President Obama in 2008 not because I thought that his election, or the election of any single individual for that matter, would usher in the sort of wholesale structural change that we so desperately need. I supported him because I saw his election as a necessary incremental step towards defeating and reversing the reactionary course of our politics. I didn't believe and do not believe that an electoral strategy alone is sufficient for this purpose. Neither do I believe that abandoning electoral politics provides a viable alternative. I support a combined strategy of electoral politics and mass direct action. Consequently, I will be supporting both President Obama's re-election and autonomous movements such as Occupy. I do so because I believe both serve the strategic interest of progressive, democratic change. Where either diverge from serving this goal, both deserve and should receive criticism.

Having said all this, it should be no surprise that my last words are for those here whose support for President Obama is such that they would throttle the free exchange of opinion in a misguided attempt to consolidate the Democratic base. I can't think of anything more likely to demoralize turnout in the fall than such heavy handed enforcement of conformity. You don't win close elections, and this one will be close, by scorning voters who do not share every jot and tittle of your own views.  


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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think it's a circle anymore. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WB Reeves

    Things have just gone too far in the world.
    Too many lines have been crossed.
    People are being asked to close their eyes and hum a pretty tune while pretty awful things are happening.
    The circle is broken.

    Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

    by Burned on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 03:21:49 PM PDT

    •  Sorry you're feeling so blue. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, glorificus, Oh Mary Oh, Lefty Ladig

      Of course there's plenty of reason for it. Still, for myself, I don't consider despair to be a viable option.

      •  Not blue (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WB Reeves, Pluto

        and not despairing.
        Well maybe a little but I know what to do about it when it comes because it serves no purpose.

        I'm actually maybe even a little glad the circle is broken. I think there's a better chance of things changing for the world.
        I'm pretty sure we can drag everyone else along when they see what works and what doesn't.

        Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

        by Burned on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 03:36:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is a non-issue nowadays (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matching mole

    I have no idea why Markos resuscitated it as an issue.  And I have no idea why you are doing the same.  The only people here who paint the Obama Administration negatively are doing so for perfectly respectable reasons, of the war-and-liberties sort.  They're wrong in my opinion, but they're right to privilege those issues.  The occasional diary notes that Obama is too close to Wall Street, which in fact most of us believe.  Beyond that, I have no idea what this is about.

    Dear conservatives: If instead of "marriage equality" we call it "voluntary government registration of committed homosexuals," are you on board?

    by Rich in PA on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 03:29:35 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for your bravery and honesty (7+ / 0-)

    These were my thoughts exactly but I was hesitant to express them for fear that some people will gang up on me with a zealot mindset instead of a rational discussion.

    A democracy requires a free-exchange of ideas and the ability to transcend conformity.

    Obama is not Stalin. He serves me and not the other way around. Hence, as a citizen of the U.S. I should be able to express my disagreements and criticism of a public servant without having to be victimized with ad hominem attacks, provided of course that I say things that are factual and backed up with empirical evidence.

    A healthy democracy requires dissent.

    Dissidents accomplish a special function in a healthy democracy. They keep the democracy in check. If concerned citizens do not reveal a democracy’s flaws, that democracy will never move to correct those flaws. When dissidents are silenced it usually means a government has become conformist and one-sided.

  •  Markos' Diary Was Several Weeks Ago Wasn't It? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skohayes, matching mole, Oh Mary Oh

    I haven't seen much of the purity war since, and I stop by often during ET day and evening hours.

    I too am one who supports combined approach because it's the only way to break us out of 40 years of party conservatism caused by never being allowed to risk losing conservative moderates with a vapors-triggering message or policy either during or in between campaigns.

    We're at the point in the race when every Democrat is a Republicanblocker so we need to get every one in that we can. Come November 7th we can sit down and look at the relationship between the party and its recent-decades history vs the factual real world, and turn to the other kind of activism to change the message environment and create better Democrats we can vote for later.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 03:54:18 PM PDT

    •  that's the new definition of "Democrat" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenbell, Pluto, 3goldens

      a Republicanblocker. The party now stands for "not Republicans", as defined by the current Repub party.

      If I were a political advisor I would say to the DNC "that might not be enough".

      •  Democrats play defense, for the most part. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shahryar, glorificus

        Republicans employ more powerful tools, like lying to the information-challenged American people -- which is a really effective way to win elections.

        For whatever reason, Democrats deny themselves the power tools of victory, like hate speech, for example. So they have to get really good at blocking.

        My take, anyway.

        According to the Tea Party, there are three kinds of Conservatives: "Those who can do math and those who can't."

        by Pluto on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 04:19:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the real power tool is truth (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pluto, Burned, 3goldens

          but all politicians are afraid of that.

          We don't have to be at war all the time. Maybe a politician could say so. Maybe the government would save a ton of money that could be used to help the citizens of this country.

          Maybe a politician could say we continue war, we continue polluting, we continue shipping jobs overseas, because it helps companies. It makes them big money.

          I'd love to see a party stand for the truth, against hate speech. It'd be interesting.

          •  The truth is dangerous. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Shahryar, tardis10

            And I refer to the truth outside of any ideology.

            It doesn't even play well at Daily Kos.

            In any event, one does not find oneself in a position to become a serious Presidential contender by "telling the truth." The closest an ideal candidate can get to that is simply not saying anything about where the real power is or what is really going on strategically in the Federal government.

            IMO, of course.

            According to the Tea Party, there are three kinds of Conservatives: "Those who can do math and those who can't."

            by Pluto on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 05:19:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  It was exactly two weeks ago (0+ / 0-)

      as of the date of this diary. Took me a while to decide to diary on it.

  •  Well written diary... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WB Reeves, Oh Mary Oh

    and I tipped, but either someone is messing with your tags, or you are putting a "Recommended" tag on here even though this isn't on the rec list. I took it out and didn't say anything, but I see it's there again :-/

    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"- MLK

    by SwedishJewfish on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 03:54:44 PM PDT

  •  Hate to break the news - your tactics haves failed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Your incremental change tactics have done nothing but
    move the party farther right for the last 40 years.  Eventually you inevitably lose some votes on the left.  That is the choice the party makes.  Don't blame voters who have loyally served the party for decades only to be sold down the river.

    •  Not at all (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dracowyrm, Shawn Russell, Oh Mary Oh

      I advocate a combined strategy and we haven't had that since the hey day of the civil rights movement.

    •  If you are correct, we should quit politics. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, FG

      The party moved to the right for two reasons: because it was in power for a long time (in Congress) and therefore was plied with a lot of corporate money; and because the country itself moved sharply to the right during the 1980s.

      That pendulum is swinging back now, which is one reason why the Republicans have gone apeshit.

      Nothing in the real world ever approaches the ideal. We have the option to achieve what is achievable, or to be nonfactors. Those are the only two possibilities.

      Which means that if we are to have even some of what we want, we will have to swallow some of what we don't want. That's the world: a spectrum of shades of gray.

      Abandoning those who can deliver us that "some of what we want" is a formula for getting none of what we want. I'll take what we can get, personally.

      •  No just quit the failed strategy (0+ / 0-)

        The country moved to the right?  I didn't and neither did anyone I know.  The right just fought harder, smarter, and with total dedication to advancing their agenda.

        •  So you were out of step with the trend. (0+ / 0-)

          Every hear the saying, "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'"?

          Reagan swept into office and Reps took both houses. They completely dominated national politics for nearly 30 years, continuing to do so even when Clinton was President.  Any reasonable observer, looking at electoral data and the positions being advocated by people getting elected, concludes that the country moved hard to the right.

          •  Out of step? I know squarely where I stand (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            So did Reagan.  That made it particularly easy to move opinion since there was no opposing force.   Democrats go with the flow.  Republicans bust down the dam.  They know exactly where they are going so it's no wonder they get there.  

            •  You're not listening. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Oh Mary Oh, FG

              Where you stand is irrelevant. You're one person. The majority of the voting public didn't agree with you.

              And many of them still don't on all issues. So if you're going to advocate for pushing for "pure, no compromise" positions, you're going to lose moderates and independents, and Republicans will win.

              It's not debatable. It's math.

              •  Where I stand is relevant to me (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                glorificus, 3goldens

                And no party that tells me my vote is irrelevant is going to get it.  You get votes one by one - so go find one to replace mine.  I am so fed up with that arrogant bs.  You don't own my vote.  I don't owe it to you.  

                •  You really are having a comprehension problem. (0+ / 0-)

                  This subthread started when you claimed that because you and your friends hadn't moved to the right, the country hadn't. You have completely failed to defend that position, and instead changed to this victimy number about how "what you stand for matters"...all of which is OFF TOPIC.

                  What you stand for is you. It is completely irrelevant to analysis of the general voting public. Get it?

                  Now, stop playing victim. If you don't want to vote for the only candidates that have any likelihood of supporting even 20% of the policies you support--as opposed to supporting the OPPOSITE of what you support, EVERY TIME--you just go right ahead. It's a free country.

                  You'll be cutting off your nose to spite your face, buy you're free to do that.

                  •  Dracowyrm, just because someone does (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    worship your  words as the new Gospel does not give you any reason to be - oh, what's the word - mean. And spiteful. greenbell's not the one with the comprehension problem.

                    What greenbell does will not be affected by your nastiness.

                    Please FSM, I hope you are done here. Your whining is not helpful.

                    •  Well, that was coherent. (0+ / 0-)

                      Nobody asked for their "words to be worshipped". I suggested that a reality-based approach to politics is more likely to lead to positive results than the fantasy-based approach proposed by greenbell. Who appears to be seriously impaired when it comes to following a track of thought, maintaining focus on the topic at hand, or responding to challenges to his theses with anything other than changes of the subject.

                      It isn't my fault that s/he does that. Nor is there anything "mean" or "nasty" about pointing it out, unless you are suggesting s/he has some kind of disability. Which is possible, but hasn't been articulated.

                      This is a place where people discuss stuff. What is reasonable matters. What greenbell has been saying has not been reasonable, or even rational. Don't blame me for that, or assign me responsibility for indulging it.

                •  I'm done here. I suspect you are very young, (0+ / 0-)

                  and will learn to be more practical as you get older.

                  If you're not...well, there's probably no helping you.

        •  Meanwhile, you can see in the success of people (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FG, elmo

          like Nader and Kucinich how well the people who advocate your strategy have done.

          Look at it this way: the Tea Partiers are now crapping on people like Orrin Hatch for being insufficiently right wing. That is an identical dynamic to people like Jane Hamsher crapping on Obama for being insufficiently left wing.

          Complex problems don't have simple, feel-good solutions. Much as we might want to see Wall Street rounded up and thrown in jail, for example, if that were to happen we'd have an economy rather like that of Ethiopia in short order. Like it or not, banks and financial institutions are bedrock necessities in a society like ours. They need  a lot more regulation, but a responsible leader would not posture at the expense of outcomes.

          •  Tea party is getting what they want (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            And centrists observing the trend will be positioning themselves as Tea Party disciples.

            •  That makes zero sense. (0+ / 0-)

              The Tea Party is the right fringe. To get centrist votes, you cannot sign onto that agenda.

              You seem to believe that if you just scream loudest, you win. That is naive.

              •  I thought you believed the center (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Has no where to go but right because that is the trend and we must at all times follow follow follow.  

                •  Again: you're not listening. (0+ / 0-)

                  The center is moderate. That's what it is. It doesn't move very far to the right or the left, but the Overton Window of the whole country has moved steadily right for decades, as skepticism of government as a problem-solver or positive actor has spiked, and hostility to taxation and regulation with it.

                  Accordingly, "the center" is considerably further to the right than it was 40 years ago. But the center is never going to sign on to a Kucinich agenda, nor is it going to sign onto a Santorum agenda.

                  And nobody said "follow follow follow"--that's you putting words in my mouth.

                  What I said is WIN. And that means meeting voters where they are, and showing how the Republicans are NOT where they are. You don't try to sell them something they don't want.

            •  Tell you what: when you have run 40 campaigns (0+ / 0-)

              like I have, come back and tell me how your strategy worked. I have about a 70% win rate, myself.

              •  You win but you don't care where you stand (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                glorificus, 3goldens

                Net result is the Democrat on my ballot can't tell us where she stands on Social Security.  It's all about winning for the candidate and as you say what the voter wants is irrelevant.  This is why most voters can agree on one thing - they despise both parties and their commitment to making certain that no voter counts.

                •  You rly have a comprehension problem, don't you? (0+ / 0-)

                  I care where I stand: I stand for getting as much of the progressive agenda as can practicably be attained.

                  What I DON'T stand for is going down in flames over and over again, and then smugly congratulating myself because I "stuck to my principles".

                  That's horseshit. It means nothing.

                  ...oh, and news flash: most voters vote for one of the two parties. Nearly all of them.

                  You're talking about the politics of a country that only exists in your head.

                •  There is a term for the strategy you espouse: (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  it's called "being a non-participant observer".

                  Because what you propose has zero traction on the real politics of the country. Not one bit.

                  Unless it is as a spoiler who, in his childish demand that his entire Christmas list be fulfilled, ends up splitting the vote and handing elections to Republicans.

          •  Oh - weren't those Nader votes irrelevant (0+ / 0-)

            You didn't want them and you didn't get them.

            •  Which Nader votes? You mean in 2000? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              TLS66, elmo

              That was about Nader's ego. If he had done the right thing and dropped out to endorse Gore when it was clear he wasn't going to meet his goal of 5% of the vote, it would have taken only TWO PERCENT of Nader's votes in Florida alone to keep Bush out of the White House.

              Ralph Nader has done more harm to this country than any traitor you can name.

  •  A-goddamned-men. (0+ / 0-)

    But having said that, you've now pretty well defined one pole of the pragmatist/idealist split, which overlaps the OR/OS gangs on the Venn diagram, but is its own thing, as well.

  •  " I support a combined strategy of electoral... (5+ / 0-)

    ...  politics and mass direct action."

    That's been my approach since 1964. Electoral politics can do it alone, direct action can't do it alone. Every great reform has started outside the political parties and been confirmed by the legislatures and courts.

    So we need both, combined, as you say.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 08:23:02 PM PDT

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