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In a forceful diary against the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden and the journalism of Glenn Greenwald, WinSmith argues (emphasis in original):

Liberals are supposed to believe in government. We believe that government, with proper checks and balances, can do amazing good.  That doesn't excuse the abuses of the Patriot Act.  It doesn't excuse spying without warrants.  But, philosophically, we are not the party that wants to burn down the government to set it "Free."
That's a valid point, but here's the problem: The United States government is moving in a direction of doing more harm than good. Food stamps are being cut, student loan interest rates are being increased, the military is wasting money in occupied territories overseas. And as if these misplaced priorities weren't bad enough, we find out that the NSA has been secretly violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution by collecting the private communications data of every American, destroying trust in the U.S. government around the world and opening up tremendous potential for abuse.

As for checks and balances, we have learned that the FISA court that has been rubber-stamping the surveillance of all Americans is appointed entirely by one man, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts. Literally, our nation's policies about what the NSA can or cannot do have been determined in secret by the political views of a single individual, who himself was not even elected to office.

I would like to believe in government. Believe me, I really would. But I'm finding it harder these days. I would like to be able to proudly proclaim, like WinSmith, that "I stand with Barack Obama. I stand with Nancy Pelosi." I would like to be able to embrace the Democratic Party's embrace of a government that is supposedly so squeaky-clean that it can spy on all Americans and yet do no wrong.

Instead, I'm feeling a bit like Elder Price in "The Book of Mormon" musical, who has to desperately try to convince himself to keep believing in the Church and its often ridiculous teachings: "You cannot just believe part-way. You have to believe in it all."

Liberalism is the belief in the potential of government to do good. When the government isn't living up to its potential, it needs to be fixed. Instead of trying to persuade ourselves that there aren't grave problems with the current actions and direction of the U.S. government, liberals should be at the forefront of trying to fix it.

The question that many liberals are starting to ask is: Can the American government be fixed, or is it beyond repair? Has this government been thoroughly captured by corporate interests -- the military and security contracting industries, the big banks, and so forth -- that it is now a democracy in name only?

Welcome to the new debate on the left. Can we have good government in the United States at the national level -- a federal government that does more to help the little people than to further entrench the power of the already rich and mighty -- or is this liberal dream now out of reach?

Are we willing to accept that the overall focus of the U.S. federal government will be on military spending, big surveillance programs, protecting large financial institutions, and other priorities that conflict with our values? If that's what the leaders of the Democratic Party are willing to accept, is it our place to just believe?

Or, is it too late for that? After the capitulations and deceptions of the Obama administration, has faith in government been shaken too much to be recovered -- even on the left?

I guarantee, we're going to be hearing a lot more of this debate among bona fide liberals if things keep moving in the direction they're heading in this country. I think this is a very important debate and we should welcome it and really listen to and consider both sides. There are huge implications, such as whether progressives should focus more attention on national vs. state and local politics, and whether to work more with socially liberal corporatists or with libertarians (neither of which we may like, but both of which are important blocs in American politics today).

Politics shouldn't be about faith. It should be about asking the tough questions, having the unpleasant debates, and pursuing the path that leads to the best outcome for the people. Maybe the left's growing loss of faith in government in the wake of Edward Snowden's whistleblowing is an opportunity to reconsider whether a blind belief in the goodness of government -- at least when it's controlled by a Democratic president -- is a sensible, "reality-based" position, or a prescription for future disaster.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 07:48:56 PM PDT

  •  Destroy it to save it? Is that your argument? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 07:56:36 PM PDT

    •  No. I'm trying to explain why there is a debate. (4+ / 0-)

      And as I said at the end of the diary, the debate on the left is pretty much going to come down to these questions:

      1. Whether to focus more on trying to advance progressive politics at the national vs. state/local politics, based on which is going to be more effective in creating real change for the people.

      2. Whether progressives should make stronger alliances with socially liberal corporatists, or with libertarians who disagree with us on a lot of bread-and-butter economic issues but who share our views on issues of privacy, the security state, drug law reform, opposing militarism, opposing corporate bailouts, etc.

      I can honestly say I am currently undecided on both points. I can see both sides. But I am pretty well convinced that this is going to be the new big debate on the left, and I look forward to participating in exploring the pros and cons on each side and seeing how it plays out.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:01:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It seems pretty clear to me. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Stetson, Words In Action
        Whether progressives should make stronger alliances with socially liberal corporatists, or with libertarians
        It can only be libertarians.

        Corporatists are not an option -- they are the biggest reason these problems exist. Don't make the mistake of believing that their support for government aligns with what you believe the role of government should be.

        Corporatists become involved with politics for one reason -- to bend laws in a way which furthers their interests. For christ sakes, they invented crony capitalism. How can they be trusted?

        I'm sure you're asking -- well how can libertarians be trusted? It is true that many libertarians have views on economic policy which conflict with that of the liberal viewpoint.

        But, many libertarians, I believe, are ready and willing to compromise. Domestic spying, Obama's ramped up war on drugs, mass deportation, drone killings, mass incarceration -- THOSE are the things libertarians are focused on.

        Those are the greatest threats to our country, and most libertarians will probably be happy to set aside quibbling over economic issues for the chance to make real change and real progress in the areas that matter the most.

        IMO, aligining with corporatists will just be more of the same.

        •  If libertarians are willing to compromise (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Valar Morghulis, Words In Action

          on economic issues, then a progressive-libertarian alliance could work. I think the key would be whether libertarians would be willing to accept the continuation of a basic safety net for all Americans, to prevent people from starving or becoming homeless, etc. Libertarian ideologues often argue for eliminating programs that help the poor, the elderly, the disabled, etc., such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. The progressive response, of course, is that eliminating or significantly cutting such programs would cause great suffering.

          I think if the libertarians would be willing to accept the continuation of a basic safety net (perhaps with some reforms), then many progressives would seriously consider the possibility of shifting from the current liberal-corporatist alliance to a new liberal-libertarian alliance.

          The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

          by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 10:05:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Seems like an easy choice for libertarians. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eric Stetson, Words In Action

            It's either:

            a. Make progress on many important issues while maintaining status quo on others.

            b. Keep the status quo on everything.

            •  Logically, yes. But the question is, if you or I (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Valar Morghulis, Words In Action

              showed up at meeting of the Libertarian Party or a Rand Paul fan club or whatever, and made this exact same argument, would most of the people there go for it? Or would they stick to their guns on slashing the safety net to the bone?

              I belonged to the LP when I was in college (roughly 15 years ago). Back then, it seemed to be pretty extreme and unwilling to compromise on anything.

              But it's possible that a more pragmatic type of libertarian might emerge and be willing to ally with the radical left. I have some libertarian friends -- I guess I'll ask them. What do you think, based on the libertarians you know?

              The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

              by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 10:34:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think it depends on how you frame it. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Words In Action

                I'd focus on the issues where there is ideological overlap and avoid points of contention. Libertarians are like any other political animal -- upon being challenged, they'll argue.

                And if/when a point comes up where there are sharply contrasting views, my response would be something like, "I understand, but we have bigger problems to worry about at the moment. We can fight that one out another day. But today, let's fix the problems that cannot wait any longer."

                Libertarians have evolved a great deal in last 15 years. I participate in some online forums which have a wide range of political viewpoints, and it seems that many libertarians have come to the realization that refusal to compromise has not and will not be a successful strategy.

                I think the prospect of a real, significant win will be very appealing. Libertarians are growing tired of purely symbolic wins.

  •  I'm Suspicious of the Growing Number of Questions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, FG

    making our situation a choice between "government" and "no government."

    That's like observing cancer, and asking should we choose to be biological robots.

    There's all kinds of government for all kinds of purposes and services. Hating domestic espionage has nothing to do with food stamps or educational grants, highways and ports or social security.

    The issue isn't "government" or anyone's faith in "government" except to the libertarian so-called mind.

    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 Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:01:30 PM PDT

    •  No need to be suspicious of me. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, eOz, mommyof3

      I have written plenty of diaries on this site promoting ALL types of progressive policies.

      As for your point about the issue not being about faith in government, I respectfully disagree. I see this becoming the issue more and more. It does become harder for liberals to argue for more government involvement in anything, when most Americans think of the wrong things when they think of government (because the government is prioritizing the wrong things).

      Heck, many people right here on DailyKos seem to be so cynical about the government nowadays that I can easily imagine them voting libertarian out of pure anger.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:07:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This sentence: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, eOz
      Hating domestic espionage has nothing to do with food stamps or educational grants, highways and ports or social security.
      Is exactly right.

      So why is it that when the bad elements of government are challenged, people jump to the conclusion that someone is suggesting anarchy? That seems to be a trend on DKos.

  •  the media creates this narrative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, Words In Action

    all the time. I've always been annoyed how they cast voters as fundamentally pro-government or anti-government. The social dialectics even have more merit than that comparison. I don't give a damn about the size of the government, I just want maximum utility. The democratic version of macroeconomics is more valid. We need to invest in green energy. All transportation projects can be justified by Solow if you want. Cutting funding for college education is retarded. I'm a liberal but I'll cut all sorts of crap if you let me. At least in the social argument, I am a social liberal, and they're at least right in my isolated case.

    Conservatives especially have run with that comparison of gov't/non-gov't because it benefits them, and they make comments about how liberals have religion and government reversed, they're skeptical on religion but have faith in government. It's like, no, conservative guy, I definitely don't have blind faith in government. Also, on the state level, Republicans do all sorts of big government with a state's rights justification. If you go local, Republican is shift income and sales tax to property tax and fees, and Democrat is vice versa. Size of government is irrelevant to party identity on the local level.

  •  The Zimmerman verdict doesn't exactly help... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Words In Action

    the "government is working fine" argument either.

    I am an economic Keynesian, a social libertarian, a foreign policy internationalist, and militantly anti-authoritarian in every way shape and form.

    by zemongoose on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:05:48 PM PDT

  •  This liberal believes what he thinks is right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill, Words In Action

    and a long-winded rant of a post from certain elements on this site isn't part of the information matrix I'm going to use.

    That post referred to is a waste of time.

    USELESS PIE FIGHT

    •  If by "he" you mean WinSmith (0+ / 1-)
      Recommended by:
      Hidden by:
      lazybum

      you are as liberal as Dick Cheney.

      I am an economic Keynesian, a social libertarian, a foreign policy internationalist, and militantly anti-authoritarian in every way shape and form.

      by zemongoose on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:10:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are working on self-immolation (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lazybum, allergywoman
        •  I have no idea what you are babbling about... (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not throwing around invective. WinSmith is literally in 100% complete agreement with Dick Cheney (and virtually every other conservative) in regards to Snowden and the NSA. He's also in 100% complete agreement with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. I'm on the side of truth, you are apparently on the side of the letter "D".

          I am an economic Keynesian, a social libertarian, a foreign policy internationalist, and militantly anti-authoritarian in every way shape and form.

          by zemongoose on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:42:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps I have suffered text confusion (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lazybum

            You are a star on the hidden list nonetheless.

            If you weren't badgering me and lampooning smith, then be careful with your stuff - you'll get banned. Just sayin'

            I vote (D) because there is no other choice, aside from not voting. Voting gives me bitchin' rights each 2 years....

  •  Trust, verify, and hold accountable (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Stetson, lotlizard, blueoasis

    What is happening is that the system of trust, verification, and holding accountable through elections has been corroded by money.

    The courts have been stormed by folks with a partisan and ideological agenda unrelated to impartial justice and a rule of law.

    And the executive deals with a bloated national security apparatus and civil service that can outwait any elected officials.  And which is compromised by the contracting system and the links of lobbyists to Congress.  And which hides its dealings in a system of secret classification that at its extreme level denies court oversight through assertion of state secrets.

    The ability of ordinary citizens to trust, verify, and hold accountable their government has been seriously compromised.

    And some person on the internet wants us to have faith in our government.

    We will have faith in our government when it demonstrates that it is worthy of having faith in.  It is a two-way street.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 08:33:46 PM PDT

  •  For most people in an off-year, politics isn't the (0+ / 0-)

    be-all, end-all that it seems to be for some of us.

    There's an alliance of interests with a whole lotta money on a mission to wreck the federal government and eliminate it.  The government is a system that people use to collectivize their power so that they can protect their own interests.  

    This is a power struggle. The moneyed interests are relentless, driving their agenda, advancing their position, growing richer, accumulating more power and influence.  They want to rule, control, benefit, and increase their standing.  They're ready and organized with powerful messages and the means to deliver them. Government is the problem.  That means you and the cumulative power you have which they mean to take away from you.  If they can get you to cheer for the demise of your own power, all the better for them.

    There is no existence without doubt.

    by Mark Lippman on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 10:07:37 PM PDT

    •  I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree. (0+ / 0-)

      I think the moneyed interests, by and large, are fine with having a big government, as long as the government only focuses on doing things that help big corporations (big military/security/intelligence contracting, big pharma, big ag, etc.).

      The problem we face is that we seem to be stuck between a choice of (A) a big government that does the things we don't want it to be doing, and cuts the things we do want it to be doing; or (B) a smaller government overall.

      Ideally, there is option (C), a big government that mostly does the things we, as progressives, believe it should be doing, such as helping the poor, sick, elderly and disabled, helping to develop renewable energy, building great infrastructure, helping people get health care and an education, etc. But what seems to be becoming apparent is that option C is not actually an option to vote for, in most races in national politics, since no politician on the ballot stands for such a government; instead, the establishment of both parties mostly stand for a big military-industrial complex and austerity on everything else.

      It is difficult to keep one's faith in government when it's so rare to be able to vote for candidates who share one's vision of what the government's priorities should be. This is the challenge liberals face today in America, and I think we need to figure out how to deal with it constructively, which may require changing our strategies and alliances.

      The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

      by Eric Stetson on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 10:14:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see a big difference between the parties. (0+ / 0-)

        Alliances and/or negotiations with any Republican would be a huge blunder.

        On Wednesday July 10, Pete Sessions (R - TX), Chairman of the House Rules Committee had an announcement:

        The Committee on Rules will hold an emergency hearing tonight, Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 9:00 PM in H-313, The Capitol on H.R. 2642 The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.
        No advance notice. The agenda was a vote by the 9 Republicans & 4 Democraats on a closed rule to be reported to the House the next day. The rule specified that the farm subsidy bill woud be put to a vote on Thursday, July 11, as it was written, with nothing added or substracted, no amendments, and one hour of debate.  The portion of the bill making provisions for the SNAP (food stamps) program had been stripped out.  Since the farm subsidy program and SNAP are administered by the USDA, a bill with provisions for both had been passed every year since 1965 with a minimum of fuss.  Until the tea party got to Congress.  

        The ranking minority party member, Louise Slaughter (D - NY), spoke candidly.  She wanted to know what provisions would be made for the SNAP program.  When she didn't get a straight answer, she persisted.  She explained bluntly that the tactic being used wasn't going to improve the mistrust and polarization in the House.   James McGovern (D - MA) was given the floor.  He wanted to know what the Republican caucus had discussed among themselves, to convince the 62 members who had voted against the bill in June to vote for it this time.  He wanted to know what promises were made regarding SNAP.  And if the farm subsidy program and SNAP were to be separated, why had they made plans for one but not the other?  

        There were no answers to be had. The committee voted along party lines 9-4 for a vote the following day.

        On Thursday, the Democrats rose one by one to speak in protest against the bill, and Louie Gohmert (R - TX) called out his objection to each one so that their remarks could not be placed in the Record.  The vote was held and it was passed along party lines.  

        Afterward, Louie Gohmert was given the floor to speak for one hour about "Dependance on the Government."  He spoke about the number of children women are having out of wedlock before finishing high school because they'd get another check for each additional baby.  He spoke about the need for food stamp recipients to work, but it wasn't clear whether he was thinking about the mothers, their children, or someone else.  

        Of course, Republicans have no clue why the number of people on food stamps matches the number of people who have fallen below the poverty line.  It involves Arithmetic and they're too busy pissing all over themselves getting to the latest faux scandal du jour anyway.  The poverty level is adjusted every year to keep pace with the CPI but there's no corresponding minimum wage increase so each year more people fall under the line. Raise the minimum wage above the poverty level to thin the food stamp rolls.  More income would also mean more income tax collected.  But the food stamp program is a taxpayer subsidy to business corporations like Walmart with a lot of minimum wage workers.  It's a scheme that allows businesses to underpay their workers and transfer part of their labor cost to the taxpayers who supplement low wages with food stamps.

        No wonder there are four members of the Walton family ranked in the top 20 world's richest billionaires.

        There is no existence without doubt.

        by Mark Lippman on Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 11:55:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As a novice to pie-fights (0+ / 0-)

      Note to "author".  I routinely avoid them.  That is because I routinely like to hear all the facts or factoids and consider both sides of "versions of the truth".

       I reject most knee-jerk reaction blogs for the same reason.    

        Call me pragmatic or ignorant or any other term you choose.   This site provides an outlet for progressives and yes, most of us understand that we, like every other site, provide a selected list of statements.  

         I am old enough to understand that and before I venture off to other sites to argue the progressive POV, I take the time to read "the entire post" - which is often edited here and elsewhere.  Some sites like DKOS provide links to entire info and others don't

        The knee-jerk blog from yesterday did not bother to do much research about the cited statement.   Believe GG or not, he posted the complete or more complete version of his statement yesterday - try reading that on the Guardian then decide for yourself.  

         Joining into an "alliance" with another political group is back-assward....how about them joining the progressive alliance.      
         This joining the "L" party is similar to the whine - vote everyone out and instead vote for a bunch of novice who have little to no experience and hope for the best.

         Now you can whine:  no link!   Sorry, if you aren't willing to do your own homework, that speaks more to your pushing an agenda than actually thinking.

     

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