Be honest about what the Democrats are (part II)
Published by marco on
I’ve collected a few notes from the last few months that I haven’t published in other articles. Clearing things out before the civil war makes it all irrelevant.
I published the first of these notes in Be honest about what the Democrats are. The following notes aren’t all directly related, but there’s a thread if you’re willing to look for it.
Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti from The Hill
I’ve only recently been introduced to this pairing and I quite like them. They were more recently interviewed on Useful Idiots (YouTube), which is also a good introduction to their politics and dynamic.
The video above had a few interesting bits in it, from Krystal, asking an obvious question of the hypocrites that have elected themselves arbiters of public opinion (i.e. the blue-check Twitterati),
“Saagar has the views that he holds on the show, which are unfortunately the views of the mainstream of America. How does Saagar end up on the wrong side of that line and Joe Biden end up on the right side of that line? […] I don’t understand where we’re drawing the line…”
On Donald Trump, she strikes the right tone and gets to the heart of his failing as a president.
“I view Donald Trump differently … I view him as abhorrent. But I also see him as incompetent and lazy and not particularly ideological.”
“Trump is constantly called the ultimate evil, but he’s also incapable of properly acting on his madness. America needs competence right now, so you could argue that incompetence is particularly dangerous. Ideological or no, his staff is pursuing very dangerous and destabilizing policies … though those efforts largely go nowhere as well.”
Matt Taibbi: The Worst Choice Ever
Ball’s views are echoed by Matt Taibbi in an absolutely scorching pre-election diatribe, The Worst Choice Ever by Matt Taibbi (SubStack), in which he pulls no punches on anyone—neither candidate, the media, and the whole debacle.
Taibbi hones Ball’s view above that Trump doesn’t do anything with his power by noting that it’s because he doesn’t seem to know what it means to be president. He never seems to exercise the tremendous power he has, which is pretty lucky for everyone, but is also the exact opposite of what the Chicken Littles have been shrieking about for years. It also completely belies his supporters’ purporting that Trump has actually been really effective. He hasn’t—not at more than a handful of minor things, that he often partially rolled back soon after.
“Trump played populist in public, but his presidency was spent parked limp and hostage-like in a robe before a TV somewhere in the White House, watching in horror as the anchors of shows like Fox and Friends informed him about the Beltway power machine’s latest successful effort to shit all over him. His response, every time, was to sob into Twitter by his lonesome, often deep into the night.
“He seemed not to have a clue he was president, which again was mostly a good thing. Just this weekend, in his latest race-baiting campaign to accuse “Squad” members Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of being illegal people, he asked out loud, “Where is our Justice Department?” No one in the audience had the heart to cry out, “In your Executive Branch?” (Emphasis added.)”
Taibbi’s description of Jeff Sessions is inspired and is an absolute murder by words.
“Jeff Sessions, who spent most of his career as the dumbest member of the United States Senate, but entered the Trump White House as the administration’s most accomplished expert on almost everything”
Taibbi makes the same point as above with a nice metaphor about “stepping on a rake” to describe how the Trump administration can’t get out of its own way.
“This pattern, of stepping on a rake before even getting to do the bad thing at scale, was a chief characteristic of the Trump presidency.”
To sum up, Trump was much more concerned with—and thus distracted by—short-term narcissistic goals rooted in his origins as a much smaller-scale grifter. That is, his sociopathy was not commensurate to the task. People think that Trump is the worst possible person, but he didn’t have the important component of long-term thinking unassociated with his own personal gain (which is, by definition, a short-term goal as compared to bending the will of the nation).
He’s not Hitler, folks. Hitler had follow-through, which made him deadly. Trump doesn’t have anything he believes in strongly enough—other than self-aggrandizement.
“In sum, this man who secured the presidency because voters thought his blunt, unvarnished persona might prove a corrective to unchecked elite corruption proved incapable in office of doing anything except complain into his phone, and abuse himself like a zoo gorilla every time a camera was pointed in his direction. Used to getting his way as a petty corporate boss, he was uniquely toolless as a Beltway operator, a man who in a thousand years couldn’t figure out how to use the office to achieve something positive. (Emphasis added.)”
Taibbi also has plenty to say about the Democratic Party and its current, vile incarnation—rudderless and nearly completely loosed from the even the empty platitudes that they used to mouth. Unlike many others, Taibbi is careful to point out that much of what transpired against the sitting president was illegal.
This fact reflects poorly not only on the perpetrators—who remain not only not prosecuted but uncharged—but also on the Trump administration, which didn’t even try to arrest or hinder those attacking illegally (even though that’s literally part of the job of the executive branch, i.e. The Justice Department).
“The last four years have been a ceaseless tantrum of security state hacks, media lackeys, and Beltway nomenklatura who from day one openly sought to jail our Clown-in-Chief for the unforgivable crime of getting elected without their permission. Their behavior is the only reason the Tuesday could turn out to be close.”
This “worst choice ever” is not just a problem on election day—the transformation that began a few years ago is much, much closer to completion. The country is politically split into two opposing camps that make GI Joe vs. Cobra look nuanced. There is no middle ground; Bush’s pronouncement is now the only law of the land: “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” It’s pretty much the only thing the two camps agree on. Those in a “neither” camp aren’t very vocal.
“Certainly the idea that there’s more than one legitimate political choice has already been excised from most upper-class discourse, with not only Trump and the Republicans but also every actor from the Green Party to Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders denounced across the corporate press as favorites of foreign enemies.”
In the end, Taibbi argued himself out of voting for either party with another excellent broadside of the Democratic Party.
“Trump’s incompetence and influence on the darkest part of the national character make it morally impossible to vote for him. But his opponents are lying, witch-hunting scum in their own right, a club of censorious bureaucrats whose instincts for democracy and free speech hover somewhere between the mid-seventies GDR and the Church of Scientology. (Emphasis added.)”
Six of One; Half-dozen of the Other
The post Trump on Bernie. When he’s right, he’s right. (Reddit.com) includes a video of Donald Trump doing his thing of being a blind pig finding a truffle. He says that Bernie got “S-C-*****” by the Democrats and that “Bernie is the greatest loser in history” because he always throws his support behind whatever the Democrats find in the couch cushions to run against Trump. Trump would have been much more concerned running against Bernie, but is fine with Biden.
In the comments, there was the expected back-and-forth between the anyone-but-Trumpers and the why-can’t-my-vote-ever-mean-anything-ers, culminating in the following:
“The only way is to join progressive organizations and become larger within the party. That’s it and that’s what we are doing. In the meantime the democrats are the on;y place we can get a foothold so support them as a lesser evil because it’s the only group we can have a voice and eventually take over.”
“The left hopes that replacing Trump with Biden will buy the left time. But Biden will pack his administration full of a whole new generation of vulgar careerists. It will be these people–not the left–who inherit the Democratic Party when he leaves. They will have the institutional knowledge and connections and access to money that are needed for success in American politics. They will continue servicing the oligarchs. And the Republican Party will respond by growing ever more bellicose, ever more grandiose, ever more willing to tear the whole thing down. Biden will accelerate the rise of new nationalist figures who might be able to do all the things Trump can’t even dream of doing.”
To which I answered:
I understand the argument, but how much time is this going to take? It’s been like this my entire life (which is not so short anymore): the progressives have had little to no influence on the Democratic Party platform and candidates. They move more to the right every 2-4 years. This year, when there are progressives _everywhere_, all we can do is point to down-ballot wins _waaaay_ down the ballot. No-one with any clout is allowed to sully the platform.
Biden’s web site is nearly diametrically opposed to the Democratic platform. Which one do you think is the real platform? They’re already walking back any progressive statement they ever made. People keep writing that we just have to push the Dems and they’ll go left, but there isn’t any evidence that this is true. They go where the money is. They seem to be socially progressive, but only when compared to Republicans, who are on a jihad against abortion.
At every opportunity, they remove the most attractive progressive baubles from their platform. When they’re caught, they might put it back in, but what kind of a relationship is that? The only hope progressives have is to work with people whose interests are diametrically opposed to theirs, but who can be occasionally shamed into paying lip service to those interests?
How can you trust them? They have no obligation to do anything they say now once they’re elected. They almost never do. It’s like having a roommate who’ll do the dishes if you tell them to and watch them while they’re doing it, but if you look away, they’ll sell the dishwasher for drugs.
I understand that change takes time, but we have to get real. Progressives invest an enormous amount of energy and time in the Democratic Party and get nearly nothing out of the effort. Perhaps that effort could be better invested elsewhere.
I’ve also read from certain sources (e.g. Chomsky) that former Sanders supporters are getting concessions from the Democrats and having success here, but you have to watch what their hands are doing not what they’re saying. The Democrats lie about everything. They will assure everyone on one day that of course Medicare for All is an option and the Green New Deal is on the table and we’ll all be standing here in four years and will seen nothing of that. Instead, you’ll get increased investment in fracking and natural gas (for example) and a few more options in the ACA (perhaps it will cost $11,000 instead of $13,000 for a family of four). Hooray.
I know we need patience and can’t expect everything to change at once, but this is ridiculous. Progressives are being gaslighted and deluded into throwing their votes away. They will get nothing that they want for them—other than perhaps voting out Trump.
Not only that, but people like Chomsky have officially said that there is nothing the Democrats can do to lose their votes—and the Democrats have taken them at their word and pushed the performance right up to the line—or over it, for some of us—of the reprehensibility and underhandedness of Trump. That is, Trump set the bar at a certain low level and the Democrats are limboing right up to it, confident that Chomsky of Hamelin and his acolytes can’t not vote for them anyway. They get to have their cake and eat it, too. Or so they think.
The Dems strategy is so fraught that they may blow the whole thing again because too many people see through the lies and can’t in good conscience vote for them either. They’re using pretty much the same formula with a candidate who’s somehow even less popular than Hillary was. They’re putting in a minimal effort and will get a minimal return. Perhaps it will be enough.
This doesn’t mean “don’t vote for Biden”. It just means you should be honest about what you’re getting.
Another commentator responded with,
“Biden is an emergency transition candidate. I truly believe that. Trump is such a threat to this country we just can’t risk running a true progressive at this moment. It’s not fully tested and is only argued in coffee shops whether a progressive can win. But we do know moderates can win.
“And right now, Trump is easily the biggest threat to the well being of this country we’ve had in 100 years.
“So I completely understand wanting to run Biden right now as the top priority isn’t some progressive agenda that’s unproven. We absolutely can not sustain four more years of Trump. Which again why Biden is perfect. Biden is only going to be president for four years […]
“[…] But soon they’ll have no choice as they are forced out by mortality. And when that happens there will be a flood of young progressives hungry to take over from the cold dead boomer hands.”
This is a typical response for online discourse; it literally does not address any of my points and just parrots the original premise. This is a completely hopeless person who has almost entirely forgotten what they’ve started fighting for (assuming they were ever fighting for anything). It’s hard even to understand what kind of a damaged mind could contort itself into writing something like “Biden is perfect.” At that point, the Democrats really don’t have to do anything to get that person’s vote, really.
The Democrats positively revel in how bad Trump is; they also have a whole media army reminding people again and again and again about how bad he is, that ousting him is such a top priority that it doesn’t matter who’s running against him. And then they pick the absolute lowest bar possible while bro-shaming and strong-arming and cheating Bernie out of the nomination once again. And so many people are just fine with that. They don’t even consider for a moment what the Democrats would have to actually do in order to lose their vote. They don’t care. This makes them no better than Trump voters who are also in a cult, unable to even conceive of changing their mind.
This time, it’s Democrats who have lost their minds about Trump, depicting him in Boschian terms, as the devil incarnate. The Republicans did the same thing with Obama during his reelection campaign. They are both right for the wrong reasons. Both Obama and Trump are bad for most Americans. Both of them will not change anything fundamental to benefit anyone but the already-wealthy. Substitute Biden for Obama.
Why is this person hopeless? Because after 40 years of waiting for even a shred of progressivism in national politics in America, their answer is … wait some more. Now is not the time. That is literally what we’ve been told for my entire life. It’s never the time. It will never be the time because people like this don’t make it be the time.
Incrementalism can work, it’s true—except in America today. In America today, incrementalism is subsumed and redirected and pushed into highly unproductive channels until it peters out. There are great victories in the past, ones that even came about as a result of incremental changes, but the system has learned from its mistakes. It seems completely able to prevent such incremental victories from happening anymore.
Both parties are wasting precious time—we can’t waste four more years. I don’t believe a Democratic administration will do anything realistic to build infrastructure or combat climate change. They will dither and employ their own form of incrementalism, making sure that their paymasters and all of the usual suspects are taken care of first and then sifting through the crumbs left over to see if there’s anything left from which to make some useful policy. It won’t be enough.
The Democrats and their enablers are basically saying: wait for the bad people to die so we can take over. That will not happen. They will not rise to power this way. You can’t just ooze into power—you have to seize it.
Frederick Douglass was right about 150 years ago and he’s right today:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
This is exactly the formula that the Democrats use decade after decade. Waiting for the opportune moment, waiting until the Democrats give progressives a chance, is delusional.
There is also, as Jimmy Dore and Chris Hedges point out, again and again, no point in promising your vote long before an election. Withhold it. Play coy. How in God’s name are you forcing the Democrats to do anything when you concede the only bargaining chip you have before you’ve even started negotiating? That makes no sense. I will decide who I vote for when we get closer to the election. Who knows what Biden does in the meantime? Is there literally nothing that the Democrats could do to lose your vote if you’re a Dump Trumper? Have you already decided that Trump is the absolute worst possible timeline?
The argument that we should just vote for Biden is an interesting one: your vote doesn’t matter anyway, so why not just vote to keep out Trump? That is, you’re never going to be allowed to vote for the person you want, so just give your vote to a Dump Trumper instead. But if votes don’t matter, why do they want our votes so badly?
The only argument is really that with Biden they think that there’s a chance to get something useful done whereas with Trump there is no chance. This is a fallacy. There is no chance that anything useful will be done by the either administration.
Biden will pay more lip service and drain more energy by pretending to bend in a more progressive direction…and in the end fail to do so, having expended everyone’s energy and time. Is that better than just knowing that Trump won’t listen in the first place? Both choices are awful. The chances are slightly better with Biden/Harris (because we have to consider the very real possibility that Biden won’t even make it through the first year).
So the Democrats are, once again, rewarded for having done everything they can to slow down progressivism in America while pretending to be better than the Republicans.
The U.S. is at a complete impasse. There isn’t always a solution to every problem.
Perhaps a vote of no confidence would be better than either of the two choices. We already had that in 2016 where over half of eligible voters didn’t vote. What if those voters voted, but for no-one? Or for Howie Hawkins? What if we finally get the Green Party up to that fabled 5%?
I think the part that really annoys the most about Dump Trumpers is that they are arguing that there is no such thing as principles and that those of us who choose to adhere to them are fools—and should give our votes to our betters to use. I’m not sure they understand leverage at all. I’m not sure how they reconcile the duplicity of the Democrats with the promises they keep citing Team Biden as having made.
As Jimmy Dore put it in Congress Goes On Vacation During An Economic Crisis! (YouTube), “you know who tells you to shut your mouth and vote? Dictators.” and “Congress doesn’t work for you, you idiot. Now go vote for them.”