06 September 2011

Teabaggers of the left

The deranged vitriol directed against Obama from the right wing is bizarre enough -- but what are we to make of the almost equally deranged attacks coming from some fringes of the left?

You know the kind of thing I mean. Throughout his Presidency, Obama has compromised with Republicans; the public option in health-care reform was lost, the Bush tax cuts were renewed, etc. Most of these compromises were necessary to get any progress at all, given the obstructionism of Republicans in Congress; a few were not.

But the reaction in some quarters has been ludicrously out of proportion. Obama is a closet right-winger. He's no better than Bush, no better than Bachmann. There's no difference between the parties. Given Obama's record -- stem-cell research re-funded, a major step toward universal health care, sane Supreme Court appointments, etc. -- and the dangerous extremism of today's Republicans, this is incomprehensible.

As for how exactly Obama could have done better, it's always vague clichés about "standing firm" and "using the bully pulpit" -- no specifics, no sign of understanding how politics actually works. (They often get the facts wrong, too. For example, in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts, Obama was able to win an extension of unemployment benefits that saved millions from disaster.)

It's probably true that Obama has compromised too much. He did enter office with a naïve faith in bipartisanship which undercut chances for the real change he promised. It may be that he would have achieved more, marginally, by being more confrontational. But the guy who rolled back DADT is no better than this? That simply isn't reality.

The fulminators' usual response to such reminders is to claim that "if we keep voting for the lesser of two evils, we'll never be offered anything better". This ignores the reality of the political situation.

I've been dissatisfied with Obama in a lot of ways. (He was not my choice for the 2008 Democratic nominee.) I'm an atheist and a socialist; I'd like to see our social contract and social safety net rebuilt on the kind of model offered by places like Scandinavia and Germany; I'd like to see drugs and prostitution decriminalized and rationally regulated; I'd like to see all kinds of things. I too could well describe Obama and the present Democrats as the lesser of two evils. I certainly wish that a President and Congress fully in agreement with my own views could actually be elected. But they couldn't, and in this case, the lesser of two evils is a hell of a lot less evil. The fact that I can imagine better options doesn't mean those options are actually available. Incremental progress in the right direction is far better than letting theocratic/plutocratic reactionaries drag the country backward into some nightmarish cross between the Dark Ages and the Third World.

In other areas of life, people recognize this concept. You're never offered a job, or a residence, or whatever, that's exactly what you want. You choose the best one out of the options that are actually available.

Polls show Obama remains broadly popular on the mainstream left. The attacks from the left are coming from a noisy minority who have no more grasp of political reality than the teabaggers do. But that doesn't mean the problem isn't real. Consider the 2010 election, which was not a pendulum swing back to the right but rather a collapse of voter turn-out (38% vs 62% in 2008). That was what allowed Republicans to win so many seats and offices and do so much damage. The people who didn't vote in 2010 have blood on their hands just as much as the teabaggers do. And if the same happens next year, with the Presidency itself at stake, that will be even more true.

But the anti-Obama fulminators of the hard left vehemently reject any effort to remind them of what Obama has accomplished, or to point out how much worse any Republican alternative would be. There's some weird psychology operating there that I don't claim to understand. They seem to need something to be enraged about; they paradoxically feel dissatisfied, even disappointed, unless they can find some grounds to be miserable and pessimistic.

They really would hand over the country to evil in order to punish imperfect good.

So what can we do? Keep pointing out the facts, keep pointing out what is at stake. As always, those whose minds are already made up will remain unpersuaded -- they're unreachable -- but the real target is those who are on the fence about the issue. They may not comment on the debates, but they're often reading them.

This isn't an issue I plan to write a lot about -- to the extent that I write about politics at all, the danger looming on the far right is the greatest concern. But there are several blogs that do focus on confronting the problem of the perfectionist extreme left, and are doing an excellent job:

Angry Black Lady

Booman Tribune

Elect Democrats


The Only Adult in the Room (currently on hiatus)

The People's View*

Please Cut the Crap

Pragmatic Progressive Forum*


If you're disappointed but not sure what to do about it, you need to be reading them. There's too much at stake next year to risk blowing this.

Addendum: There's a precedent for what I'm talking about -- the 2000 election, in which several hundred thousand people threw away their votes on Nader because Gore wasn't left enough for them. There were several states which Bush carried by a margin smaller than the number of votes Nader got -- that is, if Gore had gotten the Nader votes, he would have carried those states, and would have won despite the Florida mess. The Naderites saddled the country with Bush, the Democratic party did not respond by moving further to the left, and Nader did not become a significant political force. Un-pragmatic purism achieved nothing -- except to empower the Republicans, at terrible cost to the country.

*Thanks to Leslie Parsley for the reminders.


Blogger Commander Zaius said...

A thoughtful and reasoned post, but I've got to admit I have my loony left moments about Obama at times. For me it always boils down to the fact Obama, even with issues, is far better than any republican.

06 September, 2011 05:52  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"I certainly wish that a President and Congress fully in agreement with my own views could actually be elected."

That is certainly my wishful thinking as well. But I've lived long enough to understand this will never happen.

How any rational person could think of voting for a Bachmann, Perry, or Palin is terrifying enough for me to make sure I do all I can to re-elect Mr. Obama.

But I'm afraid the constant obstructionism from the right is having its effect on how the public perceives President Obama.

The GOP's only goal is to defeat Mr. Obama, and I don't believe the disgust Americans feel over their tactics worries them because they will secure the WH if their petty sabotages on this president's policies continue.

Winning back the WH is what the GOP is about; and once that happens, we can look to states like Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, and Ohio for an idea of how the next GOP president will govern.

I wish I could get the firebaggers to understand this.

06 September, 2011 06:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

BB: Then you see my point. There's nothing wrong with criticizing the Democrats and pushing them to do better -- so long as, on election day, one remembers the dangerous reality we live with, and does the right thing.

SK: But I'm afraid the constant obstructionism from the right is having its effect on how the public perceives President Obama.

And the "firebaggers" play their assigned role in the Republican strategy, dancing to the Republicans' tune, puppets on the Republicans' strings. They are objectively helping the Republicans; their intentions, in a practical sense, hardly matter.

06 September, 2011 06:47  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Hear, hear. Anything I say about the firebaggers would be redundant at this point. I just find it extremely ironic that for the first time since I've been blogging, I've had to turn on moderation - not because of the kooks on the far-right but because of the lefties.

The Republicans of today are not the Republicans of yesterday. As bad as they may have been, they weren't the deranged thugs who have taken over the GOP - often with their complicity. Think 1930s Germany.

Just imagine waking up on 11/7/12 with the knowledge that a Republican is going to be sworn into office in just a few months. To help people really grasp the ramifications of such a disaster, I offer the following, which leaves nothing to the imagination:


The far-left loves to talk about the reality, so just maybe the stark reality of the above piece will hopefully get through to them, although I don't have much hope.

A couple of blogs I might add to your list, if I may:



"This isn't an issue I plan to write a lot about. . ." I hope you reconsider because we need calm, rational reasoning such as you always present and we all need to keep speaking out.

06 September, 2011 07:15  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Excellent post--well-written and reasoned.

This is the first time I've been here, but I'm going to be a regular visitor from here on out.

And more importantly, thank you for pointing out that President Obama is the best option we have, not some magical candidate that will pop up out of nowhere and lead us to the Promised Land.

"They really would hand over the country to evil in order to punish imperfect good."

This really terrifies me, because I saw it in 2000 among friends who wanted to vote for Nader. I also saw it in 2010 with those who wanted to "sit home and teach Obama a lesson".

Talk about self-immolation!

But again, a fantastic piece. I will definitely have to shout about this "from the mountaintops". Great job!

06 September, 2011 07:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

LP: I've read the "Democrats for Progress" piece and it's a good one -- this is indeed what we could be facing if we let 2000 repeat itself.

I'm not really comfortable with attacking others on the left too much -- it's too similar to what the "firebaggers" themselves are doing -- but in this case I hope the necessity of pointing out their errors is clear.

Thanks for the reminder about the other two blogs -- I've included them.

MM: Thanks much, and thanks for visiting! Are you "RedShoulder"? I've always wished I could draw.

06 September, 2011 08:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This argument takes the easy way out by demonizing dissatisfaction with Obama from the left as "unrealistic." I think that's disingenuous political quietism. Of course we're not obligated to vote for democrats regardless of what they do in office. That is absurd. Your mistake is to think the only options are to vote Republican (I won't do that) or not vote (I won't do that either). Third party candidacies and radical movements that demand more than Harry Reid and the Bush tax cuts are essential to a healthy democracy.

Your argument that this is tea party liberalism ignores the fact that the tea party actually has candidates in the national party. Where are our far left candidates or congresspeople? They don't exist precisely because your doormat approach to the democratic party still holds sway.

No thanks. Obama will have to earn my vote.

06 September, 2011 08:37  
Anonymous Bill Harrison said...

Well said, sir. This is my first visit to your blog but not my last. I, too, have been peeved with POTUS for his too frequent apparent lack of backbone. But it's easy to forget the kind of intransigent opposition he faces every second of every day. Good point about voter turnout - I agree that it will be crucial in '12 if we want to keep the elephants out of the WH for another 4 years.

06 September, 2011 10:22  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

I'm not saying we should "attack the far left" - at least not personally or with the same level of heat and vitriol they employ. But I do think it is vital to call attention to the times they get their facts wrong, and lose their perspective - and/or their reasoning powers.

06 September, 2011 10:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Pointing out that something is unrealistic is hardly "demonization".

Third party candidacies and radical movements that demand more than Harry Reid and the Bush tax cuts are essential to a healthy democracy.

I addressed this in the "addendum". Voting third party is, in practical terms, the same as not voting.

Obama will have to earn my vote.

By any rational standard, he already has.

BH: Thanks! And welcome aboard.

LP: I see your point. It's a fine line to walk.

06 September, 2011 11:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following up on your addendum. I understand your argument. There's merit to it. But you speak with far too much certainty about what is and what is not inevitable. I might say that it is exactly my Nader vote in 2000 which causes my disappointment in Obama. That is, because Al Gore was defeated in 2000, because some on the left signaled that their vote was not automatic, the democratic party WAS more to the left in 2008. Surely Hillary was the candidate in the Clinton-Gore trajectory. Gore's defeat necessitated a more dramatic, seemingly more progressive candidacy, which is exactly what Obama provided. That his time in office is, to me, virtually indistinguishable from Clintonism is a disappointment to me and, in my terms, a betrayal of the promise of 2008, when more voters (percentage-wise and by sheer numbers) voted democrat than in the previous decades.

It is important, too, that presidents are elected via electoral college. I live in a state that will surely go democrat, and I vote third party when I want to register my difference with the democrats. I would likely NOT vote third party if my state was in doubt. Remember, though, that Nader voters cost Bill Clinton his 50% vote in 1996. I am proud of that. He never got his majority, even though he easily won reelection.

06 September, 2011 12:10  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

My blog/ journal clearly show's for instance how I was a big Obama supporter even before he was the official candidate, my blog/ journal has been VERY fair to the President, however I dont follow much of the mainstream in thought as far as what group/ party/ online societies, etc, I'm very independent. I have critized (constructive questioning), or let's just sway "questioned" some move's by this President though, I am not one who just sit's and follow's popular thought .... this thinking made me not angry, but wonder, when you have executive power's to an extent, a pen, and can avoid a manufactured debt crisis as simple as signing a paper using the 14th amendment clause as former President Clinton advised the President, to avoid all this entanglement, why did'nt he? That's a reasonable question, I hadnt even heard the President or his crew explain that. For myself, simply "questioning" is NOT radical, but reasonable.

06 September, 2011 12:52  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

As far as Beach Bum's statement, the President is better than any republican ... of course, but on the other hand just two or so dayz ago, Bum wrote on my comment's list that the President is Boehner's "bitch boy" ... and you Infodel, was not just mildly not in favour of Obama when he was running in 2008, you were downright very vocal against him, as well as the day after he won the election, your posting was some thing like "The mistake's been made", and closed it off to comment's.

06 September, 2011 12:57  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

As far as Parsley and the 1930's Germany thing ... this is nonsense ... my father fought the Nazi's WW2, his mom, ironically was a German Jew (my grandma) I have seen the tattoo's on the forearm's first hand from the camp's of Polland as well as other's, and have seen the flesh tear's of the leg's wrapped in barbwire ... dont tell me that the GOP is like the Nazi's!

06 September, 2011 13:03  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"Where are our far left candidates or congresspeople?"

Does anyone truly believe a Dennis Kucinich could be elected president, or Bernie Sanders, fine men that they are?

"They don't exist precisely because your doormat approach to the democratic party still holds sway."

No. They DO exist, but are unelectable to the presidency, just as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, extreme righties are unelectable to the presidency.

People look at the presidency through their own ideological eyes and judge his policies on that basis, of course. So if you're a far leftie, Mr. Obama is not going to please you on anything. Even though he was given the highest rating as a liberal US Senator from the folks who judge such things, Mr. Obama had to, as all presidents do, govern from the center--and in his case center-left. Passing the ACA is not what I'd call a conservative policy.

I think it's a miracle that Mr. Obama has accomplished anything what with the unprecedented obstructionism from the opposition and , unfortunately, from his own party.

Does anyone ever come up with a real solution on how Mr. Obama would overcome the deliberate sabotage from the GOP?

Should he yell more? Do One-Upsmanship on the Brinksmanship and be more reckless than they are?

I read somewhere that in hostage taking, the criminals don't care what happens to the victim, so long as they get what they want, but the negotiator has, at all times, the welfare of the hostage in mind.

I think this pretty much describes how Mr. Obama is dealing with the GOP.

We the people have become the victims of the GOP's destructive anti-union, anti-social programs, anti-education, anti-environmental threats, since it's clear that the majority of Americans support all of those policies.

The media would have us believe that the T-Partyers of the GOP are with the American people. They're not. Right now the discontent with Obama is over the dire jobs situation.

Let's see where he goes with his speech and how Boehner reacts

06 September, 2011 13:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: I see nothing to suggest that Nader's sinking of Gore moved the Democrats to the left. If anything, I recall a great deal of anger against Naderites among mainstream Democrats.

Hillary Clinton was the fire-breathing liberal of 2008 and the candidate I preferred. Obama ran as a centrist and always leaned towards a bipartisan approach. No one should be surprised that he also operated that way in office.

I would likely NOT vote third party if my state was in doubt.

Well, that's important, and you do have a point that if there's no doubt which way your state is going to go, voting third party or not voting at all does less harm. It's still a waste of a vote, though. There's no reason to think that the party would move to the far left to appeal to radicals when doing so would lose far more votes in the center, and the radicals might well still not vote for it.

06 September, 2011 13:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: Expert opinion was very divided as to whether the Fourteenth Amendment option would have worked. It might well have gone to the Supreme Court. I did think it was a chance worth taking if there was no other way to avoid default, but as it turned out, there was.

Yes, as I mentioned in the post, Obama was not the candidate I wanted in 2008. I regarded his nomination as a mistake, and still do -- I think Clinton would have done a better job. Nevertheless, Obama is the Democrat who will be running for President in 2012. He has done better than I expected, and would be vastly preferable to any of the Republicans.

I would not compare the current Republicans to the Nazis. However, Dominionism is clearly a strong influence on both Perry and Bachmann, and on the party in general -- and Dominionism, if taken to its logical conclusion, would indeed involve mass murder on a Nazi-like -- or greater -- scale.

06 September, 2011 13:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

SK: Thanks for the very sensible comment. I hope that center-left leaders like Obama can eventually shift the political center of gravity far enough that someone like Sanders could win as President, but we definitely are not there yet.

06 September, 2011 13:50  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I looked into that and covered it in my journal as far as the legality of the signing on the 14th Amendment clause ... it was questionable, sure, however what I wrote that you do on that (before the debt deal concluded) is sign the it into effect, this automatically raises the ceiling, your world creditor's have then no reason to do any downgrading of your credit, it's now tied up and challenged in the court's of course, but that take's month's if not a year or two to get to and a decision to be made, bottom line, using this strategy you avoid the mess and fear and worry that American's had to endure, and your credit rating being challenged as well, so it's not if it would work as being legal, which it probably would have anywayz, but it could have detered the outcome and manufactured showcasing of such a simple issue that shouldnt even have came to the agenda. Even the GOP challenge to this day on the HCR legalities (they are putting in the court's hasnt even been decided yet or worked on by the court's ... I am one who alwayz uses the tool's available is all.

07 September, 2011 05:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, this is getting off-topic, but the very fact that the 14th Amendment option was legally questionable and might have been overturned by the Supreme Court means debt issued under it would immediately have been suspect in the eyes of creditors, there might well have been a downgrade, etc. So it would not have avoided the "mess and fear and worry", and might well have resulted in a worse threat to the credit rating than just the Congressional squabbling did.

As I said, it would have been worth trying if it were the only way to avoid the real disaster -- default -- but as it turned out, it was not the only way.

07 September, 2011 06:26  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

@Infidel753: Yep, that's me, or rather my tag at DeviantArt. It comes from a classic Japanese cartoon from around 1983 called "VOTOMS".

And thank you for the kind words! Although I'm still working on that "drawing" thing...it's a lifelong quest, mind you.

Again, great posting, and also just read your piece on Liberalism and Libertarianism.

07 September, 2011 13:05  

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