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By Michael J. Smith on Friday March 17, 2006 01:30 PM

More on the intellectual world of the Democrats' defense team.

Usually I think it's a little unfair to write a post arguing with a comment -- it's like a guy with a megaphone arguing with somebody without one. But I'll make an exception for our energetic commenter John, who writes:

Income for the poorest of the poor DID go up under Clinton.

Clinton DID reverse the gag order.

Bush DID reinstate the gag order.

Incomes for the poorest DID go down under Reagan, Bush the first, and Bush the 2nd.

Bush DID appoint Alito and Roberts and the Republicans DID approve them 100%, just like they SAID they would.

I'm not so sure about that "income for the poorest" claim, but let's accept it for the sake of argument -- what I'm interested in controverting here is not the factology, but rather, what I see as a flawed way of thinking about the problem.

What John is doing here is what I call "scorecarding." He's totting up what the Republicans have done and what the Democrats have done, and not surprisingly, he finds that the Republicans are way, way ahead in the loathesomeness derby; the Democrats are a furlong behind and it's all they can do just to stay there. Well, of course. No one doubts that the Republicans have been leading the charge for quite a while, and the Democrats meekly trailing along behind them.

Where John goes wrong, I think, is in thinking that the scorecard tells us all we need to know. To me, this is like noticing that there is a cinderblock six feet over your head, without also registering that fact that it's falling. In other words, if you eliminate the element of motion from your picture of reality, you are apt to make some bad decisions.

So one of the things I think we need to ask ourselves is, what's the direction of motion. And if we decide that the direction is a bad one then we have to ask whether our participation isn't helping to move it along. As I've argued elsewhere, I do think that "lesser-evil" votes for the Democrats help propel this this Alfonse-and-Gaston rightward staggerdance the two parties have been doing for the last thirty-odd years.

John's "scorecarding" view of politics also excludes, I think, considerations of structure and function. We've all seen those tables of what substances a human body contains -- so many cents' worth of water, of salt, of calcium, of iron, etc. But of course just tabulating the ingredients doesn't tell you much about how a human body is built, or how it functions. Similarly, the scorecard doesn't tell you how the Democratic Party is controlled or operated, or to what ends it works.

Like the modulo-two view of political space, discussed in a previous post, the scorecarding technique represents, I think, an odd kind of wilful blindness to aspects of reality that are in fact supremely important.

My refusal to vote for a Democrat reflects my assessment of what the party is about, what it's engaged in doing, who it's answerable to. Yeah, the Democrats may be Wilmer to the Republicans' Fat Man -- but they're both after the bird, and they're both thugs.

Comments (12)

It's hard to know what to make of this claim that the income for the poorest went up under Clinton. The fact is that Clinton betrayed the poor with his embracing of Republican-style welfare reform. He couldn't have cared less about the poor--he was too busy cavorting with his rich corporate friends in places like Monsanto. The same goes for his wife, who was for six years on the board of directors of Wal-mart--one of the worst companies in the US, and certainly one of the companies that has contributed considerably to lowering wages.

I'm afraid you're wasting your time, Michael. It's pointless to argue with cultists - and John's irrational hatred of Ralph puts him squarely in the Nader Haters subgroup of Wingnut Dems. You might as well try to get a Hare Krishna to tapdance.

J. Alva Scruggs:

People like John are an educator's godsend when you're running a blog with a defined purpose. It's not always easy to find someone who embodies an unpleasant caricature, is persistent in defiance of any social convention and who has mastered all the talking points of what you're hoping to act against. He'll get to the stage of graciously acknowledging a minor point soon, to set up his return to full throated sanctimony. I doubt MJS or JSP entertain any hopes of bringing him over.


Michael, thank you for acknowledging that the R's are indeed a considerably more evil force than the D's.

Alan, Nader isn't the issue. Hell, I voted for in '96. I performed on the same bill as him once, at an anti-WTO event in Seattle in '99. (I was doing political theater with a group called United for a Fair Economy.) But yes, if by "hate" you mean, "hold him accountable for his actions," then yes, I hate him.

The scorecard goes deep.

Supreme Court:
Breyer and Ginsburg for Clinton.
Roberts and Alito for Bush.

General international good will under Clinton.
Widespread hatred of America under Bush.

An economic policy geared toward making the economy work for everybody under Clinton.
An economic policy whose only goals are to bankrupt the government and enrich the top 1% of wealth-holders under Bush.

A competent FEMA under Clinton.
A deliberately incompetent FEMA under Bush.

HUD leadership that believes in the mission of HUD under Clinton.
HUD leadership that believes poor people are lazy under Bush.

I could go on.

The progressive splinterists are very good on the D's negative scorecard. I'm familiar with it too, and it sickens me. The R's just make everybody a lot sicker, as most splinterists acknowledge. Familiarizing yourself with the details would give you more credibility. If that's what you want.

"Splinterists ?" Nah. I like "stragglers" better.

The other problem with this kind of scorecarding is that it sets up a world in which we're all supposed to be grateful for just being forced to cross a rising river with shoes full of pebbles. Hey, sure it's painful and dangerous and you'll be shivering, weak, and hacking up water for days once you get to the other side. You'll be that much more tired and weak next week when you have to cross again, but so what ? The other team would have just killed you and thrown you in the river right away, so quit your whining, you ingrate !

So has every ruling from Clinton's justices been all that progressive ? If so, how does that change the fact that as obstructionists to right-wing justices, the DP has been worthless since Bork's day--deliberately letting them through in droves ?

Does an opposition party have no obligation to oppose ? Are we just supposed to let them govern as if nothing so terrible could happen during their periods as minority that can't be easily patched up once they magically get back on top again ? This is a particularly odious concept given the sort of alarm they rain down on our heads whenever we want out of the duopoly is all about those dreadful Rightie barbarians at the gate and how only they can save us. But they seldom do lift a finger to save us, do they ? And there's always some perfect excuse for letting us down, isn't there ?

Again, I can't really take John's finger-wagging seriously. Even if you insist on arguing that Nader maliciously threw a match into a room full of oily rags, I really don't think it's fair to excuse the jaggoffs who saw fit to help fill up the room in the first place. (And let's not forget how they also sold off the fire extinguishers in order to buy themselves a fucking yacht.)



Does an opposition party have no obligation to oppose?
Well, if that doesn't just about sum it up....!


Who says you're supposed to be grateful? Make a judgment and choose what you think is the right course right now.

Yes, the D's have been a sucky opposition party. That's not the same as proving that Kerry would have appointed an incompetent ideologue to head FEMA and hundreds of poor people would have died as a result. Of course, nobody alleges that, because not only is it unprovable, you all know it's highly unlikely.

alsis, always, it's about your feelings. "I'm supposed to feel grateful." "How can I reward those people."

Don't think of it as rewarding them. Think of it as doing what you can to help the Lesser Evil defeat the Greater.

You need a new song, John. This one's old.

It IS rewarding them, and I will not do so anymore. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong in FEELING angry that I and others like me are sliding inexorably towards a premature, pointless and preventable death, with tons of attendant suffering along the way;While the people who are supposed to protect us laugh all the way to the bank.

You don't like the system, yet you do nothing that would alter it to make some other model possible. You beat the drum of "lesser evil" though it offers nothing but the most costly and superficial salve for our pain imaginable. Fine, that's your game, but it's not mine.

You offer the same tired talking points over and over again, though others here have repeatedly dealt with them. Either offer something new or take off already.


oh alsis, we're both going round and round here. You're wrong about one thing though: the anti-"score-carding" ideology exempts you from dealing with any particular point. And so, with many points, nobody on your side does deal. Because, to you, the who-knows-how-many dead in New Orleans due to deliberate Republican incompetence is just "score-carding."

You know what? That pisses me off. And you're right: There's nothing wrong with anger.

We already talked about NO over on that other board, John. I concurred, and still do, that Bush was incompetent. That's a no-brainer. Now, do you concur that the DP could have looked more deeply into Brownie's record when he was up for the post and told Bush, "Forget it and find us someone with two brain cells to rub together ?" Do you also concur that it was no secret that NO's levees were inadequate and under-funded for years before the disaster, that despite articles in a major local paper to that effect and many, many Demos on the ground in NO, nothing was done and no complaints were brought to the House and Senate floor on the issue ? Do you concur that NO is just one example of a corrupt *duopolistic* government allowing the U.S. infrastructure to fall to pieces while they shovel more money down the war machine's maw and reap huge bennies for themselves by doing so ?

How about it ?

"... So exactly why should we waste a particle of our energy defending the Democrats? We start out standing up for individuals who are being unjustly smeared -- like Kathleen Blanco -- and end up defending a philosophy that we do not really support. Their big lie becomes ours. The more we invest in them, in either hope or disappointment, the more we give the false impression that the Democratic Party stands in opposition to the policy and aims of these lying, traitorous thieves.

"Time to go off-road. Katrina was a point of no return. There are an awful lot of people out there who hate George Bush, Republicans, Independents, and especially the nonpolitical majority who don’t bother to vote. You know, the people who understood long before wonky jerks like me that there’s no difference between the two parties..." --Patricia Goldsmith at Dissident Voice, 9/2005




we concur: the R's deliberately appoint incompetents, the D's do not, and, the D's share some responsibility for the decay of infrastructure.

we also concur: The D's did not effectively object to the R's deliberately appointing incompetents, and that's pathetic.

we do not concur: Even if the D's had objected to Brownie, Brownie would have gotten seated. See Bolton, John.

we also do not concur: while the D's are terrible on infrastructure, the R's are even worse. How? By actively working to bankrupt government. The D's have gone along far too much to the R's bankrupting schemes, with this significant difference: When the D's held power, they did Not work to bankrupt government.

We also do not apparently concur: The R's deliberately appointing incompetents (which goes along with bankrupting government) matters. A lot.

we do not concur: Even if the D's had objected to Brownie, Brownie would have gotten seated. See Bolton, John.

See my earlier comments on the obligation a party has to actually oppose, if it wishes for me to vote for it as an "opposition" party.

You are aware, are you not, at this point, that the "even worse" argument doesn't hold any meaning for the majority of us here ? It's not a magic charm that cleanses our issues of any urgency. It's not a good enough reason to vote for anyone. Rather it's a sign of the moral bankruptcy and general lack of concern for the public welfare that lies at the core of Dem policy these days. You say the DP did not bankrupt government. No, they merely stockpiled a surplus and bragged about it while the military machine continued to leech from the public welfare and while social programs decayed or were gleefully gutted by that opportunistic shitheel, Clinton. There is no more perfect example of the dire consequences of deliberately ignoring class privilege and of letting the poor stew in their misery than what happened in NO. Only a fool believes that life there was perfect until Bush came in and ruined everything.

The reason your arguments are pointless here is because nobody on this board but you thinks that "He's bad, but not AS bad" is legitimate grounds for electing a candidate.

Have you bothered to read one single link posted anywhere on this board ?

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Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Friday March 17, 2006 01:30 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Objectively pro-.

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