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.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.
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.
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.