Picture of a mythical two-headed snake

The Bestiary

Native fauna of the Democratic Party

Shown above: the amphisbaena

Enlightenment vs unenelightenment Progressives (Pwogwessives, Pwogs)

A meaningless noise frequently emitted by imperialist liberals, to reassure themselves that sending the Marines here and there is a thing that can be done for the very best of motives.

Photo of Rahm and 
Clinton Rahm Emanuel (Rahmbo, Rahmses)

Former Congressman from Chicago; Clinton administration apparatchik; hedge-fund mushroom millionaire; former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a slush fund used by the Democratic Party leadership to fund suitably reactionary candidates for Congress. More recently, the first appointment announced by the new Clinton, er, Obama administration, to the post of White House chief of staff; now mayor of Chicago.

Emanuel's achievements during the Clinton administration include shepherding NAFTA and the infamous Clinton crime bill through Congress. He is also a kind of quasi-Israeli; his Israeli-born father was a member of the notorious Irgun, and Rahm himself reports the usual euphoria on a visit to Israel shortly after the '67 war. During the first Gulf war, Rahm went back to Israel and served in some ambiguous semi-military volunteer capacity.

During 2005 and 2006, as chair of DCCC, Rahm occupied himself with trying to making sure that no opponents of the Iraq war received Democratic congressional nominations. He was moderately successful.

More recently he has returned to his roots in Chicago machine politics, and is now the Mayor of that hapless town, busy busting unions and 'reforming' schools there.

Photo of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga Markos Moulitsas Zuniga ("Kos")

Founder and guru of the Democratic Party cult site Daily Kos. Kos' followers are referred to around here as "Kosniks."

Photo of a jackass in dire straits Donkey, donks, donkery, jackass

Refers to the traditional emblem of the Democratic Party.

Orthrus Orthrus, Orthrian

Refers to a notorious two-headed dog in antiquity, pet of the three-torso'd ogre Geryon. What does this have to do with the Democratic Party?

Al From Al From (the Fromsphere, DLC, PPI, Third Way)

Al From is the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a hatchery of particularly right-wing Democrats, including the Clintons. The DLC has spawned a number of like-minded satellite organizations (the "Fromsphere"), e.g. the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) and Third Way.

Al From is often credited with the idea and term "triangulation".

Fromspherians like to call themselves "Progressives," since this term suggests they're somehow not reactionaries but doesn't commit them to anything that isn't reactionary.

Bush at AIPAC AIPAC ("The Lobby", WINEP, Martin Indyk)

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is perhaps the core cadre of a larger social formation, sometimes referred to as "the Israel lobby," or, among insiders and insider-wannabes, just "The Lobby" (capital letters always quite audible).

Like the DLC, discussed above, AIPAC has its satellite organizations. (Why do people do this? Is the idea to create an illusion of polyphony, like the Bach cello sonatas?) Probably the most consequential of AIPAC's avatars is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), but any number of other organizations also form part of the larger Lobby: the Anti-Defamation League(ADL), the American Jewish Committee(AJC), the Jewish Institute on National Security Affairs (JINSA) -- and on and on.

AIPAC/WINEP alums are quite influential in Republican and Democratic circles alike, but they probably have a bit more clout among the Democrats. Bill Clinton actually made AIPAC founder Martin Indyk his main man for Middle East policy, and subsequently ambassador to Israel. Which is only fair, since the man had spent the previous twenty years or so being an unofficial ambassador from Israel.

Indyk and his fellow AIPAC alum, Dennis Ross, played a crucial role in preventing Middle East peace at the Camp David talks during the last dreary days of the Clinton administration; see Clayton Swisher's highly informative book, The Truth About Camp David.

Hillary in an unguarded moment Hillary Clinton ("St. Hill", Baba Yaga)

Surely this ogress needs no introduction?


A two-headed serpent, of whom Pliny says, "Geminum caput amphisbaenae, hoc est et a cauda, tamquam parum esset uno ore fundi venenum" (Twin-headed is the amphisbaena, one here and one at the tail, as if it were not enough to have poison poured from one mouth). Like Orthrus above, the amphisbaena forms a pleasing emblem for the American two-party system.

A very muscular squirrel Muscular Squirrels

A fairly recherche in-joke around here. It started with this post. The Muscular Squirrel has become something of an icon for the Democratic Party faithful's self-concept: cuddly but tough.


An unopposing opponent; a chronically etiolated, enfeebled and halfhearted dissenter; a soi-disant progressive who responds to right-wing arguments and initiatives by saying "Yes, but..."

By metonymy, a Democrat, or liberal.

Crackpot realism

This important concept we owe to C Wright Mills. It might be defined briefly as the ability to accept -- or even embrace -- a demented state of affairs, and congratulate oneself on this acceptance as a sign of maturity and "realism". It is an occupational disorder of liberal Democrats. Here's Mills himself on the subject:

Crackpot realists are so rigidly focused on the next step that they become creatures of whatever the main drift -- the opportunist actions of innumerable men -- brings.

...In crackpot realism, a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands. In fact, the main content of "politics" is now a struggle among men equally expert in practical next steps-- which, in summary, make up the thrust toward war -- and in great, round, hortatory principles.

... For they still believe that "winning" means something, although they never tell us what.

The ratchet effect

A subtle aspect of the American political duopoly. The two parties have complementary rather than identical roles in promoting increased inequality and diminished liberty. The Republicans lead the charge; the Democrats consolidate the gains the Republicans have made. Together, they act like a ratchet; the Democrats are the pawl. See here for further discussion.

Free alterations feminist (FAF, FAFster, gender nationalist)

An old friend of ours, a feminist of the early-70s, in-your-face, armpit-hair variety, introduced us to the concept of "free alterations feminism." This was her shorthand for the kind of "feminists" whose social critique came down to the fact that upper-middle-class (and higher) women didn't get as many goodies as their male counterparts -- e.g. free alterations for their power suits at Brooks Brothers. FAFs have become an important element of the Democratic Party's sadly reduced complement of constituencies.

Shown at left, Gloria "Sweetheart of the CIA" Steinem, a type specimen.

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin, shown above, is the vulpine face and vulturine beak of what one might humorously call the American antiwar movement. She helped found an outfit rather revoltingly named 'Code Pink', which has become to go-to source for reporters at the New York Times and such when they want an "antiwar" quote.

In fact Code Pink is one of the many ladies' auxiliaries of the Democratic Party, and in that capacity has a well-developed ability to see both sides of the question. They were quite consistent about how bad war is, as long as George Bush was the warmaker-in-chief. Once a fellow Democrat became the warmaker-in-chief they adopted a much more nuanced view.

Medea herself was born Susan Benjamin in the dismal town of Freeport, Long Island, which, if you have ever been there, explains a lot.

Why she adopted the name 'Medea' is anybody's guess. The original Medea is a rather odd role model: she was so annoyed at her philandering husband Jason that she killed their two children. That'll show him, the no-good son of a bitch.


Pedagogue, n., fr. Gk. παιδαγωγός, "boy-herder". An employee of the credentialling sector; a policer of qualifications; a stockyard clerk responsible for stamping human flesh US Prime, US Choice, US Dogmeat, etc.

Shown above, Thomas Gradgrind, the type specimen.